Thursday, 19 April 2018

An Introduction to Standing in the Last Days. ~ Ganeida

I read a story this week which I have found deeply troubling.  It is troubling
because it took place on an Australian university campus, a place where freedom of thought & rigorous debate should be paramount.  It is troubling because it is only one of a number of similar stories, none of which are making the mainline news. It is troubling because it shows just how far the left is prepared to go in order to impose its views on society & it is troubling because I do not believe the church understands what we are about to face & are completely unprepared.

The short version can be found here. I actually listened to the podcast where *Andrew* himself speaks about what happened. *Andrew*, a Christian, offered to pray for a professed atheist struggling with anxiety & stress over her studies, & with her permission did so.  Please note, he did have this girl's permission to pray for her.  He was not acting against her wishes.  Later, @ a party, he was asked directly, by another student, how he would respond to a gay friend, to which he responded that though he might not agree with his friend's choices he would respond with love & kindness, but not wishing to only express his viewpoint asked this particular girl her views. She did not want to participate in the discussion so the matter was dropped.  However *Andrew* then received a uni email informing him that his actions were inappropriate, made this girl feel unsafe & he was not to speak to her unless it was on a university/class related matter ~ a directive he abided by until the day he asked if she was willing to participate in graduation preparations.  It was after this encounter he was suspended by the university & told that in order to attend classes the following year he would be subjected to fortnightly *retraining* sessions on how to appropriately inter-react with his peers. Pardon?  The ACL took up his case & the matter has been resolved without the *retraining*. 

*Andrew* is not high profile like Margaret Court or Israel Folau; most Christians aren't.  Therefore we need to arm ourselves, to ... sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; [1 Peter 3:15]  

There are 3 main points I wish to make on the subject of persecution & though this is not a matter of lions eating us alive or becoming human torches to amuse Nero, it is a matter of survival.  There are people, here in Australia, who have lost their jobs, been disciplined by governing boards, been subject to the violation of  their consciences because they have expressed a conservative Christian viewpoint on LGBT matters. I am not talking about people expressing vilification or hatred.  I am talking about people saying this is not a lifestyle they agree with or consider a healthy life choice.

The first point is simply that these things will come as we come closer & closer to the return of Christ. [1 Timothy 4:1~ 2] Now the Spirit expressly states that in later times some will abandon the faith to follow deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron... 

I believe we are going to find several things running in tandem in these end times.  I believe that because the church has always thrived under persecution.  We will come to the *why* of that in a moment.  God does not bring persecution of His people but He will use it for our good & to bring us into closer relationship to Himself. People who are close to the Lord, who have a living & vibrant relationship with Christ, are incredibly difficult to shake.  What's more, as they draw closer to God by way of His Holy Spirit, Christ enables them to rise above themselves in such a way that they draw others to Christ.  We see this with the 1st Apostles.  We see this with the early church.  We see this with the reformation. The kingdom of God thrives when we abide under the shadow of His wings.

As the persecution intensifies we will be forced to choose.  Either we will compromise our faith, follow after the *teachings of demons*  or we will cling to Jesus. Jesus is about to allow the dead wood to be pruned from the vine leaving a remnant that will produce abundant fruit.  So you see we can have great apostasy & great revival @ one & the same time.  They are not mutually exclusive.  The shaking of everything that can be shaken will reveal that which cannot be shaken ~ & those who cannot be shaken will be revealed as *God's Jewels* [Malachi 3:17For they are as the stones of a crown, Sparkling in His land. [Zechariah 9:16]

We know from scripture these things will not pass away:

  • God's Word 

Matthew 3:17 says: Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
We know from John 1:1 that God & His word are one, & that Jesus is the Word therefore

  • God & Christ will not pass away
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17
  • The Church
...upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.  Matthew 16:18  Now we do see earthly churches shaken, attacked, even destroyed, but the Living Church, the Spiritual Church is eternal.

My second point is this: 2 Timothy 1:7 
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.

We have a little time yet & we must use it wisely to train ourselves in the way of Walking in the Spirit of God in everything we do. It is important because when we are speaking of the Holy Spirit we are speaking about a Spirit of courage. Courage, not rashness.  Not impulsiveness.  Not a spirit of reaction for we are meant to operate in power & discipline from a love base.

If you go to Joshua 1 you find the beginning of Joshua's story as leader of the Israelites.  Moses has just died. Joshua is an untried leader & God says: arise cross this Jordan, you & all this people, to the land, which I am giving them...Then in verse 6, again in 7 & in 9 God says: Be strong and courageous.  The Hebrew is Hazaq, spelt in a variety of ways but the meaning is clear.  

