Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Psalm 141


 I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me;
hear me when I call to you.
 May my prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.


 Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
 Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
so that I take part in wicked deeds
along with those who are evildoers;
do not let me eat their delicacies.


 Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head.
My head will not refuse it,
for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.


 Their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs,
and the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken.
 They will say, “As one plows and breaks up the earth,
so our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave.”


 But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord;
in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.
 Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers,
from the snares they have laid for me.
 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I pass by in safety.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The link between Forgiveness and Love.


Luke 7:40-43, 47

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
 
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
 
Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Want to love God more? Understand the gravity of sin and how much he has forgiven us.

This whole passage is absolutely beautiful. Jesus is invited to the house of a Pharisee to eat, and while he is there a 'sinner' (perhaps a prostitute) comes, weeps on his feet, dries them with her hair, kisses them and pours perfume on them. That sounds a bit weird in our culture, but it is beautiful.

The point of the passage is that she realises her sin, and she repents of it. She turns to Jesus even though she is a wretched sinner and she knows it). She seeks mercy from him and he grants it freely. This is juxtaposed to the pharisee who is 'righteous' by the standards of the time and looks down on her. Ultimately it links our recognition of how sinful we really are with how much we love God.

God forgives us even though we could never ever repay the debt we owe him. We sin and we deserve his wrath eternally, yet in Jesus there is forgiveness: Jesus is God, he lives perfectly and when we put our faith in him he takes our sin. On the cross he died and paid the penalty for our sin, suffering God's wrath in our place. He is the link between love and forgiveness. We need to love him more and more and we can do this by realising how sinful we are more and more and reflecting on how much we have been forgiven. In honesty it is those who have sinned more who realise more how much they have been forgiven and it makes sense that they would have a greater love for God because of it. Obviously this is not an excuse to sin more though - if we love God we will do what he says and we will stop sinning. We can;t use the excuse of sinning more so we will be forgiven more and love God more. It doesn't work like that.
There is complete forgiveness in Jesus. No matter what you've done, no matter who you are, God is willing to forgive anyone who turns to him. We cannot have sinned so badly that God won't forgive us. He is God, he is powerful enough and merciful enough to forgive us completely. To doubt if he would be able to forgive you is to doubt that he is God, because God is the most powerful and merciful being in the universe, and he is certainly more powerful and merciful then our sin. Repent and Believe! Put your faith in him! Only Jesus can save, and he does so freely. Turn to him, he will forgive. Love and obey him. Praise Him!

How much do you owe the moneylender? How much have you been forgiven? How much do you love God as a response to that?

Monday, 29 July 2013

Building our lives on Jesus

Luke 6:46-49
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
We cannot come to Jesus and yet not do what he says. Sure, we are 100% saved by grace, but if we are truly saved then we will do what he says. Why's that? Because part of faith is repentance: saying sorry for sins and our rebellion and turning to God and because if we truly love God and trust him we will obey him and put him first. We know a tree is healthy if it produces good fruit. We know a medicine works properly if it does its job and helps heal sickness. We know a Christian by their works, not because their works save them, but because if they are saved they will obey God.

Building our lives on Jesus.

There are two ways to approach our walk with God. The first is like a man who builds his house on the rock. It takes effort, it's inconvenient, but it shows true care and love. If we study God's word and work hard to obey it, it won;t be convenient for us, but it is better. It shows that we genuinely do love God.

The result for the man in the parable is that when the rain and storms come his house remains standing. If we build our lives on Jesus, the rock, focussing on him, working hard to know him, his promises and to obey him then when hard times come, when trials and temptations arise it will be ok. We will rely on God's promises and he will sustain us. This also applies to when Jesus returns and judges the world. If we have based our lives on our faith in him then we will be saved and not condemned (because he has taken our sin and paid the price if we are Christians). Note that it isn't how well he built his house that matters. What matters is that he built it on Jesus. If we live our lives for God's glory and base them on living like Jesus and on God's word then God himself will uphold and sustain us. It'll be harder and less fun and less convenient, but it will last eternally. 

Building our lives on The World.

Obviously the opposite is true for the other man. If we don't truly live for Jesus, but just fake it then it won't stand. God knows who truly trusts in him and who the hypocrites are. You can't fool God, so don't fake it. Don't pretend you're following him if you really aren't. Likewise if we base our lives on things other then Jesus then it won't last. The world is full of things that promise much, but just slide away. Money, friends, family, work and so many other things, which are good blessings from God can become our idols. We base our lives on them and they slip away, leaving us with nothing.

When hard times come the hypocrites, who just follow Jesus because it's easier usually fall away. They find it too hard and don't have God's promises to sustain them. Likewise if we trust in the things of this world then it will all crumble when Christ returns to judge. He alone can save, and therefore everyone who has rejected him is still under God's just and righteous wrath.

The question we have to ask ourselves is this: Do I really trust in God? If so, am I building my life on his word and on his promises? Am I obeying him? We aren't saved by what we do, but if we are saved then we will do good stuff because of it to honour our saviour.


Sunday, 28 July 2013

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Psalm 61:2-3
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
Have you ever been in a position where your "heart grows faint"? Where life just seems too hard and every step seems like it takes double the effort? Maybe you were extremely stressed about something? Maybe you were facing family problems or relationship breakdowns? Maybe someone who you were close to had just died. Most of us go through those times.

We can learn from David. When his heart grows faint, when he can't seem to see past the mountains of trouble surrounding him he calls to God. And he knows that God hears him. He knows because in the past God had been his refuge and his strong tower. He knew that wherever he was in the world, he could call to God and God would hear him.

The thing about anxiety and depression is that so often it comes from focussing on ourselves and our situation. Maybe you feel life's too hard, maybe you're realising that you can't make it on your own and that we all fall short. Maybe you're stressed, worried and frustrated about friends who are struggling. Maybe it's something else. 

Instead of focussing on himself here, David looks to God. He says: "lead me to the rock that is higher than I." He knows that he falls short. He sins, he is imperfect, he fails. I fail, you fail. We all stuff if up. That's evident in our own lives and it's shown to be true throughout the bible. That's why when we focus on ourselves we fall into depression, because there is nothing good in us, nothing in us that truly deserves saving. Yet God is merciful. He is a refuge and strong power for his people.

