Your Love Letter
Your Love Letter
Thankfully, there have been very few times since our relationship began that I have been apart from my wife Pippa. However, before we were married, there was a period of three weeks when I was away. In those days, without email or mobile phones, our only way of communication was by letter.
I wrote every day. She wrote every day. I remember so well the feeling of intense excitement and joy when I saw the handwriting on the envelope and knew that a letter from Pippa was inside.
I would quickly take the letter and go off to a quiet place by myself to study it! The actual letter wasn’t valuable, but the fact that it was written by the person I love made it so precious to me.
The Bible is a love letter from God to you. What makes the Bible so exciting is not the book itself, but the fact that through it we encounter the person we love. The whole Bible is about Jesus. The New Testament is obviously about Jesus. However, Jesus said of the Scriptures that were available in his lifetime (that is, the Old Testament): ‘These are the very Scriptures that testify about me’ (John 5:39).
Proclaim the victory of JesusPsalm 22:22-31
This psalm, which starts off with despair and suffering (v.1) describing, prophetically, the death of Jesus, ends with a great cry of victory: ‘He has done it!’ (v.31). God ‘has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help’ (v.24).
This victory will lead to people all over the world turning ‘to the Lord’ (v.27). All the nations will bow down before him (v.27b). This victory will be proclaimed: ‘They shall come and shall declare his righteousness to a people yet to be born – that he has done it [that it is finished]!’ (v.31, AMP; John 19:30).
Not only does the resurrection of Jesus bring great victory, it also brings about a familial intimacy. The word translated ‘my people’ (in Psalm 22:22) is an intimate one, referring to close companions, and it is usually translated as ‘brother’ or ‘relative’. In the New Testament, the writer to the Hebrews specifically relates this to our relationship with Jesus (Hebrews 2:11–12). Jesus declares to us, his people, that he is in our midst, and sees us as his brothers and sisters, part of his family.
Lord, thank you so much that you have listened to my cry for help (v.24). Today again I cry for help…
Embrace the words of JesusMark 3:31-4:29
Jesus sees you as part of his close family. He wants all of us to have the closest possible intimate relationship with him – like a brother or sister or mother (3:31–35).
In this passage we see that this relationship is nurtured through the word of God, both by hearing the word and by putting it into practice: ‘Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother’ (v.35).
Jesus speaks about the power of his own words, which are the words of God. Much of his teaching comes to us in stories. Everybody enjoys a good story. The meaning of a ‘parable’ is contained within the story. People go to sleep during abstract preaching but wake up for a good story. A story has the power to get through to us before our defences come up.
The parable of the sower shows the power of words to change lives. If you ‘hear the Word [and] embrace it’ (4:20, MSG), you will be like ‘seed sown on good soil, [who] hear the word, [and] accept it, and produce a crop – some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown’ (v.20). You will ‘produce a harvest beyond [your] wildest dreams’ (v.20, MSG).
We see again and again on Alpha the extraordinary power of the words of Jesus to totally transform lives and make them fruitful. There is a multiplication as people bring their friends to hear the words of Jesus.
If the words of Jesus do not have any effect, then the fault lies with the hearer. At times, my life is so shallow that his words do not take root (vv.4–6). At other times, problems in my life or opposition (‘trouble or persecution’, v.17) take me away from a close relationship with Jesus. At other times still, ‘the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful’ (v.19).
There is great power in vulnerability. Jesus says, ‘For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open’ (4:22). We are not meant to keep things hidden or concealed in our lives. It is far healthier to bring them out into the open. We may impress people by our strengths, but we connect with them through our vulnerabilities.
Jesus goes on to stress over and over again the importance of words and of hearing his words: ‘Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you – and more [besides] will be given to you who hear’ (v.24, AMP).
The more time you invest in studying and applying God’s word to your life, the greater benefit you will experience. Make this a high priority. Give time to embracing the words of Jesus and you will not regret it.
The parable of the growing seed shows that once the words of Jesus have been planted in your life, you can expect to bear fruit. You reap later. You may need to be patient while you wait for the harvest. But you can be sure that if you keep on sowing the seed, you will reap far, far more than what you have sown. The harvest will come (v.29).
Lord, help me not only to hear your words but also to speak them to others and see the extraordinary power of the word of God to transform my life and those around me.
Be a minister of the covenant of JesusExodus 23:1-24:18
God’s relationship with his people was defined by the covenant (the agreement between God and the people) on Mount Sinai. In the covenant relationship, God committed himself to his people and asked them to respond by committing themselves to him. He called them to live lives that would keep them close to him in this covenant relationship.
In particular, we see how high on God’s agenda are the issues of justice and poverty (23:1–12). In many parts of the world it is almost impossible for the poor to get justice. People are often thrown in prison on false charges with little or no redress. Some legal systems are dominated by bribery. If only these words were adhered to: ‘Do not deny justice to your poor... Have nothing to do with a false charge... Do not accept a bribe’ (vv.6,8).
It is really hard to go against the crowd and the culture. But it is no defence to say, ‘Well, that’s the culture – everybody does it – so there’s no alternative.’ God says, ‘Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong... Do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd’ (v.2).
Covenants in the ancient world were frequently ratified by the eating of a meal (‘they ate and drank’, 24:11). The covenant is sealed by the shedding of blood. Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant’ (v.8).
The prophets foretold that one day there would be a new covenant written not on tablets of stone (v.12) but on our hearts (for example, Jeremiah 31:31–34). Jesus explained to his disciples how this new covenant was going to be made possible through his blood (Mark 14:24). You celebrate this new covenant through a meal each time you receive Holy Communion and hear the words: ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood’ (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25).
Under this covenant all of your sins are forgiven (Hebrews 9:15) and you have a relationship with Jesus that goes on forever (13:20).
Through Jesus you are a minister of the new covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6). The old covenant ‘came with glory’ (v.7). The ‘glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai… a consuming fire’ (Exodus 24:16–17). St Paul writes, ‘Will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? … And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory’ (2 Corinthians 3:8,18).
Lord, thank you that as I read the Scriptures I encounter Jesus. Lord, help me each day, as I listen to your words and meet with you, to grow in my love relationship and to reflect your glory.
At first glance, I find this passage difficult. It sounds as if Jesus is discarding his real family. But what he is actually saying is that everybody who believes belongs to his family. And his mother and brothers believed in him and were followers to the end.
Verse of the Day
‘See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared’ (Exodus 23:20).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.