Sunday, July 16, 2017

Zodiac Reclaimed

‘The Heaven’s declare the glory of God … day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.’ These verses from psalm 19 are beautiful but. Are they meaningless? The psalm goes on the say ‘there is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.’ I have to admit I haven’t heard their voice. Am I deaf? Blind?

Did I missed something? Yes! In Genesis 1:14 the record says God put the lights in the sky to be signs and for seasons. This means much more than simply Summer through to Spring. There is a story woven somewhere, somehow in the sky. When creation took place, in far fewer years than the billions being mooted, Humanity could see that story. Since the flood of Noah’s time, two things have happened to that story I the stars. One, the Heavens keep expanding. A scientific reality and Biblical testimony (Job 37:18. Isaiah 40:22. 42:5. 44:24. 45:12. 51:13).

It is remarkable the amount of references to the stars in the book of Job. How did he know that his Redeemer lives? That He would stand upon the earth and Job would see Him, even after Job’s death. (Job 19:25-27). Surely, psalm 50:6 sums it up, ‘The Heaven’s proclaim his (God’s) righteousness.’ What a shame the human heart has sullied it. That helps us understand why the Lord God raised up a nation with prophets to record His program and purposes. Even then the contest between God’s revelation and the perverter of Scripture (and the story in the stars) was unrelenting. Still ongoing.

The second is the corruption of the story. It has been turned into the ‘Horoscope’ which I would write as the ‘Horror-scope!’ The account of Babylon’s foundation and history (Genesis 10:6-20. 11:1-9) bear witness to the corruption of God’s story in the sky. Why would anyone or thing want to do that? Because God spelt out His redemptive plan before it was committed to tablet then parchment and books. The spiritual power behind Babylon didn’t like it because it revealed his doom. He wanted to usurp the Messiah and remove God from His throne. Read Isaiah 14:12-15. 47:8)

In Job 38:32 this ‘story in the stars’ is called ‘the Mazzaroth.’ The Study Bible by Bullinger has a whole section on this matter. There is far too much to include in a blog. I’d like to highlight the following: He has recorded the Redeemer’s role. I’ve put alongside it some verses I considered relevant. This story is connected with Israel and the promised Messiah.(The Church, the Body of Christ on earth was the Lord’s surprise and masterstroke, Ephesians 3.Romans 16:25-26)

The 1st book in the story of the stars. The Redeemer’s first coming.

Virgo.             The prophecy of the promised seed                     (Genesis 3:15. Isaiah 7:14.)

Libra.             The Redeemer’s work                                            (Matthew 20:28 John 3:14-21.)

Scorpio.          The Redeemer’s conflict.                                      (Psalm 91:13. Psalm 22.)

Sagittarius.   The prophecy fulfilled.                                           (John 12:31-32. Matthew 27.)

The 2nd book in the story of the stars. The Redeemer’s work and results.

Capricornus. The prophecy of deliverance.                                                 (Isaiah 53).

Aquarius.      Results of His work given.                                                       (Hebrews 1.)

Pisces.            The results of His work enjoyed.                                            (Hebrews 2.)

Aries.              The promised deliverance fulfilled.                                       (1 Peter 1.)

The 3rd book in the story of the stars. The Redeemer’s second coming.

Taurus.          The prophecy of coming Judgement.                  (John 5:22-30.Revelation 20)

Gemini.         The Redeemer’s reign in glory.                              (Psalm 24. Revelation 21-22)

Cancer.           The Redeemer’s possessions are safe.                 (2 Peter 1.)

Leo.                The prophecy of triumph fulfilled.            (The Lion of Judah. Revelation 5:5.)

Our faith isn’t in the stars. It is founded upon the Sacred writings Jesus believed in and held as inspired. We stand on the ground Jesus ‘paved’ for His apostles with ‘The Comforter … He shall teach you all things, and bring to remembrance, whatever I have told you.” (John 14:26. 16:7-15).

©Ray Hawkins July 16 2017.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Relic or Revelation?

When Jesus said the Bible’s purpose was about Himself how did the listener's take it? Did they think He was being rather 'bigheaded,' facetious or impertinent? We'll never know! Perhaps the context of John 5:31-47  makes it plain that Jesus was issuing a challenge about the veneration of Scripture and their hostility toward Him. Such a reverence of their scrolls unfortunately didn't translate into believing what was written. It is easy to treat the Bible as a nice religious relic rather than a vibrant revelation. The Lord confronted His opponent on this point when He said, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me." Jesus is no relic. Jesus is vibrant through His Spirit and Word to all who are alive to Him!

The word ‘testify’ in 5:39 presents us with a picture of the Law Court's witness stand. Here the 39 books of the Jewish faith are under oath and must declare its corporate as well as each books purpose. The readers (spectators in the courtroom) perhaps could sense the rise in tension by the implied offer. "Do you want to ask me, 'where are you mentioned' in those holy scrolls?'" Why the silence? Was it because they really didn't want to know. So many people are similar to that even now. Happy to ask questions but not interested in hearing the answer lest it unmasks their ignorance or unbelief.

After the resurrection two disciples received the greatest exposition of the Scriptures ever shared. On the Emmaus road Jesus talked with two disillusioned disciples. What was the theme? Luke 24:27: ‘Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the Scriptures.’ (emphasis added).  For a follower of Jesus Christ there could be no greater delight than to get to know the Lord with clearer, deeper understanding. When the Lord left them a very telling comment was shared between the two, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32). If such flames were roaring within more of the hearts of disciples there would be less frozen, frost-bitten and frigid believers. It is the 'burning heart' which knows the Lord and expresses His warmth in moral and ethical relationships as well as spiritual stewardship.

