Monday, June 15, 2020

NO SOFT OPTION - CHRISTIAN MINISTRY

New Devotional by Ray Hawkins

This 31 Devotion is for those in any aspect of Christian ministry. Ray was in ministry for over fifty years. From out of that experience he as compiled this Bible based book. Those who have been in ministry will be refreshed and encouraged.It can be purchased from ACOM [Australian College Of Ministry] 
ACOM Press
1/3 Rider Boulevarde 
Rhodes
NSW, Australia 2138.

ACOM Info <info@acom.edu.au>
phone   P/ 1800 672 692 | P/ 02 8573 6006

This is a devotional book that issues a challenge to Christian leaders, evangelists, preachers, pastors, teachers, elders, youth ministers, Sunday School staff - who enjoy the rewards and face the difficulties of leadership. When Ray Hawkins writes about Christian ministry and leadership he does so from a Restoration Movement understanding of mutual ministry. That is, the priesthood of all believers.

The format is thirty-one short statements on individual aspects of Christian ministry and leadership. Readers are left in little doubt as to the importance  of Scripture to the author, and that it should be to them.

From the Foreword by Dennis Nutt,
Associate Professor,
Sydney College of Divinity
NSW






Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Israel, a special creation for praise


                                          
But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: Isaiah 43:1 NRSV.

       
Two distinct expressions surround creation, Bara, to create out of nothing; Yatzar to form as a potter. Both depict God’s ‘hands on’ and intimate relationship to His masterpiece. These words are also descriptive of what the Lord did in the creation and formation of the Nation of Israel. More than that, Scripture exposed a more intense relationship through the Nation’s creation.
            When Deuteronomy 32:3-4 is placed alongside of Isaiah 51:1 something unique is presented to the World. God is described as the Rock [see other devotionals] and then the prophet writes, ‘Look to the Rock from which you were hewn.’ To re-enforce the bond between Yahweh and Israel, such words as ‘The Rock who begot you, DT.32:18, Father, Isa.63:16, Husband Isa 54:5.
At least eleven times the prophet highlights God’s role as potter. ‘Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are the work of you hand.’ Isaiah 64:8. Yahweh is the ‘hands on’ Lord Almighty. The ‘clay’ He took consisted of the genes of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The intensity associated with His relationship with Israel is often stated as His love for those three special and different men.
There is always a purpose underlining what He does. Yahweh’s intention for Israel is recorded for our understanding within Scripture. chapter 43:7. ‘I have created him for my glory’ tells all of us Israel’s status in God’s eyes. The other Nations may despise the Potter’s work, or be envious of its uniqueness but Yahweh holds it as precious.
As a work of art expresses the creative heart of the artist so too Israel was to display the glory of God. They were formed to be His witnesses in the midst of pagan idolatry and worship of demons. This Work of Yahweh was to confront all other Nations with the declaration ‘Yahweh is God alone, there is no other’. His character was to be made known through them as holy, righteous, faithful and the God who does not lie! One other interesting role the Nation was called upon to express. ‘You are holy, You, who inhabits the praises of Israel.’ In some way, Hold would ‘fashion’ out of the genuine praises of this Nation a feeling place.
 We may find this strange, even egotistical, until we look back into the ancient world and its religious systems. There were virtually no grounds on which the people could stand and give praise to their gods. Fear dominated the service and sacrifices. How could you praise that idol which required child sacrifice or depraved worship. God was raising a people whose worship came from a redeemed people with the hope of the Messiah. From gratitude to Yahweh for mercy, forgiveness, providence and protection song of praise would arise. What a magnificent collection can be found in the Bible, especially I the book of Psalms and even in Revelation!

Israel expressed the glory of the Lord of Hosts in praise. It was as though they were to be His choristers and performers on the world’s stage. Their melody, harmony and message, was to capture their ‘audience’ with the wonder and glory of Yahweh. The psalms of course resound with this testimony. Unfortunately, Satan sought to drown out their praises through stifling their voice and scattering the ‘choir.’
What seemed to be a successful strategy for silencing the song actually added to the Lord’s glory! He achieved His purpose of fulfilling His word concerning the Messiah, the cross and salvation.
Yahweh will fulfil what He promised regarding Israel.  Some key aspects such as the millennium Kingdom are coming. The Nations of the world will join them, especially at the Feast of Tabernacles to celebrate the Lord’s power and glory (Zechariah 14). Isaiah is captivated by the idea of his nation shedding their laments and entering into the courts of the Lord with singing during that time. At least 18 times the prophet wrote about the people, the land and even the Heavens singing praises to the Lord. Why? For He has done marvellous things and He, He alone, is worthy of praise.

