Saturday, 23 January 2021

Daring to tell the Gospel of God: tuning the strings of your heart - 1 Thessalonians 2:2-4

AUDIO


In a break-out session at The Gospel Coalition’s 2019 conference in Indianapolis, Jarod Wilson developed some of the themes in his book ‘The Gospel Driven Church’ and he did so in a way that might be helpful to us in Wales too.

In an earlier book, ‘The Prodigal Church’, he questioned the attractional model (which aims to put on an attractive, entertaining, inoffensive sort of Sunday activity). 'The Gospel Driven Church' which he discussed in Indianapolis is about how to set about transitioning from being an attractional sort of church  to being a church much more centred on the Gospel.

You can listen to or read the transcript of Jared Wilson's talk in this link.

So, ‘The Gospel Driven Church’ is about how to lead a church from being a Sunday entertainment, feel-good centre towards being a church that is actually ‘Gospel centred’ ... the approach that is very much the point in our passage in 1 Thessalonians today.

The Wilson 'thesis'

In his talk Jared Wilson addresses the Gospel recovery movement of the last 15-20 years. This helped many churches back to a Biblical, Gospel focus but he argues there’s been a bit of a drift back because now he believes many Evangelical churches are on the verge of assuming the Gospel, and that sits just next door to losing the focus on the Gospel altogether.

Many appear, he says, to have a Gospel centred vocabulary … but they are making 'Gospel' into a "tribal adjective", so that it amounts to not much more than their 'tag line' ... and that opens the door (says Wilson) to Gospel confusion.

In an attempt to explain, Wilson refers to Don Carson in his little book on Philippians (‘Basics for Believers’) where Carson talks about a Mennonite friend of his called Dr. Paul Hiebert who was a distinguished missiologist.

Paul Hiebert and generational slippage

Hiebert described a situation in his Mennonite denomination where he observed that

  • one generation of Evangelicals HELD TIGHT TO the Gospel, and believed that this had certain social and political implications arising from it.
  • The next generation of those believers (said Hiebert) ASSUMED the Gospel, but identified with the social and political implications.
  • The following generation DENIED the Gospel, as the implications became EVERYTHING to them.

Carson’s point is that large swathes of English-speaking Evangelicalism are camped in the second generation, with some of them drifting towards the third.


That is a scary thought and puts us at a point 

where we need to 

clearly reassert that social care is NOT ‘the Gospel’.

The Gospel is emphatically NOT anything WE do.

It is what He has done for us, 
which we could not do for ourselves.

The Gospel is the message which, 

by believing, 

we receive salvation as the free gift of God.


Rationalising generational slippage

Now, beneath the surface of what’s going on, the reasons for this Gospel drift across the generations often relate to the hostility, or just social ostracism, that we fear will result from Gospel clarity … the world around us cheers when we help the poor and the marginalised, but bites back when we address the application of the Gospel to the needs of EVERYONE’s soul.

Putting it a less cosy sort of way … the devil doesn’t mind us looking after people’s mortal bodies, because they’re temporary  and what we’re doing won’t stop him getting hold of their souls by and by.

But he’s very displeased by our Gospel work, because that springs souls out of his grasp, and does that for eternity.

Please remember that what is happening in 1 Thessalonians 2 is that Paul is trying to encourage the new believers in Thessalonica to learn by imitating the Apostolic team. Learning by IMITATING (as we saw in the previous 1 Thessalonians post) is the purpose of the chapter we'r looking at.

In chapter 1 verse 6 they'd spoken approvingly of how:

"You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere.You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere."


What we're seeing today in 1 Thessalonians 2:2-4 is how the Apostles had been while the Thessalonians watched and the Apostles are saying: 'this then is how you should be'.

Paul & co. in Thessalonica as everywhere else, were 

an absolutely gospel-centred, focused outreach outfit.

Look at v. 2, where Paul says …


1)          We dared to tell you the Gospel of God
“We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 
3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.
We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”

The genitive in the phrase τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ (to euangelion tou theou, “the gospel of God”) could be translated as either

  • a subjective genitive (“the gospel which God brings”) or
  • an objective genitive (“the gospel about God”).

Either is grammatically possible.

