Seeing the glory of God

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes, Revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2013 Issue – ‘Love Came to Bring us Home’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Acts 7:54-60 (NIV): ‘When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.’

Selwyn has this to say: ‘On this last day of considering the theme ‘east of Eden’ what is our conclusion? It is this: there is no way we can get back into the garden of Eden, and there is no perfect happiness to be found on this sin-stained planet either. Our only sure hope is the promise of heaven. That hope is meant to give our lives stability and substance. … Only those whose hearts are filled with thoughts of heaven can relate to earth in a way that does not indulge either Utopian dreams (including prosperity gospels) or despotic solutions.’

It seems to be the ideal day to reflect on the last twelve months and consider our walk with Jesus – have we kept in step with Him?

In this last issue, we have looked at the types of difficulties we face every day in a fallen, sinful world. Early on, Selwyn looked at the pain of disconnected and disrupted relationships, he then addressed the negative emotions of fear, anxiety, and inner unrest. Next, he looked at the effects of depravity and pride that comes from our fallen human nature.

Other important aspects, which Selwyn talked about, were unmerited suffering, death and feelings of being abandoned by God – perhaps, the hardest topics to deal with. Selwyn then wrote about the reality of the devil and the methods he uses to deceive and tempt people. Another bitter consequence of living in a fallen world, addressed by Selwyn, was the pain of shattered hopes and broken plans.

Over the last week, we have studied together the challenge of serious doubts; and finally the need for us to be focused on our destination – to be ‘at home’ with Jesus.

This leave us to meditate on the title of this issue: ‘Love came to bring us home.‘ It’s a good subject to think about, a few days after Christmas and just as we start a new year.

In 1 Peter 2:9-12 (NIV), we find these great words: ‘You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the (people of this world) that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.’

Knowing that we are God’s special possession, we are then able to bravely walk in HIs footsteps – into the future – and to see His glory!

Any comments?

Heaven bent

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes, Revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2013 Issue – ‘Love Came to Bring us Home’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Colossians 3:1-17 (NIV): ‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Some great verses – don’t you agree – I especially like, ‘over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity’.

Selwyn says: ‘In these closing days of this issue I have been trying to make clear that we need to embrace the fact that we are heaven bent. … The apostle Paul in today’s text bids us set our hearts on things above. That suggests a determined, attentive gaze.’

I’m sure, many have heard the saying; ‘too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good’. As you may have realised from the last few days’ study – we must be heavenly minded to be able to do God’s will on earth! It is having a clear view of our destination – to be able to define our purpose – to work as agents of God’s love – that we can undertake our work in His harvest field. Jesus does His good work through us – our role is to keep in step with Him. We keep in step by listening to the ‘drums of heaven’.

Selwyn’s summary, echoes the above: ‘When we recover the hope of the world without end and focus on it, then we will discover that being heavenly minded makes us of much greater earthly good.’

Your view?

Earth-oriented Christians

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes, Revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2013 Issue – ‘Love Came to Bring us Home’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Colossians 1:24-29 (NIV): ‘Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.  I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

As, we approach the start of a new year, ask yourself this question. Have I strenuously used all the energy, God has given me to work in His harvest field, over the past twelve months? If, not – why not? Christ is in you – providing you with all the means to undertake His will.

Is your highest priority; to love God with all your heart, mind and spirit, such that all your earthly ambitions (better home, education or wealth) take a distant second place? Or, is it the case, that the things you give to Jesus are the left-overs, the discarded items, the few spare moments – AFTER, you have taken what you want, to make your life comfortable here – in this world?

Selwyn writes the following, in today’s study: ‘How often do you hear a sermon on the subject of heaven? Do you think much about it? Contemporary Christians are, it seems, much too earth-oriented and, have lost sight in their imagination of the world to come. …

If I understand the Scriptures correctly, God wants us to live our lives in anticipation of eternity, to lift our eyes beyond the immediate and have a clear vision of the kingdom that lies ahead. The sooner we focus on the things of eternity the better, otherwise we will turn out to be desperate and demanding people.’

Perhaps, we can all dwell on today’s prayer: ‘O God, I confess it is easier to keep my eyes on what is happening in this world than on the kingdom that lies ahead. Help me embrace eternal things, and give me a clearer understanding of their importance. In Jesus’ name. Amen.’

Any comments?

‘Carnal Christians’

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes, Revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2013 Issue – ‘Love Came to Bring us Home’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Colossians 1:1-14 (NIV): ‘Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, – the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you.

In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.’

