Reflections

The Ruler shepherded by death.

A reading and reflection on Matthew 2:1-6; 16-18

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'” …

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

The Ruler has come, the Shepherd of God’s people: Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the King!

Herod was set to kill him, to wipe out God’s chosen King. So too were Israel’s religious leaders who had Jesus killed.

But God allowed the anger and hatred, their murderous intent to succeed, to fulfil the purpose for which Jesus came: “to save His people from their sins”.

But only in His time. Children were murdered here while the baby Jesus was rescued, but soon He would be murdered so that all God’s children could be rescued. Jesus said: “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

The Ruler shepherded by sacrificing His life in order to save His sheep. The Ruler – King Jesus – I will worship all my days and forevermore!

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).

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Reflections

God is my portion, Christ is my life.

A reflection on Psalm 39:4-7

“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.”

A thought has struck me recently… all those who have gone before us are dead.
Sorry to be so dim, but I think it is for good reason. For those who follow the Eternal God – who has ultimately revealed Himself in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ here is the heart of our faith, is it not?

God is my portion, Christ is my life.

God’s word sets forth this certain hope:

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)

Wow! Is this your hope?
It goes well beyond this frail and short life. It is a hope in God that reaches into eternity itself… where God is… the Eternal One… time without end… who keeps His word.

For those who trust in Him, our certain hope is in Him, in Him our God, in Christ our King – who has made God known, who has shown us the Father. It is because of Him that we can face today and tomorrow not without sadness – that will come as you know.

But we can face today and tomorrow with every confidence in the midst of sadness’s and hardships knowing that if our “life is hidden with Christ in God” then “when Christ who is our life appears then we also will appear with Him in glory.”

 The Almighty God has proven His love for us in and through Jesus Christ, in His life and in His death and in His resurrection for us. We need not fear the present, nor the future – because He holds us in His hands, He is always good, and always true and always faithful.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

What a God!

Let us live in light of Him, placing our trust in Him alone.

Reflections

Pour out your hearts to Him.

A reflection on Psalm 62:5-8

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall not be shaken. My salvation and my honour depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Last week we thought about how we need to remember or to not forget WHO our God is, that One who made the world, and who rescued His ancient people Israel, but who ultimately sent His Son to rescue all those who would trust in Jesus.

When we realise WHO He is, we can have confident trust in Him, not because we will not face difficulties, but because He is with us and gives us promises through and beyond these difficulties, be it in life or death. Whether through sickness or in health, turmoil or joy, we can have confident trust when we realise WHO God is.

David in fact here in this Psalm could say to himself, ‘find rest… in God alone, my hope comes from Him’. He had such confidence in WHO God was and that he did not need to fear the many difficulties he faced, not because he knew the outcome of the difficulties but because He knew God who holds everything together and that nothing escapes His grasp and sovereign will.

But the part in the Psalm that I love so much, and have recently sought to encourage some people with is this: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

And I want to encourage you today to realise yes, WHO HE is, but in that realisation to trust Him, and because of that to pour out your heart to Him. This is a provision like nothing else, that the One who made the stars and spoke the world into existence – even the One we have not loved well, and whose creation we have spurned.

He comes to rescue us, to bring us into relationship with Him and He invites us to come and pour out our troubles before Him.

See and realise that you too can trust Him with all your burdens, because of WHO He is. The ever-faithful One, always true and good, just and merciful, loving and gracious, kind and wise.

So, let me encourage you:

Take some time today, this week, in fact every day, and pour out your heart – your worries, your questions, your struggles – to the One is a refuge to all who put their trust in Him.

Reflections

Lest we forget.

A reflection on remembrance in Deuteronomy 1-6

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (4:9)… “When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you–a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant–then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (6:10-12)

Israel were reminded over and over again not to forget, but to remember the acts of God in their past. How He had rescued them from harsh and oppressive slavery in Egypt, how he had defeated the nations they came up against them, nations that were much stronger than them, because it was God who had fought for them.

We too are tempted with the same forgetfulness. There is a reason that we have annual ceremonies for significant events, one reason is that we hold them as significant (or we once did), another is because we are prone to forgetfulness and neglect. There is a reason in Australia we say, ‘lest we forget’, because we know that we are well able to do so. (Interestingly this very term comes from a 1897 poem written by Rudyard Kipling referring to God and appears to refer to this very passage in Deuteronomy).

Israel – by and large – did neglect the truth of God’s past faithfulness and goodness to them, and so they forgot it. They appear to do very poorly in telling of it to the next generation as they were instructed to do, and they did not delight in and value God in their lives. In the end, they were led astray from Him and gave themselves to that which was set against Him.

