Sunday, February 26, 2017

The truth of False News

Before and after the U.S.A Presidential elections the now President spoke out about “Fake News!” This caused a lot of furore and criticism, especially from the Press and certain T.V. stations. He has been proven correct. Anyone who has dealt with the media knows there are reporters more interested in sensationalising something than presenting the facts without embellishment, bias or vindictive intent.

This shouldn’t surprise any of us. False news actually began in a garden setting. It has been truthfully recorded by the person affected and later included in the book of Genesis. The creature who spoke the false news was in camouflage gear as the Serpent. He is later identified as the Devil in Revelation 12:9. The one he mislead was Eve who in turn relayed it to Adam. The false news was to malign the character of their Creator and undermine the seriousness of His command not to eat the fruit of a certain tree. The result of believing the false report was a curse upon all creation expressed in death. This is always the power of false news in various areas of life, relationships and society.

The Bible defines false news as a lie. Jesus described the creature who spoke it first as the original liar and what he brought about was murder and lies (John 8:44). False news and its intent and outworking is summed up in Scripture as Sin! There isn’t any arena of life which is free from being infected and affected by false news. Politics is in the spotlight at the moment but it isn’t alone. If you believe the Biblical account of creation, especially as a scientist, you are vilified and often debarred by untrue assertions and out of context quotes. To believe in the historic and Biblical accounts about marriage is to be held up to ridicule and lawsuits as well as being falsely accused of hate crimes. All through recorded history there have been religious charlatans with personal agendas or in league with godless forces and anti-Messianic forces who hate the holiness, morality and prophesied purposes of the Creator. They    are recorded as false prophets and false teachers. The New Testament issues
a similar warning about their insidious messages. The vilification of the Jewish people across the centuries was enflamed by false news. What has been documented about the Nazi regime’s propaganda in this matter reveals the end result, a holocaust. This anti-Israel attitude is being promoted even in the United Nations today. Can you perceive where it could, will lead too? (read the Biblical book of Joel or Psalm 2 or Ezekiel 38 Etc).

Jesus warned His people about the prevalence of false news in regard to a specific event involving Him. In His talk about the climax of history and His promised return Jesus spoke about scurrilous reporters creating havoc. As certain signs foretold were to take place people would get emotional or exasperated by reports coming in as to where Jesus could be found, seen or expected (Matthew 24).  When you read that passage it is evident that the reported sighting are being sent and heard quickly. In our W.W.W. generation this should come as no surprise. With Facebook, smartphones, twitter, Instagram and emails (to name a few) fake, false and flawed stories get unleashed and in an instant travel throughout the world. Even when they are corrected by the facts of the matter the poison has been spread, the damage done. Jesus gave the answer to misguided or mischievous reporting of His returning. He simply said, when it happens, “every eye will see” Him.

Unless there is an unchangeable standard by which to measure what is true or false, what is righteous and what is sin, we will be blown around as a piece of paper in a tornado. That standard is the Judeo-Christian book called the Bible. It reveals an unchangeable God with an unchangeable message verified by the unchangeable Messiah who triumphed over Sin and its false news. This is the reality of Christ and the cross. This Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and in His presence through His word we know the truth and are alerted to what will lead us astray from it. This world is under the malicious influence of the ‘serpent’ (1 John 5:19) that is why there is so much false news circulated and believed. However, as believers in and disciples of Christ we look forward to a new era, when righteousness, truth, justice and grace reigns. Maranatha!

©Ray Hawkins Feb 26th 2017.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Engraver.

When I learnt to write it was on a slate board with chalk. Today people have computers – with spell checks. At least I was one step ahead of those in ancient time who had to write. They virtually had to collect the ingredients, clay, then cut into it their words – hieroglyphics – then baked their tablet before posting it. It is from that background of the writer being initially an engraver we can appreciate certain facets of God’s word. A lot of our writing technology today is subject to decay at a faster rate than clay baked. Shards with inscriptions are still be found two thousand and more years later.

It is worthwhile to note that God is the original engraver. The 10 Commandments were chiselled into rock by the finger of God, Exodus 31:18. The originals were placed in the Ark of the Covenant as a testimony to the Nation. The trouble was that the people honoured the writings but were deaf to its message. There were, of course, notable exceptions who stand out in Biblical history. As the Lord wanted His people to know His commands, judgements and statutes He had the people wear them as a sign upon their hands and between their eyes. The New Testament described them as phylacteries. Householders were instructed to have the commandments on their doorposts and gates. In my youth I called upon people whose house had these words printed on their veranda.

The trouble was it was all outward, not inward.

