Storm Jameson Centre, University of Leeds, Leeds, England (see Day 24)
Day 22 – How God’s Work is Accomplished
II Thessalonians 3:1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you
In my first pastorate we used verse 1 of II Thessalonian 3 on the church letterhead. Some missionaries I know do the same in their newsletters. “Pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified.” (NASB) I’m sure that most churches would say that this is their prayer. But how is it accomplished? Verses 2-5 suggest the answer.
- With God’s protection : 2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.
These verses bring to our attention the spiritual battle in which we are engaged. Our enemy, the devil, is always prowling about waiting to catch us in an unguarded moment. Verse 2 mentions people who will oppose us, people who have no faith and who would like to tear down what God has built in the local church, plus Satan himself who attacks us with the temptations of the world and the flesh. Against Him and his agents, we need protection such as is identified in Ephesians 6:10-18,
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
The devil will try to divide us, compromise us and our message, get us to focus on the wrong things, fail to uphold one another, and so on. This battle will not end until the Lord returns. This is why we pray “always “(I Thess. 5:17) and why Paul in Ephesians 6 speaks of the armour then says,“And pray”.
- With continuance: . 4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command.
“Continuance” is not a great sounding word, but it conveys the apostle’s idea. To me it is the positive way of saying, ‘Do not grow weary in well-doing” (Galatians 6:9). We have to keep on doing the work. Hence, we have meetings and plan and find time to prepare lessons or attend to the business of the church or fix what breaks, etc. All of this needs people who are willing to carry on when tired and besieged by many responsibilities. This we must do. These are not just routines; these are essentials.
- With personal submission and devotion: 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
I applied verse 4 to our corporate walk, and now I apply verse 5 to our personal, individual walk. The verse focuses on God’s love and Christ’s perseverance and having our hearts tuned to those two things. This means I have to keep my eyes on Him and my relationship with Him fresh and intimate and sensitive to His desires for me as a child of His. The first area of concern was a universal one (the spiritual battle), the second a corporate one (the work of the church), and this one is a personal one (my walk with God). This means that I give attention to Him and not just to the planning of the next event. I read the Bible not just to prepare a lesson but to expose myself to whatever He has in mind for me today. I listen to Him that way and respond in prayer. These are sustaining activities in my life (like breathing and eating).
- Memorize verse 1 of II Thessalonians 3 “Pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified.”
- From time to time open your Bible to that chapter to remind yourself of the context and the ensuing three alerts discussed above.
Day 23 – Rise Up and Walk
Acts 3: 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, [a man lame from birth] asked to receive alms.4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
Perhaps the most-remembered piece of legislation passed when the first George Bush was President of the United States was the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. That law banned discrimination against anyone with a disability, defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. The ADA led to changes in how Americans design buildings and all kinds of equipment. In the second church I pastored we had an entrance that formed a barrier to anyone in a wheelchair – lots of steps to get in, then a few more to the sanctuary, and no restrooms on that floor – leading us to begin an elevator fund!
The Book of Acts chapter 3 tells the story of one man who could not walk, and this is just one of many references in the Bible to the disabled. In the Gospels alone, we see that more than half of Jesus’ miracles were healings of people who were blind or mute, or who had a disabled hand or legs. If we add to these the Lord’s compassion for the hungry and the poor, we see a theme emerging.
One church my wife and I attended for many years had a number of ministries to just that audience: helping young mothers finish high school, medical services for those with no insurance, accessibility through wheelchairs & ramps, sustainability through education in Africa, assisting immigrants re-settling from Turkey. That church also supported outreach through housing and job training, and through the gifts congregants provided for the hungry and to victims of natural disasters. Also, individuals volunteered their services to an agency that recycled clothing, to a street mission, and elsewhere. These ministries were examples of the compassion of Christ reaching the community.
Peter said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” and then explained the Gospel. May God not only make us compassionate and generous, but also properly vocal about the transforming work of Christ who is available to these needy ones as much as any others.
- Read Acts 3:1-26.
- Notice that in addition to meeting this man’s physical needs, Peter spoke about the spiritual needs of all of us. Missionary work includes serving both the physical and the spiritual dimensions of life.
