The sexual debate has gone full circle from Caesar's time to now. When the Church began its entrance into Gentile territory it faced a sexual minefield. Rome's attitude to sexual relations was in stark contrast to that upheld by the Judeo-Christian faith. How did the Christian faith take on the challenge?
By paying a high price in its commitment to the Scriptures Jesus believed in. By an understanding that marriage had links to the Creation of Adam and Eve. Believers showed a better way in their marital relationship and its impact upon the children. I don't read of Christians holding protest marches but rather being vilified for their stance and power of debate. The cross triumphed over the sword and the arena by the faithful witness even unto death.
Why would people once happy with a free and easy, unrestrained sexual taste remove themselves from that scene? Why would they be willing to be scorned by those once considered friends? Because the came to understand that marriage was more than sex and having legitimate heirs. Behind it was a spiritual dimension that only the Creator would explain much later. This reason undergirding marriage has for many Christians and church goers been neglected, or worse still, debunked.
Genesis tells us that the Lord created Adam first and from his side made Eve. How ridiculous! We all know it is the woman which gives birth. Why would the Creator stretch our credibility with Adam producing Eve? This isn't only recorded in Genesis 2:21-25 but by the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:13. It is only the Scriptures that tells of the reason and it is twofold. One is that when a husband and wife come together in the sexual act they become one flesh. This is why the Bible is so strident against promiscuity. It is also the same reason as to why same sex relationships will never be valid in the Lord God's sight.
The other reason is that Eve being formed from out of the side of Adam pointed to Christ and the cross. Jesus is the redeemer. He is also the One (and the only One) from whom the Church could come. The significance of the spear into His side is for forgiveness, yes, but more so for the creation, birth, forming of the Church. That is why the Church is likened to a bride. It takes us back to the Creative act of God in Genesis. Therefore when a person was converted and realised the call upon his or her life a new mindset based upon the Bible developed.
Within this new realm grew a desire to honour the Lord and Saviour. To do that required making a commitment to live a life pleasing to Him. There are many verses in the New Testament explaining the difficulties but determination in living such a life. Too many disciples of Christ have too little understanding of the lifestyle required as pleasing unto their Lord.
Let us stand our ground as to why the Christian concept of marriage is best for our society. we don't have to be rude, crude or derogatory towards other views. However we may need to develop a mindset which will endure various forms of opposition. The best answer is in many ways is being muffled by relationship breakdowns of church goers. What is needed by non-Christians to see is a fulfilled, interesting, growing and enjoyable marriage between a man and a woman who seek to honour Jesus. Let it be your!
Ray Hawkins 13.8.2017
The devotional 'From Eden with Love is about Marriage. It is available from Christian bookshops and as an ebook.
You can get it from me, the author, also.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Sunday, August 6, 2017
In 1 Corinthians 9:5 there is a snippet concerning the Apostle Peter. It regards to the unsung role of an apostle’s wife. The Apostle Paul wrote, ‘Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?’ Why would Peter have Mrs. ‘Peter’ accompany him on at least some of his ministry ventures? Once again the silence of Scripture intrigues and teases the imagination. The macho apostle in a male chauvinistic world was uninhibited and unashamed to have his wife by his side. What Peter wrote about wives and husbands in 1 Peter 3:1-7 was it out of personal experience. Could he have been showing appreciation of a ‘one flesh’ relationship within ministry? It must have motivated him (with her encouragement?) to see converts separated by their faith woo and win their spouses to the Lord. His advice is still relevant.
There is another couple within Scripture about whom we know a little more and yet not enough. Aquila and Priscilla stand out as a wonderful, faithful, energetic couple. Something which has aroused some commentary responses are the occasions when Priscilla is given precedence over her husband. Again we do not know much about their relationship or up-bringing. We do however gain insights about their team ministry. It wouldn’t be far from the mark to say they were comfortable with each other’s role. Neither would have felt threatened when the other was mentioned first in despatches. How different it has been with some others in the Christian ministry.
The male ego is often fragile while at the same time lapping up the ‘crumbs’ of public applause. Sometimes an immature personality is unsettled or jealous when his wife receives accolades for exercising her gifts and abilities. The attitude of Diotrephes (3 John) can be rampant within the minister’s house as well as with a local congregation. Where, O where, is the beautiful Biblical incentive of ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others’ Philippians 2:3, 4. In the context of a minister’s relationship with his wife and her expressions of ministry surely the same rule applies.