God’s intention is for His people, you and me included, to have them engraved on our hearts. This is another of the implications behind the picture of God as the potter. If we are the clay, and we need to be, guess what He wants to do? Engrave His word into our heart. Hebrews 10:16 quotes Jeremiah who in turn expressed the Lord God’s intention. That was to write His laws into the hearts of His people. The wonder of this is summed up by the Psalmist “Your word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you.’ (119:11) As with clay we too must experience the baking process. For us the 'furnace' comes when what we hear from God’s word and the flames of doubt, fear, opposition and self-interest flare up and blaze away. It is the testimony of our faith and conviction that God’s word is true which cause the flames to engrave God’s word on our heart and mind.

Job’s words in chapter 19:23-24 is a cry for people to properly understand his situation and hope in God. 'O that with an iron pen and with lead they (my words) were engraved on a rock forever.' The Almighty went better that that. He inscribed them into His Scriptures which endures forever. Job's story is unique but his cry is a challenge to us all. We each have a unique testimony, simple or complex, everyday stuff or strange. The Lord wants to use our testimony to witness to His power, grace and providence.  This is especially important within your family arena. Record, on any one of modern day devices (or like me, on old fashion paper) to tell the Lord's dealings in your life. This information can speak to your family and friends long after you are dead. Let your journey with the Lord’s be engraved deep within your being and yet available to be read by the inquisitive, the enquirers and even the cynics.

Job's hope, confidence and longing are poignantly expressed in  Job 19:25—29.

He knows his Redeemer lives. Job has been doing it tough and doesn't have 'cut and dried' simplistic answers to his sadness. We know not where, where or how this man and the Lord entered into a redeemed relationship, but it happened. His conviction was unshakable. Job also believed his Redeemer will stand upon this earth. That is pointing to two events. The first of course when Jesus entered our history at Bethlehem to become the Redeemer. The second time will be when He returns to establish His kingdom. This is the very kingdom  we pray for when we say the Lord’s Prayer!

Job knows he will die yet is convinced he will live and behold His Redeemer. Such a hope and reality points to belief in a personal resurrection. The very thought of this meeting seems to make him go 'weak at the knees'. This is the wonder of our relationship too. We shall see Jesus face to face even though death may stand between us at the moment. For those who know Jesus as Redeemer the fear of meeting Him is non existent. The same cannot be said for those who reject Him as Lord and Saviour.

Until that day we are to live out what the Spirit of God has engraved within. Then when life throws its cruel, callous and chaotic 'stones' at us we will say, even through tears “I know my Redeemer lives!”

File/Devotional seminar – tahlee.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

wisest king - saddest fool

The wisest of men became the saddest of fools.

His judgement in the case of a paternal dispute is legendary (1 Kings 3:16-28). His sword provided the ‘DNA’ evidence for who was the real mother. His wisdom exceeded that of the wise men of the East early in his reign and with it he compiled many proverbs. Given the honour of building the first Israelite temple and being blessed by a promise by God, Solomon had it all.

But he blew it!

How? By failing to remember God’s requirements for a king who sits on the throne of Israel. In Deuteronomy 17:14-20 Moses recorded the Lord God’s expectations for those who rule over His people. They needed to have their own copy of the Law, and read from it every day. The reason was to learn to fear the Lord. Nor were they to hoard excessive wealth and marry numerous wives, a custom prevalent in surrounding cultures. Because the Almighty had promised to be the Nation’s defender, kings were forbidden to rely upon the army of Egypt or the power of horses and chariots. Added to that the king must not consider himself as superior to his people.

In 1 Kings 11 is the sad list of this wisest of men sliding down the moral and spiritual slope into spiritual stupidity and ignominy. I would suggest he stood on the top of the slippery slope when he ignored reading and obeying God’s word. This is evident by the fact he took to himself wives (probably politically expedient) from nations Yahweh had specifically said “no” too! The result was they turned his heart to pander to their idols, and more than likely to their loose morals. Solomon appears to have been a collector of horses, chariots and gold. He also knew how to tax his people. All of this would destroy his reputation, his spiritual life and damage the character of his son Rehoboam.

In his book ‘Bible Characters’, Alexander Whyte says of this king the saddest of statements. ‘There is no repentance anywhere in Solomon’. His father messed up big time but recognised his error and Psalm 51 is a beautiful and humble expression of repentance. No such psalm or comment can be found from the pen or mouth of Solomon. What a warning this is for us all. When we begin the slide downhill from the Lord’s calling, the way to get off is for the Lord to yank you out. Trouble is, He will not, cannot do it until you call out as a sign of repentance, “Lord help! Lord forgive! Lord have mercy!”

