If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. (1 John 1:8)

Thought:

I think a lot of people are aware of Jesus, in that they have heard of him, and perhaps they also have a dim memory of his message. Many of them would even agree that his message is good. However, I doubt any one of those, who is not already a believer, thinks that anyone really puts His message into practice. I certainly didn’t think they did until I began coming to church and I met people for whom Jesus’s way of life was central to their own. As a young boy I had rejected the idea of being a christian because I saw no evidence of anyone actually practicing the truth of it in their daily lives. It only ever seemed to me to be theoretical. If the truth of God, as revealed to us by Jesus, remains only theory and if believers remain in the dark, then they can neither grow in faith nor shed the light of God in to the world and enlighten those who don’t yet know that he is real.

Word:

1 John 1:5-10 NLT

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

Goal:

One of the reasons I rejected a life of faith when I was young, was the lack of evidence of God that I could see in the lives of those who preached Jesus’s message. Somewhere in my heart, I thought that their failure to live life in such a way as to show me they believed in God and his ways, was as good as proof that God and his promises were not to be trusted. I felt that their inadequacy somehow proved God’s limitations. These days I realise that faith is really complicated and that nothing can be taken for granted. I pray that Jesus would always be present and that the word of God would reign in the hearts of all believers from now until eternity… My goal is to continue to confess my sins to God in the genuine hope that he will bless me forever. God Bless us all and save those of us who love him. Amen.

Today’s readings:

Daniel 7:1-28, 1 John 1:1-10, Psalms 119:153-176, Proverbs 28:23-24

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient fo r your sake. (2 Peter 3:9)

Thought:

Patience is one of the most difficult virtues to grasp even in the context of the human lifespan. But in the context of the whole of eternity, it is easy to see why those with no faith or understanding of God would openly scoff and mock believers for their patient insistence that Jesus will come again to judge the world. The point here, in today’s passage though, is not whether or not Jesus is coming again, but whether those who mock our faith have any concept of anything beyond what they can see and touch here and now. Peter, is reminding those who already know God, that they have some knowledge of his sheer immensity. Nothing God does is really conceivable to our puny human perception and therefore, our ideas about how long we should be waiting for Jesus to return can only ever be theoretical. The issue then, is to realise that whether or not we have the patience to wait for Jesus’s return, God himself is showing a far greater grace than we can even imagine by patiently waiting for the time to come when those of his children who haven’t yet done so, will repent and receive their salvation.

Word:

2 Peter 3:3-9 NLT

Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed. But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Goal:

For so much of my adult life before I came to faith, I could say I was a mocker of the truth and I was busy following my own desires. I did this along with almost everyone else I knew. Even now, nearly three years later, I still think I know many more people who have never read the Bible, let alone actually try to live, in any meaningful way, according to it’s message. So whenever I am tempted to doubt the truth of The Lord’s promises, what ever they may be, I will remember that God isn’t necessarily being slow in his delivery. I will try to remember that my impatience is a sign that God is being patient with us all, allowing us time to learn about him in the hope that we will begin to live more closely according to his word.

Today’s readings:

Daniel 6:1-28, 2 Peter 3:3-9, Psalms 199:129-152, Proverbs 28:21-22

Suddenly, they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace (Dan iel 5:5)

Thought:

What strikes me most in today’s passage is Belshazzar’s terrified reaction to seeing a hand writing in a strange language on the wall during his lavish feast. It is this strange and unexplainable supernatural phenomenon that frightens him most, not the imminent threat of conquest by the Persians, which was probably already underway. The story of Belshazzar’s Feast is all about the consequences of openly and knowingly disrespecting The Lord God Almighty. This opening passage sets the scene and clearly exposes some of the sins being committed. There is a lot of drinking, and the mention of wives and concubines suggests sexual immorality too. But the worst sin of all, and what precipitated the Lord’s physical intervention with the writing of his judgement on the actual wall, was the the open praise of their man made idols using the sacred vessels from the temple in Jerusalem. Belshazzar made a celebration of breaking the first and most important commandment: “You must not have any other god but me” (Exodus 20:3 also see verses 2-7) The Lord judged him on the spot, in writing, and he was killed that same evening.

