"The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed
Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to
proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the
blind, to release the oppressed, and proclaim the year of the
Lord’s favour." (Luke 4:18-19)
The New Testament reader very quickly notices that John’s gospel is quite different from the other three in a number of ways. One difference is that John highlights only seven of Jesus’s miracles compared to the 37 we read of in the gospels combined!However, so that we are left in no doubt that there are many more, John tell us that:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. (John 20:30)
Over the centuries, people have scratched their heads, puzzling over John’s apparently strange inclusion of the wedding feast at Cana. It just doesn’t seem as relevant compared to Jesus’ miracles of healing, deliverance, walking on water and the multiplication of food! However, if we take a closer look at the gospel, we understand why.
The seven miracles that John chose, demonstrated to his readers, Jesus’ divine identity and his mission on earth. And what better way to open this narrative than recounting a miracle of transformation! Jesus came to seek the lost, save the lost and transform the lost.
Paul explains this in 2 Corinthians 2:18 when he says,
"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.”
After the miracle of transformation at Cana, we read of many transformed lives in the New Testament; Mary Magdalen , Matthew, Peter, Paul, Zacchaeus to name but a few.
In his book, Fresh Eyes on Jesus’ Miracles, Doug Newton writes,
“Without even waving a hand… Jesus performed a miracle of radical transformation. Only the God who created the Universe from nothing could have fused the one-time water with carbon and acids and sparkling flavour. If he could do this to water-filled pots, imagine what he can do with worry-filled people.”
Imagine what he can do/has done with the drug addict, the alcoholic, the depressed woman, the suicidal man, the broken hearted parent… you and me! Doesn’t that make us want to shout ‘Hallelujah’? Don’t we want everyone to know this God who takes the blind, the weak, and the oppressed and transforms them into ‘a crown of splendour in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” (Isaiah 62:3)
This is your God. This is my God. This is what we can expect when we yield our lives wholly to Him. Shall we do this today?
“The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.”
The Path of Joy and Blessing
This week’s Thought has been written by Peter Hodson.
“Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
(Esther 4:14 )
With global events as they are today, we might well ask why we are here at this time in history. The truth is that you and I were not born randomly. God had planned our birth, who we are, our personality, our temperament, when and where we were born, before the world was made (Eph1:4). He has a specific and unique purpose for you and me to fulfil.
He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
It is wonderful and possibly frightening to think that God who created the universe, has a plan and a purpose for you and me as individuals, planned by Him before the world’s foundation, to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, and so to bring God glory as his purposes are worked out in the world.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)
For you are a holy people [set apart] to the Lord your God; and the Lord has chosen you out of all the peoples who are on the earth to be a people for His own possession. (Deuteronomy 14:2)
What a privilege! And what confidence this gives us to completely entrust our lives and all that happens to us, to God and live lives of obedience to Him! Esther was brought unexpectedly into the position of Queen in the kingdom of Persia and her obedience to Mordecai brought about the rescue of the entire Jewish people. We have been brought into a far greater Kingdom and we possibly will never know this side of eternity how our daily obedience to God will affect other lives.
“Esther chose the path of joy and blessing when she agreed to play her role in God’s plan.”
(Go to questions.org/for-such-a-time-as-this)
We each have a high and holy calling. God grant that we may recognise our glorious privilege and respond with joyful obedience and ‘run in the path of His commands’ (Ps 119:32), for we each have indeed been brought into the Kingdom for such a time as this!
Therefore, believers, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you [be sure that your behaviour reflects and confirms your relationship with God]; for by doing these things [actively developing these virtues], you will never stumble.
(2 Peter 1:10)
The Goodness of God
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)
Recently I came across a beautifully produced video of CeCe Winans singing “The Goodness of God"*. In it we see her singing this song, alongside another video where she is looking back over the happiest times of her life projected onto a screen. It’s truly heartwarming, and you feel her gratefulness to God as she sings ‘of the goodness of God.”
Having watched the video, I realised that she has focussed on one side of a two sided coin. God’s goodness to her in the happiest times in her life, the highlights of life, is depicted but not the other the side of the coin, life’s lowlights. These are reflected in the second verse of the song:
I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
In the darkest night
You are close like no other
God is good to us during the happy times, but His goodness somehow shines even more brightly and powerfully in the darkness.
