Sunday, January 26, 2014

Musing in Matthew

       The writings of Matthew, being for the Jews, have many references to the Old Testament scriptures.  At the beginning of His teaching, Jesus said ‘suppose ye that I am come to destroy Moses and the prophets? I say no. Rather I am come to fulfil” (Matthew  5). To the end of His ministry , the scriptures remained prominent in His thinking. Matthew 26.31 –“for it is written” was not just a theological reflection, but rather He saw the scriptures as totally relevant to the happening  of the moment. His view of disasters and His own suffering connected with the scriptures given by God previously. Even Peter’s attempt to proclaim his unbreakable loyalty is rebuked from scripture.

      I would like you to pause now and read Matthew 26 and Luke 22. Underline  or colour each reference to the Old Testament scriptures. You will be surprised and blessed.

 I continue with Matthew 26.56   -  to the crowd that came to arrest Him, He likewise announced that their misdeeds were no surprise to God.  They were unwittingly fulfilling scripture in seeking to destroy Him!

So what is my point in this blog?
By keeping the Bible much in our thinking, we can be much more awake to God operating in our life, much more aware of God rejected and yet active in our world, much more aware of where tomorrow is headed, thus giving us intelligence for our actions and reactions to the circumstances of life. Once again I say be careful of misused Bible verses, but as Paul said –“ Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 4)

Someone will rightly ask – which Bible verses, promises are for me? I propose a couple of guidelines:

·           * Check who the Bible verses are written to eg Israel?, Jews? Gentiles?              Christians?
·         *Time specific? Past , present or future
·          *Do they fit in with other Bible teaching

Let me illustrate – Matthew 10 does not fit in well for today as the Lord told the disciples no to go to the Gentiles! That was to happen at a later Time.  Yet Matthew 28 ‘ Go .. make disciples’  does fit today as the book of Acts shows very well the will of God to carry the Gospel to the nations!

 Generally, the letters written by the Apostles are very relevant to us today and when they take Old Testament scriptures and apply them, we are on safe ground. Eg Peter  quotes Isaiah “..whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame” (1Peter2.6)

Many Bible verses can be taken on face value as ‘great and precious promises’ to inspire faith in the once crucified, now risen Lord Jesus.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” Acts 16

“ I will never leave you nor forsake you” Hebrews 13

John McKee

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

confused ?

Reading the Bible with your memory switched on.

    Many have pointed out the need to read the Bible considering it’s context i.e. not taking statements, without listening to the whole story. Modern media frequently do this and often confusion results.
      My present encouragement is for you to read the Bible stories and think how they fit together. This takes time to become familiar with the Bible, but it is important to compare spiritual things with spiritual. I am not suggesting that only a few select people with secret, superior knowledge can know the truth (Gnostics). All may seek and find.

Let me illustrate why we need to consider the whole story to get the truth of the matter.  At the end of Matthew 25, we have the story of the sheep  and goats being separated, and rewarded according to how they treated the disciples  of the Lord. Many have used this story to insist that we must be out there aiding the poor and deprived of this world. This is of course true, but let us read on into chapter 26. There we find a woman pouring upon the head of Jesus some very costly perfume. The disciples react according to the story in chapter 25 ‘why was not this expense used for the poor’.  So the Lord corrects the problem  by insisting  that the worship of Himself is of greater importance . In fact   He prophesied that her act of honour and faith would accompany the Gospel to the poor – and  it has for 2000years!
     So my Bible study point is this – Read Matthew 26 remembering the story of chapter 25. And read Matthew 25, remembering the story of chapter 26. This is one of the many instances where a seeming contradiction is rather another colour in the rainbow of revealed truth.

Read, remember and enjoy

John McKee

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Joy of the Master

“Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25.23)

Last article I emphasized the real possibility of enjoying the Bible. This message is the invitation to enter into the joy of the master.

            For many people, life is a difficult struggle. Indeed across the world, for many people life’s enjoyment is destroyed by poverty, war, religious hatred, broken relationships, unfair treatment etc    Is there any relief or hope in being a Christian? Yes, in two ways. In this life, one of the fruits of the Spirit is ‘ joy’ (Galatians 5). In the next life, the promise for the believer is ‘fullness of joy’ (Psalm 16).

