Monday, 30 September 2013

VOM Prayer Watch

Pakistan

Church Bombing Kills at Least 85

A twin-suicide bomb attack outside the All Saints church in Peshawar killed at least 85 people in one of the worst attacks on Christians in Pakistan. According to reports, the attackers blew themselves up as worshippers were exiting the church after Sunday service.  Read more

Prayer Points

• Pray for God's healing mercy upon those injured in the attacks.
• Pray for the families grieving and angered over the loss of loved ones, that they would experience the peace and comfort of Jesus.
• Pray for the country's Christians, that they would not resort to violence but would respond in Christ-likeness.
• Pray for the Lord’s protection over the church in Pakistan.

Laos

Laotian Christian Families Facing Expulsion and Abuse

Eleven Laotian families, about fifty people in all, face expulsion from their village because of their conversion to Christianity. Despite the impending threat, the Laotian believers plan to continue conducting worship services. Read more

Prayer Points

• Thank the Lord for the growth of His church in Laos. Pray He will bless and honour these faithful believers for their relentless courage and devotion to Him.
• Pray that He will always remain at the centre of their fellowship, filling them with His strength, unfailing love, mercy and the ability to forgive others.
• Pray that the authorities will know Christ’s love, forgiveness and blessing through the lives of these Christians (Romans 12:14, 21).

Nigeria

Twenty-Five Churches Marked for Demolition

Government authorities in northern Nigeria's Borno state plan to demolish 25 churches and schools, ostensibly to make room for new housing. Christian leaders believe this is another attempt by local governments in northern Nigeria to persecute the Christian minority. Read more

Prayer Points

• Ask the Lord to intervene to preserve these places of worship, fellowship and teaching.
• Thank the Lord for the faithfulness of the Christians in Nigeria, ask Him to strengthen their faith further to help them to overcome this new kind of opposition.
• Pray for Christians in Nigeria reaching out to Muslims with the love of Christ.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Psalm 140

 Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers;
protect me from the violent,
 who devise evil plans in their hearts
and stir up war every day.
 They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;
the poison of vipers is on their lips.

 Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
protect me from the violent,
who devise ways to trip my feet.
 The arrogant have hidden a snare for me;
they have spread out the cords of their net
and have set traps for me along my path.

 I say to the Lord, “You are my God.”
Hear, Lord, my cry for mercy.
 Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,
you shield my head in the day of battle.
 Do not grant the wicked their desires, Lord;
do not let their plans succeed.

 Those who surround me proudly rear their heads;
may the mischief of their lips engulf them.
 May burning coals fall on them;
may they be thrown into the fire,
into miry pits, never to rise.
 May slanderers not be established in the land;
may disaster hunt down the violent.

 I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy.
 Surely the righteous will praise your name,
and the upright will live in your presence.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Individuals united in Christ

Romans 12:4-5
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
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As Christians, we are called to be individuals, and we are called to be united. We aren't called to either all conform and become the same, or to go our separate ways - we need to hold these things (unity and diversity) in tension.

Paul uses the example of a body: The body is one body, but it has different parts, and all of these are necessary for it to work effectively (We need eyes to see danger and feet to move away from it). The church is the same - God has given us all different gifts. While some roles might seem more important than others, they are all necessary and they are all needed for God's people to work together in glorifying him.

Individuality
In Romans 12:1 Paul calls us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to serve God. We also know elsewhere that we are all given different gifts and talents with which we need to serve God (check out 1 Corinthians 12).

This doesn't give us room for Pride. In verse 3 e are told not to think of ourselves more highly then we should - God has given us gifts, but we need what he has given everyone else to serve God effectively. There's no rom for thinking that we're better than others, and there's no room for thinking that we're not good enough - God has given everyone exactly what they have, we owe it all to him and he does not waste space.

What are our talents and gifts? Anything we can use to serve God - be it being able to read and write, being able to speak, having money that you can use for him, having musical skills or anything else. To serve God effectively we need to be individuals, utilising the gifts he has given us.

F.F. Bruce puts it like this
"Diversity, not uniformity, is the mark of God’s handiwork. It is so in nature; it is so in grace, too, and nowhere more so than in the Christian community."

