Archive | March, 2010

March 31st – All You Need Is Love

I had conducted a wedding. At the reception one of the guests, a complete stranger, a rough, tough man, with no obvious refinements of education or cultured thought, confronted me. “What was that thing you read in the service?”
“It was from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13″ I said. “Why?”
“Never heard anything like it. Wow. It’s deep man, deep”.
“Yes” I said … wondering just what direction to take with him. He was obviously pole-axed by it.
Well, here it is again, but this time from an American scholar’s paraphrase, which might come across freshly, and hit you as “deep man, deep” :
“If I give everything I own to the poor, and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t have love, I’ve gotten nowhere.So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without Love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others. Isn’t always ‘me first’. Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others; Doesn’t revel when others grovel. Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything. Trusts God always. Always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.”
Now that is really deep. It is even deeper when I substitute the word ‘Jesus’ for the word Love’
A Prayer: Thank you Father for the Deep Deep Love of Jesus.
Now, putting it another way, read Deuteronomy Chapter 6.

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March 30th – Behold, The Man

I have always objected to calling Jesus of Nazareth a superstar. He was not like us, only better, and brighter – a religious genius of sorts. He was nothing like the stuff of which our super heroes are made. Our heroes are either secret agents, like OO7, who are above the law, ‘licensed to kill’, grab sex on demand, (i.e. sex without consequences); or we idolise great sports personalities, or mythical embodiments of our secret yearnings, like Hollywood’s idea of Robin Hood; or entertainers who draw vast crowds and win the acclaim and adulation of men and women who seem to worship them, or their idea of them.
Jesus of Nazareth in scripture is not like anything we humans fantasise about. We do not warm to men who cry in public, who are sensitive to the needs of the socially deprived, who speak of inner pain and love, who shrink from violent death, who stand against the things we all respect and challenge all our values. We do not joyfully welcome anyone who appears defenceless in the face of brute strength. Nor do we warm to those who make great claims for themselves, like equality with God (who do they think they are?). We expect our leaders to lead, and not wash their followers feet. Indeed, it takes a Jesus to have invented this Jesus. He’s so outrageous. No wonder Pilate declared to the crowd, when he saw him, “Behold the man”. A real man.
All our assessments of Jesus are too shallow. They stop before going into the nature which alone can bear our sins, and break them, and offer to a Holy God a perfect human life, surrendered in utter dereliction and self-less love. Only Jesus puts people right with God.
He is not my hero – he’s my Lord. He is not a star amongst men – he is only the Saviour of men. He is not a man elevated to the status of a god – He is God buried alive among us, and rising victorious over our sinfulness.
Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is: ‘The stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’ Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. Acts 4: 10-12
A Prayer: Repenting of my sin, I come to you Lord Jesus, in total reliance on you, for you alone have the gift of Eternal Life to give to sinners.
Now read Acts 4: 1-20.

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March 29th – Why did you need the money, Judas?

D. L. Pitches in his Parables for Good Friday, says:
Simon the Rock stood in the corner saying
“I do not know this man”
and the man speaking with his eyes turned
“You are telling the truth, Peter.
You do not know me, but I do know you.”

Pilate, charged with judicial murder,
washed his hands and pleaded “self-defence”
upon being told “but the man did not threaten you”
he said “No, but his enemies did.”.

Judas in remorse commits suicide
When asked “Why did you need the money, Judas?”
he replied “How else could I afford a field, a tree and a rope?”

Whatever the day, whatever the year, we are all called to face the cross of Christ. We all must go there sooner or later, to stand before the one who alone, silently, asks all humans individually, “Who do you say that I am? What do you think I am doing here?” This is the place where the Eternal God will meet us – each and every one.
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. Matthew 27: 50-51
We worship and adore you, Lord Jesus – Messiah – Son of God – because by your cross and passion and wondrous resurrection, you have redeemed the world.
Now read Matthew 27: 45-61.

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March 28th – Just an Ordinary Day

Thelma Scott Kiser wrote a poem called “Today is Friday”. Yes, I know that this date does not always fall on a Friday, but it goes like this:
“In Jerusalem Men stand and talk
About the price of wheat the promise of a bumper olive crop,
Oppression of that tyrant Rome of pruning vineyards and the dearth of labourers.

Outside the gates silhouetted on Golgotha’s Rise
Three crosses standand as an earthquake shakes the earth
The only question is Will this affect the price of wheat or lessen the grape yield?”
This is from Luke Chapter 23 v 27-31
A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then “they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills “cover us!”".
A Prayer: Behold the cross displayed, whereon the Saviour of the world did hang. O come, let us worship and bow down …..
Now read Luke 23: 26-49.

