Every Day with Jesus – July/August 2016 – Seek Me and Live

Every Day with Jesus – July/August 2016 – Seek Me and Live  ‘let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream’ Amos 5:24

Over the next two months, Selwyn looks at the book of Amos, who wrote around the time of 750 BC. He was thought to be an expect in agriculture  and travelled widely from his home town in Tekoa, Judah (Southern Kingdom) to parts of Israel (Northern Kingdom).

In the notes for the first day of this issue, Selwyn tells us a little more: “During a lull in international tensions, the kingdoms of Israel in the north and Judah in the south were enjoying what amounted to a ‘golden age’. The two kingdoms had grown prosperous and complacent.

The economy was growing, consumption was rising, the places of worship were full. But during his trips across the border into Israel, Amos noticed that beneath the surface lurked serious injustice, hypocrisy, corruption, and false worship.”

In his second study of this issue, Selwyn writes: “How comfortable are you in your spiritual life? If we are honest, far too many of us have settled down in a comfort zone and do not wish to be disturbed. Even a Bible study group can be a place where we pool our ideas rather than a place where we go to hear God speak.

If you don’t want to be challenged in you Christian life then don’t read any further. Amos is a very challenging book. The words recorded in it will bring us face to face with the fact that God will never agree to preserve our comfortable and complacent spiritual status.”

Please join me in the discussion on the book of Amos; however, if you feel comfortable with you spiritual life, particularly if you live in a western society – then don’t waste your time. Enjoy what time you have, feeling ‘comfortable’.

Every Day with Jesus, May/June 2016 Issue – The Presence of God

The current issue of Every Day with Jesus, published by CWR, has the title: ‘The Presence of God.

The signature verse, for this issue, is from Psalm 16:11 (NIVUK): ‘You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’

These notes, from the back cover of the publication, provide an useful summary: “In this issue, Selwyn shares with us how we can practise the presence of God and experience Him more powerfully in our everyday lives. Each day he unpacks how God not only wants us to know about Him but also to experience His presence and live in the fullness of life as He intended.”

Mick Brooks, Consulting Editor, makes this important statement in his word of introduction: “The most important truth to grasp hold of is that we can know God and be known by Him. We can experience the presence of God in our day-to-day lives.”

Acquire your copy if you have not already done so; and feel free to join in the discussion, on www.tofollowjesus.org

Grace and suffering

Grace – as described by the Apostle Paul

I read this interesting article on Grace, based on the apostle Paul’s writings, the nature of God’s grace is often misunderstood. (Interview on Grace). Any comments on this article?

Whenever, we talk about grace, we should also remember that suffering is also part of our daily walk with Jesus. In Philippians 3:10-11, we read: “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

The late Selwyn Hughes, wrote this in today’s study, taken from the CWR publication: Every Day with Jesus: “The resurrection did not cancel out the cross, so that Jesus did all the dying, while we do all the triumphing, No! By raising Jesus from the dead God endorsed the whole self-giving, servant lifestyle that had taken Him to the cross.

So, if we enjoy the power of His resurrection working in us – and by the Spirit we certainly do – then we must realise it is intended to empower us to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings in the real world, to carry the pain of rejection as He carried it, to bear scorn as He bore it. Nothing could be more relevant in today’s Church.

I think the concept of suffering for one’s faith in Jesus – is poorly understood in many western countries – perhaps, because there are some Christians who only follow a watered-down, socially acceptable version of Jesus’ teaching – where there is little risk of criticism or condemnation from friends or social community.

Your view?

Matthew 4:12-17 ‘The Light Dawns’

(Draft) Bible Study notes on Matthew 4:12-17

Matthew 4:12-17 (NIVUK): “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.

Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfil what was said through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’

From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”

The incomparable majesty of Jesus is demonstrated by he way His nature is described as ‘Light’.

John, the apostle, uses this metaphor a number of times in his gospel, a good example is John 8:12, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

Jesus spoke these words near the Temple in Jerusalem, around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. In the Temple, at this time, massive candelabras were lit to commemorate the cloud of light, the pillar of fire, that led the Israelites at night, in their wilderness wanderings through the desert, after their escape from Egypt.

So from God’s perspective, the world is in darkness – moral darkness, spiritual darkness, ignorance, the inability to know God, the inability to change its behaviour to that which is right.

We could say that God has given to man two little candles – one is the candle of creation (Romans 1:19-20). And the other is the candle of conscience (Romans 2). Sadly, man all too readily blows those little lights out and then he is in total darkness.

It should be noted that between verse 11 (after the temptation): “Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” And the following verse 12: “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.” There is a period of about nine to twelve months.

