Micah Ch 6 verse 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly[a] with your God.
The Bible is full of narrative, direction, encouragement, challenge and mystery, that at times it can be difficult to ‘see the wood from the trees’. We can end up asking ‘what is it that God wants from me’?
On a weekly basis preachers point different things out to us, referring to various passages of the Bible to tell us that we need to give more, be more holy, forgive often, love everyone, be encouraging, kind, generous, understanding, witnesses of the Gospel, and to give more! Oh, and could someone volunteer to serve on the Diocesan sub committee on how to deal with Japanese Knotweed in churchyards?
But maybe this verse sums up what God wants from all of us, and maybe if we managed to follow these 3 directives, we might find that everything else fell in to place, well maybe not the Japanese Knotweed.
If each of us could simply, act justly, be honest upright Christians of integrity who treated everyone the same. If we could love mercy, always forgiving and choosing to recognise the fallenness of the whole of humanity and our part in that fallenness. If we could walk humbly, being aware of and living in the light of the grace of God and pointing others towards that light.
Well, maybe that would be a Church that would really affect its community, that would be worth going to, and maybe they could do away with the preacher!
Dear Lord Jesus, as you opened the eyes of the blind, and made the lame to walk, open our eyes that we might walk in the knowledge that all you require of us is to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly before you.
Isaiah Ch 9 verse 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned
We put up our outside lights on Sunday and inside the house too. Mark knows I don’t like dark winter evenings and so at Advent and Christmas and a while afterwards we enjoy sparkling lights.
When you’re waiting for someone to pick you up in the evening the first thing you might notice are the car headlights. Or when you’re waiting for a train and you’re looking along the platform it is always the train lights that indicate to you that the train is coming.
At the moment we’re all waiting for the Covid vaccine to be made available. We’ve had the equivalent of a light through the news announcement and now we’re waiting for the real thing.
We really need things to look forward to. It helps keep us going.
At this time of Advent we are again reminding ourselves of that first waiting for the birth of Jesus. He is the light that shows that dawn is coming. We are actually in that second period of waiting. Waiting for the fullness of the Kingdom of God, waiting for heaven and earth to be made new. Waiting to see Jesus for ourselves.
We praise you Father for our hope in Jesus Christ who will make all things new.
John Ch 3 verse 14 ‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.’
These are some of the words of life that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus who in verse 1 is described as a Pharisee who approached Jesus at night. He probably wanted to question Jesus on his own, without being seen. Despite his status in the Jewish ruling council (verse 2) and his desire to come to Jesus secretly, Jesus saw in Nicodemus an openness and a glimpse of faith in response to His teaching and miracles (verse 2). What a privilege – for it was to Nicodemus himself that Jesus spoke these famous transformative words: ‘…for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (verse 16)
Skipping forward, it was Nicodemus’ actions in John 19:39 which really showed his devotion to the Messiah, bringing ‘myrrh and aloes’ to Jesus’ body in the tomb after His crucifixion. It was this selfless act that really demonstrated his acceptance and trust in Christ. Here was someone who received the precious Word of life from the Saviour, and responded with such an act of loyalty and faithfulness that the inner transformation and rebirth into God’s kingdom was in no doubt.
What can I give Him, poor as I am…Yet what I can I give Him…give my heart.
Hebrews Ch 4 v 12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
If we think that the words of the Bible are just words on a page much the same as any other book, then our approach to it will probably not put us in the best frame of mind to receive back from it what God wants to give us.
Alternatively, if we approach it thinking that these are God’s words to everyone, that it is one of the principal ways that he has chosen to reveal himself to us. That through these words God wants to inform us, teach us, challenge us, and dare I say it expose us to ourselves, in judging the ‘thoughts and attitudes of the heart’. Then we will come to the Bible with hearts and minds that are not just reading words, but as enquirers coming with hopeful expectation that the God who stands behind every word of scripture, will speak to us and reveal himself to us.