I am reminded of a conversation between Brother Andrew (God’s Smuggler) and Corrie ten Boom, the woman who, along with her family, rescued Jews in Holland who were to be sent to concentration camps and almost certain death. Many years after her arrest and concentration camp experience (her father and sister lost their lives at that time), Brother Andrew is in Corries’s comfortable flat. Looking round the apartment, he comments to her, ‘God has been good to you.’ Corrie’s reply was ‘Andrew, He was good to me in the concentration camp also.” Brother Andrew felt suitably reprimanded.
Too often, we speak of God’s goodness to us in terms of the provision of material possessions, promotions work, relationships etc. If we think that way, we miss recognising and acknowledging the goodness of God when “You have led me through the fire.In the darkest night, You are close like no other.”
Shall we take time this week to mediate on the many times that God has led us safely through the waters, rivers and flames? Let us acknowledge this side of His character as we ‘singing of the goodness of God'.
Happy moments, PRAISE GOD
Difficult moments, SEEK GOD
Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD
Painful moments, TRUST GOD
Every moment, THANK GOD
It’s Your Choice
"Not my will, but Thine be done." (Luke 23:42)
There are two stories in the New Testament that leave us hanging on the edge and, if, like me, you have an inquisitive mind, you will have wondered what happened next. The first is the parable of the Lost Son in Luke 16.
This well known parable recounts the homecoming of a penitent, wayward son whose loving and forgiving father holds a lavish ‘welcome home’ banquet for him where everyone will rejoice with him….except the older brother! We read that he “became angry and refused to go in”. Complaining to his father, he says:
'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' (Luke 16:29-30)
Graciously, his father responds:
“My son… you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 16:31-32)
End of story!
But wait, what happened to the older brother? Did he lay aside his pride, jealousy and resentment? Did he go in and welcome his estranged brother? Or was this the beginning of a lifelong bitterness? We just don’t know. Jesus told only what was sufficient for his purposes but I can’t help wondering what the ending would have been.
The second cliffhanger story is sadly a true story, not a parable. It’s the story of a rich young man who came to Jesus asking him what he must do to inhert eternal life. It was a good question he asked and, to the ears of bystanders would possibly have sounded genuine and sincere. When Jesus pointed him to certain commandments, the young man replied,
“All these I have kept since I was a boy." (Luke 18:21)
Jesus then told him clearly that he needed to sell all that he had, give it to the poor then follow Jesus. Unfortunately, this wasn’t good news to the young man. We read that,
“When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.” (Luke 18:23)
How often I have wondered what happened to this young man! Luke never tells us, probably because he didn’t know the answer himself. As Christians, we are are familiar with choices. We chose daily to act/react in certain ways that will either demonstrate our allegiance to Christ or our rejection of Him.
Here we have read of two men who struggled when faced with righteous choices. Some who read this will be facing similar circumstances. You too have a choice. What will it be?
“There are only two kinds of people in the end:those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’, and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’.” C.S.Lewis
Abandonment to God
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham… Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar… Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. (Matthew 1:1,3,5,6)
Do you usually skip reading the genealogy of Jesus? So do many other people when they read the Bible. In fact, some Bible translators have even been known to omit this section when attempting to translate its contents into a little known language! So why study it? It was while recently meditating on the life of Ruth, who features in Jesus’s genealogy, that I understood why.
Ruth’s story takes place around 1100BC during the time of the Judges. She was a Moabite, but who exactly were the Moabites? They were the descendants of Moab who, we discover in Genesis 19, was born to Lot as a result of an act of incest with his elder daughter. Hundreds of years later, when the people of Israel were journeying through the wilderness, Numbers 25:1-3 tells us of how the Moabites led them into sexual immorality:
“While the Israelites were camped at Acacia Grove, some of the men defiled themselves by having sexual relations with local Moabite women. These women invited them to attend sacrifices to their gods, so the Israelites feasted with them and worshiped the gods of Moab. In this way, Israel joined in the worship of Baal of Peor, causing the Lord’s anger to blaze against his people.”
