Reflection on Philemon

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Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Philemon

Scripture
I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good you may do for Christ.

Observation
This is Paul’s letter to Philemon and the church that meets at his house.

Paul recalls Philemon’s love for the saints and faith In Christ. He prays that his faith sharing will be effective.

Paul turns to the issue of Onesimus a slave who had run away from Philemon’s household and had since become a christian under Paul’s ministry. Paul urges Philemon to receive Onesimus not as a slave but a brother. Paul promises to make up any financial loss Philemon might have incurred.

Application
Some people say that Paul tacitly excused slavery because he did not write against it. In a society that was economically dependent on human labour, slavery was a given fact of life. In a situation where christians had no power, writing against slavery would not have changed anything.

Here in the short letter to Philemon we see how the gospel works to transform society one person at a time. Paul’s argument is that Philemon should treat Onesimus as a brother for whom Christ had died not as property.

Our situation is different but the principle is the same. We share the gospel and act for righteousness, and lives are changed one at a time. We cannot easily end abortion but we can offer alternatives to people considering a termination, changing one life at a time. We may not be able to remove tensions between ethnic groups but we can build bridges of friendship and help individuals to find reconciliation and peace in Christ.

When christians all work on their little piece of the puzzle we find that together the Body of Christ is able to have a big influence.

Prayer
Lord, where are you asking me to bring change today? Show me the one person I can share my faith with today. Amen.

Reflection on Jeremiah 18:1-11

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Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+18.1-11

Scripture

The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

Observation

The Lord tells Jeremiah to go to the house of the potter. Jeremiah goes and sees a potter working at a wheel. The vessel he is working on goes wrong so he reworks it into a different shape and purpose.

The Lord then speaks to Jeremiah and says that He is the potter shaping the nations, including Israel, to His purposes. He may declare disaster on a nation, but if that nation repents of its evil ways, He will save it. Likewise, He may plan to bless a nation, but if the nation turns to evil then He will withdraw the blessing.

He then warns Israel that He is planning judgement on the nation but there is still a chance to turn from its wicked ways.

Application

It is a sobering thought that we are clay on the Potter’s wheel. We want to think that we are captains of our own destiny, but the truth is that the Lord is shaping us for His purposes.

There are few fixed points in our future. Our sin will reap its rewards, but if we repent we can avoid eternal judgement. Likewise all of our good deeds count for nothing if there is sin in our hearts. Our relationship with God, in Jesus, is the key to becoming vessels fit for use.

Only Jesus can rework our lives and reshape the vessel of our heart.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I submit myself to you again. You are the Potter, I am the clay. Use me for your purposes. Amen

Reflection on Luke 14:7-14

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Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+14.7-14

Scripture

All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Observation

At a banquet Jesus notices that people are jockeying for the best places. He tells them that it is better to choose a lower place so that the host promotes you than to choose an honoured place and have the host move you to make space for another.

It is better to give a banquet for the poor, the crippled and the lame who cannot repay you than to only invite your friends. Jesus assures us that we will receive our reward in heaven.

Application

In a culture that relentlessly encourages self-promotion, Jesus’ teaching seems crazy. Why not put yourself out there and make people take notice of you?

The pathway of humility- being realistic about ourselves and others- is actually more productive in the long term, and certainly in the Kingdom of God.

We live not for the glory of men but for the affirmation of God. At least we should live for the affirmation of God.

Is it better to have the “Well done!” of creatures of limited senses or to have our heavenly Father who created the cosmos with a word say “Great effort!”?

It is too easy to have our goals and desires shaped by sinful people. God wants us to keep our our eyes on the goal of eternity.

Prayer

Lord I understand that you are training me for an everlasting Kingdom. Please help me to set my eyes and my heart on what pleases you. Amen.

Reflection on Hebrews 13:1-16

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Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews+13.1-16

Scripture
For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

Observation
We are to continue to show love to one another, practise hospitality to strangers and pray for prisoners. We should have pure lives free from adultery and greed.

We must imitate the lives of our leaders and their faith. We should always look to Jesus our sacrifice, and not allow others to divert us with strange teachings. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever.

Our city is not in this world. We must continually go outside the city to the place of sacrifice, allowing Jesus to transform our lives.

Application
If we dissect this passage and list out the rules which must be obeyed then we will become overwhelmed by the things we have to do to please God.

This passage is not about obeying rules as such. Jesus is the focus of the passage. We need to keep our focus on Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and for ever. If we do that, we find our natural inclination is for the Holy Spirit to transform our lives so that we become the people the “rules” command us to be.

Jesus is our eternal sacrifice. He takes away the sins of the world and presents us faultless to the Father. Hallelujah!

Prayer
Lord God, please dwell in my life with such radiance that sin has no attraction to me. Amen.

Stephen McAlpine: Happy St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre Day Everybody

Stephen McAlpine writes a word of encouragement for christians in a culture turning against us:

Happy St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre Day Everybody

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Is this not brilliant?  It is Daniel in the Lion’s Den, painted in 1872 by British artist, Briton Riviere.  Not the most British name is it?  Riviere was descended from the French Huguenots, the Protestants slaughtered by the French regime, a massacre that started on this very evening, 23rd August, way back in 1572 and which peaked over the following weeks.

It’s become known as the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, and the spark that set it ablaze was fierce political rivalry in the French court, stirred up by Catherine de Medicis, who loathed the Huguenot influence over her son.

The sheer, but impotent, rage on the faces of the lions in the face of the humble servant Daniel, thrown to his death for showing nothing but an allegiance to his God above all else, mirrors the terrible rage of the French court during that bloody time doesn’t it?

