Well after 52 weeks we have finally completed a full year of ‘Thoughts for the Day’.
Not something I envisaged 52 weeks ago.
Thank you to Charles, Mike, Beth & Jose who have contributed on various occasions throughout the year.
James Ch 1 verse 27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
The longer that I have been a Christian the more complicated I have found it to be. Issues that Jesus never mentioned specifically or in most cases even circumstantially, have come to be major topics that are hindering [in my opinion] the simple message that is at the heart of the Gospel message.
Issues around human sexuality and gender, issues around Church governance and leadership, issues around buildings and finance, and finally issues around success and what a successful Church looks like.
It’s that old scenario about majoring on the minor issues and letting the important issues wither.
In this verse James tries to turn our attention to two issues that are close to God’s heart, looking after orphans and widows in their distress, and keeping free from the pollution of the world. The first is quite simple to understand, the latter I could spend pages on.
There are many things that could be said to pollute us, and maybe there are different ‘pollutants’ that affect each of us differently, but the idea is the same, that we keep ourselves pure, and how do we do that? By fleeing from, turning away from, and deliberately choosing not to engage with anything that we know is detrimental to our faith in Jesus and our Christian walk. When and where we encounter widows and orphans we are called to respond generously, with love and compassion.
This I understand, but all the other stuff just drives me to wonder whether we are reading the same Bible.
Dear Lord Jesus, give us compassion for the needy, wisdom in fleeing worldly ‘pollutants’, and hearts that “seek first the Kingdom of God”.
Psalm 67 verse 3 & 5 “May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.“
These verses naturally point our thoughts further afield. As we continue to prayerfully seek God’s kingdom to come in our place, we also pray that the nations of the world would be at peace, and know and worship the Living God, our Creator and Redeemer. We are often called to pray for the persecuted church around the world too. Our brothers and sisters who are hard-pressed on account of the powerful and mighty name of Jesus. Some words I read yesterday regarding those of Christian faith in a certain country where suffering is most severe: ‘If you’re arrested as a believer…your life is over…you will be interrogated and tortured for months. If you survive, you’ll be taken to a labour camp. Nobody is ever released.’ These last words shocked me and sent a chill down my back. We have so much freedom; freedom to worship, live and share God’s love with others. We have I trust enough food, drink and shelter – these things which we so often take for granted. Yes, it’s good to be shocked though. Let us pray fervently and faithfully. God the Almighty knows those who are His. Thankfully, nobody and nothing can take God’s Spirit and inner life away from His children.
O Lord, come in power, light and love. We pray today for your persecuted church around the world; especially praying for those countries where Christians face the harshest opposition. Stir us, strengthen us and help us stand with them, in your name.
Revelation Ch 3 verse 20 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
Carefully look at the picture, you will notice that on the outside of the door that the picture portrays Jesus knocking on, there is no handle, it is also overgrown with shrubs growing up the outside of the door. The door looks like it’s never been used and the owner of the house has never opened it from inside. Jesus is knocking, but he can’t enter in, because the door is locked and possibly bolted from the other side, and the only handle is on the inside of the door, which only the owner of the house can open.
When we look at this verse in Revelation, Jesus is saying if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in. He can’t come in, if he’s not allowed in, he’s not like a burglar who will break in. He waits patiently for the owner of the house to open the door and invite him inside. He then speaks of eating with that person, which is having fellowship with that person and getting to know them more. In any relationship, if you don’t open up to people, you can’t get to know them, so if you haven’t opened that door to Jesus yet, don’t let fear stop you, take the bolt off the door, unlock your heart and open it up to him and let him in.
Lord Jesus, I ask that you will help us to unlock the doors of our heart to you and I ask, Lord Jesus please come in.
I John Ch 1 verse 8 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
At every funeral that I am privileged to take I make mention of the fact that no matter how good each of us present may be, we ultimately fall short of God’s standards. That when each of us looks at ourselves with honest open eyes then our shortcomings become apparent.
This verse makes it even clearer; it is not just that we are wrong if we fail to see our failings, but we are being delusional and are deceiving ourselves. For those who claim to follow Christ, there is a further reality check, as the writer says that ‘the truth is not in us’. In other words, if we have not recognised our own sin, and in fact, claim to be without it, then we are deceived and are not truly followers of Jesus.
Part of the process of becoming a follower of Jesus is the recognition and acknowledgement of our own sin, both intentional and unintended. Then recognising that there is nothing that we can do to cleanse ourselves and make us right before God. This leads us to look for the answer outside of ourselves, which God has thankfully already provided by sending the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, to this earth.
An honest acknowledgement of our own failings is a vital part of the journey towards being forgiven and cleansed of them.
Dear Lord Jesus, as we look at the failings of others may your Spirit shine a light on our own deficiencies that we might wonder anew at the greatness of your forgiveness.
Matthew 18: 3- 5 & 21-22 “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Those we look up to in our church, that have studied the Bible diligently, will be able to give a detailed synopsis of Matthew 18, but putting these two passages together, what do you see?
Jesus starts talking about needing humility to become childlike, and on that, I am hopeful that you, like myself, will be able to remember how much we had to rely on others when we were so young; that along with a sense of being powerless, we had so much to learn in order to live more freely.
Even in middle age, brothers and sisters in Christ, I am aware that I don’t know nearly enough to be the expert on anything that I wish I was, and that can be painful to admit, but with that honesty comes humility.; and as Jesus says, that is essential in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. The alternative is unthinkable!
Dear, heavenly Lord Jesus, remind us today and always that each of us is essentially a child of God, and as such, we all need to feel loved – through tireless forgiveness, especially if those mistakes have become habits; that all shall be given what we need so we can change. Let us remember also your commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves so that we afford ourselves the same forgiveness we show towards others.
1 John Ch 4 verse 20 “If a man says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”
There are many times in reading the Bible that it seems to speak in cryptic language that I struggle to understand on first reading, and sometimes after more than 1 reading. That is not true of this verse, thankfully it is crystal clear and makes perfect sense.
How can we possibly talk about loving God, who is invisible and in many ways beyond human comprehension, when we hate our fellow brother or sister. Our failure to love the other makes us out, according to the verse, to be liars.
To love God means that we are called to ‘love our neighbour as ourselves, not because we like them, or don’t like them, but because we realise that we are unworthy of God’s love, but yet we still receive it. Our response to being recipients of God’s unmerited love should be to offer that same unmerited love to others, a denial of this makes us out to be liars and means that we cannot really love God.
Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your unmerited love, please help us to be equally magnanimous in offering our love to all, including those who are awkward, and we are not naturally drawn towards.
John Ch 19 verse 16 “Finally Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.“
The Jewish leaders who had arrested and brought Jesus before Pilate, the Roman Governor, thought they had matters under their control. They had got what they wanted; ridding themselves of this ‘blasphemer’ who was challenging their tight grip on the Jewish law, the Temple and their position and status. Pilate himself also perhaps thought he was controlling events; giving the Jews what they wanted thus pacifying them, having the final say as to Jesus’ fate, and making it clear that he found no charge against Him – as if to absolve himself of any guilt or responsibility. The irony was that it was Jesus Himself who was the Lord of these events. He it was who was following obediently the Father’s will. He was handing Himself over to this most cruel of trials and death on a cross. He knew no one else was able to conquer and defeat the Evil One, who had wreaked havoc on creation turning mankind whom Jesus Himself had created, to sinful, wicked ways evidenced by the suffering Jesus Himself had to face. He endured and walked the road to death so that you and I through Him might be forgiven.
My Lord, what love is this, that paid so dearly. That I the guilty one may go free. Jesus, we welcome you, we look for you, we worship you.