Proverbs 4:5-9 is about Wisdom. This information can be so easily applied by a minister to his wife. There is great benefit to him personally and therefore to his ministry in treating his wife as Proverbs explained Wisdom. The word ‘Wisdom’ has been change in the following passage to ‘wife.’ ‘Do not forsake your wife, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you… Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendour.’ Such an outlook releases the wife to express her gifts and abilities with the husband’s encouragement and pride. The consequences of all this trust is to enrich her life and expands her love, respect and admiration for her man. The testimony of such a mutual ministry and relationship is a wonderful attraction and a strong challenge.
When asked what has been my greatest asset in ministry I unhesitatingly reply, ‘My wife!’ Mary has been my help-mate in every area of my life and ministry. From a human perspective without her I could not have had our fulfilled and successful ministries. She has been God's gift to me!
Ray Hawkins August2017.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
Many words have a story woven within them. Discovering that story, picture gives a deeper meaning or nuance to what it says. Whether the word is poetic, symbolic, or even jargon each ultimately points us to something tangible and literal. When Jesus spoke about Himself as ‘the door’ we understand it as a metaphor, a picture expressing something. The same applies to Jesus being ‘the Rock.’ There is only one way into the presence of the Father and therefore Heaven. That is through Jesus as Lord and Saviour. There is only one sure and certain foundation on which to build your life. That is the Word of God.
Some are trying to make people who take the Bible seriously, therefore with a literal understanding of the text as intellectual ‘cavemen!’ Others want to make the plain statements of Scripture as either relevant only to the ancient past, or fantasise into something quite different to what it plainly says. That is where supporters of same-sex marriage linger. Marriage has no meaning outside of the Biblical explanation and, dare I write it, the literal symbolism behind the literal union of Adam and Eve. That points to the literal relationship between Christ and the Church.
The Bible was meant to be read and understood. Then it was expected to be adopted and lived out in relationship, service and worship. Habakkuk was commissioned to write his vision so as to ‘make it plain on tablets, and so a runner may read it’ (2:2). As the apostle Paul wrote about speaking that it is only beneficial if it is understood. Sure, there will be many layers to what is written or said because there are various levels of intellect. But, they are meant to be grasped or searched out. The parables of Jesus are a case in point. There is the very obvious message that would lodge within the ear and have an impact. Then, there is the deeper side to the story waiting to be delved into. Both lead to a literal understanding of the Lord’s intention and teaching.
When it comes to certain facets of Scriptural terms and stories in the Old Testament critics are quick to use them as literally ridiculous. The serpent enticing Eve to take the fruit is one of their chief criticisms. Is there a literal answer. Yes. Revelation 12:9! There the answer is presented. The serpent is none other than ‘the great dragon…the Devil, Satan.’ A literal spirit being. A story in the life of Israel in the wilderness concerns the healing of those bitten by serpents. They had to look to the pole Moses had made on which a moulded serpent was placed. Those who looked towards it when bitten were healed. Centuries passed before the meaning was given. Jesus said it pointed to the Son of Man being lifted up, John 3:14. That still wasn’t clear and later Jesus added Himself into the mix. In John 8:28 and 12:32 He said He would be the one lifted up. The cross explains the event in Numbers 21:4-9. The symbol pointed to the literal.
People want to explain away Biblical teaching which conflicts with their views, especially in morals and science. The non-Christian has no reason to accept the Biblical teachings on these matters. It is a different matter for Christians who believe Jesus is the Son of God, Lord, Saviour and the one before whom all will bow. Christ’s views are for us to check-out, understand, adopt, apply and defend. That is a costly exercise as Christians in the sciences have found. Expose the fundamental fallacies of evolution and you are ‘blacklisted’, ostracised. Defend the literal six days of creation and you are ridiculed. Uphold the veracity of the worldwide flood of Noah’s day is to be considered out of step with the facts. Yet the facts speak of a worldwide flood which in turn the evolutionists refuse to debate or consider.
To take the Bible seriously is to enjoy the richness of its words. The awesome symbolisms of the Tabernacle and its sacrifices, the beautiful poetry of the psalms, the metaphors of the Gospels, especially John’s, all take the reader to some unchanging truth, especially about Jesus. As Jesus said in John 5:39 “they speak of me!”
