Archive | July, 2012

July 31st – All in a Day’s Work

Titus was Paul’s trouble shooter.He was one of those indispensable Christians who get on with the Lord’s work regardless of whether they are appreciated, thanked or applauded: which is perhaps as well for Titus, because he does not get one mention in the whole of the Acts of the Apostles in which all the others in Paul’s leadership team are given their honoured places. Paul speaks of him by name thirteen times in this letters, and even addressed one entire letter to him, and you have a copy of it.It’s in your New Testament.
Amongst other responsibilities Paul sent Titus to sort out was in the Church at Corinth. Paul had founded that church, and then upset them by that letter which we call ‘The First Letter to the Corinthians’.They took offence at Paul, asking ‘Who does he think he is?, ‘We have super Greek speakers who understand our culture, our broad-mindedness, on such things as sex and law, and in any case he brought no letters of recommendation with him.’
Paul was so upset at their attitude that he paid a brief, but disastrous, visit to them which only made matters worse so he wrote them an angry, distressed letter, and could do no more. He then sent Titus to sort the whole matter out: but Paul couldn’t settle – more like a cat on a hot tin roof. He couldn’t wait where he was staying at Troas, but sailed over to Macedonia in the hope of meeting Titus and getting the news.Well, he met Titus, and found to his great relief that relationships were restored. All was well again in the Church at Corinth. His leadership was once again fully accepted, and all the misunderstandings with attitude, had been resolved, but it was all resolved by the diplomacy and Christian strength of Titus – himself a Greek Christian.
In the Second Letter to the Corinthians Paul hardly mentions Titus – instead he thanks God, because Titus was one of God’s gifts to his church. A true peace-maker: a fine wonder that in his letter to Titus Paul addresses him as follows:
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness …To Titus, my true son in our common faith: grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour. Titus 1: 1 and 4
A Prayer:
For the wisdom, loyalty, strength and humility of all those many people who sought not their own reputation, but the honour of Christ, in helping to build your church, we give you our thanks today.
Now read Amos 7: 10-17.

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July 30th – Capacity

It is quite possible to knock out a tune or two on a little electronic organette from Woolworths and even try to get a great organ virtuoso to play say Bach’s D Minor Prelude & Fugue on it, and after a fashion he will. But if you seat that same musician before a 5-manual Ruffatti organ and with that same music before him, what you will hear will be from another planet altogether. The same music, the same composer, even the same organist, but the capacity of the instrument is what makes all the difference in the world. Take that as a parable.
The same God provides the same power of the Holy Spirit to those who are committed to Christ, facing the same opportunities and daunting challenges. The difference again and again is capacity. God can play a tune on a tin whistle, but imagine what he can do with a symphony orchestra. If you offer him a pail he will fill it to the brim: if you offer him a reservoir, he will fill it to overflowing: if you offer him an ocean – He will fill it. God is so humble and gracious that he will not force himself on anyone. He likes to be invited. When you ask him to enter your life, how much room are you prepared to offer him?
Imagine yourself having stopped and prepared a seven course banquet, but your guests will only nibble on a grubby packet of crisps they brought with them. How would you feel?
Well, now you’re beginning to know how God feels when he has invited us to the great banquet of the Kingdom of God, and we are too full of our junk snacks to have room for his feast.
Listen to what Peter quoted to explain the impact on the first day of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring on the infant church. It is from Joel Chapter 2:
And afterward I will pour out my Spirit on all people, your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. Joel 2: 28, 29
A Prayer
Today Lord, enlarge my capacity to receive more of you.
Now read Ezekiel 36: 22-38

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July 29th – A Cooked-up Parable