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March 27th – The Killing

There is a poem by Edwin Muir called “The Killing”. It is too long to read it all in a tiny time slot like these daily thoughts, but let me try to give you a flavour of this poem which begins:
“That was the day they killed the Son of God
On a squat hill top by Jerusalem
Zion was bare, her children from their maze sucked,
By the demon curiosity,clean through the gates.
The very halt and blind had somehow got themselves up to the hill.
After the ceremonial preparation,
The scourging, the nailing, nailing against wood
The erection of the main trees with their burdens
While from the hill rose an orchestral wailing …”
The poem catches the horror of that day. The momentous event which split the history of the world in two, and how it affected, or not, the eye-witnesses. It goes on:
“But the hardened old
And the hard-hearted young, although at odds
From the first morning, cursed him with the curse
Having prayed for a Rabbi or an armed Messiah
And found the Son of God of what use to them
Was a God or a Son of God. Of what avail
For purposes such as theirs ? …”
The poet himself appears as a reporter, an objective stranger, merely
observing a strange people – and this ‘outlandish Deity’
How does the crucifying of Jesus affect you?
They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him “Hail, king of the Jews!”. Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spat on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. Mark 15: 17-20
A Prayer: Lord Jesus have mercy on us – Christ have mercy on us this day.
Now make time to read Mark Chapter 15.

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March 26th – What A Saviour

P.T. Forsyth told of a guerrilla leader called Schamyl, who heroically led tribes in the Caucuses in the struggle to throw off their Russian overlords. It became clear at one point that all Schamyl’s secret strategies were being leaked to the enemy. There was a spy amongst them. Schamyl issued an order that any such traitor would be unmercifully scourged to within an inch of his life. A trap was set, the betrayer was discovered. It was Schamyl’s mother!! For two days he wrestled with his problem. He loved his mother, even as treacherous as she was. He also loved his men, loyal as they were. He emerged haggard and sleepless, commanded his men to prepare the whipping stake and the lashes, then ordered them to strip him and tie him to the post and scourge him. His weeping men did so. He loved both his men and his mother so much that only in taking the punishment himself could there be any hope of settling the matter. But it would only be truly settled if and when his mother broke down in repentance and asked for his forgiveness.
This is from Romans 3, and it takes some concentration: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3: 23-24
A Prayer: In my place, condemned he stood, sealed my pardon with his blood.
Hallelujah – What a saviour!
Now read Romans 3: 20-26

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March 25th – In My Place

Why was Jesus killed? Why did he have to die? Surely it would have benefited the human race if he’d lived and taught for many years? No, the Bible says he was born to die! In the words of Caiaphas, the High Priest, who did not realise the truth of his own words: “It is essential for one man to die for the people”. He meant to avoid the risk of a bloody rebellion against Rome. As it turned out, it meant that his death would save the world. How? Well, take an example we can all grasp. In the book “Miracle on the River Kwai”, the slave labourers, British PoW’s, built the Burmah railway line. At the end of one day a Japanese guard yelled that a shovel was missing, and demanded that the thief should step forward. No one moved. “You all die – all die” he raved, and cocked his gun. Then one prisoner stepped forward, and was smashed and clubbed to death by the out-of- control guard.
They counted again later, and found that no shovel was missing after all: it had been a miscount. But that one man had died to save them all from being shot by a power-crazed guard.
Now that sacrifice was because of a mistake. There was no mistake when Jesus died. It was all planned. Jesus of Nazareth died in the place of all sinners to save sinners. He substituted himself, and, being innocent, took the penalty which he did not deserve.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, 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. I Peter 2: 24-25
The word ‘tree’ is the Hebrew word for ‘cross’.
A Prayer: Lord Jesus, you died to atone for sins, not your own, for my sins, even mine. In you do I put my trust. Only in you can I put my trust.
Now read Hebrews 9: 11-28

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March 24th – The Second Adam

