Sunday, 30 June 2013

Zeal without Knowledge

Romans 10:1-2
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 
It is possible to be zealous for God but to be entirely wrong about the gospel. We can be energetic and enthusiastic in seeking to serve God, and yet be missing the whole point and not really be serving him at all.

That's the problem with having zeal without knowledge. The Jews knew the law, and they were enthusiastic in keeping it. They were legalistic and I'm sure that they thought they were doing great things for God. But in reality they were hindering the gospel. The Pharisees and Sadducees were working to kill Jesus out of their zeal. Paul was persecuting Christians out of his zeal for 'God'. But their god wasn't the same God as the one in the bible. They didn't believe the gospel. They thought they could save themselves with their works.

  • Knowledge versus Salvation
We are not saved based on how much we know or don't know about God. But to be saved, to genuinely put your faith in Christ and repent of your sins, you've got to know something. If you don't know the gospel how can you believe it? If no one preaches the message, how can anyone be saved? (Sure, God doesn't need us, but he chooses to use us in bringing people to him.)

True service to God can only come after genuine salvation and trust in Jesus. So we need to know enough to put our trust in God before we can serve him.

In fact the 'fear of the LORD' (trust in God) is the beginning of knowledge/wisdom:
Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
  • Knowledge versus ability to serve God.
Again, it's true that God doesn't only work through those who know a lot about him and about his word. But that isn't a reason not to be striving to know more about God. He can use anyone and anything to do his will, but he also calls us to be faithful with what we have.

A side point to this is that young Christians, and Christians who don't know a lot shouldn't be readily appointed to high positions in the church. Our leaders should know a lot about God, otherwise how are they going to teach us? Be wise in what leadership positions you take on in the church and be wise if you're appointing people to leadership positions. Jesus didn't appoint the 12 disciples to high places straight away, he taught them for three years before they became leaders of the church.

  • Is having knowledge about God important?
In short: Yes. It is very important. 

If we don't know much about God, then (humanly speaking) how are we meant to tell others about him? How are we meant to know how he wants us to live? How are we meant to know who he is? If we don't seek to know more about God then how are we meant to be encouraged by the gospel? How else can we know more about the certain hope of heaven? How else can we learn that there is full forgiveness in Jesus alone, not based on anything we have done?

There is always more to learn, and we should not be frustrated by that. We should rejoice in God's goodness in allowing us to learn about him and work hard to know more.

This also requires a lot of humility. Look at Apollos in Acts 18:18-28. He was humble enough to listen, and if he hadn't been then his zeal wouldn't have been as effective as it was. We need to be ready to listen and to be teachable. Always examine the word of God, and be ready to discuss with other people (especially those you don't agree with).

The other side of this is that if we have knowledge, if we know a lot about God (from his word), then we should be seeking to use it and to serve God with it. It is so easy to have knowledge without zeal, and this is just as useless as zeal without knowledge. We need to love God and serve him, not to be silent. We need to trust him and be courageous to share the gospel. Don't just sit back and read books! Trust God and obey him!

Do you have zeal for God? Work at gaining knowledge of the truth also.

Do you have knowledge about God? Word at being enthusiastic to see other people learn and to serve him.

Friday, 28 June 2013

God Provides

I've been thinking over the past couple of days about how our relationship with God is dynamic, not static. Once we are Christians, things aren't all just straightforward and easy - we are constantly moving in our relationship with God. That movement is either away from him or towards him.

Don't get me wrong, when we genuinely repent and put our faith in Jesus we are saved and united with him, and that cannot change (Ephesians 1:13-14, Philippians 1:6, Romans 8:28-39, John 6:37-47, John 10:27-30 and John 17:12 to name a few verses), but within our walk with God as Christians things are constantly changing. We are constantly learning and growing and we need to constantly be keeping our focus on God and on the gospel, otherwise we make room for satan to tempt us and to drag us away from our fellowship with God.

Tied to this is the fact that God works through all things for the good of his people (Romans 8:28). We do struggle and move away from him, but he always draws us back. He works through our failings to teach us, grow us and show is love and power more fully. Ive seen that countless times in my life.

Those two things put together provide a lot of motivation and encouragement.

  • Since our walk with God is not static, we need to put effort in to stay close to him.
  • But since God is in control and only he can change us, we can trust that he will work through our effort and draw us to him.
  • Since our walk with God is always moving, we need to be working hard to obey him (not simply our of duty, but out of love and thankfulness to honour our saviour).
  • But we also know that when we fail God is more than ready to forgive and that when we turn to him he will draw us back to himself.
For example: Over the last few weeks I've been really busy. I've had heaps of school work to do and a whole heap of other things going on. The result has been that even though I've kept reading the word, I haven't really been paying close attention to it and I haven't really be focussing on the gospel. One of the results has been that I've been getting stressed and anxious and haven't been trusting God as much as I should.

Today I had some time to think over that and to pray for help more fully then I have for the aw few days/weeks. God in his mercy/the Holy Spirit drew a few different verses to my mind including 1 Peter 5:7: 
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
Then when I looked over to what I was up to in Romans today here's what I read:
Romans 10:11
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
Both of those were exactly what I needed to be thinking on today, and the Holy Spirit called them to mind to convict me and to draw me back to God. The flip side of the coin is that I need to work at trusting God more and at not getting so caught up in my school work and other things that they distract me from my walk with God.

The point of all this: Trust God. He provides whatever we need. He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13) and we need to put our trust entirely in him.

Soli Deo Gloria.

God Bless.
Nat.

What is your hearts desire?