The Lord allowed no selection about what to accept of the Bible's testimony. It is a 'package deal!' Throughout the four Gospels Jesus verbally and textually struck down 'selective shoppers' who were merely wanting a spiritual bargain. You cannot elevate Jesus as Lord, Saviour and Emmanuel and at the same time say He had limited understanding or adapted  words to the people's culture. Such nonsense is refuted by His statement of speaking only what His Father told Him to say.

What then are some insights gained about Jesus between Genesis and Malachi? He is the promised one, born of the virgin. Genesis 3:15/Isaiah 7:14. He is the Passover Lamb Isaiah 53. (plus the other sacrificial testimonies). He is the Creator, the I Am, (Exodus 3:14. John 8:58). He is the Promised heir of David to sit upon the Davidic throne. (Psalm 110:1 Romans 1:3). He is the person before whom all will bow. (Isaiah 45:23/Philippians 2:10-11). He is the Lord who returns to rescue His people. Psalm 2. Zechariah 14:4./Acts 1:11-12. Revelation 19.

As the 39 books were written to testify, so too the Gospels. John 20:31: ‘These are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.’

The same testimony is valid for today. ‘The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.’ Acts 8:34–35.
Ray Hawkins July 9 2017.

This is my latest Devotion. Due for release shortly. Stay tunes!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

What's in a name.

Diotrephes who must rank as the example par excellence of Ego leadership in its rawness. He appears, not very favourably, in the New Testament letter of 3 John. Is there a clue to his spiritual condition in his name? In former years when people were converted from paganism they changed their names. This was an indication of belonging to a new Lord and going to a new destiny. Diotrephes kept his old name. It meant ‘nourished by Jupiter’ the ruler of the Roman pantheon of gods. What we read about this man tells us a lot about the source of his spiritual nurture. Whether he was a new man in Christ or a fraud only the Lord knows. However, it would appear that his past allegiance, belief system and family history overruled Biblical lifestyle and spirit.

Nowadays we don’t usually need to change our names when we are converted. This is the beauty of living in a nation influenced by the Christian faith. We do however need to ensure where our spiritual nourishment comes from. We also need to cut any ties that link our history with the occult. That evil distorts how we view God's call on our life and service. Psalm 139:23–23 — ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’  The worry is that within those called to be leaders there lies a latent ‘Diotrephes’. This creature of the soul is itching to spring up and dominate. To keep this carnal ‘creature’ under control requires all the power of the cross and searchlight of  God's word.

Diotrephes loves to be first. If we are honest with ourselves we all have similar tendencies. However there can only ever be one who holds first place in the Church. ‘He (Jesus) is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy’ (Colossians 1:17–18). Deny the Lord this right and immediately self-will stirs. Unseen, yet always nearby, the forces of Darkness will fan self-will into an ego inferno. Too many local fellowships have been reduced to spiritual cinders by egotistical warring parties whether in pulpit or pew.

Diotrephes had powerful lips that spoke malicious words. He aimed to alienate his followers from the apostle John and others. Was it envy or fear which motivated such opposition? Would his true spiritual condition be unveiled in the presence of this apostle? Unless we are in a right relationship with Jesus Christ we will feel threatened by the person who is. The fragrance of the Lord within offends and causes aggressive reaction in those whose odour is of the flesh. Diotrephes could have been a man mighty in the Lord’s service, but he squandered it through an unsanctified attitude. Lust for power and a destructive mouth can never edify the people of God.

The apostle urged his readers not to imitate what is evil but what is good. Why? ‘Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God’ (3 John 11). This referred to an ongoing condition stretching over time and not merely an uncharacteristic lapse. Had Diotrephes once ‘seen’ the Lord as the gospel was presented to him? What had crept into his life and found opportunity to kill his vision? Jesus promised the pure in heart would see God. This leader must have allowed the impure to impair his spiritual eyesight. Jesus warned: ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness, how great is that darkness (Matthew 6:22). Spiritual eyesight has its slow loss caused by the glaucoma and cataracts of faithless and immoral living. Unless treated it blinds with devastating spiritual consequences.

We look to the Lord by faith to be saved.  We need also to continually look to the Lord to combat the diseases of the spiritual eyes. Jesus calls men and women out of spiritual darkness and desires them to walk in His radiance.  It is essential for congregational leaders to have good eye-sight. Only then can they keep their eyes focused on the Lord. When this happens the local Body of Christ enjoys harmony, testimony and effective mission.

 Ray Hawkins July 2nd 2017.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

It's dangerous in the Temple.

Who said Jesus was meek and mild? Meek yes, in its true meaning! Mild, not a good word to use about Him. He was and remains passionate for that which is pleasing to the Father and beneficial to His disciples. People also like to major on Christ’s love and bandy it around as a panacea for everything – even a cover for personal misbehaviour. It is more convenient to ignore the fact that Jesus is also our Judge.

The Lord Jesus created a unique Fellowship when He was crucified and resurrected. The Holy Spirit gave it breath on the day of Pentecost. This body of people comprises the Church –the Body of Christ on earth. For Jesus, we who belong to Him through faith in Him and a transformed life by the Holy Spirit are precious. In fact, the New Testament describes us, individually and corporately as ‘His Temple.’ The term actually means ‘the Shrine’ – the inner sanctum of the temple, the Holy of Holies. This is exciting, beautiful to the mind and at the same time, dangerous.

