Sunday, December 17, 2017

Who is He?

Light causes a shadow to be cast when it shines from behind an object. The shadow is our clue to a greater reality. There are numerous shadows cast our way in the Old Testament which Jesus said pointed to Him. The New Testament letters further explain those shadows which we call types. The letter of Hebrews is masterly in its explanation things surrounding the Jewish Tabernacle.
Every aspect of that construction points to some feature relating to Jesus. We understand the Sacrificial system as the 'substance' of the cross. The furnishings inside the tent speak of certain aspects of Christ's ministry. Even the curtains which comprise the ceiling and roof point to Christ and how two groups of people perceive Him
The roof was comprised of skins from badgers (A.V.) or sea-cows (NIV), Exodus 36:19.On the inside however was another covering which only those who entered could see and appreciate. It was made of rams' skin and dyed red. Those who officiated within the tabernacle served in a beautiful and impressive setting. It comprised gold fittings and colourful and embroidered  curtains enhanced by candlelight and incense.
What does the roof and ceiling tell us about people's views of Jesus? The plain uninspiring roof of skin is how the World sees Jesus. There is little to excite their interest. The Gentile world sees Him and the cross as foolishness. The Jewish people find Him and His claims a stumbling block. However, when anyone puts their trust in Him as Saviour and Lord they look at Jesus with new appreciation. 1 Peter 2:7 explains it this way: 'He is precious.' 
When we live, worship, serve under Him we understand the significance of the rams' skin dyed red. We are under the crucified life of Jesus, covered by His poured out life, His blood. At the same time we are overwhelmed by the glory and fragrance of Him who has saved, transformed and kept us. 
So much more we could elaborate upon and bear testimony too. That must wait for another day.

Who is He?

Who is He in Bethlehem’s manger?
The one promised, no stranger!
Who is He who trod this earth?
The Nazarene! A man of worth.
Who is He whom they crucified
When under oath He testified
To being the Rock of Destiny
Foretold in Daniel’s prophecy?
Who is He who rose from the grave?
The Lord of Glory, with grace to save!
Who is He who broke Death’s reign?
The Saviour, Jesus is His name!

Who is He, we contemplate?
He is the Bible’s story!
He is the disciple’s glory.
His person vindicated.
His mission consummated.
His name is Jesus!

Who is He, please elaborate?
He is the Lord of hosts,
He is the king of glory!
His throne awaits,
His rule to dictate.
His name is Jesus!

Who is He we celebrate?
He is the Creator.
He is the Redeemer!
His kingdom awaits
His reign to initiate.
His name is Jesus!

©Ray Hawkins 2016.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

More than a name - Immanuel

Do you know the meaning of your name? There is something fascinating about why you were given your name and what it means. Those I know who have done family history, especially with family links to England, are constantly amazed at who it includes. Of course, Biblically we are not surprised at the importance attached to being given a name, or having it changed. We see that in such cases as Abram into Abraham, Jacob into Israel, Cephas into Peter. There is also the prophetic aspect inherent in names.

As Christmas creeps up on us one name will emerge and linger for a time. Immanuel! However, is this merely a name or is it a prophetic description defining the person? Both! Isaiah 7:14  is where the name emerges and points beyond that moment to a future event. That was fulfilled with the announcement by Gabriel to Mary that the child she was to bear would be Jesus, and also be Immanuel.

In the Old Testament  the Creator is seen as being keen to share in the life of His chosen people. When the tabernacle furnishings were complete the ark of the covenant became the symbol of His presence. When the Nation was on its marches the ark was carried in the midst of the tribes who travelled under their respective banners. That underlies the meaning of Immanuel. It is 'God with us' God in our midst.'

At Christmas time when we apply the name to Jesus it arouses certain strong feelings. Is it merely a name or is it descriptive of the very nature of the Man? "Who do you say I am" was the challenge of Jesus to His disciples. Peter's response showed his growing awareness "You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God!" (Matthew 16:16). That would be challenged repeatedly until after the resurrection from the tomb Thomas reaffirmed it most emphatically. He said ""My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). From that moment on the awareness grew about the babe of Bethlehem, the man of Galilee, the Rabbi of Nazareth and the crucified one. He was Immanuel in the flesh. The mystery of the Godhead revealed in the one designated as 'The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world' (John 1:29).

Of course there are those who disagree. That is their privilege. It should be treated with respect. It is also their danger. That should make us sad on their behalf. Why? Because of what Peter talked about from the day of Pentecost. There is no other Name under heaven given amongst men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12). This is reaffirming what Jesus said about Himself prior to the cross (John 14:6). That salvation embraces numerous factors and most would be expresses of His Christmas name and designation, Immanuel. For it is His desire to turn our lives from 'slum city' into the 'Temple of God' by His indwelling presence. It is His promise that where two or more are gathered in His name, He is in their midst. It is the declaration of Scripture at a future point in God's purposes Jesus will reign in the midst of the Nations  - that will be from Jerusalem!

