Sunday, 30 September 2012

Search the scriptures

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. – John 5.39

The Jews Jesus was talking to almost had it right. They knew the importance of their Bibles. They knew that the scriptures had all the facts. They searched there for eternal life. They were great theologians. But they missed the most important element.

The scriptures they studied told about Jesus, but somehow they missed that completely. Jesus went on in the next verse to tell them that eternal life was to be found in Him.

Isn’t it sad that even though some people know and study the written word of God they never get to the point when they put their faith in Jesus, the living Word of God?

Sadly there are a lot of people today in the same boat. There are theologians and Bible scholars who know their Bibles inside out, but never really get to know Jesus. Let’s be sure that as we get to know our Bibles we get to know the Jesus of the Bible and grow in Him. 

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Death into life

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.  – John 5.24

It is the ultimate tragedy that the whole world is born dead. Not only are we dying physically from the time we are born, but we are already dead spiritually.

For the first 18 ½ years of my life I was dead in my trespasses and sin. I was eternally doomed. I didn't fully realise it yet, but I was living under a curse of eternal death.

But on a Tuesday night in 1974 everything changed. On the 12th of February 1974 I passed from death to life. I was at a Bible study in a basement classroom of the Widener College Library in Chester, Pennsylvania. The teacher leading the study was talking about the love of God when I saw the words of I John 5.13 – ‘these things have I written unto that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that you have eternal life…’

I didn't know that. I realised that what I had was eternal death. So on that Tuesday night nearly 40 years ago I stopped and put my faith in Christ. My eternal death was replaced with eternal life. My new future was secured.

As we go out today we are going to be surrounded by the true walking dead. Most of the people we bump into today are going to be dead people. We have the news to turn them from death to life.

What will we do with that news? 

Friday, 28 September 2012

Honour the Son

that all should honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him. – John 5.23

We all honour something or someone with our lives and talents and all that we do. The question we need to ask ourselves is who or what we are going to honour. 

We often honour our sports teams. I have lived for long periods of time in two cultures. In both of them, the US and Ireland, the weekends can be sports mad. The conversation at church on Sunday morning can be more about how our teams did that what the Lord did for us this week.

People also honour films stars and music celebrities. We can honour politicians and elevate them to either God-like or demon-like status. We can start think that our whole future is based on who wins or loses and election.

We honour all kinds of people and things. Sadly we often honour the same people and things that the world honours.

Yet Jesus said ‘all should honour the Son…’ It was spoken in relation to the Jews who honoured God the Father to tell them that if they did not honour the Son they could not honour the Father. However the principle is the same today. Our loves must be lived in such a way that Jesus is uplifted, glorified, and honoured.

Who are we going to honour today with our words, our attitudes, and our actions? The weekend is coming up, who will be honoured on Sunday? Will it be our sports team who played on Saturday, or will we be honouring Jesus? 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Because of His word

And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, "Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world."  - John 4.41-42

As part of the well intentioned ‘soul winning’ campaigns that I remember there were always seminars for soul winners that included trick of the trade, tools, methods, and the right way to do things. I have not looked into it lately, but I am sure there are webinars, Yotube videos, and plenty of DVDs.

All of those things are fine. We can use all the equipping we can get for this vital task of sharing our Christ with the world around us.

But that can’t be the be all and end all. We can’t just depend on being well trained and using the words and the right tactics.

When the men from the city got saved they did not do so because of the words the woman said. Although she is to be admired for her courage in bringing the men to Chris it was His words that saw them believe the truth.

As we share the gospel with those around us we need to remember that the only ‘tool’ that really works are the words of the gospel. They have an impact far and above anything that we can come up with.

Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me.’ People might be able to argue and debate with us, but it is useless and vain to argue with God. 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Labouring together

And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not laboured; others have laboured, and you have entered into their labours.- John 4.36-38

Isn’t it kind of sad that in some circles we can make a contest out of ‘soul winning’ and we give the trophy to the one ‘gets the final catch?’ I have been in churches that kept totals and everyone reported how many souls they had seen saved. Some churches expect missionaries to report how many people they have seen saved in the last year. Sometimes the ‘soul winners’ are the ‘super heroes’ of our churches.

Oh, we always played lip service to the idea that some sowed and some reaped, but the pressure was to be the reaper. I remember one speaker who told the crowd that he had led 26 people to the Lord between the car park and the church. Churches used to report to publications how many professions and how many baptisms they recorded. The best revival speakers were those who had the highest numbers walking the aisle.  