Are there any conditions for us having this joy?   Yes, it is for those who whole-heartedly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Unbelief is a killer and indifference leaves a person out in the cold, but for those who  acknowledge their sin against God and believe in His Son Jesus Christ the Lord who died and rose again, the prospects are ‘joyful’.
I need to explain – the Lord Jesus promised to His followers persecution, difficulties, discrimination etc, but  with this He promised by the indwelling Holy Spirit, who would enable  love , joy , peace. He actually made it more personal. He said to the eleven faithful followers “ My peace I  give unto you” This makes His blessing , not so much receiving a thing, but the receiving of a person. So let us remember it is His love, His joy, His peace, His goodness, His gentleness  and more that He gives. The final blessing of the future, is for us to enjoy His glory and to see His face.

Well might we pause and say to Him “ I will be yours and yours forever”. 
It was the Lord Himself who said “Come to ME all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take MY yoke upon you and learn of ME, and you will find rest for your souls”. (Matthew 11.28) I emphasize, this is about knowing HIM, trusting HIM, letting Christ dwell in your hearts.

What then is ‘joy’.  Happiness happens if all is going well or we can ignore the negatives.  Joy is the inner delight in God that is not controlled by outward circumstances. The Lord Jesus was criticized, maligned, and finally killed, but in it all His delight was to do the will of God. Many times we read of Him spending time alone in prayer with God His Father. This delight in knowing and communing with His Father was the source of His inner joy. Above this we read of a special joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12) – the joy that He would share the future of heaven with those for whom he died. This is the ‘joy of the master’ we began with.  For the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, the prospect in the next life of sharing heaven with The Lord of Glory, gives real abiding joy.

Let us then trust HIM, and let us wait for HIM to return from heaven, overcoming in the difficulties of life by the joy of His  presence now and and to with Him forever.

  “ Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!”    Philippians 4.4

John McKee

Monday, January 13, 2014

Enjoy your Bible

‘Enjoy your Bible’ has been my motto for various Bible studies over the years. This is a problem for any who have not believed God, or have not yet received Jesus Christ as  Lord and Saviour. For those who sincerely believe, the Bible is God’s communication for instruction and ‘enjoyment’.  One apostle wrote “these things I write unto you that your joy may be full!”

             Fortunately we have the Bible in a language we can understand. The history recorded in the Bible is interesting, but much more interesting when we observe God at work – at work in creation, involved in people’s lives, communicating laws and social order so old yet so up to date, unveiling His character of holiness and grace etc etc.  Our lives can be distinctly blessed as we watch how others acted, reacted and worshiped in life.             The song book of the Bible (Psalms) is full of real life emotions and spiritual aspirations. Threaded through all these Old Testament writings are the repeated promises of the coming Messiah.  One prophet actually predicted the town where Jesus the Messiah was to be born!  For us surveying history from our vantage point, it is quite thrilling to see Old Testament predictions happening just as foretold.

        So when we read through to the New Testament we can enthusiastically watch the story of Jesus fulfilling these prophecies as well as see Him as the new lawgiver giving new standards, new challenges, new mission, new hope etc.
       The record of Jesus’s death puzzles many people. When we again see it as God being at work  (Acts 2), then our souls rejoice that God has done so much for us, so much that we could never achieve in our own wisdom or strength.
       There is the challenge of living a new kind of life by the Holy Spirit. This is to be a life of victory ( not easy, but possible ) In these scriptures we can listen to the Lord Jesus present His many promises, His many prophecies etc. Not only does this bring purpose for living, but also hope for the future.

        Some people read the Bible with a critical mind, or doubting mind or expecting to understand everything. Well if you can explain all of science on the first year of your university course, you may well expect to understand all the Bible too. No, it is a book from an infinite God who has chosen to reveal Himself in varying ways and times. Let us take the humble place of learners in the school of God. He is well able to teach us to ‘enjoy’ His word if we let Him.