The pagan Moabites were Israel’s enemy, but despite Ruth’s pagan background, she willingly turned her back on her Moabite heritage and it’s god. Having married the son of Naomi, an Israelite refugee, she has a choice to make when Naomi returns to Israel following the death of her sons. Ruth, in response to Naomi’s exhortation to stay with her own people replies (Ruth 1:16):
“Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.”
Through right choices that she made, Ruth is described as “virtuous woman” (Ruth 3:11).
So, what were the consequences of her righteous choices?
1. The God of Israel did not simply cleanse Ruth of her family history but he went much further and gave her a key role in God’s plan of salvation. Ruth became the great grandmother of King David, arguably the most influential of all Israel’s kings. David’s line was chosen by God to bring forth the Messiah. Ruth died without realising the part that she would play in history. She had lived a life of faithfulness to God for love and not for glory.
2. She also died never knowing the impact her life would have for thousands of years on those who heard/read her story. Throughout the centuries, many have been inspired by Ruth’s reckless faith, and her total commitment to a God she possibly knew little about.
Ruth separated herself from her family and her origins not just physically but also spiritually. She did not hanker after her old life; once Ruth had made her commitment, there was no going back. Today, just as in Ruth’s time, God is looking for those whose lives are lived in joyful abandonment to him. He wants those who will close all doors to a sinful past and follow him willingly and faithfully. You may never know all the positive consequences of your choices, but you will die with peace knowing that you have faithfully served the God of all creation, our great Redeemer.
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Corrie Ten Boom
It is Finished
“It is finished” (John 19:30)
Of all the words that we read in The Bible, by far my favourite are these three small words, ‘It is finished”. As Jesus breathed his last human breath as mankind’s Saviour, these, His last words, were heard not just heard on Calvary’s hill; they rang through the courthouse of heaven, they resounded in the caverns of hell. The consequences of these words have impacted both time and eternity for countless millions, probably billions, down through the millennia and will impact countless more until Christ returns.
As that last triumphant cry broke from the lips of the Savior, a number of remarkable events took place. These included:
In his book, The Six Miracles of Calvary, Willian R Nicholson takes a deeper look at these four miracles that occurred in the moments after Jesus cried out those triumphant words. Here are some of his thoughts regarding the torn veil:
1. Nicholson reminds his readers that the reason for the existence for the veil was because of man’s sin. No human being could approach God’s holy presence without the prescribed shedding of blood. The veil was an obstruction between man and God. But now, as the last triumphant cry of Christ was heard, it heralded that “sin, the real obstruction, was taken out of the way.” What a glorious moment in the history of mankind!
2. The author also pointed out that, despite what people may suggest, the tearing of the veil could not have been a result of the earthquake. If that was the case, the Temple itself and other articles in it would have been damaged. The only damage we read of, was to the veil. It happened at precisely the moment the final cry of victory rang out from Calvary.
3. He also pointed out the relevance of the time that Jesus died. He said, “The timeliness of it was one of its most wonderful features. Jesus Christ expired at three o’clock in the afternoon. This was the time of beginning the evening sacrifice, so that the priests were in the Holy Place, in front of the veil, actually engaged in their duties. “Yes, God meant it to be seen and meant it to be thought of.”
And “thought of” it must have been. Picture the priests who witnessed the event. Terror must have seized them as the 60 foot veil, said to be a hand breadth thick, tore from top to bottom, revealing the holy of holies to eyes other than that of the High Priest.
We can imagine the wonder, awe and fear with which they spoke of this amongst themselves and described these events to other priests. Nothing like this had been seen or of heard of before. So, it it not surprising that, not long after this, we read in Acts 6:7,
“So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” We can’t help wonder if many of these “became obedient” as a result of the rending of the veil.