Paul said to his good friend: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.” (2 Timothy 2:8-9).

I know that my very own temptation is to forget what God has done for me. Far more than rescue from Egypt, He has rescued me from my slavery to sin, and death, and eternal separation from Him. God did this for me when He sent His Son Jesus to take my place for my wrongdoing. I am forgiven, even now, Jesus is my King and He is in control over all things, so I can trust Him always.

It is so easy for us not to remember. LEST WE FORGET.

Reflections

That God sees all, and knows all is utterly terrifying… unless…

A reflection on Proverbs 15:3; 11
“The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

“Death and Destruction lie open before the Lord—
how much more do human hearts!”

These verses reveal at least two things to me, that God is in everything place – that is – He sees everything and secondly that God knows everything – the heart of every person lies open before Him. I am not sure how that truth grips your heart…

We live in a very disconnected world from reality – God’s reality. The message of our world is that people are basically good and unless you do something really horrible you are basically a good person, at least better than most.

The problem with that is: God sees our hearts, He knows our thoughts, our motivations, when they are good and when they are evil. It does not matter what our world says is good in the end, but it is what God says is good that counts.

If in the court room I am able to show such charm and charisma that everyone believes my defense except the Judge (or the Jury) it doesn’t matter, in the end its down to those who decide fate.

God is not tricked, He sees all. And I think that would be the worse and most terrible news in the world if not for one thing. He sees all, He knows all, He sees me in those times when my motivation is harm and hurt and wrong and evil.

What’s the one thing then?

Jesus!!

In Jesus, the Offended Party, the Judge, the Victim, the Wronged One He comes to take the place of the criminal, of the rebel, of the sinner – just incredible!

While I was living against the Creator, living for myself, with a heart and mind on the gifts – not the giver… knowing this, He sent His Son to die for my crimes – this is the ‘GOOD’ of ‘Good Friday’. Jesus death in our place, for our wrongs, isn’t that just incredible!

My prayer for us this Good Friday and Easter Sunday, is that they would remind us in a new way that we were lost, and He found us, we were dead in sins and He made us alive in Christ.

If that is true in You, I pray that we will rejoice and thank and praise Him like never before! What a God who sees all and knows all and yet comes in mercy, love and grace to rescue us in Jesus!

Reflections

The fear of the LORD.

A reflection on Proverbs 9:8-10
“Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

The ‘righteous’ and the ‘wise’ are ways of talking about those who trust in and follow after the God who made the world and who sent His Son to rescue it. In fact, we see this in the summary of true wisdom and knowledge here. True wisdom and knowledge comes in the fear of the LORD.

That is, to realise that the Almighty God who made the world, who created humanity in His own image, the one who we have turned away from and do not naturally follow after – this Holy God who could wipe us out in a second, turns to us with love.

He can’t stand our turning away, and it must be punished. But He sent His Son to take the punishment for our wrong! Jesus came to lay down His life for us. So, to fear God, is to understand His power, His set apartness from sin and sinners, His right to rule and judge those who disobey, and yet His mercy toward us, His offer of forgiveness and eternal life to us through Jesus sacrifice.

To fear God is to Who He is, and to live in response to this. To turn from that which does not please Him, and seek to live a life following after Jesus, trusting in His death to cover our wrongs and His resurrection to justify us before the just and holy God.

So ‘God fearers’ are learners, someone who can be rebuked, open to the correction of others. Seeking instruction, teaching, not proud, and arrogant, but humble and contrite in spirit, trembling at God’s Word.

This is true and eternal wisdom: this is the fear of God, that right response to Who He is and what He has done.

My prayer for myself, and for you, is that we would be humble learners. Those who acknowledge our wrongs to God and to one another. Those who trust in and hope in only Jesus and His cross to forgive us and change us.

Those who realise God would be right to punish us, and condemn us, and who are overwhelmed because in Jesus He comes to us with mercy, and grace, forgiveness, and peace and so how can we not love Him for that? How can we not respond to Him with praise, thanks and worship?

Reflections

Jesus our Ransom.

A reflection on Psalm 49

“Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.” Psalm 49:7-9

The truth here is that no human being (no matter who they are!) can make the payment to God for their life. We cannot barter with God for our lives. We cannot do anything or give him anything that will gain us more days of life – it is outside of our control.

Especially as we look at the Bible as a whole we see that our problem of sin, the debt we owe God is unpayable by us – none of us can pay it. We owe God what we cannot afford.

But I love what the Psalmist goes on to say in verse 15:

“But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.”

