Day 40: 1&2 Peter, 1,2&3 John, Jude, Revelation

A glitch in transmission means that you’ve got me again today, ending where we began, rather than + Stephem. But that gives me the opportunity, writing on Easter morning, to reflect on the wonderful finale we had in the Lady Chapel. Everything went according to plan, except that I hadn’t expected to fill up with tears and a choking throat as we read the very final Amen at the end of Revelation.

The earlier chapters revisit in  a way some of the smiting of the Old Testament and raise again the issues of Rob Bell’s recent bestseller Love Wins. In the end he concludes, if I read him right, that God’s will and hope is that everyone will be saved; but his love and justice also mean that (1) he gives us free will; and that (2) if we really do choose not-God (evil, injustice, hate, harm, violence) then that will be our inheritance. Our choice. So in a way the fiery lake does need to be there, with our fervent prayer that no-one would be daft enough to choose that as their heaven.

So on Easter morning I am praying that more and more people – all people – will hear the good news of God’s love in Christ and choose that love and that life, whether they do that in a way I can recognise, or a way that only God can see and know (because he is the judge and the only one who sees all our hearts).

 Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and for evermore! Amen.
Amen! Come Lord Jesus!
Amen!

+ David

Read the Bible on line at Bible Study Tools. Today’s passage (NRSV) is here: http://www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/1-peter/1.html

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Day 39: 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James

The last of these epistles (James) is generally regarded as the earliest book in the New Testament. It was probably written by James, Jesus’ half brother, in about AD 46 – less than 20 years after the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ.

From our 21st century standpoint, the remarkable thing about these letters (and most especially that of James) is that they are written BY witnesses (or not more than 2nd or 3rd hand witnesses) of Christ’s ministry and sacrifice TO witnesses (or 2nd or 3rd hand witnesses) – to a very early Church, but already large enough to have organisational and theological problems.

The three synoptic Gospels were written in the 50s and 60s and we cannot say how widely and fully they were distributed in the early Church. What Paul and Barnabas (probably the author of the letter to the Hebrews) and James were trying to do was to provide a firm basis for the embryonic Churches of the third quarter of the century to build on. We should understand this as we read them.

In these letters, Paul tells Timothy that God exhorts him and rewards his servants; Titus that God commends sound teaching; Philemon that God values human dignity. Barnabas tells his audience of the supremacy of Christ – certified by God. James extols faith that works.

Often shallowly considered as contradicting Paul’s teaching that faith is all, James is, in fact, extrapolating from the identical belief. Paul says that works without faith is not enough. Faith alone is absolutely necessary to salvation. James says that faith without works is not faith at all! Perhaps St Francis finds the formula for us all with his invitation to his disciples to ‘Go out and preach the Gospel – and, if necessary use words’.

Keith Macleod

Read the Bible on line at Bible Study Tools. Today’s passage (NRSV) is here: http://www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/1-timothy/1.html

Day 38: 2 Cor., Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Thess.

Forgiven and changed, forgiven and changed, given gifts by the Spirit of wisdom and communication, no computers or fast deliveries, yet Paul converts, encourages and loves gentiles for Jesus Christ.  Paul knows how to live by faith, not by sight.  He tries even with restrictions to be perfect in Christ to listen, and be of one mind, to live in peace.  Paul spent fifteen days in the company of Peter he saw no other apostles except Jesus’ brother James in Jerusalem.  After staying in Jerusalem he goes to Syria and Cilicia, while there he was accepted even though his reputation as a persecutor of Jesus and his followers, they  praised God for him.  Fourteen years later Paul goes back to Jerusalem taking along Barnabas and Titus, this time James, Peter and John reputed pillars of Christ’s teachings to the Jews gave their blessings on Paul’s mission to preach Jesus  Christ to the gentiles, always though to remember the poor, that  Paul was also eager to do.  However, there occurs a disagreement with Peter later on, the subject of faith or Jewish law.  Peter has a backward step it seems, and is listening to the Jews about observing the law, established after Moses received the commandments from God; the laws as set out by Jewish men in response to them many observations were established.  Peter who knew that the Spirit had been given to many after Christ’s crucifixion, he witnessed this.  Freedom, faith expressing itself through love, the fruits of the Spirit knowing that is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Even the head of Christ’s church having doubts!!  This letter to Galatians’ of Paul’s has so many serious noting’s i.e. “A man reaps what he sows”.  Standing up for your faith, living in this present time, we definitely need the Bibles scripture to hold onto.