‘If any man defile the Temple of God him shall God destroy (defile); for the Temple of God is holy, which Temple you are.’ 1 Corinthians 3:17. Jesus is very passionate about the Temple – both the literal historical one and His spiritual one. Remember what He did to those traders who abused the courts of the temple by their making it a den of thieves. In righteous anger, and for the honour of His Father’s name Jesus overturned their tables, fashioned a whip and drove them out. Do you think He will do anything less to any who abuse His spiritual temple?

History records depressing illustrations of the desecration of Christ’s Body! Not all of it from opponents of Christ. Too often ego driven, self-opinionated, ambitious and self-righteous individuals have defiled what Christ holds as precious. Their salvation status may not be in question, but they will be ashamed in Christ’s presence. As they stand before His judgement set – the Bema – His presence will consume what they imagine is worthy of a good report. Read 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.

In the New Testament are written instructions, advice and warnings to prevent us, any of us, from defiling Christ’s Temple. This applies both to the individual as to the local congregation. Such instructions are a chilling warning to all, but especially to those in leadership. The Lord Judge of all the earth isn’t interested in what wealth, fame or materialism you have accumulated. He searches the heart. He weights your deeds in the light of His Word, His character, His calling and the health and treatment you, I, have given to His Temple.

To lacerate, fracture or poison the spiritual Body of Christ on earth, or any of its members brings ‘defilement’ upon self. That is the spirit of Diotrephes’ (3 John 9-11). If there is a dispute that cannot be resolved it is better to weep, walk away and but pray for those by whom you have been hurt, and undoubtedly hurt them also. The account of Ananias and Sapphira is another troublesome story. Acts 5 details this as a warning not to play fast and loose with the truth, stewardship and ministry. I wonder how many funerals would be performed each week if the Lord still did this. Maybe on occasions He does, but only He will know that. Better not to take the gamble for you will lose if not now, when you and the Lord are face to face.

There are so many blatant and insidious ways to defile that which Christ loves or has designed. None of us will be one hundred percent innocent. However, we can be one hundred percent repentant and make restitution where possible. Read 1 Corinthians at least and read how they defiled their worship, relationships and Scripture. From envying, strife and division to Communion disorder and ungodly lifestyle the ‘whip of the Lord’ must have been itching to crack! Those in leadership are under a heavy burden to set the tone as well as honour, cherish and protect the ‘Body of Christ.’ Hebrews 13:17 is a good summary. If they are not worthy of this trust, pray for them as you seek out one who is (1 Peter 5:1-6).

Paul’s advice to Timothy to ‘guard that which has been committed to you’, is still relevant for us. Guard our mind, guard our tongue, guard our relationships, guard our worship, guard our faith and guard the honour of our Lord and His Temple. Guard it graciously, mercifully and biblically.

© Ray Hawkins June 25th 2017.
[Next week the spirit of Diotrephes - read 3 John. 'What's in a Name)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Judas in the pulpit.

The after shocks of Judas’ betrayal must have been immense. Strange how we are not told the way the eleven disciples coped with it. The anger, the self recriminations for not being alert to him and personal disappointment at being duped must have caused turmoil. Were they realising how difficult it would be to ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?’ Did the teachings of Jesus seem so much harder? 

When you meet the disciples during the time Jesus was in the tomb they’re huddled together in the upper room. Fear held sway. Such fear would be compounded with uneasiness because of Judas’ betrayal and suicide by hanging. The thought of being seen in public didn’t have much appeal. In the letters of John and Peter we can read and thereby understand how they ultimately won the inner wrestle. Doing what the Lord commanded. The power of knowing, showing, expressing and receiving from fellow disciples Christ’s love! 

The traitor’s spiritual descendants of darkness still breed. When a spiritual descendent of Judas infiltrates a congregation he or she is often undetected. Being cunning thieves of various hues it is sometime before they are unmasked. Chaos and hurt then bursts upon the Church and gossip runs rampant in the Community. The urge to find an ‘upper room’ and hide far from the accusations, innuendoes or shattered dreams of people is strong. The soul’s urge is to lash out on behalf of self and for others thus betrayed. Its force can be overwhelming. Wrath and revenge surge even as the Holy Spirit reminds about loving the enemy and leaving God to be the avenger.

Jesus over the period of His teaching warned His disciples about infiltrators. Men would appear to be the ‘goods’ yet be either self– obsessed or Satan possessed. In Matthew 7:15 is the description of false prophets being ‘ferocious wolves in sheep’s clothing.’ In John 10 the Lord again highlights the sad truth that His flock will suffer thieves, robbers and wolves. What is our defence against such intruders especially when they have the outward appearance of a sheep or shepherd? You must protect your people with the rod and staff of God’s Word. There can be no smoothing over of the mauling mayhem inflicted. Pious words about forgiveness don’t solve the problem either.  Dealing with the aftermath of scattered, torn, frightened, disillusioned believers requires more than that. The wolves must be confronted and removed. The healing of the wounded and mauled requires grace and patience. The ointment of God’s word must be skilfully and tenderly applied. Worship must take on a distinct therapeutic nature under the Sovereignty of Christ. The biggest battle will take place in the Pastor’s and Elders' hearts. They would have suffered personally whilst having empathy with his people. They also carry the weight of the grieving flock before an inquisitive community. Fortunate the  minister and Elders who stand with and surround each other with prayer, wisdom, a listening ear and grace.

The emotional and spiritual conflict can only be won on the knees. It will require many kneeling times as the leadership struggles with the wounded, the grieving and the inquisitive. The congregation must come together around the Lord’s Table: share their hurts and struggles: find God’s healing and hope. Only through this enabling will the members take Communion without bitterness. The healing of the wounds takes place as pastor, Elders and people share honestly with the Lord. There must be a candid yet merciful openness before the Lord. A willingness to apply His specific word to their situation will guard them from revenge. Love for the Lord Jesus will empower them to pray that the Judas will find repentance lest he spent eternity in the outer darkness.