I am now not so sure that was healthy. I think we may have missed the boat in those days. Jesus makes it clear that sowers and reapers are co-labourers. They need each other and neither is more or less important in the reaping.

One sows, another reaps. Let’s be sure that we don’t glorify the reaper so that the sower is forgotten. 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

In Spirit and truth

Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."  - John 4.21-24

Jesus and the woman at the well spoke for a while before she realised and accepted who He was.

One of the things that Jews and Samaritans fought over was the proper place of worship. The woman asked Jesus and question right at the heart of the controversy. ‘Where do you think we should worship? Should we worship in Jerusalem, like the Jews believe, or should we worship in the mountains of Samaria like we believe?’

Jesus would not be detracted from His purpose. He first of all nailed down that the Jews had the answer of salvation (in Him) but then He went on the point out that the place of worship is not what matters.

Jesus told her what true worship was all about. God is a spirit and those who worship God must do so in a certain way. Those who worship God must do so in spirit and in truth.

I see a couple of things here, but the one that sticks out in my mind is that what really counts in worship is that it is done in spirit and truth. The peculiars are secondary. The place we meet, the building we use, the songs we sing, the style of worship, the way we dress, our cultural practices – all of these are secondary.

What counts is our worship. No matter what the methodology do we worship the Lord in spirit and in truth? Are the songs we sing worshipful in spirit and truth?

We tend to focus on how worship is done on the outside. What we really need to focus on is how it is done on the inside. 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Living water

Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."  - John 4.9-10

This whole account is an amazing one. To set the stage Jews and Samaritans hated each other. I mean they REALLY hated each other. There hatred was deep and had a long history. Suffice it to say that Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans and Samaritans had nothing to do with Jews.

Then we have the two main characters in the account. Jesus was the prefect, sinless Messiah and well known Teacher. The woman, at best, was a woman of a less than respectable reputation.

And yet, when it was time for a trip north Jesus said to the disciples, ‘We need to go through Samaria.’

Nobody did that. It was far too dangerous. It was much safer to go around Samaria going north to Galilee. But here we have Jesus at a well in the middle of Samaria talking to a woman who was probably a prostitute.

She was stunned. ‘Why would a Jew stop here and ask me for water?’ But Jesus had a much greater purpose. ‘If you knew who I was you would ask me for a drink and I would give you living water.’

They went on to talk about this living water. Eventually she becomes convinced, believes His words, and brings many of the townspeople out to meet Jesus. What a great blessing!

Jesus had to go through Samaria to reach this one woman. We had to go because she would bring others to Him. How important is it to reach out to that one.

He had to go because He had the living water that everyone needed. That living water is the one thing that can forever quench the deep spiritual thirst that all mankind has. That living water is still around today. Only the living water that Christ offers can meet the deep spiritual thirst that people all around us have.

Let’s be always ready to offer those around us a drink of that water. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.  He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
 – John 3.33-36

This whole concept of the Trinity can be a little(?) confusing at times. How do God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit act separately and yet as one?

While I don’t always get it, it is still true. John here is speaking of Christ ministry and in the middle of it he talks about the Holy Spirit.

The Father loves the Son. He gives all things into the hands of the Son. God gives the Son the full power of the Holy Spirit.

Wow! That is a lot to take in. But the key truth is what follows.

The Son is God’s full representation on earth. Sent by God He has all of the Holy Spirit. Because He is the full representation salvation only comes through Him, and when we get Him we get it all.  

Behind all the theology it is pretty simple. God chose to send His son. Whoever believes on the Son has everlasting life, those who don’t will face God’s judgement. Praise God that He sent a way to a world trapped in darkness. What a tragedy that some many reject Him. 

Saturday, 22 September 2012

He must increase

He must increase, but I must decrease. – John 3.30

At the end of John 3 we have John the Baptist's brilliant discourse on Jesus Christ. Some might have seen them both as possible ‘candidates’ for Messiah. They both fulfilled prophecy and both were well known teachers. Some thought that John was the Christ.

Well John sorted that our pretty quickly. In this discourse he points out that he is not the waited for Christ. Instead it is his cousin Jesus Christ.

I just want to point out one key phrase from this passage though – ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’

I point this out because it is such a vital truth for not only John, but all of us. John had his followers, he had people who thought he was Messiah, his disciples wanted to elevate him, but he said ‘Jesus must increase and I must decrease.’