Unity
But in tension with that, we can't just go off on our own and use our gifts however we want. We need to work together to help each other as God's people. We need to get rid of quarrels and fights with each other, we need to get over our own little problems - focussing on God instead and working together to encourage, grow, challenge, rebuke and help one another love and serve God more. That means we have to be honest with each other. Deeply, personally honest. And for that to happen we need to be trustworthy. Are you trustworthy?

Another element of this is the question of who is the body? Is it just our church or denomination? No. It's anyone who genuinely puts their faith in Jesus as God who came to earth as a man, took our sin, suffered on the cross, died, was buried and rose again. There are some core doctrines to the christian faith that are non-negotiable, and people that we won't be able to accept as fellow Christians because of their beliefs. But there are other doctrines that we shouldn't break fellowship over.

Since the whole community of Christians world-wide is the church, what are we doing to help each other here, and what are we doing to encourage believers overseas? Are we praying for those we are being persecuted? Are we using the technology we have to make connections and encourage christians across the world (e.g. prayer groups on Facebook)? These things certainly should not come at the expense of loving fellow Christians where we are living, but perhaps thats a good use of the gift we have in technology.

But what about when others aren't doing it back?
What about when we give it all to our church, but no one else does? What about when we look after others, but when we're sick no one cares for us?

It's easy to get bitter about it when that happens (and it will happen), but the question is, who are we serving? God or ourselves? If we're doing these things for God then we should praise him at the opportunity to serve, regardless of how much those around us are doing. If we're doing it for ourselves, so others will look after us or make us feel good, then we're not really doing it for God.

Put in your bit of the effort, encourage others to do the same and glorify God whatever the outcome, for he is good!

Soli Deo Gloria!
Nat.


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Humility and using our gifts.

Romans 12:3
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
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For the next few verses, Paul is going to explore how we should use our gifts within the church, but to begin on that theme he first commands us to be humble. To not think of ourselves as better than we are.

"For by the grace given me, I say to every one of you" 

Paul begins by being an example of this himself. He is about to tell his reader, and by extension us, to be humble. As a result he starts by saying that it is only by grace that he can say this. Before he was saved, Paul was a pharisee and he made it his business to hunt down Christians and to put them in prison. It is only by God's grace that he was saved from that lifestyle - he was changed from a persecutor of Christians to a missionary and teacher of Christians. It is also God's grace that made him an apostle - he didn't deserve it, but God gave him the necessary spiritual gifts so that he could work in that way. That's why Paul has the right to write this to the churches - God gave him that position of authority. But Paul acknowledges that it was entirely God who put him in that position. It's not based on his own merit.

Paul's words are not only meant for the Christians in Rome. If they applied to "every one of [them]" then and God doesn't change, then they apply to us now as God's people. Do we read the word and apply it to our lives? Do we take it seriously? I find it's so easy not to, but we need to do it.

"Do not think of yourselves more highly then you ought"

We live in a society that bases most of its marketing schemes on making us feel good about ourselves. We live in a society largely based on pride. Therefore, as part of not conforming to the pattern of this world, we need to submit to God and be humble. Instead of being chuffed with ourselves and our talents, we need to give the glory to God for what we do and the gifts he has given to us.

Pride is one of the things I struggle with most in my walk with God. It just kind of creeps in, and I don't realise for a very long time that I'm being proud. I slowly start to look down on others, I slowly start to trust in my own abilities, I slowly start to edge away from God and start looking at myself, enjoying myself instead of enjoying God and contemplating his character. Instead I need to realise how sinful and wretched I am and how much I deserve God's wrath. I need to reflect on myself as God sees me, a sinner who does not deserve grace, but who has received it freely because of God's goodness. Is this a problem you face as well?

"in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you."