Solomon didn’t practice what he wrote. Consider: ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight’ (Proverbs 3:5). ‘The end of the matter; … Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.’ There is so much more that could be added here. Even that beautiful love poem ‘Song of Solomon’ is tainted. If he wrote it, did he have multiple copies made for his numerous wives? How terribly, terribly sad for the poem is so beautiful. Again there is a warning for us. What we write, what we say, may be lovely and true but its power and meaning will be lessened by personal insincerity and hypocrisy.

The apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 it isn’t how you start the race God calls
you to enter, but how you finish. That’s the danger in senior years. We can know God’s word and will, yet think we’ve enough ‘merit points’.  When we imagine there isn’t more to discover from God’s word, more reasons to serve and worship, more awareness of our spiritual weakness, we are hitting the slippery slope. When we do not fear the seductive power of the World or recognise we have taken the wrong track and therefore no need for repentance, the promised winner’s garland is fading.

Solomon is a warning best expressed in his father’s lament about King Saul, ‘How the mighty have fallen.’ Saul died most noble in battle. Solomon withered into a most ignoble departure into the presence of the Lord he had disappointed.

Lord, kick us, me, off the slippery slope! Keep me focused on the race set before us, before me! Let me not be a stumbling block to other runners, or would be runners! Lord, hear our - my plea. Amen!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Word abuse makes 'Love' suffer

In English it is a four letter word. However, those four letters embrace almost a catalogue of meanings. Today’s blog concludes the 5 imperatives of 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. The word in the Greek is agape and mostly translated love. In the Language of the New Testament love can come under four heading. Eros, Storge, Phileo and Agape express the range of emotional relationships which come under the umbrella of the English ‘love. ‘Let all that you do be done in love’ 1 Corinthians 16:14 NRSV

A man can love his wife and car in the same breath, we can love God or a pet frog or other things too numerous to mention. The English word for love suffers from 'word abuse'. In turn, it produces confusion of understanding.  How easier it would have been to have a range of words, as in Greek, to expound 'love'. So, when Paul expresses this final imperative what word was chosen from the Greek language? Agape! This expresses the highest and most noble insight into expressing love. Whilst it can embrace emotion the word defines love as independent to it. Such love causes the person to rise above personal preferences for the sake of another’s welfare, even as the inconvenience of the one showing agape.

When you read the epistle to the Corinthians it is evident that love was selective, lacking or misunderstood. That is why Paul went to lengths to compile that beautiful piece of love in chapter 13. Agape isn’t bounded by family, cultural or moral fences. It is an open expression of the agape shown to us through Christ and Calvary. This is why such love is costly, behind it and overshadowing it is the cross. It is so easy to get all enthusiastic about following Jesus, who doesn’t need what He offers. Trouble is the Lord puts a two letter word in from of our enthusiastic excitement. “If” is the word of choice and at the same time a sifter of the heart. For “if” points the individual to a cross, personalised and nonnegotiable! Any person who calls Jesus Lord and Saviour has shared in the crucifixion of Christ according to Romans 6. Then the holy Spirit takes that person to the ‘discipleship fitting room’ for the cross the person has been chosen to wear.

How does that relate to agape love in our lives? Primarily in subordinating personal comfort, preference and wisdom to the Master’s honour. This is more than bible reading and worship, important and essential though they be. Love for Christ confronts the personal cross in regards to relationships. In a sense there is often a wrestling match unseen by others except Heaven and the Devil’s realm, which is our Gethsemane. ‘Let all that you do be done in love’ sounds so spiritual and easy, that is until God calls upon you to do something distasteful.

Think about some of the scenarios possible. ‘Love your enemies,’ but they hate me! Pray for them, feed them, treat them with respect even though they are unrepentant. Justice they will face but we are not the judge, we are disciples. This applies to those with whom we disagree morally and with whom we may debate quite strongly. Fear of contagion may arouse disgust but Christ Jesus calls us to help them if they have needs we can meet. That isn’t condoning, it isn’t even liking the person. It is our obedience to Christ and the price expresses the cross placed upon us. It is allowing the Lord to call them to account at His time and place. It offers us an opportunity to witness to our Lord and Saviour.

Apply this principle of love and personal cross to your own scene and enjoyable relationships. Not always easy is it! Putting oneself ‘out’ for the sake of another can be costly and inconvenient. Why bother? It is the right thing. It is what the Lord delights in. It makes agape a reality (even though it may suffer a little from ungraciousness in the initial stages). It often metamorphoses into a blessing.

Paul concludes these five imperatives on the theme of love because without it the previous four won’t impress God. They will be without substance. They will be the sound of gongs and cymbals (Ch. 13).

In conclusion may I be permitted to rearrange just a little these five imperatives? 

‘Let all that you do be done in love.’ This will require you to ‘keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, and be strong!’

©Ray Hawkins29 Jan. 2017.