Remembering 11.11

Today is the eleventh of November, Remembrance Day.

Perhaps this day has a different name where you are from, but essentially today is the day we pause to remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in World War One, and in other armed conflicts since.

World War One finished one hundred and one years ago today, at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month – 11a.m, November 11th, 1918.

“The first two-minute silence in Britain was held on 11 November 1919, when King George V asked the public to observe a silence at 11am. This was one year after the end of World War One. He made the request so “the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead”.” (BBC).

We look back and remember the ultimate price paid by those brave men and women of the armed services, and those who were not in the military but part of the effort, with thanks.

As they willingly gave their lives to defend their countries, and others, from tyranny, oppression, terrorism, injustice, and all manner of evils so we as believers in the Lord Jesus have a Saviour who willingly gave His life to deliver us from evil.

Greater love has no one than this,

that someone lay down his life for his friends.

John 15.13

Let us pause and pray at 11am today to remember those who gave their lives so we can enjoy so many of the freedoms we do, and, let us pause and pray in the name of the Lord Jesus, the Prince of peace, that this horrible and seemingly endless cycle of people needing to take up arms in order to wage war against each other will be broken, either miraculously before His coming or as a direct result of it.

20141112MEMORIALS-hp-slide-N3DB-master1050

Hebrews 9.1-10 – Permanence

What are we to do about the transience, the change, the uncertainties of life?

These are things we all experience, aren’t they. We are all looking for some permanence, something to build our lives on, something that allows us to find what we are seeking.

We are all looking for permanence in our relation to God, is this permanence really possible?

Daniel Webster offered excellent advice as to where we find this, saying, 

If we work on marble it will perish. 

If we work on brass, time will erase it. 

If we rear temples, they will crumble to dust. 

But if we work on men’s immortal minds, if we give them high principles, with just fear of God and love of their fellow-men, we engrave on those tablets something which time cannot erase, and which will brighten and brighten to all eternity.

God actually wants permanent, lasting, ongoing fellowship and relationship with you, not repeated and temporary atonement through sacrifice and vicarious representation.

Because He is greater than temporary sacrifices, temporary places of worship, temporary access to God, Jesus brings permanence to all people.

20.007

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

Hebrews 9.1-10

What does this mean for our lives now?

All the Christian things we do; go to church, read the Bible, serving, giving, praying, gathering, loving, it all connects us with God.

The parable of the old ways of doing things pointed to a time when we can do it like this (vv.8-10), where we can be we, the church, where we can do all of this stuff as regular, normal people because of what Jesus did for us.

Through faith in Him and His finished work on the cross and having Him as our great High Priest, we can enjoy permanent fellowship and relationship with God. 

Permanence in our relation to God is available, and it is available through Jesus. 

 

I Will Boast

In Galatians 6 Paul is writing to say that people will ask you to do things in order to make them look good (vv.11-12), and that appearances are not to be boasted in, or gloried in, whether they are yours or someone else’s (v.13). Then he writes,

14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

This forms the basis of today’s Thursday Music, ‘I Will Boast’ by Chris Tomlin.

I will boast only in the cross

Where my Savior died for me

Nothing else, no other love,

Goes so far and runs so deep

Paul writes to the Romans that it is rare that anyone would die for a righteous man, yet sometimes people will give their life to save a good person. The love of God is proved to be on a whole other level when we see that whilst we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.7-8). No other love goes so far for us, no other love runs so deep for us.

I will boast only in the cross

See His head, His hands, and feet

Scars of grace, scars that heal

He broke the curse and set me free

This looks back to that horrific scene on the cross where Jesus took upon Himself the punishment, shame, and consequence for the sins of the entire world (1 John 2.2). The head, hands, and feet of Jesus took the physical punishment we deserve, and He gave His life to offer us a new one (John 19.2, 1 Peter 2.24).

