Once and for all

2017-11-01
Hebrews 9:26 CEV

Throughout the Old Testament, we see sacrifices being made by the High Priests to pay for the sins of the people. But when Jesus died, He paid for all our sins, once and for all. The Bible says: ‘The high priest enters the Most Holy Place once every year with blood that is not his own. But Christ did not offer himself many times. Then he would have had to suffer many times since the world was made. But Christ came only once and for all time at just the right time to take away all sin by sacrificing himself’ (Hebrews 9:25-26 NCV). This one act has meant that our past, current and future sin has already been paid for. This doesn’t mean we can just do what we want, whenever we want. But what it does mean is that when we mess up, which we all do sometimes, we don’t need to carry guilt and shame because we can ask God for forgiveness, and He doesn’t remember our sins. Later in Hebrews it says: ‘For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy’ (Hebrews 10:14 NIV). This perfection is reaching spiritual maturity and a complete lack of sin. We may not appear perfect now, but God sees us as perfect because of what Jesus did. He sees us through the lens of Jesus. The fact that we can approach Him and ask for forgiveness comes from this one act of Jesus too. His death means that we’ve got direct access to God at any time. He wants a relationship with us, to know us and for us to know Him. He welcomes us into His presence, and we get the amazing privilege of spending time with God.

Heb 11:4-12:3; 1 Chr 17:1-20; Ps 18:20-29; Prov 4:18

Respect, don’t reject

2017-10-25
1 Corinthians 9:22 NLT

For any relationship to work, we must accept each other’s differences. Within our family we must respect each other’s unique perspectives. We don’t need to agree on every issue, but we must always honor where the other person is coming from. Paul did that: “I try to find common ground with everyone.” Some of us who claim to follow Christ have a hard time with views and values that differ from our own. We think “compromise” is a dirty word. Some of us have turned from the most immoral lives to faith in Christ, yet after our conversion we won’t associate with anyone who doesn’t agree with us and adopt our newfound values. Sometimes our families fall apart because we try to force our opinions on the people we love, and set boundaries to keep nonconformists out. What a terrible misuse of Christianity! Jesus didn’t condemn the people who crucified Him; He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 NKJV). He didn’t view them as morally bad, but spiritually blind. He told His disciples, “No one can come to Me unless the Father…draws him” (John 6:44 NKJV). It’s your job to love people, and it’s God’s job to change them! So stop trying to do what only God can do! If you invest patiently in your relationships, respect other people’s perspectives, and sow good seed, you’ll reap a pleasant harvest in the long term. Your love, not the force of your argument, can give hope to the most severely damaged among us that there’s healing for the broken places of the human soul.

Soul food: Isa 17-21; John 6:1-15; Ps 127; Prov 27:25-27

What does God want? (1)

2017-08-26
Ephesians 5:17 NIV

Before we all walked around with phones in our pockets, how did we find out what our old primary school friends had for lunch? What they thought about the weather? Our phones make everyone’s thoughts way easier to access. So now, if someone asks, ‘what does your best friend think about that news?’, we just need to tap a screen, and we know. When we ask ‘what does God want?’, the answer is closer than we think. God’s thoughts are closer than we can imagine. Ephesians 5 tells us we’re able to understand what God’s thoughts are – if we choose to be filled with the Spirit, then we can tune in. That doesn’t mean that we instantly become solo conduits of God’s truth (wisely, God’s decided that we also hear God’s thoughts as we discuss them in community and hold them against the Bible). But it does mean we’re way closer to knowing God’s thoughts than we think we are. Try it. Ask God’s thoughts on something important to you. Listen out among your thoughts for His (often subtle and small) voice. He wants you to pursue listening to Him, like a relationship, which is why He isn’t always loud and blaring. Sometimes what He says will sound just like one of your thoughts, but slightly different – like seeing a pink car drive by – so don’t reject it just because it sounds like a thought. The process of pursuing Him is what counts the most.

2 Chr 32-34; Mark 8:1-13; Ps 119:161-168; Prov 22:17-19

Fellowship

2017-08-16
1 John 1:6 NKJV

When we experience tension with someone in our family, we’re still members of the same family, but our conversations can become superficial and forced. We might even find that we’re more comfortable spending time apart than together. In other words, we don’t really want fellowship with that person anymore. Fellowship involves dedicating time to spend with another person, or group of people, which allows growth and development in our relationships. But we don’t just need it for our human relationships, we also need to have fellowship with God. If we lose trust, start to doubt or question God’s character, suddenly our prayers can become surface level and shallow. And we begin to avoid spending time with God. Without fellowship with God, we’ll find our lives start to look different. God stops being our priority and we become more focused on other things. The Bible says, ‘If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.’ The main way we can ensure that we will have fellowship with Jesus is by following Him each day and obeying His commands. When Peter and the disciples were fishing, the Lord told them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. When they obeyed Him, they caught a boatload of fish. What followed was something even greater. The disciples had a time of fellowship with Jesus while sharing a meal together. So if we’re feeling out of step with Jesus today, the chances are we have either stopped fellowshipping with Him or started going our own way, rather than His. If that’s so, let’s do something about it.

2 Chr 1-4; Mark 5:21-30; Ps 119:81-88; Prov 21:17-19

Singleness

2017-07-30
1 Corinthians 7:32 NIV

In society (and this often includes churches), being married or in a relationship seems like the preferred option, the thing that we’re all supposed to be aiming for in life. And if we remain single, well, it seems to be going against the norm. Not everyone is single out of choice; sometimes it really hurts that you’re not married. It’s okay to feel that hurt. For others, singleness is a conscious decision. They would rather do life unmarried – and that’s okay too. In fact, Paul recommends the single life: ‘Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do’ (1 Corinthians 7:8 NIV). So why does Paul recommend it? Well, being single means we have more opportunity to be focused on God, spending time with Him and seeking His will for our life. The Bible says: ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:33 NIV). Of course, being married doesn’t mean that you can’t do this, it just means there are more distractions, because part of the God-given responsibility of being married is that you spend time working on your relationship. God doesn’t want us to live in complete isolation. But sharing our lives with someone may not necessarily include getting married. We may be blessed with a large group of friends, or a close family, or a supportive church family. If we’re struggling to handle being single, there’s one thing that we need to remember. Life is happening right now. And Jesus came so that we could have life to the full (take a look at John 10:10). We shouldn’t be seeing marriage as the time when our life starts. We can live our lives to the full right now, single or not.

Gen 14:18-20; Ps 110; Heb 5:5-11