We have some indication of what Jesus was doing during this time from John 1:19 to 4:42: –

  • Jesus spends three days with John the Baptist; on the first day John says: ‘Among you stands one you do not know’; on the second day, he says: ‘I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God’; and, on the third day, he says, ‘Look, the Lamb of God’  When two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus (John 1:37).
  • After that, Jesus went to a wedding in Cana and it was there He made water into wine (John 2:1-11). Then He went down to Capernaum with His mother, brothers and disciples.
  • When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem and cleared out the Temple court with a whip, some time later He met with Nicodemus; then He went down to the Judean countryside and His disciples baptised a number of people. (John 3:22-24, 4:1-4). He then left Judea to go back to Galilee via Samaria, where He talked to a Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well. (John 4:7-26).
  • Once more He visited Cana and healed the son of a certain royal official, by His word, “You may go. Your son will live”. The official had come from Capernaum (John 4:46-54)

Now, as we go back to Matthew 4, we have an idea of what happened – just prior to verse 12: “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee.” It was the start of Jesus’ public ministry.

As well as the fulfilment of prophecy (Isaiah 9:1-2), Galilee was the right place to begin because the great roads of the world, running from the east to the west and the north to the south passed right through Galilee.

The whole idea of the Messiah beginning His ministry in Galilee was an impossibility to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. The outstanding Jewish minds were in Jerusalem and they expected that the revelation of God would be in Jerusalem (see John 7:40-42).

The southern kingdom, when it was taken into captivity, returned but the northern kingdom (of which Galilee was a part) never did. Their darkness and their judgement was greater than that of the south. But God’s ultimate blessing is seen in the fact that the light will dawn in Galilee. And this is a great Old Testament indication that God always intended to redeem the world, not just the Jews. To those in the greatest darkness, God sent the greatest light.

Now let us look at verse 17, the last verse for this study: ‘From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”‘ This was the same message preached by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2).

When Jesus came and people began to ask what is the significance of what is going on, Jesus essentially said the darkness can be expelled if you repent.

What does it mean to repent? It means to admit you’re a sinner and to turn from it. It means to change the direction of your life. It means to be converted, to turn around, to become part of God’s kingdom.

Repentance is more than sorrow – it is to change your life, change your purpose, change your opinions, change your direction. It is an inner change of the heart leading to an outward change in life, which can be seen by others like a light on a hill.

Any comments?

References: 

  • Bible Study Notes prepared by the late Rev. Eric Bird (mostly used for framework and headings). His notes were, in turn, based on the following primary source: “The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Matthew, Volumes 1-5″, published by the Moody Bible Institute. [Note: I don’t fully endorse Dr John MacArthur’s work, so I’ll try to steer away from any detailed references or quotes.]
  • Extensive on-line searches – especially in the area of translation variations.
  • Notes on Matthew’s Gospel as compiled by Fr. Bernie Patterson, sourced from multiple references.
  • Overall – I’ve selected material, which fits into my view of Matthew’s Gospel – naturally!

Every Day with Jesus – March/April 2016 Issue – Straight from the Heart

The current issue of Every Day with Jesus, published by CWR, has the title: ‘Straight from the Heart.

The signature verse, for this issue, is from Philippians 1:7 (UKNIV): ‘I have you in my heart … all of you share in God’s grace with me’.

This issue takes us on a journey through Paul’s epistle to the Philippians.

Mick Brooks, Consulting Editor, has this to say in his word of introduction: “Paul’s letter to the Philippians helps us to understand the gospel as a gospel of love: not just receiving love but sharing love too. …

This deeply personal letter, so clearly written from Paul’s heart, shows how we can learn to live with almost anything: suffering, disappointments and the many, various curve balls life throws in our direction. … It is so much easier to face difficulties if we know we are not alone, that somebody cares enough to journey alongside us.”

Make sure you acquire your copy if you have not already done so; and feel free to join in the discussion on www.tofollowjesus.org

Every Day with Jesus – January/February 2016 issue – Alive

The current issue of Every Day with Jesus, published by CWR, has the title: ‘Alive.

The signature verse, for this issue, is from Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV): ‘ because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ.’

The notes on the back cover of the publication provides us with this perspective: “In this first issue of 2016, Selwyn encourages us to renew our minds and discover a God who relates, thinks, feels and chooses. Understanding these aspects of God’s nature helps us to learn how to give Him access to our whole being, fulfil our God-given potential and feel truly alive in Jesus.”

Make sure you acquire your copy if you have not already done so; and feel free to join in the discussion on www.tofollowjesus.org

Matthew 3:13-17 The Commissioning of the King

DRAFT

Study Notes on Matthew’s Gospel: The Commissioning of the King

Matthew 3:13-17 (NIVUK): “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?’

Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”

This is the commissioning of Jesus Christ; the baptism of the Son, the anointing of the Spirit, and the word of the Father. All the Trinity is involved.

