Daily Update 141

Eph 2:1–10                              Psalm 100                               Luke 12:13–21
Spur one another
The book of Ephesians is just the tonic, especially if you feel spiritually impoverished. I suggest a good dose three time a day will help no end! The whole book to me seems to open up God’s abundant treasure chest.
Today’s reading from chapter 2 are uplifting, and unless you need reminding of where you came from (dead to sin), I suggest you go straight to verse 4.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Our God has set us free from our past, so we can live to serve and worship him in the present, with even more blessings in the future. Notice the great things that God has done: –
Verse 5 – Made us alive! No longer dead in our transgressions.
Verse 6a – Raised us up! Given us a position on the top table.
Verse 6b – Seated us with him! In the heavenlies.
What struck me about these verses on second glance, is the use of the word “us”. This isn’t a passage about personal edification, it is corporate. With our imposed Zoom-based church socialising we still need to think of ourselves as a fellowship. So how might that look for Southbourne today?
Perhaps it might be a prompting to get in touch with someone you have missed over the year. I noted some familiar faces on the APCM Zoom last week, and to my shame I’ve not kept in touch. As we are all together seated with him in the heavenly realms let’s virtually pull up our chairs closer, and not practise spiritually distancing with each other.
…let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…” Heb 10:24-25.
Prayer
Dear Lord,
This week help us to enter the gates of this week with thanksgiving for your riches in mercy. We owe our very being to you and praise you for your rich spiritual provision. Bind us together, we your people, that we might be instrumental in serving you today – wherever we are, individually and corporately, as the body of Christ.
Amen
(Based on Psalm 100)

Daily Update #140

Ephesians 1:11-14, Psalm 33:1-6, 12, Luke 12:1-9
Do you remember back when you were at school and teams had to be chosen for whatever sport was being played. For many of us, we watched as the great and the good sporty types were chosen week in and week out. That was fine, but it got more painful as the selection process continued. Nobody wanted to be last. There was a certain amount of humiliation that went with the choices made – those who had been picked made suggestions in stage whispers regarding the attributes of those left.
But then one day, you would get chosen as team captain. What would you do? Would you be different, choosing the weakest first or would you be just like every other captain and choose the best for yourself?
Fortunately, for us in God’s realm, things are totally different. God does not choose us based on our strengths, talents, beauty or intelligence. Unlike my sports example, God already know everything about each one of us. As Oswald Chambers puts it “He knows which gutters we crawl in”.  God is not going to choose us for his team and then when we sin, slap his forehead and exclaim “Oh my, I didn’t see that coming I never knew she was like that. She’s no use to me now!”. As we see in our Ephesians reading today, God chose us for HIS own purpose. He has a plan and somehow he can use us to fulfil that magnificent plan. And if that were not enough, we get a say in whether we want to be chosen. This is one of those great mysteries that we are chosen, but we have free will to choose. We can put a lot of thought into trying to unravel that, or accept that in Jesus, both choosing and being chosen somehow work together.
But there is even more, as the first chapter of Ephesians tells us: not only are we chosen, we are also adopted into God’s family and then we will also share in God’s inheritance. We know and experience this inheritance through the Holy Spirit in our lives.
It all sounds so easy doesn’t it? We’ve been chosen by God. We are on the winning team. What could possibly go wrong?
But it’s not all plain sailing. How often do we look at the other team? We watch how our non-Christian friends and family live. They seem to be having more fun, no constraints, no discipline. It is so easy to secretly join them – after all what’s a little dabble going to hurt? Nobody will know.
But then we come to our Gospel reading. Speaking about the morally upright Pharisees, Jesus says: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.  There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
If we apply this to ourselves, it can send shivers of fear down our spines. After all who among us would like all our thoughts and deeds played out on a large cinema screen for all to see?
I think this verse serves as a great sobering reminder to us, when we get complacent about our standing with God. Yes, we are saved. Yes, God loves us. Yes, He absolutely forgives us our sins and casts them into the deepest ocean never to be seen again. But we still have to choose. We have to choose to stay on His Team. We do this by aligning our thoughts, words and deeds to the way Jesus shows us to live. Ultimately, Jesus declares: “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.”
When we understand and accept the amazing gift of being chosen by God, we will find ourselves transformed and filled with wonder and joy at all God has done for us. We will find ourselves joining with the psalmists in praising God. He is indeed righteous and all his ways are just.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for choosing me. I confess that some days I think I have earned a place on your team and congratulate myself. But other days, I come back to your Word and I realise that it is only by your grace that I have been chosen. Lord Jesus, would you please keep me reminded that it is all about you. I want to know in my innermost heart that there is nothing I can do to make you love me more nor anything that I could do to make you love me less. Please guide me through this week. Help we to choose your team every day.  Amen.

