Thoughts 31st Dec – 6th Jan

Thursday 31st

Ephesians 5:14    “…Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”

Have you ever missed out because you got so comfortable in bed? I have.

Particularly when younger, I have chosen to stay warm rather than step out from under the covers onto the cold floor, and stayed there too long. However, we cannot stay where we are for long because circumstances are constantly changing, and it is we ourselves who will miss out.

The effort has to come from within. All we have to do is to wake up and get out of our comfort zones. Comfort, sensual or otherwise, can be a snare which prevents us making the effort that will bring worthwhile rewards.

Lord of mercy, thank you for the many gifts that you shower upon us. Let us learn from experience the value of motivating ourselves with action, so that we do not miss out on the gift of life that you long to share with us.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Friday 1st

1 Chronicles Ch 15 verses 11 – 29    And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the Lord.David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their fellow Levites as musicians to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals.

So the Levites appointed Heman son of Joel; from his relatives, Asaph son of Berekiah; and from their relatives the Merarites, Ethan son of Kushaiah; and with them their relatives next in rank: Zechariah,[b] Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel,[c] the gatekeepers.

The musicians Heman, Asaph and Ethan were to sound the bronze cymbals;  Zechariah, Jaaziel,[d] Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah and Benaiah were to play the lyres according to alamoth,[e]  and Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom, Jeiel and Azaziah were to play the harps, directing according to sheminith.[f]  Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it.

Berekiah and Elkanah were to be doorkeepers for the ark. Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah and Eliezer the priests were to blow trumpets before the ark of God. Obed-Edom and Jehiah were also to be doorkeepers for the ark.

So David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of units of a thousand went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-Edom, with rejoicing. Because God had helped the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord, seven bulls and seven rams were sacrificed. Now David was clothed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and as were the musicians, and Kenaniah, who was in charge of the singing of the choirs. David also wore a linen ephod.  So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouts, with the sounding of rams’ horns and trumpets, and of cymbals, and the playing of lyres and harps.

As the ark of the covenant of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David dancing and celebrating, she despised him in her heart.

As we learned earlier in Chronicles about David disrespecting God putting the Ark on a cart, and trying to move it this way.  Uzzah in the process ended up trying to steady the Ark when it stumbled and Uzzah died because he touched it.  David didn’t follow the rules with regard to moving the Ark and poor old Uzzah died.  It wasn’t David’s desire to move the Ark which was wrong, but the method how he wanted to do it, was wrong.

God gave specific instructions how it was to be accomplished.  The Ark was containing the Holy Spirit, which is part of the God Head.  He is a King and should be treated how a King was carried and how he had instructed them.  Plus David learnt a lesson the hard way, which was God governed the King not the other way round. If God hadn’t of disciplined him, the people wouldn’t have treated God correctly either.

Rules are there for a reason.  Like a parent, your children know the rules of their home, they don’t always understand why certain rules are imposed, but you follow them obediently.  When you grow up, and become an adult yourselves then you understand when you come of age why the rules were there.  Same applies with God, he’s your heavenly Father, just trust him, they’re there for a reason, because he loves you, and is trying to keep you safe.

In this passage David followed God’s instructions this time to the letter.  The Levites and priests carried the Ark, but before they could do that they had to purify themselves first.  The Ark was then carried to Jerusalem and accompanied by musicians and a choir of
Singers.  Praise and worship is different to everyone.  Some people like David are spontaneous in how they express themselves in worship and others are timid and quiet.  Neither way is wrong as we’re all individuals but we must not judge others if they seem a little more boisterous in their expression when worshipping God.

Lord Jesus help us in our daily walk with you and help us to follow you even though at times we don’t understand why you expect things done a certain way. 

Amen

Saturday 2nd

Amos Ch 7 verses 7-9    Then he showed me another vision.  I saw the Lord standing beside a wall that had been built using a plumb line.  He was using a plumb line to see if it was still straight. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, What do you see?”   I answered, “A plumb line.”  And the Lord replied, “I will test my people with this plumb line.  I will no longer ignore all their sins. The pagan shrines of your ancestors will be ruined, and the temples of Israel will be destroyed; I will bring the dynasty of King Jeroboam to a sudden end.”

Amos was probably not a popular guy, because he spoke what God wanted him to speak to the people of the nation.  He confronted and questioned the authority of the King and his advisers of the time, and may have been thought of as a traitor or a conspirator, even though he had the wellbeing of the nation at heart.  What he said wasn’t liked and wasn’t popular, even though it was telling the truth.

A plumb line is used to check whether a wall is straight and not bulging which leads a wall to collapse.  In these verses God is so fed up with Israel’s behaviour that he told Amos he was getting the plumb line out.  In other words God had given Israel his laws and now he was going to judge them by his standards.  He warned Amos that all the pagan shrines and temples would be destroyed. 

