Friday, 26 May 2017

He gave thanks

"The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this is remembrance of me."  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." 1 Cor 11: 23-26

On the night you were betrayed you still gave thanks. You broke the bread knowing the significance of what it meant- that some hours later you would be inspected as the Passover Lamb, condemned and crucified. Yet you gave thanks!  You were to go through the biggest trial of your life, so overwhelming that you sweat drops of blood, and yet you gave thanks! You gave thanks to God for being my offering, my sacrifice and my substitute to receive my punishment and judgement.

You lifted up the cup in that hour and you gave thanks. That cup represented your life's blood being poured out, the whipping you would receive for my healing; the crown of thorns: your pierced hands and feet and the water and blood that poured out from your side- and yet you gave thanks!

For the joy set before you, you endured the cross, and that joy was souls, the whosoever, those who believe. 

When you were in agony in the garden, were you thinking of another garden where you saw Adam and Eve distrust the goodness of God at the serpent's lie and so disobey and partake of what God clearly said not to, and throw all humanity into the ravages of sin and death?  In the garden of your agony and greatest temptation, you trusted in the good will and promises of the Father, and so clung to His will.

Then I said, ‘Here I am: I have come – it is written of me in the scroll of the book – to do your will, O God.’  When he says above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sin-offerings you did not desire nor did you take delight in them” (which are offered according to the law),
then he says, “Here I am: I have come to do your will.” Rom 10: 7-9

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

And because you stuck to God's will and endured all you had to for our sake you brought us salvation, healing, forgiveness and life.  Your blood still cries out Father forgive them they know not what they do. It is an eternal reminder of the work you did Calvary for us and we give thanks.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Identity IN Christ alone

"To understand who God really is, you can begin by looking at yourself, since you are made in God's image."

I quote an author who has sold millions of books and really would like to comment on what he has said. It is true that in the creation account the bible clearly states that God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our own likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over all the creatures that move over the earth." Gen 1:26

Mankind's first state was to portray God's image but that all changed the moment Adam and Eve sinned and, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we are told a few chapters later, "when Adam had lived 130 years he fathered a son in his own likeness, according to his image." Gen 5:3

The world changed and man's state changed from intimate fellowship with God in the garden of Eden to "so then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned." Rom 5:12.

We became a fallen people.  So the question I obviously have is, can we still see God by looking at ourselves?  The word is very clear and quite derogatory about the state of fallen man.  The only way to change our state is by being born again and given a new heart and nature in the process.

"The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only EVIL all the time." Gen 6:5

This Old Testament scripture does not sound to me that we can look at ourselves to see God who is Holy, Righteous and Truth.  But to be a little more convincing, let us look at how Jesus saw us, even though He didn't come to condemn but to save us.

"If you, then, though you are EVIL, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Matt 7:11 and "For from within, out of the human heart, come EVIL ideas, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, envy, slander, pride, and folly.  All these EVILS come from within and defile a person." Mark 7: 21-23

I may have laboured the point here, but it is so important to see how far from and unlike God we are and how desperately we needed His solution, salvation through faith in the cross of Christ.  None of the character traits mentioned by Jesus in the above scripture can I reconcile with God.  It looks pretty grim on behalf of men and women.  This is why the gospel of Salvation is such good news.  The depravity of mankind is clearly seen in the amazing grace, yet horrific sacrificial death Jesus had to endure on that cross to save us and reconcile us back to the Father.  It shows His incredible unconditional love for us that he would come and suffer even when we were at enmity with him. Rom 5:10

God our Father has an eternal good plan for each and every individual on earth but that plan can only unfold when we appropriate it through the cross of Christ.  God is eternally good.  Salvation was His good plan from before the foundation of the world and it cost Him everything "who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of God the Father." Gal 1:4

We get to have a new identity when appropriated through the cross.

"So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away - look, what is new has come." 2 Cor 5:17

"For you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light." Eph 5:8

"See what sort of love the Father has given to us: that we should be called God's children - and indeed we are! For this reason the world does not know us." 1 Jn 3:1

Our new identity can only be found IN Christ "who knew no sin but became sin, so that we might have the righteousness of God." 2 Cor 5:21

We appropriate Christ's righteousness, not by any good work, but purely through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. All our identity is found in Him and Him alone. Such is Grace and such is the gift of God to us through Jesus. 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Overcoming Power

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Jn 16:33 NKJV

It doesn't matter what translation or version of the bible I read, this verse just doesn't go away.  Jesus warned us that in this world we will have trouble, tribulations, trials, sorrows or difficulties.  BUT He gave us a promise of comfort - He has OVERCOME!

It is amazing how people who are angry with God, or are atheists, always seem to challenge our faith on this - why is there so much suffering in the world if God is real and loving?  And yet, there are thousands of those who have also overcome adversity by their faith in Jesus Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit.  He truly overcome the world and we find everything we need in Him.