Ray Hawkins 2020/18/3.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Commanding the Impossible



A devotional soliloquy from Ray N. Hawkins

You’ve made it rather difficult Lord.

No. It’s impossible!
The sermon this morning made me very conscious of it. The preacher actually made me feel despondent as he worked through the love sequences of 1 Corinthians 13. I agree, love is noble but really as I listened I thought you asked too much.

Over the years I’ve tried and tried to live out what Paul wrote about. Mary and I even had it in our wedding service. But honestly Lord, I know I’ve failed, time after time. When I concentrate on making sure one facet of Love works, others are collapsing through neglect. After a while it all gets too much and I give up.

What you are asking is beyond my power to fulfil. Well, that’s how I see it. Sure, I can give an appearance of Love to others and people will think (unless they know me real well) that I’m doing fine. But how could you expect me the get all the sixteen facets of Love together and maintain the momentum?

I can’t do it! It is as simple as that. I can’t! It is beyond my capacity, even if I had an overwhelming desire to try. Maybe that’s part of my problem. Every time I’ve given it a go something within me rises up and short circuits the desire and will power. You know what I mean ‘cause you know me. Love calls on me to keep no record of wrongs. In all sincerity I do forgive those who hurt or offend. I pray for them. I go out of my way to be reconciled, but…! When that person treads on my toes again, all those past hurts appear in my mind as if by magic. The old memory’s accounting sheet doesn’t seem to allow for any erasing. One good thing I have to admit, you keep me from having a poison pen with which to embellish their faults. Maybe, just maybe, that is what loving you achieves.

As I sit in this café, sipping tea and munching a biscuit I recall what John wrote about in 1 John 4:19. ‘We love because you first loved us’ so it strikes me I’ve been going about this Love requirement all wrong. It’s been a self effort exercise rather than a self– surrender to you experience. How many times do I have to learn that without you I can do nothing in meeting your standards for living? So, it looks like the only way I’m going to meet the impossible command to Love is by keeping close to you and drawing on your inexhaustible grace.

Lord, the café owner is looking at me with a strange look in his eyes. He’s probably wondering why I’m taking so long over a cuppa. Best get a move on. Thanks Lord for your time.
Copyright March 2020. Ray Hawkins.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Thank God for the Eight Day


     God is a numbers person. He has arranged for us in His word some very specific numbers to stress eternal principles or doctrinal messages. You will be aware of such numbers as one, two, three, seven, ten and twelve and don’t forget forty. There is one number I find biblically significant from a personal point of view. It is most apparent in the King James translation more so than some others. That number is, eight.
 Leviticus 17:12 spells out the day on which a male baby was to be circumcised. It was the eighth day. That marked the entrance into the covenant of God with the Nation. Jesus was eight days old when He was circumcised. Luke 2:21).

When the Aaronic Priesthood was established, they had to remain within the tent of meeting seven days after their ordination. In Leviticus 9:1 they emerge to serve the Nation on the eighth day.
When a man or woman with a skin disease was cured seven days were required for confirmation. On the eight day he or she was welcomed back into the community via a prescribed sacrifice.

Remember the Apostle Thomas’ eighth day experience. He wasn’t in the upper room that first Sunday of the Resurrection morning.  It was the following Sunday, eight days later that the Lord met Thomas, with the other disciples, in the upper room (John 20.). How thankful we should be to Thomas for being absent that first Sunday. His testimony about Jesus is succinct and awesome, “My Lord and My God”!

There are other references but that should suffice.
How then does the number apply to us? You will have picked up the concept. The eighth day points to a new beginning! Sunday is the first day of the week, Saturday the seventh which completes the cycle, the eighth day speaks of a new start.