Our prayer should be for God to lead us to the rock that is higher than ourselves. To lead us to Jesus. He was perfect and through his death we can be perfect and forgiven for our sins entirely. If you're not a Christian then you need that savation. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).

If you are a Christian then focus on Jesus. Life may not get better right away - it may not even get better at all. But through Jesus we don't have to make it to God on our own. He saves us entirely and nothing we can do can ever undo that. If you are truly a Christian then your salvation is based 100% on what Jesus did and 0% on yourself. Don't focus on the troubles of this life, focus on God, focus on Jesus and focus on heaven where we will be with him eternally. 

I read this Psalm the other night when I was feeling pretty down. Not depressed, just stressed over school and a whole range of other issues. Even so the reminder hit me square in the face - it's not about me, it's not about what I do. It's about God, it's about Jesus. I will fail - I have failed in so many ways. But Jesus is perfect and God by his grace has led me to that rock. He is my strength and my refuge, he protects us against sin and satan and our enemies. Trust in him.

Lord please lead us to Jesus and help us to realise all you have done for us more fully and know him better.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

VOM Prayer Watch

PAKISTAN: Christian Teenager Gang Raped
In July a 14-year-old Christian girl in Punjab was abducted and raped. According to her father, the men responsible have threatened to attack Christian properties and churches if the family proceeds with charges against them.

Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP) reported that the teenager was in a critical condition and had to be hospitalised after she was found by her family at a local farm. Those responsible are reported to include the son of a local politician and landlord. One of the accused has been arrested and another is on pre-arrest bail.

Voice of the Martyrs’ UK partner mission, Release International, is supporting the family and helping them with their case.

Sources: Release International, SLMP

Pray that God will comfort, heal and restore the Christian girl who was attacked. Ask Him to give her and her family His peace. Pray that those responsible will be brought to justice.
Pray for protection for the family and all those helping them.

IRAN: Eight Christians Imprisoned

On 16 July, eight Iranian Christians received jail sentences between one and six years after being found guilty of “action against the national security” and “propaganda against the system.”

Seven of the Christians were reportedly arrested in October 2012, when security forces raided an evening prayer service. The eighth was arrested six days later. Morning Star News reported that Iranian Christian leaders denied the eight were involved in politically subversive activity. The convicted Christians are expected to appeal their convictions.

Source: Assist News Service

Pray that God will grant wisdom and guidance to the Christians as they consider an appeal.
Pray they will have patience in persecution, and have joy and hope in the Lord.
Pray that through the witness of these believers, the name of the Lord will be honoured.

NIGERIA: Six Christians Killed

Christian leaders reported that gunmen killed six Christians in an early morning attack on Dinu village in southern Plateau state. Rev Johnson Kikem, chairman of a nearby Regional Church Council of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), reported that church members who fled the village in Wase Local Government Area said the assailants were Muslims.

According to Morning Star News, Fulani Muslims have long fought over property with Christians of other ethnicities, and Islamic extremist groups are suspected of inflaming the herdsmen's anti-Christian sentiment. The Fulani herdsmen and the predominantly Christian, ethnic Tarok farmers have accused each other of castle-rustling and retaliatory violence in recent months.

Source: Assist News Service

Pray that Christians will respond with forgiveness and love to their attackers.
Pray that God will comfort and provide for the families of those who have been killed.
Pray for peace to come to Nigeria through the Gospel.

Friday, 26 July 2013

God's Power and Humility

Today in devotions with the year 8 kids, we looked at a number of different verses, exploring God's power, humility, mercy and grace. In Genesis 1 we read:
Genesis 1:1-5
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
God created the universe, and he did it simply by speaking. He is all powerful, he is worthy of all praise and he is the creator. The rest of Genesis 1 explains how God created the rest of creation. He spoke, it happened, and it was good. He is all powerful.

We then turned to Psalm 18:6-15, which details God's might and power. David called to God for help and he describes God as the almighty rescuer. He also mentions that God scatters his enemies. The verse displays God's power more vividly.

After this we turned to Luke 2:1-7
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

We know that Jesus is God. He created the universe. He is all powerful. Yet he was born as a human. Not only that, he was born as a poor human, in a stable because no one would make room for him to be born in the inn. He was rejected from birth, and he was rejected throughout his life. This wasn't by accident, it was prophesied many times in the Old Testament (See Isaiah 53). Jesus came to suffer and die in our place, so that everyone who puts their faith in him and repents of their sin will be saved. Jesus, who was there at creation, Jesus who is all powerful, all-knowing. Jesus who reigns over all fo creation hung dying, bleeding on a cross for our sakes. He did it willingly.

We then turned to Philippians 2:6-11
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
 
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus humbled himself to save us, even though we don't deserve it one bit. He then rose again, and he is now in heaven interceding for us even though we still don't deserve it. He gave up his power and eternal glory, becoming a man so that he could save us and glorify God. He died in our place. He rose again and he reigns. He will return to judge. So the question is, do you know Jesus? Have you put your faith in him? If no, then you need to consider this because you are sinful and you (like me) deserve hell. Jesus offers forgiveness, but if you reject him then you will face Gods wrath.

If you are a Christian then look at v6 of Philippians 2. We need to act like Jesus. We need to be humble. Jesus is God, yet he humbled himself to die for us. We are humans, we need to be humble enough to help and love each other, and to serve and glorify God in all we do.

I hope that was helpful, challenging and encouraging.
Nat.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Jesus and the Prince of Cambridge.

I was thinking about the new royal baby yesterday. It is certainly exciting news when any baby is born, and when a prince is born there's even more excitement. But all of the news articles got me thinking: He's just going to be a normal Human being.

Don't get me wrong, he is automatically famous and the world will be watching him, but compared to Jesus, God's son, he is nothing - just a depraved sinner like the rest of us. Nevertheless the world is celebrating, and that's not a bad thing. It is exciting.

What I was thinking on is that when God came to the world, when God's son became a man, no one cared. No one even made room in the inn to let Mary give birth to him in a cleaner environment. He was born in a stable and the only people who came to see were some shepherds and later some wise men.

