Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Culture of Death

The skull and cross–bones of the pirate flag flies over this world. Beneath its flapping exists populations devoted to death. For some reason, that which the heart fears is made into a badge of bravado. In a religious context it is celebrated as the ultimate aim of devotion by Jihadists of Islam infamy, to kill and or be killed in the attempt. To them and their passive supporters the god they follow breeds the culture of death. On a less dramatic religious note, those who bow before the god of Evolution follow a similar path.

Survival of the fittest comes through struggle, conquest and ultimately death. There isn’t any meaning, only the final destination of dying. This religious explanation of existence called life elevates death above life and dismisses and idea of accountability to a Holy and Eternal Creator God. The sway this view holds is seen in the growing support for abortions, euthanasia, prescriptive suicide and so called ‘mercy–killings.

Add to the above the insane attitude of people towards living. Death comes in horrible ways to those who smoke, abuse alcohol, drugs and engage in sexual immorality is merely shrugged off. They gamble their being for some physical stimulus and become addicted to dying by degrees.

“Why will you die?” was the question the Creator God asked within the Bible. He offered life by breaking the power of Death’s culture but so few responded. The verdict of the Bible is that Jesus came into this world to bring an alternative to death. He came to bring life, abundant and vibrant. His flag over His community is an empty tomb and a beautiful Dove in flight. It is the banner of victory and hope. In Christ Jesus, death’s culture has been nullified by Christ’s resurrection. Hopelessness is replaced by the presence of God’s Spirit within and symbolised by the Dove.

The outworking of Jesus’ abundant, indwelling life is seen in many and varied ways. Reaching out to the orphaned and caring for the sick, infirm, unwanted and deformed are expressions of this life. Rejecting ‘Karma’ and enduring the unendurable by trusting in the goodness of Jesus Christ is the power of Life. Why is it that followers of Christ will pray for those persecuting them, will feed those who seek to destroy them and forgive their oppressors? Because of the indwelling life of Christ who lived out what He taught and empowers His people to follow His teachings! Does this mean those in the culture of death are grateful or converted? Not always. But what is shown is that death can be swallowed up in Life.
There are many facets to the coming of Jesus Christ into this world. (I’ve tried to explain some in my books ‘Bethlehem’s Warrior Baby’ and ‘Captured by Calvary’) One of them is to offer you a new outlook on life, a new culture in the heart and a new destiny. It is called ‘Life Abundant’. It is eternal. It is a gift, for Jesus Christ paid its price. It is waiting for you to receive it through a commitment of your life to Christ by faithful obedience to Him. Why? Because He is Life abundant and without Him there is only the hopelessness of a culture of death in time and eternity.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

When Angels Sang

Luke 2:8-14.

Angels play an important role within the bible. They are warriors, messengers and ministers on behalf of God’s people. Within the Christmas story they have a most pleasant role to play. They are the first Christmas choir. They have the pleasure of declaring the intent of the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem.

An angel in a modern church play.

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’ is their refrain. We love to read it. We become sentimental over it. However do we have any idea as to what it means?

In what way can we understand ‘Glory to God’ in the birth of Jesus in a peasant’s house? This baby was worshipped at birth, declared king and recognised as Emmanuel (God with us). He also grew up and claimed that His Father and He were one, therefore inferring He is God. This really did cause a lot of commotion with the people. All that being true in what way could the song of the angel’s be about bringing glory to God.

Think about it. Surely this is a most humbling event for the Creator of the Universe. The holy One coming to mix with the fallen and unholy ones. Eternity put on humanity’s dust. The judge of the whole world coming to take upon Himself the condemnation of Heaven against earth’s wickedness. This Jesus was coming to be despised, rejected, spat upon and crucified. Where is the glory in that?

Devotional about the Christmas Baby.

Stranger still is the climatic words of Jesus thirty three years later. ‘Now is my Father glorified.’(John 13:31). How could this be for Jesus was about to face His crucifixion. The glory of Christmas was wrapped up in the horror of Calvary. How? Because through all of this Jesus became the Redeemer of believers, the conqueror of death, the dethroner of the Devil and the destroyer of his kingdom and power. Through Jesus being willing to be made the lowest of the low He has received a Name above every name. How? Through his resurrection! Before Him every knee will bow and every tongue confess He is Lord. This is part of how it was possible for glory to be proclaimed over the birth of the warrior Baby of Bethlehem.

What would be the result of this glory? ‘Peace on earth to those whom He favours.’ If Christmas was to simply bring ‘peace’ then it has failed and failed miserably. Bethlehem could not be the foundation for peace. It was a stepping stone! There were other stones also on the way to creating the presence of peace for people to know in time and eternity. But peace required the destruction of that which prevented or polluted peace. That is why the cross of Christ Jesus is so important. It was there that the penalty of breaking God’s laws was paid. It was there that the corruption of the human heart could be purged and controlled. It was there that the Christmas promise of peace was made possible.

Why then do so many who will sing about peace around this season not enjoy it? Mainly due to their failure to be favoured. How can you be favoured and enjoy the promised peace? Not by singing about a babe in the manger or the man of Nazareth. It is by knowing about the reason for the cross, the wonder of the resurrection and claiming Jesus as Lord and Saviour. He is the Prince of Peace and without Him no person will ever know the truth of the angel’s song.

One day, long promised, this earth will experience the culmination of Christmas and Calvary. This will be when Jesus Christ will reign as the King of the World from Jerusalem. Then the Kingdom of God will bring peace on earth. That is a day we long for!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Inn of Christmas - in or out?

Is the Christmas Inn – out?

We have grown up with the image of Mary and Joseph arriving at Bethlehem only to miss out on a bed. The picture of them in a cattle stall and the baby in a manger remains vivid in the mind. Just recently I was stirred to check out the word for ‘Inn’ as recorded by Luke. It is a Greek word and used three times and only in the gospels.

children in a Christmas play.

‘Kataluma’ means ‘a loosing down’ and was used to describe a place where travellers untied the packages, unburdened their animals and untied their sandals. It came to mean ‘Guest Room’ as mentioned in connection with the Upper room where the Lord’s Supper was held. (Luke 22:11. Mark 14:14.). This is the same word used and for some reason translated as an 'Inn' in Luke 2:7. There is one other mention of an Inn by Luke. It is in the story of the ‘Good Samaritan. The word used there is ‘pandocheion.’ It means ‘a place where all are received.’ It was the equivalent to our hotel and motel arrangements.

How easy it is for any of us to fall into the trap of accepting tradition and superstition without checking out the biblical sources. It would appear Mary and Joseph arrived at possibly family or at least a friend’s house. However the guest room was full. These were situated on the upper level of the two tiered houses. The bottom area was for storage and their cattle etc. The owners of the house made room for Joseph and Mary in that area. When Jesus was born the rock hewn cattle feed manger became the cradle.

This all points to the fact that at the birth Mary had family present or at the very least, friends. How long after she had settled in ‘downstairs’ before the birth will never be known. To this section of the house the shepherds would have come. And when Matthew records the visit of the Magi he mentions the house. More than likely the holy family stayed on after the census had been completed. From that house they would have packed up and fled to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod.

