He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognise him. (John 1:10)

Thought:

John the Baptist was recognised as a holy man, a prophet of God. The Pharisees even asked him straight out if he was the messiah they were expecting? But God had sent John to point out the true messiah, Jesus. You might have thought that everyone would believe the testimony of an acknowledged prophet. But no, his own people, the Jewish religious establishment of the day, rejected Jesus.
However, on the first page of John’s gospel is this wonderful statement:
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)
The Jews of Jesus’s day may have rejected him, but the good news is that despite this rejection by his own people, any one else in the world at any time who believes and accepts Jesus for who he truly is, has the right to be a child of God.

Word:

John 1:6-14 NLT

God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognise him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Goal:

Jesus is the light that John came to tell everyone about. I have had the light of Jesus shine into my life and I have experienced the liberation, the re-birth, into this new and all conquering Light. I have been invited to take my place as a new child of God. My life will never be the frightening and desperate struggle it once was as I groped around in the dark looking for a safe place to be. Now my life is bathed in light. I can see where I am going and I can see danger coming in the distance. The light reveals the danger that lurks ahead and so I have time to prepare to meet it with confidence instead of fear. My goal is to continue to walk in the light of Jesus for the rest of my life.

Today’s readings:

Judges 11:1-12:15, John 1:1-28, Psalms 101:1-8, Proverbs 14:13-14

Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)

Thought:

Imagine being taught the scriptures by Jesus himself. I think the scriptures are pretty powerful just from reading them by myself. But I have also been lucky enough to have heard some great preaching in my church. I have also been blessed to meet some wonderfully wise and spiritually gifted people who have opened up the scriptures for me in ways I may never have seen on my own. What I am coming to realise is that perhaps I have had the scriptures explained to me by Jesus himself. The key to this is in Luke 24:32:
They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”.
It was only when they recognised that Jesus had been with them that they remembered their hearts burning within them as he taught them on the road to Emmaus.

Word:

Luke 24:25-34 NLT

Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared! They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter. ”

Goal:

I am sure I have had the experience of my “heart burning with in me” on a few occasions when a preacher has moved me by his words into action. I know I wouldn’t be writing and sharing this with you today had my heart not once burned with in me. So we may never recognise him when we see Jesus among us, but it is possible to recognise the voice of Jesus among us. My goal is to find Jesus throughout the scriptures. I want to hear his voice in all that I read and all that I hear preached. Perhaps one day, I might even speak for Jesus myself.

Today’s readings:

Judges 9:22-10:18, Luke 24:13-53, Psalms 100:1-5, Proverbs 14:11-12

But Gideon replied, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you! (Judges 8:23)

Thought:

The idea that Israel would never be ruled by a human king but directly by the Lord himself, was an old one, and always a bit of a tall order. People are very keen on the tangible. We tend to like ideas in principle, but holding on to them, and running a country purely on ideology, is all but impossible. Even Gideon felt he needed to make something tangible to represent God as their ruler and King – the Sacred Ephod. It is not clear what the Ephod was exactly, but being made from at least forty three pounds of gold, it was no small thing. Perhaps Gideon refused to be King because he didn’t feel qualified to rule. After all it was God who had given him victory, not his own strength or ambition. Perhaps he just didn’t want the responsibility. In any event, the people chose to worship Gideon’s sacred ephod. So in effect, he was responsible for their idolatry and therefore, for leading them all astray. Perhaps it would have been better for him to rule them as their God fearing King, rather than lead away from God altogether.

Word:

Judges 8:22-27 NLT

Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Be our ruler! You and your son and your grandson will be our rulers, for you have rescued us from Midian.” But Gideon replied, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you! However, I do have one request—that each of you give me an earring from the plunder you collected from your fallen enemies.” (The enemies, being Ishmaelites, all wore gold earrings.) “Gladly!” they replied. They spread out a cloak, and each one threw in a gold earring he had gathered from the plunder. The weight of the gold earrings was forty-three pounds, not including the royal ornaments and pendants, the purple clothing worn by the kings of Midian, or the chains around the necks of their camels. Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family.

Goal:

I spend a good part of everyday reading and thinking about the stories and ideas in the Bible. Spending time studying the Bible has really changed my understanding of who I am and how I should be living my life. But despite this profound change in my outlook and great strengthening of my faith, I very often find myself wondering how I can possibly believe in God. Where is he? What does he look like? What does he sound like? Etc…
Who can say what the answers to these questions are? My goal therefore is to see the world for what is really is – a sacred ephod. I must always remember that this running around like rats that we do, trying to get the money we think we need, might as well all be the rituals of worship to the god of gold. The reason we can’t see or touch our Lord and king is because he rules inside our hearts and minds. We must remember to look inside ourselves to find our God and King. We must live as if he rules us all individually from inside our hearts.

Today’s readings:

Judges 8:18-9:21, Luke 23:44-24:12, Psalms 99:1-9, Proverbs 14:9-10

If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. (Judges 7:2)

Thought:

Then the Spirit of the Lord took possession of Gideon… He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, summoning their warriors and all of them responded (Judges 6:34-35). Gideon amassed an army of 32,000 men to fight for the Lord against the Midianites and their allies whose armies numbered a staggering 135,000 warriors. They outnumbered the Israelites by just over 4-1. But the Lord then whittled the Israelite army down to only 300 men. Now the allied armies outnumbered Gideon’s men by 450-1! This story of Gideon is an extraordinary lesson in the power of the Lord. But also and perhaps more importantly, what is possible when you believe in the power of the Lord rather than counting solely on your own strength.

Word:

Judges 7:1-7 NLT

So Jerub-baal (that is, Gideon) and his army got up early and went as far as the spring of Harod. The armies of Midian were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.’” So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight. But the Lord told Gideon, “There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.” When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream. The Lord told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.”

