‘Be happy – it’s Christmas’

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.

November/December 2014 Issue – ‘Bringing down giants’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Isaiah 53:1-12 (NIV-UK): “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

A remarkable set of verses – don’t you agree?

Selwyn starts today’s study with: “It may seem strange and a little disconcerting that I should choose to discuss the subject of self-pity in the days that surround Christmas. Well , it’s because Christmas is not a time of festivity and fun for everyone.”

As the above verses, testify, that; Jesus took upon Himself the pain and sin of this world to save you and me; no matter how badly we feel, the distress of Jesus on the cross was far greater. And, this truth should shine through the darkness of our self-pity, and lead us towards a brighter day.

As Selwyn says in his conclusion: “All Jesus asks is that you acknowledge your need of Him and He will be there to help you and sustain you. Come to Him in prayer now and ask for His help.”

I think the problem with a number of people who are drowning in their own self-pity, is that they don’t love Jesus enough to fully trust in His power and love for them. All, I can say, is to read the above verses slowly and contemplate the cross and what it means. Perhaps it would be worthwhile if you meditate on what it would have meant, if the first Christmas had never happened.

Your view?

No bed of roses

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.

November/December 2014 Issue – ‘Bringing down giants’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

1 Peter 5:1-11 (NIV-UK): “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

In today’s study, Selwyn continues his discussion on the ‘giant’ of self-pity.

I liked this statement of his: “Self-pity is a solvent that dissolves faith and pushes a person deep into doubt, where they find constant reasons for thinking that God does not keep His promises and that He forgets, at times, to be gracious. … But perhaps the worst thing about self-pity is that it exposes a person to temptation and causes them to focus on things other than God.”

Perhaps, self-pity comes from a sort of personal pride, that says to a person; ‘You deserve a better life; you are owed more than what you have right now.” It raises questions in a person’s mind about the generosity of God’s provision and love.

These words from today’s reading, provide an excellent summary: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” A humble heart, trusting in God’s love, will leave no room for self-pity. Do you agree?

 

The ‘poor me’ syndrome

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.

November/December 2014 Issue – ‘Bringing down giants’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Luke 22:39-46 (NIV-UK): “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’

It’s interesting that Jesus twice tells his disciples to pray, so that they will not fall into temptation. Here’s a question for you; what sort of temptation was Jesus warning the disciples about?

In today’s study, Selwyn introduces us to the ‘giant’ of self-pity. He writes: “This ‘giant’ is particularly successful with those who feel life has never given them a chance, those who have been hampered from the start by some difficult circumstances. … It is sometimes referred to as a victim mentality as it causes people to focus on themselves and their own feelings rather than facing the issues of life with courage. … When our misfortunes dominate our thoughts then temptation has even greater power.”

The giant of self-pity can only take a hold of our life, if we don’t totally trust in the love of our Lord. Very few of us, have had a privileged and healthy upbringing, where we have lacked for nothing – it’s usual for each of us to have had our fair share of problems. It’s a fallen world that we live in and bad things do happen to God’s people.

It’s essential we trust in God’s love and also believe that He has the power to use us – even if we have nothing in our hands to offer Him. If you think that life (Jesus) is treating you unfairly, then I suggest you look at this web-site and witness just how much the ‘disabled’ (not the right word, in these circumstances, but it’s how the world thinks) can serve our Lord.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this verse, Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” If, we allow the giant of self-pity into our heart, he will rob us of our confidence to approach Jesus’ throne – pray that you don’t fall into this type of temptation.

Any comments?

Free!

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.

November/December 2014 Issue – ‘Bringing down giants’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

1 Peter 2:13-25 (NIV-UK): “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.

Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. ‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’

For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

There’s a lot of good stuff in the above verses, but they have also been significantly misused by various ‘authorities’ throughout the centuries.

It’s my view that there were some early Christians, especially in Rome, who were expressing the view that they didn’t have to obey, any of the laws proclaimed by human authorities, because they were free to follow and obey – the one and only, true authority – God.

Peter, in his letter, is correctly informing  people that (in general) “it is God’s will that by doing good (obeying the just laws of the land) you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.”  Unfortunately, these verses were used to support the legitimacy of cruel and evil regimes; as many kings/queens used the ‘divine right to rule’ excuse, to do whatever they wanted.

The holy family fled to Egypt to escape the ‘authority’ of Herod the Great. We need to discern with the help of God’s Spirit when we stay and suffer the impact of unjust laws, and when we get up and leave the area of influence of certain human authorities. Do you agree?

In today’s study, we spend one more day looking at the issue of revenge and its antidote – forgiveness.

I liked Selwyn’s comments on Dr W.E. Sangster’s sermon, regarding the “three basic elements of forgiveness as demonstrated by Jesus on the cross. First, Jesus forgave them. He cried to God not for vengeance but for forgiveness. He handed the responsibility for justice over to His Father.

Second, Jesus prayed for them. … Third, He served them. Their unrighteousness and hostility could not deter Him from loving.”

Selwyn brings his thoughts together in his conclusion: “To those who feel they cannot follow these principles my reply is this: it’s hard but not impossible. Put your hand in the stream of God’s provisions and you will find the stone you need to defeat the giant of revenge once and for all. It is the stone of forgiveness. … You are free!”