I like to think that we live continually in the eighth day. 2 Corinthians 5:17: ‘If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation, everything old has passed away, see, everything has become new’. (NSRV). When you and I gave our lives to Christ Jesus we entered a new realm with a new relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We have a new song and a new destiny. Our worship is in spirit and truth and we live not by the letter but by the Spirit and when we fail, we have the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ ever fresh in our eighth day ‘world’.

A new year by the World’s reckoning is about to begin. Unfortunately, it will be filled with the moral and spiritual junk of past years, and probably worse. However, we who are in the ‘eighth day’ experience are to enter the coming year with a sense of mission. That is to live out the wonder of our ‘day’ and pray, share through word, writing and witnessing to encourage others to have their own personal eighth day encounter with Jesus.  

Ray (enjoying the day) Hawkins.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Cloud Gazing


We saw dinosaurs, mountains, faces and many fanciful designs my grandchildren and I. Where were they found? In the fleeting clouds. What a wonderful time we had as we played together. 

Afterwards, I began a trip to the clouds of Scripture courtesy of my concordance. The first mention of clouds in the Gospels is on a mountain according to Matthew 17:1-5. This followed Jesus’ words about the cross in the region of Caesarea Philippi. Rather appropriate as I think about it, first the cross then the glory. Matthew’s gospel says, ‘…a voice from the cloud said, “this is my beloved Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” Did Peter, James and John’s minds recall their nation’s history when God spoke to Israel out of the cloud at Mount Sinai?

Later the disciples were in for a shock as the Lord spoke about other clouds. This was in the context of future events affecting Israel and the Gentile nations. (Matthew 24). ‘Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.’ (Matthew 24:29, 30) What a great incentive to be a cloud watcher!

Jesus was accused of blasphemy in the trial leading to His crucifixion. Why" Because, the High Priest of the Jewish religion understood Jesus linked Himself to Daniel 7:13. ‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.’ This was a claim to be both God and Messiah.

If Jesus' body had remained in the tomb, the judgement of the High Priest and Sanhedrin would have been correct. The message of the angels is our victory chant at Easter time, “He is not here; He has risen!” 
Forty days later, what an emotional moment it must have been on the Mount of Olives.  Jesus was about to return to Heaven. How would they have felt as Jesus was taken up in a cloud (Acts 1:9)?  I’m sure they never lost the significance of the angel’s words when he said “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). This is the promise also found in Revelation 1:7.

Fortunately, the Lord gave instructions that motivate His followers to make people aware of His mission and message. The heart must be occupied by Christ Jesus and the clouds, but the mind needs to be focused on service. This is our calling, the former is our hope and longing. Each disciple has their own God given or birth derived gift to exercise and refine for the Lord’s honour. The purpose of having our gifts and abilities is to express in meaningful ways the wonder of God’s transforming and enabling grace. This purpose remains for the Church until it is caught up to meet the Lord in the clouds, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. This is called 'the Rapture'. 

Then, we will see Him face to face. What a thrill, a joy awaits and what a motivation to be faithful.  
©Ray Hawkins

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Who is the 'Serpent in Genesis 3?


Critics of the Bible enjoy ridiculing the book of Genesis. Zeroing in on the explanation of why there is suffering, sickness and social unrest, they try and dismiss the Bible’s message, history and prophesy. The ‘Serpent’ of Genesis three is a case in point. The image invoked is either of a talking dinosaur or slimy snake. The word used is ‘nahash’ and means shinning, upright creature. Why early translators called this as yet unrevealed creature ‘the serpent’ must have been determined by the curse imposed. That is, crawling on its stomach, therefore a snake.

Language has many ways of using words. From the literal to allegorical, from fact to fiction, parable to synonyms and so many other ways. This is compounded when translating from one language into another, especially ancient texts. In understanding the Bible, the same difficulties arise. Whilst I understand the Bible from an historical and literal framework it doesn’t mean I’m unaware of the poetical, symbolic or other descriptive terms. ‘A figure of speech is never used, except for the purpose of calling attention to, emphasising and intensifying, the reality of the literal sense, and the truth of the historical facts.’ (Bullinger in ‘The Common Bible’)

Therefore, in grasping the full meaning of the ‘Serpent, the tree and Eve’ we need to read it with the whole of Scriptures open. Like any good mystery story, the true identity of the evil genius is often not known until much later. In fact, you meet him many times within the Bible’s pages under different names. It is in the final book, Revelation, the Serpent is unmasked, he is the dragon, the old serpent, the devil and Satan, (Revelation 12). Another term is Leviathan (Isaiah 27:1) I have a blogspot about him and the Worm (9/16/2018). The apostle Paul refers to him and his angels as having the power to make themselves appear as ‘angels of light, (2 Corinthians 11:14).

