Sunday, February 22, 2015

God collects stones and pebbles.

One of my grandsons collects rocks. The other night his father took him to a lapidary meeting. Clint loved it. He purchased a piece of fossilized wood and had it cut in half and polished. It revealed a wonderful pattern and texture. Then he had a small stone which he was able to polish, at least some of it. That persistent polishing removed the dirt, ugliness, dross and ruggedness to reveal a beautiful colour and a most attractive structure.

Later, it occurred to me, in God’s sight we are stones and pebbles, not outwardly attractive or appealing. However, beneath the outward appearance, our all seeing God beholds our uniqueness, our beauty and our latent power to honour Him. Our Lord went to a lot of time and effort to ‘collect us’ from the quarries of this world Galatians 1:4. 1 John 5:19). It cost Him a pierced side, nailed hands, feet and dagger like thorns biting into His brow. The owners of the ‘quarry’ must have thought Jesus mad to pay such a price for such common, rather grubby and rugged stones. Especially when those stones ultimately cost Jesus His life to secure them. How the world and the Devil with his demons must have laughed.

Their smile was wiped from their faces when Christ Jesus rose from the furnace of sin’s judgement and the icy cold grip of death. Then, He began collecting His stones, pebbles and rocks, that is, you and me! The ‘quarry owners’ tried to stop Jesus, through His servants, preaching the Gospel of grace to the ‘quarries and salvaging their rubble.’ When you and I were collected by Christ through such servants I wonder how many who enjoyed the ‘quarry’ questioned the Lord’s wisdom.

I’ve had the privilege over fifty years of ministry seeing the delightful things God does with those He reclaims. He is the God who loves lapidary. As Ephesians 2:10 says, we are His workmanship. This means He takes you and me as encrusted stones and through the moral and spiritual equivalents, cuts, polishes and engraves our lives. The purpose is to release the treasure He saw within so that it will glorify Him and bless us eternally. The word best used to describe such a process is discipline. ‘Discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.’ (Hebrews 12:11

We often use the term ‘he’s a rough diamond God is polishing’ as though we are all such a gem. We are not all diamonds. We are all gems of some type or other, each with our own unique pattern, texture, beauty. I visited a mining museum at Zeehan in Tasmania and stood astounded at their rock collection. There, before my eyes, were ordinary stones with the most amazing patterns and colours. Lights were strategically placed so as to draw out what would otherwise never be seen.

Christ Jesus, expresses His role of lapidary in our lives, so that others might see His treasure unlocked. He is the Light of our life and as He cuts and polishes (sanctifies and ministers to us by His word and Spirit) we become His stone of glory. Paul writing to Titus used the term ‘ornament to the doctrine of God our Saviour.’ We become, or should become, men and women who attract people to what the Lord has done in and revealed though us. This isn’t for us to boast but to testify to the redeeming, liberating wonder of Christ’s power in redeeming us. It is imperative for us to ensure that His light within isn’t dimmed by self – obsession, disobedience or switched off by Satan’s cunning.

What about the engraving feature of lapidary? In the Old Testament the High Priest wore a breastplate with 12 precious stones. On each one was a name of one of the twelve tribes. He always bore them on his heart when he approached God. When our Lord claimed us for His own treasure He also became our High Priest. By implication we are also borne into the presence of the Father on the heart of our Lord.

May we be encouraged through the Scriptures to handle the rough and tumble of life with a positive outlook! For God isn’t mindless in His treatment of us. He is endeavouring to reveal His glory in you and me. He is using you and me to attract people to the power of the cross. He is drawing out of us the hidden beauty when the Light of Jesus Christ glows though us. Therefore, from a grateful heart let us, as God’s collection of ‘stones and pebbles’, praise Him for His spiritual and moral lapidary in polishing our lives!

 Copyright. Ray Hawkins February 23rd 2015.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What compells us to meet together?

Attending church services in general, and worship in particular is not for the fainthearted. For in those meetings are the spiritually desperate, the morally wounded, the mentally burdened and the haunted. Such a gathering of ‘misfits’ and strangers can only be held together by one force. The compelling attraction of Jesus Christ! Such a motley crew can only be nourished by well-presented and appetising servings of Scripture.

Within such meetings it is easy to hurt and be hurt. Why then would anyone bother in turning up the next week? Because of the compelling attraction of Jesus! As people are offered opportunities to reflect upon, pray to and sing about Jesus and His glory something happens. His mercy flows. His forgiving grace reaches out. His humbling is felt. It is from such meeting together a tangible evidence of His love is realised. How? By the manner and readiness of the person hurt to forgive and the person who caused the hurt to be heartbroken over the action.