However, Max Zerwick (in his 'Biblical Greek' sections 36-39) along with a good number of other Greek scholars suggests this could be a plenary genitive, highlighting the fact that the gospel which God brings is in fact the gospel about Himself.

It is so easy to keep talking ABOUT the Gospel without telling or proclaiming the Gospel itself, or portraying the God Who is at the heart of the message.

It is really important to focus our efforts on getting God and His Gospel being preached, not simply being preached about.

We're called to preach the Gospel, not just to preach about it, and the Apostles example concerned telling them the Gospel from and about God.

A.           What we told you: the Gospel of God

What we did when we came there, says Paul, is 

we went straight to it and TOLD you, the Gospel.


Verbal communication of propositional truth is how God plans for people to come to saving faith in Christ.


Now, telling our experience can incline people to give the Gospel a good hearing, but it is Gospel truth verbally communicated that brings faith to the heart.

That is the case 100% all across the face of the Scriptures.

The infinitive here λαλῆσαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ ('we spoke to you the Gospel of God') can ONLY denote the oral communication of Paul and his team.

It’s not particularly a term that describes a big 'proclamation' event, although it can be used to cover that sort of activity. But given the description of informal communication at the synagogue in Thessalonica in Acts 17:2-3, it seems fair to me to run with the dictionary definition of λαλέω, which would be something like:

1)    to utter a voice or emit a sound 2) to speak 2a) to use the tongue or the faculty of speech 2b) to utter articulate sounds 3) to talk 4) to utter, tell 5) to use words in order to declare one's mind and disclose one's thoughts 5a) to speak

No great fanfare, rostrum, pulpit or fandango is indicated. (A  big pulpit can be an excellent place to hide ... what's the saying: 'five feet above criticism?'

No. In spite of everything that counselled against the idea, the apostles DARED to tell the Thessalonians the Gospel of God.

We’ve seen already that what this took was daring … and it does to our very own day.


B.       What it took: daring

Around the world, more than 340 million Christians … on these figures one in eight believers … experience high levels of persecution for following Jesus.

For the past 29 years the Open Doors World Watch List has provided a global indicator of countries where human and religious rights were being violated.

David Curry, the President of Open Doors USA, “The COVID-19 pandemic has turned a bad situation into an unbearable one … this public health crisis created an opportunity to expand faith-based discrimination and violence in regions where religious persecution had already reached alarming rates.”

And the number one reason believers in our time and our culture don’t tell people the Gospel is that for fear of some consequence or another, we do not DARE to tell people the Gospel.

It is easy to meet people’s needs, to do Good Samaritan works that help people in this life.

It requires faithful godly daring to tell people the Good News of God because the devil and his adherents kick up a stink about it.

It’s a spiritual battle and warfare is scary and it’s a mortal spiritual fight for lost souls.

‘We dared to tell you the Gospel of God’.

And as always it was ‘in spite of everything’.


2)     In spite of everything

What is the ‘everything’ that Paul & co. have in mind here?

They took the Gospel of God across to Thessalonica and they preached it in spite firstly of everything that had just happened in Philippi

A.       Where this got us in Philippi

They had ‘suffered’ and been ‘badly treated’ in Philippi.

  • They’d stepped in to spiritually liberate an exploited slave girl from the demons that afflicted her and then been hauled up by a violent mob before the magistrates.
  • They were subjected there to racial abuse (Acts 16:20-21).
  • They were stripped of their clothing in public, then they were flogged and thrown into the high security inner gaol for their service in the Gospel.
  • And all this was an affront to the dignity of Paul and Silas who BOTH were Roman citizens this should never have happened to (Acts 16:37-39).

Paul and Silas lived in and were surrounded by what sociologists would describe as a shame culture. I’ve been reading about this recently in an interesting book by a couple of returned missionaries called Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes.

There’s a lot in there about the differences between the Collectivist shame culture of the New Testament world and how we see things through our eyes in the individualistic guilt culture of the modern West.

Public shaming doesn’t have the same impact here today as it did in the Thessalonica or the Philippi of Paul’s day.

In that culture, the degradation of the Apostles could not have been more complete.

It would affect all their social relationships henceforth in Philippi.

Brian Rapske writes “There would be no honour for them or their message.”

