Sunday, August 27, 2017

Scandals in the Bible.

Scandals fill our news network constantly. Disgrace and shame follow in their discovery. Reputations suffer and the family name is sullied. There isn’t any honour in being associated with scandals or is there?
The Greek word ‘skandalon’ which gives us our English ‘scandal’ actually means ‘stumbling block.’ The New Testament uses it to tell the effect the Bible story has in the minds of society when it thinks of Christians. The following brief scandals of faith which cause the non Christian world to stumble Christ’s followers wear with honour. Sure, the cost is high and reputations, ambition and income suffer. However, disciples weigh that in the light of the cross and eternal truth and count the price as nothing.

The scandals begin from the very first words of the Bible, ‘In the beginning, God created … ‘ and it was done in six days. This offends evolutionists with their billions of years and they throw verbal ‘stones’ and unsubstantiated theories to smear Creationists, who often have superior scientific degrees.
This is followed by the opposition to the Biblical basis for marriage in Genesis 2. This has been discussed on previous blogs. Opponents to marriage as being between a man and a woman stumble and crash in disarray on this foundation for the most intimate of relationships.

Staying in Genesis is another frustrating rock of offense that won’t go away. The verifiable and worldwide flood of Noah and the Ark fame. Fossils from all around the world and from the depths to the mountain heights tell of this cataclysmic event. Once again it undermines their uncountable years of death and decay as a series of gradual events. Believers in the Biblical account are vilified and often overlooked in their professions.
Perhaps the greatest and most offensive sense of offense centres upon the One who is the reason for the Bible, the JudeoChristian faith, Jesus the Christ. It isn’t about His Sermon on the Mount, or His good deeds. No! It is because of who He is, why He came, what He did and promise.

Jesus claims to be the One promised in the 39 books of the Old Testament. He is the descendant of King David. He is the Son of Man, the Messiah promised. He is the Son of God, Emmanuel through the virgin birth. Pointers from the Old Testament are verified in the Gospel accounts as taking place in this Man of Galilee. That’s too much for some to handle.
Most offensive however is the Calvary event. The cross arouses such anger, disgust or denial that people have rampaged to silence or destroy those who believe the crucifixion. The cross says that no one is good enough for God. It says there is no other way to be acceptable to the Holy Creator. The cross vindicates the words of Jesus and cancels out the blasphemy charges against Him. For the resurrection declares Him righteous and He is able redeem all those who put their trust in Him.

For Israel the cross is a stumbling block and for Gentiles it is foolishness. For believers the
cross is the Almighty’s wisdom which discredits Human efforts to deal with sin. It is also the power of God by which He transforms the spiritually dead into new life. By Christ’s risen life He can take a person out of the spiritual realm of Darkness and into Christ’s kingdom of light. In accepting the crucified and risen Lord guarantees forgiveness, cleansing and reconciliation with God. Jesus is an offense because He offends our pride, our goodness and our deeds as not able to impress the Heavenly Father.

The final scandal of the Christian Faith is Christ’s insistence that He will return to complete His mission. His first coming was for our salvation. His second coming will be to reign and to judge which scares those who live without Him. Is it any wonder that those who are offended, scandalized by and stumble at the Gospel try and reduce it to myth, carve up its historical integrity or penalise the disciple.
The Bible is a scandalous book which transforms the believer into being a citizen of Heaven. It is a scandal which can never be silenced. It is a scandal over which unbelief causes people to stumble, yet it is a rock on which believers rise to greater heights. As Romans 9:33 says: ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.’

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Where Marriage was created.

The sexual debate has gone full circle from Caesar's time to now. When the Church began its entrance into Gentile territory it faced a sexual minefield. Rome's attitude to sexual relations was in stark contrast to that upheld by the Judeo-Christian faith. How did the Christian faith take on the challenge? 

By paying a high price in its commitment to the Scriptures Jesus believed in. By an understanding that marriage had links to the Creation of Adam and Eve. Believers showed a better way in their marital relationship and its impact upon the children. I don't read of Christians holding protest marches but rather being vilified for their stance and power of debate. The cross triumphed over the sword and the arena by the faithful witness even unto death.

Why would people once happy with a free and easy, unrestrained sexual taste remove themselves from that scene? Why would they be willing to be scorned by those once considered friends? Because the came to understand that marriage was more than sex and having legitimate heirs. Behind it was a spiritual dimension that only the Creator would explain much later. This reason undergirding marriage has for many Christians and church goers been neglected, or worse still, debunked.

Genesis tells us that the Lord created Adam first and from his side made Eve. How ridiculous! We all know it is the woman which gives birth. Why would the Creator stretch our credibility with Adam producing Eve? This isn't only recorded in Genesis 2:21-25 but by the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:13. It is only the Scriptures that tells of the reason and it is twofold. One is that when a husband and wife come together in the sexual act they become one flesh. This is why the Bible is so strident against promiscuity. It is also the same reason as to why same sex relationships will never be valid  in the Lord God's sight. 

