Sunday, December 27, 2015

When 'Clay-pots' offend

To offend – or not to offend isn’t really the question. It is impossible not to offend as we live in a diverse and often perverse society. Christmas offends some and others are upset by the Islamic Ramadan or Hindu festivals. Atheists get agitated by' God speak' and evolutionists become frantic when a person believes the Bible’s account of Creation. There are those who cannot abide people from other nations and find it impossible to be courteous to them.

From the Christian perspective in trying not to offend those who disagree with us is actually offensive. We denigrate our faith and thereby our Lord. The issue isn’t about what is in the Christian faith that riles others, but our response when people react. It has been apparent over the Christmas season that some, wanting to be nice, sold out their faith or heritage. Appeasement never solves the problem, it simply pushes it into another issue when the offended person is upset again.

Jesus on earth was the great offender! He upset people’s belief system, elitism, taboos regarding eating with the socially unaccepted. (Check Him out with the Tax collector, Matthew – The Samaritan woman and others such as Luke 7:36-50 – Roman soldiers Etc). Jesus unmasked hypocrisy with strong words (Matthew 23), yet at the same time with grace. The Lord felt sorrow, not glee for those whom He had to rebuke. His example is a tough one to follow, yet by His grace and presence, that is what we must do.

The great offence Jesus caused was not what He said, but what happened to Him! It causes people to be upset ever today because it speaks against their ‘goodness.’ It challenges their religious views of god, salvation and worship. What happened to Jesus? He was crucified! Politics and hatred were the human factors for this event. However, God used it to make His Son the Saviour of all who put their trust in Him. This faith isn’t in a dead corpse but in the risen Lord. Jesus took our deserved judgement so that He might bestow upon us undeserved righteousness and eternal life. Read about it in the New Testament.

The cross offends. When you read the history of the Church the message of the crucified and risen Lord stirs up self-righteous indignation. This is still happening even though Christians return good for evil, feed the hungry and care for the sick. How does the Lord want us to respond? To pray for those who are offended and become aggressive. To turn the other cheek (if that is hit what then?) But not back away and thus deny the Lord. To be gracious in response and caring by helping those who oppose the cross is not weakness but Christlikeness. Jesus did tell His followers that they would be similar to sheep amongst the wolves. The fact was the wolves would be afraid of the sheep (and their message).

We offend without even saying a word. 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 says Christians are similar to clay pots filled with a precious perfume. It seeps out. That fragrance is the saving, transforming, forgiving, rejoicing and eternal presence of Christ. When we move amongst people they will be affected by this spiritual aroma. Some will appreciate it. Some will wonder what it is. Others will be offended and want to get rid of it. Over the years many, many, many ‘clay-pot disciples’ have paid a high price for simply being fragranced by Christ and His word.

Therefore, if you are a Christian don’t be surprised that you are offensive to some one. However, let it draw you closer to Christ and His word so that His grace in you might be the way you respond.

Ray Hawkins 28/12/2015.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

God's Special Day(s)

We all have special days. Some we celebrate, others bring back unwanted memories. Some, such as birthdays, are individual. Wedding anniversaries involve two. Society has its special days also. For Aussies it is Australia Day and Anzac day (for some there is the Melbourne cup – a horse racing event). God also has His special days.

Psalm 118:24. ‘This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.’ What was this day alluding to? We could in all honesty say “Christmas” but in this case we would be wrong. However, without the Bethlehem birth event God’s special day could not have happened – at least the way it did. Before we have a quick look at ‘this day’ we will take the time to consider the fact of other special God days.

The precise day and date are not recorded for our benefit, I believe. The fact is! The Son of God came into this world on the day the Lord had made. Paul refers to it as ‘in the fullness of time.’ Galatians 4:4. It was the culmination of various prophecies such as Isaiah concerning the virgin (Isaiah 7:14 and Micah revealing the town of Bethlehem (Micah5:2).

Another specially marked day is called ‘The Day of the Lord.’ In fact, this term can apply to a number of different days but all are associated with wrath and judgement. The prophet Joel in his short book stresses these days. ‘The great and terrible day of the Lord [has] come.’ Joel 2:31. What would be needed in a place of safety! We are unable to build it, therefore, God must become the master builder Himself. God told Noah to build an ark as a safe place to ride out the promised world-wide flood. That’s grace preceding judgement. So too, the Lord provides a safe place from the great and final day of holy justice.

That is the day the Lord made according to Psalm 118. In fact that day had a lot of preliminary preparation so it could be recognised. Its shadow is in the Jewish Passover and also expressed in their daily sacrifices. Isaiah 53 gives it a more frightening dimension as it involves ‘the Servant’ taking upon Himself the role of the Passover lamb. When did that day take place? When Jesus was crucified at Calvary. I find it interesting and quite emotional at times to know Jesus read this psalm in the upper room.

In Acts 2 Peter’s sermon about the cross and the risen Lord explains ‘this day.’ To anyone looking at the arrest and crucifixion it would appear earthly authorities were in control. Peter, in effect says what they did was used by God the Father to achieve His plans through the life and death of His Son. It was ‘the Day the Lord had made!’ Just as was the very day of Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost (Feast of Weeks). Because Jesus had conquered death, one of the purposes behind Christmas, it was possible for the Holy Spirit to come to us.

That brings us to the final mention (though not the final list of ‘days’) for this blog on the day the Lord has made. ‘Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.’ (2Corinthians 6:2) It is the day of grace. It has been extended beyond 24hours so you and I could take advantage of it. As with any day it has a cut of time to it. Therefore, as we dwell upon the wonder of Christmas become aware that was the day the Lord made. Why? So we could find a place of safety from the judgement of God on that day known only to Him. How do we enter into that safe refuge? By acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God, the promised Messiah and the One who paid our death penalty. When we believe in our heart that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to His Father we will cry out to Him to forgive and keep us. He will hear and receive.

When you do that – or whenever you did it – You actually allow God to make another day. This time it is all about your day with God. You are able to say, on the assurance of God’s promise ‘This is the day the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

©Ray Hawkins Dec 28 2015.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Assassins of Christmas

warfare.jpgThey hide behind legal jargon with godless intent. Once they were covert in their opposition to Christian festivals, now they are running rampant. Those would be Assassins of Christmas are part of a wide spread movement which seems to have hit the news lately.