- Is there a way you can reach out to those with disabilities or those whose poverty denies them food, medical services, housing or other such needs?
Day 24 – Angels Unawares
Hebrews 13:3, “Some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
One late-summer Sunday evening, I found myself standing alone on a dark street corner in a large city 3600 miles from home, not knowing how to get to my accommodation. I was in Leeds, England, a large city 200 miles north of London. A tall young man came along and I asked if he knew where the Storm Jameson Centre was. (I didn’t know whether or not I was close to the campus). He didn’t know the place, but this young graduate student from India proved to be (a) friendly and (b) persistent, eventually guiding me to my destination safely. When I talked with my wife back home, I told her that he was my “angel” rescuing me from a potentially dangerous situation at the end of a long journey.
Whether or not the unnamed young man was an angel, I do not know. I suppose it is more probable that he was just a kind person helping an old guy with a big suitcase. But angels do sometimes do their work incognito, don’t they? Hebrews 13:3 says, “Some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”, and they also are sent out by God to protect His children: “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). The Bible teaches that besides protecting us, angels worship God, guide His children, interpret God’s will, are involved in directing the affairs of nations, and punish God’s enemies. In the life of Christ on earth, angels communicated the news about His coming, comforted and strengthened Him, rolled away the stone of His tomb so witnesses could enter, and accompanied Him at the ascension. They are busy, busy servants of God!
So, when Christmas season returns, as you hear about how angels participated in the birth of Jesus, marvel at God’s created order that includes these wonderful beings and thank God for the ways angels minister to you, even though you are most often unknowing of their presence and activity on your behalf.
- Read Revelation 5:11-12.
- Give thanks to God for His created angels who help us in the many ways listed above.
- For more on angels, including many scripture references, see Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology at https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/angel.html
Day 25 – Pointing to Jesus
Acts 8:35,“Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”
In Acts 8:26-40, Philip is moved by God from a successful ministry in Samaria to an isolated place where he meets a traveler form Ethiopia. Some questions come to mind in a reading of this passage, questions like ‘Why would God move Philip from a very successful evangelistic mission to meet one individual in the desert? Where did this man learn about baptism as a statement of his conversion? Does the description of his baptism say anything about the mode practiced in the early church?’ A careful expositor will not ignore such questions, but neither will he or she be distracted by them and miss something even more important.
In verses 32-35 of the passage, Philip and the Ethiopian traveler dialog about Isaiah’s famous prophecy of the Lamb of God (Isaiah 53). This is why Philip was there. One time, Jesus said to some curious listeners, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40) The Apostle Paul understood that the focus of the Scriptures and the driving purpose of the believer is Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (I Cor. 2:2). Thus, in the Acts 8 passage I am drawn to what I expect God wants us to see most of all, verse 35: “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”
In another place, some inquirers requested, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” (John 12:21) Sadly, I have heard too much preaching about lesser things, even though they may have been truths, but lesser because they did not take me to Jesus. So, I ask of preachers, “Please let me see Jesus” and I expect others to expect the same of me in whatever opportunity I may have to represent the Lord. When you and I study the Bible; when we share our testimony; when the sum of our lives is added up and told to others – will it all be about Jesus? Will it tell His story?
- Read Acts 8:26-40.
- What does your life say about Jesus Christ? That you have decided to reject Him? that you are indifferent with regard to Him? that you are curious and would like to know more about Him? that you have trusted in Him for forgiveness and new life and wish to follow Him?
- If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, in what ways can you be a light to draw others to consider Jesus?
Day 26 – Incomplete Understanding
Luke 24:32, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
All four gospels describe the Triumphal Entry, but only John adds that the disciples at first did not understand what was happening that day. Only after Jesus was glorified did they put it all together (John 12:16).