Word:

Daniel 5:1-6 NLT

Many years later King Belshazzar gave a great feast for 1,000 of his nobles, and he drank wine with them. While Belshazzar was drinking the wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver cups that his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. He wanted to drink from them with his nobles, his wives, and his concubines. So they brought these gold cups taken from the Temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. While they drank from them they praised their idols made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Suddenly, they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, near the lamp stand. The king himself saw the hand as it wrote, and his face turned pale with fright. His knees knocked together in fear and his legs gave way beneath him.

Goal:

When God chooses to intervene and perhaps reveal himself in an obvious way, we read all through the Bible, accounts of terror and fear. The Angels, when they appear, are forever opening their messages with the words “fear not.” This fear that comes in the presence of God, it seems to me, is all bound up with un-acknowledged guilt and the terror of punishment and death. My goal is therefore to take note that despite Belshazzar’s apparent disregard for the God of Jerusalem and his sacrilegious behaviour, ultimately he was more afraid of God than he was of the invading Persians. Perhaps if I can always live with that knowledge and behave accordingly, I will never have to experience the terror of seeing the judgement of God written on the walls for all to see.

Today’s readings:

Daniel 5:1-31, 2 Peter 2:1-22, Psalms 119:113-128, Proverbs 28:19-20

…their words [the prophet’s] are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns (2 Peter 1:19)

Thought:

Simon Peter, had been with Jesus during the Transfiguration, when Jesus met with Moses and Elijah and three of the disciples heard the voice of God himself. As a man with a first hand experience of hearing the word of God directly, (not only from the mouth of Jesus) Peter’s testimony is uniquely powerful. Because of this experience, Peter feels he can equate his own knowledge with that of the prophets who wrote the very scriptures themselves. I too feel that I can testify to hearing The Lord speak to me, but I can’t exactly claim my own Transfiguration experience. I can however, testify that I have truly heard from God through the words of the scriptures and I can also testify that the effect on my life really has been as if the Light of dawn shone into the dark and shadowy place I once lived in. It is as if the darkness is gone forever and so no trial or tribulation will ever seem so frightening or insurmountable again.

Word:

2 Peter 1:16-21 NLT

For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendour with our own eyes when he received honour and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. Above all, you must realise that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

Goal:

The goal, after such a powerful testimony from Peter, the ‘Rock’ upon which Jesus built his Church, is to live according to the word in the Bible, as if was indeed spoken directly to us from the mouth of God himself. Let there be no more doubt about it. Yes, it was written down in human languages by human hands, but the truths they recorded were not imagined by their own minds using only their own frail human intellects. The great, universal truths we read in the Bible were inspired in the minds of the prophets who wrote them, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and this is how how God still speaks to us today. His Holy Spirit is still lives in the words of scripture as we read them. And also, I believe that when the Holy Spirit moves within our hearts, it is still possible for us to speak and write the very words of God ourselves.

Today’s readings:

Daniel 4:1-37, 2 Peter 1:1-21, Psalms 119:97-112, Proverbs 28:17-18

I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word. (Psalm 119:81)

Thought:

Faith is a strange thing to explain because, in my experience of living with my hope in God’s word, it has has been a lot like the experience that the psalmist is expressing in today’s passage from Psalm 119. I have no doubt that God’s word is true and that obedience to his laws and commands will result in a great abundance of his blessing, but often, day to day, it can seem like an awfully long wait. The trouble isn’t so much that I suffer any terrible lack or great hardship. The trouble is not knowing how things will turn out. Today I have all that I need, but what about tomorrow? The thing about faith is that if we could see how things would turn out, if we knew where our money was coming from, there would be no need for faith. It is precisely because life is so uncertain that faith is the key to our salvation. Faith gives us freedom from the worry of how it will be because we know that The Lord will provide for our needs, but sometimes we get tired of being able to see only one step ahead – (see Psalm 119:105).

Word:

Psalms 119:81-88 NLT

81 I am worn out waiting for your rescue,
but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes are straining to see your promises come true.
When will you comfort me?
83 I am shrivelled like a wineskin in the smoke,
but I have not forgotten to obey your decrees.
84 How long must I wait?
When will you punish those who persecute me?
85 These arrogant people who hate your instructions
have dug deep pits to trap me.
86 All your commands are trustworthy.
Protect me from those who hunt me down without cause.
87 They almost finished me off,
but I refused to abandon your commandments.
88 In your unfailing love, spare my life;
then I can continue to obey your laws.

