Sunday, June 26, 2016

How I robbed God

I felt aggrieved. I was accused of robbing God. How ridiculous. I’m a member of His group, didn’t I accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour? Surely His grace covers me. How is it possible anyway for me or anyone else to rob God? What could I possibly steal from Him for He is ever vigilant? I plead innocent of the charges. Then I heard the list of ‘items’ it was claimed I had pilfered from the Almighty God whom I claimed as my Heavenly Father!

Stolen: The Father’s right to worship.

It was proven that I had placed other things as worthy of attention and priority in place of worshipping the Father. Bed was more comfortable, sport more enjoyable, picnics less threatening. Sure, I had excuses. Some of the church folk got on my nerves, the weather was unkind, and the preacher – oh dear!

Did I miss joining with like-minded people around the Communion table? Perhaps, sometimes! Did I understand that Jesus wanted me to do this out of love for Him? Well yes, but He knows I’m grateful for His saving of me, surely that counts!

Stolen: The Father’s honour.

It was stated I had devalued the Father’s name before the angels and those within my circle of influence. How could that be, I’m a decent person. Was it due to the fact that His word and commands were not read or followed? Sure I prayed, sometimes, usually when I needed something. There were times when people raised their eyes about my language or attitude, so what, I’m only human!

Stolen: The Father’s resources.

It was revealed the Father had invested in me certain gifts and privileges. Apparently they were covered in the dust of neglect. The Holy Spirit was saddened by this as it ‘choked’ His influence in and through me. I was asked when was the last time I had exercised my privilege as a Steward of God’s grace. That stumped me. My lips had been silent about my family and friends needing Jesus. My wallet had been closed so the ministry of the local church and the wider missions of the Church struggled. Also, it was mentioned, my mind was in lockdown in helping resolve some urgent hassles between disagreeing parties.

Stolen: The Father’s desire to bless.

It was shown the Father was ‘handcuffed’ by my neglect and theft so He couldn’t bless me as He desired. I was living my life my way and The Father had no opportunity to enrich my life with His joy, with his rewards for faithfulness and the pleasure of working with me in service. From my earlier days I remembered the verse about laying up in Heaven treasure and realised my ‘vault’ was bare.

There I stood embarrassed and condemned. I had nothing to say, it was all too true.

If I had entered the Lord’s presence at that moment I would have been accepted I know – that’s how great His grace is! But I would have nothing to present to Him as an expression of gratitude for saving me or of working with Him in service.

At that point I awoke. Sweat was heavy on my forehead. It was a new day. For me it would be the day of the big ‘R’. Repentance, renewal and restoration into righteousness plus reverencing my Redeemer and thereby honouring the (my) Heavenly Father.

©Ray Hawkins 23.6.2016.

Reference. Malachi 3:8-9.  Matthew 6:20. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15.  1 Corinthians 11:23-26.  Ephesians 4:30.1 Corinthians 4:1-5.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Times up.

Now we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Corinthians 5:1.
New Testament Greek language contains interesting ‘pictures’ which give great insights into their meaning and application. In this devotional will be found just such ‘pictures.’  To gaze upon them give us some wonderful glimpses into the hope we have because of Christ.

The apostle Paul is in a Roman prison under sentence of death. His ‘crime’ was that he called Jesus, ‘Lord.’ This was a direct threat to Caesar’s claim to be lord and worthy of worship. Christians would only call Jesus ‘Lord.’ This was considered subversive. As such it was considered a threat to Caesar and the Roman Empire.

In writing to Timothy Paul saw his execution as an act of devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. In 2 Timothy 4:6 he likens what he will undergo as a ‘drink offering.’ In the Jewish sacrificial system this was the finale to the sacrifice of a lamb at the time of First Fruits and the Feast of Weeks. It was for the Lord’s honour alone. As the apostle contemplated leaving this life he used a word applied to a ship being loosed from its moorings. It’s also used for soldiers breaking up an encampment. Within the framework of Paul’s ministry both have meaning. However the ‘picture’ which best suits the situation would be the military one. This is in the light of his confidence that he had completed the good fight. Christians must always bear in mind that we live in a conflict zone. The World is under the dominion of the Devil and his wickedness. Those involved in the Christian ministry are in a front line role. This requires us to be constantly on guard against the enemy’s strategies aimed at destroying us.

