Daily Verse – Matthew 7:24

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24 NIV

There are two principle teachings of Jesus about ‘hearing’ his/the word – the sower and the seed and this contrast between two builders.

Everyone who hears – the Greek akouei which occurs in this single instance in Matthew’s Gospel – is to give an audience to, or make a point of listening to. It also relates to understanding and being reported.

Jesus taught throughout his ministry that his words and actions were not just to be treated as an academic teaching but to be acted upon. All throughout his ministy the parallels are drawn between the words of the religious leaders and the actions of Jesus and his disciples.

Here, again, the distinction is clear.

Those ‘who do’ – put them into practicepoiei meaning to make or do – are like a builder who build his house on the rock.

It is hard not to think here of Peter – Petros – and the word used here is the femine form – as the rock upon which the church would be built.

Jesus must be emphasising further the ‘action’ he expects from us all but also the disciple’s example of someone who didn’t always get it right, as we may not do.

Hearing Jesus’ words requires us to take action and in doing so we are on a sure foundation despite the storms of life which are inevitable.

Daily Verse – Revelations 7:9

You Version

The Book of Revelation is a rich source of information and complicated.

In today’s verse I am just concentrating on a few words.

A multitude out of every nation and tribe and peoples and tongues.

Ochlos – a crowd, a multitude, like the people surrounding Jesus as he entered towns and villages.

Ethnos – out of every nation, but usually used to denote non-Jewish people. These people at the Holy City are not the people of Israel but the people of the gentile nations. Foreigners, brought to God through their faith in Jesus Christ.

This point is further emphasised with the words, tribe, people, and tongue.

There are so many things which differentiate us. So many ways of looking at others as different.

Different and differences can be good and part of God’s diverse world.

But there is one thing which can easily unite us – faith in Christ.

Until then we should help point the way and look for as many ways as we can to stand together as nations, and not stand apart.

Art, music, writing, dance, and other creative endeavours can all help build communication and message, until we all stand together.

Daily Verse – Philippians 2:3

YouVersion

Do nothing according to eritheian – self ambition.

The two occurrences of this word, here and James 3:4 – are better understood as strife or contention.

Don’t act if it is a result of, or results in, faction or intrigue – being contentious or continuing in opposition.

Instead, act in humility – tapeinophrosune – modesty or humbleness of mind.

There are three occurrences of this word in the N.T.

This verse is often used to teach that as Christians we shouldn’t argue or be in opposition to things.

Jesus shows his opposition to many things in the Gospels – prejudice, bad religion, not supporting and helping others, and many more.

Paul tells us here to be open and honest in our opposition, doing it from a place of humility and honesty, not by intrigue and deception.

We are not to revel in our opposition but in respect of situation and those involved.

Daily Verse – I Thessalonians 5:17

You Version

Unceasingly Pray.  adialeiptōs proseuchesthe.

God, through Paul’s handwriting, at his minimalist best.

adialeiptōs is an adverb – without ceasing, uninterruptedly, without omission.

proseuchesthe, to make prayer to God. For gratitude, for need of yourself and others.

This is an exhortation and a challenge.

Pray, so it is as automatic as breathing.

There are times when we are very much aware of our breathing, like situations in our lives when we know we need intervention from above.

There are also times when we pay no heed to our breathing.

Let our prayers be like that.

Daily Verse – James 1:2

You Version

Making the word order a little easier to follow in the Greek Interlinear, this verse reads, ‘Esteem it all joy, my brothers, when you might fall into various trials’.

This verse may well be the equivalent of that common saying, laugh in the face of danger.

Neither are reckless or uncaring of what happens next – danger or trials.

But both offer a logic which is counterintuitive.

Mindset is a buzz-word everywhere in recent times, but all the way back in the 1st Century, Jesus’ brother is onto it.

The word James uses for trials is peirasmos, which means ‘temptation’.

It is the experience of temptation rather than an abstract notion.

It is only used three times in the N.T. Once by Jesus, here in James, and once by Peter. It is differently translated as trials or temptations.

When these temptations happen we are to esteem – hégeomai/think or judge (the only occurrence in the N.T.) – it chara/joy or delight.

We should all be aware that life is not without its difficulties.

James exhorts us to have a different mindset at such times. We are to see these kinks in the road, or low points in our self-belief, as opportunities to face up to these temptations in faith and trust in God.

Remember to smile when times are tough.

Daily Verse – 1 Corinthians 13:13

https://my.bible.com/en-GB/bible/97/1CO.13.MSG

I have chosen the Message version today because I absolutely love Peterson’s exhortation to ‘Trust steadily in God’.

The Greek Interlinear tells us that this first of three behaviours for us is ‘faith’.

The word is pistis, which is used 36 times in the N.T. and always of an active faith: e.g., your faith has made, your faith is great.