I have another reason to lean towards the ‘Inn’ being the guestroom of a house. In the Middle East there was, possibly still is, a custom of accepting even strangers into your house. This comes out in many stories, biblical and secular. An example is Job’s concern for the ‘men’ who visited him in Sodom. Genesis 18 has the account. It would have been virtually impossible for the owner of the house to turn Joseph and Mary away if space could be made for them.

The beautiful and evocative nativity scenes of the manger will never be replaced by the biblical reality, unfortunately. This highlights the difficulty Truth has when dealing with personal assumptions, prejudices and accepted but unjustified traditions. Still, when we come to grips with some new information and insight that is in harmony with the biblical text we must readjust our thinking. The scriptures cannot be broken. When they are believed and obeyed they will however bless.

For me the Inn is out. The appeal of the bible gives me a deeper appreciation of the people who surrounded Joseph, Mary and Jesus at this time. It highlights the strong family bonds and sense of community from that time and place. It contrasts so graphically the breakdown taking place in the Middle East right now. Luke’s account of the host’s generosity and willingness to be at some inconvenience for another’s welfare humbles me. We can be all nostalgic at Christmas time as we ponder the accepted version of the nativity scene. Maybe we should be more pragmatic and apply the bible’s implied and explicit teachings this event to ourselves.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Christmas Question

A Question from the Magi

There are many mysteries surrounding Christmas. Maybe none more so than the visit by the Magi from the East. The star has intrigued people for centuries with many a speculation. To me the issue most interesting is ‘how did the Magi know about a promised Messiah in Israel?’ Who were they and how did they know about the birth of Jesus, a name they would not have known. They did know the one born would be King of the Jews. It would have come about approximately five hundred previously. That was when the Southern Kingdom called Judah was carried off to Babylon. The Lord’s promise of judgement on disobedient Judah became the means for the Gentiles to know about the Messiah. Men of the calibre of Daniel and Ezekiel and their stories are in the bible. How they influenced such men as the Magi can only be speculated but it would have happened. The Babylonian interest in astronomy would be a real lever for Daniel to tell them about the coming King.

We call the Magi the ‘wise men’ and rightly so. However they needed someone to tell them “where is He who is born King of the Jews”. Notice, they didn’t say the baby was the heir to the throne. No! He was born King. Where was the answer found? In the Bible! For them the answer came from Micah 5:2. Christmas was not unexpected. It had been long planned. In fact from Genesis 3 in the promise to Eve and the warning to the Devil.

People who are wise still ask a similar question “where is He who was born King?” If they linger over the manger and imagine He is still a baby they’ll never meet Him. The quest for Him may begin at the manger but there is a trail leading from there to follow. We track Him down along the road marked out in the Gospels. As you read that map you find special places marked out where this Jesus met and fulfilled certain prophetic criteria. But He didn’t stay there. He had moved on to the tragedy of rejection, false accusations and finally a criminal’s death on a cross. The search of the Magi must seem to end there at Calvary. Over the head of this Jesus was a sign ‘Jesus King of the Jews’.

Now people search for His tomb. They would like to make it a sacred place, a pilgrimage centre. But He isn’t there. He has risen! It’s an empty space. Now this could create a problem for those who ask the Magi’s question, “Now where is He who was born King of the Jews”? Their answer came from scripture. So will the answer come to the wise from the scriptures who still seek to find Him. As you follow the trail set out in the bible you don’t end at a tomb. You climb the Mt. of Olives and read about His ascension to the Father’s realm. From there Jesus has promised to return to earth to complete the promises yet outstanding.

Does that mean you or I cannot find Him and know Him now? Of course not! The biblical information which motivated the Magi has been filled out in greater detail for us. Their knowledge and faith gave them motivation to find this Jesus. The same goes for us. Knowledge from the bible about the promised one and faith to believe what it says prepares a meeting ground. It has now become a heart and mind matter more than a seeing one. Romans 10:9-11 ‘If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”’

When that act of faith takes place you discover more to the answer the Magi were after. You find that Jesus is Lord of Lords and King of Kings who one day will rule over the Kingdom of God. Also you will find this Jesus to be your Saviour and companion along life’s way. How to you keep in touch with Him? Through the scriptures, learning to talk with Him and meeting with those of like heart and mind.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Bullies against Christmas

Christmas Bullies

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. It use to be mostly boys but now girls have joined the ranks. Such creatures usually cannot hold their own in debate and discussion so seek to win by muscle power or verbal humiliation. Their effect on some has been devastating.

History has thrown up untold numbers of national bullies in the form of dictators. Such men are usually in Government, tribal or religious areas. Dominating women of history are much more subtle and seductive. Both have their power for a while but death always takes them from the scene. Whether they believe in God or not, they will have to stand in judgment before Him.

Onto the 21st century a new and more corrosive form of bullying has developed. It is religious in nature but seductive in its approach. Through the abuse of anti-discrimination laws and political correctness these bullies seek to destroy Christmas. They want the holiday but they want to remove the Christian reason undergirding it. What is it? Christ’s birth at Bethlehem. In its Christless place they want innocuous terms such as vacation or recreation day.

Who are at the head of the ‘Bully Boys Brigade’? Islam and Atheists. Who are their compliant assistants? Government and local councils. Such countries with a previously Christian history and majority, such as Norway, are buckling under the fear of offending non Christians. It doesn’t seem to matter that Christians and their faith and holy days are violated and other faiths are left untouched.

Why is there such hostility to Christmas and Easter and of course, the Bible? Could it be due to what they declare? That is the promised one of the Tanak (Jewish scriptures) is declared to have come in the Gospels. In them we read that the promised one is the Messiah who came as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. That pointed to the Jewish Passover being fulfilled in the Messiah’s crucifixion. If this promised one we know as Jesus was still dead no one would celebrate Christmas or Easter. The section of the Bible called the New Testament declares Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to His Father’s realm. Jesus in now Lord and Saviour! He waits the right moment when the rest of Scripture is fulfilled to return as ruler and judge.

That is what the bully boys don’t want to happen (not that they can stop it). As they don’t like to be reminded of their fate and as they don’t want to change their mind, they endeavour to remove that which offends their belief system. No tolerance there. No sound argument can destroy the Christmas event, so be a bully and crush your opponent. ‘Hide incompetence and lack of argument behind well meaning laws that can be twisted to one’s own advantage’ is their mantra.

The bullies can not prevail. Caesar tried it with the lions in the arena. He failed. Christmas will be celebrated and its message will shine out more brightly than ever. The meek may pay a price but they are on the winning side, just read what Jesus said in Matthew 5:5.
Whether you like or dislike Christmas, whether you believe December 25 is the right date, ultimately doesn’t matter. What matters is its testimony. That is ‘He who was long promised came in the fullness of time.’ You can follow His story in the Gospels. How do we know Jesus came? Because of the

cross and resurrection! Without that event we wouldn’t be having this celebration. Then we wouldn’t have bullies trying to prove Christmas didn’t happen.
But it did.
Its meaning prevails.
Its promise endures.
So put your trust in Jesus the Messiah and have a happy Christmas.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Corruption's Curse

I was going into a shop in Newcastle some years ago. Next door was a pub. As I went into the shop I noticed a man trying to talk a pretty young woman into joining him in the hotel. I hoped she refused. After a short time purchasing some gifts I was again on the street. The same man was there talking to another woman. She was not very much older the the previous one I'd seen but very weather worn, dishevelled and uncouth. Before my eyes it seemed as if I had seen the years of a woman compressed into minutes. A type of before and after on the theme of corruption’s devastation!