This is why Paul writes far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. The cross of Jesus is the only true, pure, unchanging, and right thing in our lives. Everything else is temporary and temporal, but the cross of Christ is the starting point for a wonderful, new, and everlasting life.

Amos 3.7-11 – What if it’s not central?

Yesterday we saw that the cross of Christ should be central to the life of a believer; everything passes through it, big or small, just like the main train station of a European city (if you didn’t read yesterday’s devotional, you can do here).

Today Amos continues his detail of the guilt and punishment of Israel, both of which are made worse due to the fact that they were God’s chosen people, they only had the Lord known of all the families of the earth.

Often when we read of the judgement of God against sin we think,

‘Well, didn’t they see it coming?

Didn’t they have a chance to repent?

That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it, just judging them without any warning…’.

Well, if we look at what Amos is saying, we see this is not the case;

7 “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.

8 The lion has roared; who will not fear?

The Lord GOD has spoken; who can but prophesy?”

So people have had time and opportunity to turn back to God, He has spoken to His people through His prophets, the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.

In vv.9-10 we see nations gathered to witness what is going to happen, told to us in v.11,

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:

“An adversary shall surround the land and bring down your defenses from you, and your strongholds shall be plundered.”

So, because the wonderful ways that God had worked amongst them were not being held as central to the lives of these people, because they were oppressing others (v.10), and because they have had ample warning to turn and repent (vv.7-8), now there will be judgement (v.11). This did actually happen, David Guzik writes,

“This was fulfilled in the Assyrian invasion of Israel, less than 30 years after Amos made this prophecy. For ten years, Israel was a subject state in the Assyrian Empire.”

The point is this; the Exodus was supposed to be central to Israel as a time when they had seen God’s miraculous, marvellous, merciful abilities in action, but they had drifted away into living lives dictated by the flesh.

For us, the cross of Christ should be central and should we drift away into living lives governed by the flesh, how much worse will the judgement be for those of us who reject the ultimate sacrifice made by God Himself, if those who rejected His saving powers all those years ago were taken away into slavery?

Surely, then, all the more reason to keep the cross of Christ, the finished work accomplished there, the resurrection and ascension that followed, the promise of His coming again…all the more reason to keep the cross of Christ central to our lives.

Amos 3.1-6 – What is central?

At the start of 2013 I was living in Essen, Germany, and as is common in lots of European cities there is a central train station, a hauptbahnhof in Germany, a gare centrale if you’re in France, you get the idea…

All main trains coming from other cities do so to the main station, so in Essen we could take an intercity train and go to Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Köln, or even further afield to Brussels or Paris. As well as the main lines, there were also smaller lines, city trains, running to different parts of the city, and there was also the U-Bahn which ran underground and stopped every few hundred meters all over town. Basically, everything ran through this main hauptbahnhof, as it was central to everything else, everything else came and went via the main station.

In Amos today we read of the centrality of the Exodus to God’s people in the time before Christ;

1 Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt:

2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth;

therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.

3 “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?

4 Does a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey?

Does a young lion cry out from his den, if he has taken nothing?

5 Does a bird fall in a snare on the earth, when there is no trap for it?

Does a snare spring up from the ground, when it has taken nothing?

6 Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid?

Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?

We see how central the Exodus is right from the start, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt. God is speaking through Amos and says look, all that has happened to you has been my doing, and you have seen me working in ways that no other people have, You only have I known of all the families of the earth. The amazing things that happened to Israel could only have been God working so powerfully and evidently, vv.3-6 are six obviously true statements that lead to the inevitable conclusion that nothing happens unless the LORD has done it.

So, in a nutshell, the Exodus was so central because it was when God’s people saw God deliver them from slavery, bondage, and oppression into the life He had prepared for them.

For us, we are so fortunate now to live in a post-cross time. We can look back to the cross as being central to all we do. As Amos is pointing Israel back to the Exodus, we should continually be looking back to the cross, and it should be central to all we do.