The creator of the universe was born and no one really takes notice. A human prince who was "knit together" in his mother's womb by God is born and the world celebrates. Jesus came to save the world from our sins, he came to die in our place so that anyone who puts their faith in him, anyone who repents of their sin and believes in him will be forgiven. He rose gain to prove that he had truly dealt with our sin. Yet people now just shrug their shoulders and say they don't believe it. People rejected him at birth, and they will reject him until he returns again to judge.

Don't get me wrong. It is good to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Cambridge. It is exciting, it is worth celebrating and it will be interesting to see what God has in store for this young boy. But whatever it is, it will not be as grand or glorious as God's plan to save us through his one and only son.

God Bless,
Nat.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Resisting Satan's temptations (Part 2)

You can see part 1 here.

Temptation 3

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’
What is Jesus tempted with?

Here he is tempted to test God. Once again Satan asks him to prove that he is God's son, the messiah. Satan asks him to prove that the promises of the Old Testament are about him. This wasn't in itself a bad thing - to prove that he was God, but once again it would involve taking things to his own hands and not waiting for God's perfect timing.

Satan is tricky. He often will tempt us Christians by making something seem right from God's word. He'll make us think: "Lying isn't sinful, because the commandment just says that we shouldn't give false witness against our neighbour", causing us to ignore other bits of God's word like Colossians 3:9. He did it to the Pharisees in Mark 7:9-13.

How does Jesus respond? He counters simply with God's word and doesn't do it. 

What do we learn?

  • We need to rely on God's timing, not our own
  • We need to know our bibles well to both respond to Satan's temptations and know when he is tempting us by taking verses out of context.
  • We need to be alert and on guard - Satan is crafty, we are slow.
  • We shouldn't test God. We should just put our faith in him, trust that he is good and that he will keep his promises. 
  • Satan knows that he is tempting us with evil, he doesn't need us to explain God's word. When we are talking to people it is good to explain how verses fit together, even when they sound like they contradict. With Satan we need to just fight him with God's word, not our own. 
What was the Result?
"When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time."
Satan lets up for the time being, but he doesn't give up. He is stubborn and persistent, he is like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour, and he waits for the right time. He is crafty and we need to be on guard because he is good at what he does. He is the father of lies (John 8:44) and he's been lying since the beginning.

James 4:7 says: "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." God always keeps his word and if we resist Satan he will flee from us. He has no power aside from what God allows him to have, and he cannot tempt us beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). That means that we can resist him and that he Will flee from us when we do. 

He may not flee straight away. He may tempt us a lot, he may make it very hard for us, but he will flee - not because we are strong (we aren't), but because God promises it and God never breaks his promises. Nevertheless: Stay on guard - he is always looking for opportunity to attack us, God's people.

How do we resist him? We submit to God. We know and obey his word. We live entirely for him, not ourselves. Most of Satan's temptations here came down to not trusting God or his timing. Likewise with us, they are usually about not trusting that God's way is best. He tempts us to put ourselves in God's place.

I hope this study has been helpful to you - I enjoyed looking into it and thinking through it a little.

How are you resisting the devil in your life? Are you submitting to God?

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Resisting Satan's temptations (Part 1)

Luke 4:1-13
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spiritinto the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 
In this passage we see the temptation of Jesus, and from it we can learn a few things about how we are meant to "resist the devil" so he will "flee from us" (James 1:7).

Temptation 1
 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” 
 What did he tempt Jesus with?

He tempted Jesus with two things: firstly to prove that he was the Son of God, to show his power in a way that God had not told him to and secondly to satisfy his hunger.

There is nothing wrong with either of those at face value: It is good to eat, and it's good to be honest about who you are. But that's one of Satans many tricks - he offers us good things at times where they are not good. For example: Sex outside of marriage. Sex is a good thing, but out of its context it is sinful and damaging. He was asking Jesus to take thing into his own hands and to not rely on God to provide and work his plan.

Jesus responds with God's word - "Man shall not live on bread alone". We don't survive because of food, we survive because God mercifully sustains us every minute of every day. We need to trust in him and rely on him for our needs, thanking him when he provides.

What an we learn?

  • Wait for the proper time to do things, don't take it into your own hands. Something may not be directly sinful, but in a certain context it could be sinful. e.g. drinking alcohol when you're with someone who is opposed to drinking alcohol or struggles with being an alcoholic)
  • Often our motives also come into play. For example praying out loud in church is definitely not wrong, but if you do it to get attention instead of doing it to pray to God then it's sinful.
  • Trust in God's plan and don't try to take it into your own hands. He knows best, trust him and obey.
  • Use God's word to battle temptation. God is true, he is good. Know him and know his word. That means we have to spend time getting to know God's word.
  • Rely on God. Everything we need to serve him is provided by him. Trust that he will provide and resist Satan.


Temptation 2
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” 
Here Satan tempts Jesus again. He tempts him to again step outside of God's plan and take things into his own hands. He tempts him with pride, offering him authority and power. He tempts him with riches and luxury instead of God's plan which was that he would die to save all who put their faith in him. He also tempted him with Idolatry, to place another in God's place. Though it isn't always obvious, idolatry is always putting Satan before God. It's listening to his temptations and not submitting to God above all else. It is worshipping creation instead of God.

The thing is: God already owns everything. Sure, Satan has a limit of power, but he can only do what God allows (see Job 1). Satan was tempting God with what God already owned - creation. He was tempting Jesus to take back his glory that he had before becoming a man. Tempting him to "live his best life here" and not trust God. Wait a second - isn't that exactly what the prosperity gospel is? Live well here, God will give you everything you ever wanted. It is lies from Satan. Don't believe it. 

Jesus responds again with God's word: We are to only worship God.


What should we learn?
  • Satan's temptations can be multi-facetted. Be on your guard and be careful of resisting one thing just to fall into another part of that temptation.
  • If we trust God, it is worth more than what Satan offers. Satan offered Jesus the world, whereas he owns the universe. Satan offers us pleasure and riches here, but we (christians) are adopted as God's children and have eternal life with him.
  • Don't love the things of this world more than God. He needs to be first in our lives.
  • Satan lies. He offers the world, but it is not really in his power to give it. Even if he does give it, in the scheme of eternity what is it worth? Nothing.
  • Beware of the prosperity gospel! God never promises us health, wealth and prosperity here, he promises all of that in heaven if we obey him.
  • Humility is key in obeying God. Jesus is God, yet he submits to God the father, worshipping him only. Jesus has every right to rule to world. Yet he submits humbly to God. Pride is often (for me at least) the root of most sins. We think we know best, we think we deserve something specific, and so we take it, not being humble, not trusting God, not waiting for his timing.
  • Again: Know God's word and use it! It is the "sword of the spirit", it is our only weapon in God's armour (Ephesians 6)
We'll return and look at the rest of these verses tomorrow, but I hope those points were helpful.

