Day 34: Saturday, 4 April – Nisan 10 5780

Day 34: Saturday, 4 April – Nisan 10 5780

Hebrews 9:25-28

Christ did not have to offer himself many times. He wasn't like a high priest who goes into the most holy place each year to offer the blood of an animal. If he had offered himself every year, he would have suffered many times since the creation of the world.

But instead, near the end of time he offered himself once and for all, so that he could be a sacrifice that does away with sin. We die only once, and then we are judged. So Christ died only once to take away the sins of many people. But when he comes again, it will not be to take away sin. He will come to save everyone who is waiting for him.

It is one of the most difficult things to believe, for new and established Christians alike, that Christ offered one sacrifice of himself for our sins. If we think that we should on our part make some penance or payment for our sin then we have failed to understand the eternal truth that Christ’s offering of himself was a perfect and complete sacrifice. It happened at a single point in history but it serves for all eternity.

When Christ died, sin was pronounced dead. In Christ I am dead to sin – it has no power over me. Don’t think that it’s because I have some special higher-level power or relationship with God not open to others. Don’t think that you are somehow not worthy to receive this precious gift, because if you do you have failed to understand the eternal truth that in Christ we are free from sin.

Perhaps you think that sin is here to have mastery over us and we are still subject to it. We are not. Why then, you may ask, do people still fall into sin? Christ died for our sins – that’s an end to it. They were paid for, both in arrears and in advance. When we come to Christ in repentance for our sins then we may receive forgiveness as a gift. But we do not have to sin! If we think that sin will always get the better of us then we have failed to understand the eternal truth that in Christ we are free from sin.

Being in Christ means we are safe. When we abide in him, by inviting him into every aspect of our lives and by entering into his life in us, we in him and he in us, then all Satan sees is Jesus. Demons flee.

Do you believe that you are dead to sin, or that sin has some hold on your life? If the latter, how will you get this sorted?

Where do you stand in relation to Christ – in him, or outside of him? If the latter, then I already know your answer to the first question, and perhaps you should speak to someone about it?

Father God, in Jesus I am free from sin. Outside Jesus I am not. Like Peter, failing on the water, I cry, Help me Lord. Amen.

Sing along (soprano, bass) or listen

Power in the blood

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.    

Paul

Day 33: Friday, 3 April – Nisan 9 5780

Day 33: Friday, 3 April – Nisan 9 5780

Hebrews 9:19-22

Moses told the people all that the Law said they must do. Then he used red wool and a hyssop plant to sprinkle the people and the book of the Law with the blood of bulls and goats and with water. He told the people, "With this blood God makes his agreement with you." Moses also sprinkled blood on the tent and on everything else that was used in worship. The Law says that almost everything must be sprinkled with blood, and no sins can be forgiven unless blood is offered.

We will continue for a few days on this letter. The author writes as a Jew to Jews. His intent is to show Jewish people that all of their God-ordained religious practices were in fact a preparation for the revealing of God’s Son Jesus.

The covenant that God gave to Moses was sealed with blood. The artefacts and structures were all sprinkled with blood. The blood would have left a stain on fabrics. It would find its way into stonework. The priests would be stained with it almost from head to toe. The Tent of meeting would be recognisable from the staining of splashed blood. Even those standing around were sprinkled. There’s a lot of blood in even a small animal. The ground around the altars would get quite squishy. The tang of blood would linger. It would be cleaner in a modern abattoir.

While we might find this all rather distasteful it is the significance of blood as a symbol of the life-force in an animal that reaches every cell to supply oxygen and nutrients that makes it literally vital. The offering of blood indicates that a sacrifice has been undertaken, that a payment in terms of an animal’s life has been made. It’s like a stamp duty payment, a seal, a bond, a guarantee. The Book of the Law may have been spattered with blood on the outside, but the blood seeps through and pervades the text, for just about everything relating to the restoration of man to God’s favour rests upon the sacrifice of blood to pay for man’s sin.

