‘Dying kicks of evil habits’

To Follow Jesus

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

September/October 2014 Issue – ‘Property of Jesus’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Acts 11:1-18 (NIV-UK): “The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticised him and said, ‘You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.’

Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: ‘I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds.

Then I heard a voice telling me, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” I replied, “Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” The voice spoke from heaven a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house.

He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, “Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.”

As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: “John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.”

So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?’

When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.’”

The above verses cover a story that is well known to many of us. It is interesting, as Selwyn mentions in today’s study, that the truth of God’s salvation being available to all peoples, races and cultures; was not totally revealed to Peter, and the other apostles, at Pentecost.

It is a further example to me, of God’s sovereignty – He reveals truth to the right people at the right time – in accordance with His will.

Selwyn writes: “Today, is the last day of our meditations on the brand marks of Jesus. Perhaps, over the past two months, as we have talked about being branded with Jesus’ characteristics in order to show the world we belong to Him; you have questioned the absoluteness of the deliverance depicted in these studies.

Sometimes deliverance is gradual. This is due not to any deficiency on God’s part. … Peter on the Day of Pentecost, had many inadequacies burned out of him as the fire of the Holy Spirit fell, but some things still lingered – religious/racial prejudice, for example.

Often there is a little mopping up to be done even after the citadel has been captured by Jesus. A preacher once referred to the areas of resistance that remain as ‘the dying kicks of evil habits’. But don’t be discouraged – the kicks are dying kicks.

You have asked God to brand you with the marks of Jesus – now believe that you have received (or, are in the process of receiving) all that you have asked for. And, if there are some ‘dying kicks’, then remember that you belong not to a defeated yesterday, but to a victorious present.”

I’ve quoted a lot of what Selwyn has written today, to reinforce the truth that our transformation into the likeness of Jesus, is a life-long process.

Yet, we must always keep in the fore-front of our mind, these words from Philippians 1:4-6 (UKNIV): “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 he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Our branding of the marks of Jesus, is in the hands of God – He will complete the good work that He has started in you – nothing can stand in His way; not even our frail human nature!

Any comments, on this journey we have had together, over the past two months?

Womb, gloom, tomb!

To Follow Jesus

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

September/October 2014 Issue – ‘Property of Jesus’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Isaiah 35:1-10 (NIV-UK): “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendour of our God.

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.’ Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there.

But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

A good study by Selwyn, not much to say about it. I think his introduction is very concise and to the point: “A preacher once remarked: ‘The biography of many people can be summed up in three words: womb, gloom and tomb. Between the womb and the tomb they live in gloom.’ That is not how we were designed to live.”

Likewise, his conclusion: “One of the things that Jesus brings is deliverance from dullness and dejection. He imparts overflowing, exuberant, abundant joy. Indeed He not only imparts it, but brands it into us.”

Yet, the best part of today’s study, for me, is this text from Isaiah. It is just so amazing that God’s will, as seen in Jesus, is foreshadowed by the prophets in the Old Testament.

As some may know, there has been an ongoing debate as to who wrote the various sections of this book; but we can say that the book, as we know it, was compiled well before the birth of Christ, and some of the events it covers – relates to Israel’s history, hundreds of years earlier.

There is a fantastic copy of a scroll, showing the contents of Isaiah, in a museum in Israel, that was discovered with many other Dead Sea scrolls; which is a good representation of the translations we now have available to us. The reason for this brief journey into biblical history is to reinforce the fact that these texts were not changed by later writers to ensure prophecy was fulfilled, in Jesus.

In summary, we can be certain that one day, we too, will experience everlasting joy. What a wonderful, glorious day that will be!

Inexpressible joy

To Follow Jesus

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

September/October 2014 Issue – ‘Property of Jesus’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

1 Peter 1:1-19 (NIV-UK): “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ: To God’s elect, exiles, scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Though you have not seen him, 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.”

Don’t you agree – this is another exceptional set of verses, which can only be a great encouragement – to us. We – who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood.

We can depend on the perfection of God’s choice, in regard to who He saves – it’s a most humbling thought to think that we have done nothing to deserve the salvation of our souls. And, our frail nature – by itself – cannot destroy the genuineness of our faith, because we have the assurance that our inheritance in heaven is totally and completely shielded by God’s power.

Now, just that truth should generate joy, in the hearts of all, who follow Jesus.

Selwyn says in today’s study: “Those who are branded with the joy of Christ are not only truly joyous, but sometimes hilariously joyous. … It is a sad reflection on today’s Church that exuberance and devotion are regarded as things that cannot flow together. They can.”

It’s a pity, that in some cases, excessive exuberance has been allowed to become disruptive because the behaviour has crowded out, all other forms of devotion. There is a need for balance – a balance, which allows for both inexpressible joy and reverence for our Holy God, in an atmosphere where the peace of Christ prevails.

Your view?

The joy of the redeemed

To Follow Jesus

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

September/October 2014 Issue – ‘Property of Jesus’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Psalm 30:1-12 (NIV-UK): “I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

When I felt secure, I said, ‘I shall never be shaken.’

Lord, when you favoured me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

To you, Lord, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: ‘What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me; Lord, be my help.’

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.

Lord my God, I will praise you for ever.”

I liked these bits, written by Selwyn in today’s study: “Yesterday we said that joy – abundant, infectious, overflowing joy – is one of the central characteristics of the Christian faith.

Paul writes: ‘In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us’ (Ephesians 1:7-8). To be redeemed and not enjoy redemption is a contradiction in terms: joy is inevitable in the heart of a truly redeemed Christian.”