I don't entirely understand what Paul means by this, but I've read a few different interpretations. John MacArthur seems to think that faith refers to the amount of gifting we have with which we can serve God. We all have gifts from God to varying degrees, and we need to look at them honestly and humbly to know how we can best serve God with them. That doesn't mean that we ignore or belittle our gifts, it means we use them honestly and we give God the glory, since he gave us the gifts.
"A believer should appraise the gifts God has given him fairly, glorifying God for their bestowal, and then exercise them through dependence upon the Holy Spirit and not in mock humility make light of them. A renewed mind thinks soberly about oneself." (Preceptaustin.org)
 Barnes offers a different idea about this: He says that since faith is key to being a Christian, what Paul means is that we need to measure ourselves by our walk with God. He says:
"we are not to judge of our own characters by wealth, or talent, or learning, but by our attachment to God, and by the influence of faith on our minds."
Application 

  • Be humble! We need to realise how wretched and undeserving we are of God's grace to be able to truly understand what he has done for us.  I'm not sure that we will grasp this fully until we go to be with God, but we need to work hard at hating our sin and realising how gracious God is in saving us.
  • Have humility when evaluating and using your gifts. God has given us all gifts and we aren't called to hide them or belittle them. We are called to use them as best we can for God, and to give him the praise for them.
  • We need to measure ourselves by our walk with God. Regardless of how well or poorly our lives are going, it is our relationship to God and our love for him that matter. Work hard to be walking in obedience and love of God instead of focussing on other things.

I'll probably do another (more topical) post on humility at a later date - it's definitely a topic I need to dwell on more, but I hope those thoughts were helpful.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Nat.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Being transformed by the gospel

Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
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This verse is attached to the previous one in this post. Within it Paul is explaining how we should act if we are living sacrifices.

Do not conform to the Pattern of this world

The world is full of ideas, values, actions and plans, most of which are built from our sinful hearts and motives. As Christians we shouldn't just be chasing after the new trends, trying to be popular in the world. As churches we shouldn't just be introducing new and exciting things for the sake of getting people in. Some of these things may be good (we'll get to that later), but we shouldn't just do them because they work. We should do them if they fit with God's word and will. 

What are the general patterns of the world at the moment? There are many, but here are three:
  • Sex whenever you want with whoever you want. That's what we're told from almost every TV show and through so many other means, and it's how most non-christians live. It isn't how God calls us to live (Hebrews 13:4, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
  • Selfishness. I'm constantly told that it's all about me. Everything should go how I want. life should be easier for me. No, that's all selfish - but it does make us feel good an thats why its so attractive. God tells us the opposite (Philippians 2:4, Galatians 6:2)
  • Science is better then religion. We're told constantly that Science is right and God is wrong. In reality, true science always lines up with the bible. Theories such as evolution are not based on face or experimental method. They're theories based on things that cannot be proven or seen today. God's word is the truth and is useful (2 Timothy 3:16)
We need to stop conforming to the values of the times we live in, and instead we need to be transformed.

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

The word transformed "implies a radical, thorough, and universal change, both outward and inward." (Clarke). As Christians we should be completely different to those around us in how we think and act, and we should be completely different to how we used to live as non-Christians. The mind means the intellect - it is a choice to follow God and to obey him. 

How are we transformed? 
Well 2 Corinthians 5:17 says:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
If we are Christians, if we have repented of sin and have put our faith in Jesus, then we are new creations. We are changed and we are made alive in Christ instead of dead in sin. That's the start of the transformation process, but we still need to be sanctified - we're still sinful and we still have to work at weeding out sin from our lives.

We do that by knowing God's word and applying it. God's word is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16 again) and if we want to be transformed we need to take it on board. We also need to do this prayerfully, asking God for help and for the Holy Spirit to convict us of areas in our lives that we need to change.

The result is that we will be able to know God's will. His good, pleasing and perfect will. God's desire is for us to obey him - not out of legalism but out of joy and love for him because he has transformed us through Jesus. No, it won't always be easy or enjoyable, but we should find joy in trusting and submitting to God. His will is good - it is good for us and there is no evil in it. It is pleasing - it pleases God and it should please us to do it. Lastly it is perfect - God knows everything and his will is faultless. It is good to follow.

If we are Christians then we have been saved from our sins. We are no longer slaves to it. Instead we are transformed, made new creations and adopted as God's children. If we have been changed, then our lives and minds and hearts should reflect that - we should be looking to God and attached to him instead of the sin and evil in this world which we used to love.

