Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Monday, February 27, 2006
When Jesus came to Peter, and started to wash his feet, Peter was indignant. He reckoned that Jesus' intended action was inappropriate. Jesus was the master. But when Jesus explained that what he was about to do had to be done, Peter rushed to the other extreme, and wanted Jesus to wash his whole body. Jesus, patiently, said to Peter that only his feet needed to be washed. Perhaps Jesus was referring to our need on a daily basis to be cleansed of our sins; day by day we confess our sins, and receive forgiveness. Perhaps for all of us, even those who have grown up believing in Jesus from their earliest days, there needs to be a particular moment when we acknowledge our fundamental sinfulness, and our need to be saved. Another reference from John's gospel, to the bronze snake, may serve to picture this life-changing event.
My intention here was (when I started) to talk about the difficulty of interpreting the requirement to be humble, but I seem to have been sidetracked. Perhaps another day.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Peter says (in 1 Peter 3:22, The Message) that Jesus has the last word on everything and everyone, from angels to armies. He's standing right alongside God, and what he says goes. Am I still satisfied with the evangelist's reply? I guess that I have to be.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Historically (by that I mean our own personal histories), we often do things in a different order. We start by following (or trying to follow) Jesus. We read the Sermon on the Mount. We are maybe even taught the Ten Commandments, and told that these are the basic rules for good living (I believe that I was). We try to live good lives. We want to do what is right, for all sorts of reasons.
One person whom I have said very little about, mostly because I have very little understanding of what he (or she) does, is the Holy Spirit. There is an old chorus, which starts "He lives!" and concludes "You ask me how I know he lives - he lives - within my heart". It's a good going chorus, and I used to sing it a lot, without really grasping what I was singing. Or rather, I was continually questioning the words - it's a bit strange, singing a confident, brash song, while there's a voice gnawing away inside - does Jesus live in my heart?
So, now, I suppose that I would say: the Holy Spirit is Jesus living in my heart. But that's just a different form of words - it still begs the question. It's probably the main reason why I got so anxious when people talked about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and speaking in tongues. It seemed to me that this was what my Christian life was missing. I didn't experience the presence of Jesus in my heart because I hadn't been baptised in the Holy Spirit. Except that even when people laid hands on me, I didn't feel any different. I certainly didn't start to speak in tongues.
A wise Christian leader (whose photograph, sadly, I saw some years later in a newspaper because he was a registered sex offender) at the time comforted me with Paul's words in Romans 10:9: So you will be saved, if you honestly say, "Jesus is Lord," and if you believe with all your heart that God raised him from death (this is how the CEV renders the verse - in those days we were probably reading the Good News Bible, or TEV).
So in my experience, the Holy Spirit is a shadowy figure. I don't deny that without him (or her) I could not live the Christian life. It's just puzzling to me, from time to time, that I don't feel the push or pull of his (or her) guiding hand. Maybe I do, but I have no reference to enable me to say - yes, this is the Holy Spirit. I envy the Pentecostals and charismatics who enjoy actual experiences which confirm to them that they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
So, passing quickly over Peter's advice to wives, I (as a husband) am advised (1 Peter 3:7 The Message):
The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God's grace, you're equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don't run aground.
I (humbly) think that Eugene Peterson has done a good job here. Other translations describe wives as the weaker partner (NIV) or the weaker vessel (KJV). Perhaps in our society it is no longer true to say that women are at a disadvantage. Whatever our view, there is a challenge implicit in Peter's words. And it is good that he recognises the importance of family life. Husbands, may God help us to accept the challenge.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Since this entry is being composed offline, there will be no links to the online bible. I wish to refer, nevertheless, to a couple of verses in 1 Peter. I believe that these two verses sum up the first section of the letter, in which Peter (assuming that he is indeed the author) sets out the fundamentals of his (and our) faith. So here they are:
1 Peter 2:24,25 (TNIV) "He himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; "by his wounds you have been healed." For "you were like sheep going astray," but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
One of the perennial frustrations of being a Christian (for me) is finding a clear statement of what a Christian is. I tend to assume (because it is what I was taught) that it is generally accepted that you become a Christian when you acknowledge your sins and receive forgiveness through Christ's sacrifice on the cross. If you've read Pilgrim's Progress you'll recognise the point where Christian loses his burden (which is probably after he goes through the wicket gate). And before you all descend on me, yes, I can see even now that this is just one viewpoint, and that there are others.
