He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Tragic Vow

Judges 11:29-40
Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, 'If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD's, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.'

... When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or duaghter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, 'Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.' So she said to him, 'My father, you have given your word to the LORD; do to me as you have said, since the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the sons of Ammon.'

... At the end of the two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made...
I see many similarities in this passage to what the LORD has done for us, in offering his only Son as a sacrifice, in Jesus trusting in the will of God when in the Garden.

Yet, this passage also speaks of commitment to God. Even though Jephthah only had one child (and would be breaking the Law), he was willing to give her up, as promised. Just like Abraham. Too often, we renege on promises and commitments to each other and to God. And honestly, it isn't becoming of a Christian.

Psalm 15:4:
He swears to his own hurt and does not change...
Matthew 5:37:
Again, you have heard that the ancients were told.' You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.' But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes', or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil.
So, stick to your word, before God and men. People understand if there are legitimate reasons why you cannot, but don't promise something with no intention of seeing it through. This is as bad a reflection of Christ (the ultimate promise) as any which Christians present, and in many cases perhaps the Christian is more guilty than someone of the world.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Are you one or the other?

Luke 23:33-43
When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, 'Father, forgive them: for they do not know what they are doing.' And they cast losts, dividing up His garments among themselves. And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying 'He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.' The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying 'If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!' Now there was also an inscription above Him, 'THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.'

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, 'Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!' But the other answered, and rebuking him said, 'Do you not even fear God, since we are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.' And he was saying, 'Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!' And He said to him, 'Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.'
Jesus was crucified with two thieves, One, and The Other, if you like. One was hanging on the right and was hurling abuse at Jesus. He thinks he should be saved, and he isn't. The Other was hanging on the left. He rebuked One. He didn't think he should be saved and he was.

Like so many, One was within shouting distance of his salvation, and he missed it.

The Other had done bad things, yet he was saved at the last minute - a bitter pill for many clean-living people to swallow. Yet he realised that Christ has a Kingdom, death is not the end, and that he could be with Him in paradise.

So how did The Other find his salvation?

  1. He acknowledged God. (v. 40)
  2. He recognised his sin. (v. 41)
  3. He asked! (v.42)

And that's all we have to do too. We can be One man, and become The Other in Christ.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

What You Ought To Say

Luke 12:11-12

...do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.
As anyone who has ever had to give their testimony may know, standing up and telling your story can be a difficult thing to do. Maybe there wasn't a defining moment, maybe God's light rose on you gradually over a period of time. Maybe your story is a bit like someone elses.

And what if you have to defend your faith? Stand up, stand up for Jesus? True, we must love the Lord, our God, with all our mind (Matthew 22:37) but it's fantastic that the Holy Spirit is there to help us out with what we are to say.

I am reminded of Jeremiah 1,
Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.'

Then I said, 'Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.'

But the LORD said to me, 'Do not say "I am a youth," because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you,' declares the LORD.

Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me, 'Behold, I have put My words in your mouth...

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Good Samaritan

Luke 10:30-37

Who is my neighbour?

This passage jumps out at me every time, and never more so than when people on the street ask me for money. Not so long ago I saw a young man lying outside a shop on a city centre street, sleeping with a half empty bottle of MGD beside him. It was cold and it was wet, but there he was, getting some kip.

I has happened to all of us, people asking for money. It can get a bit annoying. The last time I was on holiday with two Christian friends, we made a pact that we would buy something to eat for the next person who asked us for money. That was eight months ago, and none of us have helped any of these people out yet.

Being the priest, or Levite, that I am, I metaphorically pass by on the other side of the road, every time, without fail. It almost follows on from yesterday's post, that it is difficult to get out of your comfort zone and be a follower of Jesus; I would find it hard to stop with this guy and help him out. Yet the Samaritan was able to do it... in the power of God, I will be able to do it too.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Follow Me

Luke 9:57-62

Reading this short passage I am left to wonder: what hinders me from following Christ?

The three men in the story all make great commitments, and at first they appear to be very promising! Jesus' responses break the spell though, and I had to turn to 1 Samuel 16:7 to understand more fully:

'...for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'
What then of the commitments made by the three men? What did Jesus see that I can't?

  1. Man number 1 - he was willing to go 'wherever.' Geographically, perhaps. I don't think he was willing to leave his home comforts behind him when it meant he too would have nowhere to lay his head.
  2. Man number 2 - there was a job he prefered to do rather than proclaim the Kingdom of God - he was more concerned about the dead, the unbeliever, than God's gift of eternal life.
  3. Man number 3 - he didn't really want to let go. Like the Israelites who wanted to return to their slavery in Egypt, he wanted to go back.

When I consider my commitement to Christ, I see a little bit of all three men in me. I'm not truly willing to leave my comfort zone. There are always jobs to be done. The old life was fun.

God, help me to walk your way.