God Bless,
Nat.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Jesus' Genealogy

The Passage I'm going to be referring to can be found in Luke 3:23-38. I haven't copied it out here because it would probably be unhelpful.

Jesus' Genealogy is full of grace. It shows forth God's faithfulness, his promises and how he has fulfilled them. I used to find it extremely boring to read through lists of names like these, but there s so much that can be learnt here.

Before we come to the promises though, there's something I want to discuss. This Genealogy, and the one in Matthew 1 are both of Jesus. Yet they are very different. Some have suggested that this is just because in those times people sometimes had more than one name. That's definitely possible, and the genealogies do meet up and match each other eventually.

Another suggestion that I have looked into a little is that the Genealogy is actually from Mary's line. Matthew was establishing to the Jews that Jesus was a descendant of David and the fulfilment of God's promises, and by legality that had to be through the Male line. Luke isn't writing to the Jews, so he establishes it through Mary's line.

"...the son of Zerubbabel"

In the book of Haggai, God promised Zerubbabel a number of things, and there are links to his promise of the Messiah coming from Zerubbabel's line. The promise isn't explicit, but it is there, and God kept it. Either way, Zerubbabel was faithful to God and God honoured him by making him part of Jesus' family line.

"...the son of David"

2 Samuel 7:11b-16 is a double promise for David. First it points to Solomon, who would build God's temple. Secondly it points to Jesus, who was the promised king. Jesus came and he reigns eternally, therefore David's line is established forever. God Keeps his promises!

"...the son of Boaz"

This isn't a promise as such, but it is God's grace and plan in action. Who was Boaz Married to? Ruth. A Moabite. She left her people and went home with Naomi, accepting God as her God. As a result fo her faithfulness God, God was faithful to her, not only allowing her to be accepted into Israel but also to be in the Messiah's line. God always planned to save the Gentiles if they would put their faith in him. His mercy and grace is free to us all. Trust him, Repent and Believe. He saves!

"...the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham"

God also fulfilled his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He promised Abraham Land, Offspring and Blessing. He fulfilled that with Israel, taking them to the promised land, making them plentiful and blessing them with his law. He also fulfilled it in Jesus, making both Gentiles and Jews who put their faith in him part of his family, who have an eternal home in heaven. Through Jesus all nations are blessed. God never forgets his promises, he even remembered those he made to Abraham thousands of years before Jesus' birth. God has a plan, he does that plan, and we can trust him to do it fully. (See Genesis 12:1-3)

"...the son of Shem, the son of Noah"

Firstly Shem: Noah mentions in Genesis 9:26-27 that Shem worshipped God. God honoured that and Jesus came from his line. Noah also trusted God and built the ark even though he only had God's word to go on. In fact the Ark is a foreshadow of Jesus - he saves and protects us from God's wrath. God keeps his promises. He preserved Noah from his wrath on sin, and he saves us also through faith in Jesus, his son.

"...the son of Adam"

God gave Adam and Eve children even though they had rejected God. He gave them the promise of salvation even when pronouncing his just judgement on them in genesis three, saying in Genesis 3:15  
"And I will put enmity between you [the snake] and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Even in just judgement, God is merciful. He provided a way to be saved, as was always his plan.  Jesus is that salvation. He defeats Satan. What's more he is...

"the son of God."

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Not fearing Man.

Luke 3:19-20
But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.
 A bit of context to these verses to begin. John the Baptist has been preaching God's word by the Jordan. He's been rebuking the people of their sin and telling them to repent and turn to God. In essence he's been preaching the gospel, even though Jesus hadn't died for sins yet. He trusts in God's promises of salvation and he preaches them.

What happens here is that John comes into contact with Herod, who was one of four governors in the province. He's a very powerful man. But John preaches the same gospel. He tells him he's sinful, using a specific, obvious example and rebukes him, and though it's not written here part of that would most probably be telling him to repent for the forgiveness of sins since that has been his message (see Luke 3:3).

What I want to focus on is that John the Baptist did not fear man.

He knew the truth - everyone sins, and everyone needs the gospel. Everyone needs to repent and put their faith in Jesus because he is the only way that we can be forgiven. We are all in the same boat - no one is better than anyone else, even if they have a 'better' position in society.

The Prime minister of Australia, the President of the United States, the Queen, Your favourite movie actor (e.g. Hugh Jackman), your favourite band, your best friend, the person who lives next to you - everyone is in the same boat. We all sin, we all deserve God's wrath, we all need salvation. Jesus alone can save.

John knew that and he was willing to preach it to Herod because Herod needed to hear it as much as we do.

So my question to you is: Do you fear man? 

I know I do.

Here are a few thoughts on some reasons that we fear people so much. They're generalisations and maybe I'm wrong about some:

  • We want approval. We want to be liked and we want people to enjoy being around us.
  • We love this world. We enjoy our privileges (which is good), but we don't want to give them up for Jesus.
  • We don't grasp the significance of sin and hell, so we don't look to tell people of them.
  • We don't realise just how much Jesus has saved us from, so we dont value it as much as we should and we don't tell people as much as we should.
  • If it's not the above two then we are too selfish: Once saved, we don't look for others who need saving, but sit still and get comfortable in our own salvation.
Maybe not all of those apply to you. I think they all apply to me though.

The challenge has to be: Do you fear man? If not, then are you sharing the gospel? Are you telling people that they are sinful and deserve hell, but that Jesus is God and that through him God's wrath is taken away and we are forgiven?

If, like me, you do fear man then what are you doing about it? Don't let that stop you from sharing the gospel! I've found in my life that the more you do something that scares you, the less scary it becomes. For example at my school we have a school wide assembly every week. Over the last two years I've had to lead some of those assemblies and do some devotions on them. That terrified me to begin with, I was shaking the whole time. Now I get a little nervous, but I'm alright with it.