Will you give your entire life to God for him to transform through his word?

The design of this passage is doubtless to produce a spirit that should not find pleasure in the pomp and vanity of the World; and which will regard all vain amusements and gaieties with disgust, and lead the mind to find pleasure in better things. (Barnes)

An Unfair Exchange

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Romans 12:1
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
At first glance it may seem that it's unfair for God to ask us to live our entire lives as sacrifices to him. But that's because we're not seeing things in view of his mercy. The unfairness isn't that we have to serve God - that's an honour and a rich blessing, and we should get more joy from serving God then from our sin. The unfair exchange is that Jesus, who is God, all powerful and eternally perfect, holy, pure, just, loving and merciful, the creator and sustainer of everything in existence, came and died for us. Jesus, who had been in fellowship with God the father and the Holy Spirit eternally, came to earth, took our sin and God's wrath (that we rightfully should suffer for eternity) so that we could be forgiven. Then he rose again from the dead to prove it.

We cannot fathom what it was that Jesus gave up for us. We don't deserve it. We don't deserve any part of it - we are wretched sinners who hated and rejected God by living in sin. Yet he sent Jesus to save us.

Paul is telling us that we should live as sacrifices to God In view of that mercy. In view of the infinite sacrifice God made for us. When we see how much Jesus did for us, anything we can offer can never compete. That's why we could never save ourselves. If Jesus hadn't died for us, we would still be spiritually dead, living in sin. Because he saved our lives, bringing us to life, it makes sense that we should use that life to glorify and honour him alone.

Living as a sacrifice

In the Old Testament most of the sacrifices had one of two jobs. Some were given to pay for sin - those were fulfilled by jesus on the cross since he is the ultimate sacrifice for sin. The others were given in praise of God. Without doing any extra research on it, I thin that's what Paul is getting at - we need to live our lives as sacrifices in thankfulness of what he has done and in praise of who he is.

But what does this look like?

  • Putting God first. That's the first commandment, and it's the one we struggle with most. It's so easy to slip into idolatry, to put other things before God without even realising. For me it's usually fear of man or love of friends that gets in the way. The desire for approval. For others it can be money or health or a wide range of other things
  • Obeying God and giving up sin. We are sinful and we desire to sin. Instead of living that way, when we are saved we need to repent and give up sin. Jesus died to rescue us from slavery in sin, it is stupid to go back to it if you've turned to him. Obeying God glorifies him because it is us being in line with his character. He is the definition of perfection, and when we obey his laws we are acting in line with who he is. Paul says we are to be "holy and pleasing to God" - that means not sinful, since sin can never please God. Holiness means separate, and if we are to be separate from sin we need to give it up completely.
  • Spending time praising God. It's easy to focus all our energy on doing the right things, but what God actually cares about is our hearts. He doesn't want us to be legalistic, he wants us to genuinely love him and submit to him out of that love. So, we need to spend time just in praise of God, rejoicing in who he is and what he has done - for us, for his people throughout history, and for his general mercies. That's what true worship is - not just lip service or obeying rules. Genuine praise form the heart, and the result of that is obedience.
I don't know about what this verse sounds like in the Greek, but in English the translators have said: "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice". Notice that it goes from plural (your bodies) to singular (a living sacrifice). We need to collectively as God's church throughout the world and as his people in a certain place work together to live as sacrifices for him. We need to spend time with friends and family who love God, being honest with each other, loving and helping each other, encouraging and rebuking each other, praying and looking at God's word together. If we are "brothers and sisters", adopted as God's children then we need to act like a family - we need to be deeply concerned for each other and to look after the needs of those around us. We need to deeply love each other, even loving those who we don't get on with easily (thats hard to do!)

I came to God's word this morning feeling tired and quite unmotivated to read it. Nevertheless God is faithful and he reminded me that I need to give it all to him. Are we willing to live our entire lives as sacrifices for God? Even when we don't feel like it?

God deserves and demands our everything - are we willing to give it?