Spiritual blessings Paul is writing again to the saints in Ephesus, great words to honor the Spirit of God.  He is reflective on his conversion to Jesus and this humbled him, it drove him to think his work for Jesus was to preach the good news the Gentiles and all messianic Jews who now follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Paul prays for the Ephesians to be established in love, speaking the truth in love, living a life in love, shining for Jesus Christ.  He prays for himself asking that whenever he opens his mouth, wherever he might be that he Paul will fearlessly declare the gospel and be able to help people come to know Jesus without mystery, but with understanding.  Paul again is passionate for Christ and leaves the Ephesians with Tychicus who is another convert and servant for the Lord who will be their encourager in the faith.  Those who are passionate often get noticed and Paul has found himself incarcerated and in chains when he writes letters to the Philippians and Colossians.  In chains he is still proclaiming the greatness of Jesus, and gains new followers for Jesus, even in Caesar’s household, both men and women, new workers for the glory of Christ to spread and show the power of Jesus.  Paul’s thorn in his side troubles him, but he continues in the strength of Christ his Lord to proclaim the glorious riches in Jesus Christ.  He has the means to write letters of Salvation by Jesus Christ, so encouragement and thankfulness abound in his letters with the wisdom of Jesus.  He uses faithful people who trust and are devoted to the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ to carryout the letter reading.  Here in this letter to the faithful brothers and workers at close, Paul vouches for Luke the doctor as a dear friend in Christ.

Paul attributes all hindrance of the spreading of the teachings of Jesus to Satan, how often in our busy world is the devil overlooked and even God himself is given the blame fore bad happenings and event?  People are and feel the need to resort to apportion blame, it could never be them.  The two letters written to the church of the Thessalonians are relevant pointers as much to the church today as when it was written.  How wonderful when there is growth in love and more people come to worship in our congregations, the Spirit is moving and miracles happen?  But and it’s a big but, its then often that Satan arrives, and are we watchful, are we steeped in standing firm holding to the Cross of Christ Jesus?  May we always abound in the peace and grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Lesley Pearce

 

Read the Bible on line at Bible Study Tools. Today’s passage (NRSV) is here: http://www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/2-corinthians/1.html

Day 37: Romans, 1 Corinthians

Romans

A letter written by Paul as he comes to the end of his life.

It can be divided into five sections

1) Our need- Romans 1v18-3:20

2) Gods answer- Jesus. How we are put right with God by and through Jesus. 3v21-4v25

3) New Life- What it means to be a follower of Jesus. Romans 5-8

4) What this means for Jewish people Romans 9-11

5) Practical Christian living Romans 12v1-15v13

Health warning- This letter can seriously change your life.

Martin Luther 1515 “I felt myself to have been reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of scripture took on a new meaning”.

1 Corinthians

If you think the early church was wonderful- think again. The church in Corinth was being torn apart by vicious argument, immorality and quarrelling groups.

Back to the beginning… Acts 18v1-17 Paul visited and stayed in the city for 18 months. Like London today Corinth was international city at the centre of some very important trade routes.

So many people coming and going meant that the fledgling church was susceptible to different teaching.

There are two earlier missing letters- one from Paul and one from the church. Paul refers to his first letter in I Cor7v1.

The letter from the church asks Paul how they should act as Christians.

Chapters 1-6 Paul points out the danger they are in.

Chapters7-16 Paul answers the questions they have put to him.

Hugh McCurdy

Read the Bible on line at Bible Study Tools. Today’s passage (NRSV) is here: http://www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/romans/1.html

Day 36: Acts

Luke wrote this, his second book, to record ‘what happened next’ after the gospel stories. Jesus gave His friends the mission to tell people the good news of His life, death and resurrection. Acts reports how the news spread from Jerusalem, into Africa and Syria, into the area which is now Turkey, then into eastern Europe and finally to Rome.