If you saw people wearing badges in the shape of a guillotine, or an electric chair, you might be shocked. If they wore in their lapels a miniature hangman’s noose, you’d think they were strange. But people wear crosses, as badges and jewellery, when originally a cross was a bestial form of execution, so appalling that in the year 315 A.D. the Romans, who had used it until then, abolished it as too inhumane even for them. If we weren’t too used to it, we’d be staggered by millions of people positively glorying in the cross.
Why do they do it? Because on one particular cross a battle took place of cosmic significance. Jesus of Nazareth, who had never been guilty of a sin, let alone of a crime, went to the cross as if he were the most evil of human beings. He took there his perfect life, his love, his unblemished self, and his refusal to compromise, and gave it all up, as a perfect sacrifice. To change our relationship with God, and even more mysteriously, to change God’s way of relating to us the people of earth, was something which took more than words, even the words of Jesus! It required a supreme act to bring two separated parties together. TO ATONE. TO MAKE THEM ONE.
There is more about this subject tomorrow, but for now, listen to these words of Paul in Ephesians 2: 12-13: Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
A Prayer: We behold you, Lord, crucified for us, and we see both how deeply our sins wound you, and how deeply you love us.
Now read Peter’s Sermon on the First day of Pentecost in the Christian era: Acts 2: 22-41

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March 23rd – Treating The Plague

We are looking this week particularly at the cross of Christ, and we have said already that this was no martyrdom. No accident. It was not intended as an example of how to suffer and die. It was so much much more. For one thing, there was a job to be done, which only he could do. We human beings are all infected with the spiritual plague – even the finest of people are infected. It is a ’self-in-the-centre’ disease, sometimes called ‘pride’ or self-centredness. But the Bible has a much simpler word of three letters for it, namely – SIN.
Sin does not mean crime, for not everyone is a criminal – but everyone has sinned. Every single person who has ever lived has developed this plague. Not one of us had to learn how to lie, to deceive, to cheat. We knew! As soon as we were old enough and the opportunity arose and bang! we had fallen in. Ask tiny little children squabbling ‘All right, who started it?’. Go on. Ever heard any one of them say ‘I did’. No it’s always: ‘he did’ or ’she did’, ‘It’s their fault, not mine’.
Right at the heart of the human race there is this deadly spiritual virus which none of us has escaped. Well, there was one, only one, who was clear of it. Jesus was his name. Only he was qualified to tackle it, on the grounds that even doctors who have the plague themselves cannot treat others. They will only spread the infection. Polluted hands cannot handle anything without polluting it. Paul said, in Romans Chapter 5: 6-8
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ dies for us”.
There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. He only could unlock the door of heaven to let us in.
Now read Romans 5: 12-21

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March 22nd – Born to Die!

I read about a young couple looking in a jeweller’s window. He wanted to buy her a present: “I’d love a necklace” she said “especially one with a cross on it”.
“Yeah” said the lad “How about that one with the little man on it?” And there you have it – the Cross of Christ – not only reduced to a bit of jewellery, but even the crucified one, reduced to being “a little man on a golden cross”.
For Christians the cross is the very centre and core of the Christian faith, and this week we will try, in the few seconds we have each day, to try to understand why it is so important. Let us make one point for now.
The Cross was no accident. Jesus was no mere martyr. He was not trapped like a fly in a spider’s web, caught up in circumstances from which he could not escape. It is why he came: not only to live amongst sinful human beings, like us, but to die for us. He said to his Father, as the time approached: “Father shall I say, ’save me from this hour, for this was why I was born?’”.
That is why first three Gospels focus on the end – hurrying over 21/2 years of ministry, to get to his last journey south, when he set himself deliberately to go to Jerusalem: to face rejection, suffering and brutal death. In John’s Gospel we see ‘the (sacrificial) lamb who takes away the sins of the world, before we leave Chapter One!
Remember, then, it’s quite wrong for anyone to dwell over much on the physical pain and suffering of Jesus, horrible as it was, because thousands of men died like that under the Roman rule. It was another kind of suffering, another kind of battle that only Jesus set himself to fight. That battle was the main reason for his coming. Luke’s Gospel has 24 chapters, yet it is in Chapter 9 that we read these words:
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life”. Luke 9:22
A Prayer: We adore you Lord Jesus Christ, because by your cross and passion you have redeemed the world.
Now read John 18: 28-40

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Thought 4 The Day

People think that when they do not believe in God they believe in nothing, but the fact is, they will believe in anything. (G. K. Chesterton)

Through the year calendar

April 2010
« Mar «-»  

Click on any previous date in the above calendar to read the relevant Through The Year post
Believe it or Not
Sometimes you just can't believe it's true!
A Word in Time
Life has a funny way of connecting us all!
Cooke's Tour of The Bible
Frank Cooke's journey through the Old and New Testaments
Take 2
Some useful life lessons
Mind Stretchers
An open mind is a healthy mind!
Bible Bloopers
Even the Bible has its funnies!