The Baptism of the Son

Jesus comes to John to be baptised. This signals the beginning of His ministry and the phasing out of the ministry of John.

As Jesus’ cousin, John knew Jesus and he would have been told by his mother Elizabeth, that Jesus was the ‘Lord’. In Luke 1:42-43, we hear Elizabeth say: “In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Clearly, she would have passed her belief on to her son, John.

Jesus came to John for a specific purpose – to be baptised by him. However, John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance with the confession of sins. We, are then faced with a problem, Jesus was sinless, so why did He seek baptism?

We know that John was aware of Jesus’ sinless state, in verse 14, we are told John tried hard to deter Him, and he exclaims: “I need to be baptised by you, and (why) do you come to me?”

Jesus came into the world for one important reason – to identify with sinners. In order for Him to fulfil all of God’s righteousness, He had to identify with sinners. In order to bring sinners to righteousness Jesus had to go through the depths of the water of death. He had to bear the sins of us men and women and to do that He had to identify with sinners. There was no other way to fulfil all righteousness.

In Isaiah 53:11, we read: “After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”

Jesus submitted Himself to John’s baptism as a symbolic, righteous act of identifying with sinners who were seeking salvation. We can also say that His baptism was a symbol of His death. Jesus going into the water represented His death and His coming out of the water of baptism is a symbol of His rising to life.

In Luke 12:50, Jesus refers to His death as a baptism: “But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!” (see Mark 10:38 for a similar reference).

The Anointing of the Spirit

Now, let us look at Matthew 3:16. ” … John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.” This is the second element in Jesus’ commissioning.

As Jesus came up out of the water, God opened heaven and John saw the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him. The Holy Spirit has no body and can’t be seen with human eyes, but to give that physical sign to John that the one on whom he saw the Spirit alight as a dove, that’s the Anointed One. And when John saw this, he knew that God was providing confirmation to him, that Jesus was the Messiah.

It’s worth noting that this is the only place in Scripture where the Holy Spirit appears as a dove. One possible reason for the use of a dove as a visible sign, is that in Jesus’ time, the dove was the most common sacrificial animal. A Jewish person would naturally think of sacrifice when they saw a dove. [A bullock was the animal for the rich; a lamb was for the middle classes, but a dove was the sin offering for almost everybody.]

Jesus is God, but He was also human and the Holy Spirit of God came upon Him in His humanness to empower Him to preach and to anoint Him as the prophet of God. Notice that God anointed ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, that’s His human identification. So His humanness was anointed, He was inaugurated into His kingly office, He was empowered for ministry.

We see this theme in Acts 10:37-38: “You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”

The third part of Jesus’ commissioning: the Word of the Father

There is one essential element that is required of a sacrifice – whenever a sacrifice is offered to God it has to be without spot and without blemish. This is what the Father is saying: “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” Of this One who identifies with sinners, of this One who is to be the sacrificial offering, God is saying, in effect: “I am well pleased, I accept Him as the sacrifice.”

In summary, these few verses of Matthew 3:13-17, are informing us of Jesus’ commissioning. By that act of baptism Jesus identified with sinners and pictured His death. By being anointed with the Spirit He was empowered to undertake a ministry that ultimately made Him a sacrifice. And by the Father’s word He was said to be the worthy sacrifice.

Any comments?

Every Day with Jesus – Standing Strong – September/October 2015

The current issue of Every Day with Jesus, published by CWR, has the title: ‘Standing Strong.

The signature verse, for this issue, is from Ephesians 1:18-19 (NIV): ‘I pray … that you may know … his incomparably great power … the working of his mighty strength.’

The notes on the back cover of the publication provides us with an excellent perspective: “In this issue, Selwyn Hughes shares the anchors God taught him for standing strong every day in both the successes and challenges of life. Join us in this special anniversary issue as we explore these approaches together, including; cultivating our relationship with Him, finding sacred spaces in a secular society and understanding the goodness of God.”

Make sure you acquire your copy if you have not already done so; then feel free to join in the discussion on www.tofollowjesus.org

Matthew 2:16-23

Study Notes on Matthew’s Gospel

Matthew 2:16-23 (NIVUK): “When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.’

So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.”

In these verses we look at two more prophecies, fulfilled by the King, as revealed by Matthew.

The first one is to do with Herod’s murder of all the boys in Bethlehem, their mothers weeping inconsolably because their sons were no more. The prophet Jeremiah (31:15), mentions this town (and there has been some debate about its precise location), however, there is a town with a similar name near Bethlehem and Rachel’s tomb is located near it.

Now, there are some commentators who suggest that the town of Ramah was the place the Israelites (Judah) were held before they were carried off into exile to Babylon. The next two verses of Jeremiah are interesting: ‘This is what the Lord says: ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,’ declares the Lord. ‘They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your descendants,’ declares the Lord. ‘Your children will return to their own land.’ Even in the despair of exile there is future hope.