Some in authority want to call Christmas holiday season or festival of lights. One Government official didn’t want the Christmas tree called by that term. Banning Nativity plays and Carols about Christ under the pretence it offends other religions is spurious nonsense. The latent animosity within the World system towards Christ, the Bible and Christian concepts and morality has broken out, with gusto!

I call such people King Herod’s kith and kin. In Matthew’s Gospel chapter 2 is the account of his endeavour to kill the Baby Jesus. To do that he was indiscriminate. All boy babies two and under were to be killed in Bethlehem. Jesus was whisked away to Egypt by Joseph and Mary. Bethlehem means ‘house of bread’ but Herod made it the town of tears.

Today’s brood of Herod sympathisers cannot get their hands on the risen Christ Jesus. So, they resort to trying to eradicate expressions of His reality and message. In extreme cases this is the ideology of IS in their killing of Christians. In less graphic ways lawsuits are filed against Christians standing for Christian marriage and morality. One non-Christian religious leader even said to his people, to wish others a “merry Christmas” was worse than murder. Even having Christian prayer breakfasts are now anathema.

Whether they realise it or not, such assassins are creating for their communities ‘township of tears’. Why do I think that? By looking into the regions where the Christian faith and heritage are either unknown or are a persecuted minority. Fatalism rules and corruption is ‘king.’ There is a hopelessness unrelieved by the compassion and promises of Christ Jesus. There isn’t anything to sing about which could rival the joy and message of Christmas carols. We hear in Australia a lot about violence against women without appreciating how the Christmas event has elevated the status of a woman. What the virgin birth tells us should flow into the mindset of a community.

What do we gain from looking at Mary as the chosen vessel for the Messiah’s coming? Women are held in high esteem by the Creator and Redeemer God. The beautiful imagery of The Church as the Bride of Christ, New Jerusalem portrayed as a bride, plus the esteemed women in biblical history reaffirm that conviction. Any man who violates a woman offends his manliness, his biblical mandate and denies the Lord Jesus Christ’s example and teachings. How superior is this to Islam’s treatment of women in their judicial system, not to mention the use of young girls as bride material!

music.pngHow are we to respond to these Assassins of Christmas? By standing our ground! By expressing our Joy in the Lord! By sharing the merriment and message that the Promised One has come and his name is Jesus! By inviting the assassins to share in the celebrations we enjoy! By living out the quality of life and the treatment of each other as taught by and lived out by Jesus, the warrior babe of Bethlehem.

Ray Hawkins Dec 14th 2015.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Star! Stable! Saviour!

When 'Star! Stable! Saviour' arrived I opened it and then lost it. Mary took it. Read it and said "This is great for us to read to our grandchildren." Mary loved the way the letter 'S' took you through the story.

I wanted some of my Grandchildren to pass their comments on the book by Cameron Semmens.

Serena aged 8 said "I really liked the rhyming, my favourite part. It was weird to have scientists, rather than the wise men come to see Jesus. I thought it was a nice book."

Clint aged 10 said "Nice, cleverly set out book. I really liked the rhyming. All together a good book."

Adam aged 6 read some of it and had some read to him. He enjoyed it, especially the pictures. He did say the letter 'S' was used a lot and it was fun.

All in all, this is a well produced, easy and fun to read for children about the most wonderful event of Christmas. Even better, according to Mary, is to read it to the young children.

Highly recommended by those for whom it was written. Also, by we who would read it to them.

About the Author

Cameron Semmens is a poet, entertainer and poetry educator with 15 books to his name. He makes his living through words: performing, running workshops and book design. He lives in the Dandenong Rangers with his wife and two children.

This book was received by me from ACRBA for reviewing purposes.
You can check out there website for further information.
This book is published by Wombat Books. Should be available in Christian bookshops.
See Wombat Publishing website

Sunday, December 6, 2015

the Christmas Sign

bethlehemswarriorbabysmall (2).jpgMoses captured the enslaved Israelites' attention through the signs and wonders Yahweh did through him. Until then, it would seem that the people were in a dejected and defeated mood. The Lord God also revealed the impotency of Egypt’s idols at the same time. The ten plagues were God’s declaration that He, and He alone, is sovereign. As such, He will bring judgement upon the gods of the nations (Exodus 12:12).
Signs became a feature of the Eternal God’s dealings with the people of Israel. The apostle Paul expresses this in 1 Corinthians 1:22: ‘Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom.’  Time and again in His ministry Jesus was asked for a sign, presumably from Heaven, that would verify who He was and what He did. Why they couldn’t grasp His miracles as such is beyond understanding. Jesus, however, did give them one sign, the sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:38,39).

There is another sign, God given, which validates Christmas for all – especially a Jewish person. It was given at the Lord’s direction through Isaiah to King Ahaz that a virgin would bring forth a child and call his name Emmanuel (7:14). The sign would be from Yahweh and done by Him. Somehow or other, God would bring this sign to fruition without the power, cunning or strategy of man.

It was that glorious night the angels shattered the Bethlehem darkness when the promised sign came into being. Luke 2:11-12: ‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manager.’ What was so striking about this birth? We know the story so well that we miss the emotional aspects of it. How would anyone have known the details of Jesus’ birth unless Mary and Joseph, at God’s direction, told Matthew and Luke! The intimacy of pregnancy and, in Mary and Joseph’s case, the potential for embarrassment and misunderstanding, reveals how important the uncovering of this sign was. It remains so today!

You can imagine the innuendoes, wagging tongues and slander that erupted when the Gospel began circulating. Who would put themselves into such an emotional and religious cauldron if the birth of Jesus had not taken place this way? Then again, if He had never risen from the dead, no one would have been interested. Therefore, what is recorded about the birth of Jesus is to authenticate it as the fulfilment of the Isaiah declaration. Matthew makes this quite clear when he writes what the angel of the Lord said to Joseph: ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, because he will save his people from their sins all this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, 'God with us.’ (Matthew 1:20-23).

Some think it unimportant to stress the virgin birth of Jesus. Part of their claim comes from the paucity of direct reference to it in the Epistles. However, the necessity for such a birth is everywhere inferred. Without it Jesus could not have been the second Adam; Jesus could not have been sinless, for He would have had a soul nature corrupted by the fall; His human spirit would have been dead to God (Ephesians 2:1-4); if He was born of ‘the flesh’ then He would be blemished in the sight of God the Father. There is no way Jesus’ crucifixion would be able to deal with humankind’s sin through substitution and identification, for He would have been in need of saving Himself.

