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We are to Witness - But how now?

Posted by [email protected] on December 17, 2020 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

It’s difficult being a witness to our Saviour in the midst of a pandemic lockdown, where contact with people outside one’s “bubble” is not recommended.

We’re basicallly confined instead to people we already know, who already know us. 

Even saying “Hi” to a stranger when I do venture out to go grocery shopping is not exactly popular or made easy by having to pass each other at the recommended two metre distance... and no chummy chats over a coffee with our neighbours either. (I do my main grocery shopping at 0700 once a week to avoid crowds in the stores ... and two of our stores at open at that hour for seniors and those with disabilities).

 

Our lives are anything but visible, therefore, unless we’re among those Christians who flout the pandemic regulations, demanding the right to meet together in church, and end up making the headlines in social and other media. They’re a visible witness, all right, but not quite what Jesus was getting at.

 

So how do - or how can - Christians witness to Jesus in a pandemic? A snippet out of a recent letter - supported and shared by 38 pastors mainly from Manitoba - was a real eye-opener for me, and very encouraging too. Here is what they wrote:

 

"All of us are committed to obeying Christ’s command to “love your neighbour” (Luke 10:27) in and through our worship practices, which means that we will not be gathering for in-person worship on Christmas Eve".

 

This decision, while difficult, is consistent with the decisions of countless Christian communities across the millennia to put the welfare of others above our own wants, desires, and rights.

In fact, the willingness of Christians to prioritize the needs of others during previous pandemics contributed significantly to the growth of the Christian movement in the ancient world...

 

In both the Antonine Plague of the second century and the Plague of Cyprian in the third, Christians became renowned for the extreme lengths to which they would go to care for the sick, not only among their own ranks, but also those of other faiths.

 

In 1527, as the Bubonic Plague entered Wittenberg, the German Reformer Martin Luther not only urged his congregation to care for the sick, but also criticized those who disdained precautions in order “to prove how independent they are.”

In contrast to behaviour he described as “tempting God,” Luther vowed, “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.”

 

So while our celebrations of Christmas will be different than we had imagined or hoped for this year, we believe they are in keeping with the Christian Church’s insistence to put the needs of others before our own.

 

More importantly, we believe the decision not to gather inside our sanctuaries this Christmas Eve out of regard for the health and safety of our neighbours is in keeping with the spirit of the One whose birth we celebrate, the One who declared that he “came not to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28), and instructed His disciples to “love one another, just as I have loved you” (John 13:34). End quote.

 

Think of all the pandemic regulations and anti-regulation protests that would have been unnecessary if at the heart of our reasoning about what we should or shouldn’t do was condensed to just that one simple statement and motive of “loving our neighbour.”

 

Fortunately there are Christians and entire denominations that have made the originator of that statement a vislble and obvious witness to how simple and superior God’s way is.

 

Personally, therefore, I thank those 38 kindred pastors, and would, if I could, add my name to theirs,  but being in Saskatchewan,  I feel it would be to no effect.

 

Because now I have the clue I was looking for, on “How to be a witness to Jesus in the middle of a pesky pandemic.”

Religion - Rules and Rituals

Posted by [email protected] on December 10, 2020 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (0)

So, what about religion and all its rules and rituals?

What we humans want to know is, “Do we matter?” - and if God exists do we matter to Him?

For those in serious search of knowing they matter there has been one well worn road to travel on, and that’s been religion with all its rules and rituals to make our gods take notice of us.

 

When Jesus turned up, however, He offered another road, an alternative route, that He was that road to knowing we matter, and that we matter to God. Or as He Himself phrased it, He was “the way, the truth and the life.”

On the way to explaining what He meant by that, He took several swipes at those pushing religion with its man-made traditions and regulations, because religion made people feel they only mattered if they followed every rule and ritual that religious tradition required.

 

What Jesus showed His disciples.  So, how did He do it? He did it through His prayers to the Father, because in the way Jesus prayed it was clear He was talking to Someone He knew to Whom He mattered a lot.

 

So in Luke 11:1 one of His disciples asked Jesus to help them experience that too. In verses 2-4 Jesus startles them by starting their prayer with “Our Father,” using the Aramaic word “Abba” for Father, a term of affection and trust a Jewish child would use when asking his parents a question, or asking for help, or wanting to snuggle.