What made the difference with the ‘Eleven’ so they could go and face the world? When the risen Lord Jesus came into the upper room and said ‘Peace’ victory was happening. As leaders and members there are times when you need Jesus to come into your ‘upper room’ and breath ‘Peace.’ There He breathed upon them the Holy Spirit. Oh how vital it is to be refreshed, renewed, empowered and enveloped by Him. Only then will we move from the 'upper-room' into a sceptical world with the reality of the cross and the grace of Christ Jesus.

 Ray Hawkins June 18 2017.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Life's Hills and Valley's

Cradle Mt. Tasmania.
The Nation of Israel was on the verge of entering the land promised to Abraham 470 years approximately before. In the book of Deuteronomy Moses gives some snapshots of it. Listening to it must have stirred the hearts of the people. The land was in sharp contrast to that from which they had come, the furnace of Egypt. Canaan was a good land, flowing with streams and with springs and underground water. The land had hills and valleys and fruit trees, pasture and minerals.

There were, however, certain obstacles and conditions to be faced before they could successfully possessed their promised possession. The land was occupied by godless and depraved Nations intent on keeping Israel out. Wandering throughout the land were also wild animals as we read about from David’s encounter with a lion and a bear. The Lord through Moses gave the people a strategy for victory. In one word is was ‘Obedience!’ By being faithful to the Lord’s commands, judgements and statutes the nation would prevail. Disobedience meant failure.

The historical experiences of the Nation can be transferred to the international and spiritual identity called the Church. We are called out of the ungodly world scene to live a lifestyle in sharp contrast to that of the World. When a person hears then heeds the call of Christ to take up their cross and follow Him it sounds idyllic. Sins forgiven, heaven beyond death’s horizon, a transformed life with purpose, hope and fellowship excite and bless. Then we face opposition, often from family and friends. Then from out of our soul the equivalent of the wild beast emerge to terrorise and make us doubt. There wouldn’t be a disciple of Christ who hasn’t felt the tread of sins past or the breath of guilt and shame producing a sense of unworthiness. How are these slain or chained? Through the grace of God, knowledge of His word, deliberately sharing them with the Saviour so that He can deal with such ‘creatures of the soul!’

The intent of the opposition is to turn our attention away from worship and fellowship with the Lord to the uncomplicated but ungodly life before salvation. Psalm 73 is a record of this temptation. It also offers the steps to refocus.

The mention of hills and valleys associated with the land is instructive. Once again they have their spiritual counterparts within the Christian life. For us the important hill is that of Calvary. There our redemption was secured. Included in what the Lord Jesus achieved for us was our own death. We have died to our old life and destiny. We have died to the impossibility of keeping the Mosaic Law. (Romans 6. Romans 7:1-6. And Galatians 2:19-20). Within our walk with the Lord He will bring us to experience the Mount of Transfiguration where we discover new dimensions to our Lord. These two lead us to a mountain where He has a challenge for us. Matthew 28:16-20 expresses the challenge by the word “GO!” We are not told the how. We are simply given the command. It is out of our circumstances, personality, training, abilities, and maturity that we are to seize opportunity to share our faith in Christ.

Mountains and hills mean that valley’s also exist. Reading the Old Testament reveals quite a number of them. Each has its spiritual and moral relation in our walk of faith. It is in the valleys the reality of our trust in the Lord becomes evident. The valley of Achor was where Israel failed (Joshua 7 is the account and its aftermath). However, when dealt with God is able to turn failure into testimony through repentance according to Hosea 2:15. As disciples of the Lord we will fall over and the ungodly will laugh at the ‘mud’ which covers us. There isn’t any value in denying it or ignoring it. When we apologise to the Lord and accept His discipline, He washes us though His poured out life and intercession. Then He lifts us up and gets us on the narrow way again. Our testimony is not of being perfect but of being forgiven. We boast not of our goodness but of Christ’s grace. Other valleys we will walk through. The Lord wants to turn them from tears to triumph, from conflict to conquest. The final valley we will face is of course recorded in Psalm 23. For a Christian it is a valley to pass through but not alone. The Good Shepherd walked it first and has promised to walk it again with His people, His ‘sheep.’

In closing, the wonder associated with the physical land and its spiritual foreshadowing is this promise. ‘The land that you are crossing over to occupy is a land…that the Lord your God looks after. The eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.’ Deuteronomy 11:11-12.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Demolishing the Devil's game-plan

In the Garden Satan commenced his ‘game plan.’ Distort God’s word plain and straightforward word. Cause a person to doubt that God means what He says. Destroy the relationship between the person and his or her Lord through unbelief leading to disobedience and into despair. That’s all wrapped up in a three letter word – sin!

The 39 books of the Old Testament record time after time how successful this approach has been. Fortunately, there were those who stood true to the revealed word of God, although they messed up in their personal lives. Then came Jesus! As the Second Adam He faced the full force of the Devil’s master plan. How did Jesus as the Second Adam prevail? By correctly interpreting, quoting and applying Scripture. “It is written” was the Son of Man’s sword which sent the Devil sulking to ‘lick’ his wounds.

