Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Vibrant Hope

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.  Jer 29:11

There is no foreseeable future without hope.  Our future is closely tied to the hope we have, because hope releases the future.  Hope inspires the future because without hope there is no vision, and without vision the people perish.  Hope births vision, because hope sees positively into the future.

Hope is tied to our belief in God and His promises, especially His promise that pertains personally to us as individuals.  The more hope that we have in God's promises to us, the tighter we can hold on to a future filled with expectation in His goodness and grace.  God's intent toward us, as the scripture from Jeremiah states, is good and prosperous.

Hope can ride adversity because our hope in Him keeps us secure.

For you will forget your trouble; you will remember it like water that has flowed away.  And life will be brighter than the noonday; though there be darkness, it will be like the morning. And you will be secure, because there is hope.  Job 11:16-18

Hope keeps us optimistic for our future.

Even if He slays me, I will hope in Him. Job 13: 15a

Hope can be restored on a word from the Lord.

From there I will give back her vineyards to her, and turn the "Valley  of Trouble" into an "Opportunity for Hope."  There she will sing as she did when she was young, when she came up from the land of Egypt. Hosea 2:5

Hope brings joy.

Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced; my body also will live in hope.

Hope increases faith.

Against hope Abraham believed in hope with the result that he became he father of many nations according to the pronouncement, so will your descendants be. Rom 4:18

Hope sees the eternal, invisible realm.

For in hope we were saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance." Rom 8: 24-25

Confident hope brings boldness.

My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but that with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die.  Phil 1;20

Let us thank God for the hope that we have in Him, for His promise to us is that our future is bright no matter what it may appear to look like at the present.  God loves us and wants us to have a vibrant, faith filled and expectant hope in our future, because He holds it securely in His Hand.


Monday, 16 February 2015

A yielded life

I am the true vine and my father is the gardener. (Jn 15:1)

I have read this statement of Jesus often but was really stuck this morning with the symbiotic relationship between father and son.  A vine does not grow well without external interference.  A wild vine will be straggly and not produce much fruit,  Jesus understood the principle of full dependence and submission to the gardener, His father.

Yes, Jesus is divine, but he laid aside His divinity completely,  (the Word became flesh) and relied on God completely whilst in the flesh.  There is absolute trust in this statement of Christ's.  The farmer has every right and ability to uproot the vine, replant or destroy it.  He also will tend the vine, prune and fertilise it for better growth.

Jesus lived a yielded life to His father, as scripture says, "He, in the days of His flesh, having offered up prayers and petitions with strong crying and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death...learned obedience by the things which He suffered,"  (Heb 5: 7,8b)

The trust Jesus had in His Father came out in His bold and confident living, even enduring persecution for what He said and did, bolding declaring the truth (he is the truth) amidst pre-conceived mind sets and fickle human nature which inevitably got Him into trouble.

"Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing he signs which He did.  But Jesus didn't trust Himself to them, because He knew everyone and because He didn't need for anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man." (Jn 2: 23-25)

The relationship, as in Sonship, that Jesus had with Father, as He testified was One.  Jesus laid aside His glory and yielded completely to the Father's will and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit's direction.  Jesus was one "being" with the Father and so went about "doing" good, His identity in Sonship secure and more important then His reputation with people.  He did not need to look for accolades, and in fact, many times told those He healed to keep quiet.  His fullness was of, and in, God and He was completely and absolutely confident that God heard His prayers.

"Father I thank you that you listen to me.  I know that you always listen to me, but because of the multitude that stand around, I said this, that they may believe that you sent me."  (Jn 11: 41:42)

I don't know about you, but I want the same kind of relationship that Jesus had with God.  I want that trusting, obedient, "your will be done" kind of relationship, fully secure in our Sonship, believing our prayers will be answered, knowing and understanding the Father's Iove, listening to and hearing His voice.  If we walk in this kind of relationship with the Holy Trinity, I think we might turn the world upside down as we step out to do His will in boldness armed with the Father's love.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Heavenly Calling

"Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, partners in a heavenly calling, take note of Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.." (Heb 3:1 NET)