Jesus is Immanuel in both name and person. The question all will face again at Christmas time is 'do I believe it?' If so how do I live out that relationship in my life?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The 'Body prepared required the Virgin Birth

Did Jesus go to physical workout at the local gymnasium? Unlikely. Not a very acceptable place for a young Rabbi to attend. Be that as it was, the physical strength of the body of Christ should astound us all. More than that, there was the moral tone to his physic. In John 8:46 Jesus challenged the crowd to level and short-coming evident in His life. Was there any commandment, statute or judgement damaged by His behaviour or voice? But there was one other facet of His nature, housed within His body, no one could see but was essential for Jesus’ physical health and strength. Did He possess a sin nature?

The importance of this lies at the very heart of the person, prophesy about and work of Jesus. In Hebrews there is much written about Jesus as the fulfilment of the Jewish sacrificial system! In chapter 10:5 ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me.’ What was the purpose of this ‘body prepared?’ To fulfil the shadow cast by the sacrifices. When you read about the qualifications for the ‘shadow sacrifices’ each of them had to be without spot or blemish. Therefore, if Jesus was to be the real sacrifice He too must be without blemish or spot.

Impossible. That is, if He was sired by Joseph (or any other person.) Why? Because when the first Adam betrayed God’s commission to him certain things entered the human lineage. One of course is death and decay. The other is described by Paul in Romans 6:6 as ‘the body of sin.’ If this resided in Jesus He was automatically disqualified as the fulfilment of Isaiah 53, and other shadow sacrifices. Who then could sit in judgement upon the inner life of this Man of Galilee? God! How could the Lord God Almighty do that and get the information out to us?

Through a severe, intensive, thorough test upon His body! The word ‘prepared for me’ ‘Katartizo’ speaks about being free of eternal blemish. In 1 Peter 1:19 the writer says Jesus was without internal defect (amomos) and (aspilos) external spot. This was proven through great trial and testing. From the time the Devil was let loose on Him for forty days in the wilderness to the barbarity of Roman soldiers’ torture and crucifixion. However that might simply reveal Jesus as a brave, unflinching martyr. What is the undeniable evidence according to Scripture, to the early disciples and the fledgling Church?

The most wonderful words spoken by an Angel, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen!” Luke 24:5.

How was it possible for Jesus to escape the curse of the first Adam? By becoming the 2nd Adam. That is, by passing the birth process of male and female union. He needed a ‘body prepared.’ That was the promise to Eve and the threat to the Serpent (Genesis 3:15.) Hundreds of years later this promise was again foreshadowed in Isaiah 7:14. The wonder of the Christmas event is the fulfilment of this promise through Mary. Luke 1:26-38. Only in this manner could the body prepared be unblemished by the indwelling sin nature.

Then too, this is often overlooked. The human lineage of Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, was under a curse. Jeremiah 22:24-30. Joseph or any of his descendants could sit upon the throne of David in Israel, ever! This is another factor in the virgin birth and ‘the body prepared.’ Mary’s line came through David’s son, Nathan. (Luke 3:23-33.)

Christmas cannot be separated from Calvary. The virgin birth cannot be dismissed as a non-essential. The resurrection cannot be spiritualised.

The ‘body prepared’ bore our sin and judgement. The Body of Jesus surely was physically, morally and spiritually strong and unique. When Jesus arose from the tomb He had a glorified body. The old one was consumed. No remains were seen in the tomb only the grave cloths and napkin.

What a privilege Christians have of celebrating this ‘body prepared’ and its achievements in the sacrament of Communion. However, there is a warning attached. Do not treat the symbol of the bread, His body, with dishonour. (1 Corinthians 11:23-32.)

Romans 1:1-4 expressed the wonder associated with Christ Jesus and His ‘body prepared.’ [God] promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning His son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.

©Ray Hawkins December 3rd 2017.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The day God sings solo.

Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

Those who hold the Bible as God’s Word telling of promised events, some fulfilled, others still to take place, are aware of a great tragedy unfolding. Everyday rumblings of this coming event can be heard, a nightmare in the making. The fact of it being detailed is to prepare God’s people to face it with the confidence of His victory. Following what various prophets and the Lord Jesus spoke about concerning the nightmare to come Zephaniah presents a most tender finale. What he wrote about the Eternal God and Jerusalem surely can find a similar experience in your life, my life, when the nightmares of existence come to terrorize.

            The Lord is with you. Unseen, often unfelt yet He made a promise to be with those who have called upon His Name. We overlook such verses as Isaiah 63:9 “In all their distress he too was distressed.” When Saul was persecuting the Church Jesus confronted him with these words, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Every time a disciple was afflicted it cut into the heart of Jesus.

            He will take great delight in you. It’s as though when you enter His presence through the furnace of oppression the Lord desires to make it up by enjoying your company in a special way. The picture to the heart is one of the Lord with the individual sitting together looking at a sunrise and the Lord listening to the person’s story.