This is a chapter from the 31 day devotional 'Bethlehem's Warrior Baby' available from Christian bookshops, Amazon etc and as an ebook.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Subversive Prayer of Jesus

The Lord’s Prayer.
Prayer made headlines in the past week. An advertisement for the Lord’s Prayer to be played in cinemas was denied. Reasons given included it might offend people who are not Christians, or sympathetic to the Christian Faith.

Means Grace Prayer 2.jpgPredictably, a furore arose because the cinema’s fear of offending was doing just that. It was also breaking anti-discrimination laws. Some other religious bodies and an Atheist organisation supported the Church of England’s right to have it screened.

That is great for Freedom of speech and freedom of Religion. What was shown up in all this was the stupidity of Political Correctness. It also unmasks the subtle changes taking place to isolate Christ, the Church and weaken our Christian heritage. This can be seen in the demeaning of Christmas by certain intolerant Imams, weak city councils and indifferent politicians.

As I thought about the cinema’s reaction to the Lord’s Prayer advertisement they had a point. This finely crafted prayer, loved by many, is subversive, exclusive, prophetic and challenging. This should be a reason for not showing it, but it does say something about the human heart. Within all of us there is an awareness we all have to meet the Lord God, Creator and judge one day. There is either a fear or a joy in this prospect.

This prayer points to a future event as well as God’s expectation of us and ours of Him. Jesus gave this Rabbinic styled prayer to His disciples. It is therefore Jewish in nature and builds on what the prophets of Israel foretold. The Christian Church has claimed it for its own, as it has the right to do, without forgetting the original presentation and environment.

How is it subversive? Because it talks about ‘Our Father!’
We often forget that God is creator of us all, but He is the Father of the nation of Israel (Isaiah 64:8).

The Church is the creation of Christ through His death on the cross and resurrection. He is our Head and Lord.

Jesus didn’t have to prayer ‘our Father!’ Jesus is the Son, eternal, unique and the One who reveals the Father. (John 14:6-13.   10:30.) It is this very fact that upsets Islam. They call Jesus a liar when they say ‘God has no Son!’ However, they are correct when they say ‘Allah’ has no son – for he isn’t the eternal God of creation, redemption and Love.

It is prophetic because it points to a time when the Son of God sets up the promised Kingdom and rules the world from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2 and Zechariah 14. Etc). This kingdom is not wanted, except by those who belong to Christ. It is opposed by a counterfeit caliphate which is doing everything in its power to prevent its coming.

It is challenging because of its implied and explicit demands. The requirement to forgive can be very difficult, yet it holds within it the wonder of grace, liberty and and inner healing.

The Lord’s Prayer is exclusive. To be able to say “our Father” means a person has been spiritually born through His power. This comes about by a personal faith in Jesus as the Son of God, the promised Saviour who was crucified, entombed and rose again on the third day (John 3. Romans 10).

Maybe, just maybe, unseen forces were at play endeavouring to prevent this well known, well-loved prayer being shown. Behind political correctness and other anti-Christian actions lies the power of Darkness.

 However, John1:1-5 tells us about Jesus coming into this World and being the Light of the Word. Verse 5 reminds us of ultimate victory: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not (will not, cannot) overcome it.”

Ray Hawkins

Nov 29th 2015.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

When will Christmas End?

Christmas cake read 2010.JPGThere’s an end to Christmas and its message. When will that be? I don’t know but this I do know Christmas celebrations have a completion date. How do I know this? Because Jesus Christ will return to claim the throne of David, establish the Kingdom of God and fulfil the Christmas promises of joy and peace.

We are living in an era when various forces seem to be combining to make a premature cessation of the Christ advent. Looking at these forces, political, moral and spiritual they appear on the surface to be independent movements. However, if you have any background knowledge of Christian Scripture, especially the Book of Revelation, you see the ‘manipulator’. The atmosphere of these anti-Christian, anti-Christmas movements reeks of the Kingdom of Darkness. The apostle John in his first letter wrote ‘We know … the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.’

Who is the wicked one’? The Devil! His aim is to rid this world of the moral and spiritual values God requires. Do you want to have a glimpse of the coming world? Do you want to have an insight into its devilish delights? Read the book of Revelation. When a society rejects the moral code summarised in the Ten Commandments lawlessness takes over. Denying Yahweh’s existence and promoting ‘you are a piece of celestial junk’ destroys life’s meaning and hope.

Why is there such a self-destructive intent in drug taking and binge drinking? It is the devil’s delusion promising self-realisation. It promises to take a person out of their horrid existence and into euphoria. The end result is a degraded life and if unchecked an eternal death.  Why link drugs with the Devil? The word used for sorceries in Revelation 18:23 is Pharmakia from which we get pharmacy. It is this misuse of chemistry by which the occult enslaves unsuspecting lives. You can see evidence of its poison even now in communities.

PC250141.JPGThe first Christmas came in the fullness of time. It was promised. It took time for all the necessary facets to come together. It happened. Its purposes are still being talked about, believed in and rejoiced over. The person whose name adorns this event still receives the worship, allegiance and service of those who call Him “Saviour and Lord!” Unfortunately, many of them are cruelly persecuted for their faith. If Heaven has a gallery of heroes of the Christian Faith there would be a gallery which features the martyrs. In a sense Hebrews 11 gives a brief list of such faithful people. In Hebrews 12:1 they are called a ‘cloud of witnesses’ whose example is to encourage us. In Revelation 6:10 the martyrs slain on behalf of the word of God cry out: “How long O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  What they are calling for is the completion of the Christmas promises.

There are many promises recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. They deal with Jesus being King over the nations, He will be Saviour, Christ the Lord and the Light to the Gentiles. Christmas was the necessary first part in establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. Part of the promises linked to Christmas have been made possible because of the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Some are still outstanding. They cannot be fulfilled until Jesus returns, as He promised. Until then, disciples and followers of Christ will celebrate the Bethlehem event. Some will do it in peace. Others will do it under threat of severe repercussions. All believers will long for the time when Christmas will no longer be celebrated for all it stands for will be accomplished.