Pistis is an assurance, a faith, a fidelity, coming from the word peitho – a moral conviction, a credence, a constancy.

So Peterson encourages us ‘trust’ – to have faith – steadily in God.

I am sure we are close to God during the difficult times, and even in the happy times, but what about in those everyday moments? Those moments when life is steadier, perhaps on auto-pilot. How do we express or think of our faith then?

Our faith, our trust, should be steady with the realisation that God walks with us always.

Verse of the Day: Romans 8:1

https://www.bible.com/en-GB/bible/113/ROM.8.1.NIVUK

In this verse the Apostle Paul uses the Greek work katakrima for the word condemnation.

He tells us there is no condemnation – no penalty, no punishment or penal servitude following from a condemning.

There are only two other usages of katakrima besides this one in the New Testament and both occur in Romans 5:16 and 5:18. Both refer to the penalty of Adam’s sin and how, through Christ, the penalty for that sin has been paid for good.

In some ways this is an easy concept to understand but much more difficult to take on board.

It is as if a stranger had just walked up to you and offered you a £1,000,000. You would be looking around to try and work out what was going on. Really? The money must be fake. There must be a catch.

Paul reassures us, there is no ‘penalty’ for those of us who are in Christ Jesus. Those who are part of the body of Christ. Those of us who find out belief and peace in God through His son.

I love the way The Message Version puts this part of the verse:

‘Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. ‘

https://my.bible.com/bible/97/ROM.8.1-2

How many of us feel as if we are still under that continuous, low-lying black cloud?

The Good News is that we are able to move out from under it into newer, clear blue skies.

The Daily Verse – Matthew 22:37

Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ – The Message

Matthew‬ ‭22:37

Do you love God with all of your passion?

Do you love God with all your intelligence?

As well as teaching those with ‘ears to hear’ in both the Synagogues and in open air gatherings, Jesus was subjected to testing by different groups of the Jewish authorities.

A Rabi being questioned was a natural part of religious teaching and discourse in Judaism.

Jesus was being subjected to something much more rigorous and insidious. They were trying to find ways to catch him out and denounce him as a heretic.

They ignored the effect of his teaching and the miracles taking place.

In this verse, the Sadducees had first tried to catch him out and failed. Now the Pharisees stepped up and sent in an expert in Jewish religious law..

Jesus is asked which of the Commandments is the greatest. This is a fairly simple trick question. All Law and Commandments are from God, so they are, therefore, all equally important.

But remember this was the same Jesus who was in the Temple at the age of twelve debating with the teachers there.

Jesus reminds them of the Shema – Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. This was a kind of creed or statement of faith for the Jewish people.

God commanded the people to always have this passage on their minds, to talk about it, to contemplate it, to recite it when they rose in the morning and before they lay down in the evening.

The next verse in the Shema is the one Jesus quotes here, Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’

I love this Message version of the the verse.

If we were asked if we loved God then we would nod our heads and speak out in the affirmative.

Jesus emphasises something which was lacking in those questioning him, but was integral to their lives, temporal and spiritual.

They would all have nodded in agreement that they loved God with all of their passion – indeed, they would claim that trying to proclaim Jesus as a fake was part of their passion for God.

(We see this Passion in Paul before Jesus appears to him on the Damascus road in Acts, and then we read of his passion for God and the ‘Way’ all through his letters in the New Testament.)

They would agree with prayer – the Shema itself was a prayer – but Many of their prayers were formulaic and rooted in their Phariseetic traditions.

The last instruction may be surprising – with intelligence.

Loving God with passion and prayer fit very easily into our spiritual lives. We know we should pray and our faith in God easily brings passion – I’m not suggesting that we don’t need to check the passion-meter every now and again though!

But to love God with our intelligence?

God never intended for us to be blind in our faith in Him.

Certainly to the Jewish nation he gave them many miracles testifying to his love and devotion to them.

Jesus presented many miracles before the people but many of the religious leaders recognised them and then dismissed the person behind them.

They used their intelligence but for their own selfish needs and gains.

We are to use our intelligence to affirm and strengthen our faith and love for God.

We are to read God’s Word, look for Him in our everyday lives, and express our passion through prayer and our interactions with others.

Passion. Prayer. Intelligence.

The Daily Verse – Luke 19:10

‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’ – NIVUK

Luke 19:10

Have you ever sought something which you thought was lost?

Have you ever felt lost yourself?

Jesus had spotted a man in a tree as he passed through the streets of Jericho and called him by name. The Rabbi invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house for supper and to stay the night.

Many of the people in the crowd which thronged alongside the teacher knew who Zacchaeus was. He was a chief tax collector and a sinner.