            He will quiet you with His love. The turmoil, tears, tragedy which haunted and harmed body, soul and mind begins to subside in the Lord’s presence and compassionate understanding. It has a renewing affect in the goodness and grace of the Eternal God. Isaiah looked down the tunnel of history to make this observation “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever” (32:17). The reality of Christ’s imputed righteousness is the basis for future, as well as present day peace and confidence in the sovereignty of God and His companionship.

            He will rejoice over you with singing. What an amazing promise waits to be the experience by those who greet the Christ on His return. The Bible is filled with the redeemed singing praises to the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Zephaniah is the only place where God sings. What does He sing? It is untitled but it is a song of joy and victory, of pleasure and love. Maybe Isaiah 62 gives a clue. For there the Lord gives an illustration of a bridegroom rejoicing over his bride. A love song from the Lord over His people. Wow! Can you imagine what a glorious solo this will be on their behalf? This is specifically promised to Jerusalem and the redeemed of Israel. Surely it also embraces all who find salvation and security in Christ Jesus.

            The voice of the Lord will be heard from one end of the universe to the other and will begin a festival of celebration.  What a fabulous victory concert is in store. We may live through sorrow, grief and pain but with Christ as our lord and His word as our guide we look forward to hearing the Lord God burst into song.

©Ray Hawkins November 26 2017

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Who is the Christ of Christmas

It is a valid point which a questioner raised. Who is the Christ you want to put back into Christmas? How do you know Him or even where to learn about Him? Certainly not from postcards or even lovely Sunday school stories (though they are often tell things about Him). Some pulpits are even dangerous in their explanation of Jesus as the Messiah. The best, safest and most interesting meeting point is the Bible’s account.

From Genesis to the Gospel there is an unveiling of the One promised and how to recognise Him when He arrives. This then leads into the challenge of making Him known to an unsympathetic world. The book of Acts and the following letters present the case for Jesus as the Son of god, the promised Saviour and the only One before whom we bow and say “my Lord and my God.”

A person either meets Jesus or misses Him through the dimension of faith in the Bible’s testimony. I like to say positive faith draws a person into Christ’s realm. Negative faith (a.k.a unbelief) locks Him out. There can be no Christmas without the reality of a person known as Jesus the Christ. There could never have been a Christmas without the event known as the cross of Calvary. There would not be this debate about His person and achievements without His personal resurrection from the tomb.  The following poem seeks to wrestle with the opening question and the choice positive or negative faith has on the outcome.

Jesus, who are you,
Friend or foe,
Beelzebub or Emmanuel,
Blasphemer or prophet,
How can we know?
The cross,
The cross will show
Who you are!

Jesus, what said the cross.
Victor or villain
Hanging in agony,
Fulfilling prophesy.
How can we know?
The tomb,
The tomb will show
Who you are!

Jesus, what said the tomb?
Conquered or conqueror,
Body decayed or glorified?
Guards, disciples know,
He's Risen!
Yes risen, and it shows
Who you are.

Jesus, what can I say
You're Emmanuel
Before whom I bow.
Now all can know
Jesus Christ, Saviour
Is who you are!

Now I understand who is the Christ of Christmas! He is Jesus!
Copyright Ray Hawkins Nov 26 2017.
Bethlehem's Warrior Baby is available at Christian bookshops and as an ebook.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

It's the Plastic's fault.

Plastic is so cunning. It was meant to be Humanity's great creation but has become a monster. It is taking over the world and environmentalists wring their hands in despair. Square miles of ocean are covered by plastic sheets, ropes, bottles et-cetera killing and maiming the sea and bird life. From cities to country roads Plastic blows free marring the beauty of the landscape. The strange thing is how this soulless commodity has been given 'life' by the attitude of people.

We blame it for its polluting and destructive power without accepting that we, not it, are the real problem. Plastic bottles don't jump out of cars, nor does bait wrapping sneak of the jetty to swim in the river. We who refuse to accept responsibility to recycle, capture and contain this  material are the dealers in death and despoliation. How often do we excuse ourselves by saying as a bottle is left at the camp site bench, "It's only one bottle.!" But 1 times a 100 left a day over a month mounts up.

We may not want to face the fact that the self-excusing tendency in this and other matters has been listed in literature. It is called 'the Adam syndrome.' Genesis chapter 3 holds the story of the blame game and excusing self of responsibility.  God had provided a safe and secure environment for Adam and Eve to enjoy. Part of the upkeep was  not to plunder two specially reserved trees. Tempted by one of the fruits and at the suggestion of the Devil, Eve took then enticed Adam to eat. I wonder where they threw the seed or the scraps? Pollution had its beginning right here.

Then came the blame game. Confronted by the Creator Eve blamed the Devil and Adam blames her. In actual fact Adam was sidestepping his responsibility and inferring God was to blame. This twisted self-righteousness has resided in the human heart ever since. Variations on the theme fill our courthouse drams and media outlets. From politicians to the general public, from pulpit to pew the use of the 'self-escape clause' dominates. Unfortunately, a day will come when each of us will have to give an account of our life and living, relationships and righteousness before the Person who sees heart, mind and motives.

