Intimate relationships

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

January/February 2014 Issue – ‘Songs for the Road’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Psalm 127 (NIV): ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat –  for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.’

I don’t have much to say about today’s study – I agree with a lot of what Selwyn has written.

He says: ‘On the surface the point the psalmist is making here is that if a father has a number of sons then, when he is old, they will rally around him and ensure that he is treated fairly and honourably. The family is shown to be the basic unit of society – a divinely intended source of comfort. 

But I think there is a deeper truth here which we need to see – the truth concerning intimate relationships. Jesus, you will remember, said on one occasion: ‘Whoever does the will of my Father … is my brother and sister and mother’ (Matthew 12:50).

In looking at this psalm and other areas of Scripture we begin to get a picture of life and a way of working which is not focused on the acquisition of material things but on the development of meaningful, rich and lasting relationships, with God and therefore with others around us. Life really is about relationships – our relationship with God and relationships with others.’

I think we can spend a lot more time meditating on the fact that our brothers and sisters in-Christ are part of our eternal family; and, we should interact with others – in our respective Christian communities – reflecting the truth of this relationship. Sadly, many people, go to their local church service – once a week – and only offer a few token words of greeting and a couple of sentences of small-talk. Perhaps it reflects the type of relationship they have with Jesus?

Your view?

Easy work

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

January/February 2014 Issue – ‘Songs for the Road’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Psalm 127 (NIV): ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat –  for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.’

I liked Selwyn’s conclusion: ‘In contrast to the effort one has to put into a building or guarding a city, the psalmist is saying that when it comes to making a child it is largely effortless work. When God and His children team up then He takes over the major share of the project. Divine co-operation and involvement with His people always results in life and relationship. Invite God to ‘work’ in your life – today.’

The process of ‘making a child’ may be ‘easy’ work; but the life-long process of raising a child is one of the most important duties we will face – and one of the most time consuming and expensive. And, in the latter sense, not much of it is ‘easy’ work, however, as most parents will know, at times – it can be extremely enjoyable and rewarding.

In Psalm 34:11 (NIV), we read these words written by David: ‘Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.’ We also have these well known words from Deuteronomy 6:4-7, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.’

We teach our children about what God has done for us through Jesus – because we should talk to our children about the important people and events of our lives. Our relationship with God is the single most important aspect of our existence. Naturally, we want our children to be part of God’s kingdom, with us. Why wouldn’t we introduce our children to Jesus?

Any comments?

Pointless!

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

January/February 2014 Issue – ‘Songs for the Road’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Psalm 127 (NIV): ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat –  for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.’

Selwyn continues his discussion on the importance of making Jesus central to all of our activities including work. Perhaps, his following statement sums up his views on this topic: ‘We take God at His Word and recognise that He and He alone is the only reality. How can we possibly exclude the Creator from our work?’

I agree with Selwyn in general terms, in that, we must involve God in all that we do; however. I think there is also a spiritual side to this psalm – the concept of Christian work (making God known to a lost world).

This psalm – has the title – ‘A song of ascents. Of Solomon.’ It is directly attributed to Solomon although it could have been written by David as a tribute to Solomon. And we know from Scripture, Solomon built the first Temple (David was not allowed to build it because of ‘blood on his hands’). Solomon would have prayed a lot to God about the building of the Temple, such that he would have involved God in every detail of the work.

Yet, in a long-term sense, the builders laboured in vain – the Temple, along with most of the city, was burnt down by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BCE (2 Kings 25). I believe that God is more concerned with building His eternal Temple, based on the foundation stone set by Jesus. It’s this work that proceeds with God’s involvement that is never in vain!

The spiritual temple God builds, is eternal; in John 2:18-20, we find the following: “The Jews then responded to him, ‘What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ They replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” Here, we have Jesus referring to Himself – as the Temple.

Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, we hear Paul say: Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives among you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.”

The work we do in God’s harvest field, is our participation in the building of God’s Temple. As long as the work we do, is aligned with His will, then our work is not in vain. I think you have to be careful in the application of proverbs, such as the two main themes of this Psalm, else we could fall into the trap of thinking that Christians should enjoy material prosperity. The real focus of our ‘eternal’ work is to do the will of our Father.

Any other views?

Don’t work in vain

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

January/February 2014 Issue – ‘Songs for the Road’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Psalm 127 (NIV):Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat –  for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.’

Today, Selwyn looks at the next psalm, in the series – Song of Ascents. Psalm 127 is about work and children. In regard to work, Selwyn writes: ‘This psalm puts the whole subject of work into clear spiritual focus. Work is a major component of our lives. It is the one area of life perhaps above all others where, as Eugene Peterson has put it, ‘our sin can be magnified or our faith matured’.

In Genesis 3:17-19 (NIV), we hear God say to Adam: ‘To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat from it,” ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.’