Like so many times and in so many places before those same people, who didn’t consider themselves to be sinners, grumbled about Jesus spending time in the company of people who clearly were sinners.

Maybe this teacher and prophet wasn’t the Messiah after all.

During the supper, Zacchaeus announces to Jesus that right there and then he was going to give away half of his goods – possessions and money – to the poor. On top of this, if he had cheated anyone in business then he would repay them four times the amount he took from them.

Jesus’ reaction to this declaration is to proclaim, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.’ Luke 19:9

Jesus is declaring that Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham not just in heritage, but also in faith.

This chief tax collecting sinner had seen Jesus, and responded to his call for food and lodging for the night, but also as the Messiah calling him to repent and enter the coming Kingdom.

To those guests around him, who may or may not have been whispering unkindly at his declaration, Jesus tells them that his purpose was seek and save the lost.

This is an image which we encounter a number of times in the Gospels.

Seeking out the lost and restoring them.

I am sure we have all lost something – I mean ‘misplaced’ something – precious or not so precious. We are sure we know where we left it or where we saw it last, however, it isn’t there now.

Jesus was doing the same. Seeking out the lost and providing a beacon for them to return by.

Zacchaeus climbs a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus. He realises he is missing something and this teacher/prophet passing through the city might just be it.

He started looking and Jesus notice as he passed by.

Just like Nathaniel when Jesus calls the disciples, he calls the little man by his name and invites himself – and his disciples – to stay for the night.

Sometimes the thing(s) we misplace, or lose, are more important than an object.

Sometimes the things we have lost is happiness, courage, love, hope, strength.

When Zacchaeus encounters Jesus he has the hope restored in himself that he can become a changed person and live a different life – in this case an honest life.

He makes his declaration of his intention to change and – importantly – how he will change to Jesus.

Jesus’ response is to give him the affirmation he needs to make this change and declares it to those around them.

Jesus acknowledges Zacchaeus’ faith.

When we have ‘lost’ something and we are struggling to ‘find’ it, follow Zacchaeus’ example.

Respond to Jesus’ call to stay with you.

Make your declaration to Jesus on how you intend to change – you don’t necessarily need to give away half of your possessions!

Then hear Jesus remind you that you are a child of Abraham – by faith we are Abraham’s heirs!

Then use that faith for Jesus is waiting to stay with you.

The Daily Verse – John 15:18

“You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you.” – AMP

‭‭John‬ ‭15:16‬ ‭‬‬

What does it feel like to know that you have been chosen?

Do you think it is possible to ‘bear fruit’ even in difficult circumstances?

In this verse, Jesus is talking to his disciples.

He tells them that he has chosen them.

Elsewhere Jesus prays for these same disciples, declaring to God that he hasn’t lost one of them.

Just as the disciples were chosen, so are we.

Jesus’ final sacrifice of himself gave everyone in the world access to the God of the Jewish people.

Remember when God spoke to Moses he said He was, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ – Exodus‬ ‭3:6

‬But to Abraham, God had promised ‘through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’ Genesis‬ ‭22:18‬ ‭

Jesus continues reminding the disciples that as well as choosing them he had appointed them as Apostles.

They had parables explained to them and saw miracles at first hand.

He tells them that they were placed and purposefully planted.

A gardener plants with with the combination of the right soil and right mix of sunlight and shade for each plant.

Why?

So they might be fruitful. Not just fruitful, but to continually bear fruit.

To this end Jesus leaves them with yet another gift, which will out do all of the others they had received so far – they could approach God in prayer and ask Him for their needs in the name of Jesus.

God would respond as if it was Jesus himself asking.

It is powerful to think that we have been chosen – especially when so many of us probably don’t fell that way most of the time.

God – Jesus – must have got the wrong ‘John or Jane Smith’ when the letter came through the door.

Surely he can’t mean us?

As the disciples were chosen, so were we.

As they had a purpose, so do we.

We have been planted purposefully.

This will again also surprise many of us, as perhaps the current place and position of our lives may seem anything but purposeful.

If we start to view our current circumstances as part of our ‘planting’ we can meaningfully pray for our purpose at this time.

As gardeners know, a plant may get moved around the garden, so don’t despair if the thought of being where you are fills you with dread.

Jesus tells us that we will bear fruit and to continue to bear fruit.

This fruit will be a blessing to ourselves as well as others.

Galatians 5 tells us, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”

If we can exhibit these fruit, God can work through us in our circumstances.

By blessing others we also bless ourselves.

On top of this we have an extra gift.

Jesus tells us that if we ask (pray) for anything we need to God, it will be as if Jesus himself had asked for it.

Remember a ‘need’ probably isn’t a BMW or a holiday in Monaco.

An immediate need will be for ourselves or for others to do the work of God.

You are chosen.

You are planted.

God listens and responds to you.