I really like the bits I highlighted – especially the last few verses.

Selwyn writes: ‘We ended yesterday with the statement that even Christians are never perfectly satisfied in this world.’ … Does that mean the words of Jesus ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’, recorded in John 10:10 is not true? No. Christians do have abundant life injected into their souls when they receive Him, but however wonderful and exhilarating it is, one senses that it does not produce perfect happiness. …

This is not to detract from the joy that Christ gives, but simply to say that in a fallen world, and in our fallen condition, we will never experience perfection in anything – the single exception being perfect in love (Matthew 5:43-48).’

While we live in a fallen world, where we are witnesses to many cases of man’s terrible inhumanity to man (such as the current conflicts in Syrian & South Sudan), there can never be perfect joy. Yet, we do have the joy of knowing Jesus, of being set free from the slavery of sin, of having our hearts on fire with the sure hope of being with Him in heaven. The joy of our salvation cannot be taken away from us but we experience joy because we have been saved by His grace – and, the conditions we were saved from – still exist, and will continue to do so – until Jesus returns.

The great prayer, we all can say, is: ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’ Then, our joy will be complete!

The joy of unfulfilment

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes, Revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2013 Issue – ‘Love Came to Bring us Home’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Paul’s letter to the Philippians 3:12-21 (NIV): ‘Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.

But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.’

The next issue, Selwyn looks at – is, that we, as followers of Jesus, do not feel at home in this world.

He writes: “C.S. Lewis described this awareness so well when he wrote. ‘You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been hints of it – tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if ever there came an echo that did not die away but swelled into sound itself – you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say: Here at last is the thing I was made for.’

This might sound strange but even Christians are never perfectly satisfied in this world. … We are in this world as exiles and all our senses cry out. ‘This is not our home.’ And strangely, we are glad.”

In John 17:13-19, we read: “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.  I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”

We are not of this world, we have been taken out of it – our home is with Jesus. Let’s be clear here – the world we experience is mainly the people we interact with – who are in bondage to sin. Sadly, in some cases the people who see us as aliens, can be members of our own families.

Yet, we have been sent into this world – to make God (and His saving works) known through Jesus. Accordingly, as Paul says, ‘let us live up to what we have already attained’. We are passing through a ‘foreign’ place, but we are born or grow into, relationships with people who are in bondage; now, as freed people we cry out to those who are still slaves – there is a Saviour, who can take you to a better place!

Looking through ‘seeing’ eyes

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes, Revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2013 Issue – ‘Love Came to Bring us Home’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Psalm 73 (NIV): ‘Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, ‘How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?’ This is what the wicked are like – always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterwards you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.

Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.’

Selwyn, in today’s study, returns to the issue of doubts which are deep, dark and potentially devastating.

He writes: ‘Although we cannot stop what we are calling psychological doubts (that is. doubts not caused by Satan) arising in our minds, we can use them to ask the hard questions that can cause us to take a firmer grip on God. Doubts can be valuable if they motivate us to search the Scriptures more thoroughly and come to God in more fervent prayer.’

A benefit of belonging to a Bible Study Group (a small group of people who study the Scriptures together and share views, doubts and joys in a confidential environment), is that these types of doubts can be discussed with other people – one benefit is that many have the same sort of doubts and it can be of value to hear another person’s way of managing their doubts.

The most important truth is that Jesus is working to address your doubts in a loving manner – He knows your concerns and He has prepared a way for you to overcome your doubts. We are not alone – we have, God with us!

‘Somebody with skin on’

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes, Revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

November/December 2013 Issue – ‘Love Came to Bring us Home’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

John 1:1-18 (NIV): ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, ‘This is the one I spoke about when I said, “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.”’) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.’

[The above verses are just simply fantastic.]

Christmas Day – just how many people opening their Christmas presents today, actually know God – the giver of the greatest present – eternal life?

Selwyn writes: ‘We pause on this Christmas Day to drink in again the wonder of Jesus’ coming to earth. … When beset by life’s problems we need something more than laws or principles: we want a person – somebody with skin on. Christmas focuses on the fact that when we link ourselves by faith to Jesus what we receive is not a principle or some vague inner trembling in our consciousness: what we receive is Jesus Himself. His coming was not limited to the first century. By His Spirit He is with us still. Grace!’

Jesus’ life and teaching, made God known, in a way that the laws of Moses never could – and so too, we have also been called to make God known – we do this through His love. It’s not what material things we give to each other on Christmas Day – it’s our love – given freely, that is Christmas!