No sin can be covered unless it is covered in blood.

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What is the writer leading us to? Can you figure it out before you read it?

Father God, you do not change. You are the same yesterday, today and forever. There is no shadow of turning with you. The Law still stands, and with it the sacrifice of blood to pay the price of sin. But you sent your Son, Jesus, to pay the price for all people for eternity, so that the righteous demands of the Law are met, and that we can come to your Throne of Grace. You sent Jesus to pay the price of my sin, that I may come, too. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.    

Paul

Day 32: Thursday, 2 April – Nisan 8 5780

Day 32: Thursday, 2 April – Nisan 8 5780

Hebrews 9:11-14

Christ came as the high priest of the good things that are now here. He also went into a much better tent that wasn't made by humans and that doesn't belong to this world. Then Christ went once for all into the most holy place and freed us from sin forever. He did this by offering his own blood instead of the blood of goats and bulls.

According to the Law of Moses, those people who become unclean are not fit to worship God. Yet they will be considered clean, if they are sprinkled with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a sacrificed calf.

But Christ was sinless, and he offered himself as an eternal and spiritual sacrifice to God. That's why his blood is much more powerful and makes our consciences clear. Now we can serve the living God and no longer do things that lead to death.

We move to the Letters of the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews lays out how Jesus came from and through the faith of the Jews to take on the highest roles on himself. The letter compares Jesus with the High Priest, the one person in the faith who was allowed to come into the presence of God on behalf of the people.

Once a year the High Priest went into the inner sanctum of sancta, the Most Holy Place, the place where in the old days the ark of the covenant rested. He had to be ritually clean and covered with the correct clothing before he entered lest he incur God’s burning anger. He probably entered in fear and trembling.

He offered in that place the blood of a sacrifice on behalf of the people. Any high priest who understood his role would be very glad to get out alive.

The writer tells us that Jesus entered a better tent, a heavenly holy place to make an offering of blood – his own blood. While we may find the whole blood thing a little distasteful (perhaps some kosher and halal practices leave us uncomfortable), it is the blood of Jesus, real blood, human blood that we claim over us to free us from sin. The Great High Priest was also the sacrificed Holy Lamb of God.

In the book of Revelation John sees a great company of people dressed in white. “Who are these?”, he asks. He is told that they are those who have washed their robes white in the blood of the lamb.

What are the thoughts in your mind when you receive bread and wine at Communion?

How does the concept of Jesus’ blood sacrifice make you feel?

Father God, I may find it easier to consider Jesus’ suffering and death once a year on Good Friday, knowing that it won’t be long before Easter comes. Yet his blood, shed for me on the cross, is a timeless and constant symbol of sacrificial love for me. Thank you, Father God, for sending Jesus. Amen.

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Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.    

Paul

10 Prayers during COVID-19

10 Prayers during COVID-19

10 Pray for all those who live and die without the knowledge of Jesus to hear about him through this crisis and respond to his love. We pray salvation for every man, woman and child in the world today. Through eyes of faith, we see them becoming our brothers and sisters in Christ. Ask in Jesus’ name for the gift of salvation for many to come out of this crisis.

The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise, as some understand slowness but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9

Jesus said that the dead can look after the dead – this is harsh stuff. Our compassion is for the living, the suffering, the grieving, the obstinate, the worldly, the hope-less. Who, specifically, can you start praying for? It may be a long journey of faith.

Please continue to pray these prayers. If you have deleted the messages, you can find the list here
Paul

Day 31: Wednesday, 1 April – Nisan 7 5780

Day 31: Wednesday, 1 April – Nisan 7 5780

Numbers 9:6-11

Some people in Israel's camp had touched a dead body and had become unfit to worship the LORD, and they could not celebrate Passover. But they asked Moses and Aaron, "Even though we have touched a dead body, why can't we celebrate Passover and offer sacrifices to the LORD at the same time as everyone else?" Moses said, "Wait here while I go into the sacred tent and find out what the LORD says about this." The LORD then told Moses to say to the community of Israel: If any of you or your descendants touch a dead body and become unfit to worship me, or if you are away on a long journey, you may still celebrate Passover. But it must be done in the second month, in the evening of the fourteenth day.