 

To Jesus’ Jewish disciples this was shocking, because they’d been used to a God with strict laws and rituals He expected them to obey as His chosen people. But here’s Jesus saying God is an “Abba,” a Father who loves hearing from humans who see themselves as His children with free access to Him all the time, no strings attached or conditions to meet.

 

This would be tough for His disciples to understand, though, so Jesus offers them a hypothetical situation to chew on in verse 5: “Suppose,” Jesus says, “you have a friend you visit at midnight to ask for three loaves of bread, because you have a guest, but no food in your house with which to feed him."

 

The homeowner, however, replies: “Hey it’s late, buddy, I’ve locked the house up already and we’re all in bed, so I’m not getting up just to give you some bread.” The man outside, however, doesn’t give up, and clearly he doesn’t feel badly about not giving up either.

 

But what made him so bold? I mean, could I do that to a friend - knock on his door at midnight asking for a tiny favour, and not stop knocking until he responded?

 

Well, yes I could if I knew my friend was OK with me doing it, having already made it clear I could enter his house any time without knocking, and if I’m hungry go open his fridge and help myself - because that’s the kind of friendship he wants with me. He loves a relationship with such freedom in it.

 

And... this is the point Jesus is getting across, that we have an Abba Father who loves that kind of relationship too. He’s not like the reluctant friend. Instead, He appreciates us coming boldly to Him at any time for any request for help, and feeling utterly free to “ask” because we know, verses 9-10, “it will be given to you….For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened.”

 

Do we get the impression from Jesus’ illustration, then, that we matter a great deal to this Abba Father? ... enough that we feel free to knock on our Father’s door at any time of night or day for the tiniest favour because that’s what He loves us doing, having learnt from Jesus’ prayers how much we matter to Him.

 

So, say goodbye to religion with all its rules and rituals, because Jesus made it clear in His prayers that we have a Father who loves us feeling utterly free as His children to ask Him for anything we need and at any time of day or night, without having to use religion to get Him to take notice of us.

 

Because we matter that much to Him.

 

 

Advent is here

Posted by [email protected] on December 3, 2020 at 7:45 AM Comments comments (0)

 


If ever proof was needed that God loves us it’s in Advent, which pictures God not only saving us once, or twice, but three times.

Three salvations - past, present, and future - which tie in very nicely with the three “comings” of Jesus that Advent pictures too.

 

The first coming of Jesus ties in with our first salvation, when Jesus died to save all humanity from eternal death. Jesus then told his disciples he would come back to them after his death (in a second coming), to enable them to experience a second salvation, described in Acts 3:26 as “turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

The apostle Paul also talked about Jesus returning at a later time (his third coming) to begin a third salvation that would “bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ,” Ephesians 1:10.

 

So that makes three comings of Jesus with three salvations - the first when Christ died, the second that we’re living in right now, and the third when Jesus comes again in the future.

The purposes of each of the three salvations are made clear too: the purpose of the first was forgiveness; the purpose of the second is transformation; and the purpose of the third will be restoration (Acts 3:21).

 

The first salvation has already been done, completed by Jesus on the cross at his first coming, sealed in Jesus’ own statement, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The second salvation is a work in progress right now in Jesus’ second coming, in which those who believe in the first salvation of forgiveness in Jesus’ death “are being transformed into Jesus’ likeness with ever increasing glory,” 2 Corinthians 3:18. The third salvation kicks in at Jesus’ third coming, when, in partnership with those transformed into his likeness, Jesus readies this planet and all humans who’ve ever lived for God himself to dwell here to put a final stop to “death, mourning, crying and pain,” Revelation 21:3-4.

 

So that’s three salvations tying in with Jesus’ coming to us at three different times and in three different ways, or in three different roles, as Saviour first of all, as our High Priest now, and as King of kings in his full glory later. It’s no coincidence, then, that all three of Jesus’ roles were revealed very soon after Jesus was born, when foreigners from the east arrived with three gifts for the baby Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Myrrh might seem strange, because it was used as an embalming resin for dead people, but it tied in perfectly with Jesus’ role as our Saviour dying to save us from eternal death.

 

The second gift was frankincense, which seems like an odd gift for a baby too, but frankincense played an essential part in the high priest’s job on the Day of Atonement for the cleansing of Israel from all their sins (Leviticus 16:12-13, 30). And that tied in perfectly with the role Jesus would play as high priest too (Hebrews 4:14-16), in cleansing us now from all “our wicked ways” (Acts 3:26).