Yahweh has spelt out His masterplan. The Devil doesn’t want you to read it, believe it or share it. He uses everything in his arsenal to deafen a person to God’s word. As soon as the early Church began its outreach with “It is written” the Devil tried to deface the message and offer either alternatives or adversaries to crush it. The book of Acts is an account of the conflict. Perhaps the most succinct book in the New Testament revealing his infiltration and perverting is Jude. Revelation 2 and 3 also tells a similar story. What promises victory? Summed up in the phrase “that which has been delivered once and for all (time). That is, the message of the cross and the person and victory of Jesus! Righty dividing and applying God’s word confronts the half-truths, misquoting and outright lies of the deceiver.

However, those who belong to the Lord have a personal responsibility necessary to ensure victory. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ‘Though we walk in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons. For the weapons of our warfare are not physical, but they are mighty before God for the overthrown and destruction pf strongholds. [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (Amplified version).

What Eve, then Adam failed to do in Eden continues to be a challenge for their descendants who follow Christ Jesus as Saviour and Lord. That is, lead every thought and purpose captive by obedience to Christ and His word. I find this a constant challenge. Whether it is pride, pleasure, ignorance or indifference I will sometimes be led on a detour from doing what God’s word says. I then find that my spiritual ‘arm’ is lead’ and my stamina as the Lord’s soldier had evaporated. Getting off the detour, taking refuge in the grace of the Lord and accepting His discipline is the only way to tackling the Devil’s strategies. We are only overcomers by being faithful to the Overcomer, Jesus! We can only be faithful through knowing His word and growing in His grace. We will ever only thwart the Devil’s game place when we are people of sincerity and pure motives and speak the word of God in Christ and in the sight and presence of God. (check 2 Corinthians 2:17)

Remember as servants, we are accountable to the Master. As soldiers, the Lord of Hosts will inspect. As saints, our relationship to the Redeemer will be scrutinized. As witnesses to the game plan of the Lord our defence and promotion of it will be evaluated.

Our prayer must include “Lord, teach me your word. Lord keep me faithful. Lord, stand with me so that I will stand true to you!”

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Devil's 'Game Plan.'

If it wasn’t for the Bible we would be clueless about why our world is disintegrating. It alone defines a corrupt spiritual being whose intention is to replace the Creator and Redeemer God. The Bible also details this creatures personality, game plan and

Destruction. Therefore, it should not surprise any of us that he wants to degrade, despoil and destroy the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.

His strategy hasn’t changed since trapping Eve in doubt and Adam through passion for Eve above obedience to God’s command. Since that time Humanity has been infested with a twisted nature that it sympathetic to the Devil’s tactics. This prince of darkness isn’t interest in those in his kingdom. He wants their devotion and alliance in undermining the moral relationships, spiritual principles and truth of God’s word.

Whilst all these have been under attack since Eden, and thwarted by God’s servants, the Devil never gives up. It would seem that in recent decades he senses his judgement is drawing closer. Therefore his game plan is being put into higher gears to try and prove the Lord Jesus false and His word untrue. How is he doing this in our day?

With determination the Devil has stuck to his game plan which is to corrupt then control. Look around. It is easy to see his foul touch through undermining the very ideals, nobility and preciousness of the Bible’s values. Evolution has attempted (without proof) to deny God’s existence and creative power. However, it is seized upon for it appeals to the dark-side of the human heart. As one T-shirt put it ‘No God – No judgement’. Chance therefore denies absolutes. Goodbye Truth. Farewell Ten Commandments! Evolution kills morality’s foundation and denies the need of a Saviour. As Psalm 11:3 ‘If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?’ Without absolutes undergirding society the quicksand of chaos envelopes it.

Jesus told two parables relevant to this discussion. One was of a woman adding to the flour some leaven (yeast) which slowly infiltrated and corrupted it. Leaven is a Biblical term for sin, false teaching and immoral behaviour. (Matthew 13:33) The other was the sowing of weed seeds (tares) amongst the good seeds. (Matthew 13:24-30) Both instances require time for their evil intent to surface. Think about the corrupting of the following.

The beautiful sign of the rainbow after the flood in Noah time has been perverted into the gay and lesbian flag. That which promised hope has been sullied by a lifestyle condemned by Scripture. Now, should anyone try and show such supporters and practitioners the way out of this lifestyle (read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and elsewhere) they are threatened and face jail.  The preciousness of a man and woman being one in marriage is being tortured and twisted by proponents of same sex marriage. The list of corrupting practices include abortion, euthanasia, blatant pornography on T.V accessible to children, (then they cry crocodile tears as children are abused). When you read Leviticus 18 every one of God’s prohibitions on sexual immorality and deviant behaviour is promoted on computer websites.

To close this article – which really is incomplete – I want to mention the Devil’s hatred of Israel. You cannot read the Bible and not see he wants what the Lord God gave to this Nation. The land and especially the Temple Mount. To get it, the Devil must destroy that Nation. This he has attempted to do numerous times. Wittingly or unwittingly the United Nations is aiding and abetting him in his plans. The members, and other, of that organisation should read Psalm 2 and realise the path of defeat and destruction they are on.

The Bible’s teaching are absolute! By them a person’s lifestyle and relationship will be judged. God’s word offers a better way; a better hope; better relationships and lifestyle. Within its pages is also the story of the Lord Jesus who transforms lives and makes them fit to walk the better way. (1 Timothy 1:13-17).

Next week: The Lord’s overthrow of the Devil’s game plan.

©Ray Hawkins 28 May 2017.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The God who is three in One.

The God we worship is beyond our comprehension. We defend and proclaim the doctrine of the Godhead, our God is one – yet three. Certain groups such as Jehovah Witnesses distort this mystery. The make Jesus a ‘lesser god’ which makes them polytheistic – something the Bible condemns. Islam cannot say Jesus is God the Son, and they have no concept of the Holy Spirit. However the Bible is not silent in teaching the mystery of God being one, yet three.

