Devotionals

A Healthy Hunger.

There is a growing concern Heavenly Father about obesity in the Western World. What is shown on the television or in magazines of grossly overweight people isn’t a pretty sight. Not only adults but children are eating themselves into an early grave. This is a sad indictment on our society. There is to me a greater problem linked with obesity and that’s the fact of people blaming so called junk food and advertisers for the situation. Sound like the ‘Adam syndrome’ of blaming someone or something else for a personal decision.

Is your Church in Western Society obese in your eyes Lord? We have expensive buildings, ego centred ministries, great entertaining services and fine charity work benefiting numerous peoples, but is this merely accumulated ‘fat’? I ask this because the visible expression of the Church is obsessed with prosperity and performance rather than preaching your word, unmolested by ulterior motives. Once again the Church is infiltrated by those intent on profit, not righteousness. Paul shared his concern on a similar matter in 2 Corinthians2:17 “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.’

You warned the nation of Israel about the dangers of affluence in Deuteronomy 8:10-14 and how it more than conflict would seduce their allegiance. I noticed how Balaam sold his soul for riches in Numbers and caused Israel to sin. He is used as an example of the dangers of greed and immorality sneaking into the life and ministry of the Church. The Church in Pergamum was especially prone to this obesity with spiritual and moral ‘junk food.’ (Revelation 2:12-17)
Have we forgotten as your disciples what you said in regards to our spiritual life. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) You satisfy without making us fat and lazy. The same goes for your word, it is for us ‘bread, milk and meat’ and the more we ‘eat it the more we desire it and yet it never makes us bloated or overweight. I think this is due to your word causes us to run and not grow weary, to walk and not be faint in righteousness, truth and service.

Your ambassadors are also your caterers are they not? They are commissioned to feed those in their care with the menu of Heaven. Paul summed it up for Timothy when he instructed him to ‘preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season – keep your head in all situations, endure hardships, discharge all the duties of your ministry.’ (2 Timothy 4:2, 5) No fairy floss or junk food on the menu of Heaven. It must break your heart Lord to see some groups switching menus for what the world has to offer. The moral and spiritual well being of your people declines accordingly.
Lord, create in us a craving for what you and you alone have to offer, salvation, righteousness, truth, peace and eternal life.

Personal Soliloquy. Place yourself on God’s weighing machine – His Word – and gauge whether you are spiritually trim or tending towards obesity and sloth?

Post card from God. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6.






A devotional soliloquy from Ray N. Hawkins

Commanding the Impossible

You’ve made it rather difficult Lord.
No. It’s impossible!
The sermon this morning made me very conscious of it. The preacher actually made me feel despondent as he worked through the love sequences of 1 Corinthians 13. I agree, love is noble but really as I listened I thought you asked too much.

Over the years I’ve tried and tried to live out what Paul wrote about. Mary and I even had it in our wedding service. But honestly Lord, I know I’ve failed, time after time. When I concentrate on making sure one facet of Love works, others are collapsing through neglect. After a while it all gets too much and I give up.

What you are asking is beyond my power to fulfil. Well, that’s how I see it. Sure, I can give an appearance of Love to others and people will think (unless they know me real well) that I’m doing fine. But how could you expect me the get all the sixteen facets of Love together and maintain the momentum?

I can’t do it! It is as simple as that. I can’t! It is beyond my capacity, even if I had an overwhelming desire to try. Maybe that’s part of my problem. Every time I’ve given it a go something within me rises up and short circuits the desire and will power. You know what I mean ‘cause you know me. Love calls on me to keep no record of wrongs. In all sincerity I do forgive those who hurt or offend. I pray for them. I go out of my way to be reconciled, but…! When that person treads on my toes again, all those past hurts appear in my mind as if by magic. The old memory’s accounting sheet doesn’t seem to allow for any erasing. One good thing I have to admit, you keep me from having a poison pen with which to embellish their faults. Maybe, just maybe, that is what loving you achieves.

As I sit in this café, sipping tea and munching a biscuit I recall what John wrote about in 1 John 4:19. ‘We love because you first loved us’ so it strikes me I’ve been going about this Love requirement all wrong. It’s been a self effort exercise rather than a self– surrender to you experience. How many times do I have to learn that without you I can do nothing in meeting your standards for living. So, it looks like the only way I’m going to meet the impossible command to Love is by keeping close to you and drawing on your inexhaustible grace.

Lord, the café owner is looking at me with a strange look in his eyes. He’s probably wondering why I’m taking so long over a cuppa. Best get a move on. Thanks Lord for your time.





When God Sings.

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.