Take note, be aware, of not just anything but Jesus.  Take note how our High Priest lived whilst on earth.  Why?...because we are partners with Him in a heavenly calling.  Jesus came from the eternities or eternities to, as Hebrews teaches, bring "the message of salvation", and those who heard the message and communicated it, "God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will." (Heb 2:4 NET)

How could his be?...because "Jesus....now crowned with glory and honour....suffered death, so that by God's grace, he would experience death on behalf of everyone"  (Heb 2:9 NET) so that, "both He that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one," (Heb 2:11 KJV)

Did you catch that..."all of one"?  Through His death, we are all made of one.  That means the same, united, undivided, of the same origin, born from above, sons and daughters of the Most High God, called to be partners with God our Father, acting as one unit, to the heavenly calling as Jesus did.

How amazing that God our Creator, who made us "flesh and blood", should "likewise share in our humanity," (Heb 2:14) and that "through death He could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is the devil)."  Because Jesus shared in the experience of our humanity, He qualifies as a compassionate and understanding High Priest before God our Father, for "He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted."

Incredible that Jesus suffered temptation but remained without sin.  He was obedient to His call and remained obedient to His Father with whom He had a loving, intimate relationship.  Jesus said in John's gospel that those who love Him obey His commands and this principle was clearly demonstrated in His own obedient relationship with God.  Jesus testified of Himself, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds." (Jn 14:10) and again, in case you missed it, "For I have not spoken from my own authority, but the Father himself who sent me has commanded me what I should say and what I should speak." (Jn 12:49) Jesus only did and said what His Father commanded because out of their love and respect relationship, they moved as one unit with one heart and mind, to love on and bring healing and restoration to children who had gone astray.

So Jesus was fully obedient to the Father and because He "loved righteousness and hated lawlessness, so God, your God has anointed you over all your companions with the oil of rejoicing." (Heb 1:9). Obedience brings the joy and the power of the Holy Spirit to play in our lives even as it did in Christ's life.

Hebrews 3 talks of the faithfulness of our High Priest to God's calling, "faithful to the One who anointed Him."  "But Christ is faithful as a Son over God's house.  We are His house, if in fact we hold firmly to our confidence and to the hope we take pride in." (Heb 3;6)

So all of this is pointing to the fact that we too need to be faithful and obedient to the call on our lives, for as children of the Most High, and brothers and sisters in Christ, we too have a commission from heaven.

Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.The one who believes and is baptised will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; they will pick up snakes with their hands, and whatever poison they drink will not harm them; they will place their hands on the sick and they will be well.” (Mark 16:15-18)

Just a few things to note on this passage.  Jesus commanded "Go".  This is for all disciples of Jesus, that's you and me.  This is not just for missionaries, priests, evangelists or preachers. How challenging is that.  We can go into our community, workplaces or to family and sow seeds by explaining what Christianity is about when given Holy Spirit opportunity to do so.  But we have to be willing, obedient  and listening, even as Jesus obviously listened to God.  We also need to get over our fear.  There is eternity at stake...scripture out of Jesus' mouth clearly states that those who don't believe are condemned.  There is no, "I'm a good person, so I will go to heaven".  All of us are sinners and the bible is absolutely clear, sin separates us from a Holy God which is the whole reason a Holy God sent His only Son Jesus to die for us, so we can receive eternal life when we believe.

Lastly, for those of us who believe, signs and wonders will follow when we step out in obedience.  Jesus promised, "I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (Jn 14:12-14)

There are broken and hurt people out there who desperately need the touch of a Saviour through our hands and words.  Let us believe that, like Jesus prayed for us,  "I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one." (Jn 17:11) and “I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one – I in them and you in me – that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me. (Jn 17:20-23)

We are one with Him.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Going Deeper

In the beginning God....

We get so caught up on things we don't fully understand as God's church and huge schisms are wrought because of our various interpretations, theories and reasonings.  When it comes to the Genesis account, for some reason, of which I could guess, God didn't reveal all to us and this in itself is a spiritual lesson that he wants us to go deeper with Him into spiritual truths and relationship.

 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter. Prov 25:2

A natural analogy of this would be looking at the surface of a leaf with the natural eye as opposed to studying it under a powerful microscope.  The intricacies of God's creation is overwhelming in its diversity, order and creativity "up close and personal".