‘Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’ (Hebrews 10:24-25) Such a get-together is more than ritual, more than fellowship, more than giving a ‘nod to God.’ It is an opportunity to be refreshed in and by the attractiveness of Christ Jesus. This motivates you, me, to reach out and encourage those battered and bruised by life’s unfairness. It becomes a discovery of Proverbs 27:17: ‘Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the face of another.’ (NRSV margin)

Remember iron upon iron causes friction. It is that ‘combustion’ which is the medium for sharpening or smoothing. A similar spiritual impact takes place when God’s people meet together. Do you think the following is valid in your life?
When I am within the church scene my meeting with others and their interaction with me is a sharpening experience:

*sharpened is my appreciation of personal inadequacies.

*sharpened is my poverty of expressing grace.

*sharpened is my awareness of mercy.

*sharpened is my understanding of another’s worth.

*sharpened is my commitment to prayer.

*sharpened is my calling to sacrifice.

*sharpened is my spirit to hear and obey.

*sharpened is my devotion to Christ Jesus.

*sharpened is my vision concerning ministry.

*sharpened is my hunger to know God’s word.

A Church from Eyre's Peninsula, South Australia
How can I handle such sharpening? How can others cope with the friction I cause and endure their sharpening? Only by the ‘oil of grace’ Christ Jesus supplies. Only by that ‘oil’ being supplied and applied will any of us be fit to serve, fit to live with, fit to worship. So we come back to the reality of why we meet together. It is the compelling attraction of Jesus. Then, and only then will we see purpose in how He uses others to sharpen, or smooth us. The ultimate reason of course is this, He makes us fit to enjoy the Kingdom of God with those who have sharpened us and whom we have been used to sharpen them.

©Ray Hawkins 16:2:2015.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Let's Blame God!

God gets bad press whenever something upsets us. Whether it is personal sorrow, inflicted by self or others, God is accused as the perpetrator. The catastrophes of war and disease are said to be preventable, if God did something about them.
During the week of February 1st 2015 Stephen Fry, well known actor and T.V. personality, added his unflattering assessment about God. Given an opportunity to charge the Creator, who Stephen doesn’t believe exists anyway, he would call Him a monster. There is something within the human psyche which doesn’t want to accept personal responsibility for the world’s turmoil. People want God to stop what they don’t like but ignore what they do like doing, despite the fact God is offended by their actions and attitude. Imagine the howls of protest if the Lord God of Holiness enforced His standard of morality as set out in the Bible.

By blaming God for personal issues and the mess the World is in gives people a sense of moral superiority. It makes them judges of what should be and innocent victims when reaping what they have sown. What is also revealed is an ignorance of why the nations, societies and individuals are in such a sorry and warlike state. To reject the very existence of God doesn’t solve the problem. It actually compounds the despair and injustices with hopelessness for wrong can never be righted by a higher entity. To have a sense of God but no framework by which to understand Him (or Her or It) will give rise to all types of weird and not so wonderful images.

The God who seems to be silent and invisible has not left Humankind in the dark about His Being. He has spoken! He has left His imprimatur upon Creation (see below for some references). He has raised up certain scribes through whom He has made His defence for why things are as they are in the World. At the same time this God of holiness and truth has expressed what He requires from each of us and that there is a future accounting. More than that, what has been recorded promises a whole New World Order in which righteousness, truth, grace and love rule. Unfortunately, this means that those who curse God and reject righteousness and truth are denied entrance.

Where can we find the mind of the vocal God and signposts pointing to places where His presence is felt and ‘fingerprints’ are evident? In the 66 books called the Judeo-Christian Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Some may still want to accuse the Author of these books as being out of touch with our human condition. “You don’t understand what I’m facing, feeling or fleeing!” Such thinking is a universe away from reality. Here is the wonder of the invisible God, untouchable by sinful people. He has come into our world and in our form and within world history. The Bible revealed Him as Jesus (Greek translation of the Hebrew Joshua) who lived in Israel under Rome’s occupation. He understands the Human situation more than we can ever realise. Because of that He has set in motion Heavenly forces to usher in new beginnings and a new relationship with God and a hope which stand with you in the darkest of times.