The problem of Plastic is but a modern day expression of personal reluctance to accept responsibility for our actions. The results are catastrophic. People suffer, our environment withers, innocent creatures die and ultimately our personal integrity and well-being fades. The Bible uses the image of a falling short of a standard. Who set the standard? Genesis 3 records it. It is God's Word, His Standard, His righteousness. Because we not only fall short, we intentionally violate it and then cry "Unfair! Unfair!" when we suffer the consequences.

Is there any hope the problem symbolised by Plastic will be overcome. Yes! But is there any power available to redress the self-excusing heart and its blaming of others? Yes! It begins and ends in  knowing, understanding and accepting the Biblical revelation about God's grace and forgiveness. The problem of the heart and its falling short of God's standard is dealt with in the message of the Cross. The power to be lifted up to meet the standard God has set is in a relationship with Jesus as Lord and Saviour. This is a faith and trust matter. That is why people who make Jesus Lord experience the term 'being made new.'

What then does all this have to do with plastic?  Much. When we follow the Lord we will care for the environment. We will be held accountable and not play the blame game. Also we know that He has promised a better world to come when all the pollution symbolised by plastic is removed and controlled.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

To the Forgotten from my childhood.

Many people play small but important roles in a child’s life growing up. Only as that child reaches senior years do he/she appreciate those investors even though names are long forgotten. This is especially true of those in my experiences of being a child in Sunday School then youth club at the Rockdale (NSW) Church of Christ. They have long since entered into the presence of the Lord ere I reflected upon how much grace and patience they showed me over years.

       If I could say, “Thank you!” to…
                                               Seventy–nine years I’ve been able to have seen
                                                A life far different than might have been.
                                                         Age looks back to youthful scenes
                                                   And I wonder who those unknowns were
                                                     Who begged you, “Lord, be merciful to Ray.”
                                                              And You met me to change my way
                                                                               From worldliness
                                                                                   To godliness.

How I would like to say, “Thank you”
                                                    To the unknown, unsung faithful ones
                                                        Concerned for me in careless days,
                                                          Wanting you to change my ways.
                                                        Long did they labour against despair
                                                             As you stored their fervent prayer
                                                                             For confrontation
                                                                             And transformation.

Such a moment came with driving force.
                                               Their prayers empowered by your grace
                                                   Made me sense we were face to face.
                                                     You showed me how you saw me,
                                                             A most unpleasant identity.
                                                              Then offered a new destiny
                                                                      Mine to forsake
                                                                        Or undertake.

A stricken heart.
                                                                  Condemned mind.
                                                                    A fearful choice,
                                                                 “Shape up or ship out.”
                                                           Claimed, Christ’s forgiveness.
                                                              Delivered from hypocrisy.
                                                                 Cleansed from iniquity.
                                                             And, though then unknown,
                                                                   Called to ministry.

                                                               Is it any wonder that
                                                              I would, if I could, say
                                                         To unknown men and women,
                                                         “Thank you for praying for me
                                                              See, what you and God
                                                                     Have done for me!”
                                                                           Thank you."

©Ray Hawkins Nov. 2017.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Don't play with the fire.

Yahweh’s spectacular rescue mission on behalf of Israel could have produced a sense of national complacency. He watched over them, opened the Red sea for them, provided for them, protected them, judged them and brought them to the desert of Sinai. That sense of smugness changed at Mount Sinai. His dramatic ‘appearance’ in thunder, lightning, with thick cloud and fire flashing created fear. A realisation of God’s glory and holiness made them tremble. The Lord God who redeemed was to be obeyed not played with. We too must remember He is the unchanging God as Hebrews 12:29 reminds us, ‘Our God is a consuming fire.’ Fortunately abiding in Christ is our safety ‘gear.’

When the Tabernacle and Priesthood were being instituted the family of Aaron was given the Priesthood. Such a meeting place and ministry were unique. Both were set apart from the everyday and linked to the very character of Yahweh.  The ordination for the Priesthood recorded in Leviticus 8 and 9 is a very impressive and symbolic ritual. Aaron and his four sons had detailed instructions to follow. Something possessed Nadab and Abihu, to imagine they had a better way to perform the required sacrificial ritual. They had chosen to enter into the precincts of the Tabernacle to do their own thing. They would worship or serve God as they thought best. They took their censers and kindled a fire using unauthorised elements. It was rejected as ‘strange fire.’ Here was a serious breach of trust, an act of disrespect and a challenge to the authority of the Lord. 

Judgement was swift. Fire fell from heaven and they died. Their death was to be a testimony to the danger of abusing the grace and glory of God. Why? ‘You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name’ Exodus 20:7. The Lord had to impress upon the nation that ministry, worship and God’s character and commands must not be trifled with.