I entirely agree with Selwyn’s conclusion. First off, we should hold this truth close to our heart – Jesus loves us and wants to help us – to overcome the giants that are holding us back from fully surrendering ourselves to His loving care. We can pray to our Lord, seeking His help in nurturing a forgiving heart – because, it’s only through the heart that true forgiveness flows.

We can say to a person – I forgive you – but, if it’s said because it’s a form of an intellectual agreement (our head knowledge) that is what we should do – but it does not come from our heart – then the words are empty. Our behaviour towards the person will not change; we will not reflect the love that can give energy to our forgiveness, to enable it to dissolve hatred and resentment. That is, the strength of the love of Jesus flowing out from us.

Any comments?

The right thing to do

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.

November/December 2014 Issue – ‘Bringing down giants’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Colossians 3:1-17 (NIV-UK): 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.”

I’m always alerted to the fact that Paul consistently stresses the need to take off our old self – to cease our old sinful ways; and to put on our new self, which is being renewed by the power of God’s Spirit into the image of Jesus.

It’s these sort of verses, which should cause us to pause and reflect; and ask ourselves the question: “Can I see a change in my life-style – am I becoming more like Jesus; or am I standing still – if so, what is holding me back?” Whatever the answer, prayer for help or thanksgiving – should always flow from this type of reflection.

Selwyn, in today’s study, continues to discuss the giant of revenge and the right way of dealing with this issue, is through forgiveness. He tells us that forgiveness is different to justice. We can forgive a person, but that person still needs to be accountable to society, for the consequences of their actions. Forgiveness does not imply that we condone an evil action.

As Selwyn writes: “In the case of revenge a person insists on being the judge in their own quarrel. Where justice is concerned, the injured party hands the matter over to society for someone else to be the judge.”

The other aspect that Selwyn looks at, is the response of the forgiven person; sometimes, they may not care if they are forgiven or not – either way, their response will reflect the nature – of their relationship with God.

We are called to be a witness of Jesus’ love for this world, and part of our calling is to be like Jesus – we forgive; because it is part of the nature of our new self – to be forgiving. By following Jesus’ example, we make God known to a world that is desperate for His love, yet they often fail to recognise their need. Our actions may help them see and experience the love of our Lord.

Christmas time – is an excellent time – to reflect on our relationship with other people, and discern if there is someone we have failed to forgive during the year – and then do something about it. It’s the right thing to do. Do you agree?

The spirit of the cross

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.

November/December 2014 Issue – ‘Bringing down giants’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Luke 23:32-43 (NIV-UK): “Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left.

Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’

Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”

I liked Selwyn’s introduction: “How do we fell the great giant of revenge? Our weapon is the smooth stone of forgiveness.”

Likewise, his conclusion: “The spirit of forgiveness expressed in the first words Christ in the first words Christ spoke from the cross – ‘Father, forgive them’ – can be found in your heart if you allow Jesus to have full sway in your life. In His strength you too can forgive injuries. pray for your enemies, and love them to the end.”

As I mentioned yesterday – the ability to truly forgive another is given to us when we surrender our lives to Jesus. A lot of people can say the words, as found in this well-known prayer: “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Yet, by the nature of their relationship with people who have hurt or insulted them, suggests that there is a lingering issue that has not been fully addressed by their heart. A form of intellectual agreement to the words of the Lord’s prayer is just not enough.

We cannot experience spiritual growth, as followers of Jesus, if we fail to forgive everyone who sins against us. There are no exceptions to this requirement.

Any comments?

 

The havoc of hate

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.

November/December 2014 Issue – ‘Bringing down giants’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Ephesians 4:17-32 (NIV-UK): “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.

‘In your anger do not sin’: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

[Today, is the day for my second dose of chemotherapy; I usually operate, at something a lot less, than 100% for a few days after the treatment.]

I found the title of today’s study to be very appropriate, we only need to look at the Middle East destruction, to see just how much havoc that hate causes.

There are a lot of good verses in today’s reading, I found this one to be very challenging: “To put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Any comments on this particular verse?

Selwyn starts with these words: “Hate plays strange tricks with the memory. It exaggerates injuries and militates against time’s healing touch. To use Shakespeare’s phrase, it curdles ‘the milk of human kindness’ and stunts the development of the soul. …

There are some who claim that normally people cannot be free of the desire for revenge. They are probably right so far as those who do not know the grace of God, are concerned. But they are quite wrong when it comes to those who do.

Throughout time Jesus has entered the lives of men and women who have been consumed with hatred and has wiped clean the slate and removed their desire for revenge, replacing it with love. He can do it now for you.”

To pray for our enemies, I think, is a good and effective antidote to the sickness of revenge. Jesus forgave us – we, who were once His enemies. By His death on the cross, He paid the ultimate price, to action our forgiveness. Surely we can follow His example and forgive those who have hurt us.

In our church communities there are people who are members because of social and cultural reasons. They can say a creed, but what betrays them are their actions, which testify to the fact that they hold un-forgiveness in their hearts. It’s only when we allow Jesus to reign in our hearts, can we depend on His enabling power to allow us to forgive from the heart – leaving no trace of any hatred or resentment.

Your view?