The nightmare was so real. The child woke screaming and terrified. Rushing to his side the mother held him close to calm him and then sang a lullaby of love. Such is the picture presented in the book of Zephaniah of God’s comfort to Israel after the terror of its nightmare which is real and yet to happen.
Those who hold the Bible as God’s Word telling of promised events, some fulfilled, others still to take place, they are aware of a great tragedy foretold. 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 experienced. 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. Can you imagine what a glorious solo this will be on behalf of His people? 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. Imagine that which is beyond us but certainly enjoyable to contemplate, the voice of the Lord in song. Scripture talks about the Voice of God in such terms as loud, powerful, like the sound of a multitude and yet when speaking to the broken prophet Elijah it was one of quiet gentleness. “The Lord will cause men to hear his majestic voice…” (Isaiah 30:30) That context is one of judgment. Psalm 29 also highlights the voice of the Lord in very dramatic fashion. However, for us the most important feature about the Lord’s voice is to hear it when He calls to us. By His Spirit, through his Word He calls us to know Him, love and obey Him. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” said Jesus. Then we too will hear the song of love that our Lord has composed and desires to sing.

Love’s note. No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him – but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit…(1 Corinthians 2:9-10)
How tuned in to God’s voice am I so that when He whispers to my heart it will not be drowned out by worldly static?







Who’s Doing The Asking?
(a soliloquy)

Well, Lord, I was a bit taken aback in the small group time today. The leader applied Matthew 7:7 in a way I’d never thought of. I’ve always seen it as me asking you, seeking you and knocking on heaven’s ‘door’ so as to have answers to prayer. She applied it to you! The verse says: ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.’
Help me Lord to grasp this. Do you follow such a procedure in my life? Are you asking me? Seeking me? Knocking on my heart? I thought she was a bit far fetched so at the kitchen table I’m trying to check her out. You know, she’s right!
You ask me to give as an act of faith to support your work. It seems to me that you’re asking me to give, whatever the request happens to be, is for my spiritual vitality. When you asked for ‘Bread’ did I offer you a piece of quarried rock from a hard heart?
I’m sorry.
 Your seeking wasn’t really new. You came to seek and save the lost. I was one of those. Thanks Lord for finding me. However, it was a new thought that often, you have to seek me out from my various hiding places. Hiding amongst my work or pleasures, even church activities has lulled me into indifference. When you came to receive acknowledgement of your mercy in my life, did I respond? I think I had buried it in my self righteousness.
Your knocking is rather disturbing. Lord, I’ve applied that in Revelation 3:20 to those poor, foolish unsaved types. How wrong I was. It was your effort to get through to people like me. How long have you been ringing the bell ‘cause I’ve not been listening, well not until now?
What that class leader raised this morning about you asking, seeking and knocking, and my responses, explains something to me. No wonder the Christian life has been a bore and church a mere going through the motions.
I’m not sure, Lord, how I’ll cope. But if you are still interested in the A.S.K. process, you’ll find me more responsive from now on.
Amen!     

 




Terms Give Me the 'Germs'.
A soliloquy
           
O God, I must be thick!
            Well, that’s how I feel are enduring this day’s sessions at Convention. It’s eleven p.m. and I’m still wound up and sleep seems a million miles away. I admit the speakers were mostly good but nearly all of them went on and on and on with the current jargon of in words describing the generations. Baby boomers, the X generation, Baby busters etc, it got to me, as you are well aware.
            I accept the fact that I’m getting old, even fossilizing around the edges, but I cannot for the life of me understand why giving terms to age brackets makes conversions to Christ any easier. Why are we always trying to dress up, or down, the Gospel to make it more appealing? All I seem to catch are emotional germs.
            From your Word I gather that the good news of Jesus is actually unappealing to the human heart, of any generation. Am I right in this understanding or wide of the mark No matter how fancy we want to dress up your Word for present day attitudes the cross still looks ugly, threatening and costly. I grew up going to Sunday School and Church youth meetings yet the reality of the cross didn’t sink in. My heart considered itself good enough for you. The message of the Passover was simply a testimony to your grace to Israel and conflict with Pharaoh.
            Your Holy Spirit had to wrestle with me with some biblical ‘holds’ I couldn’t breakout of. Only then would I admit defeat. Giving up the rights to my self, my pride and self justifying was a bruising encounter with the Gospel. No one is ever the same when the wrestle with you. To ‘win’ by refusing to surrender to you is to lose. The day I acknowledged defeat and gave my life to you was the sweetest victory I’ve ever had.
            So you can see Lord why I get annoyed when speakers try and sugar coat the message of the Cross. Regardless of how anyone tries to pretty it up, the cross is still horrid to the heart. Sure, we need to understand the cultural climate, the understanding level and the maturity of the people. However, this is different to camouflaging the Gospel’s unyielding demands associated with the cross. There is no amount of cosmetics in the universe that can make it glamorous to the soul.
            There’s a strange thing about the cross. When we bow the heart and confess Jesus as our personal Lord and Saviour, it becomes majestic, awesome as well as humbling. As I grow in my faith I’m appreciating the words of Paul who said, ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ (1 Cor. 1:18) Paul also wrote words I believe many modern disciples need to rediscover, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.’ (Galatians 6:14)
            I’m still a bit worked up, although talking things over with you is great therapy for the spirit. Still, I think I’ll have a cuppa and read through Galatians. That will safeguard me from the germs of terms.
            Thanks Lord.
 




For 2013 I wish #8

Words and their history fascinate me. Behind so many apparent meanings are pictures vividly portraying some wider, deeper meaning.  This is also true of numbers found in the Bible.