The Scriptures reveal various conflicts we will face in the service of the Lord. Sure none of us will face them all or to the same degree. Unfortunately we will have times of ‘hand to hand’ conflict with at least some. Our Commander in Chief has made sure these things are recorded so we will not be taken by surprise or imagine things out of the ordinary have befallen us. The Lord Jesus has listed them to serve as a warning as well as to encourage us that He is with us in the ‘fight of Faith.’
Switching metaphors Paul goes on to liken the ministry to a marathon. He is about to ‘breast the tape’ and appear before the Judge. Being told in advance about certain aspects of the course he had to run, Paul was under no illusions to what was ahead. (Acts 9:15, 16.  26:12–19) Not many of us ‘run’ under such clear guidelines. We are more like ‘running’ under the principles of Proverbs 3:5–6 ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.’

After all of Paul’s experiences, mistakes, opposition and disappointments, he could lift his hand in a winners salute. His cry is ‘I’ve kept the faith!’ He wasn’t boasting of his own prowess. He was acknowledging the grace and goodness of God that had brought him this victory. What he looked forward to was the garland bestowed by the Judge of the world for running the race. This garland of victory is ‘Righteousness.’ Never will it fade, rust or disappear. This is what awaits us as we breast the tape and leave this arena. We will see our Lord face to face. All the conflict, all the sacrifice, all the tears, all the frustrations will evaporate when we kneel before the Lord. What a privilege we will then comprehend about being His servants.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Fast Food Sermons.

'What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.' 2 Timothy 1:13.

A preacher was so busy doing ‘things’ he skimped on his sermon preparations. Finally he resorted to reading from books or periodicals. Another preacher was content to use sermons previously preached elsewhere by a relative. Both men saw their ministry decline and two congregations with great potential faded from too much, way too much, ‘fast food’ from the pulpit.

Ministry is demanding upon a preacher’s time, energy, emotion and family. Beware the trap of consigning Sunday sermons and studies to T.V. style take-away meals status. This is ultimately self– defeating and destructive. Churches with ‘spectator saints’ who are being fed on a spiritual diet of sweets and savouries have a fitness problem. When tough times come, and they do, such Christians run out of stamina, have faith problems and develop critical attitudes.

In 2 Timothy 1:13 ‘sound teaching’ refers to healthy doctrine. Timothy was directed to work hard on ensuring what he preached and taught was health giving. So should we. In the Pastoral Epistles the Greek word for ‘sound’ teaching is ‘hugies’ or ‘hugiaino’ and is used seven times. The meaning embraces health and wholeness. This also suggests that there were many preachers giving unsound, unhealthy teaching. Is this why so many disciples and congregations are spiritually anaemic?  Can this explain how some are morally weak, factious, short-sighted and biblically illiterate.

According to 1Timothy 1:10, sound doctrine is the measure that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God. Sound doctrine exposes the inner qualities of any person whose belief system is laced with the poison of error and exploitation (1Timothy 6:3). There is value in imparting of good, nutritious doctrine with its vitamins and wholesome foods. Well nourished disciples of Christ are spared unnecessary ill effects caused by spiritual quacks. There’s sadness in reading some sections of the New Testament letters. Carnal chefs had penetrated the local congregation with menus appealing to the soul but anathema to the spirit. A constant diet of contaminated food cause congregational disorders. Effects like division, spiritual sleeping sickness and tolerance of ungodliness resulting in moral and spiritual coma. The letters to five of the seven churches in Revelation highlight this truth.

Ministers are called to be the Holy Spirit’s ‘kitchen.’ In us He must first prepare the necessary wholesome food. It is personalised for the particular congregation.  Sometimes He has a tough time with us in the preparation phase. The ingredients we must search for and properly mix. This is our labour over the text and its application. How easy it would be to go to a book of quotes and sermons to simply ‘reheat, serve and eat.’  Not good enough. The labour we expend as the ‘kitchen’ is to pass Heaven’s taste test. When the meal is thereby ready He transforms us into His waiters.

Preachers will often be unaware of their parishioners’ need for special spiritual nourishment. This is especially true in a large and growing congregation. How then can he expect to cater for the unknown? Being an under chef means this isn’t his problem. The master chef has the responsibility to know and meet the people’s need. It never ceases to amaze how the Holy Spirit takes various aspects of a service and feeds the heart and mind of those assembled. The Spirit of God will have the liberty to nourish His people from His word when His under – chef labours faithfully in the preparation. Any cook will know the satisfaction from being told the meal was great. The preacher likes to hear similar words whilst knowing the One who prepared it was the master Chef.