It is totally counter-cultural that the apostolic team did not seek to hide their beating.

Calvin, of all people, makes the point: “It was therefore an evidence of a Divine work that Paul, after having been subjected to evils of all kinds and to ignominy did … shew no hesitation in making an attempt upon a large and opulent city, with the view of subjecting the inhabitants of it to Christ.”

The Apostles DARED to tell the Gospel to the Thessalonians in spite of everything at Philippi and in spite of where doing so also got them at Thessalonica

B.           Where it got us with you

Gary Shogren in his commentary translates v. 2 for us “Still we found courage in our God o communicate to you the Gospel of God in the face of [even more] opposition.”

What happened at Thessalonica was that God’s gospel came with power and Jews and Gentiles alike started believing it, finding faith and being saved.

But as is often the case, human nature reared up in those who didn’t chose to believe it. 

Without counter-arguments to offer the opponents raised a violent rabble to drag new believers to the magistrates and the rest is all ecclesiastical history … but the church nonetheless stood up on its own feet at Thessalonica, because the Apostles dared to tell them the Gospel.

In spite of everything, the example to be learned from was "in spite of everything, we dared to tell you the Gospel of God".

 

3)     The motivations that governed and enabled this action

Now, this telling the Gospel is all very valiant action … but the key to getting it to happen in Paul & co.’s minds was not a pep talk, nor sympathy for the Thessalonians, nor concern for their reputations as industry-leading evangelists.

It all lay in the inner motivations of their hearts and 
if we wish we were more daring to tell people the Gospel, 
it’s the strings of our hearts that need to be tuned.

The key to it all, says Paul, is who you are focused on pleasing.

Paul uses the verb ἀρέσκω fourteen times in his letters.

It means 1) to please 2) to strive to please 2a) to accommodate one's self to the opinions desires and interests of others


Jayson Georges has written an excellent book for Christian cross-cultural workers called ‘Ministering in Patronage Cultures’.

Fundamentally the way the world of the New Testament worked was that patron-client relationships made the world go round … these were reciprocal relationships between a patron and a client where patron’s used their influence and their wealth to ensure other people’s security and survival.

Clients on the other hand attach themselves to a patron to secure protection and resources, and repay not with money but with social capital, respect, honour and gratitude.

It was all about - honourably - PLEASING people. It was honourable for both sides of this relationship to play their part. According to Seneca, it was the moral course of action to take ... paying in social capital.

Or as this Greek verb Paul uses here has it, “to accommodate one's self to the opinions desires and interests of others”.

It’s who we live to PLEASE that makes this telling the Gospel daringly to be possible.

Pleasing GOD is a fundamental rule for the Christian life. 

He is, as it were, our Patron (although so much more) and we are His loyal 'clients' in this life, so we consider it our gratitude-driven purpose to please Him.

It  is the RIGHT course of action in a first century cultural context ... and nobody would have thought otherwise.

Now this is very important because the Apostles were preaching free salvation but the way they were doing it was like this … they were NOT asking for nothing, but for something.

How do you preach a free salvation when you’re actually asking for something? By referencing a freely entered into but dependent relationship that Paul's hearers lived in and which they saw as not only moral but far from onerous.

I’ve heard the Gospel preached so often as if it were the classic con-man’s bait and switch! That is NOT how a first century Thessalonian would have seen this at all.

What does this verse say?

v. 3“For the appeal we make does not spring from …”

Wow! Stop there … it’s an appeal, so Paul you are DEFINITELY asking us for something there!

Well, you could translate this phrase: “For our exhortation.”

Paul here uses παράκλησις (paraklēsis) to speak in broad terms about his preaching of the gospel, in which he urges or appeals to people to respond to God’s salvation with loyal faith.

But we know that faith comes to us as the gift, and all we need to do is turn to Him for it.

That is what the Apostles called for.

There's the difference between telling someone the Gospel and actually only telling them ABOUT it!

And the difference is in the passionate appeal to get HOLD of it!

You know the Health service doesn’t cost you nothing, but it’s free at the point of delivery?

