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Posted By Nan

John 5:31-47
These verses follow on from the previous verses covering Jesus’ response to the Jews who were angry at Him calling God His Father. In verse 31 Jesus establishes the need for corroborating testimony of His claim. He does not accept human testimony, although He acknowledges John the Baptist testified about Him. His testimony is far weightier than human testimony, even that of John the Baptist who shone as such a light for the people. Jesus states that it is God who testifies about Him. One way He does this is through the miracles of Jesus.
Jesus criticises the people and tells them they have not heard God’s voice because His word does not dwell in them. The reason it does not dwell in them is because they do not believe the one God has sent, Jesus. Jesus criticises them for diligently studying the scriptures, the very ones that testify about Jesus, yet refusing to accept the evidence before them and come to Jesus to accept His gift of life. He continues to criticise them for not accepting Him when He comes in God’s name but happily accepting another person who comes in their own name. These people refuse to believe what Moses wrote so will be judged by the word of Moses that they set their hope on. They are so caught up in believing words but not the spirit that they cannot believe in Jesus.
I often criticise the churches, and have done so a lot lately. I wondered about that and asked God whether I was being unfair. This is the response I got:
We are personally responsible for our walk with God. No matter what group we belong to, our walk with God is our responsibility. Too often people join up with Christian groups and hand over that responsibility to the groups. But our relationship with God is between us and Him. We do not access God through a third party, in this case the Church. We access God directly. It is part of human nature to form groups and then establish behavioural rules to govern interactions within the group. Churches are no different. The only trouble is, the behavioural rules are based on human needs, not on God, so the rules contradict God’s expectations of our behaviour. People become caught up in pleasing the others in the group because they believe they have to belong to the group. Certain people within the group study the scriptures and decide what they say. Frequently they become like the Jews in these verses, diligently studying and clinging to Moses’ words but not accepting the spiritual outpouring of these words in their own lives and community. Many people join churches because they are told that Christians have to go to church. They do not have anyone to teach them and advise them that their walk with God is their own personal responsibility. They hand over that responsibility to the Church, believing that attending services and participating in all the activities of the church will grow their faith in God. But how can it? This busyness is not about growing your faith, it is about fitting in to the group. There are times when it can be helpful to belong to a Christian group but be careful. Seek the true testimony, that which comes from God and the Bible, not from mankind. Never hand over responsibility for your walk with God to a group, be they Christian or otherwise. Spend time with God on your own. Spend time in prayer and worship. See the testimony that comes from God. Analyse your church and the services. Is it helping or hindering your walk with God? If it is helping, then there is no harm staying in that church community. If it is hindering then get out now. Your relationship with God is what will save you, your relationship with a Church will not.

Posted By Nan

Please read I Kings 19
I have been feeling discouraged over the last two days and have spent much time before the Lord. His response has been to remind me of this story in 1 Kings 19.

Elijah had a mighty victory on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). Following this, the evil Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him and Elijah was afraid. So he ran away in terror until he reached Beersheeba and went another day’s journey into the desert. Tired and dispirited he sat down and told God he had had enough and just wanted to die. He had seen a mighty victory on Mount Carmel and thought the evil had gone, only to discover it was still there. He felt his work was valueless. He lost confidence in the triumph of the Kingdom of God. He felt he was no better than his ancestors and wanted to die. In his despair he fell asleep. But God was aware of his feelings of failure and felt compassion for him. He sent an angel to wake Elijah and give him food. Again the angel returned and instructed him to eat, saying “the journey is too much for you”(v 7). After that he travelled forty days and nights to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, where Moses had spent forty days and nights with God.

There are many study notes on this passage that say the angel's words about the journey being too much are a reference to the trip to Mount Horeb, but I have never read them that way. Many times when I feel dispirited in my journey to serve God, He reminds me of this verse. What I see when I read this passage is our loving, compassionate God reaching out to comfort us when we feel discouraged. He does not condemn us for the ‘sin’ of discouragement. Instead he reaches out in love and encourages us.

The final encouragement was when He came to Elijah on Mount Horeb. I have read many interpretations of that encounter and the significance of the powerful wind, the earthquake and the fire followed by God appearing in the gentle whisper of a breeze. I don’t know about those interpretations, but I do know personally that this is a mighty demonstration of God’s great love and concern for us. When we grow weary and discouraged from the struggles in this world, He does not condemn us. Instead He invites us to sit at His feet, in His presence and receive comfort and after we have received comfort He sends us out with a renewed strength to fulfil our work.
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29: 11-13 NIV.