Romans 10:1-2
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.
Paul's hearts desire was for his people to be saved. What is our hearts desire? What do we desire above all else? I know for me it's often things which are worthless. As a younger teenager one of my main hearts desires was to get really high levels on Runescape. My Hearts desire now (as I've expressed in a number of posts) is so often to have my friends approval. But that's not good enough.

Those things have no value when we look on life from an eternal perspective, so we should be working to reorientate our desires. One of our chief desires should be to share the gospel and for those around us to be saved. Why is that?

If we truly recognise our total depravity and the sinfulness of every human being who is alive, and if we acknowledge God's justice, then we have to conclude that everyone deserves and is headed for God's wrath. But if we are Christians then there is complete salvation in Jesus. He came to earth and died in our place so that anyone who puts their faith in him and repents will be entirely forgiven. If we truly understand and believe that, we should be overjoyed and therefore want others to be saved. Jesus is the only way for us to be saved, we need to tell others.

How can we work on reorienting our desires?

  • Pray. Pray for God's help to love him more and to love his word more and to love other people more. Ultimately it is only God who can change us and help us to love him and serve him.
  • Read the bible. Reflect on who God is and work hard to understand the gospel better. 
  • Act. There's no use saying that you want to change but then not working at it. We need to act, to pray for and look for opportunities to share the gospel and to act on them. Sure, we will fail, and I am in no way saying that this is easy - it's one of the things that I struggle with most. Nevertheless if we truly want to change we need to work at it. Jesus commands us to share the gospel on multiple occasions. We should obey out of love. (Matthew 28:18-20, John 14:23)

I'm not saying that this should be our only desire. We should also desire to know God more and to be more godly. There's nothing wrong with wanting strong friendships or wanting to be healthy and wealthy, there are plenty of good and important things to desire, and it isn't wrong to do so. But God needs to be at the centre of all that we do and desire.

What is your hearts desire?




Wednesday, 26 June 2013

VOM Prayer Watch.

This is a copy of the latest Voice of the Martyrs prayer newsletter.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Prayer Requests

Islam is gaining influence in the country and Muslim extremists are trying to gain a political hold. Traditional African religions are also growing in number with members claiming that Jesus is a God of white people.

When 27-year-old Nadine became a Christian three years ago, her parents tried to convince her to leave Christianity. Nadine refused and was forced from her home. She is now living with a Christian family.

Mbuta, 43, is married and has five children. When his boss discovered Mbuta was a Christian, he asked him to leave his faith. Mbuta refused and his boss forced him to resign. Mbuta has been unable to obtain employment for three years. He and his family are suffering, but he has kept his faith in the Lord.

Source: Voice of the Martyrs Australia

Please pray for VOM workers in DRC as they bring support and encouragement to those who have suffered for their faith.
Praise the Lord for the faithfulness of Nadine and Mbuta. Ask God to provide for them and strengthen their faith in Him.

TAJIKISTAN: Convert Suffers Severe Persecution

Nadia, a Christian convert in Tajikistan, is experiencing severe persecution from her Muslim family members.

Nadia converted from Islam to Christianity in 2011 and was baptised. When her mother found out, she beat Nadia, burned her Bible and tore her clothing. Nadia tried to run away, but her brothers found her. They shaved her hair, gave her a public beating, and locked her in their house. When she ran away, they caught her again.
Nadia called a Voice of the Martyrs contact on 9 June, sobbing, and said her family had beaten her again, this time for hours, and forced her to say the Muslim statement of faith. The VOM contact has since been unable to reach her via phone.
Source: Voice of the Martyrs USA

Pray the Lord will protect Nadia and direct her to a place of safety and provision (2 Corinthians 1:10).
Please pray Nadia will remain strong in her faith and that the Lord will bring her family to Christ.

PAKISTAN: Christian Teenager Dies in Police Custody

Over 4000 Christians in Punjab recently took to the streets in protest at the alleged torture and killing of a Christian young man held in police custody. Eighteen-year-old Adnan Masih died at Sharaqpur Sharif city police station on 10 June after being detained for six days.

Adnan was arrested over the alleged kidnapping of a young Muslim woman. His family said he did not even know the woman and believe Adnan was tortured during his detainment and then killed. The police reportedly claimed Adnan committed suicide.

The family’s legal advisors believe Adnan was targeted because of his faith as other non-Christian suspects were released within a day. Three police officers have since been arrested.

Source: Release International

May God comfort Adnan's family, giving them the strength they need to pursue justice on his behalf. Pray for divine protection over the family and their legal representatives.

Two Idols and the One True God.

In Judges 4, we see once again that the Israelites turn away from God.
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.
What we see here are two idols and the one and only true God.


  • The first Idol is Israel's idol.
They did evil in the eyes of the Lord. They rebelled against God and went back to sinning. They rejected him and refused to obey him and live as his people anymore. Throughout the book of Judges (and the whole Old Testament) Israel continually turns away from God and rejects him. They prefer to live their own way. They prefer to do what they want to do.

That's the same as us isn't it? We prefer to live our way. We think that our way is better. That we can turn to God later (maybe if it suits us), but for the moment we'll live how we want, doing what we want, when we want to do it. We don't want to stand up to our friends when they are sinning, we'd prefer to ignore it or even to join in. We don't want to obey God when he commands us not to do things, we'd prefer to do it our way.

The result: Israel is enslaved by a foreign king (like God had said they would be) and oppressed. Even if we are not punished for rejecting God here on earth, then there is eternal judgement in hell after we die because we all sin and we all deserve God's wrath. But there is hope in Jesus, and there is complete forgiveness. At the end of those verses we read that Israel calls to God for help. That's what we need to do.


  • The second idol is Jabin's idol.
He trusts in his strength. He trusts in his chariots. He doesn't submit to God because he thinks he is strong enough to do whatever he wants (similar to Israel).