How can anyone be sure of this promise?
Consider who Jesus is, what He has taught but more than that, what He achieved. For when He was crucified this Jesus became the vilest of the vile and the lowest of the low. How? He was cursed by National leaders, forsaken by friends but that wasn’t the issue. Jesus willingly identified with you, me, all creation in our blaming God the Father for our sin, indifference, plight, although Jesus in and of Himself was sinless. In essence Jesus said to the Father “put all their offences on me. Let me bear your Judgement upon them. Use this unjust verdict of the cross to offer forgiveness, hope and a new lifestyle for men and women”.

What a wonderful ideal. How do we know it happened and does the offer still stands? Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Because the good news of His triumph is still being offered and people are being transformed from hopelessness to
godliness and purpose. This doesn’t mean believers in Jesus will be immune from life’s sorrows and uncertainties. What it means is they have an understanding of why the world is a mess and what the Lord has done to change it.

Let Jesus lift you out of the ‘blame game’ and into the ‘acclaim game’ of gratitude to God. For whether the World likes it or not, God will have the last word. Because of faith in Jesus His word will be “welcome”. Reject Jesus as Lord and Saviour and insist on blaming God for ‘whatever’ is to hear the dreadful last word “depart”.

Some Bible readings.
Psalm 19.

Isaiah 53.

Romans 1.

Hebrews 1.

Hebrews 4

©Ray Hawkins February 15 2015

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Cultivating Romance

Last week I wrote about ‘Destroying Romance'. It was thoughts formed from Song of Solomon 2:15. There the emphasis was on the dangers of ‘little foxes’. Today, I follow on with another consideration on Romance from the same verse. The man, after giving the warning, goes on to refer to their lives as ‘vineyard in blossom’.

Now I’m not a reader of Romance (except what my wife has written). Therefore, all you Romance writers/readers may need to be gracious and forgiving as I express the following thoughts on ‘cultivating Romance’. Think about it. Strangers meet. There is an acceptance which develops into friendship. Something called ‘the chemistry of the heart’ begins its creative influence. It causes more appreciative looks at the other person and takes a boy and a girl into the field of romance. This is a delightful time, yet there are ‘rocks of uncertainty’ scattered in this field to be removed. As these are dealt with, the Romantics transform that field into a Lover’s vineyard.

It is wonderful to romp in the field of romance. Many unfortunately fail to turn it into a lover’s vineyard. Romance loses its appeal if it isn’t sown with fruit producing vines. No ‘grapes’ means no distilling of love’s intoxicating wine.

Romance should lead to cultivating its field and planting the vines to nourish lasting love. Time, meaning patience, is the essence. Mutual attention to detail and protection is the special domain called marriage. By calling this husband and wife union a ‘vineyard’ implies it’s a long term investment. As they cultivate their relationship, a special and unique boutique wine is brewed.

When a man and a woman consider the other in the marriage relationship as his/her vineyard a mindset develops. Each will guard the welfare, integrity and uniqueness of the other. They will guard their special ground as being greater than worldly pleasure or accumulating treasure. As each realises that truth personally the fruit of their relationship nourishes them. This is vital as together they face life’s fickle weather and the attempted inroads of predators. Such is the emotion behind the warning about little foxes.

Beware of little foxes’.

 Dearly beloved, dearly beloved, let us be on guard.

Little foxes, little foxes seek out our lovers ‘vineyard’.

Dearly beloved, dearly beloved watch o’er our romance.

Little foxes, little foxes want to spoil our lover’s dance.

Chase those little foxes from our lives.

Know them, seize them, cage their hides.

Beware that little fox called ‘taken for granted,’

Slay it with the spear of ‘love undaunted’.

Catch that little fox named ‘being spiteful’.

Overcome it with the dart of grace bountiful.

Other little foxes seek to enter in.

Debar with the sword that still slays sin.

Dearly beloved, dearly beloved let our romance thrive.

Little foxes, little foxes cannot, will not survive

Dearly beloved, dearly beloved our love’s devotion.

Little foxes, little foxes fear such intoxication.

Poems celebrating 50 years of marriage.
Available from Author or Wombat books, Qld.
Dedication and devotion see beyond the labour placed upon the man and the woman in developing and maintaining their love. Each enjoys the other in the ever changing periods of life. In so doing they taste the fruit and the wine which comes in due season. Romance leads to love but it isn’t meant to cease. Love’s ‘vineyard’ is meant to be where Romance fully blooms, is maintained, enjoyed and finds its fulfilment in senior years. Vintage wine is the result of good fruit being well distilled and carefully stored. That’s God’s intention for a man and a woman who enter the field of Romance and cultivate it according to His manual.

 ©Ray Hawkins 26.1.2015.