How do we work at not fearing man and sharing the gospel?
  • Spend time praying and in the bible, asking for God's help and seeking encouragement (and rebuke) from his word as to what you need to be changing.
  • It takes awhile, but the more you try to share the gospel and take opportunities, the easier it becomes. 
  • What's better than that is that we have God with us. He protects us and he strengthens us. he will provide what we need to obey him (1 Corinthians 10:13). 
  • Honour God with what you have and he will work through that. 
  • Don't feel like you have to become some superhero preacher. God uses the ordinary, the weak, the foolish to shame the strong and wise. Take small steps, pray constantly and just do your best. Even our feeble attempts, if done for God, glorify him.
  • Trust God. Don't get all worried about it. Just do your best and trust God.


Do you fear man? Do you share the gospel?  


Proverbs 29:25

 Fear of man will prove to be a snare,  
but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

VOM Prayer Watch

UGANDA: Persecuted Teen Returns to School

Susan Ithungu, a teenager who was abused because of her Christian faith, began a new school term recently. Susan suffered permanent damage to her legs as a result of being kept in a tiny room for three months by her father. After multiple surgeries and a year in hospital, she is now able to walk with crutches. Though she’s 15, Susan will be studying at fourth-grade level because she is so far behind her classmates.

An older Christian woman and a pastor are taking care of Susan. Despite the challenges she faces, Susan moved her things into the school with a broad smile. “Thank you for your love, care, and help for me,” she wrote. “I am happy to have friends that God has sent to help me.”

Source: VOM USA

Pray for Susan’s success in school, for her health and that her faith will remain strong.
Praise God for Susan’s faithfulness, and pray that her father will repent and believe the Lord.

VIETNAM: Christian Couple Attacked for Refusal to Recant Faith

In Lao Cai province, a Christian husband and wife were beaten by police until the wife was bleeding, at which point the police stopped the beating and let the couple go. The attack has been reported to the attention of the federal government.

Source: International Christian Concern

Pray for healing for the couple who were attacked and that God would enable them to forgive their persecutors.
Pray that the police who attacked them would come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

HONDURAS: Eight Pastors Murdered

Eight pastors have been murdered in Honduras in 2013. In the most recent attack, which took place on 19 June, Pastor Eduardo Mejia was stabbed to death. Pastor Mejia led a church called "God Is Love." The other seven pastors died from gunshot wounds.

An estimated 600,000 illegal weapons circulate in Honduras. According to data released by human rights organisations, Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world – about 85 per 100,000 people. To date, none of the cases involving the murdered pastors has been solved.

Sources: Fuerza Latina Cristiana, VOM Sources

Pray that Jesus’ presence will comfort the hearts of grieving family members.
Pray that godly men will step up to lead these eight churches.
Pray for the perpetrators’ salvation.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Works that come from love.

1 John 5:1-5
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
There's no doubt a lot that can be pulled out of these five verses, but I just want to focus on verses two and three: "This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world."

Why do we have to obey God

First up I want to address the question of why, as Christians, do we have to obey God? Obedience and Faith are tied very closely together. If we put our faith in God and have repented of our sins (if we are truly Christians we have done/do this), then we need to give up sin. The point of repentance is saying sorry for rebelling against God and turning around. If it's true sorrow for sin then we would be doing the opposite sand obeying God instead.

Faith is similar - is we put our trust in Jesus that he died for our sins, then we will also trust him that his ways are better than ours and we will obey Him.

If we are Christians then we are called to obey God. Our works do not save us. But we are saved and as a result we do works. It's like medicine - true medicine will fix a problem. If we are truly saved we will work at preventing sin in our lives because we are saved. It's only good medicine if it fixes the problem.

We love God by obeying him and we obey him out of love.

Everything about our obedience to God is based on love. It;s not about having to obey God, or duty. It's about being thankful to God and loving him. When we realise that Jesus died for our sins and how little we deserved that, we should be motivated to love and serve him. We don't do it as a way of repaying him, we do it out of gratitude for what he has already done for us. We can never repay God for all he has done for us.

Of course, we won't always want to obey God. Life is hard, and temptations are sometimes very hard to resist. We don't always want to obey God. But if we truly love him and are thankful for all he has done, then we need to dutifully obey him even if it isn't what we want.

We aren't forced into obeying God. We aren't his slaves in that sense. We don't obey a cruel master out of fear. We obey a compassionate and merciful master out of love. We obey a faithful and loving father out of respect and thankfulness because he has adopted us into his family and forgiven us of our sin (if we are Christians).

Part of love is being selfless. Christ died for us our of love for us even though we didn't deserve it. God deserves our obedience and we should be ready to give up some of the things of this world out of love for him. I'm not married, but I think it would be a similar situation: If you love your wife, you would give things up to spend time with her or to please her.

We should love to please God, even if we don't love giving up some things which we enjoy (that are sinful). We should give them up because we love God more.

The question is then, how do we love God more?

Here are a few thoughts:

  • Read the bible. Know God's word and know what he has done, and know who he is.
  • Spend time dwelling on God's character and praising him not only for what he has done, but for who he is. 
  • Pray. If reading the bible is God speaking to us, and prayer is us speaking to God, then to have a true relationship with God we need to do both. "Cast your anxieties on him" (1 Peter 5:7) and also spend time praising him for who he is.
  • Obey him. John says: "this is love for God: to keep his commands." - we show our love for God by obeying him.
God Bless,
Nat.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

VOM Prayer Newsletter.

Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

IRAN: Pastor Released from Prison

Iran has conditionally released Pastor Robert Asseriyan from jail on bail after 43 days in custody and has reportedly been instructed to remain silent about his imprisonment and any abuses he suffered, according to Mohabat News.

Pastor Asseriyan, a leader at the Central Assemblies of God church in Tehran, was arrested in the middle of a church service on 21 May. According to a statement released by George O Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, "authorities raided Pastor Asseriyan's home where they confiscated a computer and several books. Then, they found Pastor Asseriyan at the church leading the prayer service, immediately arrested him, and announced the church's imminent closure."