 

The third gift of gold was the primary choice of gift for kings, so it’s no surprise that gold was given to Jesus, and by people who knew Jesus filled the role of a king (Matthew 2:2). So that’s three gifts for the baby Jesus that perfectly illustrated and recognized the three roles Jesus would play, as our Saviour, High Priest, and King.

 

So now we have three separate comings of Jesus for three different salvations, and three gifts illustrating the three roles of Jesus. But for those who accept Jesus’ first role and first coming as Saviour, it is the second role and second salvation that Jesus brings in his second coming that becomes the all important one, because it is part and parcel of the second season of Jesus’ ministry that we’re living in right now, in which Jesus as our High Priest is there for us every second of every day to fill us with himself (Colossians 2:9-10).

 

The first season of Jesus’ ministry was fulfilled in his human life and death, providing the forgiveness and clean slate we’d need for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. It would then be the work of the Spirit in the second season of Jesus’ ministry to transform us into the likeness of Christ in preparation for the third season in Jesus’ ministry at his third coming when we partner with him in restoring “everything” (Acts 3:21) to the way God originally meant it to be.

 

So we now have three seasons in Jesus’ ministry too, and each one tying in perfectly with the three roles Jesus fulfills through his three comings - all nicely wrapped up for us in just one word: Advent.

 


Have you ever pondered - What if God really does exist?

Posted by [email protected] on October 24, 2020 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

What if….God really does exist?

If we put aside all the usual objections to God existing, what difference would it make in a person’s life if God really does exist?

 

I wondered about this from a rather practical point of view, because I’ve based over seventy years of my life on God existing, so what difference has it made in my life?

Furthermore, has that difference been noticeable to others who’ve known me through the years too?

 

So what difference would be noticeable?

How about what Paul wrote in Romans 15:2-3, that “Each of us should please his neighbour for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please Himself.”

 

Now, that would surely be noticeable, because not pleasing oneself is hardly the driving force in people’s lives today.

 

So in not making pleasing myself my priority in life I’m providing a clear comparison as to what difference a belief in God makes.... it also happens to be the one thing that would change the world if we were all able to do it. If we could all live to build each other up, rather than live to please ourselves, imagine what kind of world we’d have instead.

It would be wildly and wonderfully different to what we’ve got at present.  

But isn’t this what turns people off God and Christianity, the idea that “not pleasing oneself” means not enjoying good food, not playing golf or watching movies, or not spending hours buried in a favourite hobby? Is that what Paul meant, though, in these two verses?

 

No, it isn’t. In context he’s talking about “bearing with the failings of the weak,” verse 1, and who does that nowadays? It’s a sad failing in our lives to pick on other kids’ weaknesses, and a source of great personal pleasure to adults as well, finding fault in politicians, employers, neighbours, other races and nationalities, spouses, other people’s children, and how people dress, talk, look or treat their animals. It’s open hunting season all year round on social (more like unsocial) media unearthing people’s failings and digging for skeletons in their closets.

Just look at all the invective on television and social media of late as we approach our provincial and municipal elections.

 

Wouldn’t it become highly noticeable, therefore, if I as a teenager did not do that on social media, or as an adult I didn’t join in the character assassination of a work colleague?

 

But to do that takes a power I don’t have naturally. The pressure to follow the crowd and not be seen as different is huge. To be different brings out the bully and scoffer in people, and who likes being ridiculed and picked on day in and day out?

 

But we’re Christians to show how wonderfully and radically different a person’s life becomes for believing God exists, compared to what drives people naturally. It took a whole chapter in Romans 14 to remind Christians of that, stirred by some Christians who’d been picking on new Christians for not eating meat or drinking wine, and for giving sacred significance to certain days (verses 2,5 and 21).

 

So rather than “bear with the failings of the weak,” these people put pressure on the new Christians to get with the program and put these silly ideas behind them. But not, unfortunately, to the benefit of these new Christians, because these so-called “silly ideas” they had were matters of conscience to them. They really thought what they were doing was what God wanted.

 

So Paul told the old-timers to back off if these new Christians showed even the slightest signs of distress at being picked on or pressured to change (Romans 14:15) ... now,  that’s not an easy thing to do when it’s the chance to prove your spiritual superiority and greater wisdom.