Most of the book is taken up with the eventful journeys undertaken by Paul after his conversion, when he changed from being a persecutor to a follower of Jesus. Luke describes the energetic spread of the good news as a work of God. The Spirit of God fills the friends of Jesus “like the rush of a violent wind”. They were not the instigators of it; they were witnesses and participators in it.

Though the good news of Jesus was being carried mainly by Jews and Paul calls Jesus “the hope of Israel’, the new converts soon found themselves opposed by people who saw them as a threat to the traditional ways. The reason that Paul is so prominent in Acts is that he saw himself as an apostle to all people and that the newly forming church was to be an international movement in which all races would be involved.

The book of Acts is about travelling and about how the Spirit of God moved people on. Luke was clearly an eyewitness of some of the events he reports. He often speaks about “we” in chapters 16 onwards. Perhaps the most exciting story is the one of the shipwreak at the end of the book when they were on the way to Rome. But frequently Luke returns to his main theme: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily”.

Andrew Watts

Read the Bible on line at Bible Study Tools. Today’s passage (NRSV) is here: http://www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/acts/1.html

Day 35: John

JESUS SAYS, "I AM……..", SO WHAT?

We know that John’s Gospel is different from the other gospels included in

the Bible. Written some 20-30 years later, there are far fewer miracles and

instead of parables, John presents Jesus’ teaching in "discourses". The

style is more intimate and as a whole, the Gospel is said to be more

"spiritual". But, why is it different, and what does that mean for us

reading it today?

It has some very distinctive features. The prologue presents Jesus as "The

Word" that is God, existing throughout eternity, emphasised further when

Jesus says "Before Abraham was, I am!" and there is, what has been said to

be, the one verse that sums up the whole Bible (3:16).

In the seven "I am" statements, John has Jesus using powerful metaphors

relating to basic sustenance, light and life to explain what He is about.

It has been said that through his use of these statements, John is wrestling

with his own understanding in response to many of the confused arguments of

the early church (Stephen Dawes in "The Reader" Vol 106:1 p5).

So while we might think of the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke providing a

more narrative account, the "What?" if you like, perhaps John challenges us

to consider the "So what?". "God so loved the world….", so what? Jesus

is "the bread of life", so what? Jesus is "the light of the world", so

what? Jesus is "The Word" existing throughout eternity, so what?

So what for a Christian struggling with life under the rule of Rome in the

late 1st Century, so what for each of us struggling with life in the 21st

Century.

Roger Hetherington

Read the Bible on line at Bible Study Tools. Today’s passage (NRSV) is here: http://www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/john/1.html

Day 34: Luke

Looking down the invitation-list of people who are at the party which is Luke’s gospel, we can see a host of colourful, even controversial, characters we might meet. There’s Luke himself, the physician and painter, companion of Paul and chronicler of the early Church, who sets out the testimony of many eyewitnesses to the great events he records. This host par excellence will introduce us to Elizabeth and Zechariah, Simeon and Anna, angels and shepherds, the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, the Pharisee and the Publican, Zaccheaus and the thief on the cross, Herod and Pilate … and many of them only appear at this party, in this gospel.

Now Luke wants us to meet all these people; but, more than this, he wants us to meet someone else – the person who speaks about or to each of them, and speaks through this gospel to us, too. Of course, he wants us to meet Jesus, not just as one more character in the story, but as the person who makes sense of the story itself. Right at the end of the gospel, it’s Jesus we meet – with the two disciples – on the road to Emmaus and at supper in the inn. He unfolds the meaning of the scriptures and of the story of his own life and death and resurrection. Jesus restores their hope and faith, fills them with fresh meaning and purpose. And Luke wants us to meet this Emmaus Jesus, too, so that we might experience the understanding and meaning only he can offer. May we encounter the Jesus of this great gospel as he unfolds the scriptures to us and meets us in the breaking of bread.

Philip Hobday

Read the Bible on line at Bible Study Tools. Today’s passage (NRSV) is here: http://www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/luke/1.html