24 - Matt24 29

24 Jan: Daily Readings & Thought for January 24th. “UNTIL THAT DAY WHEN …”

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Our Matthew reading (ch. 26) recounts the agonies of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and his prayers.  “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.” [v.39]. Jesus made his “will” conform to his Father’s will.  And what of our “will”?

Peter was to later write of how Christ, in his commitment to his Father’s will “suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” [1 Pet. 2 v.21] 

Before Jesus and his disciples went into the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus directed them to prepare for a Passover meal on “the first day of unleavened bread” (v.17)  Then we read, “Now as they were eating Jesus took bread …”  – next “he took the cup …” [v.26-27] and spoke of a “covenant … for many for the forgiveness of sins” [v.28] The disciples must have been perplexed at his words, but there is no indication they asked him to explain.

But this takes our minds forward to meditate on the record in Acts 2 and the events on the day of Pentecost and “the breaking of bread” [v.42] that then followed.  With what intense meaning would the disciples and all who had just been baptised have taken part!  We presume the disciples would earlier have done so after his resurrection and ascension, although there is no record of this – we meditate on the intensity of meaning as they did!  How does it compare with ours?

The disciple would also remember that their Master said, after the command to “Drink, all of you” that he then said, “I will not drink again  of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”[v.29]  This event is beyond our comprehension – just as what was about to happen was beyond theirs. 

Could someone like the Apostle Paul grasp the wonder to come?  Take note of his words in 1 Corinthians.  “ ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the deep things of God.” [2 v.9,10] 

But for us “until that day when …”- and our faith is turned to sight and the Spirit which is “the powers of the age to come.” [Heb. 6 v.5] is poured out on the faithful who will reign with him – may we be like the Thessalonians whose “faith is growing abundantly”  [2 Thess. 1 v.3] to create adequate oil in our lamps as this world becomes an ever darker place. 

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23 - Matt25 12

23 Jan: Daily Readings & Thought for January 23rd. “YOU KNOW NEITHER THE DAY, NOR THE HOUR”

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Today we have 3 parables in our chapter (25) in Matthew which all convey fundamentally the same lesson. The fact that there are three shows how extremely important the message is. Those who read the Bible regularly will know them well; we must beware of knowing them too well, lest the message loses its power to stir our conscience.

The first one is of the 10 virgins; half are called “wise.”  What made them “wise” as they waited in the darkness for the cry, “Here is the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him.”  The wise had brought a reserve of oil for their lamps.  What does the oil represent?  Our conclusion is – it represents “faith”, how terrible to run short of or completely out of faith when the midnight cry is heard.  Faith cannot be second-hand, it cannot be replenished in a moment. 

The second parable is about talents the Master gives to his servants to use while he is away.  They represent, we suggest, the abilities and opportunities to represent the Master in his absence.  The final parable is of sheep and goats and of “his glorious throne” when the Master returns. Then, and only then, will it be made plain for all to see which are sheep and which are goats – in the Middle East they look very similar. 

The goats will be blind to their failings, “Lord” they will say “when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” [v.44] And he will say, “Truly … as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”[v.45]     Put as simply as possible – this is telling us – we are either Christ-centred – or self-centred. 

We must ask ourselves – am I labouring effectively in his vineyard – or not.  It seems to many of our age group (as great grandparents) that the Lord is delaying his coming – but the reason is that the final ingathering is not yet quite complete (see Luke 14 v.22-23 “still there is room. And the Master said, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges … that my house may be filled”) 

So let Christ’s challenging words at the end of his parable about the virgins ‘illuminate’ our minds “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day not the hour” This request is more important than ever – for the storm clouds illuminating human helplessness are greater than ever – and the wise virgins need to be together whenever they can.  But what are they to “watch” for?  We will read tomorrow of Jesus in the garden with his disciples and his request, “…watch with me … Watch and pray …the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.”” [ch.26 v.40,41]  Meditate on the kind of watching Jesus was referring to.

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22 - Psa40 10

22 Jan: Daily Readings & Thought for January 22nd. “I HAVE NOT HIDDEN …”

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]All of our 4 chapters today are really thought provoking; David’s emotional Psalm 40 captured our attention, it starts, “I waited patiently for the LORD” – and isn’t that what we are trying to do!   But we cannot wait, standing still, as if to catch a bus!  David has many things to rejoice about because of the relationship he has established with God.