Sunday, July 23, 2017
“Why doesn’t God (if there is a God) do something? The world is in a mess and He sits on His throne somewhere watching. Can’t He hear the cries of people in pain? Isn’t He unmoved by domestic abuse? When was the last time He ‘zapped’ someone for paedophilia? So people wave an accusative finger and hostile words towards Heaven.
However, could it be that the reverse is the actual fact? God has spoken! It is we (or many of us) who are deaf, or at best, we exercise selective hearing.
God as Creator has spoken to this world through His artistry in the sky. The hearing impaired claim it is a chance thing. Such an attitude puts ‘plugs’ in the ears of the soul when God has a word to say. What may that have been? Judgement in the form of a worldwide flood is coming. Self-indulgent perverted and violent relationships drowned out the warnings. It also made them ‘blind’ to an escape plan from the flood. Noah’s Ark was the Judge of the whole Worlds’ act of mercy. Only eight (8) grasped it, went into the ark and rode out the judgement.
Time after time the Lord God Almighty has spoken until (with respect) He lost His voice. He has spoken in sign language through the religious system of sacrifice in the Jewish worship. The sophisticated people of today would call it animal cruelty and fail to discern the significance of substitution and the penalty of death. Through specially selected men and women the Lord recorded His plans, pleasure, promises, punishment and power. It wasn’t illiteracy which prevented the words being read. It wasn’t then and isn’t now. The underlying reason for not at least perusing the Bible is so a person can claim innocent through ignorance. That hasn’t a chance of holding up before the Great White Throne of Judgement. Ignorance is fed by self-righteousness which sets its own rules and demotes what God has recorded as so out of date with today’s wisdom.
In one final ‘shout or scream’ the Father in Heaven summed up all He could say by commissioning His only Son Jesus to be the final Word! He spoke and people liked what He said, when it was served with bread and fish. When Jesus mentioned righteousness and truth, honouring the Father and caring for others selective hearing took over. Jesus became a bore to the hierarchy, a threat to the tyranny of Rome whilst the people became upset because He didn’t meet their expectations. So, they crucified Him. That was mean to stop the Voice of God. That was so they could still curse The Father in Heaven for being a ‘do nothing God.’ It backfired! God the Father’s voice in His Son Jesus became even louder. Three days after the crucifixion came the background music of an earthquake which has shaken the spiritually and morally deaf, the blind, the mute, the ignorant, ever since. “He is risen!” “He is Lord!” Hear Him!”
God has sounded out, spelt out, signed out His intentions. He has informed us now and once for all His offer of redemption, forgiveness, relationship behaviour and morality based upon His righteousness and word. Society, family and relationships are paying the price of thinking they know better. There is still an opportunity to change for the better. That requires an openness of the ear, the heart, the mind and the will to know and do what God has already said. Not to heed His word is to invite into our realms moral confusion, the tyranny of the perverse and the desperation of the hopeless. God has spoken to us! His final word is summed up in the Christ of Calvary. Hear ye Him!
Sunday, July 16, 2017
‘The Heaven’s declare the glory of God … day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.’ These verses from psalm 19 are beautiful but. Are they meaningless? The psalm goes on the say ‘there is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.’ I have to admit I haven’t heard their voice. Am I deaf? Blind?
Did I missed something? Yes! In Genesis 1:14 the record says God put the lights in the sky to be signs and for seasons. This means much more than simply Summer through to Spring. There is a story woven somewhere, somehow in the sky. When creation took place, in far fewer years than the billions being mooted, Humanity could see that story. Since the flood of Noah’s time, two things have happened to that story I the stars. One, the Heavens keep expanding. A scientific reality and Biblical testimony (Job 37:18. Isaiah 40:22. 42:5. 44:24. 45:12. 51:13).
It is remarkable the amount of references to the stars in the book of Job. How did he know that his Redeemer lives? That He would stand upon the earth and Job would see Him, even after Job’s death. (Job 19:25-27). Surely, psalm 50:6 sums it up, ‘The Heaven’s proclaim his (God’s) righteousness.’ What a shame the human heart has sullied it. That helps us understand why the Lord God raised up a nation with prophets to record His program and purposes. Even then the contest between God’s revelation and the perverter of Scripture (and the story in the stars) was unrelenting. Still ongoing.
