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Posted By Nan

The Greatest Commandment
The Book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ final instructions to the Israelites before they enter Canaan. In 6:5 you will see the command to “Love the Lord you God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (NIV). In The Book of Matthew we read how Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was. His response is below:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NIV
This is the verse from Deuteronomy repeated with the addition of a second commandment to love your neighbour. He taught the people that the entire land and commandments were centred on these two commandments. Pretty simple and phenomenally hard. To love God with every ounce of your being. That is a hard one to do, but you can try. To love your neighbour as yourself? Sometimes you don’t like our neighbour very much, especially when they are a bully, or malicious, or just downright nasty. Sometimes you might not like yourself very much. So that one can get pretty hard too. God knows we cannot achieve perfection. That is why we have the Holy Spirit to assist us and that is why Jesus died on the cross to fill in the gaps left behind our genuine desire to serve God and the reality of what we can achieve.
God expects us to try, to desire to do what He asks. He looks for our willingness. So much of life is choice. We have a choice about how to react. Sometimes we can control our reaction and make the choice to behave in a Godly way. Other times we don’t control that reaction. Maybe we need to travel more along that narrow way before we can change our reaction and maybe we will never learn. Everything we do can be used by God, to grow us and to glorify God to those who need it. We often expect perfection, but God doesn’t. He knows we are not perfect. He delights at the desire of our hearts to serve Him and in the knowledge that Jesus has supplied the righteousness we lack.
For reading and reflecting on over the coming days:
Psalm 6
Matthew 25:31-46
 

 
Posted By Nan

The Good Shepherd
John 10:1: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” NIV
The sheep were also important animals in Jesus’ time because unblemished male lambs were used as sacrificial substitutes for the sins of the people. Isaiah 53:7 speaks of the promised Messiah, who was led like a lamb to be slaughtered, thus painting a picture of a Messiah who would be a substitute sacrificial lamb. So Jesus is our shepherd, who leads us and protects and lays down His life for us, and He is our Sacrificial Lamb. His laying down His life for us involved dying in our place to pay for our sins, once for all.
Why was it important for someone to pay for our sins? Because God is perfect and we must be to enter into His presence. Because He knows we cannot be perfect, He sent Jesus to cleanse us of our sins so we can enter His presence, if we choose, by accepting Jesus and his payment for our sin. If you read Isaiah 6:1-7 you can see another reason why we cannot enter God’s presence unless our sin is paid for. Being in the presence of God is so awe inspiring we cannot feel comfortable in His presence knowing we are not perfect. We will never feel comfortable in His presence unless we know our sin has been atoned for.
So our good shepherd has laid down His life for us. He has become a sheep to pay for our sin. We are now able to accept His gift and commence on our journey as one of his sheep. We can only do that by following Him. It is not easy to follow Him and involves sacrifices, but true freedom lies along that narrow path. The world will trick you and say freedom is following the ways of the world but that way leads to uncertainty and misery.
Matthew 16:24-26 speaks of the one who will be Jesus’ disciple needing to deny self, take up their cross and follow Him. If you seek to save your life and make it easy, comfortable and secure, then you will lose it. But if you give your life to Jesus and allow Him to guide your steps, even when it appears you will lose your life, you will find life - true life.
Taking up your cross is one of those lovely terms that gets used a lot with little explanation. Explaining discipleship and the journey is an explanation of what taking up your cross is.
For reading and reflecting on over the coming days:
Psalm 28
Matthew 22: 34-40
 

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”. NIV
There are as many experiences of that moment when you accept God through Jesus as there are people who have accepted God through Jesus. Some report that moment as the culmination of a slow journey towards a point of realisation. Others report an amazing encounter with God. Whichever way you have come to that moment, come to it you must if you are to follow Jesus.
In the world of Jesus time there were no fenced off paddocks where you could safely leave your sheep. Nor were there safe places to run them without fear of attack. If you had a flock of sheep you had to look after them yourself, or employ someone to do that. The shepherd was responsible for keeping the flock together and safe. To do that he had to know his sheep well. The sheep also had to know him well, and trust him. If they did not trust him they would not follow him and he would risk losing them. The shepherds would bring their sheep into a communal pen at night where the different flocks would mix together. One shepherd would man the gate to the pen and watch over the sheep so the other shepherds could sleep. In the morning the shepherd would come to the gate and call out his sheep. They would come because they knew his voice and would follow him. He would guide them to pastures where they could be fed, to water so they could drink and would protect them from wild animals, even at the risk of his own life.
The sheep metaphor is one of the strongest used by Jesus and I will talk more about that. Today I am talking about the narrow gate.
A gate is an obvious metaphor. We can all understand the concept of a gate. In today’s reading He describes the narrow gate as being the way to life in Him. Why is the gate to Jesus narrow? Why will only a few enter through it?
What does it take to enter the gate? It takes an acknowledgement that God exists and created everything, including us. It then takes the acknowledgement that Jesus is His Son, who died to pay for all the things we do wrong (beautifully summarised by the word “sin”). The acknowledgements are often simultaneous, but not necessarily. To accept God and Jesus means change. It is not possible to make that choice and not be changed by it. Many are not prepared to accept that change and refuse to go into the gate. This is why few enter.
In the Bible there are references to the Holy Spirit enabling or empowering people to make statements of faith. A good example of this is Matthew 16:16-17. There are those who believe God has predetermined who will be saved and those who believe all can be saved. There are those who say God allows free will and those who say He sends His Holy Spirit to allow people to see Him and accept Him. I don’t know the answer and I don’t think it matters. Jesus said the gate is narrow and few will enter, so I presume there are many that won’t.
Of course entry through the gate is not the end of the road to Jesus. The sheep is out of the pen and now has to follow the shepherd. That is the narrow path and that is something I will talk about later.
For reading and reflecting on over the coming days:
Psalm 23
Luke 14:23-30
 