Remember we said Hebrew is a concrete language so the implication is that courage requires being prepared to act, to step out in faith. It is a word often used to admonish soldiers as in to take a stand & hold their ground. It is not referring to physical strength but is an admonishment against fear & dismay. The true man puts it this way: Strength is the counterpart to fear, and courage is the counterpart to discouragement.

The mistake people make is in thinking that courage must come from within ourselves but that is not so. Ephesians 6:10 says:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might ~ which leads us to my 3rd point.
Who is your source?

As Christians most of us could quickly respond from Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Or 91:2 I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!" Or 31:3 For You are my rock and my fortress;

So I ask you again: who, or what,  is your source?  It is important we understand this about ourselves.  It is no good being able to spout the scriptures if we do not practice what they teach. When trouble comes where is the first place you go?  It could be the pantry for the chocolate. It could be the fridge for a beer.  It could be the library for a book or the tv remote.  Whatever it is we are using that as a means of alleviating stress & strengthening ourselves for the fray when the first place we should go is to the Lord for it is He who says: Come to me all who are weary & heavy laden.[Matthew 11:28]

We can only be strong, we can only be courageous, when we find our strength in the Lord.  Anything & everything else will fail us & when the hour of testing comes we will fail.  This is why Timothy expressly warns that in the last days some will abandon the faith.  It is not enough to believe.  Beliefs can change if they are not grounded in Truth for we are warned to grow up & become mature so that As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; [Ephesians 4:14]  No, we are to be grounded in Truth, relying not on the wisdom of this world for that is foolishness in God's sight [1 Corinthians 3:19 ]  Rather we are to know God: His word, His character, His love, for then we will know we are never abandoned or deserted, never left defenceless, never without provision & the world will respond as it always has, crying: These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also... [Acts17:6] but in the process they will have to consider the claims of Christ for how else could His people sing praises to their God as they are taken to the lions?

Broken & Whole ~ Rabqa

I find in Christian art a lot of dishonesty, rock musician Bono voiced in frustration in the powerful
documentary “The psalms, which captures the unlikely friendship between U2’s lead singer & Bible scholar Eugene Peterson. Disusing the impact of the psalms on their lives, the two wondered why psalm-like honesty is so often absent in church. “The only way we can approach God is if we are honest,” Bono emphasised. “That’s what God wants from you. The truth.”

Why is it often so hard to find raw honesty in the church? When Scripture is filled with examples of hearts poured out to God in intense joy, anger or grief, why is it rare to hear such strong emotions voiced in a church building?

Part of the reason might be that believers in Jesus are not typically taught to expect a slow or maybe a difficult journey; that is to say we think of salvation as a one-time transaction, we believe that now we are saved & healed from brokenness.

When this is our mindset, we love to hear stories of miraculous healing or lives dramatically transformed after belief in Jesus. But we are less sure what to think when the miracle doesn’t come. When instead of being cured, a believer relapses into their addiction. When the disease gets worse. Or when the depression we have fought & prayed for intensifies. As pain seeps in, doubt & shame may enter in too. You may think “If I am really saved, why am I in pain? Shouldn’t I be happy? Shouldn’t I be whole?” In a misguided attempt to preserve our faith, we may silence our pain & confusion, denying-perhaps to ourselves-the wounds we carry.

But ironically or tragically in denying our pain, we also in effect turn away from God’s healing touch.

It is hard to find in Scripture the idea that our salvation means protection from pain. In fact, as uncomforting as this might initially seem, we almost see the opposite theme in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.

7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
Paul is describing the church as a community united by two things suffering & comfort.

Have you ever been disappointed, hurt or mistreated? Have you had changes in your life or are you expecting loss of some kind? Have you failed in some way? Are you just simply tired? What is your trouble today? Verses 3&4 says that God will help you by comforting you when you need it.

The Holy Spirit is actually called “the Comforter” (John 14:26). His various names describe His character. They reveal what He does & what He desires to do for all believers. He is willing to do a great deal for us if we are willing to receive His help.

Many years ago I would become angry when friends would not give me comfort when I needed it. I am sure they were trying but I now realise that God would not allow them to give me the comfort I should have been seeking it from God He was longing to give that comfort through the Holy Spirit, If only I had asked.

Now God will allow people to do only a certain amount for us, & no more. Even those people who are extremely close to us cannot give us everything we need all the time. When we expect others to do for us what only God can do, we have our expectations in the wrong place, & we will always be disappointed.