Daily Update #139

Daily Update – Thursday, 15th October 202

Today’s readings –        Ephesians 1:1-10              Psalm 98:1-4                           Luke 11:47-end

Pause:  Lord Jesus, still our hearts and minds now, as we prepare to hear from your word.  Thank you for the eternal perspective which your word gives us.  Thank you that your word reveals to us the Father’s eternal plan to unite all things in heaven and on earth under your sovereign rule.  Thank you that all of this springs from your love and your abounding grace towards each one of us.  Renew our understanding and lead us to praise you and thank you now and always. 

                                                                                                                                           Amen

In his letter to the Christians in Ephesus the apostle Paul is so excited and thankful to God for his grace towards his people that he barely draws breath!  Verses 3 to 10 are one long sentence in the Greek, an effusive and engaging torrent of words which give praise and glory to God for all his actions in blessing and saving his people, as he planned from the beginning of time. 

The sheer depth and scope of Paul’s teaching is remarkable.  He looks back to the time before creation and sees God’s hand in choosing and saving his people, even before we were made (v.4)!  He powers forward to the time after the fulfilment, when Jesus returns, and rejoices in the fact that everything in heaven and on earth will be united under Christ (v.10).  In between he revels in the blessings which God showers on his people through election, being made holy and blameless, predestination, adoption as sons, forgiveness of sins and the revelation of the mystery of his will.  All of this solidly grounded in God’s love for his people and the riches of his grace towards us which he has lavished on us (vv.7-8).  In particular the adoption as sons refers specifically to all the rights and privileges of an adopted male heir under Roman law, which are complete and unquestionable. 

Running through everything is the activity of Jesus himself, who is the person who bring us all these blessings.  He is the agent of our election, grants us adoption as sons, redeems us through his blood, forgives our sins, delivers the revelation of the mystery which God purposed in Christ and unites us to God and to one another. 

If, like me, you have been feeling rather oppressed and somewhat cast down by second spikes, further lockdown measures, continued social distancing and being limited to meeting only five other people, then reading this passage of pure gold from the apostle Paul is the fastest and most effective way to recalibrate and focus on what is really important to each one of us! 

God chose us from before the beginning, has wonderful plans for us as he brings the fulfilment to pass and in the meantime showers us with countless blessings and his eternal favour and grace.  It’s so good, there’s so much to savour and relish that it’s hard to take it in and process it….  The news is so good and so joyous, shouldn’t we be bouncing off the walls as we praise God for his goodness towards us and look forward eagerly to enjoying all that is promised?  So let’s focus on what is truly important and leave behind the fleeting and temporary troubles of today.  These blessings are worth treasuring in our hearts as well as sharing with any who ask us.  Such deep-seated and wonderful joy and praise is bound to overflow to all around us, don’t you think? 

Prayer

Almighty God,

thank you for your abounding love and grace towards us. 

Thank you that you lavish your grace on us in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Give us power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for us.

Fill us with this love which surpasses knowledge, we pray. 

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

            Amen

Daily Update #137

Today’s Readings  Galatians 5:1-6.       Psalm 119:41-48.           Luke 7:11-17.

“This amazing section of Psalm 119 would prove revolutionary if only we would listen to it” (Dr Alec Motyer). So please read these 8 verses before we dive in.

If you are like me you will be relieved that we only have 8 verses out of this Psalm’s 176 verses to look at today! As an acrostic (alphabet ) Psalm, each section starts consecutively with a letter from the Hebrew alphabet. Today’s letter is ‘waw’, pronounced as ‘vau’. So Psalm 119 is chunked up, but its length can be off-putting. Unlike most Psalms, which focus on God’s mighty acts, this one focuses on a single theme – the glory of God’s word, the Scriptures.