Genesis 1:26. Begins the mystery when it says ‘Let us make man in our image. He wasn’t talking to the angels, for they are created beings. One of the loveliest clues about God is the threefold expression used to in Numbers 6:24-26. ‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Is the term, ‘Lord’ referring to one or to three?  The same can be said about Isaiah 6:3 where the threefold praise of the Seraphim is recorded. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of Hosts!

Jesus solves the mystery – a little –in Matthew 28:19-20. There, Jesus instructs His apostles to baptize in ‘the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. This is why the Christian Faith has its own threefold benediction. 2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Now, go back to Numbers 6:24-26 and after each mention of ‘Lord’ insert Father, then Son, then Holy Spirit. And recall what Jesus said about ‘The Name!’ The Biblical teaching on ‘The Name’ is one of vital importance, often lost on the Gentile mind. Many see it as simply a name. The Bible sees it as representing the very essence of God. We cannot be baptized into the name of the Cedar tree for it cannot possess us. But when we are immersed into The Name we are placed in the very nature, the very essence, the very person of God.

There is much more to be said on this insight into the mystery of mystery, God Himself. On the tail of this article will be some references you might like to consider to grasp a deeper understanding.

In closing, let’s look at 1 Kings 18. There is the record of Elijah’s contest with the priests of Baal. This took place on Mount Carmel. The God who answered by fire was to be recognized as the true God. The priests failed. When it was Elijah’s time he rebuilt the altar of Yahweh. Slaughtered the animal then drenched it with four (4) large jars of water, three times. Four (4) is significant. It speaks of the earth, weakness and God’s power. Remember what God chooses from 1 Corinthians 1:27, the weak things of this earth to confound the mighty. The water was poured out three times over the offering. Then the fire fell. Again, the Triune God was involved, represented by the thrice applicant of the water.

Maybe this could help in the understanding of Christ’s cry from the cross “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me. For the first and last time in Eternity past and future the Godhead, the Three in One, had been sundered. This was the awful reality that confronted Jesus in Gethsemane.

Much, much more should be said, could be said on this awesome mystery. You can pursue it through a study of the Biblical verse below.

Psalm135:1. 136:1-3. Daniel 9:19. Revelation4:8. We talk about being indwelt by the Holy Spirit – He is our seal. Ephesians 1:13. We believe that Jesus abides in our Spirit Colossians 1:27. Do you understand that the Father’s presence is also within? 1 John 2:23. God isn’t divided.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

weeds which wither spirituality.

Jesus warned against weeds on a number of occasions in plain teaching and in parables. He spoke about their effect in Mark 4:18-19. In the parable of the four soils Jesus highlight the chocking qualities of unattended weeds. Weed seeds sown among those who hear the word are strangled in time by the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things. 

Weeds, the gardener’s curse, are symbolically a ‘death threat’ to the Word of God in the Christian’s life. There are books, conferences and media outlets stacked with ‘thorns and thistle’ seeds. Some are rather attractive to the undiscerning soul and are just waiting to be opened and planted. They are killers to righteousness, truth and relationships. Discerning Heaven's seeds in this World's vast array of alternatives requires the manual prepared by the Lord and Redeemer. In His parable of the four soils Jesus warned about the thorns that strangle His Word. Harbouring the ‘seeds of thorn or thistle’ because they promise much or are favoured by the community is deadly. Ultimately it renders the soul spiritually ineffective at best and strangled at worst.
Ungodly weeds grow so fast and can look so attractive. Their purpose however is to nullify the power, beauty and message of the Gospel. Our Lord listed three threats to the spiritual productiveness to the Christian's life . These thorns and thistles are designed to smother and kill the spiritual life. None are immune to them.  

Weed number one: Worry. It is the burden of existence. It is part of our nature. It becomes a menace when uncontrolled. The weed deterrent is in 1 Peter 5:7, ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.’ Our personal responsibility is to ‘cast.’ It is the Lord’s promise to carry. Worry is sticky and hard to effectively cast. It requires prayer from  the heart and with ‘hand’ covered in faithfulness and righteousness. Life will always throw worry our way therefore, we must develop the art of casting, constantly. 

Weed number two: Wealth. Here is the driving force of society. Jesus warned about an attitude to wealth which was ideal for weed growth, covetousness and materialism  The end result of not uprooting such soul pleasing but spirit choking ‘weeds’ is unfruitfulness! Then condemnation! Money isn’t the issue when it is a tool. It is a strangling vine when it is the master of a life. To keep this weed under control is to be practise the principle 'more blessed to give than to receive.'  1Timothy 6:18–19:‘Command those who are rich…to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age.’  

Weed number three: ‘desires for other things.’ Combating this wide ranging class of weeds requires constant discernment and specific attention to their influence. We may not be overly interested in wealth. Our nature may not be too dominated by worry. This weed seed collection however can find a lodging place. As I age I'm faced with these annoying yet appealing plants. 1 John 2:16–17 puts ‘the other things’ in three bundles clearly marked: ‘For everything in the world – the craving of sinful man, the lust of the eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.’  

How can a follower of the Lord safeguard his or her heart and mind from being taken over by ‘thorns and thistles?’ The first place to start is by knowing the Heavenly Gardener's manual on plants and weeds! Scripture offers us the everyday terms for the plants that beautify a life and empower ministry. Also listed are the seeds of destruction. Read God's manual for a fruitful and challenging life.