Leviticus 10:9 sees the Lord add to the ordination requirement, ‘you and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die.’ Does this give us a clue to what caused Nadab and Abihu to act so irresponsibly? The
Lord requires those who worship Him and, more so those who minister before Him, to be clear headed and self‒controlled. It is interesting to note that the kings of Israel had similar obligations. (Proverbs 31:4–5) If we consider ourselves as ‘Kings and Priests’ in the service of the Lord God do such restrictions apply today?

Leviticus 10:10–11: ‘You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.’ The history of Israel details the conflict between His holiness and the tendency of the nation to drag it down. Leviticus 21:6.says, ‘They (priests) must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God. Because they present the offerings made to the Lord by fire, the food of their God, they are to be holy.’ Malachi’s account of the moral and religious attitude of the priests and people of his day makes depressing reading. ‘You profane it (God’s Name) by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled’, and of its food, ‘it is contemptible.’ And you say, “What a burden!” and you sniff at it contemptuously’ Malachi 1:12–13.

Today the ministry of the Church is a far cry to that of the Tabernacle. However there are certain principles which are unchanging in both realms. Ministers of the Gospel are to uphold the holiness of the Eternal God, the integrity of the Cross and the uniqueness of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Familiarity can breed contempt or coarseness with sacred things. A healthy fear of our Lord and a desire to honour His word will be our safeguard. There will be various ways of presenting a message to a wide range of audiences. However, the servant of the Lord has no authority to alter the ‘fire’ which God has entrusted to him or her.

©Ray Hawkins October 29 2017.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

God's will - our Joy.

There are books galore about guidance, knowing the will of God and related subjects. Most are helpful and motivational. Fortunately, Jesus didn't have the books by religious or secular gurus to explain how many steps you need to be sure of where you are going. He had a direct link with the One who would guide Him. Also, Jesus relied upon a book to refresh His mind and calling. Today, that book is maligned or marginalised to the detriment of a faith relationship with the Lord.

Christians know that doing the will of God is fundamental to their life, worship and service and the joy inherent in them all. Jesus made a promise to His followers in John 15:11."These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and your joy may be filled." (Nestle's Greek text). Therefore, if the joy Jesus knew and which carried Him through the cross can be ours, what is the key to it?  Defining the source of His joy pushes us to realising it is 'doing His Father's will." John 7:16-17 reveals an unbreakable, invisible and invincible link which wrapped itself around Jesus and The Father. 'Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."'

Why then are there so many miserable and spineless Christians roaming around churches today? They have no doctrinal strength in their mind and no joy in their heart. Why? Because they are either ignorant of, or playing loose with the will of God! It was the joy of doing the Father's will which gave added strength to Christ on the cross. It is that joy which He gives to fair dinkum, true blue disciples. (Australian slang for faithful, committed people). Peter wrote about such folk in 1 Peter 1:8 'Having not seen (Him) you love ... yet believing you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.' The believers to whom Peter wrote were experiencing their own form of Calvary. What bound them to their Cross and turned it into a platform of praise and joy? Love for Jesus which grew out of Faith in Him which was woven in them when they heard the Gospel of the Cross. Now they were able to see beyond the pain to the glory of an unfading inheritance.

That invisible, invincible and incredible link between the true blue believer and Christ stems from the Father. This is grasped from Matthew 17:5. There, on what we call 'the mount of Transfiguration' came The Father's expressed will: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear Him!" Why is this important? Let the apostle John explain. 'He that does the will of God abides forever.' ( 1 John 2:17) 'This is His (The Father's) commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ...' (1 John 3:23). What do we know about the Name, that is the very person we call Jesus? Read the Old Testament for insights to the promised One. Read the Gospels to understand about the Word (title for Jesus) becoming flesh and blood and  His dependence upon the Will of The Father. Read the other books to discern how the Holy Spirit unveiled The Son in, to and through the Apostles to us.

Many are the fruits of knowing and doing the will of the Father, expressed to us in the person and work of Jesus. As you set your heart and mind on knowing and doing 'His will' a sense of the wonder of unquenchable joy infiltrates and permeates your life. That's summed up by the apostle Paul in his "Rejoice, and again I say, Rejoice!"

Copyright 22 Oct. 2017. Ray Hawkins.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Joy that defeats Darkness.

Jesus is never said to have laughed, yet He did show a sense of humour. We gather that from such statements as “why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye.” Then there is “I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Even some of His serious and theologically important self-descriptions have that touch. Consider Jesus as ‘the door’ or ‘the Bread from heaven’, their importance is sharpened by the imagery presented which could cause a wry smile to appear.

However there is something far more captivating about Jesus. It is more lasting than humour and more durable. It isn’t spelt out but portrayed. Whether a prostitute or centurion, a child or a man like Nicodemus, it drew them to Him. In His presence they sensed “He welcomes me. I am valued as a person. I am important to Him.” Jesus may have summed up His captivating spirit in John 15:11. “I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (Emphasis added).

