Reflection on Ephesians 5:5-14

austin-neill-163306

Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+5.6-14

Scripture

Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.

Observation

We must not associate with people who seek to deceive with empty words for the wrath of God is coming down on the disobedient.

We were once darkness, but now in Christ we are light. So we must live as children of the light. We must have nothing to do with the shameful deeds of darkness.

Application

Sometimes Paul puts it straight and simple- try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. That summarises the role of every christian.

We have been rescued from the darkness and now we must learn to live in he light as children of the light.

Sin must go, but righteous deeds must come in. We need to try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.

Reading, studying and meditating on Scripture are a great way to do this. Scripture is God’s inspired word. Daily reading of the Bible is as important to the soul as eating is to the body.

Listening prayer is another important discipline. Prayer is not about laying out my demands before God who knows what we need before we even ask. Prayer is a two way conversation in which we still our heart to hear the still small voice of God.

By telling us to try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord, Paul reminds us this is a process, a gradual alignment of my will with the Lord’s.

We don’t always get it right, but that’s not the point. It is the intention or desire to please God that is important, not the total adherence to a set of rules.

God loves me. Because of His love for me, I am learning to love Him. I want to please Him because I love Him. I delight in God’s pleasure.

Prayer

Holy Spirit, please help me to learn how to please God. Remind me to read Scripture and pray daily. Teach me each day how to live my life as an offering to you.

Book Review. “The Halo Effect” by Anne D. LeClaire

51ZanlM1XLL._SS130_I downloaded this book thinking it was a murder mystery, and it is, but the story starts after the murder and focuses on the way that the murder affects the victim’s family and friends.

Lucy, a teenage girl in a small seaside town is murdered, and naturally her parents are devastated. The father, an artist, becomes angry and turns to drink. The mother eventually leaves him. Her best friend, Rain, becomes obsessed with security and starts cutting herself to let the feelings out. And Father Gervais, tasked by the bishop with commissioning Lucy’s father to paint representations of the saints for a new cathedral, has his own long-buried grief to work through.

This is a well written narrative. The smells and scenery, the people and their surroundings are described so well that you can put yourself into Port Fortune and “see” the people clearly.

TV crime shows like “Midosmer Murders” and “NCIS” rarely examine the effect that death has on the community around the victim. You can’t do that in 50 minutes. This is a book that deals with grief in all its messiness and still appeals as a great story in its own right.

5stars

 

 

Reflection on 1 Samuel 16:1-13

samuel_anoints_david

Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+16.1-13

Scripture

Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily on David from that day forward.

Observation

The Lord tells David to go to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king. He tells him to take a heifer and tell people he has come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. He is to invite Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice, and the Lord will show him which one to anoint.

So one by one Jesse’s sons are brought to Samuel. For each one the Lord tells Samuel, “This is not the one.” Finally, Samuel asks Jesse if there is another son. It turns out that there is another son, the youngest, David is out minding the sheep. When he is brought in, Jesse anoints him with oil, and the Lord fills him with His Spirit.

Application

Anointed for the task, the Spirit of God comes mightily on David.

A human act of anointing with oil signifies the divine act of filling. David is filled with the Holy Spirit for a purpose- to be king of Israel.

Yet David must wait several years and fight for the crown. There is anointing and then there is equipping and training.

We all need to be anointed or filled with the Holy Spirit in order to fulfil the task God has appointed for us. But often the anointing leads to training which doesn’t necessarily make any sense to us.

The Lord removes His blessing from Saul, yet Saul remains as king. He gives the blessing to David, but he must wait and learn to be the Lord’s king.

There are people who receive an anointing or a calling to ministry and then immediately assume they can start the ministry straight away without further training.

There are others who train for ministry but never had any calling or gifting, trusting in their own strength alone.

Either way can be a disaster. We need the anointing and we need the equipping.

Prayer

Thank you Lord for your Spirit so freely and abundantly given to all who follow Jesus. Help me to see what you have called me to, and to seek out your training for that task. Amen.

Reflection on John 4:1-42

woman-well

Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+4.1-52

Scripture

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

Observation

Jesus passes through the Samaritan city of Sychar where He stops at a well. A woman comes to draw water, and He asks her for a drink.

Jesus says to the woman that while the well water will satisfy for a little while, He has living water which satisfies permanently and becomes like a spring which flows out to others. He then tells her to go get her husband, but she replies she doesn’t have one. Jesus agrees that the man she has now is no husband, and she has had five husbands previously. She goes into the town to tell people about Jesus.

Many of the people from the city then believe because of the woman’s testimony, and many more come out to see Jesus for themselves.

Application

When we come to Jesus, He gives us living water that satisfies. Jesus takes this common activity of collecting water to drink and turns it into something profoundly spiritual. This is similar to the way that bread and wine carry power when we celebrate Communion.

The water of life satisfies spiritual thirst. David wrote in Psalm 42, “As the deer longs for the water so my soul thirsts for you.” Those who do not know Jesus are desperate for the freedom, intimacy, and love that He offers. They fill that need with all kinds of things that satisfy briefly.

Only Jesus meets that thirst, that desperate longing for God.

The living water wells up within us like a spring, flowing out to others and helping them to come themselves to the living water.