“He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and (as a result) put their trust in the LORD”’ [v.3]  He says, “I have told the glad news of deliverance …” [v.9] “I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart,  I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation. I have not concealed …” [v.10] 

The faith David had in the reality of God’s involvement in his life and in the ultimate future was evident to those around him. – he sets us a meaningful example, let us be able to say, “I have not hidden your deliverance …” 

We read in Matthew 24 the message and warnings of Jesus to his disciples that “the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all …” [v.14] The disciples had the responsibility to start on this work, but Jesus warns, “many will come in my name … and they will lead many astray.” [v.15] And so it happened – and is still happening.

Let us be faithful to the original message of salvation – and an essential part of making sure we possess the real spirit of faithfulness is to read the Bible every day. – and be faithful to what we read.  This means being faithful to the true, the original, message – and – equally important – the spirit in which we must live our lives, the character (of Christ) others will see in us. Then  we can, with all our heart, say with David, “I have not hidden your deliverance …” 

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21 - Matt23 32

21 Jan: Daily Readings & Thought for January 21st. “FILL UP, THEN THE …”

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]As his ministry was reaching its climax, our Lord most bluntly confronted the religious leaders in Jerusalem.  In today’s reading [Matt.23] he calls them “hypocrites”  “blind guides” and “children of hell”.  He says they concentrate on outward appearances “but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” [23 v.25]  His words stirred up their hatred of him, which had increased when they saw the adulation he received as he entered Jerusalem on the donkey. As a result they are now even more determined to destroy him.  What is most interesting is that seven times in this chapter Jesus says “Woe to you” [v.13,15,16,23,25,27,29] The hidden sevens in the Bible are interesting, as we have noted in Revelation.  It seems especially significant when he says, “Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape … all these things shall come on this generation.” [v.32,33,36]  

The same Gk word is used in Ch. 13 v.47-50 when Jesus told the parable of the net being “thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind.  When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.  So it will be at the close of the age …” – the age in which we live.

Jesus is using a way of speaking that God used through the prophet Joel; speaking then of gathering in a grape harvest, to indicate the overflow of his anger on the nations “ … the harvest is ripe.  Go in, tread for the winepress is full.  The vats overflow, for their evil is great … for the day of the LORD is near … and the heavens and the earth quake … so you shall know that I am the LORD your God.” [Joel 3 v.13,14,16.17] 

The main application of Joel’s prophecy is to our world today!  How close is our world to being “full”?  The amount of godlessness is starting to overflow! A fearful repetition of God’s punishment on the ‘Jewish world’ that rejected Jesus is nearly upon us – but this time it is a godless world that has turned away from any belief in God and his word.!  Remember the final message of Jesus we read last month,, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth … they (the angels) were told not to harm  (true believers)… only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” [Rev.8 v.13; 9 v.4] How can those who do not read the Bible and fear God have any hope of having the seal of God on them Let us make sure we have that seal.

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20 - Psa37 1

20 Jan: Daily Readings & Thought for January 20th. “BE NOT ENVIOUS OF …” 

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The world today puts a great lot of effort and money into marketing goods and services.  The internet, radio, TV, newspapers magazines and sign boards are full of promotions of one kind of thing or another.  A fundamental aim of the majority of this promotion is to make us envious of what other people have or experience – the aim is to make us want it ourselves!  Now David’s Psalm (No. 37) today is very special, it is full of spiritual advice to those who aim to live in a godly way in contrast to the attitudes in our world of 2021.  David says, “I have been young and now I am old” [v.25] so these are words of reflection at the latter end of his life. 

He starts by saying [v.1] “be not envious of wrongdoers” because they, like the grass, have no future.  In another Psalm we read, “I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” [73 v.3] So David had to learn the right attitudes in his life’s experiences, like we do. 

      But it is not just a matter of avoiding doing wrong, or not being envious of the successful: note what David also says in today’s Psalm, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way” [v.7]  It is a real challenge to “be still” in the sense that is meant here  – in a world that is so active in experiencing and doing everything possible – it is a hyperactive society today. How much are you being swept along by it? !  Is it affecting you sub-consciously?

The awareness the Lord gives David, leads him to see a time when “the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace” [v.11]  Our Lord Jesus repeats this and applies it to inheriting the entire earth! [Matt. 5 v.5]  We need this awareness, if we are to effectively counteract temptations to take part in as much of this world’s spirit of living  – without actually engaging in wrongdoing.  