 Some hints to reading the Bible:
Parts you don’t understand, pencil in a question mark and go on.
Sections that seem extreme or unfair, wait for the sections of the Bible that explain the detail.
Remember God is God, and we are learning children.
Puzzling commandments or expectations – is it addressed to me , or does it belong to a particular time and place and people?
Promises – considering the context, these are intended to increase our faith in God.
Prophecies – many have already been fulfilled, but others are yet to be fulfilled and these give us hope for the future.

Above all else, be watchful all the way through, for direct or indirect references to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Bibe’s supreme theme and as He becomes clearer in our understanding, we will quietly worship ( or maybe burst into praise.). When you find yourself reading for the joy of finding  Christ in the Bible, you enjoy true communion with God!  He said “This is my beloved Son, hear Him!”

Enjoy your Bible!

J. McKee  Comments welcome

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The withered tree

The withered fig tree.

        The incident of the withered fig tree ( Matthew 21.18 ) has two lessons. The first lesson which the Lord applied to the experience of the disciples – the need for faith in prayer. Do we really attribute to God the ability and willingness to grant us our prayer? (verse 22).
        The second lesson, I take to heart as well. The fig tree failed to provide fruit for the  Master in His moment of hunger. Leaves make a good show, in particular fig leaves, but the Lord looked for fruit. So I ask myself – is my life outwardly of a Christian appearance but inwardly fruitless? I fear this is all too common!

Fruit that satisfies the Master is more than looking good, more than talking good, more than doing good. The fruit produced by the Holy Spirit is for God first then others.  God has loved us, and by the Holy Spirit wants us to love Him. Paul's prayer For the Ephesians was, that ‘Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith’  and so comprehend the uncomprendable love of God! (Ephesians 3). It takes time in secret with the Father, letting the Spirit instruct us and change us. (Matthew 5)   God is seeking the fruit of our communion with Him as children, so that we may go out to the world in the character  of sons of God. Then others may know who we are by the fruit of the Spirit in action (Galatians 5).

An Australian illustration of this is seen in some gum trees where I live. They may be 20 metres tall but sometimes they are quite dead inside. The sap in the outer bark keeps them alive, but inside is rigid, dead wood. These  ones do not survive the bushfires!

        May God deliver us from a superficial, fruitless life. Open the door of your mind and heart,  and let the Lord of glory come in today. He can cleanse your heart, and give the sweetness of spiritual communion which is more precious than anything on earth.

            “The Father seeks such to worship Him” (John 4 )


Saturday, January 4, 2014

'Jesus is coming again'

Words  -  empty words ?      promises  - hot air ?
         2000 years seems a long time, by human calculation, since the promise was made that the Lord Jesus would return. Some will say ‘where is the promise of His coming?’ 
  The teachings and promises of the Lord Jesus were very clear, that He would come again, and to faith that is enough. However for Peter, the promise of the coming Kingdom was something he had actually seen.  On the high mountain of transfiguration, he with others had actually witnessed the character of the coming Kingdom. It was the face of Jesus shining like the sun, His clothing glistening white like the light, the interactive presence of Moses and Elijah. Above all this was the voice from heaven which singled out the distinctive glory of Jesus as the SON of God, in whom the Father was well pleased.  (2Peter 1) The voice from heaven said, “hear Him”! Peter was convinced and he was willing to die for the belief in this blessed hope, and he did.

                 Others were privileged to watch The Lord ascend from Mount Olivet, and then hear the angels affirm ‘He who has gone into heaven will so come from heaven’ (Acts 2) One could go on to speak of Paul’s revelations by the Holy Spirit of the coming of the Lord. John was content to suffer for HIS name in the hope of the vision of the returning King.

                Some are focused on the fulfilment of signs that indicate the assurance of the promises. Signs there are, but I suggest one of the clearest signs is what Peter said  -   they shall say ‘where is the promise of His coming’  i.e. the present apathy of the general populace toward Christ and His coming sets the stage for Him to come “as a thief in the night”.

           My purpose in this message is to reassure faith, which leads to hope  “Our Lord will come”
He Himself challenges us to be ready!    ‘Will He find faith in the earth’ – in you and me?     Will He know us ( as one of His sheep) when He returns?  Are we busy in His service, or distracted by criticizing others?

“We are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world where everyone is right with God” 2 Peter 3.13NLT

2014 --  may this be the year  -  “even so come Lord Jesus”

J. McKee