 

But because it’s so difficult it then becomes a grand opportunity to show what difference a belief in God’s existence can make in a person. It can turn a self-pleasing, superior-minded bully into a sensitive, unselfish peace maker. What a proof God exists that is, because only supernatural help can do that.

 

A simple question like, ”What if God really does exist?”, therefore, really comes to life in the difference it makes in a person if He does exist, and in ways that are visibly and radically obvious. And in ways so desperately needed too, in a world where pleasing oneself to build oneself up and look down on others are such a driving force behind one’s dealings with other people, and look what a mess we’re in because of it.

This whole discussion boils down to the statement a now deceased Canadian politician made ... "Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world".

 

 

Supernatural - with sensitivity

Posted by [email protected] on October 5, 2020 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)

HOW DO WE TREAT OTHERS?

In Romans 14:13 Paul writes, “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”

 

You’d think that deliberately or unknowingly tripping up a fellow Christian would be the last thing we’d want to do. But sensitivity to fellow Christians is not exactly a strong point when one has strong beliefs on touchy subjects.

 

Paul cites three examples in Romans 14: Some Christians were dyed in the wool vegans, who ate nothing but veggies; others believed in observing sacred days, while others thought it was wrong to drink wine.

 

Other Christians, however, thought all three of these were nuts, and they had no qualms about saying so. It’s like some Christians today who believe Halloween is nothing but satanism in disguise, being snorted at derisively by their fellow Christians who think Halloween is just a bit of harmless fun for the kids and a great way of getting to know the neighbours.

 

But many times in church history Christians have frothed and fumed at each other over things like the date of Easter, the validity of the sacraments, the veneration of saints, and whether war is justified, or not.

Today Christians snarl at each other over how young or old the earth is, should women and practising homosexuals be ordained to the ministry, is same sex marriage really marriage, can we vote, dance, march in protest, and join the armed forces?

I might add,  should we observe the Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday, resist euthanasia, and continue to threaten people with burning in hell forever?

 

It’s tragic that we Christians have split our churches and even killed each other over our differences - totally going against the grain of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 and Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:3-6 - but it shows how hard it is to be sensitive and respectful to people who think differently from us, even as Christians.

 

Fortunately, Paul offered a solution to the problem: “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ,” he wrote, “and don’t think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” He wrote that in Romans 13:14, in the verse just before he launches into Romans 14.

 

In Paul’s mind the only solution was a supernatural one, a transformation from our typical thinking patterns (Romans 12:2) to those of Jesus (Philippians 2:5-8).

 

So this is something else we can experience supernaturally, that we really can get along together as Christians even with strong and differing beliefs on touchy subjects. Which is good to know, because what Paul talks about in Romans 14 is tough for us to do naturally.

 

For instance, not looking down on, judging or condemning each other in those touchy “grey areas” where there is no direct command in the Bible for or against (verses 3-4, 13). Can we respectfully accept another person’s conscience and “not eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that will cause our brother to stumble” (verse 21)?

 

These are tough to do, but God accepts people’s conscience (verse 3), and he’s well pleased when we do as well (verse 18). Why? Because we’re “acting in love” (verse 15), and living the “peace and joy” of the kingdom of God (verse 17).

 

It doesn’t mean we have to give up what we believe to be right or wrong. Paul, for instance, believed there was no such thing as a “wrong food” (verse 14), but he kept that to himself when he sensed it might distress a person if he made an issue out of it (verses 15 and 22).

 

It’s that kind of sensitivity and respect for a person’s conscience that’s on offer for us to experience supernaturally. Thankfully so, because a church with unresolved conflict, from defending one’s own beliefs as the only right way to go, creates a strained and unhappy atmosphere when we’re together.

 

I’m glad there is a solution, then, that through the “Holy Spirit” (verse 17) we can do as Jesus did, which “is please our neighbour for his good, to build him up.

For even Christ did not please himself,” Romans 15:2-3.

 

 

Supernatural - Politcally

Posted by [email protected] on September 24, 2020 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)


You should find this a timely article - we have a provincial election coming, in Moose Jaw we have a municipal election - and,  we may have a federal election if the opposition parties don't like the budget just brought down in the House.


In Romans 13:1 Paul writes: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” Paul then adds teeth to that statement in verse 2 when he writes: “he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

 

In context Paul is talking about civic government, as we see in verse 6 when he mentions paying our taxes. He isn’t talking about submitting to the likes of Hitler and all those other murdering maniacs who go to war and slaughter millions of people. But even in our civic governments and law enforcement agencies there are people in power who make life miserable for the people who depend on them for their safety and well-being.

