The extra mile

Morning 

Matthew Chapter 5 verse 41 says this “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.”

In this passage, Christ addresses the Roman practice of commandeering civilians or their property (mules, horses, oxen, camels, carts, wagons, etc.) to carry the luggage or other burden of military personnel for, in this case, one mile.

Evidently, the practice did not originate with the Romans but with the Persians. As there were no post offices at the time, and in order that royal orders might reach their destination quickly, Cyrus set up a system not unlike the old Pony Express. A rider in this service was empowered to take a civilian’s horse (usually his best or only horse), if his was worn out or lame. In addition, he could press a boat, cart, or any other vehicle into the king’s service.

In recent centuries, this practice, often used to force seamen into the service of another nation’s ships, has been called impressment. In America’s Revolutionary War period, British ships would often intercept other nations’ ships and force any American sailors found on them to work for the Royal Navy. In Roman times, a man could have worked all day, his family waiting for him to come in from his fields, and suddenly, a Roman soldier could order him to carry a heavy load for a mile.

No one likes to be made to do someone else’s work. At the very least, we are apt to complain, argue, or simply refuse to be so used. Being compelled to engage in “community service” by law or by might is demeaning and perhaps unjust. But Jesus tells us to take the sting out of the situation by being willing to carry such a burden an extra mile in a cheerful attitude.

In a similar vein, Solomon advises, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you”. Jesus says something very similar in His subsequent teaching. Being struck, sued, or forced to carry a heavy load can bring out the worst in human nature: anger, resentment, outrage, and even violence. But when those who have been called find themselves in difficult and trying circumstances, their attitude must not be belligerent, spiteful, or vengeful, but helpful, willing, and good-natured. “Above and beyond” must be their motto.

Have a lovely weekend

Mark

A Good Read

Hi Folks

Romans chapter 10 verse 17 says this “ So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Earlier, in chapter 1 Paul says this “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” 

In the spiritual sense, “eating” occurs primarily when one hears and reads. A person ingests messages and concepts into the mind through words, which establish and nourish his pattern of life. Those words, if a person allows it, create a faith upon which one bases the way he or she lives. This faith is almost entirely dependent upon the quality of what is heard/read and whether a person believes it enough to follow it. These verses reveal that only the words of God or Christ, His gospel, His truths, will form the faith that leads to salvation because they will form the correct beliefs and thus the correct way of life. This is the faith of Christ; the person who has it believes what Christ believes. This is a simple, understandable, true formula.

As I speak in different churches the message I am bringing repeatedly is one I am learning myself again and again and that is to ask myself the question “ What am I reading and listening to”? Am I seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” or am I seeking things, people, inputs etc that may satisfy me now according to my own flesh but which are actually taking me away from Gods Kingdom rule, away from his righteousness?

I encourage you to examine yourself as I am. It might hurt but its eternally worth it!

Have a great week.

Mark

How to react

Morning

Luke chapter 15 verses 29:32 is towards the end of the story of the prodigal son and reads “So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.  It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.'” 

What can we learn from the father in this story? After all, if anyone was wronged in this parable, it was the two young men’s loving father. Instead of reacting with the bitter hatred, envy, and self-centeredness of his elder son, he handled the situation with love, Longsuffering, Kindness, Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. His wise words to his elder son in verses 31-32 help to put everything in its proper perspective.

In essence, the father tells his offended son, “Don’t be so short-sighted, lest you become as greedy and foolish as your little brother. All that we have here is yours, so keep your eyes on the bigger picture and the greater reward.”

We all long to feel appreciated—to receive our “fatted calf”—particularly if we strive to sacrifice and work hard in service to others. But we should never lose sight of the fact that the purpose of our faithful service is not for a pat on the back or the approval of others. Otherwise, we are no different from the Pharisees who did their works before men and thus, as Christ declared, “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6).

No, our aim in all we do is to seek first the Kingdom of God. So at work, my primary aim if I can remember is to be seeking first Gods Kingdom. For this I need Gods help!!

While both sons’ sinful attitudes and actions brought dishonour upon the father, his willingness to forgive them both provided hope for all, just as our merciful Father in heaven provides for each of us. While the narrative ends without revealing what happened to the two brothers, I like to imagine that they reconciled—that they healed their relationship and restored honour to the family name. This would mean there is always hope for reconciliation.

Have a great week

Mark

What do folk see?

Morning

Proverbs 22 verse 1 says this “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
Loving favour rather than silver and gold.” 