In fact, God has done this… He sent His Son Jesus Christ to be our ransom. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mathew 20:28), “Christ Jesus… gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

Do you realise you cannot add an hour to your life by trying to be a better person, or to do good… In fact both you and I have an unpayable debt that we can never work off… but Jesus paid our debt. Jesus is our ransom. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Oh, to know and enjoy this truth! To be set free by it and live in response to it… to live in the joy of the eternal life God has given us in His Son… lets enjoy Jesus – our Ransom.

 

Reflections

Call out to the God who will never fail you.

A reflection on Psalm 25:16-18
“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.”

Sometimes people have the picture of followers of Jesus as those who have it all together, or at least who pretend too. But here in the Psalm we see the picture of someone who is calling out for God’s help, someone who feels ‘lonely and afflicted’, do you ever feel that way?

To be human is to struggle. It is to have ‘troubles of heart’. For the follower of Jesus, there is Someone to turn to in this. Someone without limitation and weakness. In this same Psalm, the psalmist has called God ‘my God, in you I trust’.

It is this trust in God, that is based upon who He is and what He has done. And Jesus has perfectly revealed this God to us. He has revealed God’s heart of love, care and compassion for helpless sheep and those in need and distress.

There is a call here in this Psalm, a calling out to God: ‘Turn to me’, ‘bring me out of my distresses’, ‘consider my affliction and my trouble’. The Psalmist is convinced that God is there, that He cares, and that He acts for the good of His people. He brings them relief and peace in distress. He brings salvation and rescue, and complete forgiveness for ‘all my sins’.

Are you lonely? Are you afflicted? Do you have troubles in your heart? Are there things for which you want to be forgiven? Call out to God for help and hope. He will grant you relief, He will grant you rescue, He will grant you forgiveness.

It may not come in the way you thought, it may not come when and in what you wished. But He – the gracious One, the Almighty King will give you all you need to have peace, and joy in the midst of pain, and trouble and struggle.

Call out to the God who will never fail you.
He is always good and faithful and true.

Reflections

…saturated in God and His goodness.

a reflection on Acts 27:
“…Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. (Act 27:22-25)

I was struck yesterday reading through Acts 27 with Paul’s identification of himself. Paul refers to God as the God to whom he belongs, and whom he worships, in whom he has faith (puts his trust in).

He will go on later in this story to lead the 272 people on board to eat some food after 2 weeks of abstaining because of the peril their ship had been in, being sure of God’s word to Him of rescue and safety, giving thanks to God in front of them all and encouraged them all.

And this escape from death and following rescue is exactly what happens.

Looking at this passage, Paul was a man saturated in God and His goodness. He belonged to God, he worshipped God. He had faith in his God and gave Him thanks – publicly.

I want to be a person saturated with God more and more. I belong to Him. I want to be defined more and more as a follower of Him, trusting in His word, and full of thanksgiving to Him. Join me in making this your prayer to God:

Father, I belong to you. I am a worshipper of you, a follower of Jesus your Son. Saturate me in you. Help me to trust you and fill me with thankfulness to You, that I might overflow it to all I meet. Thank you for your goodness to me, in Jesus Name. Amen.

Reflections

Forgetfulness. Of the worst sort.

A reflection on Psalm 103:1-5
“Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Do we not have reasons to praise God? To bless Him forever?

He forgives all our sins… heals all our diseases (at least in the ultimate picture He does)… He redeems our lives from the pit… He crowns us with love and compassion… He satisfies our desires with good things… renewing our youth…

I don’t know about you but I’m much better at focusing on what is wrong, what I fail at, what I don’t have, what I perceive I need… I am much better at that, then at praising the Lord with all my soul, remembering His incredible goodness, mercy, and kindness to me.

But I suspect the Psalmist also struggled with this…

He says… “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits”

Why does he say this?

Because his danger was that he would easily forget (as I do) all God’s benefits – all God’s kind deeds towards us.

It really is amazing how forgetful we can be. Yesterday I was enthralled and captivated by God’s amazing and incredible love for me and yet today I can wake unaware of it and yet so aware of every other thing I am facing or struggling with.

This is why the Psalmist calls on his very own soul – ‘all my inmost being’ he says, Praise His Holy Name!’ Don’t forget His blessings, His mercy, His goodness, His love…

Oh, and we have seen (by faith) more than the Psalmist ever saw! We have seen God’s love and compassion displayed in the most incredible, unrivalled, and unbelievable way: God ‘loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ (1 John 4:10),

Amazing? Yes! Praiseworthy? What could be more! Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits!’