 

So how can Paul say these bad apples in positions of authority are “God’s servants to do you good” in verse 4? Clearly, I need a major “transformation by the renewing of my mind” to grasp how “good, pleasing and perfect” God’s will is on this one (Romans 12:2). For me this is where the rubber really hits the road in “testing and approving” God’s ways as being right and superior.

 

But it does tell me one thing, that God is very much involved in what’s going on inside our nations. I may not clue in yet as to why he allows the justice system to include corrupt lawyers and judges, or why he allows police forces to abuse their power through overzealous violence, but I have to admit it’s only the minority who are like that. Most government agencies and civic authorities are dedicated to containing and eradicating evil, so it doesn’t run rampant. Most authorities within a nation really are “agents of wrath” that “bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (verse 4). And if we “want to be free from fear of the one in authority,” then “do what is right and he will commend you” (verse 3). In most nations that’s true, that we have little to worry about if we’re good citizens.

 

Bring God into the picture, then, and it can radically change our thinking about politicians and civic authorities. Imagine what life in our nation would be like without local governing bodies. We’d have anarchy, or even a repeat of Genesis 6:5 in Noah’s day when “every inclination of the thoughts of human hearts was only evil all the time.”

 

God obviously had our best interests in mind, then, when instituting government and law enforcement, which is how Paul understood it too. But it raises the obvious question as to why God also gives us bad leaders and bad apples among those in leadership positions.

 

Is it because they serve a useful purpose too, though? Because - to ask a touchy question - how do we react personally to bad leaders, and especially when their policies and leadership styles make us feel angry, helpless, and fearful? Do we turn to God for help or to our own devices, like violent protest, or endless fuming at the dining room table driving everyone crazy, or getting ourselves in a froth so bad we do something really stupid and maybe end up in jail?

 

I admit I need supernatural help when our local Council is making ridiculous decisions, or the police ignore obvious crimes and punish pettiness instead. Like Job, I need God to lift me out of this world and see him above it all, with his hundreds of millions of angels being “ministering spirits” to those who trust him (Hebrews 1:14).

 

It’s in the political arena too, then, that we can experience the supernatural, as we look to God to help us keep our cool, and look to him to deal with the bad apples in ways that we can’t. And isn’t that what he appreciates from us more than anything, that we trust him? So maybe he allows poor leadership in government and law enforcement to get us to trust him, just like he allowed a vicious Pharaoh in Moses’ day to stir Israel to cry out to him and God then “displayed his power” on Israel’s behalf (Romans 9:17).

 

Can we do the same thing today as well, then, and cry out to God for help when ruled by bad leaders? Yes, according to Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:2; we can “pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men.”

 

So I ask myself, “Am I resting all my hopes and dreams, and my mental well-being, in perfect human leadership, or in God?” If it’s God, then if there’s bad leadership and abuse of power, and wrong decisions that threaten the safety and well-being of people, I don’t have to panic or resort to bad behaviour myself. I can trust God to sort things out, since he’s the one who put those people in leadership in the first place. And if he wants me to play some active part in dealing with the bad apples, I can also trust him for wisdom and whatever else I need to do that job well too. Maybe it’s even run for Mayor myself.…

 

 

Experience the Supernatural

Posted by [email protected] on September 17, 2020 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

 

We continue in Romans for this brief study ...

Romans 12:1 starts off with the word, “Therefore,” which is typical of Paul after he’s written a lot of pretty heavy things and then brings it all down to earth and applies it to our lives at our level.  

Romans 12 is a classic example of that, because the previous chapters in Romans are loaded with vital information about the “spiritual life” that God would love us to experience, but how and where does it become real in our everyday lives?

 

Paul’s answer in Romans 12 is that if we truly want to learn and practice what all these heavy things mean - or as he phrases it, “test and approve what God’s will is” to see how it works - it’s in our community of Christians where it all happens. It’s in our experience as Christians together.

 

To help us in our quest, Paul offers us several practical ways in verses 9 to 21 that help us as Christians together see how “good, pleasing and perfect” God’s will - and the Spirit-filled life God would love us to live - is. God isn’t just expecting us to blindly obey like robots; he wants us testing and proving by practical, observable experience how obviously superior his ways are.