It is so hard to grasp why so much trouble remains in the world, when Jesus has already defeated death & evil Colossians 1:20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
Christ’s blood satisfies holiness, thereby making peace. Mankind was separated from
God because of sin & had no acceptable offering to satisfy the demands of God’s holy nature. God sent Christ to provide an expectable sacrifice for sin, who received Him thereby making peace. It was specifically the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross that satisfied the demands of God’s holiness established a peace bond or covenant with those who received Him, & provided the means for all of creation to be reconciled to God. Lev 17:11 declares that sin cannot be forgiven without the shedding of blood. Because sin takes life. Life is required to repay sin’s debts, Jesus Christ gave divine life in blood to satisfy all of mankind’s sin debts & to restore covenant peace between God & man.

So we see that part of the answerer is God’s love for creation. God has chosen to heel His world, not by violence or coercion, but by bringing human begins, whom He entrusted with creation long ago, into His work of restoration Hebrews 2:6-10 6 For in one place the Scriptures say,
“What are mere mortals that you should think about them, or a son of man[a] that you should care for him? 7 Yet for a little while you made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour.[b8 You gave them authority over all things.”[c]

Now when it says “all things,” it means nothing is left out. But we have not yet seen all things put under their authority. 9 What we do see is Jesus, who for a little while was given a position “a little lower than the angels”; and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honour.” Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone. 10 God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.
Verses 5-9 teach that God has purposed men & not angels to be sovereigns of the created
order. The World to come is the new eternal order inaugurated by the enthronement of Christ which is to be consummated at His return.

In verses 8&9 we learn instead of assuming his intended dominion over creation man had become a slave, held in bondage by death & satan. So the eternal Son of God appeared in history on Earth as Jesus the Man to provide a way of escape from bondage, access to God’s presence & an entrance into man’s intended glory. Jesus the Man, exalted in glory at God’s right hand, occupies the position of dominion intended for men, with everything put, or to be put in subjection under His feet.

When Jesus came to earth, He refused to force belief. Instead He went to the cross, carrying all sin & suffering through death into life to draw all humanity to Himself John12:32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

Exalt Jesus in your life & service to draw men to Him. He invites the church which is His body, to join His work of drawing the world back to God.

To the New Testament disciple godly living is living through, & for Jesus. Godliness can be summarised in three words: love, obedience & unity. By living godly lives, we learn to see things as God does & adopt His Word as our only standard.

2 Corinthians 1: 21& 22 It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, 22 and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first instalment that guarantees everything he has promised us. 2:14-15 But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 4:2, 10 V2 We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this. V10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

2 Cor1:20 teaches that if we pray in the Holy Spirit, we can always be assured that all things will work out for good (Romans 8:27 & 28). God is great & mighty; there is no situation that He cannot use for good as we pray & trust Him. We dare not pray the way we want to, but as we are led by the Holy Spirit. I believe Spirit-filled prayers receive a Yes & Amen from God.

In 2:14 we learn God always energises us to do what He leads us to do. It is only when we go beyond His will to follow our own wills (or other people’s desires) that we are likely to get exhausted. We also learn that God always leads us in triumph. His will is not for us to live defeated, weak lives; He wants us to be more than Conquerors (Romans 8:37). His will for us is strength, not weakness; victory not defeat.

We share the gospel, not through force or underhanded methods, but by simply showing its truth with our words & our lives (4, 10)

The primary way we do this is by following Christ down the path of self-giving love & willingly carrying each other’s plan & weakness 2 Corinthians 1:7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

One of the most powerful displays of the church embracing this calling is found in the L’Arche communities, where people with & without intellectual disabilities live together in fellowship & celebration. In L’Arche communities, many with disabilities who have been deeply wounded by the world’s obsession with perfection find healing through unconditional love.

But L’Arche doesn’t just bring healing to persons with disabilities; it can also bring healing to anyone given the gift of friendship there; by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because all of us are wounded by a world where love is extended only to those who can pretend to be whole. As Jan Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, explains, many of us live in fear, “Afraid of showing weakness, afraid of not succeeding & deep down unsure if we are actually known & loved.” When we meet people with disabilities & reveal to them through our eyes & ears that they are precious, they are changed. But we too are changed. We are led to God.

2 Corinthians 12:9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
Weakness is not very popular. Most people do not advertise their limitations, however in this verse Paul says that He boasts in his weakness. Why? You may ask, that is because he knows that God’s strength is made great in the midst of his infirmity. If there is an area in your life where you feel weak, do not try relying on your strength; instead ask God to be strong in your weakness, when you admit frailty, God pours out His strength. Know that His grace is more than sufficient & thank God for His power that is made perfect in your weakness.