Again, that's us so often isn't it? We trust in money, or in friendships, or in our knowledge, or like Jabin, in our strength. I find that so often I trust in my friends and want their approval. But these things cannot save. They cannot satisfy us (because we could always have more and better friendships and strength and wealth) and they cannot save because our problem isn't physical. It's spiritual. And none of these things mean anything once we die.

  • The One True God.
Near the end of the chapter we read this:
Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.
 Israel had called to God for help and he helped them. That's what we need to do. God is the only true God. Idols are nothing, they cannot save us. God is stronger than any strength we can have. His way is better than our way. He reigns - call to him for help. He can save from sin! He sent Jesus to die in our place so that if we turn to him then Jesus takes our sin and he takes God's wrath and we are forgiven.

Psalm 20:7-8

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
 
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.

Jabin trusted in his chariots and his strength and God defeated him.
Israel turned from their idol and called to God and he saved them.

If you do not trust in God then you will be brought to your knees in judgement eternally. If you do trust him then take heart! He reigns and he saves completely!

What do you trust in?

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A La Carte

Here are a few Websites which I've found helpful over the past few months. I may do this semi-regularly when I have time to read more blogs and explore more websites, but for now this is probably a once off.

Abort73 is a pro-life website which offers a number of good resources and a whole heap of information abut Abortion and having a biblical view of it.

Voice of the Martyrs is an organisation that works to help persecuted Christians from around the world. If you're interested then from this website you can get resources or sign up to be emailed a prayer newsletter, which I've found good to pray through and challenging - where I live there is almost no persecution for being a Christian and yet I find it so hard to live openly as a Christian.

Got Questions: This website has proved really helpful to me over the past few years in exploring different questions and ideas about our faith. There are so many good articles on there, take a look for yourself!

Christians in Context: This is a blog run by a recent acquaintance of mine, he has a lot of good stuff up there and co-blogs with myself and some others. Check out this post if you want.

Biblehub: This site has a number of useful commentaries on most verses (if not every verse) of the bible. It also offers a number of different translations which is useful.




Sunday, 23 June 2013

How to be righteous.

Romans 9:30-32
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.

To begin: a definition. Righteousness means "right with God". It means being sinless in his sight and completely holy.

From verses 24 onwards, Paul has been proving that God sent Jesus not only to save Jews, but also to save Gentiles. In fact, that has been one of his key themes throughout the whole book of Romans: that salvation is for all people, not just the Jews.

This was offensive to the Jews for a number of reasons, but one of those reasons was that they believed that the Gentiles didn't deserve God's mercy. Non-Jews did not have the law, they did not know God, they did not have the prophets or the promises. Throughout the Old Testament (OT) they hadn't been God's people. Yet Paul is saying that God had always planned to save them, and that they have been made righteous through Jesus.

The problem with the Jew's method of being righteous was that it was based on their works. They tried to obey the law completely and thought that they could achieve that goal. They wanted to be righteous and they worked hard at it, but they wanted to be righteous because of their own works. They were self-righteous, thinking that could please God by their own efforts.

In contrast, the Gentiles were 'sinners'. They did not obey the OT law, they did not submit to God and they did not worship him. They were truly unworthy. But that's the whole point of the gospel. In Mark 2:17, Jesus says:

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Jesus came to save those who knew that they could not save themselves. He died on the cross to take the sin of everyone who would turn to him in repentance and faith. When we turn to Jesus he takes our sin and he paid for it on the cross. he suffered God's wrath which we should have suffered (if we are Christians). Not only that but Jesus rose again and proved that he had truly paid the price for us sin. He came back to life and he is in heaven with God, and he will return to Judge.

 The Jews believed that they could make it on their own effort and therefore they did not attain their goal - they were proud and arrogant and rejected Jesus. The Gentiles likewise did not have any hope against a just and pure God, but they knew it because they could clearly see that they had not obeyed his law. As a result they would turn to Christ and be made righteous through faith in him. (Note: this is only general - not all Jews rejected Jesus, and not all Gentiles turned to him to be saved)

So what does this mean for us?

  • We cannot please God by our own efforts. Everyone sins (Romans 3:23) and therefore we all deserve God's wrath.
  • Therefore we cannot trust in what we do. We need to be humble and turn to Jesus. He alone can save. 
  • If we truly are sorry for our sins and put our faith in Jesus (Repentance and belief) then he will save us. Once saved we need to obey him - not to add anything to what he has done, but as a way of showing our thankfulness and because we should be truly sorry for our sin.
  • If you are a Christian, it isn't about you. It's about God and what he's done. We need to obey him, but we cannot we saved by obedience. Jesus is the only way, he has done it all, so be humble and trust God!
  • If this is true for us and we have been completely forgiven through Jesus, we should be telling people. 


Have you accepted Jesus as the only way to be righteous before God? Are you a Christian?

Some thoughts on Genesis 26-27

Genesis 26:6-11
Here we see one thing that's come up a lot: The sins of the fathers are often the sons of the children too. Abraham lied sayin that Sarah was his sister and Isaac does the same. Both do it to try to avoid being harmed. Parents should be honest with their kids about their struggles and kids should be able to talk to their parents about what they struggle with. If we can't talk to our parents, who can we talk to? But in another sense it is often harder to talk to ones parents. 

We should be honest with each other and help each other with our struggles. Definitely something I've gotta work on (honesty in sharing my struggles with others)
 
Genesis 26:12-16
God keeps his promises. He always has and he always will. We just need to keep trusting him! He promises complete forgiveness in Jesus and eternal life with him in heaven for all who genuinely put their faith in Christ.

Genesis 26:19-22
Trust God and don't get easily frustrated. He has a plan and will do it, so praise him and carry on serving him. Don't get caught up on things which don't matter or only have earthly significance.