Goal:

It wasn’t only Gideon and his men who had faith that God was with them and would bring them through to victory. Crucially, the enemy allied army also believed in the power of the God of the Israelites to defeat them. Their belief in the might of Gideon’s Lord was so great that when the Midianites and their allies thought themselves surrounded by superior forces, they panicked, fought among themselves and ran away, handing Gideon his victory.
My Goal is simply to raise awareness of the power our God. The first step to changing people’s ideas about God is to show them what he can do. Even if they are not ready to follow his way and serve him, at least they can be shown what he does for those who believe in him.

Today’s readings:

Judges 7:1-8:17, Luke 23:13-43, Psalms 97:1-98:9, Proverbs 14:7-8

The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”(J udges 6:12)

Thought:

The angel of the Lord appears to Gideon but he doesn’t recognise him. His first response is to argue. He offers his people’s oppression by the Midianites as evidence that the Lord is clearly not with him. Then he states that he is clearly not mighty. In fact he sees himself as the weakest son in the weakest clan in his tribe. When the angel of the Lord persists and reassures Gideon that He will be with him, Gideon is still not yet able to believe him and he asks the angel to give him a sign. Gideon wants proof.
What is really interesting about Gideon’s response to the angel of the Lord, is the procedure he goes through. First he argues back expecting his rebuttal to be the end of it. When that fails twice, he turns to religious ritual and asks the angel to hang on while he gets an offering together. It seems clear that Gideon fully expected that his offering would be ineffectual and thus prove the angel of the Lord to be false.

Word:

Judges 6:11-18 NLT

Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.” Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me. Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you.” He answered, “I will stay here until you return.”

Goal:

Surely we are all like Gideon. As a society, we seem to have so little expectation of the spiritual in our lives today. The media would have us believe only in what we can prove to be true. Those things we can can see and touch, observe and measure. I think it’s time to increase the non believing public’s expectations of the spiritual. My goal therefore, is to increase my own spiritual expectations and in so doing, carry the Holy Spirit out among the people so that they might see it for themselves.

Today’s readings:

Judges 6:1-40, Luke 22:54-23:12, Psalms 95:1-96:13, Proverbs 14:5-6

Pray that you will not give in to temptation. (Luke 22:40)

Thought:

Jesus clearly put great emphasis on the importance of prayer throughout his ministry.
The one thing I pray about most often is my failure to resist temptation. By temptation I simply mean, giving into those things, those life long habits and pleasures, that I know are bad for me. These are things I realise now, as a new Christian, are sinful. Many non-Christians have a really hard time understanding what is so bad about these habits. It is especially hard for them when they don’t seem to be particularly criminal, like drinking excessive alcohol or sex outside marriage or over indulging in junk food.
In the passage below, Jesus is almost pleading with his disciples to pray that they won’t give in to temptation because he knew that inevitably, temptation would overcome them. Jesus knew they would doubt their faith and everything he had taught them in the hours and days after his arrest.

Word:

Luke 22:39-46

Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.”
He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.
At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. “why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray that you will not give in to temptation.”

Goal:

My goal today, as it is everyday, is to overcome the temptations that I will encounter. The issue isn’t really with the little sins themselves. But it is the sheer number of them. Sin is cumulative. When you make the mistake of judging the relative seriousness of one sin against another, you allow yourself to sin many times a day. Then at the end of the day you say, “Well, at least I didn’t murder anyone.” or “it’s not as if I robbed a bank or anything”. But who are we to say that murder is a worse sin than drinking too much of an evening. What is wrong is wrong. Ten little sins are still ten sins. Just because you avoided the temptation to commit one big sin, doesn’t cancel out the ten little ones. That is why I pray most often that I will not give in to temptation. The more I allow myself the little sins, the more likely it is that they will gradually get bigger. Then one day I might abandon my faith altogether and just satisfy myself with all the little self gratifying sins. There will always ten little sins waiting to test your faith everyday.

Today’s readings:

Judges 4:1-5:31, Luke 22:35-53, Psalms 94:1-23, Proverbs 14:3-4

After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord… (Judges 2:10)

Thought:

I can’t help thinking that I’m living in a society where the quote above is true today. A hundred years ago however, my grandparents were born into a society that saw churches across the land filled on Sundays. They had youth movements and parents organisations binding communities together through out the week and the church really was at the centre of the community. For better or worse, they provided the moral framework upon which society functioned. Now what have we got? What is there in society to replace the guidance and stability that the loyally and regularly supported churches once provided?

Word:

Judges 2:10-15 NLT

After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel. The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight and served the images of Baal. They abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the Lord. They abandoned the Lord to serve Baal and the images of Ashtoreth. This made the Lord burn with anger against Israel, so he handed them over to raiders who stole their possessions. He turned them over to their enemies all around, and they were no longer able to resist them. Every time Israel went out to battle, the Lord fought against them, causing them to be defeated, just as he had warned. And the people were in great distress.

Goal:

My goal is simple. I am trying to take what I find in the bible and present it in such a way, that those of my own generation can see how it is still relevant to their lives now. The question I find hardest to answer succinctly, often sounds something like this – “How can you possibly say that the bible is the word of God? Surely it’s just a load of books written by people who lived thousands of years ago before they knew what we know now.” in response, the only answer I can really offer is this – Why don’t you read it all for yourself and then see what you think. Unless we make an effort to explain what’s in the Bible and why it’s important, then this generation and the ones that follow will increasingly find themselves in great distress. They won’t know why, and there wont be anything to offer them comfort. They won’t be able to acknowledge the Lord because they will never have heard of him, let alone understood what his message is.

Today’s readings:

Judges 2:10-3:31, Luke 22:14-34, Psalms 92:1-93:5, Proverbs 14:1-2