Epilogue

To Follow Jesus

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 are the first seventeen verses of Jeremiah 12, here are the first five:

Jeremiah 12:1-5 (NIV): Jeremiah’s complaint

‘You are always righteous, Lord,  when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease? You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. You are always on their lips but far from their hearts. Yet you know me, Lord; you see me and test my thoughts about you. Drag them off like sheep to be butchered!  Set them apart for the day of slaughter! How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying, ‘He will not see what happens to us.’

God’s answer

‘If you have raced with men on foot  and they have worn you out,  how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan? … ‘

Selwyn concludes this issue with these following words: ‘We have seen in our meditations on the Songs of Ascents that each psalm describes an aspect of the life of the spiritual traveller that needs to be carefully considered. These aspects once again are: renunciation, being kept, worship, service, deliverance, security, joy, work, contentment, perseverance, hope, childlike trust, obedience, unity and praise.

What I can guarantee is this: as you learn to sing these songs, and keep ever before you – the truths they underline, you will find faith and hope growing steadily in your heart.’

It’s good to remember that Jesus loves us so much that He will never leave us to work alone, through the problems we will face on our journey. His Spirit is always with us, guiding our spiritual growth. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians 1:4-6, we find these encouraging words: ‘In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that God who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’

Your thoughts, on the last two months of us – singing together – the Songs of Ascents?

‘The circle of blessing’

To Follow Jesus

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 134 (NIV): ‘Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord.

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.

May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.

Well, here we are, at the end of February 2014 – never thought I would be here still writing posts for this blog – when, two years ago I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer that had spread to many of my bones. It’s purely God’s blessing that He has given me more time to serve Him. All praise and glory to Jesus.

I like Selwyn’s introduction to this study: ‘The final verse of the last of the Songs of Ascents ends with a blessing: ‘May the Lord … bless you from Zion.’ The pilgrims had reached the end of their journey but the time would soon come when they would return once more to their homes.

How would they go? They would go back with the blessing of the Maker of heaven and earth – the One who knows no limits – resting upon them.

This psalm is often entitled ‘The Circle of Blessing’ as it begins by inviting people to bless God and ends with God’s promise of blessing upon them. For the Israelites to go back to their homes and farms knowing that God’s blessing rested upon them was worth more to them than all the riches in Israel.’

Just as the Israelites were blessed by God, so too are we, when we: ‘Lift up our hands and praise the Lord’. God first blessed us when He chose us to be His children, and ‘the circle of blessing’ has been moving in the hearts of His people, from the very beginning.

At the end of life – then, we will receive our greatest blessing – eternal life in the presence of God. With such an amazing goal awaiting those who persevere in their faith; no wonder Paul, in his letters, constantly talks about running this race set out for us. The final blessing is almost too good to be true.

So, why is it then, that some appear to dawdle or just get tired and sit down – doing nothing – have they dropped out of the circle of blessing? Perhaps the only way to re-start their race, is to repent and raise their hands to God, in praise?

Your thoughts?

The last word

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 134 (NIV):Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord.

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.

May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.’

This short psalm is the last of the Songs of Ascents.

As Selwyn mentions, the keyword of this psalm is ‘praise’. He goes onto say: ‘If the life of a pilgrim begins with renunciation of the world and continues in fellowship with God then inevitable the last word must be praise. As God blesses us so richly with His power and His presence it follows that we too bless Him with our praise.’

I also thought that the prayer for today is worth further consideration here: ‘O God, forgive me that often my soul is sullen and  sour when it ought to be soaring in joyous praise. Even in the darkest of life’s experiences help me to respond to You not with a sigh but with a song of praise. In Jesus’ name. Amen.’

Just a minor thought: Over the last twenty or so years, I’ve noticed that church buildings are becoming more inaccessible outside of scheduled service times. The main reason for the ‘lock-up’ seems to be an increased risk of vandalism and theft. I imagine that even in large cities, it would be hard to find a church where there are people praising Jesus, all through the night.

Perhaps just a sign of our times; or, is it a sign of the last days, when many have allowed their love for our Lord, to grow cold?

We read in Matthew 2410-14 (NIV): ‘At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.’

What do you think?

The dew of Hermon

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 133 (NIV): ‘How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life for evermore.”

Selwyn mentions in today’s study that ‘dew is always a picture in the Bible of morning freshness, of being cleansed to start a new day’. The last verse of this psalm presents an image of the heavy dew that is a feature of Mount Hermon, falling on Jerusalem to refresh and cleanse all the people of Israel.