That’s probably not the best real-world analogy, but salvation is free at the point of delivery … and yet there is an obligation because with this free salvation (totally paid for by Someone else already) you need to respond and to stick out your hand for it by turning from every other empty way of salvation on offer to take hold of it with both of your hands.

And then there’s a spontaneous response of gratitude, honour and whatever else it's in your power to dispose which is the response made to the benefit you’ve received.

And the apostolic way to communicate this is to APPEAL, to exhort, to urge people to do just that and get HOLD of it.

That is the central Christian focus that we are HONEST about, as we interact at the interface with our world.

Can you see how that point there is relevant to what we were saying with Professors Carson and Hiebert’s help in our introduction just now? The response God looks for is to tell OTHERS how great he's been to us and to tell them the Gospel.

Our motivations and methods were crystal clear say the team, and YES we made a strong Gospel appeal to you all.

Bravely.

What enabled and motivated us?

HOW were we not afraid but BOLD to tell you the Gospel of God?

Paul makes that clear with two negatives then one positive point.

A.       Not self-pleasers
We weren’t coming there for the sake of our health … we were not seeking any benefit for ourselves

1.       Not error
“the appeal we make does not spring from error “

Those guys were there serving another cause entirely … the TRUTH.

Truth was their great big motivation … and living as we do in such a heavily post-truth era, that has got to be our unique point of distinction!

This is the SURPRISING thing that marks us out and sets us apart.
We tell the Gospel because we’re wedded to the truth.

They weren’t there to assert things that make THEM happy and that THEY could be comfortable with … their commitment was to the uncomfortable truth … truth that also makes US squirm at OUR failures and OUR faults.

That has a huge impact on the way we tell folks the Good News of God.


2.       Not impure motives

“or impure motives”

Now this is REALLY relevant to our contemporary church context.

Gk. ἀκαθαρσία
1) uncleanness 1a) physical 1b) in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living 1b1) of impure motives

It is possible to set out, or to pursue, Christian ministry and leadership to further yourself in such things … and Paul and co. repudiate that here.

I saw an article recently on just how mega-rich being mega-pastors had made some Americans whose names are well-known as Evangelical super-stars.

I have no way of checking on that article so I won’t go into it, but let’s signpost that Ezekiel has harsh things to say about shepherds who are in it for themselves and use their position to tear at the flock.

You can read about it in Ezekiel 34:10 ff.

How different the example of godliness we’ve seen recently in the Anglican church in Uganda:


Statement from the MostRev. Dr. Stephen Samuel Kaziimba

It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my predecessor, retired Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, has been involved in an extra-marital affair with a married woman, which he has acknowledged.

This adultery is a grievous betrayal on many levels. Retired Archbishop Ntagali has betrayed his Lord and Saviour, his wife and their marriage vows, as well as the faith of many Ugandans and global Christians who looked to him to live the faith he proclaimed.

He betrayed the office of Archbishop, his ordination vows, and the moral commitments he championed.

The Church of Uganda has approximately 13 million members, all of whom have “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” as the Bible says in Romans 3.23. At the same time, the Church holds its leaders more accountable to the same standards we are all called to uphold.

… We are committed to transparency as well as pastoral care for those who have been affected by this situation.

This is not a time for us to gossip. This is a time for repentance; a time for prayer; a time to examine our own sin and failings in humility; and a time to make all our relationships right before God.

Please pray for the spouses in both relationships, for repentance and healing in those who have committed adultery, and for justice and forgiveness to flow throughout our land.

Finally, I want to make it very clear that the Church of Uganda continues to uphold marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union between one man and one woman. Adultery is as immoral as homosexuality and we will not shy away from our commitment to this moral standard.

Likewise, if there are any church structures that have enabled such behaviour to be covered up, we are committed to identifying them and repenting of systems that protect abusers and harm victims. No one is above God’s law.”

THAT is the sort of commitment to clarity and the sort of Gospel centredness that Paul & co. are reflecting to us in this passage. Repudiating (in this verse) ἀκαθαρσία, and doing it with the grace the Gospel gives.

That is how, v. 4, you  speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.”

3.       Not trickery

So here the Apostles model repudiating trickery - δόλος
1) craft, deceit, guile - in the way that we deal with other people. (But we've basically covered this elsewhere already).