 
Posted By Nan

God issued me with a new challenge this year. I allowed the family subscription to a Daily Devotional expire. I found myself caught up in a curious inertia when it came to ordering more. I prayed about this. What about my children? I have always bought them the devotional to guide their daily time with God. God’s response? I want you to write it. Oh, OK, I am already embarking on a Master’s degree and establishing a new practice this year, both full time jobs in themselves, but if God wants me to add another, what I consider, full time job to the list then why not? As daunting and terrifying as that sounds I have learned to trust God with the burdens He gives me to carry. After all, I completed by Bachelor’s degree a few years ago in His strength. Every subject, every assignment was circled in prayer. So I trust Him to sustain me on this triple journey this year. And I trust Him to give me the words to write because I don’t feel overly well qualified to do this.
My concern for my children has been influenced by his own experiences as a young Christian. At the age of 15 I was sitting watcjomg tv with my sister. It was about the different ways people celebrate Christmas. I had been raised going to church every Sunday. I knew my father, who took us every week, did not believe in God. Christianity was a good philosophy to live your life by. As a small child, rejected by my mother and emotionally and physically abused by my father, and bullied at school, I would spend hours every day praying to God over every little thing I was terrified of (and that was virtually everything because nowhere in my life was safe). As a very little girl I remember coming to the realisation that people die and being terrified at the thought of nothingness. My oldest brother got out his pictorial children’s Bible and showed me where it said that if we believed in Jesus we would never die but go to heaven with Him. So I knew and trusted all that, but here I was at 15 thinking I knew better. The program mentioned Christians and I scoffed “God doesn’t exist”. My atheist sister responded “how do you know?” Suddenly I wasn’t in the lounge room anymore. I was in the throne room of God surrounded by a brilliant light and I heard God say “how can you say that, you know I exist” and I did. I was mortified at the thought of having denied God. I never did that again.
Now I had a faith. Where could I go to develop that faith? My family were not able to do that. The church my family had attended was in turmoil. So I went with friends to church. But there was no discipleship there, no instruction on what to do next. I completed school and went off to study nursing. Suddenly I was working Sundays and not able to get to church. I tried to read my Bible every day and pray, but I had instruction on where to go and found myself getting caught up in the world. I still kept my faith. I just wasn’t a great disciple. Eventually I got tired of reading the Bible. Back then there were no Christian bookshops with handy devotionals.
When my husband and I were expecting our first child we decided we had to get back to church so we went to a local church. It was quite nice but no discipleship. We moved out of the area and after a number of different churches found one that ran a discipleship course. That was good but discipleship stopped at the end of the course. We have never found another church that offers education in discipleship.
A few years ago I asked God where the new believers I was praying to come could go for discipleship. Now I have the answer. If we want new believers to be discipled then we have to do it ourselves.
So I am writing a devotional for my children, taking them along the path of discipleship and sharing it with you, because I think it is always good to remind ourselves of Jesus call on us.
 

 
Posted By Nan

This is the lasts verse of this beautiful hymn. Again the beauty of the words as they flow together into a beautiful expression of devotion to God is breathtaking.
“Take my love My Lord I pour at your feet its treasure store. Take myself and I will be ever only all for you.”
Again we are drawn back to Deuteronomy 6:5, to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and strength. We are to love God and walk in His ways, keep His commands, listen to His voice, hold fast to Him because He is my life! (Deuteronomy 30:16,20). So true. God is my life, how can I ever live without Him!? Why would I want to? I give to God the willingness and choice to love Him and not reject Him. I make the choice to ask for His help when my strength in refusing to reject Him fails. I am not just talking about the cost of acknowledging Him in the face of death but the cost of acknowledging Him in the midst of people who will laugh at you for your faith. I also talk about the cost of choosing to acknowledge His control over your life when things don’t go your way and you want to jump in and fix it without asking God for His guidance or waiting for His solution (because you may not like it). That act is as much a rejection of God as refusing to acknowledge Him.
In loving God we are to love those who are opposed to us (Luke 6:32, 10:27). Those who are cruel and downright nasty. This does not mean we fail to set healthy boundaries around the bad behaviour of others. It means we do not hate the other person and instead choose to see them as the hurt individual they are.
Remember John 21 (15-17) where Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him? The Amplified Bible translates the word for love as reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion. Love is a choice, not a feeling we have to get. If it was just a feeling there would be many times when we would walk away from it. Love is the choice to keep persevering with a relationship, even when we have to work at it and don’t seem to be getting anything back. Love is not self seeking, envious, boastful, proud, rude, easily angered, bitter or into keeping a record of wrongs. Love is patient, kind, seeks and rejoices in the truth, protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. True love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).
As 1 Corinthians 13 says, we can have all manner of fancy shows of spirituality such as tongues, prophesy, mountain shifting faith but if we have no love we are empty, nothing.
Love is the reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion inspired by God’s love for us and in us.
The joy of being loved by God, in Him being our very life, elicits the response to Love God with our hearts, souls and minds. It is a precious treasure that we must willingly give to God, to pour at His feet as an anointing of love (Luke 7:38), the most precious treasure. Give yourself to God, willingly, and may your life always only ever be all for Him. That is the narrow path of the disciple. That is taking up your cross and following Jesus.
That is The Way.
 

 


 
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Nan
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