Whether we are doing major train line-style things, whether we are moving between the parts of our day, or whether we are doing the thousands of little, unnoted, unnoticed, and seemingly unimportant things that we do each day, as a hauptbahnhof is central the life of a European city, so should the cross of Christ be central to the life of a believer.

Revelation 4.1-4 – Symbols and reality

1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said,

“Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.

3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.

4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.

Chapter one detailed things in the past, chapters two and three in the present, and from chapter four onwards we read of things yet to come, literally, meta tauta, after this…

Chapters four to nineteen of Revelation details God’s judgement (hold on to your seats), from His throne in heaven and via a seven-sealed scroll which we will get to. After chapter nineteen, He’s back; Jesus’ earthly reign begin. Four to nineteen, then, details what most people would call the Great Tribulation, God’s judgement being poured out.

There are lots of symbols in this short section, lots of things which paint us a picture of what John saw. Remember, he simply didn’t have the vocabulary to describe the glory of the things he saw, so he used the words he had to paint us as accurate a picture as he could. The really important thing though is to remember that a symbol is never greater than the reality.

Take for instance, our church logo;
Logo w. Mission

It’s clear, striking, shows what we value, says who we are, says what we (are aiming to) do, this particular version is black and white which is often a symbol of a clear cut right/wrong situation.

However, the church family is more than the logo, the church experience, the worship experience, is more than the logo…

Consider even this symbol;

Unknown

It means a great deal to us. By it we have life. Through it we are alive. On it our sacrificial Saviour gave His life to save us from death. But, even the symbol of the cross is nowhere near as powerful as the real thing, are you with me?


Basically, symbol < reality.


Here, then, John sees God on His throne, wow!

Here’s our first symbol,

And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald

The appearance ofappearance of

We know from the Old Testament that rainbows represent God’s promise never to wipe out humanity through a flood again, Genesis 9 says,

11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Using word pictures to describe the supernatural isn’t something only John did, in Matthew 28 we read,

1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.

But, symbols are never greater than the reality.

This means that throughout the coming chapters when we are awed by what we read, what we are reading of is actually even more awesome than we can imagine.

But, on the other side of that coin, when we shudder at what we read, this is even more terrible than we can imagine.

Both should point us in the right direction, this one…

Unknown

 

Obadiah 5-9 – Boasting

In Obadiah 1-4 we read that pride was a serious problem for the Edomites, the decedents of Esau, twin brother of Jacob. Here, in verses 5-9, we see that they also boasted in their allies, those nations around them whom were thought to be friendly;

If thieves came to you,

if plunderers came by night—

how you have been destroyed!—

would they not steal only enough for themselves?

If grape gatherers came to you,

would they not leave gleanings?

How Esau has been pillaged,

his treasures sought out!

All your allies have driven you to your border;

    those at peace with you have deceived you;

they have prevailed against you;

those who eat your bread have set a trap beneath you—

you have no understanding.

Pastor and Bible commentator David Guzik, writes this,

‘When God brings judgment against Edom, they will know the sting of treachery against them. The alliances they once trusted in would come to nothing, and they would be double-crossed by their former friends. The Edomites were proud of their political alliances, but God would break their pride and bring them low.’

People are fickle, if you go to any sports game you will see fans cheering their team on one minute, then lamenting the fact that “My grandma could have scored that!”, or “He couldn’t hit a beach ball with a cricket bat.”…heroes one minute, incompetent lucky-to-be-pro-sportsmen the next…


But, what should we boast in?


The Bible says we should boast only in the Lord; His person, His works, His ways, His will. Really, are people worth boasting in? None of us are righteous by our own accord, all our righteous acts are like filthy rags before God (harsh, but true).

There is one worth boasting in, isn’t there, one who brings hope for the future and for today, one who took the nails, one who tore the veil, only one spotless lamb.

Let us boast only in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Scriptures to meditate on today;

Jeremiah 9:23

Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches;

Psalm 20:7

Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.

Galatians 6:14

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.