The second is the corruption of the story. It has been turned into the ‘Horoscope’ which I would write as the ‘Horror-scope!’ The account of Babylon’s foundation and history (Genesis 10:6-20. 11:1-9) bear witness to the corruption of God’s story in the sky. Why would anyone or thing want to do that? Because God spelt out His redemptive plan before it was committed to tablet then parchment and books. The spiritual power behind Babylon didn’t like it because it revealed his doom. He wanted to usurp the Messiah and remove God from His throne. Read Isaiah 14:12-15. 47:8)
In Job 38:32 this ‘story in the stars’ is called ‘the Mazzaroth.’ The Study Bible by Bullinger has a whole section on this matter. There is far too much to include in a blog. I’d like to highlight the following: He has recorded the Redeemer’s role. I’ve put alongside it some verses I considered relevant. This story is connected with Israel and the promised Messiah.(The Church, the Body of Christ on earth was the Lord’s surprise and masterstroke, Ephesians 3.Romans 16:25-26)
The 1st book in the story of the stars. The Redeemer’s first coming.
Virgo. The prophecy of the promised seed (Genesis 3:15. Isaiah 7:14.)
Libra. The Redeemer’s work (Matthew 20:28 John 3:14-21.)
Scorpio. The Redeemer’s conflict. (Psalm 91:13. Psalm 22.)
Sagittarius. The prophecy fulfilled. (John 12:31-32. Matthew 27.)
The 2nd book in the story of the stars. The Redeemer’s work and results.
Capricornus. The prophecy of deliverance. (Isaiah 53).
Aquarius. Results of His work given. (Hebrews 1.)
Pisces. The results of His work enjoyed. (Hebrews 2.)
Aries. The promised deliverance fulfilled. (1 Peter 1.)
The 3rd book in the story of the stars. The Redeemer’s second coming.
Taurus. The prophecy of coming Judgement. (John 5:22-30.Revelation 20)
Gemini. The Redeemer’s reign in glory. (Psalm 24. Revelation 21-22)
Cancer. The Redeemer’s possessions are safe. (2 Peter 1.)
Leo. The prophecy of triumph fulfilled. (The Lion of Judah. Revelation 5:5.)
Our faith isn’t in the stars. It is founded upon the Sacred writings Jesus believed in and held as inspired. We stand on the ground Jesus ‘paved’ for His apostles with ‘The Comforter … He shall teach you all things, and bring to remembrance, whatever I have told you.” (John 14:26. 16:7-15).
©Ray Hawkins July 16 2017.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
When Jesus said the Bible’s purpose was about Himself how did the listener's take it? Did they think He was being rather 'bigheaded,' facetious or impertinent? We'll never know! Perhaps the context of John 5:31-47 makes it plain that Jesus was issuing a challenge about the veneration of Scripture and their hostility toward Him. Such a reverence of their scrolls unfortunately didn't translate into believing what was written. It is easy to treat the Bible as a nice religious relic rather than a vibrant revelation. The Lord confronted His opponent on this point when He said, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me." Jesus is no relic. Jesus is vibrant through His Spirit and Word to all who are alive to Him!
The word ‘testify’ in 5:39 presents us with a picture of the Law Court's witness stand. Here the 39 books of the Jewish faith are under oath and must declare its corporate as well as each books purpose. The readers (spectators in the courtroom) perhaps could sense the rise in tension by the implied offer. "Do you want to ask me, 'where are you mentioned' in those holy scrolls?'" Why the silence? Was it because they really didn't want to know. So many people are similar to that even now. Happy to ask questions but not interested in hearing the answer lest it unmasks their ignorance or unbelief.
After the resurrection two disciples received the greatest exposition of the Scriptures ever shared. On the Emmaus road Jesus talked with two disillusioned disciples. What was the theme? Luke 24:27: ‘Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the Scriptures.’ (emphasis added). For a follower of Jesus Christ there could be no greater delight than to get to know the Lord with clearer, deeper understanding. When the Lord left them a very telling comment was shared between the two, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32). If such flames were roaring within more of the hearts of disciples there would be less frozen, frost-bitten and frigid believers. It is the 'burning heart' which knows the Lord and expresses His warmth in moral and ethical relationships as well as spiritual stewardship.