In the case above the destroying power was alcohol. The young imagine they can handle the effects, the atmosphere and the company. The future history of the many is a corrupted body and an addicted soul. Ultimately the result is a wasted life. Sure, the Lord Jesus can rescue such people. He can not return the wasted years, money or health. To me the case of the two women was a story about corruption's curse regardless of its source.

Across the globe well meaning men and women are calling for Justice on behalf of the exploited and abused. Nations, especially those with a Christian influence rise up to offer aid to victims of Nature’s ferocity. What do we ultimately discover? Some ‘vultures’ in positions of power siphon off material, goods and money for their own use. They don’t show any compassion for their own country men, women or children. Years of corruption had hardened their hearts. In reality it made them traitors to humanity. The idol they worship has turned them into fiends not friends of their countrymen.

The idol of the corrupt has many names. I wonder if they even realise they are devotees to such a spiritual identity. Jesus called it Mammon or money. (Matthew 6:24) This foul fiend is the greatest rival to the person and claims of Jesus Christ. Why? In part because its appeal is to selfish security rather than faith in Christ’s grace.It is the appeal of 'now' rather than accountability 'tomorrow'. Yet money and materialism are so fickle. A global financial crisis or tsunami can so easily destroy such gain. Death has no ‘pockets’ for a corpse’s spirit to take things beyond the grave.

In a parable of a rich man Jesus said he was a ‘fool’. Why? Because the man had amassed wealth but was poverty stricken towards the Lord God. The man was a fool because at the heights of his success he was to die. He had no treasure in heaven, no faith in a Saviour, no authority to be accepted into heaven. (Luke 12:13-21. 16:19-31)

Lest Christians think they are immune to this idol’s corrupting influence the bible offers strong warnings. ‘The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.’ (1 Timothy 6:10)

Idolatry’s corruptive power is best combated and controlled by obedient devotion to Jesus Christ. The quote ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ is true whether or not a person is a Christian. Why? Because by such behaviour you are the master of mammon, not its slave. In giving you bless others and experience responses money cannot buy. In so doing men, women and children will honour your name. For Christians however there is an even higher motive. No, it isn’t to win favour with God. It is an opportunity to honour Him by stewardship of resources to others in Jesus Name. In doing that mammon crumbles into powerlessness in our lives.

The corrupt who prey on others may gain the whole world but at what cost. To be a lost soul cut off from the presence of God forever. Corruption will impede justice and truth but will ultimately be self destroying. The best defence against mammon’s corrupting disguises is personal righteousness flowing from a relationship with the righteous Christ Jesus.

The bible promises a time to come wherein the world will be governed by righteousness, justice and truth. To enjoy it then with Christ Jesus requires us to practices it now.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Beware the Christmas Plague

The Blights of Christmas

Blight according to the World book dictionary ‘is a disease which causes plants to wither and die.’ Used figuratively it points to ‘anything that withers the hope or causes destruction or ruin.’

Christmas is experiencing a plague of such blighters. Their aim is to reduce Christmas and its meaning to ruin in the hope it disappears. Each of the ‘viruses’ attacking this great testimony have a replacement of their own. Before we look at aspects of the Blights be reminded as to the meaning of Christmas.

It was long promised and recorded within the Judeo–Christian Bible. No one with a fair mind will deny that the Old Testament declared someone is coming. It detailed place (Bethlehem) mode of coming (virgin birth) titles (Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Wonderful Counsellor) purpose (Messiah to save His people) Suffering Servant (Isaiah ch.53) to name but a small sample.

The Gospels declared the promised One has come. His name in Greek is Jesus. In Hebrew, Joshua. He is called Lord, Son of Man, Son of God and the Word (Logos) made flesh to dwell among us. People may disagree with such records and Names but such matters cannot be refuted. Nor can the ‘Blighters’ accuse the Apostles and early Church from fabrication. Why? Because the Apostles paid for their hope and convictions with their blood. The governing authorities could not deny Christ Jesus’ existence, teaching, death and resurrection. That is why they resorted to making it a criminal offence to believe in the birth of (Christmas) Jesus and His Calvary and empty tomb testimony. Their attempts to wither and ruin Christmas and Calvary failed. The ‘Blight killer’ was ‘It is written’ according to the Scriptures and verified by Christ’s resurrection.
Today the plague has mutated and is more virulent because it has an element of fun, commercialism and ideology. Such things appeal to the human heart because they destroy the real meaning of Christmas.

Santa Claus is Christ Jesus great rival at Christmas. His “HO, HO, HO” drowns out the Angels song. Santa is the myth we want to control and promote. He is the character that seduces our cash from our bank accounts. He panders to our greed and blinds us to the emptiness of our lives.More than that Santa Claus doesn't disturb our lifestyle or ungodly thinking nor impose upon us teachings which are worthwhile but unwanted. Jesus Christ however is still active within the Christmas scene but only to those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Sounds familiar doesn’t it.

Doctrine and ideology also want a piece of the withering process. Atheists and Muslims are surprising linked in their opposition to the Person of Christ. Atheists in denying God’s existence cannot handle the simple yet supreme message that the Lord God would care for wayward ‘junk.’ The teaching that the Heavenly Father set a saving process in motion is anathema. Mohammed called the Gospels and the Old and New Testaments a lie by saying Jesus Christ is not the Son of God. Why? Because Mohammed said God had and has no Son. Therefore the mystery of the Godhead, Father Son and Holy Spirit, is arbitrarily dismissed. ‘No god but god’ is a great clichĂ© but such a god is aloof, indifferent to creation, offers no salvation or hope in life or death. There is no Christmas for Atheists or Muslims. To adopt their attack on the Christian Faith and its historical reasons for Christmas is to create a spiritual plague. It affects your heart and hope of ever knowing the Person of whom Christmas reveals.

The way to bust the Blighters is to discover who Jesus is for oneself. Do this by simply reading the gospels and cross referencing between the Old and New Testaments. Then Christmas will take on new, exciting and enjoyable dimensions. You can still give presents. You can still enjoy special and culturally appropriate meals. You can get together and enjoy carols and worship with understanding and gratitude the Lord Christ. You will know Him as Jesus, Son of God, Lord of Glory and your own Saviour.

He is the One who makes it a happy and meaningful Christmas.
He is the One who takes us onwards into a meaningful life.
For those interested you can learn more about Jesus and the Christmas event from my book 'The Bethlehem Warrior Baby'. It is an EBook available from amazon or in print from Christian Bookshops or the publisher Even Before Publishing (division of Wombat books, Queensland Australia.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Battle of the gods

The Lord God and the gods

The claim of the atheists that all the wars have been religious ones has a ring of truth about it. They could have used the term political wars as well. They may not agree with the assessment that even Atheism is a religious belief yet as it requires faith it qualifies.