Then there will be peace on earth. Then goodwill prevails. Then Jesus reigns from Mt Zion. Then justice and righteousness permeates life. Then the kingdom of Darkness and its citizens are no more. Until then, use Christmas as a time to honour the Lord, celebrate His entry into our scene and to look forward to His return. That will ensure you a ‘Merry Christmas’ under the smile of God.
Ray Hawkins November 23rd 2015.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Christmas - No Compromise

bethlehemswarriorbabysmall (2).jpgThere’s a madness spreading across the world breeding antipathy and hostility to the Christian faith. This plague is infecting countries and community with a long history of Christianity. Civic and Church leaders are losing moral strength as they are confronted by an influx of people with this antichrist fever. Not wanting to offend such people, those in Government make excuses for expressing sympathy by undermining their Christian Heritage. As the Christmas season draws near this well-meaning empathy is actually desecrating the name of Christ.  Some areas of Germany are calling the Christmas season ‘Festival of Lights.’ In Australia Christmas Nativity scenes in some communities are banned. It is politically incorrect to wish someone “Merry Christmas”.  A Muslim cleric said to be part of the Christmas celebration and wishing another “Merry Christmas” was worse than murder.

 Some well-meaning and ‘nice’ Christians are going along with this nonsense. Such ‘jellyfish’ believers are in actual fact betraying the Faith.  We may debate the date but not the fact of the birth of Jesus. Our authority for this event and who it reveals are *Prophetic Scriptures *Eye witness accounts in the Gospels.  *The Church, which, without the other two and the historical facts of Christ’s birth, life and resurrection, wouldn’t exist. We also have to remember the apostles and many first century believers in Christ paid for their faith with their blood. Our response, as Christians should be similar to those over the centuries who called Jesus Lord, ‘No Compromise.’

Why is Christmas so offensive? Depending upon the belief of the person the celebration of the birth of Christ upsets their tolerance. Atheists are rankled by anything which points to the creator, redeemer God. Muslims deny the claims of Jesus, especially about Him being the Son of God. Jews reject Jesus as their promised Messiah. In the final analysis all this angst is directed to the Church and the Bible. The books of the Bible have one major theme – Jesus! In the 39 books of the Old Testament He is the promised someone who is coming. In the four Gospels, Jesus is the promised someone who has come. In the twenty-three other books of the New Testament Jesus is the promised someone who is coming again.

Every Christmas and every Easter and Passover the non-Christian belief system is given a pounding. This happens at Christmas through church services, greeting cards, nativity scenes, music and the church providing Christmas cheer to the hungry and destitute. Handel’s marvellous music of the ‘Messiah’ must disturb those who reject the coming of Jesus to be the Saviour of the World. This would be especially true of militant Islam which disallows music in their culture. Who can blame them! They have nothing to sing about, either to their god, his interest in them, or about their hope of being accepted by him!

It is time for Christians to stand their ground. It is time to be gracious in the face of being charged as bigots. It is time to challenge political correctness when it tries to silence our voice from speaking the truth of God’s Word. It is time to pay the price for teaching the message of grace, mercy, judgement and forgiveness found in Jesus Christ. It is time to pray for those who are intent upon nullifying, undermining and destroying Christ and His Church. It is time to cancel out compromise.

May the Lord bless you this Christmas! As you celebrate the birth of the Son of God may He fill your heart with wonder! In wishing others, friend, family or foe, “Merry Christmas” let it be our expression of faith in the Christmas event.

©Ray Hawkins November16th 2015.

If anyone is interested in finding out more of what the bible says on Christmas get ‘Bethlehem’s Warrior Baby’ by Ray Hawkins. Available in Christian bookshops and also as an Ebook from Amazon and Goodreads. RRP $10:00.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Am I looking for Myself

question mark.jpg“I don’t know who I am any more” came from a woman desperately trying to find answers to her life and why she had become entangled in mess upon mess. It is the cry of many, often unexpressed and hidden behind smiling faces, busy schedules and loud singing of religious songs.

You would imagine that with all the self-help books on shelves, Website information for stressed out people, Jet setting lecture scene ‘self-awareness’ Gurus plus psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors and religious groups no one would be ignorant of ‘who and what they are’. However it seems that the more such groups proliferate the more the confusion grows. Each can claim authority from being a ‘founding father or mother’ or from their  experiences. What seekers need to check out is the basis for their teaching and therefore the truth of such claims.  Short term remedies for life's big questions can lead to dead-ends or disillusionment. 

The unquestioning acceptance of evolution erodes the meaning of life. Promoted by mass media and vested interests the young especially are influenced by it. The results are depressing. No sense of destiny, no appreciation of the worth of another, a spiritual void and no answers to the moral mess and suffering in the world. Could this be an underlying gnawing in their heart which contributes to self-destructive addictions and behaviour? Another person left spouse and family with “I need to find myself.” That person never found herself.  To have any hope of understanding who you are, why you are, what can be done for you requires an authoritative manual. Within such a book directions for enjoying life and relationships must be listed. Also, when we fall-over there needs to be a promise of a new beginning. Fundamental to all this is to be shown the Creator’s purposes and to answer the ‘why’s’ of living in a messy world.

If evolution is the creator, there is no blueprint. That means there are no answers only superficial, short term pain removers for the confused, broken hearted and morally bereft. If there is the Creator who in the beginning set things in motion, then there is a Blueprint. Such a Creator would not leave His masterpiece (you) without insights as to who you are. The Creator’s Blueprint is revealed in the Bible. Its information is simple yet profound. Scripture has clear and concise directions to understand yourself and what the future holds.

No one, no matter how clever, can get inside of a person to see all the heart and mind’s complex ‘machinery’. That is God’s realm. What He has revealed about our inner being and the mess its gets into and the remedy for it, needs to be taken seriously. A careless attitude will continue a wasted life lived in the vanity of human speculation. The end result of that will be mess upon mess, broken dreams and a fear of standing before the Creator. Sure, it may mean that we need wise and Godly counsellors and other professional people to walk with us and be there for us in our journey. Yes it may mean that there will be the need for calling upon God to forgive us. It will mean working with Him as He begins to transform our views and lifestyle. Undoubtedly there will be tough decisions to make and accountabilities to undertake. However, when you know that the end result is worthwhile you are prepared to pay the price. For a ‘new you’ rises above the past with forgiveness known and hope for the future possessed.

The following testimony is dramatic. Our lives will probably not be of similar magnitude. However, as he says, if God can do it in my life, God can do it to anyone willing to trust Him.