This is followed by a self examination of what dominates our desires and enriches or steals from our relationship with the Lord, His Word, our intimate relationships and our walk of grace. To be a sluggard in this area is described in Proverbs 24:30–34. It’s an account of a sluggard who lacked judgement, was lazy and enjoyed his sleep. The outcome was visible to all. Poverty of his life and family and with his ground covered by thorns and thistles! May the Lord deliver us from being seen as such and dishonouring Him.

To be honest, I find actual gardening, pruning and mowing wearying at times. It has to be done. One thing about actual physical garden management is that when I'm too old or incapacitated to do it others will do it for me - sometimes for a price. But no-one can weed, prune or mow my spiritual garden, no matter my age. Therefore, I must be on guard against being weary in the things of my Lord. To drop my guard is to have the sower of weeds scatter and water them to my shame and the Lord's dishonour. There have been times when the Holy Spirit has drawn attention to my mind about my spiritual well-being. Eating the proverbial 'humble pie' isn't pleasant but essential. This must be followed by ruthlessly removing the offending growth which sometimes is hard spiritual, even relational work. 

Peter shares how to have the courage and strength to combat such an attack on the killer weeds. Keep applying to your inner and outer life, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. This results in a productive life. 2 Peter 1:8: ‘For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive (unfruitful in KJV) in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The U.N murders History

History is being ‘murdered’ at the U.N. UNESCO has just been quoted as saying Israel hasn’t any legitimate to Jerusalem. That’s on top of the announcements some weeks ago that the Nation had no prior claim to the land. This isn’t rewriting history, it is killing it, carving it up and trying to dispose of it to our minds.

I wonder what Nebuchadnezzar would say to those officials from the floor of UN headquarters. Did he spend years subjugating a non-existent nation holed up in a non-existent Jerusalem? Was Daniel a figment of Nebuchadnezzar’s paranoia? Of course it also means such kings as Sennacherib, Pharaoh Necho, and Antiochus Epiphany, to name a few, never existed also. Apparently the Maccabeus’ are a fairy story and Jesus birth in Bethlehem actually took place somewhere else (if they believe it happened at all). That then raises the matter of the Passover, Roman crucifixion, Christ on the cross and His resurrection.

This is the same assembly of people who have appointed Saudi Arabia to safeguard the rights of women. There must be something in the air at their Headquarters. They need to have someone check the ventilation system. Someone is contaminating the air conditioning and stealing the delegate’s brains.

I would imagine one or two representatives from Nations influenced by Christian ideals and history took a stand on this.

If ever some doubted the unseen but insidious force running rampant across the world surely, just surely, the UN must eradicate such uncertainty. In 1 John 5:19 the writer says it simply and plainly, this world is under the control of the Evil One. His intent is to deny Israel its Biblically and Historically stated existence. His aim is to eliminate it as a nation and to claim Jerusalem and Mt. Zion as His own. How sad it is for us to witness the wilful or witless collusion of the UN in this!

What is shaping up is a confrontation between Truth and the Lie. For those with any sense of Biblical information between their ears they must know the Lord won’t let this pass. The prophet Zechariah said things to his generation which we need to heed today, “he who touches Israel touches the apple of His (God’s) eye!” I am glad that the Lord has great patience towards we stupid mortals. However, there is just so many pokes in the eye even God can endure.

Though people may reject the Bible’s testimony on many issues History is lettered with accounts of its truthfulness, accuracy and judgements. That being the case (no matter how the UN tries to murder such history) learn what it says on Israel. Otherwise, it isn’t a pleasant thought to have a fight with the Everlasting Lord.

To close this blog I’ll simply quote some passages which highlight the Lord God of Host’s interest in, love of and identification with Israel – the land and the people.

The Land is ‘My Land’ says the Creator. Jeremiah 2:7  16:18   Joel 2:18.

He has allocated it to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Deuteronomy 4:40, 11:21 etc.

The Nation of Israel is His Creation for His purposes (some fulfilled, some yet to be. Psalm 33:12.  Isaiah 43:21.  Psalm 147:19-20.

Jerusalem is His city. Psalm 48. Isaiah 60:14.  Zechariah 3:2. 8:3

It is to Mount of Olives that the Lord will one day set His feet Zechariah 14:3-4. (compare Acts 1:9-12).

Forces in high places are coercing Governments and the masses to believe a lie, actually, many lies. The only counter-offensive is to know the Truth – historically and Biblically – and perhaps your stand will help someone be saved from fighting against the Lord God of Hosts.

©Ray Hawkins 7 May 2017.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Will Power must prevail over Emotion.

The Judeo-Christian Faith gives us reasons to sing. More than that, the songs sung have their origin in and direction in the Grace of the Almighty, Lord of lords and King of kings. The Psalms cover experiences from praise to pain, laughter to lament, from thanksgiving and testimony to tribulation’s testing times. There are Psalms expressing individual experiences to corporate worship. For this article I want to takes us through Psalm 116 using the Amplified Bible’s translation.

As we take a short stroll through it I have chosen to highlight an act of the will in our relationship with our Lord and Saviour. The psalmist uses ‘will’ 6 times. In itself that is of interest as six(6) is the number of ‘Man.’ Could we therefore assume that for Humanity as a whole, and a person as an individual it is the exercise of the ‘will’ rather than the emotions God seeks from us?

The psalm opens with an expression of love to the Lord Yahweh. Then comes the reason for why he, and perhaps we initially began to love the Lord. Why would we call upon the Lord? Because, His love frightened the life out of us, or at least me! For in love the Lord He made known the holiness of His character then I realised my degraded being. How could I or anyone else stand unscathed in His presence? Only by His love. For He heard my cry of despair and pointed my heart to the cross. There I found love’s grace and forgiveness.