One commentator has written: “Rachel is a symbol of all the mothers of Israel and Ramah is a symbol of the deportation of the children of Israel” – a symbol of loss.

Again, the connection of Jeremiah’s words with a prophecy concerning Jesus is only brought to light by the revelation of the Holy Spirit through Matthew’s writing. As we are told elsewhere in Scripture, prophets often did not know or understand the full message of their prophecies.

Jesus would be called a Nazarene

This next prophecy needs to be given some background. The Jewish religion at the time of Jesus had a rich oral tradition, that is, not everything that was recognised as the saying of a prophet was written down. Likewise not all Jewish law was codified and listed in scrolls, much of the detail was passed down as oral traditions, and they had excellent memory aids to assist with the recollection of this important oral information.

This is one such prophecy, there is no written record of it (except this account in Matthew).  If, we just consider for a moment that Matthew had a good in-depth knowledge of Jewish Scripture and would also have had a working knowledge of Jewish oral traditions. If, he was wrong regarding the existence of this prophecy then his peers would have quickly alerted the early church to this type of error – but there is no such objection on record.

When Joseph was called out of Egypt back to Israel by God; ‘he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth.’ Archelaus was just as ruthless as his father Herod in many ways, consequently it would not have been wise to settle down in his territory; whereas Herod Antipas who ruled the Galilee area was a more reasonable ruler.

In summary, Matthew says: So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets (more than one), that he would be called a Nazarene.” It should also be remember that Nazareth was not seen as a prestigious place and people who came from there were generally despised. “Significantly, the Old testament said again and again that the promised Messiah would be rejected, He would be hated and He would be looked down upon.”

Even in John 1:45-46, we read: “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked. ‘Come and see,’ said Philip.”

Indeed, that’s the truth we need to meditate upon – Come and see!

Any comments?

Matthew 2:13-15

Study Notes on Matthew’s Gospel

Matthew 2:13-15 (NIVUK): “When the Magi had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.'”

Matthew goes to great lengths to demonstrate that Jesus the Christ, is King of Kings. Not only is He the King of eternity, He is also the Creator of the Universe.

In chapter 1, we are told by Matthew of Jesus’ royal genealogy, then His royal nature is confirmed by the visit of the Magi, gentiles who recognise the signs that a King had been born. Woven through the story of Jesus’ birth and early life are the fulfilment of a number of prophecies, which confirm that Jesus is the anointed Messiah.

If we go back to these earlier verses, Matthew 2: 4-6, “When Herod had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet (Micah 5:2,4) has written: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

It’s curious that Herod did not ask where a ‘king’ was to be born, but where the Messiah was to be born; that he planned to kill the anointed One of God shows us just how much influence Satan had over him.

Flight into Egypt

Egypt had changed a lot over the centuries and it had become place of refuge for many Jews during times of turmoil. The city of Alexandria already had a large Jewish population around 200 BC and had increased in number up to  the Maccabean revolution (167-160 BC); they could freely worship and there was some freedom of movement. [The Jewish community in Alexandria, continued right up to the second Jewish revolt of 115-117 AD, when they were vanquished by the Romans.]

God was able to protect Jesus from the murderous intent of Herod without the need for the family to flee, but one of the main reason for the family to seek refuge in Egypt was to ensure that another prophecy was fulfilled.

It’s interesting that the word used by the angel, when telling the family to escape to Egypt is a Greek word that is closely related to our word ‘fugitive’. It’s amazing that our King of Kings started life as a fugitive, perhaps we could pause here and think of what that means in regard to the way that we treat fugitives, those refugees fleeing possible death in their own homelands.

The Prophecy

Matthew 2:15b: “And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.'” The words of the prophet Hosea are used by Matthew, to signify that out of Egypt, God would call His Son. It has two layers of meaning, one is the nation Israel being called out of Egypt to be God’s special people, His holy nation; but they proved to be an adulterous people and they failed to uphold their side of the covenant.

The second layer is that although Israel had sinned and failed, God had a better plan in mind and that unlike unreliable Israel, a permanent salvation would come through God’s own Son, who was one with His Father and the true expression of the Father’s great sacrificial love for Israel, so that a remnant would be saved. The amazing thing is that there are over 300 prophesies in Scripture concerning Jesus and we have a little time to look at just a few of them.

Summary

The royal family stayed in Egypt for a short time, we are not told just how long. In Matthew 2:19-20, we read: “After Herod died (around 4BC), an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.’”

The remarkable thing for us to remember is how well, the King fulfils prophecy, and we can thank Matthew for carefully pointing out these incredible sequence of events that leave us in no doubt that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

Any comments?