What I am driving towards, however, is that although we are told, if we want to understand what it means to be a Christian, to read the gospels, I don't think that we find it spelt out anywhere in the gospels that Jesus' death had anything to do with our sins. You can read Paul's letter to the Romans, to be harangued at length (and in depth), but I have been entranced by Peter's succinct and penetrating exposition of what, in essence, this business of being a Christian is all about.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
I think that we have to take on board Jesus' quotation from the Old Testament: But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4 (KJV). If we stuff ourselves full of bread until we can't possibly eat another mouthful, we must expect indigestion.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Does God speak to us to-day? If he does, how does he do it?
Friday, February 10, 2006
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Jesus says - come to me and rest. We obey him most truly when we rest in him - in his love, in his grace, in his protection, in his wisdom, in his guidance, in his provision, in his tender concern.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Eugene Peterson renders Jesus' words: everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life. Here, surely, we have blessed assurance.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Yesterday (technically at 2 o'clock this morning) the great journey - one bible in one year - came to an untimely end.
Monday, February 06, 2006
How, as Christians, should we expect to be viewed? As I write, the world of Islam is upset over some cartoons published in a Danish newspaper. Not long ago, Christians in this country were upset over a programme broadcast by the BBC. I did not watch the programme, nor have I seen the cartoons. Jesus predicts that his followers will be vilified. These are complicated matters.
What impresses me is the seriousness of Jesus' words. He doesn't foretell an easy road.
Friday, February 03, 2006
I'm getting just a bit angry about this project. In some ways, I'm getting the hang of it. If I spread out the day's readings, it's easier, and I'm probably getting more benefit. If I try to read all 4 passages on the journey into work, I may have a sense of achievement, but also mental indigestion. But (and it sounds terrible) I dread the week-end, because I know that I shall fall behind.
I don't look forward to hearing Sunday's sermon, even though it's supposed to cover the week's readings. How can one sermon possibly begin to answer the myriad questions jostling for attention? I could do with ongoing support. I could make more use of the One Year Bible Blog, but I would rather read the passage before seeing the commentary, and, because the One Year Bible Blog is always up-to-date, I can't guarantee that that will happen.
So I have to think about what to write. These notes are a kind of self-help. But do people really want to read the anguish that some passages cause? People suggest that to read through a gospel is a wonderful experience. I suppose that they consciously avoid identifying with the rich young ruler, or the improperly dressed wedding guest. Compared with the majority of people in this world, I am materially well-off. And I don't know whether, in the day of judgement, my deeds will stand up to scrutiny (if that's the meaning of the man being without the clothes he should have been wearing).
Maybe God wanted me to write about staffs. Encounter with God had me reading this morning about Aaron's staff which budded, and then we read in Exodus 17:8-16 about a battle whose outcome depended upon Moses holding his staff high in the air. But what hope do these stories offer to the ordinary Christian? Aaron's staff budded because he was chosen, and the other tribal leaders weren't. At least, the choice was who would be leader, not who would go to heaven, and who would end up in hell. But what of the people fighting the Amalekites? They succeeded or failed, not because they fought well, or bravely, or cleverly, but because somebody else was keeping his hands in the air.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
If God can supply food and water for more than 600,000 people wandering in the wilderness, should we worry, individually, where the next meal is coming from? Life can be hard, embarrassing, exhausting.
Perhaps we need to step back occasionally. God will provide.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
But Jesus' words to the chief priests and the elders of the people seem to indicate that Israel has failed in her mission. He is speaking to the religious authorities, not to the people in general. What would he say to-day - to the rulers of to-day's Christian church - to the ordinary people of to-day's Christian church?
When Jesus challenged the religious authorities to state their view of John's baptising, they replied "we don't know." Did they really not know? Do we know?