 

In Romans 12, then, Paul is setting us up to experience the supernatural, or the superiority of God’s ways, in very practical things we can focus on in the church that work to everyone’s obvious benefit when done well.

 

For instance, “love must be sincere” in verse 9. To experience the spiritual life Paul is talking about in its supernatural reality and superiority, love must be utterly genuine, with no faking it to be loved, or to give the impression of being a nice person.

 

Wouldn’t you land I love to be with a group of people who genuinely love each other? Well, God is offering just that in the Church through the love the Holy Spirit pours into us (Romans 5:5). We can, therefore, experience supernatural love - and how wonderful and superior it is - in our Christian communities, by the many practical ways we see the totally sincere love of the Holy Spirit being expressed. That’s what the Holy Spirit has been given to us for, so we as Christians together can test and prove how good the life God offers us is. We get to experience genuine love, and what a wonderful community it creates.

 

So what is genuine love? Well, for a start, verse 9, it means “hating what is evil,” where anything going on in the church that isn’t loving is dealt with so that evil doesn’t get a look in. In the church we “cling to what is good,” as Paul phrases it, and he gives at least twenty examples of what he means by “good” in the next twelve verses.

 

What’s “good,” for instance, is “honouring one another above ourselves,” verse 10. Imagine a Christian community that actually does that, where each person is looked upon as deeply valuable and needed, is therefore listened to respectfully, and is given open credit and appreciation when due. But that’s exactly what the Holy Spirit enables us to do, so we get to see firsthand how wonderfully it works.

 

That’s in contrast to what typically happens when people mix and meet together.  The apostle Paul was obviously aware that even in church there are problems, because he talks about “not hitting back” in verse 17, trying to get along with everyone (verse 18), and not seeking revenge (verse 19). All very difficult things to do, though, when you’ve been wronged in some way by a fellow Christian.

 

Paul’s solution seems impossible too. He suggests doing something nice to someone who dismisses your views as silly, or deliberately tries to wreck your reputation in public. But Paul believes it’s possible to “overcome evil with good,” verse 21, and it works much better when we see the good in a person, rather than getting so angry and resentful at someone that you can’t help expressing it openly (verse 14) - like, unfortunately, so much of the hurtful things people throw at each other on TV and in movies. Which, in turn, has created a nasty culture of deliberately destructive gossip and accusation that’s been driving people to suicide and violent public protest. Understandably too, when human dignity is being stomped on like a discarded cigarette butt.

 

The Holy Spirit, however, provides the antidote to all that, so that the poison of the culture doesn’t infect the church.

It’s ours to experience in the ever so practical, down to earth, street level relationships in our Christian communities. This is where we see what Paul is getting at in all these heavy things he’s been writing about in Romans, so we’re “able to test and approve” in such practical ways how “good, pleasing and perfect” - and vastly superior - the will and ways of God are.

A passage in Romans 6 intriques me.

Posted by [email protected] on July 4, 2020 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Intriguing to me is Romans 6:11, because what does it actually mean to be “alive to God”?

You have to look for it, but there is a clue in the passage.

- Here’s the verse in full:

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

The clue I mentioned was in the last three words, “in Christ Jesus.”

The clue to what that means is in the previous verse, that “the life He (Jesus) lives, He lives to God.” 

- So we come alive to God “in Christ Jesus,” because our being “in” Him, or united to Him, means we can live and experience the same life He lives and experiences.

That is why the apostle Paul could say back in verse 11, “In the same way” we can count ourselves alive to God, because Jesus is alive to God, and He raised us up with Him so we can now live the same kind of life He lives.

We can “live to God” just like Jesus lives to God, therefore, and be “alive to God” just like He’s alive to God.  

- But how does that play out now in our mortal existence?

- How about the way it played out in Jesus’ human life too?

In His childhood, for instance, that we see how “alive to God” He was. He was only twelve years old when He was drawn to the temple, because, as He told His parents in Luke 2:49, “Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?”

- Isn’t it obvious that’s where He’d be?  To someone “alive to God” it was.

It’s not surprising, then, that the first chance Jesus gets to attend the Passover in Jerusalem with His parents - where does He go? To the temple where His Father dwelt!  

- What drew him there?

According to verse 40 it was “the grace of God upon Him.”

So is this what the grace of God does to people?

It makes them “alive to God,” - irresistibly drawn to Him as their Father. 