The Apostles repudiated pleasing themselves ... whilst our culture outspokenly makes 'self actualisation' a moral value and portrays that as good. 

B.       Not man-pleasers

v. 4bWe are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”

It’s GOD’s approval they are seeking, with integrity.

This is what’s making them fearless in telling people the Gospel of God, remember!

Secure in the favour of God, they have no desire to curry the favour of mankind.

They don’t MIND if people think badly of them!

But they VALUE the thought of being please to God.

C.       Trying to please God

1.       Our consciousness – we are on trust

The message they’re bringing to the gentile world is viewed by them as a sacred trust … and certainly must not be adulterated.

F.F. Bruce: “Not only could the Gospel be neutralised by inadequacies or distortions in the language in which it was communicated; it could be neutralised by conduct on the preachers’ part which was inconsistent with its character or unworthy of the God Whose Gospel it was.” (p.28)

These Apostles are conscious that the Gospel of Grace has been placed in their hands but they hold it on trust … trust explained for example by the parable of the talents, unfolded in the Lord’s words to Paul on the Damascus Road commissioning him to go far away to the Gentiles, the performance of that trust motivated by the grace of God in the Gospel which lead them to live sacrificially Gospel-centred lives.

a.         Approved by God

v. 4 “we speak as those approved by God”

We’re on trust, Paul & co. to seek ultimately ONLY the approval of God.

It’s a theme Paul appears to be particularly conscious of, as he writes while defending his ministry against false apostles briefing the church against him there in 2 Corinthians 10:18it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”

God is the judge of all the earth, and He shall be the only judge of me.

Now, make no mistake, we care for His people and we want to foster warm, loving fellowship with all of them.

We’ll strive to maintain such a unity.

Paul DOES.

And the opinions they hold to DO touch us … you can hear it in the tone of both first and second Corinthians where Paul has clearly been cut to the heart.

We do not ride roughshod over others opinions, we are accountable to fellow believers and our local churches … Paul and Silas happily reported to the church at Antioch that sent them out on their mission …

But we don’t hanker for fulfilling approval from our unbelieving hearers, nor even from God’s servants.

Our hearts are both motivated for and swayed by only the approval of the Saviour Himself, who has privileged us to be placed on trust with this precious Gospel.

b.        On trust - entrusted with the Gospel

v.4 “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel”.

We’re on trust to be faithful with the Gospel committed to us.

We’ve been commissioned and are committed to the service of the absolute treasure of the Good News that’s been given to us.

We’ve been trusted to take the Gospel that brings salvation … not to hide it away in a library, in a college, in a MONASTERY?!

The Gospel isn’t going to fulfil its’ purpose very widely in there!

And neither will we fulfil our trust if we confine ourselves to what may well feel like such safe spaces.

They’re approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel … and so they DARED to speak it out to the potentially quite threatening and dangerous people of Thessalonica.

And they weren’t swayed by that potential opposition and criticism and hostility …  because they thought only of the judgement of the ‘God, Who tests our hearts.’

There's OUR example to you says Paul, trying to please God because we see ourselves as people on trust, eager to be approved by God by the way we fulfil that trust, and answering for it only to the One Who gave it to us, answering only to Him.

2.       Answering (only) to Him

v. 4b “God, who tests our hearts.”

The verb is δοκιμάζω
1) to test, examine, prove, scrutinise (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals 2) to recognise as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy

The idea that it is really only God Who knows and can therefore test our hearts is one rooted in the OT literature.

(Pss. 7:9, 139:23, Prov. 17:3, Jer. 11:20, 12:3, 17:10, 1 Chron. 28:9, 29:7)

And that flows over into NT theology too, so for example we read in Romans 8:27 “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

The concept crops up in Acts then you read it again in Revelation 2:23 where the Risen Lord speaks to the church at Thyatira as “he who searches hearts and minds”.

Here Paul appeals to the God Who is the only One Who knows human hearts and minds to judge and vindicate the motives of the Apostles’ hearts, because that’s the key to where being pleasing TO GOD will be found, and that is what has motivated these Apostles daring to tell you the Good News about and from God.

That's the extent and the reason for the Gospel Centred-ness of the Apostolic team.

And THAT is the model for you to imitate.