Genesis 26:23 
God blesses his people and keeps all his promises: trust him! He also can and will provide for our needs and encourage us  as we need it (in his perfect timing). 

Genesis 27
God uses good, bad and mixed actions to bring about his promises and to bring his people to where he wants them. Nevertheless, even though he is not trumped by our sin and can work through it, he does not condone it

Isaacs blessings are entirely physical, not spiritual. Parents should want our kids to have a prosperous life. But far more than that, they should want them to be spiritually strong and to know the Lord.

I hope they were somewhat helpful! Have a great week!

Solo deo Gloria!
Nat.


Friday, 21 June 2013

If God chooses who he will save, why does he give us life in the first place?

Romans 9:22-24
What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
 The question arises. If God chooses who he will save and who he won't, why does he even let us live on earth at all? Why give us life if he already knows who he will save and who he will condemn to hell for their sin?


  • It shows his patience. He has every right to destroy all people who sin (i.e. everyone), but instead he is patient with us. He gives us ample opportunities to turn to him. Obviously on our own strength we cannot turn to him, but that is our choice. Without God's grace, we will always choose to reject him - it is only through him changing us and sending the Holy Spirit on us to convict us that we will change. Nevertheless God is patient and gives people opportunity to turn to him so they are without excuse.
  • It will make his power known. When Jesus/God comes back to judge, he will judge justly and it will show forth his power
  • It allows us, christians, to see his glory. If we were just saved than we would not fully understand how much we have been saved from. If we did not see his creation we would have less to praise him for. If he had not sent Jesus we would not see the depths of his mercy, grace and love. If he did not judge and condemn, then salvation from him would not be of much worth.
But I still struggle through with this. Surely it would glorify God more to save all people and bring them all to repentance and faith (even though obviously he does not do this). Surely that would glorify God more and let us see his grace and mercy more?

Well God knows far better than me, and he has chosen to do things his way, and I have no right to complain about that. It's good to ask questions and to seek deeper into God's word and his will, but his ways are higher than ours, and we need to be prepared to say that "the judge of all the earth will do what is right" (Genesis 18:25).

I hope those thoughts were helpful!

God Bless.
Nat

Putting God in a box (Part 2)

In the last post on this topic we discussed who God is and some common (and wrong) views on his character. In this post my question may delve a little deeper. Why do we do this? Why do we so often try to shape our own view of God instead of allowing his word to tell us who he us? Why do we squirm when we read about his wrath and hatred of sin?

Here are three ideas (there are probably more so feel free to comment if you have any thoughts)


  1. For me at least, a lot of this comes down to pride. Pride is one of those things which seems to invade into every part of my life - is it the same for you? We like to be in charge, and we like to have things our way. The idea of a God who doesn't do what we want him to do, but instead what he wants us to do calls for us to be humble. We don't like that - not under the surface at least
  2. Another idea of why we might try to limit God to how we want him is so that we can make sense of it all. God is hard (impossible) to understand fully. His ways are higher than our ways. But we want to understand and we want to learn, and so I think we find ourselves limiting God to help us understand him. Why is it easy to do this? Well I'd imagine that Satan makes every effort to - what would he want more than for us to have a skewed image of our creator, saviour and lord?
  3. A just God is almost offensive to us. We don't like the idea of a God who will send people to hell (our friends and family included, and ourselves if we aren't christians). A God who hates sin and therefore is unhappy with us. We like the idea of a God who loves us and forgives and is merciful, but we are guilty and his justice means that without Jesus there is a punishment for that guilt.


So how then can we get to know God better? How can we defend against putting him in a box (whether it be accidentally or on purpose)?

Well we need to read the bible. His word tells us about him. How do you get to know someone? You talk to them. You listen to what they say. It's the same in our relationship and walk with God. We need to listen to him by reading his word and paying attention to it. When we are offended by what we read or it doesn't sit right with us, we need to ask why and work it through. And we need to pray to him, and ask for his help to know him better and to commit ourselves to him. We need to pray about everything - we need to "cast all [our] anxieties on him because he cares for [us]" (1 Peter 5:7).

In summary:

Isaiah 55:9
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Putting God into a box (Part 1)

Have you ever had one of those experiences where someone thinks they know you but they're completely wrong? Or they don't understand you fully and as a result they make conclusions about you as a person? Isn't it frustrating? I can't think of a specific example from my life, but I've certainly seen it happen to people around me.

It happens to God all the time. We think we know him and understand him and we make certain conclusions about him because of it.

But who is God? Many different christians would have many different answers to the question (and a number of non-christians would have different answers also). Here are a few popular options, most of them contain a pinch of truth (Satan loves doing that) hand some are blatant lies.

  1. God is love. He is entirely loving and cares for everyone. He wants everyone to be saved and really wishes everyone would turn to him.
  2. God is some distant creator who has no effect on the world. He cannot be known by us.
  3. God controls everything and is unconcerned with people on earth.
  4. God is vengeful and just and will punish everyone who does wrong (but not me, since I'm not as bad as the other guy.)
Lets just say to begin, none of these are right. 

One thing I've noticed in the few years I've been alive is that we easily and often put God in a box. We take what we like about him and we leave out bits which make us squirm, denying them or explaining them away. We read a passage of scripture which describes God's wrath on all who don't follow him and we subtly delete it from our minds. We don't take note of it. We try to ignore that we do this, try to deny those bits of God. Why? Because we want to make God into what we want him to be. 

Maybe it's not even as obvious as this in your life. Maybe it's far more subtle. For me it's often accepting that something is true but then not acting on it. Or not thinking about it and sorting it out and just letting it slip from my memory. We need to take time to Know God for who he is, not who we want him to be.
Exodus 3:14a
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.