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Sights to See

Letter to an Incomplete, Insecure Teenager: This post is a copy of a reply to a letter sent to John Piper. I found it immensely encouraging and helpful. "They showed me that the highest mental health is not liking myself but being joyfully interested in everything but myself."

Repent of your goodness: "If your hope, confidence and satisfactions are in being a good husband, being a good wife, being a good father, being a good mother, being a good churchman, you’ve severely misplaced your hope in something that cannot and will not save you." - Matt Chandler

What I wish I'd known about sovereignty, discipleship and more: "Yancey Arrington shares how he learned to stop reading the Bible like Aesop’s Fables, plus what he wishes he had known about God’s sovereignty, discipleship, theology, and preaching."

Lone House: I didn't expect to enjoy this article or think much of it when I started reading it, but the depth of thought and insight that the writer has is splendid and I really truly enjoyed reading it. Hoping to unpack it a bit more when I get a chance.

Puritan Names: For a bit of humour (and maybe some sympathy for the kids who got these names), here are some pretty outrageous names that some Puritans named their kids.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Overcoming Evil

Romans 12:21
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
 There is a lot of evil in the world. That's undeniable if you just look around. Death, murder, rape, starvation, sexual immorality, homosexuality, abortion, slavery, lying, coveting, stealing, hatred, manipulation and selfishness are just a few examples. It's all around us and Satan uses it all to try to devour us and overcome us.

It's easy to see everything going on in the world and just be overwhelmed and depressed by it all. It's easy to give up and wonder why God allows any of it to happen. It's easy to get disillusioned. On the other hand, it's easy to see all the evil in the world and get drawn into it, because it is attractive and it promises so much in this life.

But what does Paul command us to do?

"Do not be overcome with Evil, but overcome evil with good."

Don't let all of the evil in the world swallow you up, and don't become part of it. Don't let yourself slip into sin and temptation and don't let yourself slip into depression and disillusionment about the world. But we can't really do either of those on our own strength. We are sinful and we are naturally drawn to sin. Only by relying on God and trusting in him can we achieve this. Seek to obey him and he will bless that and help you.

Instead of giving into evil we need to do the opposite. We need to overcome it with good. When tempted to fall into sin, instead submit to God and obey him. Do good even when the world is shouting out for you to join it in doing evil. Do good even when Satan is trying to tangle you into a web of depression about the evils around you. Do good and submit to God, trusting him because he is good.

Are you being overcome with evil, or overcoming it with good through Christ?


Friday, 20 September 2013

VOM prayer watch


"Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." Hebrews 13:3

Morocco

Christian Convert Imprisoned for Evangelising

On 28 August, police raided the home of Mohamed el Baldi confiscating his Bible and about 30 additional Christian books. He was arrested and interrogated by police and later sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for evangelising Muslims. Read more

Prayer Points

• Pray that Mohamed will be spiritually strengthened and encouraged while in prison.
• May the Holy Spirit also work in the lives of the judges and lawmakers associated with the Moroccan legislative and judicial systems so religious freedom and justice may be granted to the followers of Christ.
• Pray for God's protection and blessing upon the fellowship of Christians in Morocco, including those believers who've recently had their identities exposed as a result of this case.

Egypt

Christians Murdered for Refusing to Pay Muslim Tax

Two Coptic Christians were shot dead last week for refusing to pay Jizya, a tax imposed on Christians by Muslim Brotherhood gangs. A gang leader contacted the men and demanded money to buy weapons, they refused. A couple of days later the gang surprised the two Copts by going to their home and showering them with bullets. Read more

Prayer Points

• Pray authorities in Egypt will do all things possible to bring peace, order and justice to Coptic communities.
• Pray the Lord will protect His children throughout the nation. Pray for those who are grieving, injured and fearful.
• Pray the Lord will build His church during this time of unrest.