Perplexed people ponder why is it that nations and individuals find it hard, indeed impossible to get along. Is there an answer? The Bible says ‘yes’ in words plain and clear. Why then do men and women find it hard to accept? I think it is due to the fact the Bible makes us realise that all of us are part of the problem.

What does the Bible reveal as the basic cause of strife, wars and various other aggressive facets of our human nature? Genesis chapter three paints the picture. Satan leads Eve and Adam into an act of rebellion against the Creator God. This fallen angel tempts them with the notion that by taking of the fruit forbidden by Yahweh they will become gods. I think Satan believed their treason would make them slaves in his realm. The unexpected happened and it has infected all their descendents ever since. Humans came to believe they are gods.

The most striking examples of this are the Pharaohs, Caesars and current North Korean leaders. What we fail to appreciate is that each of us possesses this spiritual and moral disease. Within individuals this legacy of Adam’s disobedience will express itself in various ways. From the dominating bullying ego centric despot to the servile, cringing and manipulating weakling. What is the outcome in real life of people? Quarrels and arguments as we seek to assert our rights, our will, our wisdom, even our dislikes and revenge! The human heart wants to rule. It craves sovereignty and the obedience of others. Consider that in the light of James 4:1-3. It is a battle of a ‘god’ seeking lordship over others who think they are ‘god’.

When Adam and Eve took the fruit Satan must have been dismayed, frustrated and angered. Why? Because they didn’t succumb to being his slaves in his kingdom of darkness. Ever since this angel of evil has sought to seduce Humankind to accept his sovereignty. He has done this through the occult, magical arts and the promise of power.

Where has the Lord God almighty, the Creator been in this conflict? He too has been endeavouring to bring the descendents of the first couple back into His Kingdom of Light. He continues to do this before the declaration that time is up. There can only be one Sovereign. Only One who is to worshipped. Only One whose will is to be obeyed.

Therefore as you read the Bible it becomes clear the Lord embarked on a reconquest of His creation and the children of Adam and Eve. His call to them to bow to His sovereignty embraced a number of issues. Love motivated Him for He knows that Judgement awaits those who refuse His offer. Forgiveness has been made possible as the basis for re-entry into His presence. How, for treason is a capital offence? Here is the wonder and the power behind the events we call Christmas, the Cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has dealt with the moral and spiritual expressions of the conflict and consequences of the battle of the gods with the one and only God.

What now is the issue? Individuals can hang onto their ‘god-ness’ or join with the powers of darkness. Or they can realise the unwiseness of fighting against Yahweh and rejecting His right to their allegiance Such recognition by you, by me, means we reject our claims to personal sovereignty, we acknowledge our rebellion and delusion, we accept His amnesty offered to us in Christ Jesus. It means we bow the knee in surrender and worship.

When we yield up the rights to ourselves to the Lord God Almighty we discover many wonderful truths. We know peace, we have hope and there is no fear in meeting the God before whom all must stand. Sure each of us will face many conflicts and issues which challenge our allegiance to Christ Jesus but we know He stands with us in the fight. We know we have the victory for all eternity. It isn’t ours but Christ Jesus’ and He has given it to us. Our faith commitment to Him is a declaration that for us the battle of the gods against the Lord God has been won by Him. That is a most wonderful defeat and glorious surrender.

Ray (who surrendered and won) Hawkins

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Consequences of Robbing God

Robbing God

It’s not by gun, nor by knife
Neither with muscle and strife
Do we rob God of His honour
We are more cunning than that
Subtlety is how we attack
And steal God of His authority
Our wilful arrogance
And careless stupidity
Hides our vulnerability
God’s last word at our duplicity
Is judgement at our cupidity
And banishment for eternity

The Biblical writer named Malachi used the term to describe people’s delusion in the way they treated Yahweh. They expected God to pour out happiness and prosperity even though they short changed Him in their worship and stewardship. Then they complained when their family life and society was in turmoil through strife, injustices and moral breakdown. Why was this happening? Because the way they treated and thought about God was how each treated the other. If you imagine you can get away with robbing God it must be so much easier to rip off others.

Jesus stated the obvious when He said ‘Love God and Love your neighbour.’ To know the Lord God as revealed in Scripture and the person of Jesus will draw out love. Well it should if we are willing to surrender our own claim to ‘godhood’. That is the ultimate form of robbing God. We deny Him and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, authority in and over our lives. We want His blessing whilst maintaining our sovereignty. It doesn’t work. That in turn causes our conflicts with our nearest as well as those farthest away.

We cry out for justice, yet we want to sit on the judge’s seat. We speak about honesty yet enjoy our unrighteous lifestyle. We hear so much about peace but war is really in the heart. We read about lawlessness everyday but turn our back on holiness. By these means we rob God of His honour as He alone is Righteous, Peace, Holy and the ultimate Judge.

Thankfully the Lord God is patient and gracious. He has given us time to apologise and cease our robbing habits. He can forgive us and change our ways because of the Christ of Calvary. However it will only be effective personally if you and I hand over the sovereignty of our lives to Christ Jesus. Then He becomes our eternal Saviour not our condemning Judge.
Ray (no longer robbing) Hawkins

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Spiritual obesity

Never go shopping on an empty stomach. That is what they say when you go to the Supermarket. It makes you buy what isn't really required. However that principle doesn't apply when you come into the presence of the Lord. There should be an unquenchable hunger within. Why? Jesus said it was the source of being happy (Matt.5:6.Ps.42:1.)Notice however what would produce such happiness, righteousness! If you accept the statement of Jesus would you say that many of the Disciples of Jesus are happy and satisfied?

Most people imagine that happiness requires lots and lots of things before and more than righteousness. When you read the warnings the Lord gave to Israel through Moses it is evident He saw materialism as a great danger. Read Deuteronomy 8:11-14,17. To conquer the promised land had its dangers and battles. The greatest and most long lasting threat was not combat but Mammon. The trappings of wealth would make them self satisfied, spiritually lazy and obese. Such attitudes makes a person, family, community or nation forget God and what He has done and promised.

Spiritual Obesity is a western world curse, especially within a Church scene. Forty years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ Jesus certain facets of the Church were 'fat, self satisfied and content in their materialism. It is highlighted by the church of Laodicea. (Revelation 3:14-18) Result...pride, forgetfulness, arrogance etc. Today the Church is obese in materialism; prosperity doctrine, emotionalism, self achievement (all for God’s benefit mind you --- ha!) Affluence has robbed the church of its health and stamina in righteousness, justice, stewardship and mission. It is unrighteous I the Lord's eyes.
No hunger for God. Filled with ‘junk food.’ How would you define 'junk food?' Doing good, holding interesting activities and building impressive buildings or projects to their own ego rather than doing the Lord's will or worship. Jesus has a 'Cafe' where He offers spiritually and morally healthy and nourishing food. There is a high admittance cost for Jesus said 'If anyone comes after me they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow.' Matthew 16:24.