The New Testament writers frequently quote from the Old Testament, showing that they had begun to see connections which they had missed before. The events of the Lord’s life and His teachings enabled them to see what God had been planning and preparing all along. After the fact, they may have kicked themselves for having missed what was there for the inquiring and submissive believer to discover in the scriptures they had. Surely the disciples who listened to the risen Christ as they walked together on the road to Emmaeus (Luke 24) reacted this way – “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road,while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
How much am I missing in my understanding of God’s plan, God’s purposes, God’s will, God’s work? How many answers to my questions are already there in God’s Word? We are told to search the scriptures (John 5:39) and to allow the Spirit to teach us the deep things of God (I Cor.2:10).
I am encouraged to realize that there are exciting discoveries awaiting believers. But I also want to be cautious. Timothy was instructed by Paul to teach “sound” doctrine (II Tim. 1:13) and John warned all not to add to God’s revelation (Rev.22:18). So, our conclusions must be consistent with the fundamental beliefs of our faith, yet with these cautions in mind we have an invitation to know Him (Phil. 3:10) and to meditate on the Scriptures (Psalm 119:78, 97).
- Read John 12:12-19 and Luke 24:13-35.
- A principle of Bible study is that, when encountering an Old Testament passage quoted in the New Testament, go back and take a look at that Old Testament scripture and seek to understand it in its context. then, see how the speaker or writer makes use of it in the New Testament selection.
- What’s s your curiosity factor when reading the Bible? Are you asking the questions such as those proposed by Dr. Matthew Harmon at https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/8-questions-to-help-you-understand-apply-the-bible/ . There are questions for interpretation: What do I learn about God? What do I learn about people? What do I learn about relating to God? What do I learn about relating to others? Then, questions for application: What does God want me to understand/think? What does God want me to believe? What does God want me to desire? What does God want me to do?
Day 27 – Attitude Counts
“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7
The truth which God reminded Samuel of centuries ago still applies today. In II Corinthians 9:7 Paul challenges the people to give out of a heart of generosity. In fact, this theme runs throughout II Corinthians 8-9 where we find an emphasis on giving and serving with enthusiasm, earnestness, and eagerness (8:8, 17; 9:2). God is interested in the attitude with which we give and serve.
Obedience certainly is good and required, but obedience with the right attitude even more so. We are to do the will of God from the heart (Ephesians 6:6), work at what we are to do with all our heart (Colossians 3:23), and worship out of a pure heart (II Timothy 2:22).
One of the dictionary definitions of “attitude” is as follows: “the orientation of an aircraft’s axes relative to a reference line or plane, such as the horizon”. Perhaps this understanding of the word can help us with those internal attitudes which are to characterize us. If we orient our lives around the person of Jesus Christ who loved and gave Himself for us; if we are governed by and respond to His person, we will be a long way towards the attitude that is to undergird and motivate our actions. And as we expose ourselves to the Word of God, our destructive attitudes are checked and corrected, while new ones are fostered (Hebrews 4:12).
- Read Philippians 2:1-12.
- What was Jesus’ attitude in His coming to this earth, as revealed in Philippians 2?
- Think of some others in the Bible who possessed the right orientation or attitude (e.g., Joseph, Ruth, Timothy, etc.).
- As you face opportunities and responsibilities today, ask God to check your attitude as you do even the right thing.
Day 28 – Simple Statements
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39
God often summarized truth. Think of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17). these brief statements are expanded upon in the remainder of Moses’ writings in the first five books of the Bible, and I might add, also in the books of the prophets later in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, in some ways the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-11) summarize the remainder of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) and throughout the Gospels, not to mention the writings of the apostles that follow.
Jesus had a way of saying things succinctly. Even more to the point than the Beatitudes are these other examples of the Lord’s teaching:
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Do to others what you would wish they did to you. Love God and love your neighbour.
That sums it up, says the Lord. The teachings of Moses and all the prophets is found in these simple statements. In another place, Jesus says that He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets: Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Thus, the Lord’s own example and teaching show how we are to love God and one another. Of course, we fail to live consistently in this way. Because of this Jesus said, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3), and added, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18)
- Read Matthew 5:1-20.
- How have I done today in living like this – in living according to the simple statements that Jesus Christ said contain all the truth of scripture?
- Recognizing your failure to live according to the greatest and next greatest commandments, have you trusted in Christ who took your sin upon Himself to make you new?