Thursday, 22 August 2019

The forgiveness of sins ... the love of God

"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:8-12).

The forgiveness of sins - what a great blessing this is! We have done nothing to deserve God's forgiveness, yet He chooses to forgive us. This is love, real love, the best love, the greatest love of all, the love that reaches us, the love that will not let us go, the love that goes on and on forever, the love of God!

Listen to Jesus - and learn from him.

What's the world coming to? Everything seems to be going from bad to worse. Where is God in all this? Is there a Word from the Lord for our generation? Many people tell us to forget about God. Where will that lead us - if we forget about God, if we forget Jesus Christ, who said, "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6)? Will we not be more lost than ever, if we turn away from Jesus, who came to "seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10)? In today's world, many people tell us to forget about anything that comes to us from the ancient past. They think that if it's old, it's no good. They think that we just have to get on with life without looking back to the past. However much, the world may ignore the words of Jesus, he keeps on coming back to us with the claim that he is "the truth" (John 14:6). Will we listen to him - and learn from him? or Will we be lost without him?

Life looks very different when we start listening to Jesus and learning from him.

Who knows if it's true? - that's what lots of people say about the story of Jesus. Very often, people listen to what all kinds of people tell them - but they don't listen to Jesus. He comes to us from such a long time ago - and many people they think that they don't need to bother with him. Is it possible that Jesus offers to something that no-one else can give to us? The world has its heroes, people that they think are great. These are the people who get their attention. What about Jesus? We know about him from the Bible - a book of stories from the ancient past. Do these stories still have something to say to us? Some people say, "No " - but there may be others who are willing to listen - and learn. Jesus invites to us "ask, seek and knock" - "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7). Ask, seek and knock - Is this the way in which we will get an answer to the question, "Who knows if it's true?"? This doesn't mean that we'll have an answer to every question - but it may mean that we'll begin to see life in a different way when we start listening to Jesus and learning from him.

Stop running away from God and start returning to him.

"I wish God would just go away - and leave us alone" - That's what many people want. Is it so easy to get rid of God? He seems to be very persistent. It seems that we don't seem to hear much from him for a while - and then something happens, something makes us think, something that makes us wonder, something that starts to feel like, once again, God is tugging at our heartstrings, calling us to pay attention to him. In times like these, it doesn't seem like God has left us. It seems like we are the ones who have left him - and he is calling us to return to him:  "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:9). These words were written such a long time ago - perhaps, they may help us to start thinking that it's time to stop running away from God and start returning to him.

More than a faraway God ...

Is this all that there is? We look at the world around us, and we wonder, "Is this all that there is? or Is there something more?" We look around us, and we start wondering about God. Does this world point beyond itself? Does it point to God? Are the signposts there, directing us to God- and we haven't noticed them? Can we just jump straight from the world to God? or Do we need to make a way to God by way of Jesus? Thinking about the world may get us thinking about God - but if we're to get to know God as more than a faraway God, we need to take a look at Jesus. He is "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). When we look at Jesus, we see God. What kind of God do we see? Jesus tells us: "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). The Father - this is more than a faraway God. This is the God who loves us. The world can be a lonely place - even if we feel that, in some way, it points beyond itself to God. When Jesus comes to us, when he shows us how much we are loved, the world becomes less lonely, and God becomes more real to us.

Why has God made us His ‘own people’?

In Christ, we are ‘a holy nation’. Why has God made us His ‘own people’? - ‘that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him... ’ (1 Peter 2:9).‘The nations are waiting for us, waiting for the gospel we will bring’ (Songs of Fellowship, 539).

What do you think of Christ?

"Everything revolves around ourselves." This is the way so many people think about life. They get very uncomfortable when the question gets asked, "What about God?" However much we may want to set God aside and get on with living our life without him, the awkward question keeps coming back to us: Have we forgotten about God? 
Can our self-centred way of thinking and living really satisfy, or are we left feeling that there's a God-shaped blank at the centre of our life? When we put this questions to people in today's world, they reply to us, "That's just your opinion." We may reply with a question, "What's your opinion? - Everything happened by chance? Life has no meaning?" To say that everything happened by chance and life has no meaning - That could be harder to swallow than the idea that there is a God, who created us and has revealed himself to us in the Bible story! 
The sceptic may say to us, "You'd believe anything." We might reply to this - "You also believe something. You believe in chance. You believe that this is all we have." Many people may be content to leave it there, and say, "We've nothing more to talk about. We disagree with each other - end of story." 
There are, however, people who are willing to listen - "Let's hear what you have to say about God." When we speak to such people, we must make it clear that the question of God is more than just an academic discussion. It's more than just a matter of settling an argument. It's more than just a matter of going round in circles and getting nowhere. This is about the meaning, purpose and direction of our life on earth. What's it all about? Why are we here? Where have we come from? Where are we going? These are big questions. They don't deserve an unfair dismissal. They need to be taken seriously. They are  more than questions for discussion. They are questions that are crying out for answers. 
As we look seriously at these questions, our attention will be drawn towards Jesus Christ - What does he have to say to us? Is he "the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6)? When the conversation moves towards Jesus Christ, we must make it clear that talking things through can take us so far, and now we're reaching the point where each one of us must give our personal answer to the question, "What do you think of Christ?" (Matthew 22:42). 
To this question which presses itself upon us, the Bible gives a positive answer - the answer of faith: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). When we come to this great confession of faith, there is something we must never forget: "This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven" (Matthew 16:17). Faith in Jesus Christ is always more than the outcome of  an argument. When we've answered questions to the best of our ability, we must leave things in the hands of the Lord, and pray that he will bring people to faith in Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

Be still ... Sit sill ... Stand still ...