If only the church would begin to take more seriously the truth that God’s power works best in weakness than maybe the will be more people like Bono & Peterson voicing honest lament & praise. & maybe gentle communities like L’Arche will less rare, as the church grows into its calling to be a community of healing which is to say a place where broken hearts are loved, wounds are tenderly cared for & together we will become rooted ever more deeply in Christ’s incomprehensible love. Ephesians 3:16-19 AMP May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality]. 17 May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, 18 That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];19 [That you may really come] to know [practically, [a]through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses [b]mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] [c]unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and [d]become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!

Just imagine having your personality filled with the Holy Spirit of the living God & being a body wholly filled with God Himself. The apostle Paul was a person filled with the Holy Spirit; he was a person who forsook all to follow Jesus. Any areas of our lives that we hold back from God is an area where we cannot be filled with His Spirit. I encourage you to open surrender every room in your heart to God. Your time is His; your money is His, as are your gifts & talents, your family, your career, thoughts, attitudes & desires. He wants to be involved in every area of your life; how you dress, the friends you choose, what you do for entertainment, what you eat & so on.

After conversion Jesus is our Saviour, but is He our Lord? Any area we claim as our own is
one we have not surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The blessedness of being filled with the Holy Spirit is clearly visible in the change in the people’s lives after Pentecost. Peter who for example displayed great fear in not being willing to even admit that he knew Jesus became a bold apostle who stood in the streets of Jerusalem & preached the gospel so fervently that three thousand souls were saved (Acts 2:40 &41).

Complete surrender to God brings good change into our lives. Surrendering to Him actually opens the door to the things we desire, & yet we waste our own energy trying to obtain access to them our own way. I encourage you today to surrender every area of your life to God so you may be filled to overflowing with His Spirit in every way.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Preparing our hearts for Revival & the Return of the Lord. ~ Ganeida.

This message was first delivered in 2010 as an introduction to Solomon's SONG of SONGS. On Sunday the Holy Spirit refurbished it as Preparing our hearts for Revival & the Return of the Lord. Consequentially there will be some anomalies between my notes & what the Holy Spirit delivered on Sunday ,if you happened to hear this message in person.

During the days before the protestant reformation when John Huss led his small bands of Christians  into Albania & the Covenanters were being persecuted in Scotland, one bible book was read, referred to, memorized & loved more than any other. No, not psalms. That book was Solomon’s Song of Songs.

Why this book? Why a book that is a blatant love song, sensually delighting in love & the things pertaining to love? Why is this book even included in the cannon & part of our scriptures? It is short, only about 117 verses. It is the last of the 5 wisdom books: Job, proverbs. Ecclesiastics, some of the psalms & Song of Songs. That it is listed among the wisdom books should immediately tell us that it contains gems of wisdom we would do well to heed. In a wider sense it belongs to a far different theme that runs throughout scripture: the marriage agreement between God & his people.

In Deuteronomy we have the marriage contract. In Hosea we see the adulterous, unfaithful wife & in the Song of Songs we see the fulfilment of love in marriage.

This book is usually attributed to Solomon, David’s Solomon, the live born child of David & Bathsheba. He was not the oldest son. His parents’ relationship was conceived in great sin but he is the first Jewish ruler to inherit the throne of Israel as a birthright. His name is related to the Hebrew word for Peace, Shalom ~ peace arising from harmony with God & man. David chose him to be king over his older sons despite what the Mosiac law said.

Solomon came to the throne in 961Bc, before his father, David, died & reigned for 40 years. It was during his reign the Jewish monarchy gained its highest splendour.Now the seeds of Solomon’s destruction are inherent in his choices. The child of a polygamyous household (David had 18 wives) Solomon took for himself 700 wives & 300 concubines (1 Kings 2:1~3. )I think it is fairly safe to say Solomon liked women. He liked Moabites, & Ammorites. Edomites, Sidonians, Hittites & definitely Shulamites! Famous for his wisdom, he is notorious for his polygamy.

Solomon’s wisdom seems to have been a worldly wisdom. He was aggressive in his foreign policy ~ hence the number of women in his life (he married them to seal arrangements with other rulers) ~ & it was not all plain sailing in the Solomon household. This was the man who said better a dry crust on the rooftop than a brawling woman in a wide house. Perhaps he was something of a henpecked husband & a coop of hens can be particularly vicious. In Deuteronomy (17:16~17)we also find the law explicitly saying not to multiply horses, silver & gold or…wives!

Solomon’s sin in this area lead to his apostasy. His rule was dominated by the conflicting tensions between faithfulness to God & yielding to the foreign influences his marriages brought into the kingdom.The bible is particularly explicit about sexual sins. Solomon’s sin in this area destroyed the house of David. He forsook his first love for God & under his wives influence followed after other gods. I find this particularly interesting scripturally because it is Solomon who built the temple to the Lord to house the ark of the covenant & when we come into the New Testament the scriptures say 1 Cor6:18 shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you that you have from God. From old testament to New God’s temple has been defiled by sexual immorality.