This was God’s enough is enough moment.  God doesn’t enjoy disciplining his children, but he knew what they were doing was harmful to them.  What God wanted, was for his people to get themselves right with him, and to be aware of what they were doing wrong. 

None of us like being corrected or told off, but if it saves you from being disciplined by God, I think a kindly rebuke from someone who cares for you is better than coming under God’s judgment.

Lord I ask that you will show us where we have fallen short and help us to get back on the right path with you.

 Amen.

Sunday 3rd

Matthew Ch 2 verses 7 & 8    Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

Throughout its pages the Bible constantly reveals the crookedness of the human heart, and its propensity to act falsely and deviously.  Even those who are followers of God and who made significant positive contributions to the nation of Israel, are found wanting, particularly when life becomes more comfortable. 

In the Bible the heart is portrayed as the place from which all desires flow and is seen as the seat of our decision making.  The righteous heart is seen as one that honours God and seeks the best for others, whilst the evil heart honours only itself and works for its own ends.

It is because all of humanity has fallen into sin that the prophet Jeremiah says in Ch 17 verse 9, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure’.  Or as the Apostle Paul says, ‘All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God’, in Roman Ch 3.

As humans we can change many things, our hair style, our clothes, our complexion, and many other things via cosmetic surgery, but we cannot change our hearts.  It is this fact that saw the need for God to come in human form, to bring his salvation, that our hearts may be changed.  As he revealed to Jeremiah in Ch 31 verses 31 – 34, where he speaks of a covenant not of words, but of one written on their hearts.

Dear Lord Jesus, write your covenant of love on our hearts, that we might know you whom to know is life eternal, that you would be truly our God, and we would be your people.

Amen

Monday 4th

Psalm 121 verse 1    ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.’

Well, what a turbulent and upsetting time for so many – especially the recent sudden changes to Christmas gathering rules in the light of more bad news of infection rates.  I guess we may all have been impacted to varying degrees – not least as we feel for the despair of others.  Maybe it is hearing the heart wrenching stories of those faced with terminal illnesses who know now that they may never see loved ones face to face again and who were clinging to the hope of a brief festive encounter.

We are however also hearing at this time of greater spiritual awareness and openness as many contemplate these life and death realities, brought all the more to the fore amidst present illnesses and losses.  Let us be sure to be a people who point others to the Good News.  To be prayerfully and hopefully lifting our eyes, seeking and crying out to the One, the Lord of Hosts, who entered into our frailty and despair at Bethlehem, and who has forged the way to life we all desperately need.

Oh Lord, thank you that you do watch over us and keep us (verses 5&6).  We pray for those suffering, the poorly, and those facing loss and hopelessness.   Be the world’s true light we pray. 

Amen. 

Tuesday 5th

Jeremiah Ch 18 verses 1 – 10    The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.  Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. If I announce that a certain nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed, but then that nation renounces its evil ways, I will not destroy it as I had planned. And if I announce that I will plant and build up a certain nation or kingdom, but then that nation turns to evil and refuses to obey me, I will not bless it as I said I would.

God is saying to Jeremiah in this passage that he has the power, authority and sovereignty, like the potter has over the clay to mould any nation or kingdom into whatever he wants.  If a nation is evil he can destroy it, but if a nation repents of it’s evil ways and turns back to God he can rebuild it and bless it, and same goes if a nation is good and turns to evil, it will be destroyed.

The potter has the power to remove blemishes from the pot he’s working on or completely reshape it into something completely different.  Like clay we can’t tell God how to do things or his way of thinking is wrong, or his laws are not politically correct in our society.  This is being disrespectful and isn’t honouring God.  We need to remember who is in control of us and it isn’t us.

Lord Jesus forgive us for not respecting and honouring you as we should and help us to be the nation you want us to be.

Amen

Wednesday 6th

Psalm 40 verse 2    ‘He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock…’

I wonder if you have seen and even tried to step on, or go through, mud flats?  These are often found on river banks and coastal inlets where there are tides to expose and cover them as the sea levels rise and ebb.  You will know how utterly hopeless you can feel if ever you get stuck, finding it impossible to escape on your own without another’s help.  It’s one of those situations when your boot stays put and your foot has to wade through the mud unprotected!  I think this is a helpful picture of the state all of us are in apart from the saving help of Jesus who was sent by God the Father to lift us out of slavery to sin and death.  It’s a bit like if you ever get locked in the St James Room’ toilet, and you can only be rescued by the person on the outside!  This Advent, let us be humble enough to ask Jesus to set our feet on the solid ground – that our feet may indeed be firmly set on Him the rock of our salvation.

Jesus, forgive us when we try and free ourselves when we know only you can truly set us free to know the Father’s love.  Help us to turn and accept your grace and mercy now.

 Amen.

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