Hold up a second. Take note of that. God is who he is. Nothing we think, say or do can change that. So why do we bother? Why deny God and make an idol for yourself in his place? He won't change just because you want him to. So what is God like?
  • God is perfect (1 John 1:5, Matthew 5:48), 
  • He is holy (1 Peter 1:15), 
  • He is just (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9, Psalm 25:8), 
  • He is pure (Proverbs 30:5), 
  • He is faithful and truthful (Psalm 145:17, John 14:6), 
  • He is patient (2 Peter 3:9), 
  • He is compassionate (John 14:26), 
  • He is loving (1 John 4:8-10, John 3:16), 
  • He is kind (Ephesians 4:32, Psalm 34:18), 
  • He is merciful and gracious (Deuteronomy 4:31, Luke 6:36, 1 Peter 1:3, Isaiah 30:18, Psalm 145:8 and many more), 
  • He is good (Psalm 136:1). 
  • He created everything (Genesis 1, Job 38-40)
  • He is righteous (Psalm 145:17),  
  • He is in control (Proverbs 19:21, Romans 8:28, etc), 
  • He is all-powerful (Psalm 62:11), 
  • He is all-knowing (Psalm 139, Psalm 137:5), 
  • He is eternal (Psalm 90:2)
  • He reigns over all of creation (Psalm 47:8, Psalm 146:10) and 
  • He is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17).
Do you squirm at any of those things? Do you truly believe them? Or do you find that you just skip over some. Maybe you don't like being in control. Maybe you don't like that God is just and will punish sinners. 

If that's you, then maybe you don't understand God and you have made an idol in his place. Its certainly something which I struggle with.

Do you know God for who he truly is?


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Why God has the right to save and condemn who he wants.

Romans 9:14-18
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, 
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."
It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

Again, a hard passage to deal with. Is God unjust to choose Jacob and reject Esau? Is he unjust to choose to save one person and yet leave another?

The answer has to be no, since God is just. If he were not just, he would not be perfect and he wouldn't be God. How then can this fit together? Here are some ideas to ponder.

  1. God created everything and therefore he has the right to do what he wants with it. If I created a clay pot, I have the right to smash it or keep it, regardless of what it looks like. We are of far more worth then clay pots, but we elevate ourselves to God's level in our minds. No, we are still just a created thing and he ha every right to do his will through us. We are not God and we are not anywhere near his awesomeness
  2. We all sin. Therefore we all deserve Gods wrath. Justice would be to judge everyone and send everyone to hell. Grace is to save some. So God can choose either to directly intervene with grace and to save, or to allow a person to continue on their way, to keep on sinning and end up under his eternal wrath in hell.
  3. There is still an element of free will. We do choose what we do, and we are responsible for our choices. God is ultimately in control, but from our perspective we make choices. Without Jesus we cannot turn to God, we wil always choose to sin. So Go isn't causing us to sin, he is allowing it, and therefore he can judge
  4. God created everything for his glory. Therefore he has the right to glorify himself by judging or by saving.
It is entirely up to God who he will show mercy on and who he will judge. It is his creation, his mercy and grace and it is his to do what he wants with it. Why do we have such a big problem with that?
  • We believe satan when he tells us that we are as important as God and that we are the centre of the universe. Thats what he tempted Eve with wasn't it? You can be like God. Even more - "You are like God, he just isn't letting you meet your potential".
  • We are proud. We like to be in control and to make our own futures. We want to make it oursleves in the world and therefore to deserve the praise ourselves.
  • We don't trust God. We don't trust that he is good, gracious, just, perfect, holy, pure, righteous, faithful, all-powerful, all-knowing and worthy of all praise. We can't fathom that and we don't trust that he will do what is right (Genesis 18:25)
  • We have a problem with submitting to Justice and authority. I think it's a universal human problem (but then I haven't met everyone in the world, so I don't really know that). We don't like to be told what to do, and we always feel that our actions are justified. We rarely do something when we know it is wrong - we justify it in our minds and want to be proved right.
It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.

It doesn't matter how 'good' we are, because we all sin. We need God's grace and salvation, his mercy - not our own works. We all deserve hell. How do we have God's grace? By repentance and faith in Jesus

Have you submitted to Jesus as your Lord and Saviour? Will you submit to him as the only one who can save?


Idolitary


Habakkuk 2:18-20
“Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman?
Or an image that teaches lies?
For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation;
he makes idols that cannot speak.
Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’
Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’
Can it give guidance?
It is covered with gold and silver;
there is no breath in it.”
The Lord is in his holy temple;
 let all the earth be silent before him.

What are our idols? What is it that we love more than God? Is it money? Friendships? The perfect house? The best car? Having good kids? Being respected? Is it simply ourselves? What is it that you struggle with, that you find you love more than God?

Whatever it is, these things hold no value without God. 

God is the creator of all things. He created us, he created our friends and families. He created money, he created the people who make the cars and houses which we enjoy. He gives these things value.

What do we trust in or long for? What do you trust in? I find it so easy to trust in my abilities and my friendships, and in pride so often I begin thinking about how well I did at something. Or else I focus on what I could have done better to improve my friendships, instead of focussing on God and thanking him for what I have.

You see the thing with idols is that they can never satisfy. They always demand more. Unless we are content in God we will always be seeking more. More money, more friends, deeper relationships, a cleaner house. Satan keeps us pursuing something better to distract us from realising that we have everything we could ever need in Jesus. We have complete forgiveness and complete salvation in him.