“I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and violently arrogant but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief.” (Paul to Timothy.) As Paul faced execution on Caesar Nero’s order for his faith in Jesus, Paul wrote ‘I know whom I have believed am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him against that day.’  When ‘that day’ came he could say “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me … but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

That’s knowing who you were, who you have become and where you are going. All because of God’s grace and His manual for life.

©Ray Hawkins Nov 9th 2015.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Children of the Childless

Ray's Children's cover.jpgIn recent days Children and China have been in the news. That country is going from a one child per family policy to double that number. This is for economic reasons. It caused me to think about a piece I wrote some time ago and included in my 31 day devotional,
 ‘Children – God’s Special Interest.’

With so much tragedy and turmoil in Africa and the Middle East there are many orphan children. Church and non-church groups are reaching out to these traumatised children in a variety of ways. God has a deep interest for their welfare. Those who exploit children are under severe judgement with eternity in unpleasant isolation awaiting. That’s for another blogspot. Today’s is about those who are childless and yet have many children in their care and on their heart.

 Out of His own experience, Jesus makes a promise to those denied either intimate companionship or progeny. Insight into this promise flows from Isaiah 53. Here is recorded the Servant of Yahweh taking upon Himself the role of the sacrificial lamb. In verse 10 we read, ‘…though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days…’
Jesus was single. He had friends, though no intimate relationship. Children He loved, yet was father to none. Through His sacrificial, substitutionary sacrifice, the Lord gave His redeeming and resurrection life to all who put their trust in Him. The cross made it possible for Jesus to have spiritual offspring.

 In Matthew 19:12, the Lord acknowledged there would be some disciples who would remain single. Any number of reasons causing, or leading to, such a status could be listed. The wonder in the mind of the hearers was that such people were not excluded from fulfilling an effective ministry within the Kingdom of God. In fact, their singleness or childlessness, when devoted to God, becomes an unparalleled opportunity.

In city slums, suburban ghettos, isolated villages, children, and others, are being cared for in the Name of Jesus. Many of these carers are single, usually women. Their mother’s heart however, will not be denied. To the disadvantaged, neglected, forsaken, orphaned, or bereft children such a woman becomes ‘mum.’ Within her shadow there is safety, warmth, hope. She is there because of the redeeming love of Jesus. From the fulfilment of Isaiah 53 this lady raises spiritual offspring unto the Lord. For her the words of Isaiah 54:1 become both a song of joy and a badge of honour. ‘Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labour; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,’ says the Lord”

For the childless couple the same holds true. To paraphrase a response of Jesus, ‘behold, my sons and daughters which the Lord has given me!’ There are various ways by which children in need can know the tender care of a servant of the Lord. Such compassion may be face to face, or across distances. Child sponsorship through a Christian organisation offers a unique opportunity for all to be a parent, an elder brother or sister, to someone around the corner, or across the globe.
Life is unfair. Those denied an intimate relationship or of progeny can rise above it without rancour through walking by faith with Jesus. Those who are robbed of mother, father, or relatives even, can discern that unfairness fading away because of the grace of Jesus. For it is in the service of the Lord such unfairness is over ruled through the bringing of the two together. The cross transforms unfairness into ground on which there will be children to the childless, a parent for the orphan. In the words of Isaiah 56:5 ‘I (the Lord) will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.’

 Ray Hawkins Nov 2nd 2015.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Love's deflation power.

Self-promotion is an art form today. It’s made easier with so much computer technology available. Such self-promotion may be advisable for job interviews but doesn’t do anything for personal relationships. In this part of 1 Corinthians 13 two close knit words are used to describe what Love isn’t. Boasting implies the flaunting of one’s abilities. Proud, or as the King James version has it, ‘puffed up’ implies vanity and self-deception. Both seem to arise out of Envy’s craving to be recognised, acclaimed, unrivalled. The aspect of Pride will be considered next.
The Corinthian believers had fallen into the spiritual snare of comparing their gifting and positions in the Church. “My gift is better than yours” smells of immaturity. Such childishness, as Paul alludes to in 1 Corinthians 13:11, was making a mockery of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. A grieved Holy Spirit does not produce a joyful saint. 
In relationships, self-promotion is the surest way to paralyse intimacy and cripple respect. Self-praise fills up the mind allowing no room to consider the needs or interests of others. It also breeds a form of loneliness, not always recognised, for few enjoy being around such an intrusive, careless, diseased ‘universe.’  Such a disease of the soul has unfortunate life-long consequences including, strife, resentment and disrespect. This fall-out from self-obsession is usually blamed on other things, or people.
The glory of the most excellent way is its ability to cure the “I” disease. If self-exaltation makes us deaf to the pain and needs of others, Love cleans out our ears. It helps us hear their tears and sighs. If self-adulation blinds, Love opens eyes to see how others are travelling. How does that come about? Love creates a sense of awareness of others whilst not denying the facts about personal ability or achievement. Love simply rearranges their priority. Now they see the worth of others. Now the mouth applauds their skill and achievements. This soul readjustment by the most excellent way begins with understanding who God is and what He has done.
In His presence we realise that no matter how important we think we are, in God’s sight we were slum tenements. The awesomeness of what He does in our life through our conversion experience is seen in what we are now called. We are Temples of the most High God. He has made us beautiful. That which the Lord has done for us, He can do for others. That old hymn still rings true today when it states, ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.’ All within the community of grace are undeserved recipients of Christ’s favour and transformation. That’s an eternal remedy for ego’s ‘I’ disease. The one we should be boasting about is Jesus. (1 Corinthians 1:30-31.)
The most excellent way allows the Holy Spirit to unleash His word and influence through us without embarrassment. Love delights in the Lord. Therefore it can appreciate what He has made of others and equipped them to do. Through us, Christ in us ennobles others within our spheres of influence. He does this by His attitude and encouragement dominating our nature by our submission to Christ and His word. Mutual appreciation, intimacy and unity begins at that moment.
That’s the most excellent way!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Thankfulness in ministry.

Key Insight: Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

His life and ministry was nearing its climax. There were some things he had to share with his son in the faith, Timothy. It appears that this young man was having a tough time in the work at Ephesus. To encourage him Paul writes his first letter to Timothy. Over the years I thank God for those who have encouraged me in ministry.

The aged apostle expressed his gratitude to God for appointing him to the work of the ministry. (1Timothy 1:12) I wonder how Timothy took this. He knew the trials and tribulations which had pursued Paul since the Damascus road conversion. (2 Timothy 3:10-12). Paul in effect was saying, “Cheer up my son, it’s in the tough times you appreciate the grace of God. I know this from my experiences.”