Verse two is the motivation for why I continue to call upon Him? This goes way beyond sentimentality. It is rooted and grounded in the act of the will, the choice of commitment! There have been slip up along the way and only the Lord knows how many are yet to happen. However, His love paid the way back for me. It is paved with my tears of gratitude! Verses 3-8 are some of the psalmist’s reasons for being grateful. How close do they come to echoing yours and my reasons?

Verse nine tells how the psalmist would live out his discovery of love. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. As with any baby, walking requires growth and encouragement, perseverance and even role models. The love of God moves us to walk and live in a manner pleasing to Him. How do we know what pleases Him? That is one of the roles of the Bible. It points out the way as well as warning of detours and dangerous ‘potholes.’ Failure to read it and hear it explained has led many to moral and spiritual injuries and a damaged witness.

Verse thirteen shares with us the writer’s delight in the love of Yahweh! The cup of salvation may be likened to one of the four Passover cups. Within that celebration of national redemption is an individual’s discovery of grace. At the cross the fulfilment of the Passover Lamb became inextricably linked to Jesus. He is the Saviour. When a person share in the Lord’s Supper it is with the celebration of Christ’s Name and achievement. Have you or I recently listed the benefits we have entered into because of responding to the Love of Christ?

Verse fourteen takes us ever deeper into the motivation which stems from taking the cup of Salvation. It moves the will to refresh its vows. What a privilege the Communion offers. Though unseen, the Lord is there inviting you to take the bread and the wine (or juice) and to remember Him. As a person does this with sincerity it is similar to exchanging vows of love and trust. Verse eighteen repeats this desire to renew the vows. It is personal but it is also done in the presence of the congregation.

Verse seventeen actually concludes the emphasis of the psalm on his will. It is also a fitting climax to our own commitment. ‘I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving. From Leviticus 7 and elsewhere this offering was personal. It also had a cost which was voluntarily made. It harkens back to verse twelve where the writer acknowledges God’s benefits personally experienced. The sacrifice had to be made without yeast. That is always a symbol of sin. So before offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving ensure any residual sin is confessed, dealt with and cleansed though the blood of Christ. Then notice the verse concludes with how the psalm began. “I …will call upon the name of the Lord!”

As another psalm puts it “let us come before His presence with thanksgiving in our hearts!”

©Ray Hawkins April 3oth 2017.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The explosive power of the Cross.

The name for the explosive ‘dynamite’ comes from the Greek word ‘dunamis.’ That’s some indication of how the writers of the New Testament viewed God’s power. The word is used to describe the works of Christ in healing people, neutralising Satan’s control of people and in rising from the dead.

Is that relevant to people in this century far removed from Christ’s day? As He is the unchanging Lord and His word is alive and active too, it has exciting implications. In writing to the Corinthian church the Apostle Paul explained how Christ’s power is inherent in the Cross. In what way? In the impact the message of the death, entombment and resurrection of Jesus has on people. Some stumble over it! Many think it stupid! However, for others it has a life transforming, destiny changing, relationship enriching explosive effect.

That and much, much more is wrapped up in the word salvation. When the Gospel is shared and believed it become the power of God within the believer’s life. Those things which pollute our memory, offend our conscience, cripple our self-esteem, make us fearful of death and facing God and a myriad of other things are exploded. God has dealt with them at the cross of Christ. When a person accepts that fact, personally, then the Lord’s power does an eternal make-over. The past is done away in His sight. He opens up a new era for you (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Does it last? Without a doubt. Countless the testimonies to that fact. From the New Testament the one I stand amazed at is found in 1 Timothy 1:11-17. He was a murderer, blasphemer, outwardly religious, violently arrogant. He called himself the chief of sinners. However, the grace of the Lord Jesus and the power of the cross changed him. He became the greatest of all missionaries. His testimony is that if the explosive power of the cross of Christ did that for him, it will change anyone. The condition which lights the ‘fuse.’ Hearing the message of Christ and the cross then believing it!

In his final letter before being martyred under Nero’s decree Paul wrote, he had finished the race, kept the faith and looked forward to meeting the Lord. One of his final instructions to Timothy was ‘Preach the Word!’ What word? The word of the cross is foolish to those who perish, but to those who believe it is the dynamite of God for salvation.

1.The power of the cross                                         3.The power of the cross,
Is the Word of Calvary!                                          The message from Calvary.
Promised through prophesy,                                Forgiveness now offered.
Fulfilled in history.                                                 Heaven now opened.
Unveiled, the mystery                                            Sin’s penalty now paid
Of His majesty                                                         Wrath now pacified,
            As                                                                                   By
Emmanuel,                                                               Taking our condemnation,
Son of God,                                                               Suffering our judgement,
Redeemer,                                                                 Purging our defilement,
Who was called, Jesus!                                           When they crucified Jesus!

2.The power of the cross                                       4.The power of the cross
The purpose of Calvary                                           Cancelled the shame of Calvary
Planned before creation                                         Transformed into glory
To secure our salvation,                                         That resurrection morning
Birthed in Bethlehem                                            When the angel declared,
Fulfilled in Jerusalem                                            “He is not here. He has risen”
                 As                                                                                    Now
The promised One,                                                  He is Saviour and Lord,
Suffering Servant,                                                   With a Name above all names,
Passover ‘Lamb,’                                                      Before whom all creation bows.
To be Messiah Jesus!                                              The Word of Calvary’s cross –

copyright Ray Hawkins April 2017.