V.      Conclusion

Now, there you have it.

When the Apostles came to Thessalonica, in spite of every knock back they’d had at Philippi and in spite of the fact that they were still nursing the wounds that had been inflicted on them there, they DARED to tell the Thessalonians the Gospel.

And they dared to on the basis of the three letter word that starts off v. 3.It's the explanation word that gets used there: ‘for’.

It was for THESE reasons they dared to tell the Gospel to the Philippians … not a better, or more seeker-sensitive, or more socially sensitive, or more toned down, acculturated gospel (a more popular one) to try to get over the vigorous negative response they’d got at Philippi …

No.

And here again at Thessalonica, motivated by compassion, by care and by the overwhelming desire not to please mankind but to please GOD … Who had ENTRUSTED them with His Gospel of grace … they dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.”

They were to be calling together the flock of God’s sheep, not entertaining a larger herd of well-pleased and pacified goats.

That is NOT to say that in Thessalonica, Paul was offensive.

You go back to Acts 17:2-4 and read about what he did there!

He went into the synagogue as a rabbi was entitled to, and there in what was a much more open forum than you get in a church service he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, he explained to them and he proved to them, that the Messiah they were looking for had to die and be raised from the dead.

And what was his point?

What … that you’ve all got to go out and eat ham sandwiches now?

NO!

He didn’t stamp all over their heritage or their culture and put it all in terms of their history and traditions:

Acts 17:3 “ ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said.”

And then we read: “ But other Jews were jealous” … and that’s where the trouble began.

You cannot please God and sinful humanity, the Scriptures of the New Testament are FULL of that, when are we going to get our heads around it?

Remember, this passage is all about learning from imitating - the lost art of mimesis - 'being imitators of us and of the Lord'.

Must it only be when that third generation Professor Hiebert talks about have emptied the chapels and enervated their Christian witness to the point where desperation drives a remnant of God’s people back to the Book?

Or are we able to commit to constant Reformation of our attitudes, ideals and practices to the Scripture … and the set of mind that the Apostles in 1 Thessalonians 2:2-4 are MODELLING for us to learn from today?

"We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts."


Thought for the Day 23rd. January 2021 - A future and a Hope


We've had some pretty dark and cold mornings this winter ... mornings when you couldn't see out, let alone see your  way ahead.

Yearning to know the future we can't see


But human beings more than most of Creation seem to have a yearning to see and plan the way to and through whatever it is that lies ahead.

The trouble is, we've also got a sneaking awareness that what lies ahead is very much beyond our personal control, and it makes us feel fairly insecure.

Jeremiah's got a great word for us about that!





Jeremiah the prophet was no stranger to dark and cold days when he couldn't understand what was happening, what the future held or where God was taking him ... but while he didn't know his own future, he knew the God Who holds the future. 

And when things looked pretty grim everywhere around him that God spoke to him in Jeremiah 29:10-13

"This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my good promise to bring you back to this place.  
For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Jeremiah knew his God is a good God with a track record for telling the truth, and Jeremiah consciously decided ... through days that felt good and the ones that felt bad ... to faithfully place full trust in Him.

Takeaway


The alternatives to trusting God with your life and your future can be pretty negative and even self-destructive.

Is there any really better option than Jeremiah's ... or in our situation, does it make more sense to live putting your trust in Jeremiah's God?

Friday, 22 January 2021

Thought for the Day 22/01/21 - Micah 5:4

AUDIO

Thought for the Day: 


"He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. 
And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth"
Micah 5:4

Sheep also seem to think they can be independent.
👎

They get regular reminders that they can't, and on GOOD days that sends them running back to the care of their shepherd.

But what has a shepherd got to offer HIS sheep?


  • He's committed to them, even when they've been unutterably foolish.

  • He sees to their food supply and watering.

  • He tends their ailments and clears their parasites.

  • He trims their feet and shears their fleece to prevent then from coming to various harms.

But when they decide to 'go freestyle' they lose protection and provision, and wind up dealing with a pile of extra grief.

An indepdendent cast of mind, the ability to live and thrive within limits, is what every hill shepherd is keen to breed into their flock. But the ones that don't keep to those limits are the problem sheep that must get weeded out or they'll get lost.

