Saving the home

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 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Romans 12:1-8 (NIVUK): “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.

If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

It’s another excellent reading for reading and meditation. In addition to the key verse, selected by Selwyn, I found an other two verses, which I highlighted above, to present us with an important truth; our faith and our (spiritual) gifts) are given to us by God. We show our appreciation of these great gifts by using them to the fullest possible extent.

Selwyn starts today’s study as follows: “The final area of life we look at that cries out for a radical change is that of marriage and the Christian home. There are of course abusive situations that necessitate action: however far too many Christians follow the world’s example and head for the divorce court as soon as their marriage hits trouble.”

He goes on to say: “And what about our homes? It is a fact that children in the home catch the attitudes of their parents, rather than their words. … We can never hold the world together unless we can hold the home together. The home is being assailed from many directions. Only radical living can save it.”

One of the ‘hot’ topics in the media is homosexual marriage and adoption of children by homosexual couples; and, naturally, there is a lot of discussion about this subject in many Christian communities. However, I think, the damage was done years ago, when the media, especially movies and TV shows, constantly portrayed relationships between people that were adulterous.

When did the debate on the display of adulterous relationships in TV shows, such as  ‘Two and a Half Men’, occur? The Christian message on marriage, went silent decades ago; so, is it any wonder that we are now looking at the ‘normalisation’ of homosexual marriage? The stage has been reached where many young people and some liberal ‘Christian’ groups, and now acting as if homosexual marriage has God’s endorsement. (A view not supported by Scripture.)

[As an aside, Israel, at the time of Jesus, was violently anti-homosexual – not only was this activity against Jewish law – it was also a reaction to years of Greek culture being thrust upon them; and, after the Maccabean Revolt (160BC) there was a determined effort to remove everything ‘Greek’ from their Jewish culture.

Jesus never said a word about their harsh treatment of homosexuals, however, He did say that we should love each other in the same way that He loves us. And that’s the example we should follow.]

As Selwyn mentions, the home and family relationships are being assailed from many directions; it’s a time that requires persistent prayer and the hope that Jesus will return soon.

What are your views on this topic?

Radical evangelism

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 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Mark 16:9-20 (NIVUK): “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

Afterwards Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on people who are ill, and they will get well.’

After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”

[Note: Some Bible versions/translations, e.g. NIV, will say that the above verses are not found in the earliest manuscripts, however, this longer ending of Mark’s Gospel is indeed found in a number of early manuscripts; and people such as Irenaeus, writing around AD180, quoted Mark 16:19.  Why, the existence of two endings – no one really knows – yet, even the most casual observer will see that  the last verse (Mark 16:8) in the short version, is not an obvious ending to his Gospel – ‘something’ appears to be missing!]

In today’s study, Selwyn writes: “Evangelism is another area of Christian activity where we need to be more radical. Christianity is catching, and if people don’t catch it from us then perhaps we are not contagious.

The majority of people feel intimidated or ill at ease when they step inside a church. So we have to meet them on neutral ground: in concert halls, theatres, sports stadiums – where they feel comfortable.

The gospel is not intended to make people feel comfortable, some will argue. Of course it isn’t; but we must start where people are, in order to lead them to where they could be.”

It’s good to remember that evangelism is working in God’s harvest field, and it is His Spirit, who prepare the heart of a person to hear and accept the good news about Jesus. We have the privilege to be His voice, and loving arms, in undertaking His work; yet the time is short and there’s much to do. Pray to our Lord that your work in His field will be fruitful.

Prepared in mind

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 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Matthew 22:34-46 (NIVUK): “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’

Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, ‘What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ ‘The son of David,’ they replied.

He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him “Lord”? For he says, ‘“The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’” If then David calls him “Lord”, how can he be his son?’ No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.”

An interesting set of verses for reading and meditation; and, it’s a nice coincidence that the key verse of the day on the www.biblegateway.com site, is the same verse as highlighted by Selwyn.

Selwyn is talking to us today about a radical approach to Christian thought. He says: “Christians can learn to think straight and think biblically, and bring their knowledge and understanding to bear on world situations.”

As you have most likely noticed, the average, non-Christian, often has a poor understanding of our beliefs and little or no knowledge of the Bible. We have a role in presenting the truth about Jesus, especially when we hear people say things, which are seriously flawed.

In Matthew 10:18-20, we read: “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” It’s important that whenever we talk to others about Jesus and biblical truths, that we invite God’s Spirit into the conversation, to guide our thoughts in what we say.

Any views on this topic?

[Today has been a bad day in regard to pain and low energy levels. Hence, the short post.]

Radical repentance

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 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2 (NIVUK): “Since, then, we know what it is to fear (reverential awe) the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.

We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.

If we are ‘out of our mind,’ as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.”

I think the subject of today’s study is not talked about enough – and I agree with the emphasis that Selwyn has placed on reconciliation. We are reconciled to God when He first calls us into His amazing kingdom, through the saving grace of Jesus. However, we were not made perfect at that time; and we can still sin, even though we are being transformed into the likeness of our Lord.

Consequently, as Selwyn says in today’s study, repentance is continuous. He writes (with minor edits): “Radical attention is needed too in the matter of repentance and reconciliation. (In today’s reading), Paul is writing to fellow Christians, who had already received the grace of God, and he pleads with them, to be reconciled to God. Paul was not talking about an initial reconciliation (the recipients of his letter had already experienced that), but a continuous reconciliation.”