How wonderful was that miracle in all that it reveals to us. I can’t help remembering words of the hymn penned by William R. Newell;
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.” (Matthew 21:2)
This is the time in the Christian calendar when our thoughts inevitably turn to the events leading up to, and around, the death and resurrection of Jesus. On ‘Palm Sunday’ we remember the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the Prophecy of Zechariah.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
I used to feel sorry for Jesus when I read of him riding on a donkey. He deserved better than this! He deserved the best horse that could be found in the whole of Israel. He deserved a retinue of ‘important” people walking ahead of Him, declaring that the King was coming. Instead, he rode on a donkey with a motley crew of men called ‘apostles’, some of whom were poor Galilean fishermen. Not quite the retinue and mode of transport of Kings and dignitaries. But how wrong was I! God Himself orchestrated this triumphant procession: it could not have been more perfect. Let me explain. There are two important points we need to know.
Firstly, in our 21st century mind, we look down on donkeys. After all, they are stubborn and not terribly intelligent, are they not? And they’re not very elegant creatures! Functional, but definitely not elegant. Yet, in Old Testament times, riding on a donkey signified royalty…yes, royalty!
We read of many occasions when royalty and people of significance rode donkeys. For example, King Solomon rode to his coronation as King of Israel on a donkey.
Take your lord’s servants with you and have Solomon my son mount my own mule and take him down to Gihon. There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon! (1 Kings 1:33-34)
(I’m not sure I can picture King Charles copying this example on the 6th of May!) We also read of Judges, the leaders of ancient Israel before they had kings, riding on donkeys. One of these was Jair.
After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years.And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities, called Havvoth-jair to this day, which are in the land of Gilead. (Judges 10:3-4)
Abraham and King David also rode donkeys.
So, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the crowd recognised the significance of kingship and shouted:
Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9)
The crowd were knowingly quoting from Psalm 118:25,26.
Secondly, in Old Testament times and in Jesus’ day, leaders rode horses if they were riding to war, but donkeys if they came in peace.
If Jesus had rode into Jerusalem, as I had wished for, on a war horse, there would immediately have been a riot. It would have been disastrous! The Romans would have descended upon him with all the force of their military might, quashing, what in their minds was insurrection. No, Jesus didn’t come to make war, he came to bring salvation to all mankind... to you and to me! He needed to ride on a donkey!
Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he. (Zechariah 9:9)
When I read these scriptures now, I no longer feel sorry for Jesus. I know that, in due time He will indeed come forth riding on a war horse but it will be in God’s time and in His plan.
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war... On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Rev 19:11, 16)
Until that day, let us rejoice that Jesus our King and our Prince of Peace, rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.
Pauline Ann Anderson
Our Magnificent God Part 2
Your eyes shall see the King in his beauty. (Isaiah 33:17)
In the ancient cultures that surrounded Israel, from Southern Mesopotamia in 2000BC to Rome in 200AD, their views on reality were formed by observing the natural world around them from the stars, to the moon, to the sky, to the dry land, to rivers, trees animals and so on. This led them to conclude that there were many Gods.
This fact is attested by looking at cultures such as Indian, Chinese Roman and Greek, all of whom worshiped deities related to the natural world. In Acts 17, we find the apostle Paul in the city of Athens. In conversation with the people, he addresses them saying:
“People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god.” (Acts 17:22,23)
However, Israel’s understanding of reality was radically different from that of all other ancient cultures. “How did the Israelites come to their unique concept of reality? Was it not encounters with the true God in actual events of history?” (NLT Study Bible: ‘The Exodus as History’)
A striking examples of this is found in the Book of Exodus in the account of the ten plagues of Egypt. On the surface of this account, you could wonder if God was exerting some kind of creative revenge against the persecutors of His people. However, when we dig below the surface we see not creative vengeance but divine revelation of the magnificent power of the God of Israel. Each plague was a step-by-step dismantling of the entire Egyptian belief system.
For example, Knhum, Hapti Sobek and Taweri were all believed to be ‘gods’ who were linked to the River Nile. As the river ran red with blood, it would seem to the Egyptians that their Gods had been slain.
It’s hard for us to imagine this, but in Ancient Egypt, amongst other things, flies represented tenacity and courage, (yes really!) and eternal life. Stone carvings and amulets shaped as flies were found in ancient Egyptian tombs. To be attacked by the insect they revered would have been a major blow to the Egyptians.