Source: International Christian Concern

Praise God that Pastor Asseriyan has been released.
Pray for Pastor Asseriyan to recover from his ordeal and that he will forgive his persecutors.
Pray that the church will continue to be a witness and light in Tehran despite the opposition they face.

EGYPT: Christians Targeted by Morsi Supporters

Hard-line Muslims in Egypt angry over President Morsi's removal from power have attacked churches and Christian property. Reports of attacks on Christians began to surface just hours after the Egyptian army announced that it had removed from office the Muslim Brotherhood-backed premier and his cabinet.

On Wednesday, Morsi supporters attacked Al Eslah Church and St George's Church in Delgia village in Minya province, as well as Christian properties in the area. Rioting on Friday, reportedly triggered by a row between a Muslim and a Christian, resulted in the death of four Christians and the destruction of dozens of homes. Police reportedly warned church leaders in the Cairo area to be on the lookout for cars with certain number plates, amid warnings of car bombs.

The murder of a church leader in Northern Sinai has also been linked to reprisal attacks by Morsi's supporters, amid growing civil unrest. Mina Aboud Sharween was shot dead on Saturday as he walked in the Masaeed area of El Arish.

Sources: Morning Star News, Reuters

Pray that God will protect and sustain His people in Egypt, amid mounting unrest.
Pray for peace and stability in Egypt. 

SRI LANKA: Pastor and Christians Assaulted

A Christian pastor and his congregation in Sri Lanka were assaulted by a Buddhist monk and his associates during a Sunday service on 23 June. A monk began to insult and attack the pastor with a tree branch while he was on an errand in Neluwaththuduwa, in the district of Colombo.

The pastor fled to his church, only to be ambushed by 20 young men who beat him and accused him of attacking the monk. The mob raided the church where a service was being held, and attacked the congregation of about 70 members, including the pastor's two sons (aged 19 and 3). Members of the congregation managed to shield the pastor's wife from blows with a wooden club.

Police arrived to disperse the mob, and the pastor registered a case against his attackers. This attack took place a week after a violent mob armed with clubs, knives and swords attacked a congregation in Valachchennai.

Source: Release International

Pray that the authorities in Sri Lanka will act swiftly to curb anti-Christian violence.
Pray that God's peace and protection will be with the pastor, his family, and the congregation as they continue to reach out to their communities (including their enemies) with Christ’s redeeming love.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Creation Worships God. Do you?

Psalm 19:1-6
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
 
 In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
 "The Heavens declare the glory of God".

How true that is. All of creation sings God's praises. It proves he exists and it shows his character. God is most praised when his character is understood and praised. Creation glorifies God because he created it, he sustains it and he makes it continue.

God created the universe. Every atom, every cell, every piece of grass, every tree. Every human. God created it all. He is worthy of all praise! We should praise him for his marvellous creation, for his awesome deeds. We should see it and rejoice in the God who made it, and who made it for us to enjoy. Even though we have sinned and creation is corrupted, it is still beautiful, it is still declaring God's glory.

How does creation declare God's glory?

I had a thought about this once. I don't know if it's worthwhile, but everything is made up of atoms right? And, unless they're at absolute 0, they are all vibrating. Music is made up of vibrations at different frequencies. Therefore all of creation is in a way making music. Though we can't hear it, all of creation truly is praising God, making music to him.

If you have some time then take a look at this video by Louie Giglio: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zWKm-LZWm4. It's pretty cool that creation does make noise, and to consider that it is declaring God's praises.

How does this apply to us?

It's all good and well to consider these things and to dwell on them, but they also have to be a direct challenge to us don't they? All of creation praises God. God created us as well. Yet there are so many people out there who don't even acknowledge God's existence. Who deny that he created, who refuse to praise him. There are also many who say God exists, but worship a false god, or simply refuse to worship the true God.

Here's the challenge: is that you? All of creation is praising God, declaring his glory. Are you? Do you believe the gospel? That we are all sinners, From Adam and Eve to us. That every person on earth is naturally living in rebellion to God because of our sin. Do you believe that Jesus, who is God, came to earth, suffered and died in the place of his people. He took our sins and God's completely just wrath for our sins so that whoever turns to him in repentance and faith will be completely forgiven? He also rose again, proving that he had dealt with our sins and proving that we can be totally forgiven. Proving that those who trust in him will also rise to eternal life in heaven. Do you believe that gospel?

The challenge for those to do is simple: Do you declare God's praises? Do your ell people the gospel? Do you take time out to just pray and to thank God for his wonderful mercies? Even if you can't think of anything else to praise God for, you can praise him for the salvation and forgiveness we have in Jesus and for his awesome creation. That's enough to praise God for eternity - start now!

I love this quote from Paul Washer, and it kind of ties in to these two points of application.
"Imagine this for a moment. God stands there on the day of creation and he tells planets to put themselves in certain orbits in space and they all bow down and say amen and obey him. He tells stars to find their place in the sky and to follow his decree to the letter and they all bow down and obey him. He tells mountains to be lifted up and valleys to be cast down and they bow down in worship. He tells the brave sea, “You will come to this point and you will come no further,” and the sea adores. And yet God tells you to come and you go, “No.” 
How wicked is our sin. And if it were only an act it would be terrible enough, but sin goes much deeper in the heart of a man. A man does not simply commit sin. A man is born in sin, vile and corrupt from the beginning.

Do you refuse to worship God? Do you refuse to submit to him and put your faith in Christ? All of creation praises him, all of creation submits to him, do you?

If the answer is no, and you continue to rebel then the result is hell. If the answer is no, but you turn to him then there is complete forgiveness and mercy. Jesus saves! If the answer is yes, then Praise God and never stop!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Gospel is Ridiculous (And 100% true).

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
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. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
 
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
In thinking through Luke 2, it occurred to me (again) that the gospel is in some ways ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, I believe it completely. I am a Christian, Jesus is my Lord and saviour. But God chose to save us (through his infinite wisdom) in a way that demands complete humility to accept.

Here are a few examples.