Another thought on the subject, whatever we find ourselves loving more than God, it ultimately comes back to selfishness. Why do we love money? Because we love ourselves and want t be comfortable. Why do we love our friends? Because we love it when they love us back and we love having people around us. Why do we love having the best house or car? Because we love to get those little glances of admiration. We love ourselves. 

If you're not living for God, who are you living for? Even if you're living for others, they will fail you, they are just as sinful. If you're living for yourself then you're gonna be disappointed because you'll stuff it up as well. Only God is perfect, only he saves and only he can satisfy.

So, if you find that you love something more than God, what can you do about it? What can I do about it since I've realised that I so often love my friends before I love God? Here's some ideas.

  1. Pray. Prayer is essential in our walk with God. Repent of not putting him first and pray for his help.
  2. Be humble. Realise that you can;t do it yourself. It has to be God who brings you back. But also realise that you are responsible and you need to work hard at it.
  3. Reorientate your thinking. When you find that you're thinking about your 'heart idol', then stop it and start thinking about God. For example, when I find I'm worrying about what my friends think of me I'm tying to instead thank God for them and make sure I'm doing what will glorify him (1 Cor 10:31). In that way, feed godliness and starve sin in your life.
  4. Read the bible. How else are we meant to grow in knowledge of who God is and love for him? How else are we meant to be challenged and encouraged as appropriate?
  5. Find people to be accountable to
"We worshiped our way into idolatry, we must worship our way out of it."

If you want to explore the topic a bit more, look at these two pages:

What do you find that you love more than God? What are you going to do about it?

Monday, 17 June 2013

Being Content



1 Timothy 6:6-8
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

I was thinking this afternoon about contentedness. It is so easy to get caught up in life and want things to be better without being thankful for what we have. Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Discontentedness is similar to idolatry. It's wanting something better and not being fully satisfied in God. If we are trusting God and if we love him as we should, then we have no reason to not be content with what he gives us. If we trust his words from Romans 8:28 that he works in everything for the good of his people, then why wouldn't we be happy with whatever he gives and does in our lives?

  • On that theme, it is often the things in our lives which we put before God which we are not content with. For me, it is often my friendships which I worry about. What if my friends don't like me? What if they don't actually care about me? What if they won't want any contact after school? I find myself wanting closer and better friendships. Why? Because so often I find that I want the approval of my friends more than God's approval.

  • If we are not trusting in God or content in what he gives, we will never be content with anything. Our friendships could always be better or closer. We could always have more money. We could always have more time. We have no reason to be content in what we have if we take God out of the picture, because there is always something better.

  • We have everything we need to be content. God has commanded us to be content with what we have (Hebrews 13:5), and he never allows us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13), therefore he has given us exactly what we need to be content and rejoice in him.

  • Being content in God is best way for us to glorify him. In the words of John Piper: "God Is Most Glorified In Us When We Are Most Satisfied In Him". If we are content in God, then we will be rejoicing in God and glorifying him.
I have so many things going on in my life right now, but that's what God hit home to me today, and it is what I so often fail in. I get worried, I get annoyed and frustrated but instead I need to love God and be thankful for all he has done for me.

Why can we be content no matter what's going on in our lives? Because if we are Christians we have:

  1. Complete forgiveness of sins in Jesus
  2. Adoption as God's children
  3. Eternal life in heaven with him, in God's presence with no fear or pain or sin.
  4. A sure hope (heaven) which is reason to not fear earthly trouble
  5. God's many promises that he will preserve and sustain us and grow us. That even though we will suffer, he is good and faithful and just. He does not change, he does not lie and we can trust him 100%.
If you are not content with what you have, why would you be content with anything else? The more we have, the more we want.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated

Romans 9:13
Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
This post follows on from the last one, but I think this verse is a hard one to understand and to swallow, so I thought I'd separate it out and try to offer a few thoughts on it. I may be entirely wrong about it, and it's fine if you think I am (I'd love your feedback). But if I'm wrong then show me from the bible.

God Hates sin but Loves the sinner?

This is one of those catch phrases that seems to get thrown around a lot in Christian circles. To be honest, I don't know how much I agree and disagree with it. Let me explain.

  • On the one hand, God does love everyone. He "so loved the world that he sent his one and only son..." (John 3:16). God loves everyone, he blesses everyone. He wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). We all are alive, we all have air to breathe, we all can enjoy the sun and the rain and the wind. God has blessed us all abundantly. God is love (1 John 4:8)
  • On the other hand, God Hates sin. Sin is the opposite of God's character and it has no place in his kingdom.
  • There are also plenty of verses which describe how God hates the wicked. Check out this website for a few (Scroll down a little till you hit the verses)
Why does God hate the wicked? Because they sin and sin is against his character. It is rebellion against him. He is good, perfect, holy, righteous, merciful, loving, kind, faithful. Sin is the opposite. Therefore his wrath is not only against sin, but against the wicked as well.

Who are the wicked? Well that's us isn't it? We've all stuffed up and done bad stuff. We all rebel against God and therefore deserve his wrath.

So, aside from Jesus God hates us. That makes us a bit uncomfortable doesn't it?
But then on the other hand, God does love us - he loves all his creation generally.

So it seems that in one way, God loves all his creation. But he is also just and hates sin and the sinner. Yet he's merciful and gracious and offers to love any sinner who turns to him. But then it is God who chooses who will turn to him and who he will love. So God chooses who he will love. But we are also responsible for our actions. So God chooses who he will leave and who he will actively save. Those he leaves continue in sin and will face justice - God allows that but they cause it. But those who God saves, he saves and loves us by choice. 1 John 4:10. He loves us because Jesus stands in our place and he loves Jesus.