There’s a spiritual ‘dietary’ battle going on. The World wants to stuff us with things that dull our hunger senses. God endeavours to change our ‘eating’ habits. We should pray that God would make us hungry. When that happens we are on the verge of some new taste sensations. As the Bible puts it, Taste and see that the Lord is gracious. 1 Peter 2:3 Ps.34:8.119:103
Some hesitate to taste new foods. Others have few inhibitions. What then are the gourmet dishes of Heaven?
Bread...John 6:35.(Jesus)
Water...John 4:14 (Holy Spirit).
Milk...1 Peter 2:2.
Meat...Heb.5:12-14. Honey...Ps.19:9-11 . 119:103.(Word)

How and where do we find the Jesus ‘CafĂ©!'
His invitation comes wrapped in the good news of the cross. Unattractive on the outside it may seem but when you embrace the invitation it takes you into communion with God and an ever increasing hunger for Him. Paul in Phil. 3:8. says it all, I want to know Him!. How can I hunger for God? I personally doubt the long term success of well presented, well prepared programs aimed at motivating an obese church. Only when we feel the prodigal’s hunger pangs that humble us and drive us back to the Father will we become a trim, slim, health and attractive disciple and church.

Don’t confuse hunger for activity for God. Nor is it religious observances.
Hunger is when you desire, in whatever circumstance surrounds you, is... “Father, be glorified in and through me.”
When you fail your prayer is “Father forgive me and make me a testimony of your grace.”
When faced with all the latest philosophies about life your prayer is... “Father teach me Your Word.”

I find it interesting that many church growth proponents look to the American scene for inspiration. Why beats me. It is obese in materials, resources, concessions and ego. I believe the place to look is the suffering Church in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Their situation is grim under persecution and lack yet they remain faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is hungry and poor but its heart is satisfied with the grace and power of the Lord Jesus. Such a fellowship of Faith is well pleasing to the Lord and an offence to the World. May its influence increase!

Ray (the hungry) Hawkins

Sunday, October 20, 2013

God the Messiah

Series…David. Psalm 110. Great David’s Greater Son.

Most know I’m not a fan of ‘Jig-saws’. However I do like word games. Within the Bible you can combine the two. To get a proper completed ‘picture’ of events – people – promises you need to research and fit things together without force.

This is especially true when researching Jesus.
In Luke 20 we witness an intense day of questioning. It begins in Matt. 21:9, 15-16. when the children celebrated the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass. “Hosanna to the son of David, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The Chief priests and Teachers of the Law objected. Why? Knew it was a Messianic title. Later in temple precincts and after series of questions Jesus asks one. Luke 20:41-44. (Ps.110) How was it that David said ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “sit on my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool.” This most quoted Psalm pushes us into a corner. It is a ‘jig-saw piece’ expressing Deity. In Hebrew the opening line reads “Yahweh said unto my Adonai…! Both these terms refer to God. Yahweh…Gen.2: 4. Adonai…Gen. 15:2. (in v.1 Yahweh is used) Ps. 35:23.

There is no way, esp. in the Hebrew culture would a father refer to a son in this way. The Jewish leaders knew it. By accepting the accolades from the crowd and throwing down this challenge Jesus was offering a vital piece for their mind and faith in understanding who He is.

The authorities had access to the births etc. They knew Jesus birth details and that He was of David’s line. They reacted to the Title ‘Son of David.’ And its Messianic implications, If no resurrection then they are correct. However it is the resurrection which verifies the claims of Jesus as Paul the convinced Rabbi stresses in Romans 1:2, 3.

50 days after crucifixion Peter gives the 1st sermon in Acts 2 about the crucified Jesus called the Christ. It is in essence a ‘year of Jubilee’ message. All debts cancelled. Freedom from debt to God has been achieved. What scripture used? Ps. 16:6-11. then Ps. 110. The resurrection of Jesus the Messiah is again the guarantee. Notice the promise ‘sit' at my right hand until…’ Christ Jesus’ work is finished. He now occupies the place of Honor in Glory. What is Jesus doing now on the throne? According to Hebrews 8:1. (7:25) He is our Advocate and our Warrior Lord waiting for the time to be fulfilled to return to earth. He will return and fulfill the promises made to David and rule from Zion and make Jerusalem the praise in all the earth! Isaiah 2. 9. 62:7. 65:17, 18.

This is only possible if Jesus is the fulfillment of Ps. 110. Jesus is the Emmanuel, God with us! He is the fulfillment of Psalm 110 and all others relating to the Messiah. Consider the beautiful Aaronic blessing i the light of the commission given by Jesus to His disciples. They, we, are to penetrate this world and make disciples in THE Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Only an acceptance of the Godhead – The Name – (Matt. 28:19, 20) helps us appreciate Deuteronomy 6:4.’Hear O Israel the Lord (Yahweh) our God (Elohim -- plural) is one Lord (Yahweh). The threefold use of ‘the Lord’ in the blessing of Numbers 4:24-26 takes on deeper and more awesome dimensions.

‘The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious to thee:
The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace.’
Here is the Godhead, the mystery of mysteries and the wonder of wonders, making Himself known in the most beautiful of blessings to Israel.
Ray (the convinced) Hawkins.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Health matter.

Heed the Warnings or Pay the Consequences
Reading Deuteronomy 28.

Don’t drink alcohol and drive is the police warning. There are consequences.
This is a similar warning Moses gave in Deuteronomy/Leviticus.

Deuteronomy is 2nd reading of the Law first given 40years previous.
Why necessary? Numbers 14:20-24 The nation had the opportunity to possess the land. However a negative report by ten of the 12 spies swayed the people to refuse to trust God’s promise. It resulted in 38 years of wasted time as a generation missed out on entering the land.
In Leviticus 26 Moses spelt out consequences of unbelief and disobedience. Approximately 40 years later he repeats the message to the second generation in Deuteronomy 28. This has some more detail. Within both are particular issues of health.

The Warnings.
God sees the future. He warned the Nation what would happen if they persisted in unbelief and treason.
Is the Lord God to blame if the people ignore His warnings and judgement falls?

Dt.28:21-22; 27-28;35;59-61 list the health issue which would afflict the nation.
The Lord isn’t passive or indifferent when His people sin.

Solomon’s prayer based upon Deuteronomy 28-30.
The occasion was his dedication of the Temple. 1 Kings 8. 2 Chronicles 6-7.
Christians like to quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 (or at least a part of it) and apply it to the Lord hearing our prayers for rain or other nationals matters. However this isn’t the Church’s prayer or the Gentile nations. It is Israel’s. Sure there are principles for us but we do not pray towards Jerusalem (Daniel did) There isn’t any temple on which to focus our attention. Our Mediator is in Heaven. He is Jesus our Great High Priest. The land of Israel alone has been promised such blessing or cursing as reward or judgement. (Do a study on ‘This land is my land says the Lord).

Solomon was reminding the Nation of their privileges and responsibilities as at the same time holding Yahweh to His promises. We are also able to do this but in the light of the New Testament teaching on repentance, faith and obedience.