Matthew Henry, who wrote his great commentary of the bible in the 18th century, was introduced to Psalm 119 by his father, Philip. He told Matthew and his siblings to meditate on one verse of the Psalm each morning. In this way, they were enabled to read the entire Psalm twice each year! Philip explained to his children that this “will bring you to be in love with all the rest of the Scriptures.” His wise advice clearly worked for Matthew! It might for us too…..

It is tempting to change the title from ‘waw’ to ‘wow’ for today’s passage! Each verse reminds us of wonderful truths that all fit together. The Psalmist is speaking directly to God in prayer about His love and salvation, His glorious word in Scripture and his own devotion and commitment. It challenges us about our love for God and His word. The Psalmist is deriving huge practical strength and freedom from his love of God’s word. So can we as we learn to:

* trust in God’s unfailing love for our salvation, as promised in the Bible (v41).

* answer those who scoff at our faith as we trust in God’s word (v42).

* rely at all times upon our heavenly Father’s “word of truth” (v43).                                   

* obey God’s revealed expectations of his people throughout our lives (v44).

 * “walk about in freedom” as we enjoy being at peace with God (v45).

*  speak out boldly for Jesus and bring the truth of the gospel to others (v46).

*  enjoy a new excitement and “delight” each time we open our Bibles (v47).  

*  praise God for His holy requirements as we base our lives on His word (v48).

These verses in Hebrew all begin with “And”. This indicates that each truth is joined to further insights about God and His word. They all belong together. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to enable us to join up in our lives each of the truths shared with us by the Psalmist here.

Daily Update #136

I hope you all had a good weekend. Today we are starting our new way of sending the Reflections out with Wednesday being our ‘News’ day.  So here is today’s Reflection from Martin Fair:

Gal 4:21–5:1                           Psalm 113                     Luke 11:29–34
Seated with the princes!
Today I am stirred by Psalm 113. It is the first of six Psalms that were traditionally sung at Jewish festivals; along with Psalm 144 before the Passover meal; and Psalms 115 to 118 after. Jesus and his disciples would have sung these the night he was betrayed. (See Matt 26:30).
The Psalm opens with a call to praise – a good start to the week or any day for that matter!
Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, you his servants;
    praise the name of the Lord.

The Psalmist calls all his servants to ‘Praise the Lord’. So, now we have got in that frame of mind, you might ask, ‘How and where do we praise?’

Let the name of the Lord be praised,
    both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised.

The answer given is – ‘now and forever, all day long!’
The main message of the Psalm is in the following verses.

The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
    his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
    the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
    on the heavens and the earth?

Looking at verse 5 – have you ever wondered what God is like? He’s like no one else; yet he stoops down. The Psalmist would have not fully appreciated how he did this, as the Psalm predates when God incarnate actually physically stooped down in the form of Jesus.


He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
    with the princes of his people.

These verses offer some real encouragement. What an awesome God we have! Although in glory above, he comes to provide for the ‘poor’ and ‘needy’ (v7).

The original word used for ‘poor’ – means dangling! Our God is great, he doesn’t leave us dangling! It’s not just those who are left materially without, but the poorly and poor in spirit. Here God promises to lift them from the ash heap and seat them with the princes. ‘We will be joint heirs with Jesus’ (Rom 8:17) – so as princes we await the great and glorious day when we will rule with him. What a promise! Jesus elaborated, ‘the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 5:3).

He settles the childless woman in her home
    as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord.

Verse 9 highlights the childless women, and this psalm has many parallels to the song of Hannah (1 Sam 2:1-15) and the Magnificat, Mary’s song while at Elizabeth’s (Luke 1:46-55). This bursts with praise for what God had done for them, which through their obedience went on to bless nations and eventually the whole of mankind through these significant births.
So, if you didn’t feel like praising God this morning, hopefully you do now! ‘Praise the LORD, you his servants; praise the name of the LORD’!
Prayer
Dear Lord,
We thank you that you are worthy of praise. You have done so much for us, through sending Jesus to lift us from poverty of mind, spirit and body. Help us this day to remember your presence with us and to guide us to the paths of truth.
Amen