Here is a true story. I know it’s true: I made it up myself!
Once upon a time a fabulously wealthy Indian Rajah, who was so rich that every year, on his birthday he weighed himself in diamonds, invited hundreds of his people to a special party to celebrate his son’s coming of age.The invitations were peculiar, but specific. ‘Do not disclose anything about this party to anyone lest my son hears about it and I want it to be a surprise to him. If you intend to come, please bring a gift for him, and please observe three conditions:
1.-The gift must be a receptacle of some sort, no matter how large or small: that is it must be a container of some kind
2.-The container must be made of pure gold
3.-It must be gift wrapped.
The invited guests were in consternation for it would cost such a lot to go to the party with a golden gift. Some solved it by buying a thimble made of gold (well a thimble is a container, isn’t it?). Some had miniature cups made, as for a dolls house, but all in gold. One girl, who loved the prince dearly, nagged her wealthy father into having a large urn made of gold and having her love greetings inscribed on it. Dad was not pleased. It was too extravagant.
They all used much larger boxes to pack and wrap their gold gifts, and when the day arrived, those with packages were ushered into a separate courtyard. The Rajah welcomed them and thanked them for coming and for their generosity in bringing a gift as he had prescribed. Then came the surprise. He announced: “My son already has everything money can buy, and it was I who wanted to give you a gift, to thank you for your love and loyalty – so unpack your receptacles now, go to my storehouse and my servants will fill your golden gifts to the brim with diamonds as my gift to you.
That’s the end of the story.
If you’re not sure what it means, wait till tomorrow – or better still, ask any child. But for now, these are the words of Jesus:
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38
A Prayer:
Lord prevent me always asking “What’s in it for me?” – rather than “What can I give to them?”.
Now read Ephesians Chapter 2.

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July 28th – Let us Pray

Just for a change, today you can eavesdrop on a prayer and even, if you wish, pray it with me:
Let us come to God in confession:
Have mercy on me O God this day, by showing my sinfulness in all its poison – by helping me to repent radically – to change the direction of my life, by forgiving me and providing a fresh start for my unworthy life.
Forgive Lord, for I say “Your will be done”, but fight for my own way and sulking when I don’t get it.
Forgive Lord, for I say “speak to me”, but when you do I am spiritually deaf and think you are addressing someone else.
Forgive Lord, for I say “guide my steps” but follow my own map and towards the mirage of my self-image.
Forgive Lord, for I say “fill me with your spirit” but my tongue prefers to be contemptuous and my life is too full of me to have room for you.
Lord have mercy, I pray and let me be at home with you.
Forgive O Lord your church, of which I am a part, for you have called your servants to be your holy agents on earth, but throughout our history, and to this hour, we are known for our bigotry, our blindness and our play-acting. When we come before you Lord, we are ashamed of ourselves, and our history, and are no longer worthy to be called your children.
Purge your people, Lord, by the white fire of the Holy Spirit, and burn out our corruption. Enable your people to enter deeply into your gracious covenant and empower your people to preach and teach your word, to pray until the power from on high is given to do the deeds of Jesus who cared for the poor, defended the oppressed, healed the sick, released the captives and brought hope and joy and liberation to an enslaved and broken world.
Look in mercy on the lost ones of our land who believe they need naught but money and self-satisfaction, who curse by the name of the one who loves them, and who despise the Bible although they have never read it.
Lord deliver our generation which seeks direction from the stars and lucky charms, and whose children starve for vision of what is beautiful and just and truly good.
Lord hear this our prayer, and answer not according to the poverty of its petition, but according to the love and grace of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now read Nehemiah Chapter 9, as much of the chapter as you can and pray meaningfully.

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July 27th – Ignoring the Hand that feeds us

The Book of Deuteronomy is the word to the affluent society. The Book of Deuteronomy is always the word to any affluent society which always, and all too soon, forgets that its wealth and well-being are the direct gifts of God. These gifts are freely given, and the richer we get (we call it the more civilised), the more we congratulate ourselves on our brilliant agricultural and commercial acumen; on our management of reserves; our clever scientific techniques which end up producing a generation which impudently asks ‘Who made God anyway?’.
The marvel of Hebrew understanding of God’s provision was much deeper than the raw materials he provides.They saw that an essential part of God’s harvest was the labour of men and women in field and factory. Humans are part of the process, part of God’s creation, not the inventors of it.
Listen to one snatch of the marvellous Psalm 104:
The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. Then man goes out to his work, to his labour until evening.How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all …Psalm 104: 21-24
As you may have read yesterday, Deuteronomy Chapter 8 is monumental in this regard. If you did not manage to read it yesterday, then perhaps this will whet your appetite:
….. when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down …then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery …You may say to yourself “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me”, but remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth …Deuteronomy 8: 12, 14, 17-18a
A Prayer:
Eternal God our Father, grant us the grace to remember your wondrous, never failing provision to us your children, and to remember in the right way – by doing what you say.
Now read Hosea Chapter 6.

