31 Jesus-Benefits: Knowing our Bibles

It’s my last day of sharing with you these Jesus-benefits. Thank you if you’ve read along, and if you have, you might have guessed what I’ll pick out as one of the most important of all:

That I can read and understand God’s Word.

I read this post fairly recently and it impressed me. As John says in the second of his points, “You wouldn’t show your love for a spouse simply by how you talk about them, you’d show your love by knowing them, spending time with them”. That’s what the Bible does: It helps us get to know God.

I must thank fellow-blogger Barbara for sharing this quote from Elisabeth Elliot: “The Bible is God’s message to everybody. We deceive ourselves if we claim to want to hear His voice but neglect the primary channel through which it comes. We must read His Word. We must obey it.”

Back on day 25, we looked at Jesus – our ticket to heaven. I told you how someone joked about being left behind, and how that verse from 1 John came to me straightaway. Jesus said, “Your Word is truth.” We really need to know our Bibles. Otherwise, how can we hold onto truth when other people (and sometimes even our own feelings) try to tell us the opposite?

I’ve put together a plan to read through the Bible in a year with a bit of an introduction, explaining about the Bible and suggesting some good translations to try. Perhaps someone will find it helpful; it seems to be working well for me at the moment.

“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).

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In case you’re wondering, the winner of the “Just a Minute” book I posted about earlier this month is Melissa, so congratulations to her and thanks to you who’ve supported me and other bloggers in our efforts to post for the 31 days in October. It’ll probably be much quieter here next month!

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Doubting his Calling?

I was reading the beginning of Acts 11 this morning, and it got me thinking. You know how in those stories you know really well, an earlier part can remind you of what happens later? Yeah, it was a bit like that.

I was reading about when Peter returned from telling the good news about Jesus to Cornelius and watching his household being filled with the Holy Spirit. Some people thought this good news should only be told to Jews, and Cornelius wasn’t a Jew, so Peter came in for a bit of criticism. Fresh from witnessing God’s power, this opposition didn’t faze him at all. You see, Peter himself had been reluctant to associate with non-Jews, but in Acts 10:9-20, God had shown him a vision of animals Jews were forbidden to eat and said: “Don’t call anything unclean which I have called clean.” So, Peter described the vision he’d had in the previous chapter as his reason for visiting Cornelius. Great! What a transformation!

But later on, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he writes that Peter ate with non-Jews, but when some strict Jews came along, he started to back away from them. In typical Paul fashion, Paul opposed Peter to his face ‘Because he stood condemned’. (I love how Paul confronts these issues.) Why did Peter stand condemned? Because God had already revealed how He wanted him to treat people: “Don’t call anything unclean which I have called clean”, but instead of being led by the Spirit of God, Peter was acting in fear – backing away from the non-Jews because he was afraid of those who were Jewish like himself.

What about the vision? What about the power God had given Peter to communicate with non-Jews? Perhaps it’s not dissimilar to that day in the Garden of Eden, when the serpent came along. “Did God really say …?” As time passes, it can be so easy to let doubt creep into our minds, but Paul tells us: “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). Instead of walking in the flesh (in our fears or doubts), let’s walk according to God’s Spirit and be faithful to our callings.

Persecution for his Faith

We see in this chapter an all-too-familiar thing:  Someone doesn’t like what Amos says about the king’s family being attacked, so he meets with the king and falsely accuses Amos of making evil plans (Amos 7:8-10).  Then he confronts Amos and tries to get him out of the picture. “Seer, go back right now to Judah.  Do your prophesying and earn your living there, but don’t prophesy anymore here at Bethel” (Amos 7:12-13).

 

How does Amos respond?  Is he intimidated?  We’re not told how he feels, but he responds by stating the call God’s placed on his life, and being faithful to it. “I do not make my living as a prophet, nor am I a member of a group of prophets.  I make my living as a shepherd, and I take care of sycamore trees.  But the Lord took me away from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’  So listen to the Lord’s word” (Amos 7:14-16).

 

Sadly, we see this persecution regularly all over the globe.  In fact, we’re even promised that anyone who wants to live as a Christian will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).  It happens to people in North Korea, stuck in prison camps because they or a member of their family chose to be a Christian, and it happens on a smaller scale – people mocking or showing anger at the way someone lives their life.  How will you respond when it happens to you?

 

Jesus and Paul give us some helpful tips.  “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).  “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45).  “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14).

 

So, will you have confidence in God’s call on your life, and be faithful to it?

Simple Things

Is it just me, or does the God we follow seem so different from the God of the Bible sometimes?  You try to do things for God, you pray for other people or yourself, and after years things still fall flat and situations aren’t changing?  But you know God does still completely heal people because you’ve heard of it happening – now.  In the last few months.  Not very far from where you live …

 

I don’t know whether this will help you, but some people just shared this lovely story and it helped me.  (Sorry if it’s copyright, but they’ve shared it, so I’m guessing I can too.)

