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Bible Verses

The greatest commandment

What is the most important commandment. Not a trivial question. At the time when Jesus was asked this, scholars had identified over 600 specific commandments that the Jews were expected to obey.

Jesus’ response in Matthew ch.22 v.37+ was simple and to the point. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength – and your neighbour as yourself.

By putting the Father first, having a wholehearted, sincere love for Him, eveything else fits into perspective. Without that genuine afection and desire to please, we not only rob ourselves of true pleasure, but also make obedience an empy, unsatisfying experience.

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Bible Verses

A new heart

Occasionally, I meet people who are a little bit confused by the purpose of the Old and New Testaments.

They tend to look puzzled when I agree with them and say that I find it difficult to reconcile the image of a God who calls people to reason together with Him to seek forgiveness and healing (Isaiah ch.1 v.18) with the one who sends religious people into eternal torment (Matthew ch.7 v.22). Perhaps it’s because they want to believe that quaint 19th Century notion that people’s religious ideas evolved from a faith in angry gods who needed to be appeased into a philosophy of a benevolent but transcendent deity who loves us all but won’t intervene. Sadly, for them, reality does not fit their convenient model.

Sometimes it is tempting to think that the entire Old Testament was rendered obsolete by the New. As if the Almighty decided to completely change his plans to suit the theology we think should be most fashionable.

While it is true that the Law’s purpose was served to bring us to Christ, helping us recognise our need of a Saviour, and to that extent it has now done its work; to think that God’s purpose and plans have radically altered from before creation is to have a shallow understanding of the text of the Old Testament.

Ezekiel ch.36 v.26 illustrates this well. It speaks of the heart transplant that comes from a living faith in the Messiah – something that the writers of the Old Testament texts looked longingly forwards to: a complete internal transformation of your attitudes and desires, made possible through a radical encounter with the Holy Spirit.

To have the eternal, all-powerful creator of the universe taking up residence in the deepest recesses of our being, guiding us to a life of purpose, fulfilment and power. This was no afterthought. To see whole communities across the globe reflecting the radiance of a life lived in harmony with the divine was not Plan B – this was the goal all along.

Go on a treasure hunt. Search the Bible for further evidence that this was the Good Lord’s original plan. I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

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Bible Verses

A Need to Study

Whether we like to admit it or not, we are stewards of everything we possess. Nothing belongs to us alone. Instead, we have been entrusted with a responsibility to invest our time and efforts in the growth of God’s Kingdom.

This includes our thought-life and the way we fulfil the potential of our minds. We have a sacred responsibility to be the best student that we can be (2 Timothy ch.2 v.15).

The responsibility does not end there however. We also are expected to apply the principles learned consistently in our own lives, and teach others to do the same.

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Bible Verses

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

For they shall see God.

Take a look at Matthew ch.5 to 7 – it’s been described as the Manifesto of the Kingdom of God, Jesus’ main teachings focussed into a single arrangement.

The Beatitudes at the start of the Sermon on the Mount turn the natural order of things upside-down. The meek inherit the earth – when the natural order in a dog-eat-dog world is that those who don’t thrust forwards and push themselves to the front of the line should get nothing – a true prisoner’s dilemma!

And again – the pure in heart see God? But, it was common knowledge that if you were to look on His face, you would die! After all – how can the finite comprehend the infinite and survive?

There’s the key! In order to be pure in heart, you must first die to your old life of self-centredness.

Then you will see the Almighty, recognise His hand on your life, see Him at work in others, experience his life-transforming power.

We cannot understand fully the magnitude of who He is, the experience overwhelms us – but we can appreciate the evidence of His work as we glimpse eternity for ourselves.

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Bible Verses

Exactly who can ascend the Hill of the Lord?

Psalm 24 v.3 asks a question: who can ascend the hill of the Lord? The answer is given in the following verse: he who has clean hands and a pure heart.

There is a false dichotomy in some people’s thinking that attempts to subdivide a life of faith into either the pursuit of personal piety or social justice – as if the two are mutually exclusive.

In reality, righteousness and justice don’t merely co-exist, they are both essential foundations for authentic spirituality to be lived out effectively in our lives. This is why Psalm 89 v.14 refer to them both as the foundations of His throne. Without one, the base for His authority would crumble – his throne would topple.

A lifestyle that stresses one at the expense of the other is doomed to wallow in legalistic hypocrisy or antinomian irrationality. However, by embracing both streams we can find a balanced way to live.

We have our hearts cleansed so that we may live with an inward attitude to do what is right. Not only for ourselves – but living to redeem our communities, to bring about positive change in the lives of those we touch.

D0ing this brings God’s rule and God’s presence into our surroundings. Once again clearly demonstrating the upside-down values we live by to subvert the world around us. Instead of us ascending a hill – separating ourselves from the rest of the world in order find God, we bring our world to Him in order to make it holy.

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Bible Verses

Lent Meditation (1)

Matthew ch.4 v.1 tells us that Jesus went into the wilderness. Why?

To be tempted – it seems strange. We pray, “lead us not into temptation” but Jesus knew that that his experience in the wilderness would result in a powerful encounter with the accuser. This is an important point that cannot be ignored.

We need to prepare to face and be victorious over whatever would beset us at the end of our own time in the wilderness. Our weapons should be the same as those of our Lord: the Word of God, handled correctly. Anything else will not work.

To meet with the Father – there were far fewer distractions in the wilderness. It may be worth thinking about this the next time you find yourself metaphorically in the wilerness, stripped of distracting opportunities to minister, you can focus on what really matters.

To prepare for power – without the first two, there would be no point to this final entry. It is after Jesus’ baptism and wilderness experience that we see Him exercising real power to turn the world around Him upside-down.

That same power is available to us – but it comes at a price. To follow Jesus’ example as a powerful man of God, it is necessary to follow His example of dependence on the Father and His Word in the wilderness.

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Bible Verses

Bible Verses to Build Faith (1)

Faith, we’re told in 1Peter ch.1 v.7, is of greater value than gold. That makes sense – to many, faith is a guarantee to material prosperity. In reality, is is much more than that, but also transcends our physical and material needs or desires.

As Jesus put it, even a tiny measure of faith can produce outstanding, unbelievable results – essentially because faith does not depend or rely on human effort, but on the One who inspired and empowers it to achieve His purpose.

So, how do we build faith? What is the secret to developing a faith that moves mountains?

In essence, it depends on developing an intimacy with God, knowing His will and understanding His purpose. Then you are able to see events from His perspective, become aware of His plan and pray intelligently. You will be able to speak clearly about His will – revealed to you – without fear of presumption. Instead of speaking empty words – without power or conviction – concerning what you would like God to do on your behalf to make your life more pleasant; you will be able to highlight God’s unfolding revelation of what He will accomplish through you.