When we read through Solomon’s song of Songs we read a love poem that shows us how to love in a morally correct way on the human level & the spiritual level.That is all background information but bear it in mind as we come to the song itself. Let’s face it, in the area of love Solomon had some idea of what he was talking about.

Kings also tells us Solomon wrote 1005 songs; this is the only survivor. It is, unashamedly, a love song: sensual, sensuous, the portrayal of a man & a woman falling deeply, passionately, irredeemably in love. In the rabbinical view it is a portrait of Gods love for Israel. It was meant to be performed, perhaps something like an ancient musical or opera, theatrical in style, an Eastern love song between bride & groom, God & Israel, Christ & his church.

Now when we come to the scriptures we bring our cultural biases with us so I’d like to pause here & just clarify by giving a little background material on how a traditional Jewish wedding occurred because the song of songs arises out of this Eastern tradition & we miss many of its subtleties if we ignore the Eastern traditions which have little resemblance to our Western ideas of love & romance. Many of the Parallels with our relationship to Christ I’m sure you can draw for yourself. There are 7 main points to consider.

1.The groom’s father made & approved the choice of bride. God has made & approved us as His choice of bride for his son.

2. A contract was drawn up (remember Deuteronomy) & wine was drunk to seal the covenant. The groom pays a price to show his intent is serious & promises his bride he will come to claim her soon. I think we all get the parallel for that one!

3. The groom prepared a bridal chamber where he & his bride would stay for 7 days. He works until his father releases him to go & claim his bride.

4. While the groom is busy preparing the new home the bride waits wearing a veil. This shows she belongs only to the groom. She prepares for her wedding by making blankets etc, shows her family her gratitude for raising her, mends damaged relationships. She had to be ready for whenever her husband came to claim her. Her groom would come for her at night & she would not be told the hour of his coming.

5. Unmarried friends would attend the bride & provide light for the groom when he came.

6. Groomsmen would run ahead of the groom & shout that he was coming. While the father’s head was turned the groom would steal the bride & the wedding went back to the groom’s house to meet the guests.

7.The bride & groom enter the bridal chamber & the marriage is consummated. The party waited outside for this announcement & the guests celebrated for 7 days.

I have spent a lot of time on the background because what I want to discuss with you today is not the Song of Songs per se, though I love the song & think it one of the most beautiful of the many lovely scriptures. It’s central theme is far too important for us to dismiss this book as merely a very lovely love poem, exquisite, but not overly important. Rather by asking ourselves what this theme is we begin to grasp why it has been so loved & why it has remained in the cannon all down the centuries.

The main theme as I see it is loving God. Now scripture says over & over we are to love God. We are to love God first. We are to love God with Heart & mind & strength. We are to love God before mother, father, sisters, brothers, children, husband. I think many of us struggle in this area. We know what we’ve been told to do but we do not know how to do it. How do we love God with all our heart & all our mind & all our strength?

Scripture begins with the heart so that is where we will begin too. Scripture says to guard our hearts with all diligence because the heart is where the issues of life (thoughts, emotions, desires) originate. Proverbs 4:23 There are 4 types of hearts ~ the unregenerate, the hardened, the clogged & the pure. The pure heart, the one God desires for us & for himself, is attuned for the faintest promptings of the Holy Spirit. Sin makes us insensitive & resistant to those promptings.

There is a whole list in Galatians 5:19~21 of the sins of the flesh & I am betting most of us would run down that list going nope, nope, nope, not guilty of that one either. But what about a list like this: grumbling (philipians2:14 do everything without grumbling), self~seeking (phil2:3 let each esteem others better than himself) criticalness, disorderliness & being busybodies ~ There are some who walk among you disorderly, being busybodies (2nd Thessalonians) ….You get the picture I am sure. Sin is pride & put simply pride is not loving God; it is loving ourselves first ~ & that my friends is idolatry!

The word for mind is dianoia. Translated literally it means willpower or volition. When we are born again in the Holy spirit we are enabled to will as God wills. Aligning with the Greek word dianoia is the word exousia ~ it is permitted. That is, it is permitted for us to override our natural desires & inclinations & act in accordance with the spirit of God. It is not permitted for the unregenerate heart to do this. The unregenerate heart is governed by the sinful lusts & desires of the flesh. We are not. We can choose to act in a Godly way because the spirit of God resides within us.We are made in the image of God.

God has 2 sorts of will, the emotional (thelo) & resolve (boule). Our natural inclination is usually to go with the emotional but it is the disciplined choice based on the known will of God as revealed in his scriptures that God desires of us. That is the love response. Ephesians: grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. We grieve the spirit by not following His promptings to walk in the Godly pattern he enables us to walk & instead following after our own desires. When we choose our own way we choose to be ruled by the sin Christ died to free us from.