Jesus shared this as He was about to enter the darkest experience of anyone at any time in all of eternity. Here His joy would be under extreme pressure as noted in His words to His Father in Gethsemane. He knew that on the cross when the sin of the World for all of time would envelope Him, the power of darkness would be brutal. What sustained Him? What radiant power within his spirit took hold of the darkness and overcame it? Hebrews 12:2 tells us: Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”

What was the radiant joy that trampled the darkness? Many aspects would figure in the answer. Among them would be the vindication of the 39 books which promised the coming of the Messiah. There is found in the Passover ceremony, in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 the enveloping power of darkness which tried to swallow ‘the Lamb of God.’ The removal of the curse caused by Adam’s treachery and the ‘Death’s’ bondage over Mankind. No longer would individuals be subjected to Satan’s accusations and blackmail. Christ had paid sin’s price and cleansed the believer (Colossians 2:13-15). To top it all the despised Servant has been given the Name above every name and before whom all will bow.

Jesus, I sense, summed all that and much, much more in the phrase: “I seek not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me” (John 5:3o. 6:38. 8:16). That was His Joy! That was what He was bestowing upon His disciples. They too were about to be swallowed up by the bitter darkness when all seemed lost. Yet Jesus still placed within their hearts His fragrant promise of coming joyfulness. John 17 Jesus promised them they would see Him in His glory and be with Him forever. That joy would only be know after the bitter bleakness of the crucifixion and the despair of the following days. Christ’s resurrection fulfilled His promise not only about rising from the dead, but of enjoy His abiding joy. After Pentecost this would be tested time and again, but never conquered.

Joy is the eternal fragrance of Christ’s resurrection. When a person hears the gospel, understands then believes it strongly enough to ask Christ to be Saviour and Lord, joy takes hold. The Ethiopian eunuch In Acts 8 highlights that fact. Across the centuries that joy has never diminished. The Devil’s attempt to cover then smother a believer in a return of darkness to the soul crumbles as it meets the resurrection life of Christ. The energy of joyfulness is sustained by abiding in Christ. This is assured as His word abides in the believer. The unleashing of the joy of the Lord isn’t necessarily an emotional feeling. Rather it is a result of a relationship stemming from doing the Father and the Son’s will.

Next week. What does Scripture record as the unquestionable will of God to all?

©Ray Hawkins 15th October 2017.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Energy of a Joyful Heart.

There is enough going on to crush your spirit. There’s no escaping its ‘arrows’. The effect it can, and usually does have, is to make a person a ‘punctured tyre.’ Sure you can keep going, but the movement is hard work and ultimately damaging. The writer of Provers summed it up this way:  A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.’ Proverbs 15:13. He also wrote in 17:22, ‘A broken spirit dries the bones.’

We live in a ‘wacky’ world. Do yo agree? Do you find it nigh on impossible to have the inner energy required to create a merry heart that doesn’t evaporate? Sure, we have a pleasant moments which touch us and then vanish. Is there something which will grip us, take root within and revive a broken spirit? If there is, and it has a proven track record, are you interested?

The writer of Proverbs likened it to a merry heart. Trouble is we can be merry one moment and mournful the next.  A far better word which also has its own energy power- plant is ‘Joy.’ The term must be linked to someone, something beyond a nice, fuzzy feeling, otherwise it too will crash and burn. The best example from Scripture has to be Jeremiah. This prophet was energised by joy amidst spirit depressing, ‘bone’ crushing experiences.

This prophet had it tough. Branded a traitor, his sermons wasted on the callous and indifferent and being shoved down a stinking well as a prison should crush the spirit. To top it all off, he witnessed the destruction of his beloved city Jerusalem, then was forced to go to Egypt never to return. What legacy did he leave us to verify the case for being energised by joy in a joyless situation?

The book of tears, Lamentations which is the 25th book in the Bible, reveals the inner energy of joy. This energy is linked with hope grounded in an unconditional promise. Here are Jeremiah’s power-packed words. “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion; therefore I will hope in Him. The Lord is good to them that wait for him, to the soul that seeks him" 3:21-25.

Was the prophet delirious in his brokenness? No! Where then did he rest his heart? On what was his hope built? The promise of Yahweh that the Messiah would come through Israel. No apostasy of the nation, no captivity by Babylon or others, no device of the Devil would prevent what we call the Christmas event. Jeremiah recorded “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” Jeremiah 15:16. He also believed the promise that in the future of the nation. “It shall be to me (God) a name of joy, a praise and honour before all the nations of the earth …” Jeremiah 33:9.

Notice the energy supply line. God’s promises, recorded in the Bible, provide hope which can be ‘eaten’ by faith and create joy. In turn this dissolves the darkness of despair and ‘pumps up the tyre’ of the heart. There is something beyond description when a person today feeds upon God’s Word. In the words of Scripture, ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.’ A faith relationship grounded on the rock of His promise producing hope that energises the spirit.

Next week: What was the joy of Jesus that He promised to share? John 15:11

©Ray Hawkins October 8th 2017.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

health and well-being

Travellers wanting to fly must go through security check points. Electronic surveillance, sniffer dogs and body searches are designed to uncover explosive materials, illicit compounds and dangerous weapons. This is to ensure the safety of others as well as the individual.

