John – a son of thunder


Mark 3:13-18. “Jesus went up on a mountain side and called to Him those He wanted, and they came to Him. He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve He appointed: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.”
Luke tells us that Jesus had spent the night in prayer, alone, before the momentous task of choosing the Twelve. When it was day, He called His disciples who were waiting below. Boanerges is an Aramaic word referring to the fiery zeal of James and John; e.g. their wish to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans, and John’s desire to stop the work of someone who was casting out devils, or the prayer of the Zebedee brothers that they might sit on the Lord’s right and left hands in His Kingdom.
The choosing of the Twelve was the first step in organising the church. The teaching and training of these men became a matter of paramount importance to Jesus.
Jesus called whom He would according to His decisions, not theirs. But they responded with free will to come to Him. They were companions to be with Him, commissioned to go and preach and given authority to have power to heal.
Here are twelve typical men, no two alike and all imperfect but with one exception – there was a place for each in the fellowship of Christ.
From what we know, would we have thought any of them suitable to be apostles? What about ourselves? Are we flawed personalities and yet still called to be disciples?

Peter’s call

*This week our reflections are on the apostle Peter.*
*Peter’s Call *(John 21:15-19)
After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Master you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” He then asked a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Master, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Shepherd my sheep.” Then he said it a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was upset that he was asked for the third time, “Simon son of John do you love me?” So he answered, Master you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I’m telling you the truth now: when you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you will have to stretch out your hands, while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he commanded, “Follow me!”
Jesus asked Peter to feed His lambs and His sheep. In John 10, Jesus said He was the Good Shepherd laying down His life for the sheep. Matthew 9 says that Jesus saw people as sheep not having a shepherd. He now speaks directly to Peter and told him what his work was to be: Peter was to shepherd God’s people. That isn’t always in flowery meadows and beside still waters. Sometimes it means grappling with wolves in order to save a lamb. Then Jesus talks about the qualifications needed. “Are you devoted to me?” Peter’s honest reply was that he loved Jesus. The question and answer were repeated. Peter couldn’t climb up to the word used by Jesus, so Jesus came down to Peter’s word. “Do you love me?” Peter didn’t like Jesus coming down to the lower word. The qualification for feeding lambs was love of the Lord, but the bar is set high, the love of absolute devotion. Jesus then described the sort of person Peter had been: he had gone his own way, self-willed, independent, managing his own affairs. Then He told him of the differences there would be. When he was old he wouldn’t be self-centred or self-satisfied. He would need to take up his cross to follow and Jesus implied that he would be true to that principle.
Maybe Peter felt “I shall never be equal to it,” but he would have been reminded the Jesus-Cross has led to a resurrection, and so it would be with Peter.

*Samuel the baby*



1 Samuel 1:2-20 (abbreviated)
“There was a certain man whose name was Elkanah. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
Year after year this man went up from Ramah to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Elkanah her husband would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you down-hearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Eli the priest was sitting by the doorpost of the Lord’s temple. Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. And she made a vow, saying, “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and give me a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life. Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
Early the next morning they arose and worshipped and then went back to their home in Ramah. In the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.” “

In the Bible, when God has a special purpose for a man, there is something special about his birth. Like Hannah, Sarah, Rebekah and Elizabeth all experienced being childless. Like Samuel, Isaac, Jacob and John the Baptist, were God-given answers to years of prayer. Each had a special role to play in the hands of God. When God gave Hannah a son, He also gave Israel the last and greatest of the judges and the first after Moses of the great prophets.
Shiloh was the centre of worship at this time. Joshua had set up the tabernacle here – the temple was not built until Solomon’s day.
Today, if you climb up Mount Shiloh, there are 360’ views. But there is only one place flat enough for the tabernacle to be erected. As you look down on one side there is a flat piece of land, 100yds x 50yds – the exact size of the tabernacle. It has been marked out by white flags.
Hannah vowed to give the baby she was praying for back to God. It was usual to pray aloud but we are told only Hannah’s lips moved. Eli is quick to jump to the wrong conclusion. Religious life must have been at a low ebb if worshippers came drunk to the tabernacle.
Samuel would have been two or three years old when Hannah took him back to the tabernacle.
Prayer: Pray, today, for all those families with new babies. Pray that God would have a special purpose for their lives and that they might be brought up to know and love Him.


