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.