Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Nehemiah - parting shots

Our final post from the book of Nehemiah for the time being is going to be from the second part of the book which is concerned with the rebuilding of the people, following the reconstruction and repair of the walls of Jerusalem.

We can see in chapter 8 the reading of the Word of God and the results that followed. There are lots of relevant and practical lessons to be learned here and perhaps the most important lesson is that if we are going to accomplish anything for God, if we are looking to rebuild ourselves as a people then it must all start with a resolve to learn the truth from Gods Word!

Lets make a fe observations from the preparation and attitude of the people as they approached God's Word under the leadership of Nehemiah and Ezra the scribe.

"The people gathered themselves together as one man"

The people were united in this great exercise and so they gathered themselves together to hear what the Word of God had to say. They had experienced unity in the building work, now they were experiencing unity in the reading and enjoyment of the Word of God. Later on they would have unity in worship as they lifted their hearts and voices to God in praise."Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" We would draw a challenge from this; if we want to serve, learn and worship God as a local assembly of believers then we need to be in unity and 'gathered together'. One of the implications of this is that we need to be present at the gatherings of the people of God! All too often we can slip into bad habits and find ourselves enjoying the things of the world rather than the things of God. We must be at the gatherings of the Lord's people if we are able!

They gathered at the Water Gate

This is poignant as flowing water is almost always a picture of the Holy Spirit! When we read the scriptures as believers we do so with the help of the Holy Spirit, of whom the Lord said;  "he will guide you into all truth"

Ezra reads the book of the law to the people

"And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose"

Note that Ezra stood upon a pulpit of wood. This was a raised platform that had been built for the purpose, teaching us that thought and preparation had gone into this exercise! We too should strive to create conditions that are conducive to the reading and study of the Word of God whether collectively or privately in our own lives.

"And the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law"

This should be a real challenge to ourselves who are privileged enough to possess the full canon of scripture, just how attentive are we to it? Have we grown too familiar to the Word of God so we just let it wash over us without any impact or giving it due attention? These people only had the first 5 books of the Old Testament possibly, yet they gave their full attention to it!

Note the reverence to Gods Word as well. When Ezra opened the book the people stood up, a mark of reverence and expectancy as they waited on the Lord.

"...caused the people to understand the law... So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading"

It is interesting to see that there were specific men that made sure that the people understood the reading. What a valuable service they performed! I would take this opportunity to fully endorse the scriptural pattern and example of gifted men expounding and teaching the Word of God to believers. There is no substitute or better way of teaching a group of believers than using god given gift to do so. If we want to learn and grow then consecutive teaching from the word by gifted men is fundamental.

Let's have a look at the results of the reading

It was clearly a profitable exercise for they return for a second day! Surely this testimony to the spirit and desire of the people and the effect the Word of God was having in their lives. This should be a challenge to our hearts.

God rewards the people by giving them more, they learn about the Feast of Tabernacles. This teaches me that God rewards us for our diligence in the study of his Word. If we invest time and effort in our study and show willingness to apply it to our lives, God will keep on giving and increase our profit. The Saviour himself said: "with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given"

What was the result of the peoples obedience to God's Word?

"And there was very great gladness" There is a lesson for us here - obedience to God's Word brings joy! We probably already associate joy with obtaining salvation: "joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth" However there is also joy in our Christian lives when we heed God's Word and obey it. God will bless us when we honour him: "them that honour me I will honour"

We trust that we too will seek to emulate the exercise and spirit of the people in Nehemiah's day! This is a lovely, positive book and it documents a great period of revival amongst the Lord's people. Surely we should seek to learn from it therefore and apply these lessons to our lives.

Yours in Christ, Mark

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

"This man"

We gather every Lord's Day morning to remember the Lord Jesus and we realise that we are able to do this because he came into this world as an actual and real man. He was a physical man, one whose pathway we can trace, one whose words could be heard, his actions could be witnessed, and his impact and presence could be felt by the men of the day around him.

With this in mind we love what the scriptures have to tell us about "this man"...

"this man was the Son of God"

Although we delight in remembering the perfect humanity of the Lord Jesus, it is with fresh wonder that we remember that the man who stood before those people of the day, the one who walked amongst them and could be heard, touched and felt was the very Son of God! This is a truth that is often challenged in the world, but we must stand for the truth, that the man Jesus Christ is the Son of God!