The wise ones know their own role, and also work with the role of their Shepherd. As Micah says here: "And they will live securely".

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Thought for the Day 21/01/21 - Psalm 105:4

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Psalm 105 is what you might call a 'wisdom Psalm' ... it's practical wisdom about how to live life and it was sung to get wise living into people's minds on the way on into their hearts and their lives. You could say it was about fixing wisdom into the worshippers' way of thinking.

And here comes the central wise nugget:

The Thought for the Day

Psalm 105:4  "Look to the LORD and His strength;

seek His face always."


Sounds like a bit of airey-fairy empty headed 'stuff' doesn't it?

The psalmist goes straight on to kick that idea into touch!


The reasoning

Here's how he sets about doing that. He says:

  • vv. 5-6 Remember the wonders He has done in the past

  • v. 8 Remember how He has kept His promises

  • v. 12 Remember He has a record for protecting His people, which held over a long period of time when it didn't look as if He was doing so ... but He was actually taking care of things in the background

  • v. 26 Remember how He raised up deliverers for the people and did wonders to set His people free

  • v. 39 Remember how He led, fed and watered His people against all the odds through barren wilderness wanderings

  • And remember that after all that time of hardship and difficulty,
    v. 43 "He brought out His people with rejoicing."

    Look at that! Not just scraped through but brought out with REJOICING!

The point

This psalm is saying that God has a big history of being trustworthy, so you can trust Him even when it really doesn't look like it, even when you're tempted to panic and run.

Of course, when it gets scary and doesn't look like He's helping, that's just the time when what's called for is TRUST!

The takeaway

When things are tough, confusing and challenging you really need to get to God with it, pour it out and look for His help. 

It's like having a big powerful patron in Him. 

Faithfulness to Him (going to HIM for your help) taps into His care for His people, and He's got a powerful, wonderful, reassuring track record in coming to the aid of His people.

It might be in spite of appearances, but there's no-one more capable or reliable to put your trust in. 

And, you know, placing that trust is what the Bible calls saving faith.

Psalm 105:4  "Look to the LORD and His strength;

seek His face always."



Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Thought for the Day 20/01/2021 It's amazing what praising can do (Psalm 104)


We've been wrestling with the implications of coronavirus for what feels like ages, the weather is rough, the days are short ... it's common at times like this to be feeling lethargic and low. If that's you, you are NOT on your own!

We're learning that self-care's more important than brushing your teeth ... but what does that self-care need to look like. More chocolate bars certainly doesn't seem to cut it ...

So here comes the Thought for such a Day as we're having:



In Psalm 104 the anonymous author goes looking all around himself for the things that he really ought to praise God for.

That's a useful example in itself, because all too often it seems there's little enough in ourselves or in our little lives to find cheer in, or find 'items' to be shouting God's praise for ... we need to deliberately look up and outside our selves in order to be able to do this 'praise' thing, which turns out to be so good for our inner being.

The psalmist deliberately turns his eyes and looks to 

  • God's character 
  • God's creation 
  • God's provision of fruitfulness of the earth and of food 
  • His created world's rich biodiversity 
  • and God's giving of life to us all

You can't even grizzle unless you're alive. If  you are grizzly, you have a life to be grateful for, which is a GOOD thing however it gets painted for us. Might this be the time to give thanks that we can even breathe out and in? 

But HANG ON!

It's not his OWN life and its' circumstances 
the Psalmist gives thanks for ... 

Our OWN lives on earth can be challenging and we may need all SORTS of help with that. There may be NOTHING we can see in our lives to be happy about.

(Get in touch with any things our prayer team can start praying about for you using the contact form).

And that is really the key to what we are shown here.

It is GOD's life, His character which controls how He deals with us and God's glory not his own that the Psalmist can realistically rejoice and be glad about.

So here's the take away from Psalm 104 today:

We all need those moments when we can get out of our own little life.

This Psalm shows us how to do better than that 

... not just how get away from our little life for a while but how to live our life while truly transcending it.

What we're being shown in this psalm is an example of how to go to the place where thanksgiving and praise become the care and the cure for our soul.

And here's the challenge:


Let's make this our regular discipline of self-care 
... as essential as brushing our teeth.



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