The image goes further than refreshing the people, and illustrates that the generous blessing of God includes eternal life.

Selwyn concludes, with these words: ‘The oil of priesthood flowing over the heads and faces of the anointed ones and the dew descending from Hermon’s slopes and extending into the regions beyond gives a picture of unity’s far reaching influence. Oil and dew; two things that make the pilgrim way both ‘good’ and ‘pleasant’. How powerful the Church would be if the unity spoken here was our chief characteristic.’

The sadness one feels when considering what Israel lost when they rejected their Saviour; is the same type of sadness,  that we experience today, when we see various Christian groups acting in disunity – I feel that it’s the same terrible rejection of God’s love.

Your thoughts?

The basis of community

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 133 (NIV): ‘How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life for evermore.”

We read in today’s study; ‘Two images are used by the psalmist to describe the blessings that result from unity. Let’s look first at the image of oil running down over Aaron’s beard. Exodus tells us about the ordination of Aaron and his sons. After sacrifices were prepared he was dressed in priestly garments and a special anointing oil was poured over his head. Oil, as most of you would be aware, is used in Scripture as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. …

Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us.

I think the prayer for today, is an excellent summary of this study: ‘O Father, thank You for reminding me that our community of believers is determined by what we are, by reason of Your Son. You have anointed us with Your Spirit and thus set us apart for service to one another. Help me grasp this thrilling truth. Amen.’

Why is there division within and between Christian communities? Is it because of pride and prejudices or the inability to forgive?

In John 13:34, we read: ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ Perhaps, the divisions we see within the Christian Church, comes down to the basic fact that we don’t love each other in the same way that Jesus loves us?

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:1-4), we have this excellent advice: ‘Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.’ [Sermon below, covers these verses.]

And, in Paul’s letter to the Colossians 3:1-4,12-14: ‘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. …

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.

As you can see – there is a common theme – to be patient, forgiving and loving of our fellow Christian brothers and sisters. However, this does not mean that we should be in community with those who believe in a different gospel.

The basis of community starts and ends with God’s chosen people – those who whole-heartedly believe in the Word of God; the faithful flock who follow Jesus.

Your views?

***

Yesterday, at the Nowra Baptist Church (NBC – www.nowrabaptist.org.au/), I heard an excellent sermon on unity in Christ – the basis of community [Philippians 1:27 – 2:11], delivered by pastor Richard Utber.

I’ve included an edited version of the sermon here

One big happy family?

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 133 (NIV):How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life for evermore.”

As Selwyn says in today’s study, the main theme of this short psalm, is unity.

Unity for the follower of Jesus starts with the basic idea that we are all following in His footsteps. We all share the same common purpose – to make Jesus known to a lost world. We know what the purpose is, by reading God’s Word and understanding the message with the assistance of His Spirit. Each one of us is being transformed into the likeness of Jesus, that is – we all look forward to the one common goal.

Selwyn says the following about unity: ‘… Before we can understand what unity is we must first be clear about what it is not. Unity is not unanimity – everyone agreeing with everyone. Neither is it uniformity – everyone looking and behaving alike. Unity has been described as ‘the bond that exists between one person and another in which they know that the things that unite them are deeper and more important than the things that might separate them.’

However, as Selwyn concludes in his study – the churches are not united – and this situation is scandalous. The question then is: what can we do about this disunity?

Simple but sublime

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 132:9-18 (NIV): ‘ … The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath he will not revoke: ‘One of your own descendants I will place on your throne. If your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons shall sit on your throne for ever and ever.’ For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, ‘This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.

I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food. I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful people shall ever sing for joy.

‘Here I will make a horn (symbol of power) grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one. I will clothe his enemies with shame, but his head shall be adorned with a radiant crown.”

[Wow, never thought I would catch up 🙂 .]

We read in today’s study: ‘The purpose of the promises in the last two verses of this psalm is to stimulate obedience by showing that God has kept His word in the past. Our expectations for the future, too, have their roots in what God has already accomplished.

But we must not fail to forget that the key to God’s blessing is first and foremost obedience.’

The depth of our love for Jesus is shown in the extent we follow His commandments; we are to have the attitude of servants – making God known to a lost world. We become like dry leaves blown along by our erratic desires if we talk to others about what God wants people to do, but practice something different.

What’s your view?