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.