The other observation for this would be that God wants us to trust Him, believing that "He exists and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb 11:6).  We need to believe that God is who He says He is, and can do what He says He can do.

If God has raised Christ from the dead, and to date many others, who's to say He couldn't create the world and all in it as opposed to what secular scientists theorise about.  It is all speculation and theory seeming none of us were there to watch it happen (except the God and all the angelic host.). People could argue on both sides of the spectrum, more I would say for our Creator God, the awesome Trinity who spoke matter into being.

"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measures, if you know? Or who stretched the line on it?
Whereupon were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:4-7

Now although I started this blog on a very controversial subject and I would not like to argue over who or who doesn't believe, what does everything, in reality, come down to?

I said therefore to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins." Jn 8:25

Salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ, there is no other way.  (Acts 4:12) Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6) so that we can be forgiven.  He laid down His life for us (Jn 10:17-18) so that our life could be found in Him. There is forgiveness in Him alone, as John testified of Him, "behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world." (Jn 1:29)

"All things were made through Him.  Without Him was not anything made that has been made.  In Him was life and the life was the light of men." Jn 3:4

There is life in Jesus Christ, as in Him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)  "The word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 3:14) and "as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His Name". (Jn 3:12)  Jesus said, "most certainly, I tell you, unless one is born again, he can't see the Kingdom of God." (Jn 3:3)

The life Jesus Christ gives us, is not just physical but spiritual, as He explains, "that which is born of flesh is flesh. That which is born of spirit is spirit" (Jn 3:5-6).  Our spirits come alive, refreshed by the life-giver, when we believe in Him.  Spiritual things can only be discerned by the spirit not the flesh.  The born again life is spiritual life, in abundance, to the full and overflowing, the life that God intended for us to walk and move in.

The natural analogy Jesus used to explain this was with the wind which blows.  The wind is unseen, except for the effects it has on physical things.  Because it is unseen, we cannot see from where it starts or finishes but we can hear it rustling through the leaves and so too, we can't see the spiritual renewal in our hearts by the Holy Spirit but we can see the effects, changes in our behaviour, attitudes and our love for Father God.  We get a desire to know Him, to go deeper into our relationship and the things of God, and as Jesus testified, "whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3: 15-16). This eternal life begins when we believe as opposed to judgement for the one who hasn't believed, "because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God."

Instead of all the arguments we tend to focus on, why don't we concentrate on the most important thing? :-

"One who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who disobeys the Son won't see life but the wrath of God remains on him." (Jn 3:36)

The most important thing for us is to help those who don't know Jesus to pray that they too will taste of this living water.  Keep on praying for our loved ones that God would reveal the light to them that they too can share in this eternal life freely given through our faith and belief in Him. It's all about Jesus.  This is the most important thing, salvation is found in Him.

There is a thirst in the hearts of men and women for spiritual life, as God has set eternity into the heart of every person and we can help them find this life in Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

First Love

"But I have this against you, that you have left your first love." Rev 2:4

Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, who walks amidst the assemblies, knowing all, charges the Church at Ephesus, with this indictment, "you have left your first love."

The report card Jesus gives, by worldly standards would be really good.  They persevere in their toil of works; they can't tolerate evil men and they discern false prophets.  They persevere and endure even in hardships for the Lord's name and have not grown weary.  We would, reading this, assume they would be getting an A+ on the report card but from the indictment a huge heavenly "fail" is what they received.

This should speak to volumes to us about our relationship with Jesus.  Do we still love Him, or have we gotten trapped on the "doing" wheel feeling good about how busy we are for the Lord but neglect the most important, being with Him.  I find it a frightening prospect that none of their works held any value for Jesus because they had forsaken their first love.  A dangerous place to be, secure in our works, when Jesus firstly wants our presence over and above works, for when we are totally sold out and in love with our Saviour, our motivation for works will be love-driven.

"Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I am coming to you swiftly, and will move your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent." Rev :2-5

Everything we do is noted by Jesus and those works that will ultimately bring a reward are those motivated by love for Him and others.  We keep our love fresh by remembering what He did for us on that cross.  We keep our love alive by mediating on His goodness and grace.  We keep our love vibrant remembering when we fell in love with Him and how alive He made us feel especially when we realised how much we had been forgiven.  The first "works" we did was believe and our hearts responded to His love and we found we just couldn't get enough of His presence even as we found Him in His Word.  We were thankful and grateful for His blessing and acceptance.

We all know the example in the gospels of Mary and Martha. (Luke 10:38-42). Such a familiar story and the moral quite clear, Mary had "chosen the good part."  Jesus wants us to be Mary's sitting at His feet.  Interestingly the gospel accounts records Martha received Jesus into her house and then introduced Mary who "also sat at Jesus feet."  Both sisters were sitting at His feet, but Martha "distracted with much serving" must have left her position to get on with service.  The "Living Bread" was feeding their spirits but Martha was too concerned for the natural.  Clearly Jesus preferred to have her continue to sit with Him, listening to Him and not "anxious and troubled about many things."

Serving the Lord is good, for "faith without works is dead", but serving and works should never replace time with Jesus.  It's in the intimacy of sitting at this feet that the desires to serve are birthed.

"You will show me the path of life.  In your presence is fullness of joy, in your right hand pleasures forevermore."  Ps 16:11

Friday, 26 September 2014

Spiritual Growth

      I am writing to you, little children, that your sins have been forgiven because of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers, that you have known him who has been from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young people, that you have conquered the evil one.
I have written to you, children, that you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, that you have known him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young people, that you are strong, and the word of God resides in you, and you have conquered the evil one. 1Jn2:12-14

The apostle John writes about spiritual progression in 1 John, chapter 2.  All of us come into the Kingdom, like babes, believing the Word which we received with joy, and this begins a journey with God where He begins to build character in us.

The first stage of salvation, is where we respond to the message that Jesus Christ, God's Son, who as John writes is from the beginning, died on a cross, and we have remission for our sins though His blood. These are the children that John refers to in verses 12 and 14.  All of us have to come to the realisation that through Jesus Christ all our sins are forgiven, past, present and future.

In chapter 1, John introduces this theme of sin in our lives and contrasts the light of God with spiritual darkness.

This is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.   If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and don't tell the truth. 1Jn1:5-6

Once we walked in darkness but those who have received Jesus now walk in the light, even as Jesus in is the Light.  Our past sins are washed away by His blood as far as East is from the west, never to be remembered any more by God.  What amazing good news!  We, however, live in the now, and until spiritual growth occurs, we can find that we still sin.  Our thoughts, motives and actions can still be influenced by darkness as we go through the process of renewing our minds.  But the good news is, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us, because of Jesus Christ.  And Jesus' blood stills cries out, testifying to the great and final sacrifice that He accomplished on the cross for us.  He pleads for us before the Father.

My little children, I write these things to you so that you may not sin. If anyone sins, we have a Counselor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous.  And he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world. 1Jn2:1-2

This foundational truth of the forgiveness of sins is paramount to our relationship with God.  Shame causes us to hide and if we do not believe that we are fully forgiven when we confess our sin to God, we will draw away from Him.  I had a conversation with someone who was checking my skin for sun damage and he was very concerned with something on my face that had been previously cut out. He asked me to find out what it was as this type of cancer on the face, and particularly where it was, could be too close to a nerve that could carry the disease to the brain.  I said to this doctor that I had nothing to be afraid of, for the worst that could happen to me would be to die and go to heaven.  He replied, "I'm not sure."  I quizzed him on this as to whether he was concerned on my behalf or his.  He replied his because of the things he had done.  I told him that the blood of Jesus was more powerful than any sin we could have ever committed.  We must remember that Christ died for the sins of the world and He calls the whosoevers to believe and repent.  If we do not believe and receive this forgiveness available through Jesus, we will walk around with guilt and fear.

A friend of mIne confessed her sin to me saying that she had asked God for His forgiveness but she still needed to go back get on her knees and keep on repenting.  I told her, "don't you dare do that for you are in effect saying that the cross was not enough."  This type of wrong thinking also affects our relationship with Father.  We must live by the word and not our feelings.  The bible is clear that as soon as we confess, we receive forgiveness, for God is faithful and just to forgive us.  We do not need to try and make up some sort of penance to help pay for our wrong doings.  No, we humbly accept what the cross has done for us with gratitude and joy for the wonderful gift, given by the Saviour and move on with Him, all the more determined to learn from and not repeat our sins for His glory.