Unless we grasp this concept we are never going to be able to serve God properly. Our world is all about increase; increase in money, increase in possessions, increase in prestige, increase popularity, increase in power, and so on and so on. Man is not considered a success unless he shows increase.

As a normal pattern of life there is nothing wrong with increase – if our hearts and desires are right. Sometimes God may allow those things to happen.

But if our desire and motive and goal in personal increase we err. Our desire should be that Christ increases in our lives. Instead of self-promotion our lives must be all about Christ promotion.

As we start out the day lets be sure that we live today in such a way that Christ increases in our life while we learn how to accept decrease. 

Friday, 21 September 2012

Men loved darkness

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. - John 3.17-19

These are dark, dark days. I think we all know that. I don’t think there can be any question about that. The whole world is lost in the darkness of sin. And the sad thing is that the world doesn’t really seem to care.

Despite that God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. He came to make sure that the there was a way out of condemnation. Condemnation is for those who will not believe.

And then there is the reason for condemnation – the light came into the world. But men loved darkness more than they loved light. Why? Because their deeds are evil.

What amazes me here is that God sent His Son into a world that still loved darkness. They love their evil deeds more than they love the Light.

Into a world that deserved condemnation God sent the Light of salvation instead. God loved a world that loved their sin more than Him.

What a God. What a Saviour. What a love. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

As Moses lifted up

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. - John 3.14-16

Since Jesus was speaking primarily to Jewish crowds He often use the events of the Old Testament to illustrate great truths.

Every Jew knew the account of the fiery serpents in the wilderness. As a result of perpetual complaining God sent fiery serpents to bite the Jews. The bite caused great agony and death. The Jews quickly came to Moses, confessed their sin, and begged for a solution. God told Moses to make a brass serpent on a pole and lift it up. Anyone who looked to the upraised serpent would be delivered. Looking to the serpent was God’s way of deliverance. Nothing else would work, no matter how hard the people tried.

As Jesus was teaching Nicodemus He said that He too must be lifted up in the same way. He said that just like the Jews anyone who looked up to the raised Christ would not die in their sin, but have eternal life.

Followed by these words are the incredible words so often used to sum up the gospel – ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’

God only provides one way for deliverance from the wages of sin. His way is the only way and His way is the lifted up Jesus.  

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Unless a man is born again

Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'
" – John 3.3, 7

Nicodemus was quite an interesting character. He was a religious leader. He was one of those who had heard Jesus’ teachings. Most of them were opposed to His teachings and tried to shut Him down.

But something about Jesus intrigued him. One night he came to Jesus and confronted Him. ‘We know that you are from God because no one can do these things unless is.’

Jesus did not waste time or words ‘Unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ After a few questions about what it meant to be born again Jesus said ‘Don’t be surprised when I tell you that you must be born again.’

‘Born again’ is a strange concept when we first hear it. Nicodemus asked the question anyone might ask ‘Can I go back into my mother’s womb and be born all over again?’

Jesus explained that two births are required to go to heaven. One is physical, the other is spiritual.

Our physical birth took place at a moment in time. It was an event marked down and recorded with a time and date.

Our spiritual birth also takes place at a moment in time. It is also a specific event of when we finally put our full trust in Christ.

The only difference is that with we have a physical birth cert we don’t normally get a spiritual birth cert so we may not always know the day or time when we were reborn, but it is an event.

I am lucky in that I know both of my birthdays. My first birth was on Tuesday, 5 July, 1955. My second birth was on Tuesday, 12 February, 1974. My first birth placed me in a physical family. My second birth put me in God’s family.

Here a ‘born again’ can often be a term of derision. However it is a name we ought to readily accept for unless a man is indeed born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

And His disciples believed

This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. – John 2.11

Jesus’ ministry had been going on for a while now. He was beginning to be seen as a great teacher and he was gathering a following. But right in the middle of that there was a family function in Cana. Somebody was getting married. In those days a wedding was more than just a few hours in a church and reception hall. It was an all-day affair. Sometimes it might even be a multi-day affair.

So Jesus and his family and his disciples all went to the wedding. After a while, as we mentioned yesterday, they ran out of wine. Jesus’ response was pretty amazing. He instructed the servant to bring him some water. Something happened that shook everything up. Jesus turned the water into wine. Not just any wine, but the best wine at the feast!

This, as John records, was the beginning of signs in Cana. He manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.