The numbers 1-7 of course occupy the Genesis account of Creation.   Number one talks about the beginning. Number seven equals completion. Why then would I want to wish you a number eight (8) for the New Year of 2013? Let me share with you my thinking – which I have to admit has come from other more learned sources.

The King James translation brings out the original much more clearly than most of the others. After Adam’s treason which is the basis of sin we have a list of names in Genesis 5. – the eighth after Adam is Noah. What is the significance? He was the Lord’s instrument for a new beginning. How many were on board the ark? Eight! They were the foundation of a new people. (2 Peter 2:5.  1 Peter 3:20).

What day was set aside for the male baby to be circumcised? Correct! The eight. It spoke of a covenant relationship between Israel (the child) and Yahweh. (Genesis 17:12. Philippians 3:5). When Hezekiah came to the throne of Judah the spiritual life of the people, and the temple building were a mess. In 2 Chronicles 29:16-17 are the details of the cleansing which took seven days. On the eighth day it was sanctified. A new beginning.

Thomas missed out on seeing the risen Lord on the resurrection Sunday. In John 20:26: ‘after eight days again his disciples were within , and Thomas with them: then came Jesus…stood in their midst, and said “Peace be unto you.” He also enjoyed the new beginning.  For Christians every Sunday is a reminder of our eighth day. We are by God’s grace the people who have entered into the realm of new beginnings 

There are other passages you could pursue for your own personal edification. However it underscores my prayer for you in 2013. May you realise the beauty and the bounty inherent in the number eight, Scripturally speaking. When you gave your life to Christ you received a new beginning: a new destiny: a new relationship: a new … (you add to the list). Plus when you or I foul up the Lord has provided means of forgiveness and cleansing as depicted in Hezekiah’s account.

So you can understand why I like the number 8 and would like you to enjoy it too.

(Ray (in the numbers game) Hawkins.
 







No Dead End.

Time…12:15pm
Place…along a country road on the outskirts of a village.
Road signs can sometimes be intriguing dear Lord. The one back there I just passed is one that made me smile. Under the street name was the sign saying ‘cemetery.’ Beneath that was another sign, ‘no through road.’
My strange sense of the ridiculous took over as I put the two statements together. That would be the way the world views death. The end of the road! There’s no way through. Its a full stop once you’re there. What a road sign for despair and hopelessness. As I drive along I cannot but think of the difference you, Lord, have made to that type of road sign in the hearts of your people.
I remember reading somewhere that burial paces prior to the emergence of the Christian Faith were called, Necropolis, the place of the dead. After your resurrection the word for such places gradually changed. Now they were seen as sleeping rooms, places. What a marvellous distinction. No longer the realm where death reigns supreme, rather a place where the body sleeps. Death has lost its powerful grip because you, Lord, have taken away its keys and opened the way to life eternal in your company.
You know I’m not the bravest of people. The valley of the shadow of Death is an ever present reality. More so now than ever as years mount up. Still, when I get a little apprehensive, I find inner tranquillity in recalling your victory of this final enemy of humanity.  The 23rd psalm says it so well when it mentions the valley as a pathway, not a dead end. You have opened up the way and you walk with your people through it into the prepared place. That does calm the soul and makes me strong in knowing you travel the way with me.
If it was in my power to change the signs I think I’d make a different one for that cemetery pointer. Instead of ‘no through road’ I’d put a roadside rest marker. In Australia we use the symbol of a park bench. That, to me, is more meaningful from a Christian’s viewpoint to explain the enigma of death.
Maybe Lord one of the reasons we put crosses on graves is a reminder that you conquered the dead end of life. For those who have lived and died under the Cross they wait your wake up call.
Thank you for letting us share in your victory.
Amen.

Ray (on the through road) Hawkins






Why did I procrastinate?

I know I should have done it there and then. But I put it off. Distracted and forgetful I was to pay the price in sweat and a trickle of blood. The little weed became  a mass of thorns and leaves. The blackberry roots also went deep.

Later, as I recovered from the exertion my procrastination created I became the preacher again. In my mind I turned the physical into the spiritual. The weed I did battle with was once a seed. It found an appropriate place to lodge and then grow.  How similar to the various seeds the world and the Devil fling at a person wanting to find a crack, an open unattended area of life.

Is your Christian life like mine? I want it to be fruitful and pleasant in the sight of the Lord. That requires constant attention. When I get slack or too busy to tend my spiritual life I soon discover the world or the Devil has scattered weeds of lust, envy, bitterness, shame fear to mention but a few. Failure to deal with them when they are recognised has detrimental effects in my life of faith and worship.

The fruit and fragrance is choked and my joy in the Lord is smothered. Fortunately He doesn’t allow that to continue. He sets about to discipline, awaken and to arouse my spirit to repent. Then I have to deal with each weed according to the Lord’s manual – the bible.  This can take time, more effort than if done in the beginning and a bit embarrassing when others know what’s happening.

Anyway, the effort is worth it. To honour the Lord by a weed free fruitful life is my expression of gratitude for His grace to me. May it be that I’ll be more attentive to the first signs of sprouting weeds, today!

Ray (constantly weeding) Hawkins

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