"never man spake like this man"

Of course our Saviour was so different from all other people. He was unique, people had never met anyone like him before or since! We recall his words, and remark how they must have differentiated him from all other men. Even as we ourselves go about our daily lives, we can surely appreciate how wicked and filthy the conversation of this world is! How refreshing it must have been to hear the lovely words of the Saviour as he spoke! Words of grace, truth, wisdom, power, authority, compassion and love. His words bore all the characteristics of heaven and the Godhead.

"whence hath this man this wisdom or these mighty works?"

Our reference reminds us that not only were his words unique, but so were his deeds. He was characterised by wisdom and mighty works! Works that brought glory and pleasure to his father God, and that were motivated by mercy, grace and compassion. Man can often display mighty works of power, but rarely are they aligned with wisdom, and very rarely motivated by mercy, grace and compassion but often by self, greed or anger.

"I find no fault in this man... this man hath done nothing amiss"

We earlier commented on the perfect humanity of our Lord Jesus and we do well to reiterate that the Saviour was perfect! He was sinless, spotless, holy before God for he was God. We remember once again that he could not sin, neither could he be marred or tainted by it as he moved amongst the wickedness of this world. As his life came under constant scrutiny, there were those were caused to remark on his sinlessness.

"Morning by morning
Thou didst wake,
Amidst this poisoned air;
Yet no contagion touched Thy soul,
No sin disturbed Thy prayer"

"we will not have this man..."

But even as they witnessed this blessed one as he lived amongst them, a perfect man who lived a righteous and just life and who brought blessing to others, the verdict in the final analysis was "we will not have this man...". They rejected him! We remember that the prophets would speak of him saying that he would be despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. John would record that he came unto his own and his own received him not. How incredible that the very Son of God, he who was God manifest in flesh should ever taste rejection, hatred and cruelty at the hands of his creatures!

"but this man, having offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God"

We come to the cross, the place where he would give his life for us, the place of death. We thank God that we as believers are called to appreciate the tremendous truth of the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus at that cross, we have come into the good of that once and forever work! As the Saviour hung on that cross the world saw this as failure, they had defeated him, they were putting him to death on that cross. Of course this was not defeat though, this was victory, as the Lord completed the work that had been given him to do, to pay the price for sin and make a way of salvation. That work of his at Calvary is perfect and complete, it was a priestly work as he offered up a sinless spotless sacrifice that day, a sacrifice that fully dealt with sin, not just for a while but once and for all! The priest was not permitted to sit whilst he served, but the Lord Jesus had finished that work forever, so he sits now at the right hand of God.

We have such a wonderful Saviour that we should rejoice to praise and worship him! "This man" is our Saviour, and "this man" is our Lord. We trust these simple thoughts today will be  blessing to us all.

Yours in Christ,


Monday, 13 June 2011

Feet - A few thoughts are afoot...

Just a few short thoughts on the strange but interesting subject of feet from the scriptures today, no doubt you can build on or adapt these thoughts yourselves, all comments welcome!


1. Mark 5:22 "And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet"

His attitude showed humility, despite being a ruler of the synagogue! It showed that he was conscious of his deep need, and showed a repentant spirit before the Lord. When we first come to the Saviour we must be willing to take the lowly place as we acknowledge our sinful condition before a holy and a righteous God, and ask him for forgiveness and salvation. Only then can blessing be given!

2. Luke 7:38 "...And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment."

Shows humility in worship, she pours out her heartfelt worship and adoration for the Saviour. Surely this is a model or example for true worship! Surely this is what brings delight and pleasure to the heart of God, as we pour out our hearts worship and praise upon his Son! We challenge ourselves: How much effort do we put into our worship? How much time? Does it affect us like it did this woman? Does it mean this much to us? Oh to capture something of this spirit in our worship both collectively and individually!

3. John 13:5 "After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded."

We marvel again at the humility of the Saviour, the perfect servant! He teaches the disciples a valuable lesson, they had often been arguing who was the greatest, jockeying for position amongst themselves. Here before them was the greatest one that had ever walked the face of the earth, the very Son of God, God manifest in flesh - yet here he was bowing before them and washing their feet with basin and towel. The cross must have been weighing heavy on his mind at this point, yet he takes this lowly step for the ones he loved.