Goal:

Having experienced the same impatience as the psalmist, and knowing and trusting in the truth of God’s word as the psalmist does, I am not sure that there is an obvious goal today. However, just that these feelings, so familiar to so many of us, are written down for us to read in the first place, I find inspiring. My goal, therefore is just to keep on sharing my own thoughts on the scriptures as I read them. The psalmist shared his feelings and now, thousands of years later, translated from ancient Hebrew into modern, up to date English, I have been encouraged. I hope that this act of sharing my trust and reverence for the word of God, might inspire some one else to take heart when they are worn out and rescue seems far away. I hope it might help them remember why they put their hope in the word of The Lord in the first place.

Today’s readings:

Daniel 2:24-3:30, 1 Peter 4:7-5:14, Psalms 119:81:96, Proverbs 28:15-16

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. (Daniel 1:8)

Thought:

I am plagued by my diet. I am fat and unhealthy. I eat all the wrong foods and drink alcohol to excess. I know that I should curb my appetites and eat sensibly. But my lifestyle is challenging and I am cast adrift in the world etc, etc. But Daniel didn’t think so. He refused to be influenced by the culture that had imprisoned him. He politely requested that his diet, God’s diet, be tested. And after only ten days, it was clear that Daniel’s godly diet was far superior to the king’s diet of food and wine. For me, the message is absolutely clear. God knows best. If he instructs us then we should listen and obey without question. It doesn’t matter how unpleasant the consequences, God knows what is best for us, and we need to listen and obey him, no matter what we think about it. Either we are going to put our whole trust in the word of God, or we are not. I think it is extremely important to obey the word of God, because with out his laws and decrees, we are entirely alone in the world and completely open to destruction and defeat.

Word:

Daniel 1:8-16 NLT

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.” Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.

Goal:

It is clear to me that I have been wrong in my decisions, many times, since I chose to be baptised into this new life with Jesus. It seems clear also, that rather than choosing the way of the worldly man, I really should listen to what The Lord has said, and choose the path of the godly man. I know that I have been judged harshly since I joined the christian community and that I will be again, but let me confess my poor choices here and now, and hope that my brothers in Christ will find forgiveness in their hearts for me. My goal is to embrace the diet that God has laid down, and reject the fine foods that the world regards with such reverence.

Today’s readings:

Daniel 1:1-2:23, 1 Peter 3:8-4:6, Psalms 119:65-80, Proverbs 28:14

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. (1 Peter 2:21)

Thought:

Although none of us would call ourselves slaves, nevertheless, there are many things in life which can hold us captive and for which we work as if we were slaves. Our families can exert extraordinary power and influence over us. Our jobs are full of threats to our individual freedom whether directly, through tyrannical management, or indirectly, through oppressive and shifting office politics. We fear being cast out of our families or communities and we fear losing our jobs and livelihoods. Many, if not all of us, live as slaves of our own fear in one way or another. So we must therefore accept the things that hold us captive, be they family, work or the simply the views of wider community. We must humbly accept that the sufferings that these things impose on us, are no excuse for impatience, anger, retaliation or for giving up on one’s faith. In today’s passage, Peter reminds us that patient endurance in the face of harsh treatment actually pleases God. We are reminded of the example of Jesus himself, as he accepted his trial, humiliation and crucifixion. They key to this is to remember that it is not for us to judge what is fair and unfair. Our job is just to obey The Lord’s commands faithfully and gladly.

Word:

1 Peter 2:18-25 NLT

You who are slaves must accept the authority of your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel. For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.

Goal:

I can really relate to the idea of being a sheep who wandered away from the flock but who turned at the call of the shepherd’s voice. I feel immensely privileged to have been called by the voice of Jesus who is truly the guardian of my soul. No matter how harshly others may want to judge me or treat me, I know my Lord knows what is in my heart. Therefore, it will be my goal to humbly accept the judgement of men, however harsh or unfair it may seem, because I have been given a wonderful promise of a greater reward in heaven than any worldly prize. Jesus is the guardian of my soul and therefore I live with the knowledge that no man can harm me in any meaningful way.

Today’s readings:

Ezekiel 47:1-48:35, 1 Peter 2:11-3:7, Psalms 119:49-64, Proverbs 28:12-13