The Prophets make their judgements from the standpoint of the Law and the warnings and rewards given under Moses and endorsed by God again at the dedication of the Temple.
Isaiah’s estimation of Israel’s spiritual condition is in ch.1:5-7. 5:24b-25. As you read these verses and similar ones from other prophets a strong impression begins to form. In matters of health and healing it isn’t a matter of individual sickness or sinfulness. References to sickness in various expressions reveal this fact. It is an estimation of the national rejection of God. As such they are spiritually and morally sick, deformed, corrupt and as such are offensive to God and powerless. The result…Isaiah 6:9-10. (Matt.13:13-15)
The people could see the visible affects of their unbelief and lawlessness but didn’t care. How could the Lord God deal with this breach of Covenant and preserve the nation and ensure the coming of the Messiah? That great, indeed, awesome passage of Isaiah 53 about the smitten, suffering and rising again Servant of Yahweh. This is why the prophets were able to foretell a future time when the Nation would realise their sin, sickness, corruption and offensive odour has been dealt with by Messiah Jesus on the cross.

This is why th prophet Hosea is able to say as he sees the future ‘I (Yahweh) will heal their backsliding (and its consequences). I will love them freely, for my anger has turned away from him.’

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Babylon in Scripture

Isaiah 47:1-15. Babylon – Historical and Mystery.

The Bible is a tale of two cities. Each is hostile to the other. Each seeks to convert and prevail. One city is aligned to the powers of Darkness, the other to the Lord of Light. To understand the spiritual and moral forces in the world it is important to have an understanding of these two cities. People live in or are continually confronted by Babylon and Jerusalem.

Babylon – It’s Beginnings and founder. Genesis 10:8-12.
Nimrod = Rebel. A mighty warrior 1 Chronicles. 1:10. is credited with building Babel (Gen. 11:1-9) and founding Babylon (Micah 5:6.) His purpose – one world government and security from any future judgement from the Lord God of Heaven and earth. Nimrod set up a rival worship system which has influenced all the religions of the world. This man, brilliant and forceful in opposing the will and word of Yahweh is the first type of the Anti-Christ. Two features marked him and the future Lawless one(2 Thessalonians. 2:8.) who exalts self to the point of wanting worship. (Dan. 11:36-39.)

Babylon means confusion and mixture. From this city under the influence of Nimrod it became the centre of the occult. Its realm is darkness expressing itself in moral behaviour contrary to God’s character and teaching whilst possessing self-righteous and idolatrous practices.

Babylon – Its dominance and Delusion.
The political power of Babylon was destroyed by the Medes and Persians. However its spiritual and moral influence continued. It’s realm is of the Devil. What the city portrays the Devil promotes throughout this world. It is called ‘Mystery Babylon.’

When we look through the Bible it becomes clear why the Lord God is so opposed to Babylon as a city and its worldwide influence! You can gauge this from the following references
Jeremiah 50:24. It opposes the Lord.
Jeremiah 50:29. Defied the Lord.
Jeremiah 51:11. Destroyed the Jerusalem Temple.
Revelation 18:2,3 The centre of the occult.
Revelation 18:11-13, It is obsessed with greed and slavery.
Revelation 18:24. The blood of prophets and martyred believers in Jesus Christ flows in its streets and wherever it rules. On top of that this city of the kingdom of Darkness practices the magic arts and enslaves people through combining it with drugs. Revelation 9:21. 22:15. 18:23 Everything it does and promotes violates the very holiness of God and denies the grace and goodness of the Creator Redeemer.

As if that wasn’t enough for Judgement by God the most offensive and direct challenge to our Lord is the claim in Isaiah 47:8, 10. ‘I am. There is none besides me. c/- Zephaniah. 2:15. This is an usurping of the Name of God and His eternity. It is a direct challenge to a contest of might. It is a call to men and women to choose which city they are citizens of. God does not allow rival sovereigns. There can ever only be One God supreme over all. This is so important in understanding who Jesus is. He claimed to be “I Am.” He illustrated this title 7 times in the gospel of John as well as saying ‘before Abraham, I am’. If this wasn’t true the Lord God of Heaven would have destroyed him. The Jewish Sanhedrin authorized Jesus death by crucifixion on charges of blasphemy. If true Jesus would still be in the tomb. The wonder of the resurrection is testimony to the truth of who He is and what He achieved. It is also the assurance of His return.

Therefore pretenders to sovereignty must be judged and destroyed. In Scripture such an event is called the Day of the Lord. When the final and ultimate judgement falls upon Babylon it becomes like Sodom and Gomorrah. Never to be inhabited. (it is at this moment.) except by desert creatures. A swampland it will be. Consider the following references:
Jeremiah 51:59-64. The near and the final destructions foretold.
Jeremiah 50:12. A wilderness, dry land, desert. 50:13. Not inhabited. 13:39. Never again inhabited. 51:25,26. Nothing will be salvaged from its destruction.

It is the direct judgement of God and not the intervention of Humankind. It happens in 1 day. (Revelation 18:10,17 says ‘one hour’).

The call of the Lord is to come out of the spiritual/moral/self-righteous darkness of Mystery Babylon and link up with the City in which the Lord God has set His Name and Fame. The eternal city is Jerusalem and you become one of its citizens by a personal commitment of your life to its Sovereign. You know who He is: it is Jesus Christ the risen Lord, the great I Am. Your act of faith and obedience to Him becomes your passport to eternal life with Him.

Ray (a citizen) Hawkins.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Jerusalem: Battle ground forPeace

Jerusalem. A selected biblical history with a promise

Reading Isaiah 62.
The city of peace doesn’t live up to its name. Why is it so desired? What motivates nations to possess it or to dispossess Israel from its capital? Is it strategic, as in ancient history or spiritual as the anti Yahweh, anti Christ Jesus forces seek to make the promises of the bible a lie.

From Genesis 14:18 – Revelation 21. Jerusalem is the city in the forefront of Scripture.
Why is the city of Jerusalem so central to the bible? Why is it so contested in history?
It is central to God’s plan of reclaiming what Adam gave away in Genesis 3.
It is central to Redemption.
It is central to God’s integrity.
This is why the god of this World and the forces of Darkness seek to possess it or destroy it.

The Bible’s claim.
i…The Land of Israel is God’s. Dt. 32:43. Joel 2:18.
ii…The city belong to Him – 1 Kings 11:13, 32. Dt. 14:23. Ps. 76:2. 135:21.
iii…So too the People. Ex.19f. 1v…Joel 3:2b.

The first mention of Jerusalem is in Genesis 14:18-20. Melchizedek, King, Priest of God Most High met Abram returning form defeating the coalition of armies who had captured Lord after destroying Sodom. Melchizedek gave Abram bread/wine, expressive of Communion. Later after Abram became Abraham he took his son Isaac into the vicinity of Jerusalem at Mt. Moriah. The story in Genesis 22 is a shadow of the spiritual reality of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross at Mt. Moriah known as Calvary. (Also look in 1 Chron.21 and see the place mentioned in relation to David’s sin and consequences being dealt with there.)

Jerusalem is linked with specific events in the Messiah’s life.
Daniel 9:25,26. The Anointed One ‘cut off.’
Zechariah 9:9. The king and the donkey ride.

