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.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Jesus the Weakling.

The Amplified Bible translated 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23 and 25 concerning the crucifixion of Christ with mind hammering words. The cross is viewed and described from a sceptic’s response to what happened. ‘Sheer absurdity’ – folly – a scandal, stumbling block- absurd- utterly unphilosophical nonsense - foolish and weak.’ The believer’s response, ‘the foolish thing that has its source in God is wiser than men, and the weak thing that springs from God is stronger than men.

Last week we considered ‘was Jesus a moron?’ Today’s blog asks the question ‘How weak was Jesus to allow Himself to be crucified?’ I have tried to express it in the following poem.

                                                 My God is weak, so very, very weak!
                                                  He didn’t break away from the soldiers
Who placed the cross upon His shoulders.
My God wore their spittle and their taunts.
He must be weak to let them do such things!

My God is weak, so very, very weak!
He never fought when He was whipped.
Never threatened when He was stripped!
He stumbled, fell and the crowd laughed.
He must be weak to let them do such things!

My God is weak, so very, very weak!
No miracle to stop hammer, nail and spear,
No anger to those who screamed and sneered.
Thirsty, thorn crowned, in pain He died.
He must be weak to let them do such things!

My God is weak, so very, very weak!
I’m overwhelmed by His total weakness
When He put aside His awesome greatness
To bear my shame, judgement and death!
Can He be weak to undertake such things?

My God is weak, so very, very weak!
Lifeless, entombed, salvation’s hope dim,
Could He in weakness overcome sin?
The empty tomb declares He ‘did’ win!
Can He be weak to conquer such things?

My God is weak, so very, very weak!
Yet in His weakness I find forgiveness
In His weakness I can enjoy newness.
 My God’s weakness is true love’s greatness.
Can He be weak to achieve us such things?

My God is weak, so very, very weak!
His weakness is my celebration.
His suffering is my Salvation'
His victory is my jubilation!
Can He be weak to be all those things!

My God was ‘weak,’
For me and you
And I love Him for it!
Do you?

From my devotional ‘Captured by Calvary’ ©Ray Hawkins. Available from Christian bookshops  and as an Ebook.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

IsJesus a moron?

The season of the Chocolate Bunny draws near. It is on a takeover endeavour to supplant the Christian celebration we call Easter, in reality ‘The Passover.’ Strange how the human heart thinks it is wise and yet promotes a rabbit to satisfy the heart. But the story of Passover/Easter confronts the rabbit with a story that challenges and arouses either animosity or devotion.

‘The logos of the cross is foolishness to…’ is Marshall’s translation of 1 Corinthians 1:18. Logos is the Greek for ‘word’ and Paul uses it in a two edged way. For logos is a term to describe Jesus in John 1:1. The word for foolishness stems from the Greek meaning ‘moron.’

When you link those two words together you could quite rightly say that some people see Jesus as a moron. That is, He is a fool for going to the cross. The piece of wood which lifted Him up and took His life is the reason for many a person’s estimation of Him. It is easy to admire Jesus for His teaching. There would be agreement as to His worthy actions in healing and feeding people, but the cross! Now that is an entirely different matter.

As you read further into the Corinthian chapter you get an understanding for their reasoning. To the non-Jewish mind, influenced by Greek philosophy, the highest ideal was to obtain wisdom. We still celebrate such men as Socrates, Seneca and Epicetus today. I find it interesting that in the Roman world influenced by Greek philosophy they pursued the mental and debased the moral. Their treatment of slaves, the poor and their acceptance of sexual relationships outside of marriage reveal the limits of wisdom. This is also seen in their views of the gods on Mount Olympus. Romans 1:18-32 is an interesting insight into a Jewish Christian’s view of their society.

Why do people still consider Jesus a moron for being crucified? Why is the preaching and sharing of the story of the cross so offensive? Why does it stir up so much hostility? Is it due to the fact that it offends our view of our own personal worth and right to heaven? Especially when those who are low on the social order are treated the same as those from the more noble, the more sophisticated, the more successful!

Perhaps, just perhaps, this reveals the wisdom of God. How?

God in His wisdom by-passed Humanity’s wisdom as the means of securing salvation. Imagine the philosophical arguments as to which philosophy was the most important and worthy of being the ‘gate’ to glory. How few of us would have passed the entrance exam, especially as any philosophy is subject to change, alteration and challenge. If it was by human wisdom people entered heaven, think about how loud the founders would boast before God. Such thing cannot and will not happen. When those who believe in and accept the foolishness of the cross enter His presence it will be with the gratitude of worship and praise. They know their unworthiness and the Lord Jesus’ amazing grace.