Lastly there is the soul. I think many of us in the West confuse spirit & soul. Our soul is our conscious thoughts, emotions, desires. Here we see why obedience is of such vital importance. There is a line of progression here. Guard our hearts ~ the things we put into ourselves. Bring captive every thought. Give authority to the Holy Spirit to exercise God’s will in our lives. No matter how we feel, act in accordance with what scripture says & lastly believe that God is acting in our lives as he has promised!

We have been made in Gods image to be an exact likeness of his son, Jesus Christ. We have been given free will which gives us the choice to choose to love & obey God. To do this we need to catch negative, ungodly thoughts before they stir up our emotions, catch negative, ungoldly emotions before our fleshly desires are stirred up, catch our desires before we are stirred to action, catch our actions before we do indeed act upon them in the flesh!

When we choose our own fleshly desires we are allowing Satan to use us to take revenge on God. This is not the action of a loving child of the father’s. If we delight ourselves in the Lord he is able to give us the desires of our hearts because they are the desires he has placed there & they will be in accordance with his will.

Most of us know something of love ~ the desire to be with the beloved, the way our thoughts return again & again to those treasured memories of times we’ve spent together, the anxious waiting for our beloved to be with us again, the way we know their thoughts without speaking, the hours we have spent peacefully in each others company without words. We know what it is to love our partners & our children, our siblings & our friends but far to many of us don’t know what it is to love God ~ to love as the Shulamite loves. And this is why this little book, Solomon’s glorious Song of Songs, is so important & why it has been so loved.

Let me paraphrase for a moment:
Jesus, your love is more delightful than wine.
The fragrance of your perfume is intoxicating;
Your name is perfume poured out.
No wonder we adore you.
Take us with you~Let us hurry.
Oh, that the king would bring us to his chambers!
Or this...

Jesus, You have captured my heart,
my brother, my groom.
You have captured my heart with one glance of your eyes.
With one jewel of your necklace.
How delightful your love is, My brother, my groom.
Your love is much better than wine
& the fragrance of your perfume than any balsam.
Your lips drip sweetness ...

And so scripture comes full circle for psalm 119 verse103 says; your word is to my taste ~ sweeter than honey to my mouth. Friends, let us keep our hearts with all diligence & bring every thought captive that the words of our mouths & the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to the Lord our God & our lives, pure & holy, be reflections of His love that resides within us.

references: Song of Solomon: a love song & a hymn ~Ray C. Stedman
The Way of Agape ~ Chuck & Nancy Missler

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Love Bids Us Welcome. ~Rabqa

All Scripture is from NLT unless otherwise stated.

I ask you is holiness good for us? To answer this I go on what author & speaker Dallas Willard once reflected on how holiness has become unpopular in as much of contemporary culture. If someone said, “you walk through that door; you are going to become a holy person, how many of you would take that door?” If I had a holiness pill...would you take it?” At the heart of these questions, Willard realised that there is a deeper one: “Is holiness good for us?

Willard speculates that holiness has fallen out of favour into disfavour because much of what is called holiness in the past~slavishly (hard master) following a set of rules & ostracising people didn’t conform or wasn’t good for people; frightening them by emphasising a demand from God could get people to obey externally, but it was not truly transforming their lives. Instead, it was causing some to become hardened & self-righteous, good at following rules but bad at loving others. For
many others, it caused shame, despair & mistrust in God.

So today we see for many the idea of holiness just isn’t appealing. We may assume if we are holy, we are also ‘holier than thou’, that is to say too ‘pure’ to get along with imperfect people. Deep down, we may believe that while being holy is a nice idea for heaven, it is less practical for those of us who are here on earth.

But you know giving up on holiness has not made us happier. People are still longing for their lives to be transformed, & shame, guilt & fear are still eating away at peoples souls. If holiness is at the heart of who God is & who we believers in Jesus are called to be. Leviticus 20:26 You must be holy because I, the LORD, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own.
This verse teaches us that God speaks words to make us feel bad about ourselves. True godly conviction is a positive thing that moves us into a new level of holiness. On the other hand the devil’s condemnation presses us down under a heavy burden so that we cannot even hear from God. If you sense God speaking to you about something in your behaviour, how do you know it is God’s will? You will know because He will not shame you or put you down, but He will motivate you & empower you to change. I could not make progress until I learnt to discern the difference between conviction & condemnation, & I do not believe you can either. Remember that conviction makes you aware of the problem & then lifts you up out of it. Condemnation makes you feel guilty, presses you down & keeps you in the problem. & in 1 Peter 1:16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy. So we see that the Old Testament confirms what the New Testament is saying.
It would seem that God’s holiness is what the world needs but not just for the future but also for now.