This verse says that a person’s good reputation, their name, is his most valuable asset. This is because of the integrity it took to produce it and the benefits it provides for one after he has it.

The Bible shows that God jealously guards His name and acts to ensure that it remains untarnished. His name represents what He is, and so it is with us as well. When we hear a name, images of what that person is immediately come to mind. In our mind’s eye, we might recall a person as tall or short, angry or passive, beautiful or plain, vocal or quiet, honest or lying, responsible or irresponsible. Many character traits may flash through our minds in a moment or two.

The same happens to others as they think of us. 

What we project to others has everything to do with what we believe and practice. What kind of witness are we giving? Is what we believe and practice as true as God’s Word?

Thus, if we want to have a good name in the eyes of God and man, we have to recognize truth, understand it and make it a part of us by submitting to it. This is where truth in a person’s witness begins. If truth does not form the foundation of a person’s life, the witness will reflect it.

Conduct is the “stuff” of which reputations are formed. Good conduct has truth at its foundation and integrity as its constant companion. From these two, a witness is produced. God wants our reputation before men to be built on His truth. Are we honestly doing this?

I will leave this with you to reflect on as I am.

Have a good week

Mark

When bad things happen

An old book in the Old testament called Ecclesiastes & chapter 7 verses 13 &14 says this : “ Consider the work of God;For who can make straight what He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, so that man can find out nothing that will come after him”

These verses build on the preceding ones on wisdom being a defence. Yet as good a shelter as God’s wisdom is, it cannot shield us from every possible event we might consider a calamity. Everybody faces such situations. Wisdom will aid us to resign ourselves to the circumstances of those times. “Resignation” is too often understood to have the sense of throwing up our hands and giving up, thus quitting under fire. It indeed can have that connotation, but not always, and such is not the implication here. The wisdom in this case is that we are to submit to the fact that there are times that nothing can be done to avoid certain situations.

This verse marks the third time such counsel is dealt with, and this is just the seventh chapter. It is important because we are dealing with the Sovereign of this entire creation. There are things He is doing that He absolutely will not change for us. Similar instruction appears in chapter 3.

Therefore, we have to discern those times, resign ourselves to them, and gracefully and humbly accept them, allowing Him to work out His purpose without constant complaining from us. The book of Job makes this point clearly:

“With Him are wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding. If He breaks a thing down, it cannot be rebuilt; if He imprisons a man, there can be no release. If He withholds the waters, they dry up; if He sends them out, they overwhelm the earth. With Him are strength and prudence. The deceived and the deceiver are His.”

If one tries to fight God, there is no possibility of winning. To do so is foolish beyond the bounds of reason, but mankind constantly attempts it. Hard words as life can throw us real horrible situations. This concerns us on a daily basis because we live in this world too. What is going on in the world is not pleasant to experience or even to contemplate, so our becoming angry, depressed, and weary with the entire matter is a likely possibility. Nevertheless, the situation will not go away because God has willed it for the present. We wont know why and we feel like crying “WHY GOD?” in loud voices. But the situation wont change even for the loudest voice unless God wants to intervene.

Wisdom, in this case, is to be put to it. We must think this reality through and accept what is impossible for us to change.

All too often, though, we allow it to depress us and dominate our lives to such an extent that we do virtually nothing positive about the things wecan change. That is when Satan wins because, having put ourselves into a weakened attitude, we more readily cave to his devices.

Verse 14 contains further wisdom to defend against those difficult times when it seems that nothing can be changed. Solomon essentially counsels us to learn to “roll with the punches.” We must make careful efforts to make the best of the situation, understanding that God has seemingly withdrawn Himself for our good. God is love; He is neither forgetful nor a harsh taskmaster. We have a hard time seeing that the level of difficulty we are experiencing is good for our growth. He is not doing it to smother us but to benefit us in the end.

The last phrase of verse 14 tells us that God, from His sovereign height, has determined to keep man somewhat off-balance for His purposes. God has commanded that we must live by faith. So trying to figure out the precise reasons for a situation is not only often impossible, but also a huge waste of time and energy. This counsel may not satisfy some people because of its simplicity, but it is right: Trust Him He Loves you.

Mark

Habits are hard to change

Hi

Matthew chapter 15 verses 18-20 says this:“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.  These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

Habits are hard to break or change particularly at work when so much else is pounding the heart and mind.