St Bartholomew had another name of course, Nathaniel, the Israelite and disciples of Jesus in whom Jesus memorably states “there is no guile” (John1:47).

His guilelessness did not stop him being martyred however.  History reports that Bartholomew/Nathaniel had the skin stripped from his body, much as a lion might do to a human.

That lack of guile links Daniel with Bartholomew, and of course links both men with the true Israelite who trusted God above all else in the face of his jealous enemies – the Lord Jesus.

Daniel was hated by his enemies not for his royal court guile, but for his guilelessness and his excellent spirit before King Darius, who sought to promote him because of it.

Any charge against Daniel would have to be conjured up.  And it was clear to his enemies that nothing would stick unless it was to do with the worship of his God.

So too with the Lord Jesus.  Pilate knew it was for jealousy that the religious leaders of the Jews had handed him over.  Not that his more excellent spirit would save him from the jaws of the lion on the cross.  Just like Daniel he had to go.

But just like Daniel – only in an even more spectacular way -, God brought Jesus up of that stone-covered mausoleum, not simply to be showered with honour and glory by a relieved King Darius, but to be given the glorious rule of the universe by His Father.

So here we are in our own time of exile.  The culture rages against the people of God as it has always done.  And it’s tempting to respond in any way except in the one way Daniel did.

When the jealous officials tricked Darius into signing a decree that only the king should be petitioned for a period of thirty days, we are told that:

10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

Notice that last clause: “as he had done previously”.  The culture has turned hard against him.  The lions are looming.  But he does not panic.  He does not start to pray like he’s never prayed before.  He does not give up on thankfulness and descend into grumbling about how the culture has turned against him, and used fair means or foul to sideline him. He does what he had always done in his time of exile: puts his hope in the covenant God of Israel.

He turned his face towards the place of his future hope – the new Jerusalem that would be coming – and thanked God.  This was no moan about how good the old Jerusalem was, and how it would be good to get back to those days.  No! It was a prayer of certain hope that God would bring in a new Jerusalem even if he never lived to see it.

Christian, even the new Jerusalem ushered in by God after the return from exile was merely a shadow of the true new Jerusalem that is coming down from heaven, and from whence is our hope. And we may not live to see it.  We may live during an increasing time of cultural hatred towards the gospel that is both licensed and litigious.

Yet in the midst of all of that we don’t need to moan and complain about how the culture has turned against us and how the old Jerusalem worked so well.   We can get on with a guileless, excellent-spirited servant-hearted life in our exile, even if the culture conspires all sorts of ways to make us look like the baddies.

Even if the only charge that can be levelled against us concerns our relationship with our God.

Especially if the only charge that can levelled against us concerns our relationship with our God.

The lions may roar, the culture may desire to pick over our bones and mock our eclipse. But we will open the windows of our hearts towards the new Jerusalem and give our God the praise and honour due to His name.

Legalised Pot Makes the Poor Poorer

From My Christian Daily:

Pot for the poor! That could be the new slogan of marijuana-legalization advocates. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize the use of medical marijuana. There are now 25 states that permit the use of marijuana, including four as well as the District of Columbia that permit it for purely recreational use. Colorado and Washington were the first to pass those laws in 2012. At least five states have measures on the ballot this fall that would legalize recreational use. And that number is only likely to rise with an all-time high (no pun intended) of 58 percent of Americans (according to a Gallup poll last year) favoring legalization.

The effects of these new laws have been immediate. One study, which collected data from 2011-12 and 2012-13 showed a 22 percent increase in monthly use in Colorado. The percentage of people there who used daily or almost daily also went up. So have marijuana-related driving fatalities. And so have incidents of children being hospitalized for accidentally ingesting edible marijuana products.

But legalization and our growing cultural acceptance of marijuana have disproportionately affected one group in particular: the lower class.

A recent study by Steven Davenport of RAND and Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon notes that “despite the popular stereotype of marijuana users as well-off and well-educated . . . they lag behind national averages” on both income and schooling.

For instance, people who have a household income of less than $20,000 a year comprise 19 percent of the population but make up 28 percent of marijuana users. And even though those who earn more than $75,000 make up 33 percent of the population, 25 percent of them are marijuana users. Having more education also seems to make it less likely that you are a user. College graduates make up 27 percent of the population but only 19 percent of marijuana users.

The middle and upper classes have been the ones out there pushing for decriminalization and legalization measures, and they have also tried to demolish the cultural taboo against smoking pot. But they themselves have chosen not to partake very much. Which is not surprising. Middle-class men and women who have jobs and families know that this is not a habit they want to take up with any regularity because it will interfere with their ability to do their jobs and take care of their families.

But the poor, who already have a hard time holding down jobs and taking care of their families, are more frequently using a drug that makes it harder for them to focus, to remember things and to behave responsibly.

The new study, which looked at use rates between 1992 and 2013, also found that the intensity of use had increased in this time. The proportion of users who smoke daily or near daily has increased from 1 in 9 to 1 in 3. As Davenport tells me, “This dispels the idea that the typical user is someone on weekends who has a casual habit.”

Sally Satel, a psychiatrist and lecturer at Yale, says “it is ironic that the people lobbying for liberalized marijuana access do not appear to be the group that is consuming the bulk of it.” Instead, it’s “daily and near-daily users, who are less educated, less affluent and less in control of their use.”

Article link: http://nypost.com/2016/08/20/legalized-pot-is-making-americas-lower-class-poorer-and-less-responsible/