I think that’s great! Something happened to cause the disciples to believe in Him. It took a sign, but they did believe.

Belief is always good, even if it takes a sign to get there.

But it is the way that Jesus put it when dealing with Thomas – Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

I find it kind of encouraging that these disciples are a lot like us.

It took just that little bit extra before then could believe. It would be nice, considering all the blessings we have, if we could go that step further and believe without seeing. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Do what He tells you to do

And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."  Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it." John 2.3-5

I have always enjoyed the family-ness and normalness of this incident. Jesus and His family were gathered together for a wedding. This was family stuff and family always played a part in Jesus’ life.

It was a typical Jewish wedding. The whole family was there. It was always a great occasion. It was always a great time and people have a great time.

But as the party went on they had a problem. Jesus’ mom came to Him and told Jesus that they were running out of wine. ‘What dies that have to do with me?’ Jesus asked, ‘It is not yet my time.’

So Mary turned to the servants ‘Do whatever Jesus tells you to do.’

Now Jesus, as we know now, starts his miracle ministry my turning the water into wine. We will see the result of that tomorrow.

I just want to make a simple application of Mary’s instruction. ‘Do whatever He says.’

I love that bit of advice. It really summarises what we are supposed to do. Later on Jesus is going to say ‘You are my friends if you do what I command you.’

I’m not going to be too philosophical or theological about this today. I am just going to mention Mary’s words of advice.

Do whatever Jesus tells you to do. 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

And he brought him

He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour . One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.  He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.  – John 1.39-42

There is so much excitement here. This are the very, very first days of Jesus’ ministry on earth. He is meeting people for the first time and they are sharing the experience with each other. ‘Where are you staying?’ some the followers asked Him. ‘Come and see,’ Jesus replied.

After spending most of the day with Jesus Andrew did something very touching and powerful.

He went and found his brother Simon – and said to him ‘We have found the Messiah.’ But he didn’t stop with that. Look what he did next – ‘and he brought Him to Jesus.’

There is no greater expression of compassion and caring than to do what Andrew did. Andrew accepted that Jesus was the Christ that they had been looking for. When he did that the first thing he did was to go get his brother and introduce him to Jesus.

There’s not a whole lot to say about that really. I know it is a challenge to all of us who have met Jesus Christ. We need to ask ourselves who we bring to Him. 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

He giveth more grace

And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. – John 1.16

We could almost spend a year just looking at the first chapter of John’s gospel. Every single verse is packed with truths. We are only taking a few highlights.

Verse 16 contains two great truths. First, in Christ we see all the fullness of God. All the fullness of God - every bit of it is revealed in Christ. That means there is nothing we don’t have once we have Christ. ‘Jesus Christ is made to me all I need. Jesus is my all in all. He is all I need.’

When we got saved we got all of Jesus. The problem is that we have a hard time giving Him all of us.

It is the end of the verse though that grabs my attention. What is ‘grace for grace?’

There are several explanations for this. The one that most folks agree with, and the one I think makes the most sense is this. In place of grace God gives grace and in place of that grace God gives more grace. In place of that grace God gives grace.

I think the great hymn ‘He Giveth More Grace’ by Annie Flint really sums it up.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

When it comes to grace God ‘giveth, and giveth, and giveth it again.’

God’s grace is like His compassions, His mercies, and His faithfulness as expressed by Jeremiah.

Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

Praise God for ‘grace for grace.’ 

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Children of God

That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: - John 1.9-12

As the true Light came into the world the world still did not know Him. He came to His own people, the Jews, and they rejected Him. Even today the vast majority of the world continues to reject the true Light.

‘But.’ I love that word. I love how it makes its appearances in the Bible. The world rejected the Light, but…

‘But as many as received Him to them gave He the power to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name.’

Most of the world will reject Jesus there are some who will receive Him and believe in His name. The blessings for those who do receive Him the blessings are almost incomprehensible.

How do people born into sin and enmity with God become His children? How is that possible?

We find the answer in Galatians 4.4-7 - But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

God sent forth His Son…to redeem those…that we might receive the adoption as sons.

And because we are sons, God’s Holy Spirit has given us a spirit of adoption so that now we can cry out ‘Abba, Father.’

Praise God that in our Light denying world we have the power through the Light to be called the children of God. And, as children, we get to call Him our Abba, Daddy. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The darkness could not comprehend

And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. - John 1.5

There are not two more opposite extremes than light and darkness. They are totally incompatible. The reason is that light always wins out. Even the slightest bit of light dispels darkness. Darkness is not total where there is any light.