To thrive rather than merely survive in the Lord’s service requires an inner strength. This power goes beyond what a gym can provide. Paul confessed that the strength for ministry flowed from Jesus. He works it in the believer and is known in everyday life and tribulations. The Greek word Paul used, endunameo, means ‘in-strengthened’. He used this word in Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.’ This was no glib saying or pious bumper sticker. Here was his personal testimony through the rough and tumble of life’s complexity and difficulties.

We live in a corrupt world. Here the holiness of God, the Cross of Christ and His salvation lifestyle are opposed, slandered and ignored. As His representatives we will face similar treatment to varying degrees. The hardest to handle are not those outside the Church who give us a rough time. The hardest will be the ‘Corinthian spirit’ within the Church (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).  Disciples and servants of Christ can be driven from the ministry and worship by such carnal pressures. Such ungodliness should drive the faithful to the heart of Jesus. There the strength to endure will be found.

 The time frame Paul alluded to is interesting. Jesus considered him faithful long before Paul had been appointed to the ministry. Any who are called to serve the Lord should find this a wonderful encouragement. In my case Jesus saw beyond my immaturity and frivolity and considered me faithful. In spite of obvious weaknesses the Lord took me under His supervision. He wrought out of me what He first worked in. Jesus is the faithful one. His trust in you is personal. Here's an unbeatable incentive to honour his confidence.

Faithfulness doesn’t mean failure-less. Faithfulness doesn’t mean having all the answers. Faithfulness is remaining true to the Lord and His Word. Faithfulness means learning from personal mistakes, finding wisdom, forgiving and being forgiven. Many a congregation must surely warrant some type of medal from the Lord for their grace and patience with novice preachers. Fortunate are those beginners in the pulpit who have some sensitive and godly person take them under their ‘wing.’ A good example of such a thing happening in the New Testament concerned Aquila and Priscilla. This couple got beside Apollos, invited him into their home, and explained the way of God more adequately. (Acts 18:26).
Paul was apostle, prophet and pastor beyond peer. In 1 Timothy 1:12 he used one of the lowliest term to describe the heights of Christian service. Paul was eternally grateful that Jesus had made him a deacon, a table waiter. Why choose this title? Probably because it was the one Jesus applied to Himself in Matthew 20:28, ‘…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…’ Jesus served Humanity as a Deacon. He most wonderfully demonstrated that at the Passover meal by washing the disciples’ feet. Paul would not presume to put himself above his Lord. Nor should we!

Reflection: In your present stage of ministry how burns the passion? Do you need to find a quiet place and regain your inner strength from your Lord?  He has counted you faithful!What are you doing to prove His verdict correct?

Request: Strengthen me within so that I might be faithful for you. May those who are looking to me in the various stresses and strains of ministry know you are my endunameo Amen!

Ray Hawkins Oct 19th. 2015.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Way We Walk

P1010168(1).jpgChristians are called to walk and to run. Apart from the obvious, what are the spiritual differences? To walk relates to our daily expression of Christian living and relationships. To run has the sense of ministry. It may be a short run or a marathon, even a relay. The difference is runners usually have coaches and back-up support, for them to run is something they must do alone. This will be looked at in another blog.

 Some are commissioned to run with a message. All, however, are called to walk as witnesses to the things of Christ. This is especially true in regard to what Jesus has done and is doing in their lives. One of the great things about walking is it can be done singularly, couples or in group. It can be for health and exercise. As you walk you can engage in conversation. There may or may not be a destination at the walks conclusion. Walking with others has its limitation. Youth must regulate its pace to walk beside the aged or infirm. Visually impaired need the visually clear to understand their limitations and match it with compassion.

Ephesians has a number references to our Christian walk and relationships. The Greek word paints the picture of a person walking around and around within a certain arena or atmosphere. Our original walk was one involving spiritual deadness, slaves to good and bad desires, and ignorant of or disobedient to Christ Jesus. We lived in the Devil’s playground, often unknowingly (Ephesians 2:2).

When we were saved by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8) God relocated us into a new atmosphere, where Jesus Christ rules. Part of our walk here is to do good deeds.  (Ephesians 2:10). While this is new territory for us, it has been part of God’s plan before creation. He wants us to learn our life’s new atmosphere by walking around and around in it. The Holy Spirit has been given to us as our ‘coach and companion.’ His manual is the one He put together with His prophets and apostles, we know it as ‘the Bible.’  In this new arena of faith, whose atmosphere is from Heaven, our Lord gives us supporters. Older believers are called upon to help the new Christians to ‘get their on the right track.’ Understanding that brings to mind the old saying, ‘practice what you preach.’ We may also add, ‘walk the way I’m walking and in the direction I’m taking.’

Ephesians 4:1-2 offers the undergirding principle old and young believers need as their mindset. Humility, Meekness, Longsuffering, and Forbearing one another in love. If you imagine these are easy to produce and portray read the story of Moses. He first appears as an adult in Exodus as a passionate and quick tempered man. These habits, mixed with self-righteousness and sense of mission led to him killing an Egyptian. It required years in the wilderness, marriage as retraining ground for God’s purposes to be activated in his life.  Numbers 12:3 bears testimony to him learning and applying the ‘atmosphere of Heaven’ for he is called the meekest of all. Just because that word rhymes with ‘weakness,’ don’t be fooled. Meekness requires more than physical or emotional strength. It needs the grace of Christ to sustain it over and over again.