4. Luke 24:39 "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have."

Here we see the humility of the Cross sufferings, they pierced his hands and his feet! Here however was evidence of his death and crucifixion, seen in the nail prints in his hands and his feet. His was a sacrificial death for us all on the cross of Calvary, and we remind ourselves afresh of this wondrous truth! The nail scarred feet also proved that here standing before them was the risen Lord. The one who had been on the cross, died and was buried was the very same one standing before them in the room! here we have a lovely sign of victory and triumph, the work was perfect, finished and complete, praise him!

5. Acts 16:24 "Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks."

Now we are reminded of the humility of the saints - the sufferings endured in service, and the hardship and persecution for the testimony and furtherance of the Gospel. The Lord could say; "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, (death internally to self) and take up his cross, (death externally to the world) and follow me" Let us remind ourself of the reproach that we should bear in this world - the reproach of the cross, we are associated with that man of Calvary!

6. Romans 10:15 "And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!"

Here we are seeing the humility of the preacher or evangelist engaged in the spread of the Gospel. What a blessed privilege and opportunity we have to serve and preach the good news of the gospel of peace! It is a message from God entrusted to us to spread to others, whether publicly from the Gospel platform or in the streets, or individually bearing witness and testimony to our friends, family or colleagues. We remind ourselves of the responsibility of this service as well, which should always challenge to our hearts. It is a solemn responsibility, and we should seek to spread the Gospel with humility toward God, dignity, clarity, simplicity and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We trust these simple thoughts will encourage us and challenge our hearts.

Yours in Christ, Mark

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

"What shall I do...?"

"What shall I do...?"

I thought by looking at this little question in the New Testament there is a little framework here for a Gospel meeting, I trust these thoughts are a blessing to us.

Mark 10:17 - "what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"

This is a common question that we hear men asking, and men down the centuries of time have desired to have eternal life, the concept is well sought after! Many people have their own ideas about this, and many people are doing various things in the hope of obtaining eternal life. We need to be clear about the gospel message, we should be very wary of what was called in Galatians "another gospel" as there are many messages in the world today that purport to be Christian but we should tell people to hold it up to the light of scripture and see how it compares to the truth of God's Word! The simple gospel message remains unchanged over the last 2000 years - repent, and believe.

Luke 12:17 - "what shall I do because I have no room where to bestow all my fruits?"

Again this is also relevant for today, as we live in a materialistic world, a consumer society. Some people sadly care nothing for their soul's salvation, their eternal destiny, or about God and the sacrificial death of his Son on the cross for them. Some people are merely concerned with the things of this world,how they can increase their goods, their wealth and their social standing. This is tragic as they will go through life and miss out on God's salvation and find ourselves in a lost eternity! Note that God is appalled at this mans attitude - "thou fool..." The things of this world are temporal and cannot fully satisfy our souls like God can! The Lord Jesus said "what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world yet lose his own soul?" The awful cost of only valuing the temporal and material things in life!

Luke 20:13 - "what shall I do, I will send my beloved son"

We praise God that here was a time in this world's history when he                   sent his Son into this world - God manifest in flesh, the wonder of it! It was the only solution to the sin problem, and only his sacrificial death could satisfy a holy and a righteous God. His divine plan was for him to die at the cross of Calvary, and there bear our sin in his body on that tree, that he might die the just one for the unjust ones in order to bring us to God. We thank God for that death of his on Calvary!

"Oh, wondrous cross! Oh precious blood!
Oh death by which I live!
The sinless One, for me made sin,
Doth now His wondrous heart within,
Eternal refuge give."

Matthew 27:22 - "what shall I do with Jesus which is called Christ?"

Here is the plea of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate to the Jews. It is a question that we must all surely answer for ourselves in our lifetimes, however long that may be. Some may outright reject him, as the Jews did 2000 years ago; others may choose never to address that question, but by doing so they face the prospect of standing before him as their Judge and they will be judged for their sin in that case. The Gospel demands a response from the hearts of men and women and as people depart from our Gospel meetings they will have responded to that message; either to repent and trust Christ as their Saviour for eternal life with him in heaven, or to neglect or reject the good news of the gospel and put it from their minds. But we do so to our eternal cost! The Bible says:

"Now is the accepted time..." 2 Cor 6:2

"Choose life..." Deut 30:19

Yours in Christ,


1 Kings 19: Elijah and God

I was listening to a podcast the other day which was speaking about 1 Kings 19 and it reminded me of how very relevant this passage is to ou...