The Lord allowed no selection about what to accept of the Bible's testimony. It is a 'package deal!' Throughout the four Gospels Jesus verbally and textually struck down 'selective shoppers' who were merely wanting a spiritual bargain. You cannot elevate Jesus as Lord, Saviour and Emmanuel and at the same time say He had limited understanding or adapted words to the people's culture. Such nonsense is refuted by His statement of speaking only what His Father told Him to say.
What then are some insights gained about Jesus between Genesis and Malachi? He is the promised one, born of the virgin. Genesis 3:15/Isaiah 7:14. He is the Passover Lamb Isaiah 53. (plus the other sacrificial testimonies). He is the Creator, the I Am, (Exodus 3:14. John 8:58). He is the Promised heir of David to sit upon the Davidic throne. (Psalm 110:1 Romans 1:3). He is the person before whom all will bow. (Isaiah 45:23/Philippians 2:10-11). He is the Lord who returns to rescue His people. Psalm 2. Zechariah 14:4./Acts 1:11-12. Revelation 19.
As the 39 books were written to testify, so too the Gospels. John 20:31: ‘These are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.’
The same testimony is valid for today. ‘The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.’ Acts 8:34–35.
Ray Hawkins July 9 2017.
This is my latest Devotion. Due for release shortly. Stay tunes!
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Diotrephes who must rank as the example par excellence of Ego leadership in its rawness. He appears, not very favourably, in the New Testament letter of 3 John. Is there a clue to his spiritual condition in his name? In former years when people were converted from paganism they changed their names. This was an indication of belonging to a new Lord and going to a new destiny. Diotrephes kept his old name. It meant ‘nourished by Jupiter’ the ruler of the Roman pantheon of gods. What we read about this man tells us a lot about the source of his spiritual nurture. Whether he was a new man in Christ or a fraud only the Lord knows. However, it would appear that his past allegiance, belief system and family history overruled Biblical lifestyle and spirit.
Nowadays we don’t usually need to change our names when we are converted. This is the beauty of living in a nation influenced by the Christian faith. We do however need to ensure where our spiritual nourishment comes from. We also need to cut any ties that link our history with the occult. That evil distorts how we view God's call on our life and service. Psalm 139:23–23 — ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’ The worry is that within those called to be leaders there lies a latent ‘Diotrephes’. This creature of the soul is itching to spring up and dominate. To keep this carnal ‘creature’ under control requires all the power of the cross and searchlight of God's word.
Diotrephes loves to be first. If we are honest with ourselves we all have similar tendencies. However there can only ever be one who holds first place in the Church. ‘He (Jesus) is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy’ (Colossians 1:17–18). Deny the Lord this right and immediately self-will stirs. Unseen, yet always nearby, the forces of Darkness will fan self-will into an ego inferno. Too many local fellowships have been reduced to spiritual cinders by egotistical warring parties whether in pulpit or pew.
Diotrephes had powerful lips that spoke malicious words. He aimed to alienate his followers from the apostle John and others. Was it envy or fear which motivated such opposition? Would his true spiritual condition be unveiled in the presence of this apostle? Unless we are in a right relationship with Jesus Christ we will feel threatened by the person who is. The fragrance of the Lord within offends and causes aggressive reaction in those whose odour is of the flesh. Diotrephes could have been a man mighty in the Lord’s service, but he squandered it through an unsanctified attitude. Lust for power and a destructive mouth can never edify the people of God.
The apostle urged his readers not to imitate what is evil but what is good. Why? ‘Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God’ (3 John 11). This referred to an ongoing condition stretching over time and not merely an uncharacteristic lapse. Had Diotrephes once ‘seen’ the Lord as the gospel was presented to him? What had crept into his life and found opportunity to kill his vision? Jesus promised the pure in heart would see God. This leader must have allowed the impure to impair his spiritual eyesight. Jesus warned: ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness, how great is that darkness (Matthew 6:22). Spiritual eyesight has its slow loss caused by the glaucoma and cataracts of faithless and immoral living. Unless treated it blinds with devastating spiritual consequences.
We look to the Lord by faith to be saved. We need also to continually look to the Lord to combat the diseases of the spiritual eyes. Jesus calls men and women out of spiritual darkness and desires them to walk in His radiance. It is essential for congregational leaders to have good eye-sight. Only then can they keep their eyes focused on the Lord. When this happens the local Body of Christ enjoys harmony, testimony and effective mission.
Ray Hawkins July 2nd 2017.