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.