  • First, God becoming a man. God, who is holy, perfect, just, all-powerful, all-knowing, and many other things became a human. Definitely not impossible for God to do, but if you don't believe the gospel then it probably sounds pretty weird. 
Why did he do that? To save sinful humans. From our selfish perspectives this is stupid - God/Jesus gave up his eternal glory for a time to live among and save those who have (and continue to) reject him. We're selfish and in that position we'd probably just judge the world and not save anyone. Instead God gave up his only son to save us.
  • Second, Jesus, who is God, wasn't born as a king. No he was born in a (probably dirty) stable. He was rejected from birth. What's more - we rejected him so much that we killed him. We (Humans) murdered Jesus. Of course, we know that God had planned for that to happen because by dying Jesus took the sin of everyone who will turn to him. He took my sin and too God's wrath for it. That was always God's plan to save us. The Jews wanted a physical king. No God chose to save us through death, and therefore save us eternally.
  • Third, Jesus rose again. He truly did. Yet to non-Christians that's ridiculous. People don't come back to life from the dead (unless it is God bringing them back to life, but we don't see that now-days). But by rising to life Jesus proves that our sin is truly dealt with if we are his people, and that we also will rise again.

The gospel is 'foolishness' to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. The Jews were waiting for an earthly king who would make their nation great. The Gentiles think it's stupid.

But God chose to save us in this way because it demands faith and humility. He has proven more than enough that this is the truth. The whole bible is full of proof. The OT is full of prophecy about all of this (undeniably written before Jesus' birth and death). The NT explains and proves why it was necessary to save us and why God chose to do this. But to believe it is to look like an idiot. I've had so many people tell me (on Facebook mostly) that I'm an idiot for worshiping a 'Jewish-Zombie'. Jesus isn't a Zombie. He lives and he will return to Judge.

The gospel looks ridiculous to those who are not saved by it. So we need to be genuinely humble to truly accept it. To truly believe that it is the truth. God chose to save us in this way because only those he calls are able to accept it - not because we are better than others but because God works in us to convict us and to convince us of the truth of the gospel.

Here's one other point which is linked into this. No one would have made this up. No one would have made it up, and no one could have made Jesus fit the OT prophecies so perfectly. If they had, then they almost certainly wouldn't have been prepared to die for it (All the apostles except John were killed for their faith, John was exiled). It has to be God who has saved. I has to be God's plan.

"The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength".

God knows what he's doing. He has saved us in a marvelous way.

Do you accept the gospel as truth?

Soli Deo Gloria.
Nat.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Sticking by your spouse.

Luke 2:1-7
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Here's another thing I thought about while reading this passage, but first up a qualification: I'm not married, in fact I'm only just an adult - so I'm not an authority on the subject. But God designed marriage and I think what I'm going to say is biblical. Tell me if it isn't.

I was thinking through Joseph and Mary. In Matthew 1 we learn that he was going to divorce Mary quietly so that he wouldn't publicly disgrace her. Obviously it looked like she had had sex outside of marriage since she was pregnant. Even so, he loved her enough to treat her respectfully when he could have made her life terrible.

But my thoughts were more along this line: Joseph took Mary to be his wife when it was obvious that she had become pregnant before their marriage. He did this because God sent an angel to explain the situation to him, but even so it gives us a good lesson. I have little doubt that almost everyone who saw them would have automatically assumed that they had had sex before they had been married. Joseph was ready to lose his reputation and to face embarrassment and shame for the sake of his wife and her honour. Husbands, do you love your wives enough and care for them enough to be publicly shamed for their sakes? Are you ready to be embarrassed for the sake of your wife? The same obviously applies to boyfriends - are you ready to lose face, maybe even lose friends to stand up for your girlfriend?

Sure, if they have sinned then we are also called to talk it over with them and to rebuke them (lovingly), but either way, are you prepared to stand up for them? Mary looked like a sinner and by sticking by her Joseph also looked like a sinner. He did so out of love for her. Would you do the same?

Another point from this: When people asked, Joseph probably would have told them the truth. That Mary hadn't been sleeping around, that an angel had visited her and told her she would become pregnant even though she was a virgin. He had to trust God and trust his wife more then he feared peoples approval. I have little doubt that people would have thought his story was ridiculous and would have mocked him for it. Are you prepared to be mocked for the truth? For God's truth? Are you prepared to be mocked for the sake of your spouse?

This probably also applies to wives, so consider it as well. If you;re not married or in a relationship (like me) then consider it too. Will you commit to this for when/if you do get in a relationship or get married? If so, work at being faithful, work at loving God above all else now.

Joseph stuck with Mary even though it was the harder option. Even though it made him look bad. Even though it probably meant he was mocked by others. He did it out of love for God and love for his wife.

Would you do the same?



Sunday, 14 July 2013

No room for the King

Luke 2:1-7
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
 Here's another thought on this passage. If you are a Christian, then you believe that Jesus is God (if you don't believe that then you're not a Christian. Feel free to comment or email me if you want to discuss that). Jesus is God, as well as God the father and God the Holy Spirit. They are all equally God and they are all different persons. He was part of creating everything in the beginning. He sustains everything. In Paul's words in Colossians 1:16-17 
"For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."
 Jesus is God, he reigns over the universe, he created everything and he controls every bit of it. He flung the stars into space. He told the water how far it can come. He feeds all the animals. He makes the sun rise and set. He makes it rain and snow and hail. (Check out Job 38-40). Jesus is that God.

Yet he was born in a stable.

God became a man. A vulnerable, weak man. God is also holy, and he came and lived among sinful men (that means more than I can fathom). Not only was he a man, but he was born in a stable. A (probably) stinky, leaky stable which may have been full of dirty animals. Why was this? Because even from birth we, the human race rejected Jesus, our only saviour.

Hold up a second. The creator of the universe. The all-powerful, all-sovereign, all-knowing God, who flung the stars into space became a weak human being to die for other weak human beings who had, were and would reject him. He came to suffer for us. He came to suffer so we can not only be forgiven, but also be adopted as God's children and made co-heirs with him (Romans 8). He died so that he could share his glory with us, and by doing so he could further show his character and glorify himself.

Another Question: Was God unable to make room in the inn? Of course he could have made room! He's God! No, instead he chose to be born in a stable, to have his son be born in a stable to show his utter humility. To show his love for us. Why did Jesus come? 1 Timothy 1:15:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.
Jesus came to display God's love for us (1 John 4, Romans 5:6-8). He came to take God's wrath, which we deserve and to take our sin (By "our" I mean myself and all other true Christians). He came to suffer, to be rejected and humiliated. That started at his birth and it continued until he died in our place.