‘He has taken me to his banqueting table and his banner over me is love’ (S. of S. 2:4) underscores sound teaching. Worshippers need to feel they have been at a spiritual banquet following the service. There has been the awareness of the Lord’s presence and the covering of His banner. As they leave to serve and witness they do so from a fully nourished spirit. For the waiters it is a priceless privilege to distribute Heaven’s approved menu. Earth’s pilgrims of Faith will also have been strengthened for their coming tasks and challenges.

Request: Lord am I the boss in my ‘kitchen?’ Demote me. Be the Chef within and prepare in and through me wholesome food from your larder. Then it will be fit for the sons and daughters of the most High God. Amen

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Prayer's wardrobe

'I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness…' Isaiah 61:10.


Grandchildren in concert
God has certain ‘dress standards’ for His people. His requirement for priests was holiness when they came into His presence. The book of Leviticus stresses this fact over and over again. God delights also in the prayers of His people. Isaiah 56:7: ‘these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer...for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.’ That applies to a future temple but at the same time there is a glorious principle to apply to ourselves. We are the “household of God” (Hebrews 3:6) as well as being His temple. (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20) Such being the case implies God wants us all to be a ‘house of prayer’.  That means we must worship and serve Him in the beauty of Holiness. To approach Him otherwise is to be denied a hearing. Why? Isaiah 57:15: ‘this is what the high and lofty One says ―he who lives for ever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and lofty place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit’…’

We must consider holiness as the atmosphere of ‘the house of prayer.’ Within the house will be hanging various garments in which to be dressed when talking with the Lord.  Philippians 4:6 reveals some different clothes hanging up and waiting for us to ‘put on.’ ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’ Paul repeats a similar point to Timothy in 1Timothy 2:1–2.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16 the readers were urged to pray continually. This is impossible if it implies without a break. God however does the impossible even with His ‘house of clay.’ His purpose is to have the Holy Spirit exercise His delight in praying in His house (Romans 8:26–27). Only then can we be in an unceasing prayer mode. As we walk, talk, sit and sing, the Holy Spirit prays freely in His prayer chapel. When we stumble the Holy Spirit’s prayers are stifled by a grieving process. Our garment is soiled, spoiled and defiled by unholiness (Ephesians 4:21–30). Fortunately there is provision for our cleansing and restoring His prayer ministry. He wants to take us to the cleaner. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ (1 John 1:9)

Being a moveable spiritual house for God means He can place us anywhere. Circumstances which we may or may not like or choose can be turned into prayer matters. He does this so as to achieve His purposes. There often is needed an effort of the will not to allow a negative attitude to prevail over us in unpleasant situations. A consciousness of the situation helps to choose the right ‘gear’ to make our request to the Lord. Should we be called upon to confront seditious, cunning and depraved leaders we will need Christ’s Battle gear. Remember Ephesians 6:10–18. We are Christ’s commandos defending Truth and Righteousness.

Being a pastor means there are times to be ‘dressed’ in the robes of a shepherd. This ‘robe’ is made for the heart as well as the mind. We are not only to feed the ‘flock’ but protect it from the wolves and robbers by using the Lord’s rod and staff. Sheep can be mauled or do self harm. It is then our oil of specific prayer and godly wisdom is to be applied where they are and as it is needed.

There are many more ‘clothing choices’ we could consider. Pursue that at your leisure. However there is one type of garment for an effective prayer life within ‘the house.’ This is strictly for a husband and also a father. This is perhaps the most demanding apparel because it is the one most often worn. The tragedy of Christian homes falling apart is due in no small part because the husband/father is not properly ‘dressed or groomed.’ Unfortunate but true it applies to those in ministry households.

Men should seek the ‘spiritual ‘tailor’ to fashion a designer suit to wear at home with the family. He has set out specifications in 1 Peter 3:7. Ephesians 5:25–33. 6:4. 1Timothy 3:1-10. The garment best designed for this setting would be the relaxed casual suit tailored for all household activities. This ‘suit’ will need regular cleaning. However by the grace of God the knees never wear out, the shoulders refuse to sag, it will not be too small or large or go out of date. God’s prayer suit for a husband/father is the most precious garment in the ‘wardrobe.’  What is the more remarkable about such a ‘suit’ is it can be duplicated in the lives of the children, especially the boys. There can be no greater joy for a godly father than to witness his children seeking the heart of God. What a thrill to see their desire to be dressed in a similar style to dad.

Request:  Lord, Are there items in my ‘wardrobe’ needing removal, mending, dusting down or added too once again? Be Thou my Tailor for whatever task you have in mind for me. Amen.