John 18:28

It was early in the morning when Jesus was taken from Caiaphas to the building where the Roman governor stayed. But the crowd waited outside. Any of them who had gone inside would have become unclean and would not be allowed to eat the Passover meal.

John’s account suggests that the Passover meal had not yet taken place when Jesus was arrested, so perhaps Jesus’ meal with his disciples might not have been a Passover meal. There’s plenty of discussion on this, and you can make your own mind up.

Jesus was sent into the governor’s house alone. All the other Jews stayed outside lest they pick up some uncleanness from entering that heathen building. The rules stated that if you were unclean in any way you were not allowed to take part in the meal at least on the appointed day.

The implication is that uncleanness renders you unfit to worship. Uncleanness is based on bad hygiene. The Old Testament lists many different ways in which a person can become unclean, many of them relating to contact with something that may threaten personal or public health. Contagious diseases would clearly be a source of uncleanness. Lepers were herded off to colonies. Women were kept at bay from others for a few days each month, and those who worked with some animal products would be kept apart.

And yet the one who stood alone amongst the guard was the cleanest, the purest, the only unblemished, sinless man who ever lived. Well might those who arrested Jesus stay away, for in his presence their sinfulness would be exposed.

What is the greatest uncleanness of all that bars you from worship (clue: Psalm 51)?

Father God, as I consider who I am, I am all too aware of the sin that gets in the way of a relationship with you. In Jesus you cleanse me from my sin, you put out all my misdeeds, you give me a new, clean heart and renew the presence of your Spirit within me. Keep me from ritual holiness and false religion. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.    

Paul

Words to take hold of in a crisis

We know that COVID-19 is not going to go away soon. It is likely that it still has to reach its peak.

At times like this, when we are aware of the danger that surrounds us, we need to trust in what the Bible says.

Here is a selection of verses from both Old and New Testaments that speak of the trust God encourages us to place in Him.

There is no better way of getting these scriptures under your skin than by reciting them each day, committing them to heart and allowing them to lodge there.

Jesus is sharing his last meal with his friends. They are anxious, and Jesus knows he will soon be arrested:

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

God commissions Joshua to lead the army of Israel into the Promised Land:

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

God reminds his people Israel through the prophet Isaiah that they are special people. We, too, may claim these truths for ourselves:

Isaiah 43:1

But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

Paul suffered much in his ministry, but he held on to the truth that God’s love for us, revealed in Jesus’ death for our sins, is eternal and unshakeable:

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wake up each morning with these words on your lips:

Psalm 27:1

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?

Peter has seen it all.  He has been places with Jesus and experienced his glorious power and his human compassion:

1 Peter 5:6-7

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

The psalmist reminds us that God’s love passes through to our descendants:

Psalm 103:17

But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children

Only when you put all your trust in God will you find that this verse is true:

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Love is the answer. Not some wishy-washy, sentimental stuff, but the visceral, agonising death that Jesus died to prove Father’s love for us:

1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

10 Prayers during COVID-19

10 Prayers during COVID-19

9 Pray for all mission workers worldwide today, especially those serving in areas acutely impacted by COVID-19. Pray for wisdom for each ministry team to know how to carry out their responsibilities. We pray that ministries would not have to shut down, but that the Lord would carry them through this difficult time, for his glory.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

These prayers were devised by an organisation dedicated to mission. Are we praying also that people look to God in this crisis? How do I respond to those who will ask difficult and challenging questions? Pray for the empowerment to be God’s worker right where you are

Paul

Day 30: Tuesday, 31 March – Nisan 6 5780

Day 30: Tuesday, 31 March – Nisan 6 5780

Mark 14:22-25

During the meal Jesus took some bread in his hands. He blessed the bread and broke it. Then he gave it to his disciples and said, "Take this. It is my body." Jesus picked up a cup of wine and gave thanks to God. He gave it to his disciples, and they all drank some. Then he said, "This is my blood, which is poured out for many people, and with it God makes his agreement. From now on I will not drink any wine, until I drink new wine in God's kingdom."