For as this passage says, it is a living and active word, with the ability to cut through every barrier and argument that humans can form against it. It can reach the most recalcitrant of us and break us, as we recognise ourselves in its words, but can also heal us as we respond to the call to repent and believe.
But also it is a dangerous word as millions have found out, as it has the ability to bring such transformation that life is never the same again.
Dear Lord Jesus, help us to make time to sit and read your words to us. Speak to us and reveal the secrets of our hearts, that we might walk in the light as you are in the light.
Col Ch 3 verse 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts.. and be thankful.
What do you think about when you hear the word peace? Do you think about peacetime as opposed to war time? Do you think about inner peace? Do you think about lack of noise, no sounds to disturb you?
In this context in Colossians Paul was meaning live in peace with our fellow Christians as we worship together, as we live together. As Christmas approaches and we think about which 3 households we are going to be part of, we will be so grateful to be part of a celebration that maybe we will have no arguments at all!!!
Jesus loves us to have that peace which is a wholeness of life. Life that is lived with Him at the centre. It does lead to an inner contentment but sometimes we have to work at it when we are with others. We have to go the extra mile in making relationships work sometimes. When we try and live in unity and peace then God is glorified.
We won’t always get it right, we are not perfect. But let’s work in our situations and family circumstances for peace and harmony and be thankful for the power of the Holy Spirit who helps us and the love of God who first reached out to us by sending Jesus.
We thank you Jesus for the Shalom peace that you give us. Help us to be your peacemakers now and always
Psalm 7 verse 17 ‘I will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.’
This verse, at the end of a Psalm which calls on the Lord to judge the evil in the world, brings us back to remember the righteousness of God our Creator. In Monday’s Discussion Group, we were thinking about the tension between on the one hand wanting God’s kingdom to come to bring justice, righteousness and peace – but on the other hand so grateful that our heavenly Father is patient, desiring that all would come to repentance and faith in Him.(2 Peter 3) The word ‘righteousness’ above gives me complete trust and hope because, in the uncertainly of our earthly lives, we can by faith know for sure, in and through the mighty name of Jesus, that God the Living God is Holy, just and pure. His judgement, His timing, His and only His knowing the time when Christ shall return to usher in His perfect judgement and everlasting kingdom – it is all in His hands – the same hands that welcome us to come and draw near to Him afresh this Advent.
O Come Emmanuel: Dispel the lingering gloom. Safeguard for us the heavenward road. Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come.
Malachi Ch 3 verse 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.
This verse coming right at the end of the Old Testament reasserts that a time is coming when once again the difference between those who follow God and those who do not will be evident.
The inference being that for a time there has been little that was recognisably different between the two groups. In fact, for many decades at different times in the life of the nation of Israel, there was no difference, with the result being that they faced the judgement of God and lived under oppressive regimes. Right up to the birth of Jesus where the Romans were the ruling power.
Here the distinction is between the righteous, those who follow God, and the wicked, those who do not follow God. It might sound a little black and white, but the New Testament makes the same distinction but using different language. Jesus refers to the sheep and the goats, whereas Paul states that those who trust in God receive forgiveness and salvation, whereas those who reject the truth about God stand condemned.
A Church that is indistinct in the world today, where there is little difference between them and the local social club or the world about us, is useless! Sheep and goats are different, acting justly and acting wickedly are clearly different, so it is that we the Church are called to be different.
What might it mean for us the people of God in Wath to be distinct, what would it look like? On the wall next to my desk is this little saying.
‘The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips & walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world finds simply unbelievable’.
I just wonder what a change of lifestyle might mean for you, so that it marked you out more distinctly as a follower of Jesus, rather than a follower of the crowd, I wonder?
Dear Lord Jesus, would you put your divine finger on those areas of our lives where we have failed to live up to the values of the Kingdom of God, where our first thought has resulted in compromise and not following the lead of our Saviour.