Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Our help Comes from the Lord, a Devotional

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
   From where does my help come?
 My help comes from the LORD,
   who made heaven and earth.
[Psalm 121:1-2]

the second verse of Psalm 121 has been a favourite of mine  for a long time. there are a few reasons why I like it. it's short and to the point, it tells me something about god: that he made heaven and earth, and it tells me something about myself: my help comes from the Lord.

People look for help in all kinds of places. Maybe they think if they have enough money it will solve all their problems. Or, they might think if they work hard enough they can solve all their problems. They might depend on friends to fix things for them, which might work for a while but in time even the best of friends will let us down if we totally depend on them for all our help, because there is only so much anyone can do.  Some people have given up on solving their problems and gone to parties or the bottle or casual sex or even drugs for help to forget their problems, even temporarily. None of these things are much help and some are counter-productive.

But, there is one who can and will always help us in our time of need, if we ask him ... that is, God. The help he may give us isn't always what we expected, maybe not the help we wanted, but later on we will look back and see how God's help was most helpful after all.

The Psalm lists a few ways that god helps us and i will list them for you now.

-  "he will not let your foot be moved..."  [verse 3a]
   This promises that if we keep walking in God's ways then the Enemy will not be able to pull the rug out from under us. Once we are in God's hands he keeps us safe, if we will stay as close to him as possible.

--    he who keeps you will not slumber. [verse 3b]
   God doesn't have business hours. He's always available at any time. he doesn't sleep so even in the night if troubles come god is available, only ever a prayer away.

-- "The LORD is your keeper;" [v5a]
   he is the one who keeps us safe. he is our great shepherd and he always watches over us, his flock.

-- "   the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
   The sun shall not strike you by day,
   nor the moon by night."
The LORD will keep you from all evil; [V5b-7a]
   This speaks of protection. God protects us from the enemy's schemes, he even protects us from our own folly at times. We must stay close and obey him. we have to realise that he sees the bigger picture and we don't so we must do what he says is best for us.

This reminds me of the Lord's prayer where it says
And lead us not into temptation,
   but deliver us from evil.
[Matthew 6:13]
The enemy will trap us any way he can and our flesh is often a willing accomplice. we need God's help to avoid the pitfalls the enemy leaves for us. God is willing to help us but again we must obey him and keep close to him. With god's help the enemy will not be able to get a foothold in our lives.

-- "he will keep your life.
   The LORD will keep
   your going out and your coming in
   from this time forth and forevermore. [v7b-8] " 

God watches over our lives and helps us to live them in the best way we can. He will help us  make wise choices about our future. his word is full of principles that, if we follow them, will make our lives the best they can be, bringing glory to our god.

Of course, there are many other ways in which god helps us. The bible is full of stories about how  God helped different people as they faced a variety of situations. So, if you need help today, turn to the one who is most able and willing to help you, even if it's not in the way you wanted or expected. Turn to God  and humbly ask him for the help you need, then wait and see what he does.  In time you will be able to say:
 " My help comes from the LORD,
   who made heaven and earth." 

O god we thank you that you are willing to help us. You are so generous to us Lord. help us to remember, when things get crazy in our lives, that you are always there, reaching out your hand to help us if we will take it. May we glorify you in all that we do and may we choose to live in ways that are pleasing to you. In the name of your son, our Lord and saviour Jesus, the Messiah, the holy one, amen.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Reflections

I've been reflecting on the events of this week which is known as Holy week. One thing that really stands out to me is that so many things that happened were fulfillment's of prophecies written hundreds of years earlier. The Jewish leaders of the time who rightly prided themselves on knowing god's law should have realised what was going on, but they didn't because they chose to ignore some of the prophecies and think about Messiah as the conquering hero who would save Israel from the romans. Jesus will return as conquering king and deal with evil once and for all but the first time he came he came as a humble servant who would give his life as a sacrifice for sin.

let's look at a few of the prophecies and see how Jesus fulfilled them.

1.  Zechariah predicted that Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Here's how Jesus fulfilled this

 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village
in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you
shall say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will send them at once." This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
 5 "Say to the daughter of Zion,'Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
   and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'"

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of
the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and
that followed him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" And when he
entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, "Who is this?" And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee."
[Matt 21:1-11]

Zechariah prophesied that the one who betrayed the Messiah would be paid 30 pieces of silver.

"So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.
   And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’ -  
 that princely price they set on me."  
   (Zechariah 11:12-13) 

 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?" And
they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Isaiah prophesied
 that he would be despised and rejected:

 He was despised and rejected by men;
   a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
   he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
[Isaiah 53:3]

 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, "Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream." Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said, "Let him be crucified!" And he said, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified!"
[Matt 27:15-23]

Isaiah predicted that he would be so badly beaten and suffer so much that he wouldn't even look human anymore.

As many were astonished at you-
    his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
   and his form beyond that of the children of mankind-
[Isaiah 52:14]
 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped
him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before
him, they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked
him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
[Matthew 27:27-31]

Isaiah prophesied that the death of Jesus would be the sacrifice for our sins.
 "But He was wounded for our transgressions,
   He was bruised for our iniquities;
   The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, ...
   And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity [sin] of us all."
   (Isaiah 53:5-7) 

I don't have one specific scripture for this one, but if you read the crucifixion account in Matthew or any of the Gospels you will see how Jesus fulfilled it.
Isaiah prophesied that  Jesus' back would be whipped and that this would be the means for us to experience healing:
   And by His stripes [whip lashes] we are healed.
[Isaiah 53:5b]
So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
[Mark 15:15]
And Peter, writing of this later in his life, confirmed  the words of the prophet Isaiah:
 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
[1 Peter 2:24]

David, in Psalm 22, gives us insight into the thoughts of Jesus when he died on the cross. He also predicted that Jesus' clothes would be divided among the men who crucified him.
 "They divide my garments among them,    and for My garments they cast lots."   
(Psalm 22:18) 

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be laid in the grave of a rich man:

And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
[Isaiah 53:9]

 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body

of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb,
which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting
opposite the tomb.

Isaiah also prophesied that Jesus would give his life as a sacrifice for sin:
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
   he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
   he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;by his knowledge shall the righteous one,
my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.

The writer to the hebrews talks about this:

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent ( not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify
our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
[hebrews 9:11-14]

This is by no means a definitive list of prophecies that were fulfilled at Calvary. All through  his life and even to his last breath Jesus was focused on fulfilling the prophecies that had been made about him by god's prophets.

so why am I sharing all this with you? because there are a few things I want you to see.
1. It was god's plan from before the world was created that Jesus would die on the cross as a sacrifice for sin.
2. Jesus fulfilled every prophecy spoken about his first coming and he will fulfill the rest of the prophecies when the time is right.
3. If you ever doubted that god loves you, I hope that what I have done here will help you to see just how much he does love you. Look at the lengths Jesus went to so that he could save and redeem us!  noone could ever love us as much as God does.
Let us reflect on these things this Easter season. I wish you all a very happy Easter.