David says, “the Lord laughs (mocks) at the wicked for he sees that his day is coming” [v.13].  Now note v.30 & 31, “The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.”  An essential foundation for that kind of thinking and living is achieved today by those who regularly read the word of God, and really think about what they read: May that include all who are reading this.

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19 - Matt21 34

19 Jan: Daily Readings & Thought for January 19th. “PEOPLE PRODUCING IT’S …”

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We read today of the triumphant arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem and the adulation that the ordinary people gave him, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” [Matt. 21 v.9] “The whole city was stirred up …” [v.10] 

We pondered the comparison of this with his return to earth. What is, we wondered, the answer to the question Jesus posed at the end of another parable, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” [Luke 18 v.8]

The focus of our thinking, after reading today’s chapter, was in understanding the attitude of mind he will be looking to see.  From v.33-45 we read his parable of the tenants in the vineyard – the lesson he was teaching is clear.

The Jewish nation up to that time had had the responsibility of looking after God’s vineyard – but they had failed their responsibilities.  After listening to this parable “they perceived he was speaking about them” [v.45] and so, in their generation the parable of their failure as tenants of God’s vineyard was fulfilled – “He will put those wretches to a miserable death” [v41], Forty years later Jerusalem, its Temple and the nation were no more.

But Jesus added: “and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits …”  And so, after Jesus left the earth his disciples set about fulfilling this, their role – and in their generation succeeded, greatly helped when Christ called Paul to be an apostle.  But most in the generations that followed fell into the same trap of ‘self-importance’ as the Priests had done. However, history shows there was renewed zeal and Christ-mindedness among those striving to be worthy “tenants” when God’s word was printed for all to read .

But nowadays?  Are today’s tenants in God’s vineyard any better than those against whom Jesus told this parable? The kingdom is only for those “people producing its fruits” [v.43] the rest “will be broken to pieces” [v.44] when he comes!  It will be too late then to realise they have not kept “the narrow way.”   We prove we are on the right path, serving the LORD in his vineyard when we produce the right kind of fruit and profess the same message of hope Jesus taught – also show we have taken his character into our hearts and made it ours. Read James 3 v.12-18. 

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18 - Matt20 34

18 Jan: Daily Readings & Thought for January 18th. ” … AND FOLLOWED HIM” 

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Why did people follow Jesus? We know his disciples did, because he called them to do so, but others?  We had an example in today’s chapter 20 in Matthew, “there were two blind men sitting by the roadside” [v.30] who cried out when they were told Jesus was passing by, “Lord, have mercy on us, ‘Son of David’”  To call him ‘Son of David’ meant they acknowledged him as the Messiah.

“Jesus called them and said, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’  With what sense of potential wonder would they have replied, “Let our eyes be opened.”[v.33]  

Jesus reacted – “in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight.”  And what did they do then?  They “followed him” [v.34]  This was in contrast to others; nine of the 10 lepers he healed did not even return to express their gratitude! (Luke 17 v.15-18) and when the people came to see the madman who Jesus healed “clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid … and they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.” [Mark 5 v.15,16]  The loss of the pigs dominated their thinking. What dominates our thinking?

Our world is full of spiritually blind people and others with the leprosy of sinful godless ways; just a few are like the Ephesians, who, Paul said, have had “the eyes of your hearts enlightened that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance” [1 v.18]  But few have such “eyes” – Peter’s experience was just like our world; in his last letter he wrote of those who “have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin.  They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed” [2 Pet. 2 v.14]

Two days ago in Matt. 19 we read the answer of Jesus to the “man who came up to him, saying ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”  [v.17]  But it is not achieved by a ‘one off’ good deed is it!  This man was wealthy, and he needed to get rid of that in which he trusted, so Jesus told him, “… go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” [21]

That was not the answer he was looking for “he went away sorrowful”.  What answer are we looking for?  Hopefully we have found that answer and are among those who “followed him” making our lives count in some meaningful ways, according to our abilities, in the way we follow him.    A last thought – returning to our quote from Peter – we noted his words, “whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” [v.19]  Let us be enslaved to Christ, it is not possible to be only half committed. (Note the verses which follow in Peter)

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17 - Matt20 15

17 Jan: Daily Readings & Thought for January 17th.  “DO YOU BEGRUDGE MY …” 

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The last 2 verses of today’s chapter (19) in Matthew can be puzzling if we do not realize the chapter break is wrongly placed and the context includes the next chapter.    The end of chapter 19 records Jesus as saying, “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” 

The lesson Jesus is teaching becomes clear in his next words at the start of ch. 20. “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master … who went out early … to hire labourers for his vineyard … for a denarius a day”   There follows the details of going out again at “the third hour … the sixth hour … the ninth hour … the eleventh hour.” 