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July 26th – Remember Who

The question which dogged Israel for over 1000 years was not “Is there a God?”, but “Who is God?”. They would not deny it was a supernatural force that had miraculously delivered them from slavery in Egypt, from the Sea which blocked their path, from starvation and thirst in a desert existence, and most of all from self-destruction by the provision of the Law which prevented them going back to the jungle and destroying each other.They could not deny that this homeland of theirs was indeed a land flowing with streams and rivers, and milk and honey – a good fruitful land which they called their home. But in that green and pleasant land there were thousands of people who had farmed the land for years and who lived by the rule that the God who made crops grow provided rain and fruitfulness was the god of productivity called Baal.
That was the issue: not “is there a God?”, but “Who is God?”
The same question ever confronts the modern world, which likes to say “Is there a God” when really it means “Who is God?”, and usually they come up with the solution that the only god worthy of total sacrifice and adoration is the same god of productivity. Only the name has been changed from Baal to Mammon. Money, and the power it purchases: money and the so-called success it guarantees. Again and again the truly God-inspired men of the prophets of Israel confronted the golden idols of their fellows with the words “There is one God.He is the God who provides everything. He is the ‘out-of’-Egypt-bringing’ God, the one and only Saviour of human kind, and all else in creation, and who loves you.
This is from Hosea who is speaking of his unfaithful wife who was the veritable role model of unfaithful Israel:
She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold – which they used for Baal. Hosea 2:8
A Prayer:
From the worship of everything and anything which is not you, Lord God deliver us, your faithless people.
Now read Deuteronomy Chapter 8.

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July 25th – Not Really Sins, Surely?

I read an abridged chapter of a book by Dr. Alistair Braun in ‘Renewal’ magazine, and I wondered if it strikes you as it struck many thoughtful Christian readers.
“Only real sins matter” we say (said Dr. Braun) “There are many things about which we need not be too fussy: they are not real sins.”
He described a car journey in which his Christian friend, a fellow minister, drove him at over 100 mph, but who could see no spiritual problem in speeding. He wasn’t doing wrong; just outwitting or trying to outwit the traffic police. Surely that’s not a sin? A minor misdemeanour maybe.
In the same chapter he also cites being hosted by a Christian family in a bedroom so luxurious that he felt ashamed of the ostentatious materialistic luxury which even practising Christians had come to regard as normal comfort. If you were given such accommodation how would you feel? Jealous? Envious?, sad, or flattered? Does it matter? He went on to talk about our national addiction to soap operas and the unhealthy life styles of gossip, hate, infidelity and violence which become the social mind-food, accepted as our normal diet for us and our children. Addiction to T.V.? Surely there’s nothing wrong in that? Nor in making big profits if that is your company’s sole goal, regardless of the folks you make redundant or shift to another city, or how many rival companies are forced out of business. Surely that’s not sin? – it’s business.
He goes on to describe a local church which takes a new willing member and shoves him into a loyalty test which ends up with him being at everything at church every night: so much so that his wife has no husband, the children have no father, and the prayer meeting prays for those difficult absent family members. Surely the church and its loyal members have not committed real sins against that marriage – have they? He wondered what God’s verdict is. What’s yours? No not about that man – but about your sins that don’t count?
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love …..
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin, for I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned Psalm 51: 1a and 2-4a
A Prayer:
‘Create in me a pure heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.’
Now read what some scholars call a blot on the history of the early church: Acts 5: 1-11.

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July 24th – Stop and Know

Today, a word about Christian meditation.Christian meditation is not emptying the mind, but filling it with thoughts of Christ. Christian meditation is not a technique you learn, it’s more something you unlearn.
Waiting on the Lord is not like waiting for a bus or a telephone call. It’s more like waiting at table. If you’re a waiter in a restaurant you don’t tell people what they want, you wait on their orders: and when you know what they want you go and get it for them.
Christian meditation is, for example, receiving a word or two of scripture and then mentally chewing on it, like a cow or sheep will chew the cud, slowly digesting it. OR if you want another picture, it’s a caring mother at her child’s birthday party, when her little girl is so excited, so frantic opening and discarding birthday gifts and dashing on from one person to another frantically, that Mum takes her struggling little girl aside into the kitchen to get her attention, has to take the little girl’s face in her hands and say ‘Listen …’. ‘Yes, but Mummy, I have to ….’ “Listen …..” ‘But I …..’ ‘Stop! Look at me and listen … calm down … can you hear what I am saying to you now?’
Christian meditation in itself is not a cure for everything, but it is an opportunity to listen. It is a space to shut out the clatter of life and listen to the music of heaven. It is to be a child lost and hurting, or over excited, and be found and enfolded in the arms of one who loves you.
Meditation speaks in the language of the spirit. Its food is scripture. Its silence is thunderous. It’s a baby being fed and loved personally. It’s more than communication, it’s communion. It is knowing who you are and who God is. (Psalm 46:1-2a and 7)
God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.Therefore we will not fear The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Thought for Today:
The word of the Lord to us this day is – (are you ready as he takes your face in his hands) “Be still and know that I am God …..”
A Prayer:
Still my racing mind, O Lord, empty me of busy-ness, and put a quiet spirit within me, with open ears and a willing will.
Now read Psalm 46.

