Friday, 8 May 2015

Let not our hearts grow cold

Because iniquity will be multiplied, the love of many will grow cold. 
But he who endures to the end, the same will be saved.  Matt 24: 12-13

This is not just a "matter of fact" statement but rather a warning from the Shepherd about the state of our hearts when these things begin to happen, that our love will grow cold.  As love is the most important state of our hearts, especially in the light that God is love, I think that we need to heed the warning and determine in our hearts not to let this happen.

Jesus explains that our love will grow from increased lawlessness (iniquity).  We see so much of this already on media; wars, rebellion, murder, injustices etc all of which can have a hardening effect on our hearts.  Sometimes it's just too overwhelming, sometimes we become indifferent to the pain or just plain judgemental.  Our compassion and mercy can be severely stretched or completely dulled.

What is the answer?  We need to see people through the eyes of Christ.  He was never moved by behaviour for he saw beyond the behaviour, to the brokenness of heart that was the cause of the behaviour.  A perfect example of this, and there are many, is the woman caught in adultery that was cast at the feet of Jesus.  She was thrown at his feet, firstly for entrapment - to catch Jesus, but as a worthless harlot, who the religious leaders, being cold of heart, wanted to severely punish. Humiliated in front of all, fearful and broken, Jesus looked at her with love and grace and offered her the olive branch of mercy and forgiveness.  He did not consider her behaviour, to pass condemning judgement, but saw her in her pain.  The Samaritan at the well, coming for water met the giver of life giving water.  Again, although the bible does not amplify her past hurts, we can offer conjecture that if she was onto her fifth relationship, the cycle of rejection was being masked by her behaviour of looking for love in all the wrong places.  Again, Jesus knowing all things, offers no condemnation but ministers to the brokenness of her heart.

but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life. Jn 4:14

He offered her, who possibly felt the rejection of the past, the water of love, acceptance and life.

Lawless behaviour masks pain and becomes self-fulling prophecy as people are caught in the trap of guilt and shame.  Ask any child who is fatherless, rejected, abandoned, unloved, or has believed lies such as " you are worthless, you will never amount to anything, you should be more like your sibling". As Jesus said, "be it unto you as  you have believed."  This works in the positive (believing truth) or negative (believing lies.). We can allow the truth of the Word to define us or the world.
"Choose life or death."

Freedom is the fruit of truth.  Healing too!  This is why Jesus mentions in the same starting passage of this blog,

Jesus answered them, "Be careful that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will lead many astray. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you aren't troubled, for all this must happen, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be famines, plagues, and earthquakes in various places. But all these things are the beginning of birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to oppression, and will kill you. You will be hated by all of the nations for my name's sake. Then many will stumble, and will deliver up one another, and will hate one another.  Many
false prophets will arise, and will lead many astray.  Matt 24: 4-11

False prophets...liars who deceive many.  Lies are powerful but truth is the ultimate healing power. When you are defined by the truth, it matters not what others think of you.  You live out in your behaviour what God thinks of you; for truth, apart from healing and freeing, nurses brokenness. There is no healing balm better then the word God speaks to you.

I have been asking God, "how do I minister to someone's brokenness?"  I have seen how Jesus did it, offering the word of truth in love and not being condemning.  The word of truth helps to break the cycle of destruction by the renewing of the mind, and consequently ministering to the hurt that has been caused by some lie believed. The greatest balm is acceptance (of the person not of the behaviour) and loving them to health.   What a good reminder, at this point, to have the famous passage of love that the Apostle Paul coined through the spirit of God as an ending to this blog:-

Love is patient and is kind; love doesn't envy. Love doesn't brag, is not proud, 
doesn't behave itself inappropriately, doesn't seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil; 
doesn't rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 
Love never fails.  2 Cor 13 4-8a

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Joy in His Suffering

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:2 

Can you imagine the joy that Jesus must feel when he see his children "get it".  When we understand who we are in Him and who He is in and through us and what He accomplished for us on the cross.  Think about it!  Jesus endured the cross so that our salvation and healing would be
His joy and great reward.  Every time one of His kids get what is available to them because of His suffering and spilt blood on Calvary, His pleasure must be immense.

So many struggle with low self esteem and somehow don't feel that salvation and healing is for them but only for others.    We still feel that somehow we have to earn it, but scripture is quite clear....

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  Is 53:3-5

The original meaning of the word "griefs" in verse 4 means sickness and "sorrows" means physical and mental pain.  He "hath borne our griefs", our sicknesses and "carried our sorrows", our physical
and mental pain.  Jesus certainly showed the Father's heart of compassion being moved to heal all who came to Him.  It matters not what we think of ourselves. The reality is Christ paid an incredible and awesome price for our salvation and healing.  Think of His precious blood that seeped when that whip crisscrossed His back for our healing. He who was so merciful was beaten merciless. Think of the blood that flowed from the thorns jammed into His head for our mental stability and peace.  Think of the blood running down from His wrists as He was nailed to the wooden beam so that we could lift up holy hands to our God and Father.  Think of the blood that trickled from His feet that we could walk in the gospel of peace bringing the good news to others.

He was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) and because of what He accomplished for us offering Himself up as a sacrifice for our transgressions we are people set free
and blessed.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ; 
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without blemish before him in love; 
having predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his desire, 
to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he freely bestowed favour on us in the Beloved, 
in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace... Eph 1:3-7

What wonderful and precious promises we have.  What destiny in Him.  What identity in Him.  Did you get it, we are a blessed people, and blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.  Not only are we blessed, we are chosen children, holy without blemish, favoured, redeemed
and forgiven. Hallelujah!

Scripture tells us that it was the Father's good pleasure to bruise his Son.  How can we fathom such a price the Father and Son collectively paid just so their love and goodness could be evidenced in the life of countless millions as this scripture explains:-

Though the Lord desired to crush him and make him ill, 
once restitution is made, 
he will see descendants and enjoy long life, 
and the Lord’s purpose will be accomplished through him.
Having suffered, he will reflect on his work, 

he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done. 
“My servant will acquit many, 
for he carried their sins. (Is 53: 10-11)

What amazing, sacrificial love!  All for mankind.  Jesus accomplished a great work for us and now seated at the right hand of the Father he reflects on that work being satisfied with the fruit of His suffering.  That fruit is you and me who have accepted His gift by faith.

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 " 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