I think there's also another element in this verse: God doesn't have human emotions like we do. His love is pure and not based on anything in us, and his hate isn't corrupt like ours. According to this webpage, this verse can be taken to mean that God chose Jacob but rejected Esau. He chose the Israelites, but rejected the Edomites. God is entirely within his rights to do so - he created us and he sustains us and he has the right to do his will with us. I think that we don't like that because we like to be in control. But in reality it is God who is in control and it entirely up to him who he will choose to save and who he will choose not to save (and therefore who he will judge).

God's love for us is shown more bright and more powerful when we see how much he has every right to hate us for our rebellion to him. His wrath on sin shows forth his grace in forgiving more than if we only knew forgiveness.

That probably just helped confuse the topic. But there are some thoughts on it and things to deal with. Maybe I'm entirely wrong, that's fine - but if you think I am then please go away and find bible verses and biblical reasons for it. Don't just decide I'm wrong because you don't like it. Decide I'm wrong because there are other options which are biblical and can be based on God's word!

Soli Deo Gloria
Nat.

Not by works.

Romans 9:10-13

Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Here's a hard passage, and I don't have all the answers. I could probably write six posts about this and still not give you all the answers. In fact, I'm not sure that we have all the answers - but God does. His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9), and we do not understand God or his plan or his deeds. We would be arrogant to think we do. But Here are some thoughts on the passage.

The General Drift

To this point, Paul has been explaining that being a descendant of Abraham does not mean automatic salvation. That's why he continues about Rebekah. If you want to hear the story around these guys then check out Genesis 24 onwards. Paul's point is that Israel came through Jacob, not Esau. God chose to save Jacob and to bless his children, but Esau was just as much a descendant of Abraham. Therefore it is not Heritage which saves us.

What does that mean for us? It is not our family line or our parents who save us. It needs to be personal, genuine faith in Jesus and repentance of sin.

Before they had done anything good or bad

God chose who he would save before they were even born. He does not save us by works or by anything in us which he wants or desires - he created everything in us. He saves us because it is his will and because he has chosen to. God chooses to love us, and he saves us accordingly. He chooses who he will save. That's clearly spelled out throughout Romans 9. God's purpose will stand. His way will be done. We cannot defy him, we cannot defeat him.

  • This is good news: God is Just, holy, perfect, merciful, gracious, mighty. He is the epitome of who we would want to be in control, because he is not corrupt. He is good. 
  • Yet it's also 'bad' news: God is just. Therefore everyone who does not turn to him is not saved and is going to hell to suffer his wrath for eternity. It;s good news since it shows God is just, but it's bad news for all those who reject Jesus. 
  • But then there's still good news: God is merciful. He  sent Jesus, his son, to die in our place so if we turn to him we can be forgiven. Jesus took the wrath we deserved. Repent and Believe in him! He will save! But if you reject him, then your sins are still on your head and God's wrath remains on you.


Here's the crux: It is not by works. It is entirely God who saves. It is entirely in Jesus that we are forgiven. Nothing we can do or say or think can make us good enough in God's sight, because we've all sinned. It is about God. He calls us, he causes us to turn to him in repentance and faith, and he provided Jesus to be the way for us. He reigns. Worship him! Turn to him is you haven't! He offers complete forgiveness, and he offers it for free. But Genuine repentance will involve works as the result. If we follow him we will act like it (You can't follow someone without following them.)

I think I'll tackle verse 13 in the next post...

God Bless!
Nat.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The True Israel

Romans 9:6-8
It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.
God's faithfulness

God's word does not fail. Verses 1-5 have Paul explaining that even though the Israelites have so much blessing from God, not all of them are saved. Here he continues on that theme. God never promised that every Israelite would go to heaven eternally. He made promises to Abraham and those promises had both a physical and spiritual element. God did bring the Physical descendants of Abraham into the promised land, he did bless them and build them into a great nation. But God's promise stretched much farther than that Israel. He never intended that they all become Christians. Instead he (through Christ) Opened the way for the gentiles to be saved.

God hasn't broken his promises, he has fulfilled them entirely. His word has not failed - We can trust him.

The True Israel

Not all descendants of Abraham were Israel. He also had another son through Hagar: Ishmael. God had the right to choose between Ishmael (the firstborn) and Isaac, and he chose to bless Isaacs descendants. Likewise he chose Jacob instead of Esau. So it is not being descended from Abraham that saves - it is God who saves. He chose Isaac and if we are his people then he also chose us. What does that mean? It means we don't deserve any of the glory for it. It means God deserves all the credit. He created, sustains and saved us. We owe him everything.

So God chooses Israel. If we are Christians then God has chosen us. Therefore we are the spiritual Israel. We are the children of the promise. The spiritual element of God's promise to Abraham applies directly to his people - Christians
.

Broadening this out a little for more application: It isn't about us. It is entirely about God and what he has done through Jesus. This means:

  1. There is no room for Pride in a Christians life. Trust him, submit to him and give him all the glory. This is something I'm continually struggling through.
  2. Nothing we have or do can save us or make us better in God's sight. Good works cannot save because we are sinful. Heritage cannot save. Our Parents faith cannot save us. Wealth cannot save. Going to Church doesn't make us Christians. Friendships cannot save us. 
  3. Nothing can save us except personal faith in Jesus, which is a gift from him (Ephesians 2:8-9). Nothing can save us except Jesus' death on the cross in our place.

Do you have personal faith in Jesus?

Friday, 7 June 2013

God's love

John 4:10
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
God loves his people. Christians, we have something to rejoice in (even if everything else fails).

His love isn't based on anything in us, or anything we do (Romans 5:6-8), it's based on God's character (John 4:8). God chooses to love us, and since he does not change (Malachi 3:6). Therefore we can trust that his love never fails. (Psalm 136).

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Saved by Grace Alone.