The other reason is that Eve being formed from out of the side of Adam pointed to Christ and the cross. Jesus is the redeemer. He is also the One (and the only One) from whom the Church could come. The significance of the spear into His side is for forgiveness, yes, but more so for the creation, birth, forming of the Church. That is why the Church is likened to a bride. It takes us back to the Creative act of God in Genesis. Therefore when a person was converted and realised the call upon his or her life a new mindset based upon the Bible developed.

Within this new realm grew a desire to honour the Lord and Saviour. To do that required making a commitment to live a life pleasing to Him. There are many verses in the New Testament explaining the difficulties but determination in living such a life. Too many disciples of Christ have too little understanding of the lifestyle required as pleasing unto their Lord.

Let us stand our ground as to why the Christian concept of marriage is best for our society. we don't have to be rude, crude or derogatory towards other views. However we may need to develop a mindset which will endure various forms of opposition. The best answer is in many ways is being muffled by relationship breakdowns of church goers. What is needed by non-Christians to see is a fulfilled, interesting, growing and enjoyable marriage between a man and a woman who seek to honour Jesus. Let it be your!

Ray Hawkins 13.8.2017
The devotional 'From Eden with Love is about Marriage. It is available from Christian bookshops and as an ebook.
You can get it from me, the author, also.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Marriage, ministry, Mutual responsibility

Lately there has been much discussion about women in ministry. Alongside of this has appeared wife abuse. This blog would like to take you along a path in relation to husband and wives in Christian ministry. When Adam was created God gave Eve to him to be the man’s help mate. There wasn’t any intention of competition or inferiority. God’s principle inherent in that relationship still exists and should be best expressed within the marriage of a minister and his wife. It is called 'one flesh.' That has no emphasis on rank but on oneness and finding each one's differences woven together for mutual strength and honour.  That is a challenge to both. How well do I release my wife to fulfil the Lord’s calling upon her life? Do I have any idea what her gifts and abilities may be? How well am I sustained and encouraged by my 'help-mate!'  

In 1 Corinthians 9:5 there is a snippet concerning the Apostle Peter. It regards to the unsung role of an apostle’s wife. The Apostle Paul wrote, ‘Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?’ Why would Peter have Mrs. ‘Peter’ accompany him on at least some of his ministry ventures? Once again the silence of Scripture intrigues and teases the imagination. The macho apostle in a male chauvinistic world was uninhibited and unashamed to have his wife by his side. What Peter wrote about wives and husbands in 1 Peter 3:1-7 was it out of personal experience. Could he have been showing appreciation of a ‘one flesh’ relationship within ministry? It must have motivated him (with her encouragement?) to see converts separated by their faith woo and win their spouses to the Lord. His advice is still relevant.

There is another couple within Scripture about whom we know a little more and yet not enough. Aquila and Priscilla stand out as a wonderful, faithful, energetic couple. Something which has aroused some commentary responses are the occasions when Priscilla is given precedence over her husband. Again we do not know much about their relationship or up-bringing. We do however gain insights about their team ministry. It wouldn’t be far from the mark to say they were comfortable with each other’s role. Neither would have felt threatened when the other was mentioned first in despatches. How different it has been with some others in the Christian ministry.

The male ego is often fragile while at the same time lapping up the ‘crumbs’ of public applause. Sometimes an immature personality is unsettled or jealous when his wife receives accolades for  exercising her gifts and abilities. The attitude of Diotrephes (3 John) can be rampant within the minister’s house as well as with a local congregation. Where, O where, is the beautiful Biblical incentive of ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others’ Philippians 2:3, 4. In the context of a minister’s relationship with his wife and her expressions of ministry surely the same rule applies.

Proverbs 4:5-9 is about Wisdom. This information can be so easily applied by a minister to his wife. There is great benefit to him personally and therefore to his ministry in treating his wife as Proverbs explained Wisdom. The word ‘Wisdom’ has been change in the following passage to ‘wife.’ ‘Do not forsake your wife, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you… Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendour.’ Such an outlook releases the wife to express her gifts and abilities with the husband’s encouragement and pride. The consequences of all this trust is to enrich her life and expands her love, respect and admiration for her man. The testimony of such a mutual ministry and relationship is a wonderful attraction and a strong challenge. 

When asked what has been my greatest asset in ministry I unhesitatingly reply, ‘My wife!’ Mary has been my help-mate in every area of my life and ministry. From a human perspective without her I could not have had our fulfilled and successful ministries. She has been God's gift to me!
Ray Hawkins August2017.