MELCHIZEDEK, PRIEST AND KING
(Genesis 14:27-20)

“As Abram returned from his strike against Chedorlaomer and the other kings at the valley of Shaveh, the king of Sodom came out to meet him, and Melchizedek, the king of Salem, who was a priest of the God of Highest Heaven, brought him bread and wine. Then Melchizedek blessed Abram with this blessing: ‘The blessing of the supreme God, Creator of heaven and earth, be upon you, Abram; and blessed be God, who has delivered your enemies over to you.’ Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the spoils.”

The Last Supper was not the first celebration of communion. The first celebration took place thousands of years earlier. Abram had just achieved a victory in a battle. Four kings had captured all the herds and carried off Abram’s nephew Lot. Abram had got together 318 men, surrounded the enemy at night and attacked. He brought back Lot and all the flocks and herds.
It was then Abram met a mysterious figure, Melchizedek, king of Salem. Who was he? Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness”. Salem was the original name for Jerusalem. The modern Hebrew word ‘shalom’ – peace, comes from the same root. King of Righteousness and King of Peace. Some say this was a pre-incarnation appearance of Jesus.

But the Bible says you can’t be a priest and a king. Melchizedek brought bread and wine. Abram accepted these. In Hebrews, speaking about Jesus as High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, it says, “after He had offered sacrifice for sin for ever, he sat down at the right hand of God.” Priests always stood, they never sat. But Hebrews 1:8 says, “Jesus sat”. The priests’ task was never complete, so they stood, but Jesus sat because He had completed His task. No more sacrifices would be needed again.
The bread and wine of the Last Supper were the same as the symbols offered to Abram.
Prayer: Whenever we take communion, may we remind ourselves that our great High Priest, Jesus, can now sit down at the right hand of God because His sacrifice was once for all time and all people.

*David is Chosen*
1 Samuel 16:1-13 (The Message)
“God addressed Samuel: ‘So, how long are you going to mope over Saul? You know I’ve rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your flask with anointing oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I’ve spotted the very king I want among his sons.’ ‘I can’t do that,’ said Samuel. ‘Saul will hear about it and kill me.’ God said, ‘Take a heifer with you and announce, ‘I’ve come to lead you in worship to God, with this heifer as a sacrifice. Make sure Jesse gets invited. I’ll let you know what to do next. I’ll point out the one you are to anoint.’ Samuel did what God told him. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the town fathers greeted him, but apprehensively. ‘Is there something wrong?’ ‘Nothing’s wrong. I’ve come to sacrifice this heifer and lead you in the worship of God. Prepare yourselves, be consecrated, and join me in worship.’ He made sure Jesse and his sons were also consecrated and called to worship. When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, ‘Here he is! God’s anointed!’ But God told Samuel, ‘Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.’ Jesse then called up Aminadab and presented him to Saul. Samuel said, ‘This isn’t God’s choice either.’ Next Jesse presented Shammah. Samuel said, ‘No, this man isn’t either.’ Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel. Samuel was blunt with Jesse, ‘God hasn’t chosen any of these.’ Then he asked Jesse, ‘Is this it? Are there no more sons?’ ‘Well, yes, there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep.’ Samuel ordered Jesse, ‘Go get him. We’re not moving from this spot until he’s here.’ Jesse sent for him. He was brought in, the very picture of health – bright-eyed, good-looking. God said, ‘Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one.’ Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind. God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life. Samuel left and went home to Ramah.”

God chose His man and prepared him, long before he became a national figure. The anointing would give David a sense of his destiny and he would receive careful training from Samuel as the coming ruler. The Lord looks on the heart, not the outward appearance. Eliab was not chosen despite his good looks, nor any of the other six. Why was David kept in the background? He was least in his father’s esteem. His father, Jesse, thought him of too little account to present to Samuel. But as soon as he saw him, Samuel knew that this was to be the future king of Israel. Was any explanation given for this strange choice? David’s father and brothers didn’t understand what was going on. If they had, someone would have run off and told Saul.

The Lord is still looking for men and women after His own heart. Only that life can stand the attacks on our faith and principles. The elect of God today are known by their transformed lives. With Christ in our heart each of us is a new creation. God’s choice is often contrary to human reason.
In 1 Cor 1:27-29 Paul said God has chosen the foolish things of the world. You may not be well-thought of in your family, you may be despised by others for your faith. But God thought of you before He flung the stars into space. He wrote your name on His heart. He engraved it on the palm of His hand.