The work we do, to earn money for the things we need, is for many of us – a necessary chore. I guess what Selwyn is talking about in today’s study is how we involve God into this activity, which takes up a great part of our waking life.

What’s your view on this topic?

Joy! Joy! Joy!

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

January/February 2014 Issue – ‘Songs for the Road’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Psalm 126 (NIV): ‘When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.’

Selwyn opens today’s study, by saying: ‘The exciting thing about joy is that not only is it stimulated by reflection on what God has done; it is also nurtured by anticipation of what God will do in the future.’ And, he finishes with these words (with minor edits): ‘Trouble and tears are part of life, but they will never displace joy. It has been there in our past and will be there in our future too. God will not change His way of working with us. What we have known of Him, we will know of Him. This is one song for the road every pilgrim can and must sing: Joy! Joy! Joy!’

It has to be said that the joy we experience when we are in a relationship with Jesus, is not something we manufacture – it is not a feeling that we generate when considering what God has done. It is a gift from God – and it’s a wonderful gift that cannot be diminished by what life may throw at us.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians 5:22-25, we read: ‘ … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.’

Notice that those who experience God’s joy, belong to Jesus and live by His Spirit.

There is a Christian song, ‘It Is Well With My Soul, written by Horatio Spafford in 1873. The hymn was written after a series off traumatic events in his life.  First was the Great Chicago Fire (1871), which ruined him financially because he had invested heavily in property. In 1873, he sent his wife and four daughters to Europe but on the way over there was a collision with another ship and all his daughters drowned. Not long after, while travelling to Europe to join his grieving wife, he wrote the words of the hymn as his ship passed close to the place where his daughters had died.

This is the first verse: ‘When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.’

This type of response to tragedy, is only possible through the love of God.

Your view?

Too good to be true?

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

January/February 2014 Issue – ‘Songs for the Road’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Psalm 126 (NIV): ‘When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.’

I entirely agree with Selwyn’s views on the joy, we as followers of Jesus, experience – even when storm clouds are overhead.

He writes in today’s study: ‘Joy, as we have been saying, characterises the Christian walk and life’s journey. It arises from having been set free from sin’s bondage and are in communion with the Creator of the universe. …

God has done great things with us, through us and for us; has He not? … We who live in the post-Christian era can sing a song that compares with the thoughts uttered in this psalm: ‘To God be the glory, great things He has done.’ …

What God has done for us in Christ seems to good to be true. But also, too good not to be true.’

I’m sure that many who read today’s study would agree that what Jesus has done for us – by His death and resurrection – is simply amazing – and, the slightest mention of this truth would fill our hearts with thankfulness, praise and an incomprehensible joy.

Yet, when I go to an average church service on a Sunday (in my local area) – do I see everyone there – openly expressing this joy – and celebrating Christ with us – with spontaneous songs of thanksgiving? Well, you know the answer to my rhetorical question – sometimes you see a glimpse of God’s joy in a few people – now, and then; but, not all the time.

If, your church does glow with the light of Jesus in your midst – such that visitors ask the reason for such joy; then, you are very blessed.

Selwyn mentions that we (those of us who live under the influence of Western culture)now live in a post-Christian era; consequently, you would think that the differences between those living under the bondage of sin and those who are truly following Jesus, would be all the more obvious. The light of our witness for God would really shine brightly at such a dark time.

Is this the case?

What are your views on this topic?

Of its own accord

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

January/February 2014 Issue – ‘Songs for the Road’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Psalm 126 (NIV):When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.’

I think that this is an inspirational piece of writing by Selwyn – he, in a most beautiful way, describes the joy we experience in following Jesus.

He says: ‘The theme of this psalm quite clearly is joy. It bubbles up in almost every line. Joy is a characteristic of all who walk on the road of faith. Sometimes people mistake pleasure and happiness for the joy that is to be found only in God. …

Pleasure and Christian joy cannot be equated. Pleasure depends on circumstances. Christian joy is completely independent of circumstances. Pleasures come and go. The joy of a relationship with God is constant. It rises to rise again.

Pleasures are superficial and temporary. Joy is deep. It wells up from inner contentment.. … Godly joy, is not something a person is required to have, but is rather a consequence of having been set free from the bondage of sin and knowing, like the prodigal son, that one’s feet are on the road that leads to the Father’s house.

We don’t have to acquire joy. It comes to us when we experience salvation, of its own accord.’ it’s a gift from Jesus.

In John 15:10-12, we hear Jesus say: ‘If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.’

And, in 1 Peter 1:8-9, we have these great words: ‘Though you have not seen Jesus, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The eternal flame of joy we experience is given to us through our belief in Jesus. We have so much to be thankful for; yet, do we allow our joy to be seen by all – as a fantastic witness for the God who loves us – or, do we hold it in, and hide it from our family, friends and neighbours?

Any comments?