The psalmist realised his need to be ‘explosives free’ in his journey through life. “Search me O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts” was his prayer. He wanted God to give him a security check. Why? The reason is quoted by Jeremiah: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (17:9).

In September 2017 a city in Germany had a number of city blocks evacuated. Why? Because a world war bomb was unearthed on a construction site. It was defused. There are many spiritual bombs often long buried in a person’s heart which one day could explode. The Lord is the ‘Bomb’ unearth-er so as to defuse and destroy the destructive devices of the carnal nature. How sad it is to see lives, relationships, fel
lowships blown apart because a person has put up a sign to God ‘do not enter.’

Doctor or other health professionals are there to provide us with a report on our well-being, health and fitness. They also can recommend the treatments for any ailments causing us concerns. The psalmist in psalm 26:2 has asked the Lord to “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.” There are times when we have to summon up our courage to seek a health check. We don’t want to know if there’ something amiss. This can apply to our relationship with God. Such an attitude is self-destructive. We can call Jesus the ‘Great Physician’ but steer clear of His surgery. Trouble with that is, one day we will stand before Him anyway but this time as our Judge.

Christ Jesus also has His health manual for us to do some self-examinations. The Bible is a book for spiritual, moral, mental and relational health and well-being. To disregard it is a sure recipe for unnecessary distress, broken relationships, loss of motivation for worship, witness and walking in truth and righteousness. 2 Corinthians 13:5 challenges us with ‘Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove your own selves.’ We can be in the ‘the faith’ yet not really enjoying it because of some ungodliness. We can also be a ‘virus’ infecting the life of someone in our family or circle of friends because of our mean spirit and flaying tongue. That is dangerous, especially when we worship the Lord and share in Communion. The account in 1 Corinthians 11:29-30 show the personal and corporate ill-health when a Christian is out of godly well-being. That is why we need to constantly obey 1 Corinthians 11:28 ‘Let a man examine himself. And so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.’

There is an increasing tendency for those seeking good health to have a personal trainer. That man or woman will put you through the various regimes to build you up and improve your life. The aim is only achieved as you push through the pain barriers, go beyond what you perceive as your limitations. Your coach is there for your fitness and you must rust him or her. This also applies to our relationship with our spiritual and moral personal trainer. The Holy Spirit has His regime for us to be able to walk the narrow way, stand strong against the forces of evil, and run the race set before us.

That involves kneeling before the Lord in worship, feeding upon His word, drinking of the Living Water, sharpening your relationships with faithfulness. Sometimes the personal trainer will take us through what is felt like ‘the trial of fire.’  Opposition to our faith, hurdles of hardship to jump, mountains of difficulties to climb and valleys of grief and confusion to negotiate. When you emerge from any or all of these you will realise that your personal trainer, the Holy Spirit, has been with you all the way. You may have felt alone but His promise is to be with you all the time, all the way. To use the analogy from Zechariah 13:9, “I will … refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, [you are] my people: and they shall say, the Lord is my God!”

Lord search me! Examine me! Try me! And equip me to be your witness, to walk honourably, to worship you thankfully, to express your wisdom graciously and to express your winsomeness constantly. Amen”
Copyright Ray Hawkins 1 October 2017.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Devil's Love

Sound's strange doesn't it. The Devil loves? We imagine that is an impossibility, but is it? Consider the very basic elements of 'love.'  It includes delighting in something, committed to someone or thing, the pursuit of a purpose and something which arouses the emotions. All of that is what the Devil is capable of.

The difference between his love and Christ's love stems from their very nature. The Devil's is Darkness, Jesus Christ's is Light. The devil love is ego centred and depraved. Christ's love is outgoing and holy. The Devil's titles unmask his character. He hates Christ Jesus and His people. Devil means 'spoiler, destroyer.' The name Satan means adversary. He is also referred to as Apollyon, meaning destroyer and Beelzebub stands for 'Lord of the flies.' (One who breeds on vermin and decay). He is also called the Serpent and the Dragon.

As we live  in a *World under His control we should not be surprised that what he loves predominates society. In this short article only the briefest insights from Scripture can be given. The Devil loves twisting, defiling and thereby confusing **Scripture to a person's mind. Half truths and out of context quotes are his stock in trade. He has formed religious movements on this premise and the occult is his signature expression. Into Christian Denominations Satan infiltrates with his pernicious doctrines strongly stated by Jude's letter. The Devil's hatred for Israel is evident throughout history. Therefore, he will love and use those who deny Israel's right to exist, who deny God has a future for them and who deny the nation of its right to their Land.