Heket was the Egyptian goddess of fertility and resurrection and was believed to take the form of a frog. She was looked upon as a protector of the people. As a result of this, frogs were revered in the ancient Egyptian culture and it was forbidden to deliberately kill a frog. So, imagine how the people must have felt when their homes and villages were filled with the creature who was meant to protect them!
And so it went on. For two years, the Egyptians faced plagues that targeted each of their Gods. It was a magnificent display of the supremacy, might and power of the God of Israel! As the song goes, ‘Our God is an awesome God”.
Over the millennia, God has been revealing His greatness to the human race. He revealed His greatness to Joseph in Egypt, Joshua on the eve of entering the Promised Land, Daniel in the Lion’s den, through wonders and miracles in Jesus’ earthly ministry, to name only a few. And, the wonderful thing is that the desire in the heart of God to reveal Himself to mankind has not ceased. In spite of our failures and mistakes, God still wants to demonstrate His power to us.
“Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning, our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful, and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.”
Our Magnificent God
Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.
On Christmas Eve, 1968, Apollo 8 was in orbit around the moon. It was the first mission to take humans to the Moon and back without actually landing on the moon’s surface. Apollo 8 was testing out the flight trajectory for future moon landings; it orbited the moon ten times before heading back to earth.
During one of those orbits, astronaut Bill Anders snapped a photo; it’s called ‘Earthrise’. It showed the earth rising spectacularly above the surface of the moon in the same way we observe the moon rising above the surface of the earth. It is breathtakingly beautiful.
On 7th December 1972, on its way to the moon, the crew of Apollo 17 took a photo looking back at the earth. This photo, entitled Blue Marble, showed the perfect sphere of our home planet, hanging amid the backdrop of the blackness of space. It would go on to to become one of the most reproduced images in history. It is truly magnificent. Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, also makes an outstanding image. If a person wanted to travel from one end of our galaxy to the other, travelling at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), it would take them 100,000 to 120,000 years. (Make sure and take plenty of water with you.)
In July 2022 Nasa unveiled the newest photos of our universe, taken by the James Webb Space telescope which is parked out in space a million miles away from earth. The clarity of the images is awe inspiring.
When looking at these images, words like ‘magnificent’, ‘awesome’, ‘amazing' and ‘outstanding’ come to mind although none come near to giving a true expression of their beauty.
Billy Graham said:
"Look up on a starry night and you will see the majesty and power of an infinite creator."
Psalm 19:1 tells us that:
The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.
The same God who ‘created the heavens and stretched them out’ (Isaiah 42:5), is the one who uses His creation to reveal something of Himself to us. If the universe is so magnificent in its vastness that we cannot comprehend it, how much vaster and more magnificent is the one who created it?
However, there is something that perhaps creates an even greater sense of wonder. It is this same Creator who says to us:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. (Isaiah 43:2)
“I will not fail you nor forsake you”. (Joshua 1:5)
I no longer call you servants. Instead I have called you friends. (John 15:15)
At times when we are navigating through life’s difficulties, shall we pause, and bring these thoughts to mind. Let us not be overtaken by the magnitude of our difficulties but be inspired by the magnitude of our Creator… and our friend.
Pauline Ann Anderson
You therefore endure hardness, as a god soldier of Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 2:3)
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7)
We can’t help being aware of conflicts that are raging in various parts of the world today. Behind each conflict there is planning, careful planning. Plans are made to attack and plans are made to defend.
The New Testament likens Christians to soldiers. We face our battles too. Some of these are with people, other times the devil, sometimes with circumstances and even ourselves. At times it can seem as though we are fighting all four at once!
So, the question today is, “Do you have a battle plan?”
We need a strategy ahead of time, we need to prepare for the battle in the days of calm.
Recently, I was reflecting on a ‘battle plan’ which may also help others to victory.
Raise up a people, holy and free;
Hearts with a vision like unto thee;
Souls that would rather die than give in –
Lives with a passion, victory to win.
There is a saying that “those who fail to plan, plan to fail”. But we don’t need to fail. By making ourselves ready for the battles ahead, we can not only survive, come through them victorious, knowing the ressurection power of Jesus Christ.
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