Today's Thought for the Week is from Lesley Beath.
‘So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death’. (John 11:53)
At this time of year many Christians will be reading of Christ's final week. Following His journey to Calvary and meditating and thrilling in the great truth of His resurrection on Easter Sunday. By this process we are allowing our faith to rise as well as our love and praise at what Jesus has done. By thinking of it and speaking it afresh we can behold it anew.
This Scripture, however, does not belong in that final week. It occurs after the incident where Christ had raised Lazarus from the dead, told them to loosen the grave clothes and set him free. Many of the witnesses to this event believed. But for the Jewish leaders it signalled the point where they finally moved from the thought of merely arresting Christ to killing Him.
Jesus knew His death was destined. As the Passover lamb He was to be sacrificed at Passover time. He withdrew at this time and remained in secret with His disciples. No time was ever wasted in Christ's life so this is significant. We can try to imagine the disciples’ thoughts. Perhaps they feared the attitude and actions of the Jewish leaders. Perhaps they were concerned about future events. They must have contrasted their positive experience since Jesus had touched their lives with the rising tide of opposition and hostility He now faced. They must have wondered about the miracle of Lazarus and perhaps on Jesus’ words to Martha - ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying’. (John 11:25)
How long was the time He spent withdrawn? Was it weeks or a month or more in secret? We don’t know, we are only told that they spent some time withdrawn and in secret.
It’s not hard for us to feel we too have been withdrawn and held in secret. Away from the crowds, away from fellowship, away from past miracles and experiences. The key thing however is - have we been withdrawn with Jesus? Have we been held in secret with Him? Have we been pondering Jesus’ words? Perhaps like the disciples we have been thinking of what is ahead. For us at this particular Easter it seems as if lock down is coming to an end. Maybe we are full of life or maybe a bit apprehensive of what the future may hold.
Or we may feel we have not been in secret with Christ and allowed fears, or fear of others, or the accusation of the enemy to bring shadow or distance. Like those in the garden we have slept rather than watched. Maybe the coldness of sin has slipped around us. Rather than looking forward to coming out there is a dread caused by the fear of our present condition.
But Jesus steps back in public at exactly the right time. He appeared 6 days before the Passover, back in the home of Lazarus whom He had raised from the dead. His disciples were with him and many came to see Him. Ahead of Christ was the week leading to Easter Sunday. His journey was through the sorrow of Calvary to the Resurrection from the dead in the power of an endless life which would be available for all mankind. Full, rich grace available to all who will come.
If your secret, withdrawn time has been shadowed or fearful there is still tremendous hope. Christ steps back into your life at the exactly the right time. His Resurrection brought life to the disciples despite their ups and downs. Despite their misunderstandings or feelings. Resurrection brought life to the thief on the cross. Resurrection life was even first preached to those who shouted, ‘Crucify Him!’ Christ's Resurrection life is still here for each of us. Cast off the secret place with its shadows or its fears, even its comfortable things. Choose to be one who meditates and thrills today in Jesus. Focus on the Scripture in these coming days and walk with Him from now till Easter Sunday with its resurrection life. Allow the resurrection and new life to bring hope to the days ahead. Let the Scripture fan into flame again your love for Christ. Start even today to see Jesus, to find His precious forgiveness and renewing life afresh.
This week's Thought has been written by David Wilson.
These thoughts were inspired by an article by Matt Redman at this link.
Warning: Theology Ahead
I do not claim in any way to be an expert on the attributes of God, and I thoroughly recommend reading Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy for a much better exposition of these, but reading the article referenced above made me reflect on how we approach God in worship, and how important it is to have a right understanding of God and his attributes as we approach Him.
Tozer lists the Attributes of God as Follows:
The Incomprehensibility of God - Rather than find comfort and joy that we can’t explain God we try to define and limit Him so that we can feel more comfortable. We need to reconcile ourselves to the fact that our human minds will never comprehend God in His entirety.
The Omniscience of God – God knows everything and always has so therefore He has no need to learn. God knows all things, all possibilities, all causes, and all outcomes.
The Omnipotence of God – God has all power. He is self-sufficient and does not need to rest or recharge.
The Omnipresence of God – God is everywhere and because of that He is always near to everything and everyone. “This great central truth gives meaning to all other truths and imparts supreme value to all his [man’s] little life. God is present, near him, next to him, and this God sees him and knows him through and through.”
The Self-Existence of God - God is the only thing that is entirely self-existent. There is no dependency on anything or anyone else in order for God to exist.
The Self-Sufficiency of God - God has no need. If God needed someone or something He would, by definition, be incomplete. This is good for us to hear because many believe that God created people because He needed someone to love.
The Eternity of God – God has no beginning or no end. God is outside of time. He can see every moment at once.
The Infinitude of God – God is entirely limitless.
The Immutability of God – God does not change. He does not have traits, characteristics or qualities that ebb and flow. An attribute of God is something that God is, and is at all times
The Wisdom of God – One aspect of wisdom as the ability to develop plans and to perfectly complete those plans.
The Transcendence of God – The fact that God is exalted so far above any part of His creation.
The Faithfulness of God – God is completely faithful and on that fact our hope relies. If God was not faithful to His promises how could we live in hope and peace?