In the beginning was the Word and with Word was with God. He was in the beginning with God. In the Word was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not comprehend it.

The first thing that happened at the beginning was speaking of the words ‘Let there be light.’ Long before the incarnation the light of Jesus was shining in the world. That light kept shining.

But the darkness did not comprehend the light. If we limit ourselves to the usual modern use of the word ‘comprehend’ we miss something here. We think of the word as a synonym for ‘understand.’ This means we might paraphrase this as ‘the darkness did not understand the light.’

There are two schools of thought about this verse and I don’t really know which way I go with it. One group of scholars thinks that the better translation is ‘the darkness did not seize the light, like an enemy is seized and overcome.’ That makes sense and it may very well be the right explanation.

I lean the other way. I tend to think that the concept of not understanding may be closer to the truth. The other idea of the word ‘comprehend’ is that though the Light was always there the darkness could not seize it completely. It did not really truly hold on to it. The result of that is that more revelation was required. That would lead up to ‘the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.’

Praise God that He sent the full Light to the world so that the world could indeed grasp the fullness of the truth. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

In Him was life

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. - John 1.3-4

I am reading a book called Moon Shot at the moment. It is about the early days of the space programme in the US.  I love history and growing up in Huntsville, Alabama we were right at the centre of the NASA activities so I remember a lot about those days of excitement.

The Apollo 8 astronauts were the first humans to see the moon close up. As they orbited the moon in Christmas of 1968 they were amazed at the barrenness, the desolation, and the deadness. Jim Lovell put it so well when he said ‘“The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring, and it makes you realize just what you have back there on earth.’ There was no life, only deadness.

Shortly after that the saw an awe inspiring sight of Earth-rise. Compared to the deadness of the moon the Earth sparkled and shone with colour and vibrancy. The difference? One had life and the other didn’t.

Shortly after that the three astronauts read from Genesis 1.1-9. Those famous words that being ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…’

That image sticks in my mind as I read John 1.3-4. ‘In Him, [the Word, Jesus], was life, and the life was the light of men.’

The barren lifeless moon is like the man without Christ. There is no life. His heart is dark, lonely, and barren with no hope. The man with Christ is totally different. Just like Earth rising over the moon it explodes with life. The cold drab dark heart is replace with a thing of beauty,

Jesus said later on ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life!’ That life is the only hope for those around. Our job is to carry His life into this cold, dark, barren world. What are we doing about it? 

Monday, 10 September 2012

The Word was God

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  - John 1.1-2

It is interesting to get to this passage of scripture. We are memorising John 1v1-14 as a church and I am preaching a series on the life of Christ. Because of that I have read over this section of scripture over and over again.

And yet every time I read it I am almost overwhelmed at the truth. It takes several verses of explanation for us to get to the whole truth but eventually we find out that Jesus Christ is the Word. That means that the same Jesus who came and died for us was already in the beginning with God. Jesus is, in fact, God.

We are so used to hearing that act that we can almost get used to it if we are not careful. But think about it for a second. The God who was active in creation, the God who already there at the beginning, and the God who created everything died on the cross for me.

I won’t claim to fully understand the Trinity. I don’t think it is possible to totally ‘get it.’ Because I don’t ‘get it’ I choose to accept it by faith.

Jesus tells us in His word that He never changes. He tells us that He is with us always. Since that is the case is there anything too hard for Him to handle? Is there anything He has not seen? Is anything going to take Him by surprise?

In the beginning was the Word – and He is still in this very moment. Praise God for our Jesus who never changes! 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

And they worshipped Him

And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. – Luke 24.51-53

It was all said and done. Jesus earthly ministry was over. He had told the disciples to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come. 'Then it came to pass, that Jesus blessed them and was carried away into heaven.'

'And they worshipped Him.'

What truly awesome words those are. Instead of being frustrated or upset or giving up when Jesus was carried away they worshipped Him. Not only that, they went back to Jerusalem, spent time in the Temple, and praised and blessed God.

Now I realise that part of this was because they remembered hearing Jesus talking about going away, preparing a place, and coming back for them.  Perhaps it is that excitement that led them to be so fervent in their worship. He was coming back, and they wanted to be ready.