A young man had been to Wednesday night Bible Study. The Pastor had shared about listening to God and obeying the Lord’s voice. The young man couldn’t help but wonder, “Does God still speak to people?” After service he went out with some friends for coffee and pie and they discussed the message. Several different ones talked about how God had led them in different ways. It was about ten o’clock when the young man started driving home. Sitting in his car, he just began to pray, “God…If you still speak to people speak to me. I will listen. I will do my best to obey.” As he drove down the main street of his town, he had the strangest thought to stop and buy a gallon of milk. He shook his head and said out loud, “God is that you?” He didn’t get a reply and started on toward home. But again, the thought, buy a gallon of milk. The young man thought about Samuel and how he didn’t recognize the voice of God, and how little Samuel ran to Eli. “Okay, God, in case that is you, I will buy the milk.” It didn’t seem like too hard a test of obedience. He could always use the milk. He stopped and purchased the gallon of milk and started off toward home. As he passed Seventh Street, he again felt the urge, “Turn Down that street.” This is crazy he thought and drove on past the intersection. Again, he felt that he should turn down Seventh Street. At the next intersection, he turned back and headed down Seventh. Half jokingly, he said out loud, “Okay, God, I will”.
He drove several blocks, when suddenly, he felt like he should stop. He pulled over to the curb and looked around. He was in semi commercial area of town. It wasn’t the best but it wasn’t the worst of neighborhoods either. The businesses were closed and most of the houses looked dark like the people were already in bed.
Again, he sensed something, “Go and give the milk to the people in the house across the street.” The young man looked at the house. It was dark and it looked like the people were either gone or they were already asleep. He started to open the door and then sat back in the car seat. “Lord, this is insane. Those people are asleep and if I wake them up, they are going to be mad and I will look stupid.” Again, he felt like he should go and give the milk. Finally, he opened the door, “Okay God, if this is you, I will go to the door and I will give them the milk. If you want me to look like a crazy person, okay. I want to be obedient. I guess that will count for something but if they don’t answer right away, I am out of here.” He walked across the street and rang the bell. He could hear some noise inside. A man’s voice yelled out, “Who is it? What do you want?” Then the door opened before the young man could get away.
The man was standing there in his jeans and T-shirt. He looked like he just got out of bed. He had a strange look on his face and he didn’t seem too happy to have some stranger standing on his doorstep. “What is it?” The young man thrust out the gallon of milk, “Here, I brought this to you.” The man took the milk and rushed down a hallway. Then from down the hall came a woman carrying the milk toward the kitchen. The man was following her holding a baby. The baby was crying. The man had tears streaming down his face.
The man began speaking and half crying, “We were just praying. We had some big bills this month and we ran out of money. We didn’t have any milk for our baby. I was just praying and asking God to show me how to get some milk.”
His wife in the kitchen yelled out, “I ask him to send an Angel with some. Are you an Angel?” The young man reached into his wallet and pulled out all the money he had on him and put in the man’s hand. He turned and walked back toward his car and the tears were streaming down his face. He knew that God still answers prayers. This is so true. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that God asks us to do that cause us, if we are obedient to what He’s asking, to be able to hear His voice more clear than ever. Please listen, and obey! It will bless you (and the world).

 

I do thank God for giving me big dreams.  I know I wouldn’t have them if I wasn’t a Christian, but it’s time to just do the simple things for a while.

Under the Baked Beans

“When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter.  They asked him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

“Certainly,” he answered.

Peter went into the house.  Before he could speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Simon?  From whom do the kings of the world collect fees or taxes?  Is it from their family members or from other people?”

“From other people,” Peter answered.

Jesus said to him, “Then the family members are exempt. However, so that we don’t create a scandal, go to the sea and throw in a hook.  Take the first fish that you catch.  Open its mouth, and you will find a coin.  Give that coin to them for you and Me” – Matthew 17:24-27 (God’s Word Translation)

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If God’s the same yesterday, today and forever, which He is, don’t you sometimes wish He’d do that now?  Don’t you wish He’d say:  “Go to Lidl, and on the shelf under a tin of baked beans, you’ll find a cheque for £…”.  You’d look a bit odd picking up all the tins of beans, just as Peter probably looked odd opening the fish’s mouth, but who cares?

 

One of my whacky moments, but it did get me thinking about Peter.  He could have refused to go, but if he wanted to follow Jesus’ call on his life, he had to do what Jesus said.  Is there something God’s asking you to do today?  It might be a little thing, like:  “Don’t snap at that person when they’re texting and you don’t think they’re really listening to you”, or maybe it’s a bigger thing … but to follow, we have to keep our eyes on the One in front, don’t we?