In the evening payment is made “beginning at the first” [v.4] and they all receive the same payment (v.10) regardless of how long they have worked.  Those who had “borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat” [v.12] complain.  Verses 15 & 16 put the matter into focus from the divine point of view, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?  Or do you begrudge my generosity?  So the last will be first, and the first last.” 

The disciples are going to labour in the “scorching heat” of the day, this is a lesson for them. But beware of looking at the situation from the opposite perspective!  Could we be tempted to think to ourselves, ‘As long as we get to the service on most Sundays, that is all I really have to do’?   

Look back at the first passage quoted above, Jesus says, “everyone who has left … for my name’s sake will receive …”  It evidently means, everyone who has given first consideration to me and the needs of my vineyard as they live their lives – and done things, according to their ability and opportunity (and this includes making opportunities) “will receive….” 

Let’s put this alongside another saying of Jesus in Luke ch. 12.   First note v. 37 “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes”  and then “everyone to whom much was given, of him (or her) much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” [v.48]  Much food for thought for us today – how much has been given to me – to you?.

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16 - Matt18 7

16 Jan: Daily Readings & Thought for January 16th. “IT IS NECESSARY THAT … “

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Certain things are necessary in our lives such as clothing to wear and food to eat. Note how Paul made the point to  Timothy “if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” and “there is great gain in godliness with contentment” [1 Tim. 6 v.6,8] What hinders our contentment?

Now in today’s 18th chapter of Matthew Jesus told his disciples, “Woe to the world for temptations to sin.  For it is necessary that temptations come …” [v.7]  Why is it necessary?  Wouldn’t it be better if believers lived protected lives without anything tempting us?   No, it wouldn’t! 

When we make things we test them to make sure they are strong enough to be used for the purpose for which we made them.  It maybe that some part will break off!  If that makes it useless, then we throw it away.  But often, even with a part broken off there is still a good use for it – and that is the point behind Jesus’ parable that “if your hand or your foot causes you to sin , cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.” [v.8] 

We may have a special aptitude or talent, but if it has no spiritual value – but rather, the opposite, then we should push it out of our lives. Let us use make full use of the talents and opportunities we have – and not fret about others, and our failures, and be in danger of being useless to God.. 

Once again our Psalms reading (33) is valuable – v.10 refers to our time and is very applicable, “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.” And so efforts to achieve peace between nations and peoples are getting nowhere – as are efforts to take action to stop or at least minimize global warming.  God is not only ignored – most push out of their minds any thought as to his existence. Does that influence you?  Note the great truth of v.12  “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!”   The words of Jesus we read and thought about illustrate the elements of behaviour that really count – “but it is necessary” that chosen vessels are tested as to their worthiness.  Are you passing the test?  May we all be among those whom he chooses – may we help each other to pass the test.

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15 - Psa32 3

15 Jan: Daily Readings & Thought for January 15th. “FOR WHEN I KEPT SILENT”

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Psalm 32 today is an intimate exchange of words between David and God; it is one of the most personal of all the Psalms – just 11 verses, but so powerful!  The first 7 are by David and the remainder; God’s response. How meaningful! Remember Paul’s comment on God’s words, , “They were written down for our instruction, on who the end of the ages has come,” [1 Cor. 10 v.11]  We are surely living in the final end of the ages”!

The first verse declares, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”  David recognises that “the LORD counts no iniquity”, (in the one) in whose spirit is no deceit.” [v.2] His next words are, “For when I kept silent … day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up …” [v.3,4] 

The world is full of deceit and efforts to avoid any penalty for wrong-doing; does this influence us?  Any sense of “guilt” is pushed out of sight, out of mind.  But it is David who sets us the example, he says to God, “I acknowledged my sin to you… you forgave … my sin … you preserve me from trouble… you surround me with shouts of deliverance”[v. 5,7]

Then comes God’s answer, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.  Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding … or it will not stay near you.” [v.8,9] 

The Bible, so wonderfully preserved and so readily available to us provides us with Divine instruction, we have only ourselves to blame if we are “without understanding”.  May we all fully sense that  “steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD” and so “Be glad … rejoice … and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! [v.10,11]    It is only when we keep “silent” that our hearts fail in uprightness.

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