Ephesians 5:2 Wants us to walk around and around in love, not sentimentality. True love is a sacrificial love. It is costly. For it’s a love based upon and flows out of Christ’s love for us. Such love can wear us down unless we set our affections on Christ Jesus. When this love is expressed – notice what rises up to the Lord, a sweet smelling fragrance. (2 Cor. 2:14-16)

Ephesians 5:15 tells us how we are to walk in a hostile world. Do it carefully. Be wise, not unwise. Being ‘fools for Christ’ in the eyes of the World and not ‘stupid hypocrites’ demands of us the Wisdom which comes from fearing and honouring God through obeying His word. There are many other references to how we should live our Christian calling with and in front of others. When we walk along the Lord’s walking trail it will prepare us if and when He puts us into the Christian life’s running events. Walking success, with God or in other relationships is summed up in Amos 3:3, ‘Can two walk together, except they be agreed?’ (KJV)

Ray Hawkins 12 Oct. 2015.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Success Begins When You Learn To Sit

Individual words undergird the Christian life. Walk. Run. Wrestle. Fight, Work. Stand. Such defining words come quickly to mind. These are true whether we are fit as astronauts or incapacitated. Whatever our physical status those descriptive words point to a spiritual mindset. From there flows various expressions of ministry, worship and spiritual warfare.
 However, before all these can truly come into effectiveness we must first of all realise we must ‘sit.’ To understand what this means we need to understand it in the life of Christ. A section from Hebrews 1:1-3 dealing with the person and work of Christ says, ‘When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.’
Sin had been dealt with and His resurrection assured our cleansing. The  work of Christ to secure salvation was complete. The cross of Christ is a one off. Hebrews 10:12 confirms the fact, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. He is now our High Priest and Advocate (Hebrews 7:25. 1 John 2:1).

So! Ephesians 2 is our story. Paul explains what has happened to us when we trusted Christ as our Saviour. We have been redeemed out of eternal death, depravity and the grasp of Satan. We are now eternally alive through mercy, grace and faith. Because of this, our Heavenly Father calls us to various forms of service. For this to happen, He must first of all make us realise where successful Christian living, worship and service begins. Not in activity. Not even in prayer. It commences with a mindset. ‘By grace you have been saved and raised …up with him (Christ) and seated … with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’
The Lord God has given us something tangible which expresses this unseen and spiritual truth? Romans 6:1-4. The wonder of the mystery of our salvation and our sitting with Christ is expressed in the drama of immersion in water. By faith we are made participants in Christ crucifixion. In the visible drama of baptism by immersion we express the unseen and spiritual reality.
Being seat with Christ in the heavenly places is difficult to grasp. We are so focused on our life’s ups and downs, family needs and sickness and financial matters we forget. Or, the world, Flesh and the Devil distract our mind, confuse our understanding and lead us on a deadend detour. Here is the cause of our messing-up our walk, run and other features of our Christian life.

To be heavenly minded is actually to be more earthly good, Col. 3:1-4.  It keeps the Lord in focus, plus the promise of His return. Here’s the motivation for our dealing with the ungodly things the world favours. It also helps us deal with other believers who have tripped us up. Col. 3:12-15. At the same time we are not excused from ‘letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ Col 3:16. Then we will be spiritually mature to be able to teach each other and admonish each other. The essence behind those two words is to encourage, rebuke and warn.
‘Seated with Christ’ is our position in the Father’s eyes. One day we will see it ourselves, literally. Satan wants to confuse us and make us Biblically illiterate so this truth escapes us. When, or if that happens, a Christian becomes ‘open season’ for doubt, defeat and despair. Hold onto ‘by grace you have been saved … it is the gift of God Ephesian 2:8.

You will now, from that sitting position, embark on your fruitful, satisfying and successful Christian WALK.
Ray Hawkins October 4th 2015.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Help! I need Patience.

20080826_04.JPGThe older I'm getting, the more intolerant and impatient I realise I'm becoming. I can make excuses such as lack of sleep, various aches and pains or other people get on my nerves, deliberately.

 How then can I handle Paul's love chapter in 1 Corinthian 13? It opens with 'Love is patient.' That's enough to irritate me. Other aspects are fine, well mostly. We may wonder why he begins with this aspect rather than another. To appreciate his reason we must read the preceding chapters. There we discover a congregation infected with inferior and superior   attitudes mixed with unbelief, ungraciousness or ignorance.

To be fair, these believers had been saved from out of a most immoral, religiously defiled society. The grace of God had transformed their destiny. Now it had to be allowed to penetrate their attitudes, worldview, personality and temperament. This would require an understanding of God's call upon their lives, honesty about themselves and mercy towards others. Such an outlook requires spiritual maturity, nurtured by God's word. The patient facet of Love must flow from knowing God's character. He is holiness and He is love. What we are unable to be and offer, our Lord longs to supply. 

So, when Paul begins with the fact that love is patient it is a reminder of how Yahweh dealt with them.  Now He calls them to express their gratitude to God in extending a similar grace and love to others. Such a love bears the foibles, inconsistencies and annoyances of others. So easy to write and read, so exhausting to do, continually. How can we keep it up? Only through a growing relationship with Christ Jesus and walking in step with His word. Included will be drawing upon His word's wisdom about healthy habits. It is sometimes knowing your limitations and maintaining a type of distant relationship.  Call it spiritual respite care.

Patience feeds upon the hope that God is involved in the relational area through over-ruling, transforming, providing. In the Old Testament especially we can read of people and situations in which God did all that and more. The life of David is a great example on the way to becoming king. His trust in the promise of God kept him from yielding to revenge or succumbing to depression. Time and waiting and enduring situations or people seem to be the arch enemies of  patience. David wasn't perfect, he was however, keen to trust and wait. Yahweh was able, for David, and is able for us, to turn such enemies into forming a faithful patience within.

Being in impatient situations, and failing, allows God to draws us to Himself in Love. When we admit our failure, apologise for it, we find a new beginning. In return, God wants us to do the same for those who fail us, annoy us, don't understand us or reject us. Humanly speaking we may wish them harm. Belonging, as we do to our Lord we are required to express love, His love towards them. Love, however, is a call to express the humanly impossible, by treating others in the way God has treated us. In this aspect that means being patient.

Well, I guess I cannot use old age as an excuse anymore before our Lord. Time for me to practise what I'm writing. But please, be patient with me also.

 Ray Hawkins. Sept 2015.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Healing: False guilt, Faith, and the Cross.

Guilt is able to be pardoned and atoned for. False guilt is another matter. It is that emotion of being told you have failed in some area over which you had no control. It is seen in some children of divorced parents. They have a sense of guilt that they caused the problem.  This is so untrue, yet when believed has tragic consequences, for they are haunted by such ‘ghosts’ most of their lives. Because there is nothing tangible to seek forgiveness about or make atonement over it cannot be remedied, Well, almost nothing. Knowing and taking to heart the truth that they are not to blame can evaporate the ‘ghosts’ over time.  

MP900422834[1].jpgThis also applies to sickness and healing. A false viewpoint by a person as to why he or she hasn’t been healed can strangle a Christian’s spirituality. They try and mask it in many ways with church attendance, prayer and good works. Still, their doctrine haunts and the Devil sprays his doubts about as to their spirituality.