Twenty years later Jesus was back in the temple too, but this time as an angry man yelling, “How dare you turn My Father’s house into a market?” John 2:16. He was “alive to God” all right, and again because of God being His Father, but look how it played out in His life; He was furious at how the one place on earth where people could make contact with the Father was being treated.

“How dare you do that,” He roared.

- That made me wonder how that might play out in my life if I become as “alive to God” as He was.

I have been confronted by persons more than once, opposed to male and female being the only genders, and I found myself saying in effect, “How dare you ignore what our Father created us to be?”

How infuriated I was. But why shouldn’t I be when the Father of us all created us male and female to fulfill His great purpose for us as the temple in whom He wishes to dwell forever?  

But isn’t that the purpose of the Holy Spirit, to make us alive to our Abba, Father? it’s “because we are sons that God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out ‘Abba, Father,’” Galatians 4:6. The Holy Spirit is inspiring the same “alive to our Father” as He inspired in Jesus.

We have the same “Spirit of His Son.”

I must assume, then, that the ways in which Jesus was “alive to God” will spill out in me. 

It might be quite shocking, though, to blurt out to people, “How dare you treat our Father like that?”

But why not, when Jesus did? Romans 6:12, the verse right after the “alive to God in Christ” verse, reminded me of that too, where Paul wrote, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.”

The sin in context here is being more alive to our evil desires than alive to God, like wanting to be accepted by the world and its wrong ideas about gender.  

In all His years of ministry on earth Jesus was always talking about His Father, and at the end of His human life He was able to say, “I have made You (Father) known to them” in John 17:26, to which He added, “and I will continue to make You known.”

How?

Through Christians who are as “alive to God” as He is, who love  to make the Father known as He truly is too.   

 

We Call our church "TRINITY" - but what does The Trinity mean?

Posted by [email protected] on June 11, 2020 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Jesus came to bring the life of the Trinity to life in himself.

We get a look, therefore, into how God operates as Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the human life of Jesus. We see God actually come to life in human terms in him.

 

So, why, then, did Jesus create a church too, or why the need for a church as well when he’d already illustrated the life of God in his own human life?

 

Because the life of the Trinity is now meant to come to life in our human lives too. Every large or little cell group in Jesus’ church is now the means by which others see the life of the Trinity “come to life.”

 

Jesus made that clear in his John 17 prayer to his Father. First he says to the Father in verse 6, “I have revealed you to those (disciples) whom you gave me out of the world,” and in verse 7, “Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you,” because everything Jesus said and did was a perfect illustration of his Father and their life together. Jesus’ first disciples eventually got that (verse 8).

 

Now it was their turn to illustrate the life of God as Father and Son, verse 11, so “they (my disciples) may be one as we (Father and Son) are one,” as Jesus phrased it. In the disciples now the life and relationship of the Father and Son would come to life. The way that would be done, verse 17, would be the Father “sanctifying them by the truth,” the same truth God had revealed about himself through Jesus. The lives of Jesus’ disciples, therefore, would now be “sanctified” or set apart for the same purpose as Jesus’ life, to reveal life as God lives it.

 

This is why Jesus sanctified himself (verse 19), or set apart his own life as a human, to make the life of the Trinity come alive so that his disciples would be perfectly set up for the same thing happening in their lives. His disciples would gradually come to see this is why the Father had sent him, first to illustrate the life of the Trinity through Jesus’ life, and secondly to follow that up through his disciples illustrating the life of the Trinity in their lives together in the church (verses 20-23).

 

 I get that too, but how does it play out in our churches of today in this 21st Century,  and just coming out of yet another pandemic?

 

Well, it’s clearly not by anything that I do on my own human initiative or strength, because Jesus finishes his John 17 prayer where he began it back in verse 6, when he says in verse 26, “I have made you known to them,” but then he says, “and I will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them,” meaning it’s the Father’s love, not our own love, that illustrates the life of the Trinity. That’s because we can’t do what we’ve been called as the church to do, which Jesus obviously knew as well when he then says, “and that I myself may be in them.”

I have Jesus’ great wish and prayer for me that he’ll live his life of love in me. He can and will, therefore, bring to life the truth of what God is as Father, Son and Holy Spirit for me, as well as in me.