Passover celebration of the Nation’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12f) Cross. This again was a shadow of the spiritual deliverance Christ Jesus would achieve as the fulfilment of the Passover’s sacrificial system when He was crucified.

The Anti-Christ foretold and the times of the Gentiles plus the Great Tribulation are all centred around Jerusalem. This is the central focus of the book of Revelation. Read also
Dan. 9.24-27. 12:1 c/- Mt.24.

Jerusalem is a cup which sends people reeling…Zech. 12:2.
Jerusalem is an immovable rock on which Nations will be injured. Zech. 12:3.
Jerusalem is the Eternal God’s warning or invitation centre. Ps. 2.

The Book of Revelation pictures a most horrific time which will come upon the earth. God has warned us about it. Ignore it at your peril. No one can blame God for the unbelief of nations which choose to side with Babylon and Darkness against God’s revealed purposes and Salvation centred in Jesus and Jerusalem. Through that time men and women will be saved and martyred(Rev.7:9-17). It will also open the eyes of Israel to their Messiah. Zech. 12:10-13. c/- Matt. 23:39.

The World/Satan wants to discredit the Bible because it describes their doom and the triumph of the crucified Jesus. It also reveals the destiny of Jerusalem and Israel with the establishing of the Kingdom of God. You and I live in the most challenging times where so much of Biblical teaching is coming to a climax.

There is a beautiful through unsettling record in Zephaniah 3 highlighting the great and terrible day of the Lord against those who seek to crush Israel, God’s inheritance. In this passage we have an undeniable guarantee from the Lord of Glory yet to be fulfilled. Zeph. 3:14-17. On that day God will actually sing and rejoice over His people and their survival and triumph. Until then we are encouraged by Ps. 122:6 to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

After the 1000years of God’s kingdom on Earth and the final Battle mentioned in Revelation 20, the bible closes with the promise of a New Heaven and Earth and the New Jerusalem coming down from Heaven.
Between now and then God has warned us of tough times, sad times, the fury of a ruthless enemy intent on making God a liar. However the Lord keeps His word. Hold it close to your heart.

The day will come when Jerusalem will be the city of peace and the joy of the whole earth.
Ray (waiting for that day) Hawkins

Monday, September 23, 2013

Israel is Distinct from the Church

Israel in the Scriptures ( brief outline)

Due to some technical difficulties the theme ‘Whose Land’ will be delayed for a few weeks. I've also had problems trying to download pictures. Sorry about that.
However I’ve put together the following outline hopefully showing the distinction between the Nation of Israel and The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Below in outline are some reasons why I’m convinced about God’s purposes for Israel.

When God makes a promise He keeps it – regardless. Romans 11:25-36.
(Especially v. 29)

Israel and the Church are two distinct identities with two separate missions. The Church was unknown in the Old Testament. Notice Ephesians 3:1-13. (Esp. v.5, 10) Rom. 16:25 – 26.

Israel is national and linked to the land.
The Church is International, It’s the body of Christ and is linked to Heaven.
When Israel’s leaders rejected Christ Jesus as their crucified, risen Saviour/King they were destined to judgement and dispersion. (Remember Deuteronomy 28-30). The Kingdom of God seemed doomed. Why? It requires a nation, a land and a capital. Satan seemed to have won. The Lord however called the Gentiles to be the bearers of the Gospel not to set up the Kingdom but to reveal the wonder of wonders, Christ is the Head of the Body of believers called the Church.

If God gave up Israel because of the Nation’s failure, there isn’t any reason why He will not forsake the Church because the Church (I’d rather say Christendom) is far worse because it has a greater revelation. That’s why Romans 11:29 is so important. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

If God cannot fulfil His recorded promises to and through Israel, regardless of their wilfulness, then He has failed and His word is unreliable. This is untenable and preposterous! Read passages such as Isaiah 60-66. Ezekiel 34-39. Zephaniah 3:14-20. Zechariah 14. for insights into the future fulfilment.

The question arises when will the Church give way and Israel come back on line? I believe the Lord snatches His Body, the Church, away before the time and evil domination of the world by the anti-Christ.
Why would the Lord God Do this? 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The church appears before the judgement seat of Christ. Rom. 14:10. It is accounting time. There 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 takes place.

Israel endures the great Tribulation. Matthew 24:15-31. and Rev. 6-19. The nation has been warned and warned and warned abut this. Unbelief has blinded their eyes. The anti‒ Semitic world seizes the chance to destroy Israel and make God’s word a lie. Jesus says it will actually cause the nation to cry out to Him to rescue them.

During that time the Jewish people who believe Jesus is the Messiah promised set out to tell the world this truth. (That’s the 144,000. Notice they are from the 12 tribes. This cannot be explained away. It must be taken as plain speaking) Their efforts bring many Gentiles and Israelites to faith and martyrdom. It also paves the way for a national awakening to recognizing Jesus as He is. Matthew 23:37-39.

Revelation 20 2, 4-6 speaks about the fulfilment of the opening verses of the Lord’s prayer. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Also highlighted are the promises given by God to Israel through the prophets. C/- Isaiah 11:1-9. 9:6-7. Ezekiel 39:21-29. It will be in this time such little but important words pertaining to Israel and God will be true.
Check our ‘Never again’ ‘until then’ and similar words linked to Israel by the prophets on this matter.
It hasn’t happened – yet. It will!

I will endeavour to get back to my theme on ‘Whose Land’ as soon as possible. Until then I will share some outlines from Revelation. Please accept my apologies for this confusion.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Whose Land?

This in My Land.

The Middle East is constantly highlighted across the media. In particular the arguments between the Palestinians and the Israeli’s over who in entitled to the land the Bible called Canaan. Islam tries to stake a claim to it all. Unfortunately for them even their Koran specifically mentions God gave the land to Israel. Then the Jewish Scriptures assert, with the support of history, that the land belongs to Israel.

However there is a problem. The small country which makes the world tremble whenever trouble breaks out doesn’t belong to anyone nation or tribe. Leviticus 25:23 makes this clear: The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. (Emphasis added) To whom is the ‘mine’ referring. Not to Allah. It belongs to Yahweh (Jehovah)!

When the Lord God of Hosts chose such a small parcel of the earth as His own He had a strategy in mind. Ezekiel 5:5: Thus says the Lord God: This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the centre of the nations, with countries all around her.’ According to the Scriptures this land was special to God for specific reasons. Some of those we will consider in coming weeks. This should actually make individuals and nations serious think through how they treat what God delights in. We are told that His eyes are on this area constantly for He cares for it.

How then did the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob come to possess it? The Scriptures tells us the Lord God gifted it to them as an inheritance. Jeremiah stressed this in a prophecy recorded in 3:18: In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I (God) gave your ancestors for an inheritance.’

Why would the Eternal God and Creator want to do such a thing? As with anything recorded within the pages of the Bible, there is a purpose. It has to do with redeeming a lost world, overthrowing a usurper’s attempt at domination and dethroning Death’s claim to sovereignty. It is within the book of Genesis we will begin our journey of discovery and understanding why this all was necessary.

