From confusion to confidence

To Follow Jesus

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

March/April 2015 Issue – ‘The Servant’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Isaiah 49:4 (NIVUK):But I said, ‘I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due to me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.’ ”

As has been the case over the past few days, Selwyn has written another excellent summary: “The Servant focuses on the rewards God gives, and affirms His willingness to leave the outcome of His ministry in God’s hands.

Did Jesus, in His earthly ministry ever have to battle with such thoughts? We may never know. But if He did, His faith in His Father’s purposes would have overwhelmed any doubts and despair. It can be the same for us.”

We do know from the Gospels, that Jesus did express a range of human emotions. One of the well-known times was in the garden of Gethsemane, just before He was arrested, Matthew 26:38-39; “Then Jesus said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’”

And, He also experienced frustration with the slow progress of His disciples, Matthew 17:16-17; “I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.’ ‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.’” Perhaps it would be a worthwhile exercise, during this day, to recall other examples?

I think we are presented with these examples to illustrate that even though we may have doubts, from time to time, about the usefulness of our actions in loving God and people; that God fully understands our doubts. Yet, we continue, because we follow our Lord – who knows our strengths and weaknesses – and, who lovingly supports us while on this trying journey.

In the Book of Hebrews, we find these words (Hebrews 2:14-15,17-18): “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. … For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

In the verses above, the focus is on temptation, but I think you can extend these words to the full range of human emotions. The key point is that we have a God we can actually follow – because He went before us – as, one of us. Your view?

Glorifier and glorified

To Follow Jesus

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

March/April 2015 Issue – ‘The Servant’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Acts 3:1-26 (NIVUK): “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.

When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’

Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: ‘Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.

You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

‘Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus.

Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

For Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.”

‘Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, “Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.” When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.’”

The reading for today is an excellent choice for meditation, especially relevant for this week, as we approach Easter.

In these verses Peter makes it clear to his listeners that they (sinners) were responsible for the death of Jesus, the Romans carried out the process of crucifixion on behalf of all sinners, including you and me: “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.’

Peter also highlights another important point, worthy of our consideration over the next few days; Jesus has blessed us by turning each one of His followers from their evil ways (v26). After Jesus rescued us from our fallen nature, we should have all heard these words: ‘Go – be my witness –  and, sin no more.’  The sin-no-more aspect, I fear, is not being addressed by many, in our current age. (John 8:11b)

I think Selwyn’s conclusion is really good: “We should praise God that we are the beneficiaries of Jesus’ glorification. He has not been glorified just for the sake of being glorified but for a purpose – the blessing of all His people, who follow Him faithfully. The Father’s blessing of the Son overflows to His sons and daughters.”

Your thoughts on today’s study?

A showcase

 

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.

March/April 2015 Issue – ‘The Servant’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Isaiah 49:3 (NIVUK):He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendour.’”

I think that Selwyn’s introduction is great: “Everything that God does in this secret shaping of the Servant has one end in view: to make the Servant what God’s people as a whole are intended to be – the showcase of God’s glory.”

And, I agree with the point Selwyn makes that Jesus (in one sense), fulfils the role that was first assigned to Israel; but because of their lack of faith, they could not complete.

In some churches, people celebrate today, as Palm Sunday, let’s look at Mark 11: 7-10; “When the two disciples brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread (palm) branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’”

In a way, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, foreshadows the glory He experienced when He returned to heaven, Revelation 5:11-12, “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!’”

In summary, Jesus is the only complete, showcase of God’s glory; and the message for us is, that we should also aim to showcase God’s glory, as we follow Jesus. Your view?

In the ‘shadow’

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.

March/April 2015 Issue – ‘The Servant’

The text(s) set for today’s reading and meditation:

Isaiah 49:2 (NIVUK): “He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.”

Luke 2:41-52 (NIVUK): “Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.

After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished.

His mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.’ ‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

I must admit that I just couldn’t fully understand Selwyn’s comments regarding God preparing Jesus’ ministry – in the shadows – so, I leave that aspect for you to consider.

The one part I felt was good, was his conclusion: “How willing are we to wait patiently and accept God’s timing in our affairs? Far too many want to get into Christian work and ministry too quickly. They are not willing to wait and be prepared. Time is never lost when we wait for God’s purposes when we wait for God’s purposes to be unfolded.”

It has been my past experience that God’s timing was often ‘just-in-time’, however, since I’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness, I’ve now found the opposite to be true, and Jesus has been giving me plenty of time to be prepared – such is His love.

The power of words

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.

March/April 2015 Issue – ‘The Servant’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Matthew 7:24-29 (NIVUK): “’Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.’

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”

I liked the following points made by Selwyn: “Ours is a visual age dominated by images. There is among many a deep distrust of words. We demand that God should bend to our ideas of evidence. But God’s chosen form of communication was, and still is, His Word in the mouth of His servants. …

What a revolution would take place in the Church if everyone would speak words given by God and not the musings of his or her mind. But before we get too critical we should remember God’s challenge to hearers also. There’s little point in God putting words into the mouth of His servants if those who have ears to hear, do not listen.”

Over the last twenty four years I’ve been a member of a number of Bible study groups. I agree with Selwyn that it’s important to not only read God’s Word, but to listen and to understand the message, which the words are designed to convey. And, that is one of the main aims of a study group, to discuss a section of Scripture and discern the meaning found in the verses.

Yet, I think the next step is the hardest, that once having discerned the truth contained in Scripture – to change our ways – if God’s Spirit convicts us that we are not putting into practice His teaching. We can only change if we completely surrender our will to God and seek His strength to change – we can’t do this on our own – no matter how strong our motivation might be. Do you agree?

The Word that is alive

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.

March/April 2015 Issue – ‘The Servant’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Isaiah 49:2 (NIVUK):He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.”

I thought that Selwyn’s introduction was good: “As we return to Isaiah’s picture of God’s special Servant, we notice another important feature: His incisive speech. In today’s passage when the Servant reviews His own life and ministry (vv2-3), He sees Himself above all as God’s mouthpiece, which suggests that the Servant is fully aware of God’s plans.”

Likewise, his conclusion is clear and concise: “Your spiritual life will develop only to the extent that you are prepared to expose your heart to the Word that is alive.”

A person’s relationship with Jesus is often demonstrated by the amount of time they spend reading Scripture and seeking His help in applying what they have read, to their lives.

Perhaps today, is a good day to spend thinking about your favourite Bible verses, and praising Jesus for His gift of the Word. Any thoughts?

From birth to death

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.

March/April 2015 Issue – ‘The Servant’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Hebrews 10:5-10 (NIVUK): “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, “Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, my God.”

First he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them’– though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’ He sets aside the first (covenant) to establish the second.

And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all.”

The letter to the Hebrews is one of my favourite books, it is a concise summary of the Gospel, and it spells out clearly that the old covenant as outlined in the Old Testament has been replaced, with a much better covenant.

We all can have the confidence that the sacrifice of Jesus has made us ‘holy’; (on this earthly journey, we are still ‘in the process’ of being transformed into His image). There is nothing extra that we need to do to ensure our salvation!

Selwyn mentions Psalm 40, in today’s study; here are the key verses (6-10):

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire – but my ears you have opened; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come – it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.’
I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.”

I liked these words of Selwyn’s: “That Jesus choose to say ‘it is written about me in the scroll’, indicates that He wove His life out of the Old Testament scriptures (which reflect the will of God). And the offering He made totally eclipsed the offerings of bulls and goats.”

In addition, I liked the last verse (v10), from Psalm 40 above; it tells me that we should speak of Jesus’ faithfulness and saving help; and we should also highlight His love – to the world. Our faith in Christ is not a private concern – it is very much in the public’s interest. Do you agree?