I’ve been on holiday and getting ready for the year – sorry about lack of updates.
My thoughts over the past several weeks have dwelt on life, its purpose, God and His intentions. Sometimes we get it just so wrong. Our focus is on the moment, on personal satisfaction and everyone else’s stupidity.
Travelling through the wonder of Western Australia’s South we marvelled at stunning beaches, amazing forests (God plants forests, men plant plantations), ancient rock formations and deep underground caves. We walked the treetops, climbed giant trees and stood dumbfounded at lighthouses which guarded against the danger of the seas. We met new people, ate new food and slept in beds freshly made up by unseen strangers. It was good because it made me think about God.
This afternoon, my daily lectionary readings arrived on my computer – I still don’t really understand how this all happens but perhaps sometimes its just good to let God do His thing through unsuspecting people. His fingerprint is everywhere. My text today was the delightful words from John 6 … here let me give them to you:
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which* comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’
This morning I was reading an admonition from Eugene Peterson – He said, “The Word didn’t become a good idea; He became flesh!” Yes, yes, yes. He is the bread of life. Do not work for food that perishes, but for that which comes from the Son of Man. Whoever comes to Him will not hunger, whoever believes in Him will not thirst. We sustain our lives, give our life meaning and purpose, not by eating and drinking, but by coming to and believing in Jesus.
Let me explain, I was with an elderly lady this morning who has been told that she has less than a month to live. She told me that she believed in God but not in the church – fair comment, I guess, but she has missed so much, and I think she realises it now. We spoke about her death and about the funeral (the reason for requesting my visit) but I also spoke about Jesus and the life that He intended. When I prayed she wept, first tears of regret, then tears of joy. Regret that she had waited so long to stop and think about God – she hadn’t prayed in over 60 years; and joy, as the Father restored all those years back to her and readied her for her homecoming. She came to Jesus, she believed in Him and she will never be hungry or thirsty ever again. Of course it may happen physically, as the cancer and the treatment kicks in, but her life now has purpose, meaning and potential – even if it lasts only one more month. In that way, she has been more than satisfied by Jesus.
Evening Devotion December 9th Psalm 32:1-7
Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”— and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Confession has become a forgotten word, a forgotten work. But there is power in confessing our sins and failures. Naming them helps us to conquer them. Like the Alcoholics Anonymous confession, “Hi, my name is …. I am an alcoholic”.
When I speak to people about confessing their sins, nearly everyone professes it as part of their life – but I wonder. I know a man who does confess his sins every day, each morning and each evening. He names them before God, he weeps at his failures and he cries out for strength to overcome. And this is the most Godly man that I know – and the strongest. Twice he has asked me to be his Confessor – I have never been more embarrassed, more broken and more uplifted than those two times. To hear a really strong, confident man speak of his failure is quite a thing. But, it makes him strong, because he finds his strength in the Lord, not in his own quasi-perfection. He may well be an exception but I don’t see that kind of regularly renewed strength in others who profess to confess.
BLESSED is the one who is forgiven – He who keeps silent wastes away. BLESSED is the one who acknowledges his sin – He will be kept safe from trouble and will be surrounded by songs of deliverance.
Take a moment now to bow your head before the Lord. Open your heart, your deepest place – acknowledge where you have failed, ask for forgiveness and seek God’s strength to be stong.
Morning Devotion November 25, 2009 Obadiah
Obadiah was a prophet in Israel around the time of Jeremiah and the Babylonian Captivity. His message is against Edom – a long time enemy of Israel from the time when they refused to allow Israel passage through their territory on the way to the Promised Land during the Exodus (see Number 20). This denial and the ongoing hostility against Israel was made even more reprehensible by the fact that the people of Edom (descendants of Esau) and the people of Israel (Jacob) were related.
This morning I want to focus on just one small part of this very short book – verses 15-17.
“The day of the Lord is near
for all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you;
your deeds will return upon your own head.
16 Just as you drank on my holy hill,
so all the nations will drink continually;
they will drink and drink
and be as if they had never been.
17 But on Mount Zion will be deliverance;
it will be holy,
and the house of Jacob
will possess its inheritance.”
Just as this prophecy was directed at Edom, so it is directed at us also. In our own relationships with each other we are often hostile and uncaring. We delight at a rival’s failure. We forget that Jesus said not only “Love your neighbour”, He also said, “Love your enemy.” As Christ Followers we need to remember that we too are sinners (once fallen, now forgiven) and that our followership in Christ expects us to walk in His steps. He loved the sinners but hated the self-righteous (we often do it the other way round!)
The day of the Lord is near for ALL nations, and as you have done, so will it be done to you. We are being called to a new life (call it revival, if you like) where the deliverance on Mount Zion (see it as the Cross at Calvary) calls us to holiness and to take hold of our inheritance. We need to drink and drink the life giving water on God’s holy hill and be as if we had never been – made new, restored, forgiven and given a whole new life.