You are probably wondering what is holiness, & what does it mean for God’s people to be holy? Scripture portrays holiness as the essential quality of God. Hosea 11:9 AMP) I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not bring back Ephraim to nothing or again destroy him. For I am God and not man, the Holy One in the midst of you, and I will not come in wrath or enter into the city.
This verse furnishes one of the keys to understanding the book of Hosea. A man like Hosea can reflect some of the aspects of God's nature & love, but he is limited in this capacity. But God hasn’t any limits to His patience & love.

God’s holiness that is His transcendent beauty, power & burning love is consistently overwhelms those who witness it, overcome by the gap between the glory of the creator & small sinful human beings Isaiah 6:5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”
We learn in Isaiah 6:1-9 that before God can use us, He needs to cleanse us, Isaiah realised that he had a sinful, unclean mouth that needed to be dealt with. I believe that because Isaiah’s heart cried for a change, God sent help.

The coming forward of the seraphim with coal is recorded in verse 6 as an instantaneous happening, but answers may not always come quickly to us. We all would prefer miraculous deliverance, but most of the time the Lord puts us through a cleansing process.

Notice that God forgave Isaiah’s sin & then issued a call: “Who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) Isaiah responded, “Here am I; send me (Verse 9) Isaiah’s heart wanted to serve the Lord, & God knew that. God will always look for someone who has a perfect heart toward Him, not necessarily someone who has a perfect performance before Him. When the Lord has the heart He can always change the behaviour.

This truth should encourage those of us who want to be used by God, but who often feel that we just have too many flaws. God uses “cracked pot,” as the saying goes. We come to Him as we are, & He moulds us & makes us into vessels fit for His use. (2 Timothy 2:21).

God’s holiness is good for us, now not only us but all of creation. Because it is God’s holiness that drives Him to restore His Word working in all things to purify & heal the earth to be once more filled with His glory Habakkuk 2:14 for as the waters fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an awareness of the glory of the LORD.

God’s action in bringing down the wicked in verse 13 demonstrates His sovereignty in all the earth.

Plan your life by God’s wisdom. Be a success in Him. The worldly theory of success that centres on personal power & the amassing of financial riches is a highly deceptive trap. The wise person defines success in the light of God’s plan for His life. Living in a manner that honourers His promise, brings success.

In the Old Testament, His restoring work began with Israel who displayed His holiness to & in holy spaces such as the temple, places set apart for His presence. But primarily God called Israel to be holy that is to be set apart by Him to display the beauty of His presence to the world Leviticus 19:2 Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.

“You shall be holy” means the people must imitate God in holiness but practicing numerous duties that reflect Him. This chapter emphasises numerous commandments given to the people regarding religious life, good neighbourliness, respect for the old & alien & trading.

No matter how often they failed, God promised forgiveness & restoration, explaining that because He’s the “Holy One living in you” (Hosea 11:9), He would never destroy His people.

In the climax of God’s redemption story, Jesus came to earth; bring God’s holiness to stay. Through His victory on the cross, He reconciled all of creation to God Colossians 1:20, & His Holy Spirit is transforming creation into wholeness once more Romans 8:21-25.

In Colossians 1:20 we see that mankind was separated from God because of sin & had no
acceptable offering to satisfy the demands of God’s holy nature. God sent Christ to provide an acceptable sacrifice for sin, establishing a bond with those who received Him, thereby making peace. It was specifically the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross that satisfied of God’s holiness, established a peace bond or covenant with those who received Him, & provided the means for all creation to be reconciled to God Lev 17:11 declares that sin cannot be forgiven without the shedding of blood, because sin takes life. Life is required to repay sin’s debts. Jesus Christ gave divine life in blood to satisfy all of mankind’s sin debts & to restore covenant between God & man.

So we do not need to go back to fear& legalism to celebrate a life of holiness. Our holiness is not something we achieve; it is a reality won by Christ’s redeeming love. As believers in Jesus, we share His holiness; we are already right with God as we see in 1 Peter 2:9 which say which say: But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests,[a] a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light

We need to thank God & say something like this: Lord I thank you for choosing me & making me one of your own special people & for calling me out of darkness into your marvellous light.
Because of this we are able to experience a growing healing & wholeness in Him. As someone once said “God’s holiness is not the fragile kind that would be tainted with broken, bent damaged people.” Rather God came here to be with us. To save us. To make a new kind of life possible for us.