Two thousand years later we are in a similar situation. Jesus is still coming back one day. Ever since He left Jesus’ followers have been waiting and waiting. Sometimes it can be discouraging and sometimes people can say ‘where is the promise of His coming? Nothing has changed.’

I think we can learn from these guys. While we are waiting let’s spend time with God’s people. Let’s worship Him. Let’s praise Him. And let’s bless His holy name. 

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Power from on high

And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. – Luke 24.45-49

I often feel quite defeated and beaten. I feel weak and powerless. Sometimes I feel something like ‘what’s the use?’ I can feel like nothing ‘works’ and that maybe we should just hang it up.

But I do that when I forget where our commission and where our power comes from. Just before Jesus left He gave what might be called His farewell address. He took off any spiritual blinders that remained with the disciples. They were able now to accept what He said.

His last lesson was pretty simple. Everything that has happened had to happen. Jesus had to suffer and die so that He could rise from the dead.  Now that message of repentance and salvation had to be carried to all nations, starting with Jerusalem.

They were not expected to go our powerless though. Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem until they received power from on high.

We know now that the promised power was the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower the church for the task of spreading the gospel.

The Holy Spirit did come at Pentecost and now indwells and empowers every believer.

When we get defeated and feel like there is nothing we can do there is one reason. We are depending on the wrong power. Instead of allowing ourselves to be endued with power from on high we try to endue ourselves with our own power and wisdom.

We need to keep going forth and keep plugging away – but we need to do so in the right power. 

Friday, 7 September 2012

Our hearts burned

And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?"  - Luke 24.32

This was truly a fascinating encounter between Jesus and the men on their way to Emmaus. It is interested to see how men responded to Jesus when they did not know who He was.

As they continued on their journey the men came to the village they were seeking. They wanted to stop, but Jesus acted as though He was going to go on. They asked Him to stop and join them.

So He stayed and ate a meal with them. After the meal He broke bread in a manner reminiscent of the Lord’s Table. Then after all that He revealed who He disappeared.

When Jesus left they said to each other – ‘Remember how our hearts burned within us when He explained the scriptures to us?

Now I realise that Jesus, the subject and author of these scriptures was the one doing the teaching and none of us can ever match up with His teaching, but I think there is a point to be made about the power of the scriptures.

First, we need to remember that when Jesus left He sent the Holy Spirit to teach us all truth. Part of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to open up and explain the scriptures to us. He often uses other men to do assist in it, but He does the teaching.

That being the case I have to examine my own heart and consider the last time my heart burned within me. When has the scripture really well and truly hit home? I remember a day last week preparing my thoughts for this series when I was impacted about the simplicity of the salvation of the thief on the cross. I could hardly talk about it. I sensed that burning of truth in my own heart.

But that kind of experience is far too rare. 

We have to ask ourselves how often we are open to allow the scriptures to burn in our hearts. We also need to examine how often our hearts are cold and dull to the teaching of the scriptures. How do we respond? Do our hearts burn within us? Or are our hearts so cold that it doesn’t even have an impact?

When is the last time our hearts burned when the scriptures were opened and explained to us? 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

All about Jesus

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. – Luke 24.27

We have all seen the lists or heard the messages where people show how Jesus is in all 66 books of the Bible. I found one of these online as an example.