This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments. 1Jn2:2

John addresses the children again who he has written to, because they know the Father.  Spiritual maturity begins with knowledge of the character, grace and mercy of our Heavenly Father and the keeping of His commandments.  His unconditional love for us is a fundamental truth that will also affect our relationship with God.  When we sin, God is not waiting to send a lightning bolt from heaven to shock us into submission.  As a Father, He will lovingly correct us and we are to confess our sins to have His forgiveness.  When we know how much He loved us to sacrifice His one and only Son, we respond to His love and obey His commands which shows that we belong to Him.  Learning about, and believing we belong to Him, we are His beloved children, gives us security and stability in our walk with Him.  Sonship is one of the building blocks towards us acting more like Jesus.  We are children of the One and only true Living God, royal princes and princesses.  So we progress to the "young" stage.

But whoever keeps his word, God's love has most certainly been perfected in him. This is how we know that we are in him: he who says he remains in him ought himself also to walk just like he walked. 2Jn2:5-6

He who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no occasion for stumbling in him.   2Jn2:10

As growing youngsters, we begin to get ready to flex our spiritual muscles.  We recognise that we are in a spiritual war but that we have the victory through Christ.  We begin to walk in the authority of sons and daughters of God, being obedient and loving, which are keys to spiritual warfare.  So we walk in the light of His presence and are led by the Holy Spirit.  We are living in the Word and wielding it as our spiritual sword against satan, binding and loosing, extending the Kingdom of God on earth.  We understand the power in the blood of Jesus and the name that is above all names and we can discern lies that oppose truth.

You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I have not written to you because you don't know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 2Jn2:20-21

As for you, the anointing which you received from him remains in you, and you don't need for anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, you will remain in him.  2Jn2:27

With zeal we stand firm on the truth and chase after bigger things then what the world can offer us.  We learn to stay on the attack so that we don't come under the attack as my favourite preacher Joyce Meyer says.  Young ones are confident in their God given authority believing that the anointing that abides in them will work though them to a hurting world. (Just as God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power who went about doing good healing all who were oppressed by the devil for God was with Him. Acts 10:38). They have already made up their minds that God wants to and will use them, even though unworthy, His blood has made us worthy.  We are not focused on our inability but His ability, knowing that apart from Him we are nothing, but with Him, guiding and leading, we will see fruit from our lives for His glory.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Spirit or flesh

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh but those who live according to the spirit, the things of the Spirit.  Rom 8:5

According to this scripture we can choose to set our minds on the things above, things that are higher then the fleshly realm.

Do we take up an offence (fleshly realm), or do we know that Christ took up all offences for us, and release it to Him?

Do we hold unforgiveness in our heart, or do we know we have been forgiven a huge debt and release others in Jesus name?

Do we covet or envy, or do we trust in God our Provider and stay contented in all and every season?

Do we live in fear, or faith in Him who knows all things, is all powerful, all creative and everywhere?

Do we want revenge, or do we trust the only one and true vindicator?

Are we weighed down with burdens, or do we come to Him who wants us to learn of Him and take His easy yoke upon us, releasing our cares confident in Jesus who loves us and is for us?

Do we hold onto anger, pride, our rights or do we remember the One who made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself even to death on a cross to save us?

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness , goodness, gentleness and self control.  The fruit of the flesh anger, jealousy, strife and striving, selfishness etc.  Quite a different list of emotions, one that brings us peace and joy and the other unrest, unhappiness, discontentment, guilt and shame.

God tells us to choose, life or death, blessing or cursing.  Setting our minds and emotions to obey God's counsel will bring us rest.  It seems to be a "no-brainer", yet sometimes we allow the flesh to take charge and generally regret it.

If God has said we can do it, stay in and pursue the things of the spirit, then let us put our faith in Him to help us and strengthen us to do so in Jesus Mighty and pure Name, Amen!