Jesus came and saved us even though we did not make room for him. We still don't - we don't make room for him in our lives. No, he has to send the Holy Spirit to convict us and to cause us to accept him into our lives. God chooses to save us and we respond - we're so sinful that we don't even let him in after he's done that much for us. Yet on the flip side of that we do need to respond to Jesus. We need to repent and believe, to turn to him and to ask for his mercy and grace.

Jesus humiliated himself to save us, and the only way we are saved is by humbling ourselves and realizing that we cannot save ourselves. We have all sinned and we need to repent. We need to realize we were wrong and that there is nothing we can do to be forgiven. Then we need to look to Jesus who is God and who alone can forgive through taking our place and God's just wrath for our sin.

Have you made room for the King? Or is your heart still hardened, not letting him in?

Revelations 3:19-20

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. 


Saturday, 13 July 2013

God's timing is perfect

Luke 2:1-7
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Let's just take a look at this passage for a moment. I think I have half a weeks worth of posts to make out of it, but here's the first one:

God's timing is perfect. And it isn't always what we want.

Have a think about this scenario. Mary is pregnant. Not just a little pregnant, but without research I'd assume she'd be nearing the end of her
Pregnancy. And Caesar decides to call a census. How is this God's timing? Well if we believe that God is in control (and he is) then it is under his control, and it also fulfills his word.

As a result Mary and Joseph have to travel to Bethlehem to register. I don't know where they were before this, but Mary is nearing the end of her pregnancy and is now forced to travel, on foot or maybe on donkey to another town, possibly quite some distance away. 

Without ever being in that situation, id guess it would be pretty stressful, pretty hard and pretty inconvenient.

But wait, it doesn't end there. God's perfect plan not only calls them to move at such a stressful time, but to move while everyone else is
Moving too. This is good for the sake of protection on the journey, but when they get there there is no accommodation.

I've been on a few family holidays, and it's stressful enough when you've booked a place but can't find it. Joseph with a very pregnant Mary not only couldn't book a place (there were no telephones back then) but they couldn't find anywhere to stay. Not a single place.

Stressful, hard and extremely inconvenient.

Then, according to God's perfect plan, that's when Mary goes into labor - in a stable, probably with animals around, probably in a pretty unhygienic position.

Yet we have a perfectly sovereign God who not only knows everything but controls everything. 

Life won't always be easy. Maybe it won't even often be easy. Maybe it's never easy for some. But God is always in control, he never forgets or breaks his promises, and he Never lets us be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13) 

There are so many lessons to learn in these verses, so many things I want to talk about - Gods faithfulness, the fact we never hear Joseph or Mary complaining, etc.

But here's what I want to say today. No matter what is going on in life, no matter how stressful, hard and inconvenient it is, God is good, he is in control and if you are a Christian you can trust that he not only has it under control but that he works in everything for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). 

God has a plan, and he accomplishes that plan in his perfect timing. He never promises that it will be easy or nice, but it is good, he is faithful and we can trust him completely.

One more brief glance at this event. It was undoubtedly hard, stressful
And inconvenient. But through it God didn't simply fulfill some of his promises. He began his work to bring  about the salvation of every person who puts their faith in him.

Are you trusting in God's perfect timing? Are you trusting that he will do what is right and good even of its not what is easy for you?

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Salvation to the Gentiles

Romans 10:19-21 (NIV)
Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says,
“I will make you envious by those who are not a nation;
I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”
 And Isaiah boldly says,
“I was found by those who did not seek me;
I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”
 But concerning Israel he says,
“All day long I have held out my hands
to a disobedient and obstinate people.”
 Previously Paul has been proving that God has not only offered salvation to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. This is his final round of proof before we start chapter 11, and I found it quiet encouraging to read this morning.

The Jews had rejected God throughout their history, but at the pinnacle of their rejection of God is their rejection of his son Jesus. They worshiped false gods, trusted in their own righteousness and ignored their creator and saviour. As a result God also rejects them. Through Jesus he fulfills his promise of salvation, not only to the Jews, but to the Gentiles. Not to all of them, but to those who genuinely seek him and follow him. To those he chooses.

God finds us, we don't find him.
What I found encouraging is that we (both Jews and Gentiles, but especially Gentiles because throughout history we haven't known God or his plan) did not seek or know God. We did not understand his plans and we rejected him. Yet he revealed himself to us - he sent his one and only son, Jesus (who is fully God), to die for us and to take away our sin if we turn to him. How do we turn to God? He has to reveal himself to us.

We didn't seek God. Historically the Gentiles did not know God, how could they seek him? But God in his mercy and grace and love not only showed us his character but also provided a way for us to be saved. He then sent the apostles into the world to tell people. We didn't look for God, he found us and saved us. We didn't save ourselves, it was 100% entirely his work which saved us.

Consequently we don't have to worry about losing our salvation if we are truly Christians. We don't have to worry that we will sin so badly that God won't forgive us. We didn't deserve forgiveness in the firs place - we can't deserve it less because we've already stuffed up. It's entirely God's grace and mercy, not anything in us which has saved us.

God is Patient, but he will Judge.
What does v21 say? “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” God was and is patient with Israel, and he is patient with us. He could judge the earth right now, but he hasn't for two reasons:
  1. Because his time isn't right yet and he hasn't called in all the elect
  2. To show his patience and mercy to all who are rejecting him and will not turn to him, giving them time to repent even though they won't do so. 
God shows his mercy for us by being patient with us, even with those who have rejected him. But the day is growing old and his mercy will come to an end. Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. Those who continue to reject him, to live in sin - stubborn and rebellious towards God - will face his wrath eternally. Those who turn to him, who run into his arms for refuge will be saved.To those who turn to Christ, our sins are already forgiven. Jesus paid the price on the cross, taking our sin and the wrath of God that we deserved for them. To those who are not Christians: Stop rejecting God! Repent and Believe for the Kingdom of God is at hand! (Mark 1:15) Only Jesus can save, only he can take our sin and God's punishment for it.
Psalm 34:21-22
Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
 
 The Lord will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.