Following a post in which I quoted from Isaiah 30:7 - "Their strength is to sit still", I was asked for some comment on the rest of the chapter. 

Here are some comments on Isaiah 30:15-16 - ‘In returning and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, “No!”’ 
God wants to bless us. He wants to be our ‘salvation’. He wants to be our ‘strength’. How does God bless us? How does He become our ‘salvation’? How does He become our ‘strength’? We must want His blessing. We must want His ‘salvation’. We must want His ‘strength’. We must return to Him and rest in Him. We must quietly listen to His Word, putting our trust in Him. There is no ‘salvation’ without ‘returning and  rest’. There is no ‘strength’ without ‘quietness and trust’. God does not force Himself upon us. We can say, ‘No! I will have none of it’. God wants to bless you. Will you say, ‘Yes, Lord! I want You to be my “salvation”. I want You to be my “strength”’?

When I quoted from Isaiah 30:7, I moved directly to Psalm 46:10 - "Be still and know that I am God" - and Exodus 14:13 - "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord." Here are some comments on these two chapters. The comments on Psalm 46 include comments on Psalm 47. The comments on Exodus 14 include some comments on part of Exodus 13.

‘Be still, and know that I am God...Shout to God with loud songs of joy’(Psalm 46:
10; Psalm 47:2). 
In our worship, there is to be both quiet trust and loud praise. We read the great words: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). God’s Word brings peace - ‘in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’. We must not keep God’s blessing to ourselves. We must share it with joy - ‘Sing to the Lord...let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands’(Isaiah 30:15; Isaiah 42:10-12). The Lord is to be ‘exalted among the nations’. He is not only ‘our King’. He is ‘the King of all the earth’(Psalm 10; Psalm 47:6-7). ‘Father (Jesus/Spirit), we love You. We worship and adore You. Glorify Your Name in all the earth’(Mission Praise, 142).

Sin may be ‘near’, but God never leads His people into it (Exodus 13:17, James 1:13). Following Christ means walking a narrow road (Matthew 7:13-14). We are surrounded by many temptations. Pray that your feet will not slip (Psalm 37:31; Psalm 17:5; Psalm 44:18). Sometimes, the Lord leads us ‘by way of the wilderness’ - a way of apparent fruitlessness. Why? - So that ‘equipped for battle’, we might learn to serve Him better (Exodus 13:18). The Lord does not leave His people in the wilderness. Pursued by their enemies (the Egyptians), they were guided by the ‘cloud’ and ‘fire’ (Exodus 13:21-22). God was with them, and He was about to reveal His saving power in a mighty way (Exodus 14:13-14). There is judgment as well as salvation (Exodus 14:30). Looking to neither the ‘right’ nor the ‘left’, we must look to the Lord (Exodus 14:21-22). Rejoicing in ‘the great work’ He has done, our faith ‘in the Lord’ grows strong (Exodus 14:31).

Lead us to Jesus.

We thank You, Lord, that the Holy Spirit directs our attention to Jesus (John 16:14). He leads us to make our confession of faith: "Jesus is Lord" (1 Corinthians 12:3). He leads us into a new life - a life that is centred on Jesus, a life that brings glory to You and blessing to us.

Great Weakness - And Great Strength

Exodus 4:1-31
In Moses, there is great weakness. In the Lord, there is great strength. By himself, Moses was completely out of his depth. With God, Moses would go from strength to strength. He had God’s promise as well as God’s command: “Now go, and I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:12). Moses was not to be left on his own. As well as having the help of the Lord, he would also have the help of Aaron, his brother: “I will help both of you speak, and I will teach you what to do” (Exodus 4:15). Moses and Aaron were not to work in isolation from the other “leaders of the people of Israel.” They were to share with them “everything the Lord had said” (Exodus 4:29-30). God’s Word to Israel was a Word of power – He “did miraculous signs for the people” (Exodus 4:30) – and love – “The Lord was concerned about the people of Israel” (Exodus 4:31).

A Servant Of God's People

Exodus 3:1-22
Moses was called to be a servant of God’s people. He was to be the leader who would play an important part in bringing the blessing of God to the people of Israel. He was not to be a ‘lone ranger.’ He was to “assemble the leaders of Israel” (Exodus 3:16). He was to share with them the Lord’s vision for His people’s future. God was taking them away from “misery.” He was leading them on to blessing – ” a land flowing with milk and honey.” Moses was not to go to the Pharaoh as a ‘lone ranger’ – “you and the leaders must go to the King of Egypt” (Exodus 3:18). There are important lessons here for God’s servants today. We move forward together – as “one body in Christ.”

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The forgiveness of sins ... the love of God

"The Lord  is  merciful and gracious, s low to anger, and abounding in mercy.  9  He will not always strive  with us, n or will He ...