We are simply invited to live into the truth, that Christ’s Spirit living in us. We are creations as we see in 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

As new creations, we do not have to allow the old things that happened to us affect our new life in Christ. We are a new creature with a new life in Christ. We can have our mind renewed according to the Word of God. Good things will happen.

Rejoice it is a new day. As seventeenth century poet George Herbert’s poem “Love” puts it, God’s holy love gently bids us welcome-to feast with the One who’s making all things new.
We are God’s very own possession, filled with His holy presence, set apart to point the world to the goodness of God...[who] called [us] out of the darkness into His wonderful light (1Peter 2:9).

1 Corinthians 3:17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

When we accept Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us (John 14:17). God chooses to move into our spirit that is into the centre core of our lives~where He can be closer to us than any other living thing. When God’s Holy Spirit moves into our human spirit, our spirit is prepared as a dwelling place for God& is made holy because God is there.

Every religion has its place of worship that means places that are considered sacred . In the old Testament, we read of three festivals for worshipping God at the temple in Jerusalem each year (Deuteronomy 16:16).

With that in mind, Jesus was once drawn into a discussion with a Samaritan woman on the necessity of worshipping in a designated place (John 4:20-24). She said, “Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim” (John 4: 20).

Jesus redirected her & us from a place of worship to the person & paradigm of worship. Christianity as religion is about people seeking to worship a deity, requiring a sacred place of worship. Christianity as relationship, however, is God seeking people who worship Him as Father. But the time is coming & indeed it is here now when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit & in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way (John 4: 23)

Worshipping in spirit & in truth means we approach God truthfully & wholeheartedly on the
basis of His Word & through His Son (John 14:6); 1 John 5:20). A sacred physical site is no longer an imperative. While God loves all His creation & is present within it, the focus is not the sacredness of a place of worship but the holiness of His worshippers. As Paul declared, Believers in Jesus are “the temple of the living God” (Corinthians 6:16) & God’s temple is holy (1 Corinthians 3:17).

Worship for believers is more than a few hours spent in a sacred place. The Holy Spirit now dwells within us. True Worship is living a godly life in God’s presence (1 Peter 5:9).

I could not let this message go without a favourite passage of mime Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.

2 Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external,
superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

What Paul is telling us in verse 1 is that we are to dedicate everything about ourselves to God, now that is not just our possessions, money, time, energy & efforts, but also our bodies, heads, hands tongues & even our minds & attitudes.

We are to dedicate everything about ourselves as a “living sacrifice,” holy, devoted, consecrated & pleasing to God. This is our reasonable, (rational intelligent) service & spiritual worship.

Often we get the impression that to totally serve & worship God means to involve our bodies & spirits, but there is more. Here Paul is saying that we are to serve & worship Him with our minds & also our emotions. Invite God to think & speak through you. Let Him touch people through you, you can even serve Him with your face by smiling & showing yourself to be friendly to others. Allow God to use all of you. The more of yourself & your life that you release to Him, the more you will be fulfilled & experience His peace & joy.

Verse 2 informs us that God has a plan for us. His will toward us is good & acceptable & perfect, but we must completely renew our minds before we will ever experience the good things God has planned. We renew our minds & get new attitudes & new ideals by studding His Word. The Word of God is truth (John 17:17).

Ephesians 4:17-19 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
In this passage of Scripture we learn unbelievers can be so callous & hard that they are past feeling. But the same verse says they live by their feelings in unbridled sensuality & carnality. As I meditate on what appears to be a paradox, they saw that such people are past doing what they should be doing with their feelings.

God gives people feelings for a specific purpose & use in their walk with Him. But sadly people have alienated themselves from God & are hardened to the place where they are beyond using their feelings for the right purpose. Satan moves them into an area where they live a riotous life. Doing whatever they please.

What is the world’s philosophy today? “If it feels good do it!” You & I are not to live that way, but to make the truth of God’s Word our standard & to obey it by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In Ephesians 4:23 we read that we are to be “constantly renewed” in the spirits of our minds, having a fresh mental & spiritual attitude. Attitude begins in the mind. Our minds are renewed by the Word of God. Reading the Word daily renews our minds & changes our attitudes.
Renew your mind in the Word today!

Philippians 3:3 A M P. For we [Christians] are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit and by the Spirit of God and exult and glory and pride ourselves in Jesus Christ, and put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances—

We see from this verse that we are not to put confidence in the flesh that is ours or anybody else’s. I hear you ask, “Where does God want our confidence to be placed?” The answer is in Him alone.

God despises independence. He wants us be totally reliant on Him. He wants us to as dependent upon Him as a branch is on a vine; the branch withers quickly if it is detached from the vine (John 55:5). He wants us to lean on Him for everything in our lives & be confident in His love & provision.