 Genesis 3 paves the foundation for appreciating the mystery of evil and the spiritual force using mankind to oppose the Creator. He is called ‘the God of this world’ I John 5:19. His ambition is to usurp that which the Lord reserved for Himself, i.e. Mount Zion (Psalm 48.) and destroy the nation of the Messiah. The Serpent has endeavoured to do this through various nations such as Ancient Egypt, Babylon Nazi Germany and the current Arab countries of the Middle East. All have or will fail. You gain an insight into his unseen presence in the account of Ezekiel 28.

The Serpent in any of his disguises is unmasked as a deceiver, hater, destroyer, murderer, one who twists the Word of God. The Bible tells us that his hold over us has been broken at the cross. Colossians 2:11-15 says Jesus paid the price and cancelled the charges against us. We cannot be blackmailed over sins confessed, removed and buried. Revelation 20 outlines the ultimate destruction of the serpent and his kingdoms.

Take Genesis seriously, literal and relevant and you will find your faith is stronger, your understanding of the cross and salvation exciting, your love of Jesus deeper, your gratitude to The Father growing and the commitment to being the temple of the Holy Spirit more willing.

©Ray Hawkins 


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Creation

‘Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? 
Isaiah 40:26a.

The Hubble spacecraft set off in 1990 courtesy of a lift by a space shuttle. One of its missions was to determine the Hubble Constant, that is, the rate by which the universe is expanding!  Listen to what the Scriptures have to say on this: ‘He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.’ (Isaiah 40:22).` God’s word had been telling all who read it that the heavens were being stretched out.
 When you consider creation you face two options about its beginning. One is the faith view of evolutionists. They hold to a chance beginning. We, and all that there happens to be, has taken untold billions of years. The other faith option is spelt out in the Scriptures: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’
 Evolutionists make their claim on their view of science. This flows from their naturalistic interpretation of evidence viewed in the ‘now!’ Creationists make their claim, also using the same evidence for their interpretation of science but in the light of divine revelation. In either case you come up against an insurmountable barrier. Where did ‘Chance’ come from or ‘who made God’? Therefore in both cases the element of faith, based upon knowledge, introduces the religious factor to those in either camp.

The word for ‘create’ illustrates its uniqueness and special association with Jehovah – Elohim. From out of nothing God created the heavens and the earth. He spoke and it was done! When you look into the heavens, or into a flower or droplet of water you get a glimpse of the Lord’s beauty and power. There have always been people who deny the existence of God, any type of god. Others have corrupted the Creator’s being and character into hideous caricatures and worshipped aspects of creation rather than God Himself. Romans 1:20: ‘Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.’ 

When you read the first chapter of Genesis the word ‘Bara’ is used. This means create out of nothing, a unique beginning specified. Between Genesis 1:1 and 2:3 there are forty-six times listed to the direct act or will of God as creator. When we check out references to the creation we come across Psalm 33:6: ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.’ In Jeremiah 51:15: ‘He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.’ In the New Testament all of this is summed up in the person of the Word made flesh, Jesus. John 1:1-3: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him was all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.’

We are not the end product of a heavenly experiment dragging us from the swamp to the ape and into an ‘Adam.’ The first man was God’s special creation. We will consider him in a later meditation. The very integrity of God’s creative act, the authority of His word, the foundation for our faith and the understanding of Jesus according to the Gospels hinges upon the special and separate creative acts of God, especially for Adam.

In other sections of the Bible God’s other creative work is highlighted. This includes the creation of the nation of Israel (Isaiah 43:1), a future new heaven and earth (Isaiah 65:17) and when we cry out to Him for a new heart and a new beginning (Psalm 51:10).
Therefore I am faced with a choice about authority over my faith’s foundation and understanding of God and creation. I choose to take my stand upon the Word of God for I know in whom I have believed!