This is Mark’s account of the event. It is a slimmer version, and perhaps a little cryptic. What is the significance of the bread being Jesus’ body?

Both accounts include Jesus telling his disciples that this is the last meal he’ll have with them in this format. Luke’s version tells us that there will be a Passover Meal in the Kingdom of Heaven at which Jesus will once more be present. Mark tells us that there’ll be no more wine until Jesus drinks new wine in God’s kingdom. So does Matthew’s account.

John’s account is very different. It covers many chapters of John’s gospel. The last supper is first mentioned in chapter 13. I encourage you to read this and the following chapters. Many words of Jesus are recorded by John as being part of that last supper and their significance is enhanced by them being final words of Jesus, words of encouragement, of hope and truth.

Was this the only thing Jesus is recorded as having said at that meal?

Father God, enrich in the full aspect of Jesus’ last Passover, from his actions, his declarations, his words, his prayers. Allow these to suffuse the experience of Communion for me and my church. Amen.

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Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.    

Paul

Day 29: Monday, 30 March – Nisan 5 5780

Day 29: Monday, 30 March – Nisan 5 5780

Luke 22:14-20

When the time came for Jesus and the apostles to eat, he said to them, "I have very much wanted to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer. I tell you that I will not eat another Passover meal until it is finally eaten in God's kingdom."

Jesus took a cup of wine in his hands and gave thanks to God. Then he told the apostles, "Take this wine and share it with each other. I tell you that I will not drink any more wine until God's kingdom comes."

Jesus took some bread in his hands and gave thanks for it. He broke the bread and handed it to his apostles. Then he said, "This is my body, which is given for you. Eat this as a way of remembering me!" After the meal he took another cup of wine in his hands. Then he said, "This is my blood. It is poured out for you, and with it God makes his new agreement.

We may forget that, while Jesus’ last supper with his disciples was a Passover meal, the elements that Jesus picks up on are the thin bread and the wine.  Jesus takes bread, blesses it and shares it out. He later takes wine. Over these two quite elemental items Jesus makes the comparison with his body and his blood. Bread broken. Wine poured out.

The disciples had not yet fully grasped the link between Jesus’ mission and the suffering he would shortly be undergoing. Jesus was already in a heightened state of awareness of what was about to happen. We see the mental anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane, we can imagine the prophecy that he will give to Peter regarding his impending acts of cowardice, we can imagine Jesus watching Judas depart from the scene. Others would be unaware of the tides and currents ebbing and flowing in Jesus.

This was an unusual Passover. The traditional components were overlaid with a new Passover sacrifice – that of Jesus himself.

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Why did Jesus not make something of the other main meal element – the lamb?

Do you approach Communion as an individual? How might Jesus beckon us to Communion?

Father God, I can often get carried along by the liturgical commemoration of the Last Supper as I come to Communion, and may also make this event something private between Jesus and me, as I pray privately during the administration. Challenge my customs and broaden my outlook, I pray. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.    

Paul

10 Prayers during COVID-19

10 Prayers during COVID-19

8 Pray for those waking up each day to fallout caused by COVID-19, that they would reach out to the Lord. Pray for people to earnestly seek the Lord. We know the desire to seek the Lord comes from the Lord, and we know he will meet them. Pray for those whose businesses and livelihoods are ruined by the halt in many sectors of the economy. Pray for those who may lose jobs and salaries. For each one, we pray new beginnings with the Lord walking by their side.

“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 on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Do you really trust that God can bring us through this? It may take more time than we’re ready to accept, but we have hope. At times like this God is listening out for our prayer so that He may respond to it.

Paul