Regardless of your capabilities, or lack of training, you are in His divine plan. And one day there is a crowning day coming for us also (2 Tim 4:8).

Today, recite Psalm 23 as a prayer.

Moses’ birth
Exodus 2:1-10 .


Moses’ birth

Exodus 2:1-10 .
“Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it in tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. ‘This is one of the Hebrew babies,’ she said. Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?’ ‘Yes, go’ she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take the baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.’ So, the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water.’”

Miriam the older sister would have been 12-14 years old. Probably Jochebed, Moses’ mother, knew where the daughter of Pharaoh regularly bathed. The princess appeared to be naturally tender-hearted, which is why Miriam revealed herself.
God is clearly at work in this narrative. Jochebed was able to nurse Moses at home until he was possibly two years’ old, when she took him back to Pharaoh’s daughter to be raised in the royal house. Jochebed had the opportunity to plant in Moses the roots of faith in the true God. His life has been saved by Miriam and his mother’s resourceful reaction. He enjoyed the privileges and education as an adopted son of the princess. He never lost the benefits of that education.
Every child, however humble their birth, is precious to God.
Proverbs 22:6 reminds us – “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.”
Pray today for those with young children known to you, that from birth they will be taught about the Lord and His love for little children. Claim the promise in Proverbs for them.

Philippians reading 21

Philippians 4
New International Version

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

 

A high standard is set for us when all around us we see and hear negative things as we were reminded on Saturday. As we “think about such things” we need to remind ourselves of the nemonic -THINK. 

T is it true? 

H is it helpful? 

I is it inspiring? 

N is it necessary? 

K is it kind? 

If what we are thinking or saying doesn’t fit those headings, then don’t say them or don’t even think them. 

Prayer: Please Lord so fill us with Yourself that those verses become more and more normal for the way we conduct our lives. 

Song: Abba, Father.

Philippians reading 16

Philippians 3
New International Version

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

In this chapter Paul talks about the different pathways people follow in order to meet with God. He mentions four pathways that he himself followed and that only one of these led to salvation.

 National and family pride (v5) 2. Religious ceremony (v5) 3. Good living (v5) 4. The way of Jesus Christ (v7-11)

When Paul met with Christ, he came to see that everything else he had set so much store on was worthless. It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter what family he belonged to. He didn’t matter whether he had gone through various religious ceremonies. It didn’t matter how good a life he had tried to lead.

John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”

Jesus is the only pathway to God.

We each have to make up our own mind, for or against Christ. We cannot remain neutral, nor can we drift into Christianity, nor can anyone else settle the matter for us. We must decide for ourselves.

 

“There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin,

He only could unlock the gate of heaven, and let us in.

O dearly, dearly, has He loved! And we must love Him too,

And trust in His redeeming blood, and try His works to do.”

 

Praise Him for your salvation.

Philippians reading 11

Philippians 2
New International Version

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

 

Paul says, “Don’t moan or complain.” Something has gone wrong if you are a moaner. May we be delivered from moaning and grumbling because it is not a good witness or testimony. The world watches us and we have got to be consistent in our witness at all times. We must make Continuing Progress and be a Continuing Witness.  

Some of us are reading our way through Exodus at the moment and we are reminded how the Israelites moaned and complained in the wilderness. We can’t be blameless without God’s help. It’s a work of grace. In our character there should be no feature on which an outsider can pass a critical verdict.

 

Do you remember this chorus from Sunday School days? “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine?”

Let us be light-bearers this week.

Philippians reading 6

Philippians 1
New International Version

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

 

Note Paul’s concern for God’s glory and his contempt for his own comfort and his confidence in God’s control.

The place he was in was not only difficult but dangerous. Life or death were equally possible and Paul was ready for either. Yes, he was in a difficult place, but it wasn’t the first time he had sung praises in prison. May we in our difficult situations learn to sing like Paul.

 

Use these songs as prayers: “Have Thine own way, Lord.”

                                                   “When I feel the touch”

                                                   “Change my heart, O God.”

                                                   “As the deer pants for the water”