As Selwyn mentions earlier in today’s study: “Yet many Christians know little or nothing of a deep, lasting joy – they function by duty rather than by delight.” I wonder why this is so? The riches of God’s grace are freely lavished on us, what more do we want that will convince us that we already have a pure joy that can never be taken from us?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spend many a solitary hour in medical facilities waiting for treatment of one kind or another – the one emotion I was free from – was despair; because it’s during these times that I feel, most strongly, the sovereign presence of my Lord.

Yes, they’re sad moments; walking past the reception area in the foyer of the hospital, there was a woman visibly upset – hands full of wet tissues – her companions, staring at the clean white floor, searching for words of compassion.  Yet, Jesus is there in their midst – promising salvation to those who believe in Him. Offering life, that never ends – one, where there are no tears – surely, the joy of knowing that victory is ours at the end of-our-day on this planet – keeps us joyfully following in His footsteps.

Your view?

Joy! Joy! Joy!

To Follow Jesus

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

September/October 2014 Issue – ‘Property of Jesus’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

John 15:1-17 (NIV-UK): “‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 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. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: love each other.”

Another great set of words to think about, as we go about our business on this October day. Two points stand out from the above verses – one, that it is Jesus who chooses His disciples; you and I have been chosen by God – we did not choose Him – a very humbling truth.

The second point, is one which I think is often missed – the implied consequences of this verse: “You are my friends IF you do what I command.” If a person calls themselves a Christian yet does not try to do what He commands – then what does that say about their relationship with Jesus? Or, more importantly – how does God treat them?

Selwyn starts today’s study with these words: “Now we come to the last in our list of the marks of Jesus with which we are to be branded – abundant, over flowing joy. … Leaders are often at pains to point out that joy should not be mistaken for happiness. Happiness depends on what happens,’ they declare, ‘but joy is independent of circumstances.’ …

You cannot take His joy without finding your joy complete. You and I can be branded also with this mark of Jesus. His overflowing joy is to be so infused within us that although we will experience sadness and many trials, we shall never be overcome by them.”

Let’s finish with these verses from John 14:21-24 (UKNIV): Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’

Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

We share in the joy of Jesus when we have developed a loving and obedient relationship with Him, because it is His Spirit that  comes and resides IN us. Consequently, His characteristics – especially His love – can then be seen in us. If, we don’t demonstrate His ‘marks’ to the world – then, what does that say about us?

What’s your view on this topic?

More steps to prayer

To Follow Jesus

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

September/October 2014 Issue – ‘Property of Jesus’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

2 Chronicles 15:1-15 (NIV-UK): “The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded. He went out to meet Asa and said to him, ‘Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.

For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law. But in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them.

In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil. One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress. But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.’

When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple.

Then he assembled all Judah and Benjamin and the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them, for large numbers had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.

They assembled at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign. At that time they sacrificed to the Lord seven hundred head of cattle and seven thousand sheep and goats from the plunder they had brought back. They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul.

All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. They took an oath to the Lord with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.”

I liked this part of today’s reading: “They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them.” They’re encouraging words.

Selwyn writes the following, in today’s study: “We spend one more day considering the steps we take to develop a closer relationship with God in prayer. [Two steps were considered in yesterday’s study.]

Thirdly, realise that God hears your prayer and that He will give to you according to your need – not necessarily what you ask, but what you need (Philippians 4:19).

Fourth, take charge of your time! Decide how much time you can give to prayer, and organise your day around this time. … Those who benefit from a rich prayer life say that if they don’t make time to pray, they end up not having any time to pray.

Fifth, begin your prayer time, if you can, by reading from the Bible. … Let God speak to you from His Word before you speak to Him through your words. It gives what one preacher calls a ‘climate’ to your prayer time – it starts you thinking in the right direction.

Are you ready now to be branded with this mark of Jesus – prayerful dependence on God?”

The strength of our relation with Jesus can be measured by the time we spend with Him; eagerly seeking His guidance on the best ways to undertake His will.

Any comments?

 

 

 

Building a vital prayer life

To Follow Jesus

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

September/October 2014 Issue – ‘Property of Jesus’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Psalm 149:1-9 (NIV-UK): Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp.

For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. Let his faithful people rejoice in this honour and sing for joy on their beds.

May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them – this is the glory of all his faithful people.

Praise the Lord.”

In today’s study, Selwyn provides us with some very useful information on prayer.

He writes: “Now that we have seen how important prayer was to Jesus, and how necessary it is to have that same characteristic branded into us, we ask ourselves: How do we go about the task of bringing our prayer lives in line with His?

First, determine to become, not a self-dependent being, but a God-dependent being. The only way to achieve this, of course, is through prayer. It may well require a good deal of patience on your part to establish a vital prayer life. …

Remember, the primary reason for prayer is building relationship with Jesus – and with any relationship it takes time, energy and effort.

Second, breathe a prayer for God’s help as you endeavour to increase and deepen your prayer life. Whenever you seek to become more dependent on Jesus through prayer, you are beginning something which will make the difference between weakness and strength, defeat and victory.

The devil knows this, and so he will use every means he can to deter you in your quest. … But have no fear: given your consent and co-operation,” Jesus will not allow Satan to break you; and He, through His Spirit’s power, will help you to trustfully discuss your spiritual needs with Him. He loves you – with a perfect, unending and dependable saving love. Praise God!

Tomorrow, Selwyn discusses three more steps to take, in regard to establishing a fruitful prayer life.

The one thought I want to leave with you is this: Jesus’ love, works through your deficiencies. He desires you to enter into a closer relationship with Him, through prayer. Based on what I’ve read in Scripture and my personal experience, I believe that He will take the initiative and prompt you in all sorts of ways to establish a meaningful prayer life.

He is not the sort of God that stands back and waits for us to get our house in order before He acts; on the contrary, Jesus is constantly working to transform us. One of His ways of working is through prayer. ‘Praise the Lord!’