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July 23rd – Penitence for the past of others

The period from 27th November 1995 until the middle of 1999 has been marked out as a period which commemorates the 900th Year after the First Crusade. As children, some of us were fed on the fairy tale myths that the Christian crusaders were fine and honourable Christian knights, fighting to liberate the Holy Land from the barbarous Muslim infidels who were polluting the land where Jesus lived and worked and died. We now know that the crusaders were a terrifying force of European barbarians who committed vast and appalling atrocities, both going to and inhabiting the Holy Land, and what was worse, they murdered, raped, pillaged and slaughtered in the name of gentle Jesus Christ!
How could people be so blind as to believe that the God of love and mercy, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus, could countenance such atrocities, let alone accept their dedication? When you think about it, it’s fairly easy to see how this can happen, for whenever men decide on war, for example they immediately attempt to dignify their cause by attributing their cause to their God, and their enemies cause to Satan.
Well, surely what happened 900 years ago is beyond our reach. We can surely do nothing about it now, even though the stains of 900 year old blood still seem fresh in a million Muslim minds? Some Christians have resolved to repent of the past. As living representatives of the same Christian church as that of the crusaders, they are seeking reconciliation. Like that planned walk to express penitence for their forebears for the sins against Jews and Muslims. You may think it madness, but they are trying to heal the past. They are identifying themselves with the sins of their fathers in the same way one might apologise for an elderly uncle or an unruly child, whose behaviour was unspeakable: but whom you could not disown.(Exodus 32: 31-32)
So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin -but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”
A Prayer:
Lord, this day we would stand in penitence on behalf of our own sins and the sins of our fathers in the faith.
Now read Exodus 32: 25-35.

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July 22nd – Being Sure

There’s all the difference in the world between Christian assurance and being cock sure. The whole world hates people who are so confident that they know it all … and loves to see them bite the dust. You know what I mean, the pompous gent who says to a doorman who refuses to grovel before his Rolls Royce and his £10 million image: ‘Do you know who I am?. ‘Why Sir, have you forgotten?’
Cock sureness begs to be humiliated, and many people confuse Christian assurance with being too cock sure about God ‘After all …’, they say, ‘do you mean that all the other religions in the world are wrong and you alone are right?’.
Cock sureness is based on ignorance (don’t confuse me with facts my mind is already made up)
Cock sureness is based on pride and closed-minded arrogance: (prove it to me).
Cock sureness is based on prejudice and will go to any lengths to prove it is right and all else is wrong.
Cock sureness is sinfully arrogant.
On the other hand, Christian assurance is not based on us at all, but on God, and what he has said and what he has done and what he is doing. My assurance is in the God I see in Jesus of Nazareth. “But suppose you were mistaken. Suppose all the stories turned out to be fables, or lies or were misreported events, wouldn’t your assurance be dashed to pieces?” Well it would be deeply wounding, I confess, but then I remember that what Jesus is reported to have said makes more sense to me than all the scholarships in all the universities of the world.
“Hang on. Suppose even those things were all misreported or invented by someone who wasn’t all that good?” Then I would be assured that the ‘illusion’ of that perfect life, the story of his death on the cross, the myth of his resurrection, are more real, more true than all the sceptics who ever lived. It’s a person I trust, not an argument. But it is not fairy tales that give Christians this assurance. It’s a real spiritual relationship, as real, if not more real, than all other relationships. It has the ring of truth, and anyway Jesus said this to me this morning:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. ……… If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. John 14: 1-2 and 74a
Read the whole chapter today and be assured – God is real, and despite everything, he loves you.
A Prayer:
Blessed be you, Lord Jesus Christ, my total assurance is in you alone.
Yes, read John Chapter 14.

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Thought 4 The Day

‘Every temptation is an opportunity of our getting nearer to God.’ (John Quiney Adams)

Through the year calendar

August 2012
« Jul «-»  

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!