Suffering, when I look around, seems to caused by, dare I say it, people.  Imagine if everyone took to heart the basic commandment of God - love God and love others.  If the world revolved around this, where would a starving child be? Where would a struggling mum because her man walked out on her and the children be?  Where would divorce be? Where would abuse be? Where would a drunken, angry man be or a drug induced daughter be?  The most obvious answer would be that these scenarios wouldn't exist.  If  "self" didn't come into the equation and we lived to prefer and better others and look to their welfare before our own, this world would be a drastically different place.

You may be asking, all and well but how did Jesus overcome the world?  He does it by changing the human heart.  "And I will give you a new heart and I will give you new and right desires and put a new spirit within you.  I will take out your stony hearts of sin and give you new hearts of love.  And I will put my spirit within you so that you will obey my laws and do whatever I command." Ez 36: 26-27

We too, have the power to overcome temptation and sin because of the Spirit of Christ who lives in us,  challenges us to do good.  When you are in a situation where you want to explode in anger and frustration, the Holy Spirit can, at that point, challenge you to maintain and overcome with peace. Or when you feel the urge to gossip, rather overcome by blessing them instead. When hurt comes along and you want to hold a grudge and unforgiveness, the Holy Spirit can enable you to forgive and let go.

When natural disasters or evil happens, God speaks to individuals to reach out with compassion and ease the situation by whatever means available.  God raises up people to start feeding programs, hospitals, orphanages etc and they give up their time and resources and some even their lives to be a blessing and give aid.

Maybe I'm to simplistic in my understanding, but when I see good happen around me, I know the overcoming power of Jesus Christ is on display.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

The Work of the Cross

"I must work the works of Him who sent me, while it is day. The night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Jn 9:4-5

There is a growing ground swell around the world of believers who are out in the market place seeing the sick healed.  They have had a revelation of the work of the cross and of the person of Jesus Christ, and have taken on His commission and go, in His authority, to carry on His works.

In the above passage of scripture, Jesus gives sight to a man born blind for the glory of God.  He called this miracle a work.  From scripture, we see the works Jesus did according to His own manifesto:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."

This was the heart of the Father and the blueprint for the work of our Saviour.  His work always was the result of His Father's desire and heart toward us and of who He is - LOVE!  Just think on this fact.  The father's love for us, made provision for our salvation and for any and every circumstance through the Cross of His Son. That is the eternal work of the cross.

What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who didn't spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how would he not also with him freely give us all things? Rom 8:31-32

Jesus, the Word of God, come in the flesh, the light of the world, introduced us to the realm of the supernatural motivated by love and compassion in dramatic healings, deliverance and salvation.
The work of the cross, forged in earth time, but eternally powerful has the only ability to save, heal and deliver mankind's souls and affect our physical world too. Christ's spilt blood eternally cries out its covenant of provision for the forgiveness of sin, reconciliation with Father, totally healing body, soul and spirit, and in fact for every need we have.  The answer is found in the work of the cross.  Not only that, The Cross has given us status as Kingdom people, who carry the same manifesto as Christ on earth, to bring the Kingdom to earth as He did, through the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

The work of the Kingdom never ends for we have a King who is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  Heb 13:8. Motivated by His love for the world, His desire is still to do His work through those who have a revelation of the Cross which was His greatest work for us and the greatest example of His love.  His blood eternally cries out its covenant of the healing and saving provision Christ paid for on that tree.  Receive that healing power and freely give what we have been given as we bring the Kingdom to earth.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Enabling Grace

"The word became flesh and lived among us.  We saw His glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound."  Jesus was recognised as "one full of grace and truth" by the apostle John, whose gospel portrays the divinity of the One and only Son of God.  I find that fascinating and how true when we consider Jesus knew the truth, as He is the Truth, that He would come into the world and to His own, but they would not recognise Him or accept Him.  His grace and love for us was more powerful than the rejection He would suffer from us.

The Creator of the world, stepped down out of eternity to grace mankind with the light of His presence, to be rejected and to die for those He came for.

I think of encounters with this God-man full of grace and truth, such as the woman at the well.  Jesus fully knew, by the Holy Spirit, the life she lived and how she was in de facto with her 6th man, but that didn't stop His grace reaching her and healing her hurts.  His grace covered over her sins. He elevated her to an increased spiritual realm, where she became the bearer of Good News to those in her village who rejected her because of her lifestyle.  His grace and love seeks to save those who are lost; those who are sincerely seeking something better.

Thirsty, guilt-laden hearts can find comfort in His grace when they recognise the truth of who He is, the Holy One from God, and, who they are, sinners, who have missed the mark of Holiness yet who are saved by grace.

His grace enables us to live better, make better choices, to accept ourselves where we are and to grow up into the full stature of Christ.  An encounter with His grace humbles the human heart. The truth that God Himself, our Lord and Saviour, could come and take our sins and punishment on the cross, so that, in believing, we can have the power given to us to become sons and daughters of God Most High.