In Genesis –        He is the seed of woman.
In Exodus -          He is the Passover Lamb.
In Leviticus-        He is Our High Priest.
In Numbers-        He is the Cloud by day and a Pillar of Fire by night.
In Deuteronomy- He is the Prophet like unto Moses.
In Joshua -           He is the Captain of our Salvation
In Judges -           He is our Judge and Law giver.
In Ruth  -              He is our Kinsman and Redeemer.
In 1 & 2 Samuel - He is our Trusted Prophet.
In 1 & 2 Kings  -   He is the Lord our King.
In 1 & 2 Chronicles -He is our Reigning King.
In Ezra -                He is our Faithful Spouse.
In Nehemiah   -     He is the Builder of broken down walls.
In Esther   -           He is our Mordecai.
In Job        -           He is our Redeemer.
In Psalms     -        He is the Lord our Shepherd.
In Proverbs        -  He is our Wisdom.
In Ecclesiasties  -   He is our Lover.
In the Song of Solomon -He is our Beloved Fair one.
In Isaiah- He is the Prince of Peace
In Jeremiah – He is the The Balm of Gilead.
In Lamentations - He is the weeping Prophet.
In Ezekiel – He is the wonderful four faced Man.
In Daniel  - He is the fourth man in the Fiery Furnace
In Hosea – He is the faithful Husband
In Joel – He is The Holy Ghost Baptizer
In Amos – He is the Burden Bearer
In Obadiah – He is Mighty to Save
In Jonah – He is our foreign Missionary
In Micah – He is the Messenger with Beautiful feet
In Nahum – He is the Avenger of Gods Elect
In Habakkuk – He is God’s Evangelist
In Zephaniah – He is Our Saviour
In Haggai – He is The Restorer of God’s Lost Heritage
In Zechariah – He is the Fountain Open in the house of David
In Malachi – He is the Son of Righteousness with Healing in His Wings.
In Matthew -He is The Messiah
In Mark – He is The Wonder Worker
In Luke – He is The Son of Man
In John- He is The Son of God (he is the Word)
In Acts – He is The Foundation of the Church
In Romans – He is our Justifier
In 1 & 2 Corinthians – He is our Sanctifier
In Galatians – He is the Redeemer from the curse of the law
In Ephesians – He is the Christ with Unsearchable Riches
In Philippians – He is The God that Supplies All of Our Needs
In Colossians – He is the Fullness of the Godhead Bodily
In 1 & 2 Thessalonians - He is Our Soon Coming King
In 1 & 2 Timothy- He is the Mediator between God in Man
In Titus – He is The Faithful Pastor
In Philemon – He is the friend that sticketh closer than a brother
In Hebrews – He is The Blood of the Everlasting Covenant
In James- He is Our Great Physician
In 1 & 2 Peter- He is The Chief Shepherd
In 1,2 & 3 John  - He is Love
In Jude- He is The Lord Coming with 10,000 of His saints
In The Revelation – He is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords

Now, I don’t vouch for everything on that list. Some of them might be a bit of a stretch. But these lists do point out an important truth of today’s passage. Jesus is the central theme of the entire word of God.

As Jesus spoke to the two men on the road to Emmaus he ‘expounded the scriptures, starting with Moses and all the prophets and pointed out all of the things about Himself.’

The Jews had missed the full meaning of Moses and the prophets. They had seen Messiah as a great conquering hero. They did not see him as a prophet who would be crucified.

So they needed taught and Jesus did just that. He showed them how the scriptures were indeed all about Him.  Praise God that we can now look back and see Him in ‘Moses and all the prophets’ and see how God’s eternal plan all came together in Christ. 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

We were hoping

But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see." Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" – Luke 24.21-26

This account seems just so ‘normal’ to me. It makes me think about how most of us would have responded on that first Resurrection Sunday.

It had been an amazing day. Back before Twitter or Facebook or texting or anything like it the story still spread like wildfire. The prophet Jesus was well known. He had spent 3 ½ years preaching and teaching all throughout Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Like Him or not, everyone knew who He was.

But now he was dead. I don’t know how far word had reached in three days, but I think we can safely assume that most people associated with Jesus knew that He had been executed. Everyone was in despair.

On Sunday afternoon to men were walking to Emmaus discussing the events of the day. A man appeared and, as was customary, joined them and their discussion. For the moment He did not let them know who He was.

‘What are you guys talking about?’

‘Are you a stranger? Haven’t you heard the news?’

‘What news?’

‘About Jesus of Nazareth - He was a great prophet but three days ago the rulers crucified him. We were really hoping that He would be the promised redeemer of Israel. This morning the women went to the grave but his body wasn’t there. A couple of angels told them that Jesus was alive. When the disciples went to the grave all they saw was an empty tomb.’

‘How foolish,’ Jesus said, ‘that you have not believed the prophets about these things.’

Because these guys did not trust what God said their hope was still in vain. What they hoped would happen had happened, but their faith was too weak to recognise it. They should have known all this was going to come to pass, but their hope was dashed by their lack of faith.

How often does our own lack of faith do the same to us? How often are we let down just because we don’t trust God enough to continue to hope in His promises?

Proverbs tells us that ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick.’ That is where these men were. That is where we are far too often.

But when hope is fulfilled it is a tree of life. Do we have the faith to trust God for fulfilled hope? Or does our doubt make us miss the blessing? 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

They did not believe them

It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marvelling to himself at what had happened. – Luke 24.10-12

The disciples took the women’s mistake a step further. Even if they did remember what Jesus had said they did not believe it.