Peter, in his first letter says, ‘Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from our sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed’ (1 Peter 2:24). This verse is used by certain groups to insist followers of Christ should not be sick or infirm. The reason for such conditions is placed strictly down to the individual’s lack of faith. What does such a doctrine produce? False guilt! What effects does it have? A loss of Joy, thinking of oneself as being second rate and trying all types of spiritual exercises to manufacture ‘faith.’

How then can this be remedied? Being a doctrinal matter it can only really be corrected by a proper understanding of the doctrine of healing. This has been the motivation and background to the previous studies. As the verse in Peter is used to promote all-inclusive healing (body, soul and spirit) we must examine it. What does he mean by healing? Can it be understood by the word ‘righteousness’ in verse 24 and in verse 25 ‘astray’ and ‘returned.’ ‘For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.’ The Bible insists that there is no one who is righteous, except Jesus the sinless one. It is by His achievements on the cross that Jesus dealt with our unrighteousness. Our going astray, wandering purposely or aimlessly in our own egos, made God irrelevant. That was until the Holy Spirit grabbed our attention and pointed us to the cross. Here began our return to the Sovereign Lord.

Both those verses by Peter are traced back to Isaiah chapter 53. If you have read the previous studies you will realise this is God’s specific answer to Isaiah chapter 1. There, the whole body, that is the Nation of Israel, is sick, diseased, terminal! God’s remedy? The suffering Servant which pointed to Jesus. The health there mentioned is to national redemption, forgiveness, wholeness,  refreshed covenant relationship and mission. It had no specific reference to individual ailments or infirmities.

Peter’s quoting of Isaiah 53 is particularly relevant when you realise the people to whom he was writing. They were Jewish believers in five countries of the nation’s Dispersion. It would appear Peter was explaining to these persecuted believers that they were in fact the first fruits of Isaiah’s prophecy to the Nation. Therefore rejoice despite being maligned, oppressed and rejected!

How then do we consider the indisputable fact of God’s acts of healing? Grace! He is the Sovereign Lord and His ways and purposes are higher, nobler and wiser than what we can conceive. There isn’t any reason why a sick person shouldn’t pray or be prayed for. The attitude that must underpin all prayer is the Gethsemane attitude,  'not my will but yours be done.’ This isn’t a cop-out. It is an act of faith in our Heavenly Father’s goodness, flavoured by a desire that regardless of personal healing or continued illness, infirmity or disability He will be honoured.

Open Bible Web small.jpgOnly then will false guilt, brought on by a misunderstood or misapplied passage be ‘evaporated’ by the Truth of God’s word. Oh the joy of a conscience at peace and worship without doubt.

©Ray Hawkins Sept 2015.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Sick Servants in New Testament

In Christendom, healing in some circles is considered part of salvation achieved by Christ at the cross. To suffer illness or infirmity is often considered a blight on your faith or a question about your spirituality. In the three synoptic Gospels Jesus commissions His disciples to ‘go, teach all nations.’ Mark’s account is the only one which contains a commission to cast out devils, speak in new tongues, and when ‘playing’ with snakes not be affected when bitten or by poison and to heal.

Over the years various faith healers (so designated) have emphasised the power of God to heal all types of sicknesses and infirmities. They make it part of the work of Christ on the cross. Is this what the Bible reveals? Reading through the history of the disciples in Acts we find only twelve specific, clear cut healing episodes. There is the healing of the lame man (ch.3) demon possessed, paralysed and lame (ch.8)   Paul’s eyes opened (ch.9) bed ridden with palsy for eight years and raising of Dorcas (ch.9) man born a cripple (ch.14) girl with spirit of divination (ch.16) restoring Eutychus to life (ch.20) and Paul’s encounter with a viper (ch.28).

Throughout Acts the emphasis is on preaching Christ from the Judeo scriptures. The clarion call was ‘It is written.’ Even the healing miracles were opportunities to preach Christ and Calvary’s fulfilment of God’s promises. To turn the pages and look at the letters the apostles and others wrote presents us with some fascinating information. Only 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 talks about the ministry of those with the gift of healing. Greater details are not given and how wide spread such a ministry had isn’t mentioned. The other letter emphasising a healing ministry is from James. How different his words are. It is the privilege and responsibility of church Elders to pray for and anoint the sick. Included in this procedure is congregational prayer and mutual confession. Where were those with the gift of healing?

To play the blame game on the sick, weak and afflicted for not having enough faith is counterproductive. Why? Because you have to put the Apostle Paul into that group.  2 Corinthians 12:7-9 speaks of his thorn in the flesh the Lord wouldn’t remove. In Galatians 4:13-15 he writes about his infirmity, many consider eye problems. (Was this due to the appearance of the Lord on the Road to Damascus? Was it the result of his many thrashings by violent mobs? Did doctor Luke’s accompanying of Paul allow him to be the personal physician to the apostle?)

Within certain letters you come across faithful men who had experienced debilitating sickness, weakness and infirmities. Epaphroditus was without strength and near to death (Philippians 2:26-27). Trophimus was left behind because of his infirmities (2 Timothy 4:20). The advice Timothy received to help him with recurring health problems of the stomach was wine, not water, for medicinal purposes (1 Timothy 15:23). The pages of the New Testament hold more about the sufferings of the believers than the miracles performed on or by them. Consider the pressures under which they lived and served, the frequent persecutions and punishments meted out to them, is it any wonder they knew infirmities, weakness and illness.

The statement of 1 Peter 2:24 concerning the healing offered by the bruises (stripes) of Jesus will be considered next week. It will finish this particular series of studies. Until then I would like to close with the words of the apostle John in his third letter. ‘Beloved, concerning all things I pray you may prosper and be in good health …’

The word for health is where we get our word for hygiene. There are injunctions in the Scripture to holiness in lifestyle and being renewed in your mind. The word John used is mentioned in Luke 15:27, the story of the Prodigal son. After his return and at the party given by the father, the son is described as being ‘safe and sound.’ Undoubtedly, from his previous immorality and rebellion he would have had physical and mental issues. Despite such limitations his father looked upon him and encouraged him into good hygiene. We are all returned prodigals of some description. How good it is to know our Heavenly Father’s intention is for us to enjoy His hygiene permeating our life. His health manual is the Scriptures but we have to open its pages.

©Ray Hawkins September 2015.