Romans 9:1-5

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

The truth of the matter is that we do not deserve God's grace. The Jews do not deserve God's grace, and neither do the gentiles. We all sin and therefore we all deserve God's wrath.

Yet God throughout the Old Testament chose the Israelites to be his people. He gave them the law, he gave them the prophets, he even gave them Jesus. As a nation, Israel was blessed super-abundantly by God and shown is mercy and grace. They were told his plan of salvation through the prophets. We, Gentiles, were not part of that. We were not chosen by God throughout the Old Testament. Yet Jesus came and he died not only for the Jews, but for the Gentiles as well. For anyone who will turn to him.

And it is God who chooses. He chooses who he will save and who he will condemn. The Jews cannot trust in their heritage, because God could raise children of Abraham from stones if he wanted (Matthew 3:9). This is what Romans 9 is about. The Jews are not saved because they are Jews. Likewise, we are not saved by anything in us. It is entirely God who saves, it is entirely his work. Jesus is the Messiah, and he is God over all creation. He deserves all glory, and it is his right to decide what he will do with his creation.

Aside from that, one application. Paul says: "I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people". How much do we wish that God will save our friends? Our family? Those around us who we don't even know? We need to desire it above anything else. Would I be willingly cut off from Christ if it would save those around me? If it would save my family and friends? If it would save those I don't get on with? I don't know the answer to that. Would you? Either way, if that should be our desire, then how much more should we make every effort to share the gospel with those around us since we are God's people? 

How much do you share the gospel? 
It's something I really struggle to do.

Nat.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Nothing in all Creation

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Neither Height nor Depth
As soon as I started thinking about this post this verse came to mind.
Psalm 139:8-12
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

God knows us completely. He knows everything and no matter where we are he is with us. If we are his people we don't have to fear, no matter where we are. No matter where we live or what's going on. He is more than capable of sustaining us as his people wherever we are. No distance can separate us from God's love for us, from salvation in Jesus and eternal life in heaven once we die if we are truly his people. Are you a Christian? Is this true for you? If it is then don't fear! Rejoice instead!


Nor anything in all creation

Nothing in creation can separate us from God's love. God is the creator. He is more powerfult han anything he has created. He set the stars in place. "He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others." (Daniel 2:21). Take a read of Job 38-40! Trust God! Nothing on earth is more powerful than him and therefore nothing on earth can separate us from his love if we are his people! Read Isaiah 43:1-3. Nothing on earth can take us away from God. Take heart! Trust him! Our God is an awesome God. Praise him, serve him, obey him and live passionately for him!

John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Saturday, 1 June 2013

VOM Prayer Watch

INDIA: Judicial System Resolves Missionary's Murder

Fourteen years after Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons were burnt to death by a mob, two suspects have been arrested in Odisha's (formerly known as Orissa) Keonjhar district.
Long-sought fugitives Ghanshyam Mahanta and Ramjan Mahanta were arrested on 17 May during a raid by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials and the Keonjhar police. A third individual has still not been located.
Graham Staines and his sons, Philip and Timothy, were burnt to death on 22 January 1999 – by a mob led by Bajrang Dal activist Dara Singh. Graham and his sons were asleep in their station wagon in front of a church in Manoharpur village in Keonjhar, about 400km northwest of Bhubaneswar.
In 2003, a CBI court in Bhubaneswar initially sentenced Dara Singh with the death penalty and the others to life imprisonment. In 2005, the Odisha high court commuted the activist leader’s death sentence to life imprisonment.
Sources: Assist News Service, The Hindustan Times, Voice of the Martyrs
Please pray:
That the Lord will continue to nurture the seeds of the Gospel that have been sown through this family's strong Christian witness and the forgiveness extended by Graham's surviving wife Gladys and their daughter Esther.
For all those who oppose the Gospel in India.

SIERRA LEONNE: 150 New Christians Baptised

A VOM worker reports that 150 new believers were baptised recently in the village of Kaboreh, and 80 of them are converts from Islam.
VOM has provided bicycles, motorbikes, megaphones and Bibles to Christian leaders in this village, and they have seen many of their former persecutors come to faith in Christ.
Among the new converts are four village chiefs, all of whom were formerly Muslim. As a result of their conversions, the few remaining Muslims have said they will no longer obey them.
Source: Voice of the Martyrs USA
Please pray:
That these new believers will trust in Christ despite facing pressure to return to Islam.
For the continued protection of evangelists in Sierra Leone.
For continued church growth.

IRAN: Largest Persian Speaking Church in Tehran Closed

The Central Assemblies of God church in Tehran was closed last Thursday, 23 May, due to pressure from Iranian security authorities.

The main reason for closure of the church is that the Iranian security authorities wanted to limit the church service to just the Armenian language and prevent any Farsi services.

In another incident on 21 May, security authorities arrested Pastor Robert Asseriyan in the middle of a church service and transferred him to an unknown location. Asseriyan is one of the leaders of the Assemblies church in Tehran.

According to Mohabat News, for some time the Central Assembly of God, and other churches affiliated with it, have been under pressure to cancel their Farsi language services. For their church services to continue, they were told that all services be held in Armenian.

Iran’s Islamic regime has had anti-Christian plans for a long time. They include pressuring pastors and church leaders to prevent Farsi speakers from entering their churches, arresting members of the congregation and pastors and closing churches. House churches have also been raided, and new Christian converts have been arrested and terrorised.

Sources: Assist News Service, Mohabat News
Please pray:
For Robert Asseriyan, may he know the Lord’s presence and peace. Pray for his release.
For all those who are in prison in Iran for their Christian faith.
That the Lord will give church leaders in Iran wisdom to know how to best encourage their congregation and to deal with the authorities.