The heart symbolizes our innermost being, the source of our words and actions. Today we call it the mind. When God awakens us to some of His great truths, when we at last begin to realize the vital importance of righteousness, there is a blush of first love, and we begin to hunger to apply them in our lives. But what is already in the heart fights almost desperately not to be displaced by the new nature in hope of wearing down our enthusiasm for the truth. Paul illustrates this resistance in Galatians 5 v 17:

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Why do we not do the things we wish? The answer lies in the extraordinary power of ingrained habits. They are most difficult to break because they have had free sway for so long one unconsciously does what they dictate. Paul speaks of this using a different metaphor in Romans 7v 23 “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

The almost constant persistence of these habits can be depressing. If we seem to be making no progress, life can become downright discouraging. But we must not give in to discouragement. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose except that which is of no value for the Kingdom of God anyway. Discouragement that feeds frustration only makes Satan’s work that much easier for him.

There are things we can do to enhance the initial hunger God gives to us. If we were physically hungry or thirsty, we would give every last ounce of strength we had to find food and water or die in the effort. We must be willing to do whatever it takes to make progress in our quest for God’s righteousness.

As adolescents, we were unaware that growth was taking place until someone who had not seen us for a while brought it to our attention. Even though we were not aware we were growing, we still made efforts to grow by eating and drinking the things that promote growth. In the same way, spiritual growth may also seem so slow that we think it is not happening. But we should not let that stop us! We must keep on making the spiritual efforts even as we did the physical, and growth will occur.

Keep on praying for others, thanking God for His goodness and mercy, asking for wisdom, love, and faith . Keep studying God’s Word, filling the mind with……

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Have a good week. 

Mark

Against you is against Him

Hi

Luke chapter 10 and v 16 says this.” He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”

It is good to remember that we have an advocate who is Jesus as we witness at work.

This verse shows that one way to slam the door shut on Christ is to look at the people giving the messages rather than the God who is behind them: “My followers, whoever listens to you is listening to me. Anyone who says ‘No’ to you is saying ‘No’ to me. And anyone who says ‘No’ to me is really saying ‘No’ to the one who sent me” is another way of delivering our verse.

If we believe in how minutely God is involved in our lives, then it follows that what is preached on Sunday services and what we say and do to witness our faith at work has a purpose and is allowed by the Sovereign God. Therefore, a complaint that we have about a speaker or the message or the witness is a complaint against God. Rejecting or laughing at the spiritual food God has prepared is dangerous ground to tread for anyone.

This does not mean the speaker on a Sunday or we as we witness are infallible, by any means, but the wrong attitude effectively diminishes what we can glean from the message. For us as Christians as we listen to teaching and preaching, a safer approach would be to offer a prayer for help to understand and see how the food ( God’s word) is for our good ( Psalm 84 v 11) and for those who we witness to, to at least listen to our views, rather than us or our work colleagues to slam the door on the message or the messenger. Either we, as we listen to Bible teaching trust and have faith in God’s sovereignty and His love for us, or we do not. There is no safe middle ground ( Deuteronomy chapter 30 v 19).

For those rejecting our efforts to show them Christ, “how shall they escape…” .

So, let’s have confidence in “being Christians” as we go about our daily lives and let’s take on board what we are taught as we prayerfully receive Bible teaching.

Have a good week

Mark

Following the crowd

Morning

My title is given for this blog as all too easily I forget when at work who I am in Christ and what the end goal is as a Christian.

In the book to the Hebrews which has that same name we read “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.

Notice that the “promise remains” of entering His rest. This is the subject under discussion. At the time of the writing of Hebrews, the rest had not been attained. Nor has it been attained since. The rest is still in the future. It remains even for Christians today. Paul warns, “lest any of you seem to have come short of it,” indicating that though one has received forgiveness, God’s Spirit, and gifts of the Spirit, there is still a possibility of falling away. The chance may not be great, but nonetheless, some may fall short of it and in fact as we read about the times near Christsreturn, there is talk of a great falling away.

“For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (verse 2 of our verses in chapter 4). During the time of the Exodus, the people of Israel heard a message of good news from Moses. It consisted of redemption from slavery, the Passover, baptism in the Red Sea, and a journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. The good news, then, included the occurrences of and the knowledge about all the steps along the way, all of the benchmarks. The purpose for which all those events occurred was the most important part. What good was it to have the death angel pass over their house, for them to receive redemption from slavery, if they never made it to the Promised Land? That is the warning here. The steps, though vital in themselves, are not as important as the goal.