The Goodness of God – God is good, and He is the source of all good things in our lives. It is easy to sometimes forget His goodness, especially when we’re experiencing negative emotions. By directing our attention and focus on His goodness, our attitude and energy will shift.
The Justice of God – Tozer briefly explains how God can be just yet let some sinners free of direct penalty. He talks about the fact that the penalty for our sin was poured out on Jesus on the cross. He was our voluntary substitute.
The Mercy of God – “If we could remember that the divine mercy is not a temporary mood but an attribute of God’s eternal being, we would no longer fear that it will someday cease to be. Mercy never began to be, but from eternity was, so it will never cease to be. It will never be more since it is in itself infinite; and it will never be less because the infinite cannot suffer diminution”
The Grace of God – God’s grace is God declaring our debt erased. Men have always been saved by God’s grace not man’s merit.
The Love of God – God is the genesis—beginning—of love; He is it’s source; and it is by Him that we experience love, and that love is infinite and boundless.
The Holiness of God – God's holiness is not an aspect of who He is or what He does; no, God's holiness is the essence of who He is. If you were to ask, "How is the holiness of God revealed?" the only right answer would be, "In everything He does." Everything God thinks, desires, speaks and does is utterly holy in every way.
The Sovereignty of God – God is and must be completely sovereign. Nothing can stop or hinder Him. He has all power and all knowledge.
Because our minds cannot comprehend God, we can fall victim to some misconceptions of the nature of God. Some believe that the God of the Old Testament is mean and vindictive, and that Jesus came to reveal a different face of God, but this view is incorrect, as we know from His attributes that He is unchangeable.
Another incorrect view that some people hold is that these attributes are held in some kind of tension, but again based on the attributes of God, we know that they are all perfect and therefore must be perfectly in balance, and not pulling against each other.
Some like to think of God as some kind of Buddy or Big Brother who comes whenever we need help, but that is an unbalanced view and does not bring God’s holiness into the picture. The same God who poured out Judgement and wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah is the God who calls us to receive His mercy and grace at the Cross.
We tend to think of Holiness as being synonymous with purity, but in fact it is much broader than that. In its root meaning, to be holy means to be set apart.
God is holy (Set apart from all others) in every attribute and every action: He is holy in justice. He is holy in love. He is holy in mercy. He is holy in power. He is holy in sovereignty. He is holy in wisdom. He is holy in patience. He is holy in anger. He is holy in grace. He is holy in faithfulness. He is holy in compassion. He is even holy in his holiness!
God’s holiness is at the heart of all His attributes. As Reman says in his article “the New York-based pastor Jon Tyson reminds us, in his insight into the worship responses of the angels in heaven: “The angels have been locked in a room with God for thousands of years and they still haven’t gotten past the word holy.”
In conclusion, I recommend meditating on God’s holiness and other attributes and coming before Him with a right idea of who He is as that will help us approach in true worship for who He is.
He restores my soul... You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honour me by anointing my head with oil. (Psalm 23)
Psalm 23 is perhaps the best known and the best loved psalm in the Bible. It is only 6 verses long - yet whole books have been written on the truths contained in these short verses. In the times in which we are living, many of us have found this psalm speaking to us again and again, bringing peace, comfort and reassurance.
I want to highlight just one or two points from the verses quoted above.
He restores my soul
How often has He done that for you over these past days? Days of anxiety, or perhaps simply days of weariness and emptiness..... but when we turn our eyes to the Shepherd there comes comfort and peace as we drink in the quiet strength that comes from Him and find that we live again. Take time to be with Him, to draw from Him what you need .... and you will have strength for the next stage of your journey.
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies
I love the way this psalm moves from speaking ABOUT the Shepherd to speaking TO the Shepherd. As soon as David speaks about God He is not only thinking about Him but he is drawing near to Him and very quickly begins to speak directly to Him. Surely this is the intimacy that God wants to draw all of us into. David has stopped thinking about his weariness and about his enemies and his focus is now on the feast that God has provided! What a difference it makes when we don’t just tell God about our troubles and our needs but we let Him feed our souls. The enemies may not disappear but we have the strength we need to face them.
You honour me by anointing my head with oil
Oil speaks of the Holy Spirit. He is the Comforter and the One who takes of the things that belong to Christ and reveals them to us. As we let Him draw near, He takes us to Jesus and we find the truth that is the first verse of this psalm.
The Lord is my Shepherd... I have all that I need
May we all find, increasingly, that place of rest, restoration and hope for the future that is there when we have been with Jesus.
This Thought for the Day is from Mary Bell.
Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about. (Philippians 4:8)
We have a lot of time to think in lockdown!
I was out walking on my own and was thinking of a past circumstance and it was the unhappy and wrong things in that situation that filled my mind, so it made me feel really sad. Then it occurred to me that good things had also come out of that same situation and I began to feel happier. Our world is made up of our thoughts.
Choose to dwell on the lovely thoughts, the good thoughts - not the negative ones. Sometimes our spirits don’t immediately rise as we turn from sad thoughts to happy ones, but they can rise as we continually turn away from negative thoughts.
Joseph had a lot of cruel things that happened to him but he could say:
God turned into good what you meant for evil. (Genesis 50:20)
He was able to dwell not on the wrong things done to him but on the good things God was able to bring out of them.
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