Imagine the setting. They are all gathered together in fear, locked away privately. The women
had gone to the tomb to properly prepare the body. When they came rushing back with the news of the resurrection the disciples could not handle it.

Their stories ‘seemed like idle tales and they did not believe them.’ It wasn’t so much a matter of not believing the women – Jesus had told Him He would do this over and over again. And they just couldn’t accept is.

Even when Peter ran to the tomb to check things out for himself and saw the grave clothes lying aside by themselves he left the grave and wondered what had happened.

They didn’t believe it.

While that may be a sad comment on their faith I wonder how often we really have room to be critical. We too can be guilty of not believing what God does. Sometimes we can be so blind to what God is doing that we can just plug stubbornly away with our own agenda.

‘O ye of little faith’ suited the disciples that day. Let’s just be sure we learn from their mistakes and trust God enough to believe what He says. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

They remembered His words

He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, Saying, 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.' " And they remembered His words. – Luke 24.6-8

It is amazing how forgetful people can be. Over and over again near the end of Jesus ministry He had talked about how He had to be arrested and killed and how He would raise from the dead. There is no doubt that they had all heard – apparently they just chose to ignore it. Maybe they didn’t want to deal with it. Maybe it was too fantastic. Or maybe they just didn’t pay proper attention. Either way they had heard it because they remembered it when they were reminded.

We can look at these women and wonder how they could have possibly not remembered these words. He said it over and over again. He was clear in what He said. It surely was not just an off the cuff remark.

The problem I suspect comes down to selective hearing. We hear what we want to hear. We can be as guilt as the women at the tomb when it comes to selective hearing. We hear a sermon and we hear the words of love and comfort and all about the sins other people are dealing with, but we don’t hear what should be impacting us. We go on our merry way, we mess things up, and eventually someone reminds us of God’s word and what it says about the matter.

Our response? ‘Oh yeah, that’s right, I forgot about that.’

It is important that we not only hear God speak, but that we take it to heart and make it a part of ourselves.

How many remember the sermon you heard yesterday? How many are seeking to apply it today? 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Lord, remember me

Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us." But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."  And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." – Luke 23.39-43

Sometime we can over complicate what faith is. We even have a fancy name for it. People argue about all the various aspects of soteriology. Are we grace or free will? Lapsarian? Supra, lapra, or some other breed? Covenant or dispensational? And so on and so on and so on.

All that is well and good, but when it comes down to the basics of salvation it is pretty simple. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’

And here, at the very end of Jesus earthly ministry we find an example.

Jesus had already been crucified. He hung on a hill between two criminals. In the hours they remained alive a conversation took place. The two criminals spoke. One taunted Him and mocked Him. ‘If you are really the Son of God get off that cross.’

The other spoke as well – ‘What are you saying? We deserved to be on our crosses, but this man did nothing.’ He then turned to Jesus – ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

There it is. We have a confession of sin and a call of faith to the only one who could do anything about. That’s it – salvation in a nutshell.

And Jesus’ words? ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’

How about that? No theology class, no ‘do this don’t do that,’ not even baptism. Salvation was simply an honest recognition of sin and turning to Christ for deliverance with a call of simple faith.  

The simplicity reminds me of the famous John Newton quote - “Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Saviour.”

'Lord, remember me' was enough for this criminal on the cross. It still is. 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

To Caesar and to God

Then they asked Him, saying, "Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favouritism but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, "Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?" They answered and said, "Caesar's." And He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marvelled at His answer and kept silent.
– Luke 20.21-26

It appears that the question about the relationship between God and government is an old one. Even in Jesus’ day His opponents, while looking for ways to trap Him, decided to address the issue of government.

After a bit of flattery they asked Jesus a question that was sure to catch Him. ‘Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar?’

If Jesus said ‘yes’ the people would turn against Him. No one likes to pay taxes. If He said ‘no’ the Roman authorities could very well arrested for supporting rebellion.

What would He do now?

‘Why are you trying to trick me? Let me see a coin.’ So they handed Him a denarius with Caesar’s face on it. ‘Whose face is that?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they responded. ‘So give Caesar what is his and give God what is His.’

They couldn’t catch Him out. They were stunned at His answer.

And that really answers the question for us. There is no dilemma of church and state. We give God our absolute obedience and devotion. We live to honour and glorify Him. We also submit to our government and pay our taxes.

On those very rare occasions where we can’t obey both we must choose to obey God and deal with the consequences.

Give Caesar his due and give God His due – simple enough really.