Apollyon loves what his servants do even though he knows they are self-destructing. He enjoys seeing ruined lives and gloats over their pitiable state. At this moment as the ***'Serpent'  he is seducing many with terms such as marriage equality, transgender, evolution, power, prestige and the like, He gloats as those who call themselves Christian stand on his side to undermine God's unchanging Scriptures. Then he puts on his 'lawyer's hat' and +accuses them to the Lord God. Being a murderer from the beginning the Dragon loves to maul Christ's people and shred the Lord's written word. The Devil will love people for his purposes with a love which will demean, deprave, deny God's word, disfigure Christ and the cross and ultimately, eternally, destroy the person.

++Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the Devil. Jesus did that at the Cross. By His resurrection power He is still doing it. The best antidote to those whom Satan loves to use to degrade, destroy and kill is the Love of Christ. We have been promised Christ's grace to trample upon and+++ bruise Satan's head. In Christ we are equipped to shatter the Devil's dark and deathly love. By the ministry of the Holy Spirit Heaven's radiance chases the Devil's darkness away. Standing confident in the Truth of God's word we unmask his lies and deceit. 

Christ's love bears the hallmark of the Cross.
Christ's love reverberates with the power of His resurrection.
Christ 's love redeems, transforms, liberates.
Christ's love brings truth, grace, cleansing and fashions you for eternal glory.
Christ's love. Now, that is real LOVE!^

Copy right Ray Hawkins 24th Sept. 2017
*1 John 5:19.   **Matthew4:6.   ***Revelation 12:9. 20:2   + Revelation 12:10.  ++ 1 John 3:8.
+++ Romans 16:20.    ^ Romans 5:8.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Hallelujah from the Psalms.

Psalm 22 is the prophetic insight into the crucifixion. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” gives way to “praise” in verse 22. “Hallelujah” shattered the gloom of grief and the darkness of despair. “Hallelujah” flowed from the lips of Jesus as He praised His Father for the victory over torture and death. “Hallelujah” is the believers’ anthem of praise for the resurrection of Christ Jesus. 
There Jesus is depicted sharing the reality of His victory with His people. Hallelujah comes from ‘halal’ Jewish word for praise and ‘Jah’ means God. This word resonates throughout Scripture, and particularly in the Psalms. In this collection of 150, the psalm 22 about the crucifixion and resurrection leads the ‘Halal’ chorus. How fitting it is that they would point to the words which would flow from the lips of Jesus.
In the next verse we are invited to agree with what Jesus celebrated. ‘You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all you of the seed of Jacob, glorify Him, and fear Him, all you of the seed of Israel.’ Then, in verse 26 it says that those who seek the Lord shall praise Him and live forever. 
Christians have countless reasons for echoing the many ‘Hallelujahs’ found in the psalms. Psalm 56:4a ‘In God, I will praise His word in God I have put my trust…’. Do we honestly express a “Hallelujah” for the 66 books of the Scriptures? Within this library of God and from Him to us, we can understand Creation and Humanity and the chaos caused by Sin and Satan. More than that, we read of the Lord of Heaven coming to redeem repentant sinners, overthrow sin and death at the cross, offer a new start in life and journey with us to His glory. Psalm 119 is the psalm of praise for God’s Word and its influence within a life.
Those who have heard Handel’s majestic ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from ‘The Messiah’ know the thrill it gives to the heart and mind. Handel tapped into the very essence of the Psalmist’s heart and expressed it with grace and power. It gives expression to how those with faith in and experience with Christ Jesus feel about the Lord and Saviour.  To quote the Psalmist again ‘I will praise the name of God with song, and magnify Him with thanksgiving’ (Ps 69:30). Those who know the transforming grace given by Jesus, His forgiveness, His peace and His promises, cannot help but sing His praises. We may be tone deaf, flat or melodic and exuberant but what the Lord hears is our heart. In turn I believe it makes us sound awesome in the ears of God the Father when we sing praises to God the Son.

The Psalms begins with the word ‘Blessed’ and closes with the word praise. In between are the experiences of God’s people across time. They are confronted with opposition, frustration, enemies, failure, catastrophes and demonic assaults. These are intended by the Devil to shatter God’s promise of being the ‘blessed’ person. What unfolds in the believer’s experience is the faithfulness of God in and through all those moments of pain and confusion. 
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Sure, we will wrestle with many issues throughout life but we tie ourselves to His unchanging grace and eternal Word. That is why we have hope. That is why we can sing “Hallelujah” even as tears flow, for God will not forsake us. The Psalmist even asked Him to collect his tears in a bottle and record them in Heaven’s book (Ps 56:8). I think it was so that later God would vindicate the Psalmist.  This caused the writer, David, to exclaim “In God will I praise (Hallelujah) His word” (verse 10).
The final five Psalms form a quintet of Hallelujahs. What a crescendo we enter into as we read them as a testimony of God’s faithfulness, the believer’s testimony and the declaration
of Faith. “Hallelujah” is proclaimed 20 times. I like to think that number represents 2x10. Two points to testimony and ten expresses God’s perfect order within His world. Are the closing 20 Hallelujahs the Psalmist’s overwhelming testimony and conviction to God’s perfect sovereign rule within a believer’s life? What do you think?

Copyright Ray Hawkins Sept 17 2017.