Posted By Nan

John 5:19-30 continued.
I am not going to write a lot about these verses. I leave you to read them and think about them with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and see what God reveals to you about these verses. What I will say is that this powerful message about the relationship Jesus held with God was one of the messages that most alarmed the Jews. So much of what He said was heresy to them. Throughout these verses, Jesus speaks of the special relationship He had with God and of the tasks God had assigned to him. One of the most heretical was that of judging, which the Jews held to be the role of the Father. I have said before that we have to be cautious about judging the Jews of Jesus time. They are really not that much different to us. I know I talk about this a lot, but our modern day churches frequently get caught up in legalism and church doctrine. If Jesus came to us now, not in the spectacular way of the second coming, but as an itinerant lay preacher (without qualifications), would we also condemn Him for speaking heresy? How much of the doctrine and rules of the different churches would He reject? Would those who follow those doctrines also try to cast him out? When I read the Bible accounts of the behaviour of the Jews I don’t see them doing anything we are not doing now. Just as they became caught up in rules and doctrine and secular interests so are we. Just as they rejected the parts of Jesus message that disagreed with their rules and doctrine, so do we. It is time for us to sit humbly at Jesus’ feet and listen to what He has to say and worship Him the way we were meant to, in Spirit and Truth not in church doctrine and legalism.

Posted By Nan

John 5:19-30
This section is a speech by Jesus, partly in response to the Jews anger at Jesus suggesting he had a special relationship with God. He starts with “I tell you the truth”. It reminds me of the puzzle game where a small number of people make statements about something and you are told one is telling the truth. You then have to identify the truthful one. It is usually some little trick like them making a statement that you know has to be true. Jesus uses the words “I tell you the truth” numerous times in each gospel. It may seem a strange thing to say, but He was stating a fact to impress on people that what He spoke to them was truth. These were not just the words of the Pharisees, empty words full of spin that did not reflect the inner attitude of the heart. This was the plain, honest truth.
What truth was Jesus telling? He was saying that He could do nothing by Himself. He was not on earth to exercise His free will. He was on on earth to do the will of His Father. Why? Because the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. In the wisdom of our fallen world, that is not love but oppression. But this is not the wisdom of the world this is Godly wisdom which is foolishness in the eyes of the world (1 Corinthians 1:18-25, 2:14, 3:18-20). Because God loved Jesus he revealed His plans and purposes to Jesus and Jesus obediently carried them out. In the same way God will reveal some of His plans and purposes to us. The proper response for us to make is that of Jesus, to obediently carry them out. How hard is that? Very. It just shows how great Jesus was that He could obey God. He is the example we must follow and obey God is what we must do. Remember, when Jesus found it hard to obey, he asked his Father for help and He got it. We likewise can ask our Father for help and also receive it.

Posted By Nan

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. NIV
There is a poem by Loretta P Burns that sits on the wall next to my computer. It speaks of people bringing their broken dreams to God to mend them, but not trusting Him enough and being impatient and trying to do the mending instead. Eventually they turn on God and ask Him why He is so slow. His response? What could He do? We never let go of them.
A few days ago there was a crisis in my life regarding my daughter, who has been living in a a house with a fellow student who could easily be categorised as the ‘housemate from hell’. A crisis erupted during the week. What mother is not moved by her child’s distress? I went out to attend a meeting having spoken to my distressed daughter. I felt so angry but also, at that moment, felt that a good resolution of this problem was maybe not part of God’s plan. My life has been full of instances where I have had to endure terrible things and never been relieved of them, despite begging God to relieve me of them. The first thing that comes to mind in these instances is that He never saved me from my abusive parents. Reading 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 does not bring comfort in those situations.
We lived in Europe for eight years and had to buy a house there. When we left, we were unable to sell the house due to uncertainties in the economy. Nearly four years later the economy is even more uncertain and it is only a matter of time before our house is taken by the bank. Here in Australia, we moved into a rental house in a soulless new suburb with no sense of community and slick, pretentious new houses inhabited by people who are too lacking in life skills to know how to say hello to their neighbours. It has been a struggle, one that I frequently get sick of being in and get impatient. It has taken a lot of prayer and reminding about Romans 8:28 to not completely drop my bundle.
If you read Job, especially the chapters from 38 on. You will hear a really good reason why we should not drop our bundles and rant and rave at God for not giving us a dreamy, easy run in life. In these latter chapters of Job, God does not answer Job’s why questions. He just states that He is Almighty God and He relates to Job much of the awesomeness of who He is. Sometimes you just have to sit in awe at His feet and accept. I don’t think it is wrong to tell God how upset you are. If you read the Psalms there are many instances of this. But is you read these psalms, they always end in Praise. Psalm 22 is a really good example of this, this is the Psalm Jesus quoted on the cross.
So I drove to my meeting and prayed. I told God I was angry and wanted things solved, but that I knew that this might not be part of His plan and that angered me because I felt I could never trust Him. I then recited to God all those times he had rescued me, which were far greater than the times He had not rescued me. I talked about those verses in Job and agreed that “who was I to question God”. Then I sat at His feet and went back to reminding myself of how He had created the Heavens and the earth. How he had created man and set them in the garden and they had fatally damaged His beautiful creation through their wilfulness and desire to control, and what am I doing, trying to control! I left it at that. I just accepted. The next morning I awoke to this verse Jeremiah 29:11 and there was my answer. In the days since our gracious and loving Father has moved in His way and a resolution to this problem looks likely. Whatever happens, I feel greater peace and accept that God’s will is right and whatever happens, all involved have learned something beneficial to their growth. So when the following verse came I said a loud Amen.
2 Samuel 7:22 How great you are, Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. NIV



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