The Samaritan woman rushes off to tell her friends about the Messiah, who is Jewish and saves Samaritans. When we are touched by the Lord, we want to share that experience with others.

It’s not just about personal evangelism. The living water transforms our friends and neighbours as we learn to be life givers everywhere we go. The water brings life to everyone it touches.

Prayer

Jesus you are the water of life. Saturate the parched places in my soul and make me a spring of living water to bless others. Amen.

Grammar Nerds, Rejoice! The Power of a Missing Comma

I remember being taught at school that you don’t need a comma before the last item in a list if you use and to separate the last two items. But sometimes you do, especially if you live in Oxford, and now, apparently, in Maine.

From Quartz

A court’s decision in a Maine labor dispute hinged on the absence of an Oxford comma

March 14, 2017

A Maine court ruling in a case about overtime pay and dairy delivery didn’t come down to trucks, milk, or money. Instead, it hinged on one missing comma.

Delivery drivers for local milk and cream company Oakhurst Dairy have been tussling with their employers over whether they qualify for overtime. On March 13, a US court of appeals determined that certain clauses of Maine’s overtime laws are grammatically ambiguous. Because of that lack of clarity, the five drivers have won their lawsuit against Oakhurst, and are eligible for unpaid overtime.

The profoundly nerdy ruling is also a win for anyone who dogmatically defends the serial comma.

The serial comma, also known as the Oxford comma for its endorsement by the Oxford University Press style rulebook, is a comma used just before the coordinating conjunction (“and,” or “or,” for example) when three or more terms are listed. You’ll see it in the first sentence of this story—it’s the comma after “milk”—but you won’t find it in the Maine overtime rule at issue in the Oakhurst Dairy case. According to state law, the following types of activities are among those that don’t qualify for overtime pay:

The canning, processing, preserving,
freezing, drying, marketing, storing,
packing for shipment or distribution of:
(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.

There, in the comma-less space between the words “shipment” and “or,” the fate of Kevin O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy was argued. Is packing (for shipment or distribution) a single activity that is exempt from overtime pay? Or are packing and distributing two different activities, and both exempt?

If lawmakers had used a serial comma, it would have been clear that distribution was an overtime-exempt activity on its own. But without the comma, wrote US appeals judge David J. Barron, the law is ambiguous as to whether distribution is a separate activity, or whether the whole last clause—”packing for shipment or distribution”—is one activity, meaning only the people who pack the dairy products are exempt. The drivers do distribute, but do not pack, the perishable food.

The debate over the serial comma has long raged and remains unresolved. Proponents of its use (like Quartz, which breaks with the AP Stylebook on this vital matter) say that, when listing things in writing, a comma before the last item is paramount. It separates the sentence “He ate dessert, fries, and ham” from “He ate dessert, fries and ham.” Opponents say that it’s redundant, aesthetically displeasing, and potentially more ambiguous.

Oakhurst, for its part, had argued that “distribution” was separate in the language of the law, meaning its drivers did not qualify for overtime.

In an impressively geeky retort, the drivers responded that all the other exempted activities were listed as gerunds, words ending with “-ing”: Canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing. The word “distribution,” they argued, was therefore not intended to be one of the items in the list.

The first court to hear the case ruled in the company’s favor, but the appellate court disagreed. Wrote Barron, since Maine’s overtime laws are meant to have “remedial purpose,” that is, to help the state’s workers, they should be read liberally. He and the appeals court therefore sided with the drivers, ruling that they should receive their unpaid overtime.

Maine has a style guide for legislation, and Oakhurst had argued it expressly instructs law-writers not to use the serial comma:

Do not write: Write:
Trailers, semitrailers, and pole trailers Trailers, semitrailers and pole trailers

But, as the appeals court argues—and the style guide shows—clarity is of the utmost importance when a list is ambiguous. From the appellate court ruling:

The manual also contains a proviso—”Be careful if an item in the series is modified”—and then sets out several examples of how lists with modified or otherwise complex terms should be written to avoid the ambiguity that a missing serial comma would otherwise create.

Reflection on Romans 5:1-11

romans-5-6

Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+5.1-11

Scripture

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Observation

We are justified by faith and so we have peace with God through Christ. Even though we suffer we can rejoice because suffering leads to endurance, character and hope. God’s love has been POURED out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

At the right time, while we were still weak, Christ died for us, the ungodly ones. God’s love is so big that while we were still in our sins Christ died for us.

Application

While we were still weak Christ died to pay for our sins. We were God’s enemies, estranged and living in rebellion. But the Father sent His Son to die for us.

A soldier will lay down his life for his country. A parent will die to save their child. People will risk their lives to save a friend, sometimes even a stranger.

But Jesus died on the cross to reconcile us while we were still at war with Him.

There was no ceasefire or disarmament negotiations. This is a unilateral declaration of love.

We have been fighting our Father, warring against Him. In the middle of the war, He says “Enough!” and then the Son dies.

This is unheard of, unprecedented love. It is as if we were loaded up with an explosive vest to bomb heaven, and He unstraps the vest, pushes us away and takes the full force Himself.

This is our God who loves us so much.

There will be a time for judgement for those who continue to fight after the peace has been declared. But for now it is grace and mercy for all who receive Christ.

Prayer

Thank you Lord for the cross. Thank you for loving me even before I knew you. Amen.