Every heavenly gift comes to us because of His grace toward us and the cross.  It's at the foot of the cross where heavy hearts and burdens are laid down at His feet as grace pours down even as His blood did to bring forgiveness and freedom.  It's at the cross where we are spiritually awakened to the depth of our depravity in comparison to His holiness and purity. Yet it is the place to receive the grace He freely offers to be cleansed and pure.  Oh the cleansing power of His blood; there's none like it!

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Rich Young Ruler

Behold, one came to him and said, "Good teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?"

We humans seem to love to have a check list that we can tick off to see if we're on the right track and going to heaven.  Even Jesus gave this young man a list from the 10 Commandments which he should be keeping.  At this time, the Israelites were still under the Law of Moses as Jesus was not yet crucified and the Holy Spirit not yet given.

The thing is, under the law of grace, we don't do anything to gain eternal life.  Christ has done it all. We just need to accept the gracious gift of the cross. After Christ died, we were no longer under Law, the requirements of which were fully satisfied with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection. Jesus sent the Helper and now we live not by the Law but by our submission and obedience to the Holy Spirit. We no longer need the check list of the Law, which Paul said leads us into bondage.

"But now rather you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, why do you turn back again to the weak and miserable elemental principles, to which you desire to be in bondage all over again?"

This does not mean that we throw out the 10 Commandments, as the wages for sin is still death, and for which Jesus fully paid,  but we now achieve them by the help and power of the Helper and not by our own strength. The word is very clear that Jesus became our sin so that we could become the righteousness of God in Him.  When we do falter, we have forgiveness in the cross when we repent.

There is nothing we can do to gain eternal life, except believe.

"For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed - a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as is is written: "The righteous will live by faith." Rom 1:17

The main message Jesus wanted to get across to this young man was about intimacy.  "Come follow me."  This is what Jesus wanted, fellowship with him.  However, the young man had affluence and riches that kept a tight hold on his soul.  It is interesting to note that Jesus did not quote the first four commandments in his conversation with the young man.  These deal with man's relationship with God, the awareness of who He is and our response that comes out that awareness.

If this rich, young ruler had recognised Jesus as the Son of God, Messiah, instead of just "good teacher", would have his decision been different?  He walked away from the One who is Eternal Life in favour of the riches that tied him to the temporal realm. He had his faith and trust in his riches and not in the Son of God.  Yet, in having an intimacy with the Lord Jesus, he would have found that Jesus would have been more than enough in giving him sufficiency of soul.

This story is in stark contrast to those in the early church who had this intimate relationship with their Lord and Saviour.

"All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need." Acts 2:44

I wonder, if facing the same predicament as the rich, young ruler, would I do the same? With all my heart I hope not.

Monday, 8 August 2016

God is Love

"love...bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." (1 Cor 13: 7-8)

The love passage of 1 Corinthians is very challenging in that it clearly can show the motive of our hearts.  Love is the universal language because God is love (1 Jn 4:8) and He is the Creator of all things, which have been created by and through His love.  Love is the essence of God and all things created, especially mankind made in His image show His loving thoughts and touch.  But we have, because of sin and self, a love deficit in areas of our hearts.  Experiences of rejection in life teach us to withdraw and build walls, which ultimately keep us from love and loving.  This passage clearly shows us what love is and the lack of it, or indeed its fullness, in our hearts and even in the world. We just need to look at all the crime in the world to see that people do not walk in love for others.

Anything that we do, even if it is good, that is done without love being the motive, profits nothing. Everything God does is motivated by His love for us and we are to be imitators of Him.  Ultimately it is the experience of God's perfect love that will cast out fear (1 Jn 4:18) and open our hearts more to Him and others.

There is a vulnerability in love.  Jesus loved all and kept His heart open, even to those who rejected Him and sought His death.  This is why He could pray, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing", (Luke 23:34) even as He watched them divide and gamble for His clothes at the foot of the cross.  Love bears no grudge but is full in its forgiveness, which is why the act of forgiveness, even in extreme hurt, is so powerful and releasing. That is why movies such as "The Railway Man" touch us to the core of our being, when we see the act of forgiveness so powerfully portrayed as a Japanese POW meets and forgives his torturer.

Love pulls at the strings of our heart.  There is a deep desire in us to experience true love (not just romantic love) but to be deeply and unconditionally loved and appreciated by family and friends.  Even the heart withdrawn, at its core, desires this love as much as it fears it.  A preacher known as "The Ambassador of Love" once said we need to ask God to heal and fill those areas in us that are uncomfortable with love.  Only God can heal these areas in our hearts and so fill them with His love and light that they can become vulnerable and fully open before Him, healed and overflowing towards others.  His love is safe and a refuge for the weary and love-starved heart.

Jesus fully knew the love of  His Father and the total acceptance of His God and Father even before He began His ministry and He powerfully walked in the same love for humankind.  We too can know the Father's love for us through Jesus Christ.  We just need to mediate on the cross to know how much He loved us with a perfect, sacrificial love.

One of Apostle Paul's prayers for the church was, "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know Christ's love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Eph 3:17-18)