 

 I’ve seen that in how ever so gradually my life as a minister has been changing from simply teaching the Bible as my paid duty in a denomination to finding myself totally committed to a tiny church fifteen years beyond my retirement age. But it’s worth every minute, because what if we experience and demonstrate the life of the Trinity so well that “the world may (also) believe that the Father sent Jesus” in verse 21? In other words, people outside our cell groups also see in us why the Father sent Jesus, as they see the love the Father has for his Son lived out in us, and therefore the love the Father will now live in them too, so they can share in it just as we have.

 

So what God is making possible through our little gatherings of Christians is remarkable. And to think that my children and grandchildren can see it too, through the life of the Trinity coming to life in me and the Christian group I’m part of.

 

It’s certainly concentrated my life on God making all this real, in my old age too, because Jesus did pray in John 17 that his disciples would have an impact, and on that I depend.

Carry On

Posted by [email protected] on May 7, 2020 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)


Tucked away in John 14:1 Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”

As a disciple of Jesus, therefore, there is no need for me to be flustered, anxious, discouraged or depressed.  I should be able to “Keep calm and carry on.”  Sailors like myself are very familiar with the term "carry on".

 

Well, I’m not one of life’s “keep calmers.” I'm really good at being a worry wart ... It’ll take a miracle every day,  something to wow me,  for that to happen. But you know, that’s exactly what Jesus promises in John 14:6 when he tells Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

 

Jesus has just explained in verses 2 and 3 that he’s “going to prepare a place” - for his disciples in his Father’s house. After he’s done that, he’ll “come back and take you to be with me so that you also may be where I am.” Then in verse 4 he says, “You know the way to the place where I am going.”

 

So that’s when Thomas pipes up and says, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going, so how can we know the way?“ How many times have I felt that too, when I haven’t got a clue where Jesus is taking me, or the church? My heart gets easily troubled when that happens.

 

So I’m glad Thomas expressed his frustration, because Jesus comes up with his amazing answer in verse 6, that he is “the way.” In context he means “the way” to where he is with the Father, or “the way” to the place in his Father’s house where he resides.  Jesus is now opening up that way to Thomas and the other disciples, so they can be with him where he is to experience life with the Father as he, Jesus, is living it.

 

No wonder Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled,” because he is now providing his disciples with a way right into the dimension where he and his Father are. As a disciple of Jesus, then, does that mean I can enter that world too? ... enter it every day, as well, because I need that. But how do I know I’m entering it?

 

Well, that takes us to Jesus saying he’s also “the truth.” In context, the truth he’s talking about is having the power to lift his disciples into the world he’s living in, because that’s the power the Father has given him. As Jesus himself said in verse 10, it’s “the Father, living in me, who is doing his work,” the proof of which was “the miracles” he was doing (verse 11).

 

So, Jesus could make such a promise to his disciples, that they could experience life as he’s living it, because the Father had given him the power to make it happen. It was an undeniable “truth,” because his disciples could see the power Jesus had in the miracles he was doing. But Jesus then drops the bombshell that his disciples could experience that power too, because not only could they “do what I (Jesus) have been doing,” but “even greater things,” verse 12.

 

What a promise, that Jesus’ disciples could experience the power of the Father doing miracles in them too. And not only what Jesus himself had been doing, they’d also be doing “even greater things,” meaning millions of people through the ages would witness these miracles in Jesus’ disciples, and the fruit of those miracles in his disciples being an untroubled heart in a world full of troubles. It’s when that untroubled heart happens to me, that’s how I know I’m entering the world Jesus is living in.

 

It’s meant to be an undeniable “truth” proving Jesus really is “the way” to being with him where he is. The only question remaining for me, then, is how does Jesus make it possible and real in my life?

 

That takes us to Jesus saying he’s “the life,” as well. In context, Jesus is saying he’ll do “whatever you (his disciples) ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father,” verse 13.

 

All it takes for the miracle to come to “life” and reality in me, then, of entering Jesus’ world and experiencing life as he’s living it, is asking Jesus for it. Why ask Jesus? Because this is what he’s dedicated his “life” to, in making his Father’s love and plan for humanity come alive to “bring glory” to his Father. And how that love and plan of the Father come alive is in the everyday lives of Jesus’ disciples, as Jesus fills us with his “life” and the dimension he lives in, the fruit of which is the miracle we experience of an untroubled heart in a trouble filled world.

 

Jesus does not promise his disciples a trouble free life, but what he does promise is the practical, provable, everyday miracle of a trouble free heart in this life - for simply trusting that he’s “the way and the truth and the life.” We can, therefore, “Keep calm and carry on.”

 

 


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