Continuous reconciliation brings us to the foot of God’s throne, where we examine our words and actions to determine if they are all aligned with God’s will; it’s the place where we reveal the contents of out heart to God, so that anything which doesn’t belong can be discovered and eradicated with God’s help.

If, we avoid a regular examination of our conscience, then it’s easy for evil habits to take root and grow. Often resulting in a difficult and painful removal of the ‘weed’ at a later time. Or, the problem gets so large and entrenched, that it becomes easier for some people to pretend that the sinful habit does not exist at all; like the proverbial ‘white elephant in the room’.

One of the important aspects of continuous reconciliation is prayer, because we need the Holy Spirit to help us identify the areas that require reconciliation; left to our own devices it’s too easy for us to ignore our faults. Do you agree?

Christ’s “say so”

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 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Luke 5:1-11 (NIVUK): “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, (Galilee) the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.

He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”

Selwyn starts today’s study with: “We are seeing that we need to be radical in our loving, and in demonstrating Christian unity, but we are also need to learn to be radical in obedience.”

In the above reading, we read about Peter’s doubts about putting down their nets because they had tried hard all night to catch fish – and had caught ‘nothing’. Yet, because Jesus told him to put down the nets, Peter did so – and, they caught a large number of fish.

It’s a good lesson for us; often we toil away at what we want to do, and usually we have skills in our chosen activity (Peter, James and John were very experienced fishermen), which gives us a reasonable expectation of success. However, our work for Jesus is totally in His hands, if we follow His directions we will be successful; but, if we follow our own reasoning and don’t seek His guidance then we will often fail and achieve nothing.

Notice too, that Peter, James and John after witnessing the power of Jesus, left everything and followed Him, to fish for people. And, we follow in their footsteps – in one sense we have left the things of this world behind – and, we also ‘fish’ for people. We do this because Jesus has told us to do it.

The reading for today, should be a great encouragement for us, as we may think that our witness for Jesus is unlikely to produce any results, because of the hard-heartedness of the people around us. But, if we are following Jesus’ command, we may see an outcome that is far beyond our expectations.  He does the work – we follow in obedience – it’s really that simple. Do you agree?

Harmony – unity

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 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

John 17:20-26 (NIVUK): “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.

I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Selwyn starts today’s study, as follows: “Another area that calls for radicalism is that of Christian unity. In a fractured world, … Christians will have little respect unless they can demonstrate unity. … We can still demonstrate unity even though we stay in our different denominations or groups.”

I think, our unity can only be demonstrated through our love for Jesus and people, as long as we follow the guidance of the one true God who resides in our hearts. As can be seen in the above verses, our purpose is to make God known through our Saviour, Jesus. And, as we read the last verse of today’s reading (verse 26), we can rejoice that Christ is in all those, who truly follow Him.

The disunity that is found in (and among) Christian churches is due to the fact, that certain people follow their own self-interests, or are influenced by Satan; such that they habitually ignore the guidance of the Holy Spirit. God cannot work against Himself; consequently, if there is disunity then there are other ‘forces’ at work.

In Matthew 12:25, we read: “Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.'” If we follow Jesus, and have accepted Him into our heart through faith – then there will be unity.

It’s essential to accept that there will be differences over minor issues and that’s where the guidance of the Holy Spirit becomes extremely important. In Paul’s letter to the Romans (14:1-4a), we find: “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarrelling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?”

I think the word ‘judge’ here means to condemn a person, in regard to their status before God. We are called to make judgments in regard to a person’s actions – for example – we can rightfully say that the act of murder is wrong. So many people appear to not understand the different applications, of the word ‘judgment‘.

In summary, we should agree with all the truths clearly articulated in Scripture, and we will receive guidance from God on what are the essential truths; we are not orphans forced to make these decisions on our own – we do have our Father! In addition, we should also be aware that there are many matters, which are not important and we should avoid quarrelling over these issues. It’s through prayer and trust in God, that we can navigate through these difficult ‘waters’, and not drown ourselves in disunity.

Putting others first

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 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

John 19:25-37 (NIVUK): “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.

The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.

These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”[Exodus 12:46, Psalm 20] and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”[Zechariah 12:10]”

Selwyn writes in today’s study: “We continue thinking about the need to be more radical in our loving. … The most effective question I have found to ascertain whether or not I am loving is to ask myself: Do I put the needs of others on the same level as my own?

In the passage before us today we read that as Jesus was hanging on the cross and, ‘knowing that all was now completed … [He] said, ‘I am thirsty.’ After He had done all He could for others He thought of His own needs.

We do things differently more often than not. First we quench our own thirst, then think of others. It’s time for a radical rethink of our Christian commitment if we are able to make an impact on the world.”

I think Selwyn has raised an important test for each of us to think about: Do we first make sure that we have everything we need, then look to the needs of others? I’m sure that many of us have fallen into this bad habit over time. This serious issue is one that we should bring before our Lord, in prayer, at the start of each day; seeking His guidance on how we should respond to the needs of others, as we go about our daily business.

It’s our human nature to put ourselves first; it’s the Holy Spirit who prompts us to put others first – this struggle is always with us, as we follow Jesus – on this long and often difficult journey; yet, we persevere because of the immense joy that is ours, in being one, with Jesus.

Your view?