The land God has claimed as His own is featured in the Bible as the centre for Moral and Spiritual domination. This is the real issue which is being played out behind the political games of the nations and the anti–Jewish rhetoric throughout the media. Consciously or unconsciously the anti–Christ and anti–Yahweh forces of this world want to rob God of His land and destroy His purposes and obliterate those He claims as His inheritance. You can read all about it in the books of Ezekiel, Joel, Zechariah and Revelation for starters. You will also read of the failure of such opposition.
To be continued.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Questions God asks #7. Why seek for a sign

The sign's up

‘‘If there is a God let Him give me a sign of His reality’ is the sceptic’s escape clause for unbelief. Such thinking isn’t new. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day demanded the same from Him. From all accounts this was a persistent jibe at Him. Jesus responded: ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign?’ (Mark 8:12) In Matthew and Luke’s account something is added. ‘No sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah.’ What was He meaning? Matthew 12:40 explains the cryptic statement: “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.’

Easter Lily

Jonah is a battle ground for many today. His story seems so unreal, a great piece of fiction with a spiritual application. There is a problem with such a view. The people to whom Jesus spoke accepted it as historical. Jesus endorsed the Biblical account and applied a message to His generation from it. The people of Nineveh repented at Jonah’s message and Jesus claimed that a greater than Jonah was now amongst the people. The trouble was they couldn’t see Him. Therefore one last opportunity would be theirs to have scepticism give way to faith. What would that be? A death, burial and resurrection!

The very essence of Christianity depends upon this truth. The Christian faith is rooted and grounded in Jewish history. That history is bound up with world powers such as Egypt, Babylon, Greek and Roman. The bible is the most researched and investigated book ever, by friend and foe. It has stood tall and unbowed against the fiercest of critics and the wildest of misrepresentations. How? Because, in a great measure, of the sign of Jonah. Christ Jesus’ birth, life and death on the cross are well known. How come? Because of the sign of Jonah!

Without this fact there would be no Gospel stories. Without this sign there would be no Christian faith. The disciples were not fools to suffer and die for a deluded Rabbi. Who would follow such a man unless the evidence stacked up that He was who He claimed to be; He fulfilled the predictions of the Bible from Genesis to Malachi; He experienced the typology of Jonah.

Okay, what then is the sign of Jonah? He experienced a resurrection. This is symbolised by his being vomited out of the sea monster after three days and nights in its belly onto dry ground. Jesus by associating Himself with Jonah but on a grander scale was preparing His hearers, sceptics, followers for the most crucial test. I find it fascinating that it was His most virulent opponents who had some sense that Jesus spoke the truth. That why they arranged a squad of soldiers and a Government seal placed around and on the tomb. Three days and nights after the crucifixion and entombment Jesus rose triumphant from the grave. The sign of Jonah was fulfilled.

Why then didn’t the leaders embrace the risen Lord? The same reasons why people won’t accept the testimony of Jesus and his death burial and resurrection today! Self–righteousness, pride, fear of others, consequences of belief to name a few reasons. Eating ‘humble pie’ and admitting you were wrong, especially about Jesus, is hard to swallow at first. However when a person chews and swallows such a ‘pie’ it becomes the most delicious meal of all time. People still want God to do a circus act or a talent show for them to believe in Him. He is not their clown nor their pantomime act. He is their Lord whether they believe Him or not. There are more than enough proofs about the promise of the Messiah, the revelation of Him as Jesus of Nazareth, the historical and spiritual significance of the cross. All their credibility rests upon the sign of Jonah. The very emergence, endurance and energy of the Christian faith also flows from that sign.

Paul’s masterpiece on this matter is 1 Corinthians 15. He made the journey from scepticism and hostility to ‘eating humble pie’ and faith and unbounded enthusiasm for the risen Christ Jesus. Have you made that journey yet?

(This completes the series on Questions God asks)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Question #6. God Asks 'Why Will You die?

Question # 6 God asks: Why Will You Die?
I was never much good at mathematics. However the significance of numbers intrigues me. This is especially true from the Biblical standpoint. The number two (2) is a case in point. It speaks of division, separation and alternatives. The number two calls upon us in certain situations to make a choice. The decision we make is
our own. The consequences of our choices are outside our control.

The Master Teacher, Jesus Christ, used the number two (2) in His parables frequently. The story of the two builders in Matthew 7:24–27 tells of people’s foundation for life. You can build your life on the quick, easy and worldly wise foundation depicted by sand. Or you can expend effort and determination to build your life on the rock. Both appear great until the storms of life come roaring down and over each life. Only the one whose foundations are on solid ground will stand the test.

I’ve seen may lives come crashing down due to having no support system, no sense of meaning, no hope and no sense of destiny. Jesus offered all people His foundation for life. It is a person’s choice whether or not to build upon the teachings and life of Christ.

Another parable is from Matthew 7:13–14 and relates to two gates, one narrow and one very wide. The wide gate is easy to find and is well trodden. It promises much. There is pleasure, prestige, power and plenty of everything. It introduces the unsuspecting to the Deceiver who is dressed in Mardi–Gras costume promising fun, fun, fun. I’ve seen young people rush to and through this gate without considering the consequences. The wreckage to their health, mind and relationships is a tragedy. I believe the Lord still offers escape routes out of the Broadway. It means turning of it and taking the narrow gate. Such fortunate escapees wear the marks of the Wide–gate but not the curse or destiny.

The Narrow gate seems unattractive to any superficial glance. To those who seriously consider what lies beyond and its destiny the appeal is irresistible. The path may be demanding yet it is meaningful, life enriching, health bestowing, offering forgiveness and mercy, noble relationships and a destiny in the Heavens. Why is this? Because the Narrow gate introduces a person to Jesus Christ as Lord, Saviour and Companion along the way! Where do we come across the Narrow gate? In the message of Jesus Christ and His life, crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Some hear it as foolishness. To others it is a stumbling block, a scandal. Others receive it as the liberating, life changing, heaven opening message of God’s grace.

Perhaps the most striking illustration of the number two (2) is found at the crucifixion of Jesus. Two terrorists were crucified with Him, one on either side of Jesus. Read the accounts in the Gospels. Both started out cursing Jesus and challenging Him to display His powers by getting them all off the cross and presumably destroying their enemies. Then one of them took notice of Jesus and His demeanour and words. The other one was so busy cursing and suffering he couldn’t grasp what Jesus was doing. The former said, Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom. The reply of Jesus is eternally awesome ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’ Again the number two (2) reveals separation, division and choice..
The same is true now. It will always be true. You and I have a choice as to how we will build our life and destiny and the road we will choose to travel and its destination. In a sense each of us becomes one or the other on the crosses looking at Jesus. Jesus offers life in the midst of death, forgiveness and a new destiny. The other alternative is despair and an eternity of regret.

So what then is God’s question for you and me to reflect upon?
‘As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back; from your evil ways for why will you die…’(emphasis added).Ezekiel 33:11. As the Lord God also said to Israel, so He would say to each of us ‘I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses, Choose life, so that you and your descendents may live.’ (Deuteronomy 30:19)