The Logos of the cross requires faith, not wisdom. Why? Because faith is possible for the wisest to the most ignorant person to exercise. Faith stems from hearing the message, assessing its truth, realising personal need for forgiveness and mercy, accepting Christ’s offer of grace and surrendering to His Lordship. Then, a most amazing reality takes hold. Christ Jesus takes you out of sin’s dominance into righteousness. The believer is removed from the kingdom of Darkness and brought into the Kingdom of Light! The person is no longer a slum of self-righteousness or depravity but the temple of the risen Lord. No amount of human wisdom can ever achieve such a transformation!

How glad I am for the Logos of the cross and our Heavenly Father’s foolishness! Are you?

Next week: The Weakness of God.

©Ray Hawkins April 9th 2017.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Love's lifestyle

I once read where a gangster in America’s prohibition era inquired about becoming a Christian. When challenged to renounce his criminal lifestyle he baulked at such a thing. His reply, as I recall, was that he wanted to be known a Christian gangster.

In the mind of some is a similar misunderstanding of God’s grace in Christ. When Jesus summarised His lifestyle requirements as love for God and love for others. This seemed to be a charter for self-determination and indulgence. They could ‘love’ and God’s grace would still cover them. The mind of men and women is twisted, corrupt and seeks to be a god unto itself. To read the New Testament is to grasp the battles those responsible for discipleship faced. Writing to the church at Ephesus Paul called upon them to remember that to walk with the Lord required a walk different to the walk of the unconverted. For the unsaved have their understanding darkened and are alienated from the life of God within because of heart blindness (Ephesians 4:18). This form of living meant no boundaries, no moral code and a hardening of their sensitivities towards others. Then the apostle declares “You have not so learned [about] Christ [and His call on your life] Ephesians 4:20.

If there was ever an abused word in any language it must be ‘love!’ It is used to influence Christians into accepting such things as same-sex marriage, euthanasia and sexual practices specifically denounced in Scripture. For the proponents of such behaviours ‘love’ is the guidelines and the over-arching battering ram to make Christians agree - or else! Fortunately, God’s word cannot be changed! Fortunately, there are those who stand tall in defending it even at great personal cost. Fortunately, the majority of Bible reading and believing Christians decry the abuse of the word love and Scripture. Who knows how long before all followers of Christ will endure the ‘love’ of those who have darkened understanding, ignorant minds and blind hearts.

No one can say they love God and trample on His lifestyle calling. True, when we first turn to Him and enter into His grace and salvation there are many things of which we are unaware. He is very patient with us. However, God’s Holy Spirit will lead you out of ignorance into knowledge and then you become accountable. You cannot worship God and play in the Devil’s yard. You cannot say “I love Jesus” and commit murder. A person cannot bully or defame or hate then imagine God is pleased when that person takes the Lord's Supper. No-one can be a paedophile and kneel before God’s throne and talk about loving God. No one will be able to say “I love God” and yet rob Him of His glory, shred His word and cripple His Church’s testimony through immorality. No one! No one! No one!

A follower of Christ, whatever his or her status in life, has to come to grips with Christ’s definition of love. It is vastly different to that of the World’s religions or those without religion. New believers need to realise while we are free from the Mosaic Laws, Judgements and Statutes, we are actually under a higher calling. The Law of Christ, Love for His Father and for others, liberates the spirit and reigns in the soul. Sure there are times when we trip up and fall short. Yes, there are times when ignorance gives grief. Undoubtedly, the World, the Carnal nature and the Devil entice us into error. BUT! Love for the Christ of Calvary who gave His life on our behalf to redeem us won’t allow us to continue in that arena. His love for us has provided a way for our love of Him to escape the muck and murk of mistake, ignorance and stupidity. It is called repentance! It leads to a deeper gratitude. This in turn leads to a stronger devotion. This is fed by a craving to honour the Lord. When this envelopes us we want to understand and live out His Word. As that knowledge permeates then liberates, cleanses and dictates our lifestyle. In the midst of all this there is a realisation that love of God protects, enriches, empowers and propels the believer into a deep appreciation of His grace.

Lord, may my love for you colour my love for others according to your word. May I reach out to your love when I crash in my Christian life and grasp it through repentance! In the arena of my life when there is a cost to pay because of obedience to Christ’s word, please, let your l0ve to me shrink the cost into nothing but a nuisance and an opportunity to  share your love. Amen!

©Ray Hawkins April 2nd 2017.