This warning applies especially to us today. What Jesus Christ did in His life, in His death, and in His resurrection, is awesome, a wonderful and great gift. It is good news that these things have occurred, but they are not the good news. The good news is the goal, and that has not yet occurred. What Jesus Christ did is exceedingly important to the fulfilment of God’s purpose, but it is still possible for us to reject the Son of God even after we have accepted His blood for the forgiveness of our sins, as Hebrews 6, 10, and 12 also show very clearly. So in this analogy, life in, possession of and governance of the Promised Land was the culmination, the good news, the fulfilment—at least physically—of the promises to Abraham

The message that Jesus Christ brought, the gospel, is about the Kingdom of God ,the culmination, the goal, the fulfilment. Certainly it includes the knowledge of and information about those benchmarks along the way, but the Kingdom of God is the goal toward which every Christian is aiming. Let’s not forget!

Have a great week

Mark

Reverting to type

Its easy to revert to type at work.

This phrase is talking about behaving as I used to before I became a Christian and with Gods help had the beautiful life guidance from Scripture within me and doing so in order to fit in with those around me so as not to stand out and be open to ridicule or challenge.

The Bible says this in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 .. “Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell;  nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents;  nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. “

Israel’s experience in Egypt and in the wilderness is an object lesson that God desires us to reflect on frequently. These lessons are most forcefully brought to the fore during the spring as even today the Jewish nation begin rehearsing God’s plan of salvation in their annual holy days.

Once freed from their slavery to Egypt, it took the Israelites just seven days to cross the Red Sea, breaking completely clear of Egyptian control. In dramatic contrast, it took them forty years to walk the remaining few hundred miles! During this trek, every man of war numbered in the first census after leaving Egypt—with the exception of Joshua and Caleb—died without reaching the Promised Land. 

Will we allow ourselves to match this miserable record by failing to maintain our liberty?

What a costly expedition! The New Testament section of the Bible in the book of Hebrews clarifies the cause of their failure more specifically:

For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

Clearly, they did not make the right efforts to defend their God-given liberties. Instead, they exacerbated their circumstances by failing to discipline themselves to submit to God’s rule over their lives, even though He freely rescued them from their slavery. They were unwilling to pay the costs of directing their lives as He commanded, despite knowing, through the many manifestations of His power, that He acted exactly as Moses had said He would.They reverted to type. 

Let’s therefore learn from this and while at work make sure we show Christ to others and not our old rotten self!

Have a great day

Mark

Living in site

Hi

As we witness, re witness, continue to witness to our work colleagues and others 2 Corinthians chapter 13 and verses 1-2 came to mind. It reads as follows:

This will be the third time I am coming to you. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.” I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time, and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare

One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.

So reads the law regarding witnesses, as recorded in the old testament.

In 2 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul puts an intriguing twist on this law. Here, two or three witnesses are not different people, but different trips. The “two or three witnesses” are successive trips he made to Corinth. Each separate trip—or more correctly, his teaching during each separate trip—stands as a witness against those who fail to receive correction. Paul’s various visits to Corinth provide several witnesses against those who continue to sin.

Notice these verses from the Berkeley Version:

This is my third visit to you. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses every statement shall be confirmed.” I said, while previously there on my second visit, and I say it before my arrival while still absent, to those who kept on in their old sins and to all the rest, that when I come once more I shall not spare.

The message is the witness. Paul understood that, over time, one person can provide a number of witnesses. One person, several witnesses! This understanding has an important application for those of us who witness in the twilight of “this present evil age” as noted in Galatians. In part, that application is this: The Messiah is to preach the Good News—the gospel—of His Father’s Kingdom in two visits; His message will take the form of two separate witnessesWe commonly call them His two ministries or His first and second comings.

His first visit—or witness—took place nearly 2,000 years ago. Christ introduced it one Sabbath day by reading Isaiah 61 verses 1 and 2 in Nazareth’s synagogue. His Galilean audience were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. 

History repeats itself. When Christ soon stands to read Isaiah, many, unable to recognize Him as their Messiah, will respond as did the Galileans. At Christ’s second “visit,” His second witness/coming, many will again be “filled with wrath” and seek to destroy Him as we see in Revelation.

They have had enough witnesses through Christ, and so take heart, our role is to witness and provide opportunity. Those we witness to have the responsibility of what they do with your witness.

Mark