Uzbekistan

Christians Fined for Illegally Using Religious Literature

In two separate cases on the same day in August, 20 believers were fined for illegally using religious literature. The fines totalled the equivalent of nearly 68 years official minimum wage. The Uzbek authorities have stated that “religious books are only allowed to be read within registered religious communities’ buildings.”  Read more

Prayer Points

• Please pray Christians in Uzbekistan will not be discouraged but will continue to treasure the Word of God.
• Pray the Lord will grow His church in number and faithfulness in spite of man’s attempt to suppress it.
• Pray the Lord will uphold and strengthen the faith of Christians involved in this case.would be cleared of any wrongdoing.
•  Pray the Lord will pour out His Spirit on Algeria so many may know Him. 

Quote

Adam Clarke on Romans 11:34


We may rest with the conviction, that God is as merciful and good in all his ways, as he is wise and just. But as we cannot comprehend him, neither can we his operations, it is our place, who are the objects of his infinite mercy and kindness, to adore in silence, and to obey with alacrity and delight.


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Reflections on Graduating.

This morning I'm going to graduate from school (Then i'll have 3 weeks of study before my HSC). 13 years are officially coming to an end and the system of my life that has been in place for more then 2/3 of it is about to change. 

To be honest, that's a bit scary. The world moves on, dragging us with it whether we want to come or not. But at the same time, it's exciting. My world is changing, it's about to expand, it's about to morph into something different then it has been. That's good!

In our lives it seems to me that God blesses us with a great number of good things. The problem we face isn't that we have good stuff from God, the problem is that we are sinful and so easily love these things more than him. I have always loved being at school - for sure, it hasn't always been brilliant, but overall I've loved my class and my teachers and I love learning and I've loved being challenged from the scriptures daily.

That's about to end. In fact, it ended yesterday since today is just going to be devotions and then set up for the assembly. But instead of being overly sad about it, I think I should be focussing on God, praising him for all he has done and rejoicing in his rich mercy and grace. He has seen me through 13 years of school, and he will see me through the rest of my life in the same way. He has proven himself faithful for all of my life this far - I don't need to fear the future because he will be with me (Zephaniah 3:17).

That doesn't mean I'm not sad about it. It doesn't mean I won't miss it. It just means that instead of mourning over this change I need to rejoice over it and look to God's sustaining grace and mercies in both this and the rest of life. I have no doubt that I will come to points like this quite frequently in life - points where everything, or even just small, beloved things, will change. That's usually neither good or bad - it's just a chance to trust God and rely more fully on him because he never changes and we can trust him.
Numbers 23:19
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Our Glorious, Awesome God.

Romans 11:33
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Image Source
Oh the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How wonderful He is! How unfathomable, how awesome, how powerful! How perfect and holy!

We should be thrilled at who God is. We should be entirely overawed. His wisdom, His plans and ideas, His works are deeper and richer then we could ever fathom. They bring glory to Him and they work for the good, of all those who love Him - revealing His mercy, grace, love, patience, kindness, justice, holiness, perfection and peace to us. God has done more then we could even imagine or measure!

We should simply be over-awed at who God is. We should just stand and appreciate His work, His character, His love. We should just stop and enjoy it, glorying in it and glorifying him for it.

Yet so often we are disinterested. We shrug our shoulders and go back to work or to study or to our meaningless wealth or to our friendships. I do that constantly, in fact it is the rare occasion that I just bask in God's glory - it is very rare. But it is so precious.

The wisdom of God. God's wisdom is wiser then anything we can imagine, "the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." (1 Corinthians 1:25). What did He decide to do? He sent Jesus, who was and is eternally God as a man, to suffer and die. To live among us, and to be murdered by us. Why? So He could save us, so He could forgive us for our sins, so He could reveal to us God's full character and so that He could love us. No, it isn't about us - it's about Him, but He did do it for us as well. What an awesome God!

What does this mean for us? 

  • We can trust God! His wisdom and knowledge are unsearchable because we are so frail and ignorant. Therefore when things don't make sense, when we can't see how God is working, trust him! He knows infinitely more than us! We don't have to fret because He has promised to work everything for His glory and for the good of His people (Romans 8:28)
  • We can "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil 4:4) because He has shown us His character and it is wonderful. Because He is infinite and unsearchable, yet has revealed himself to us, offering to save us even though we are ignorant and foolish. If we never lose sight of the awesome God we serve, then we never have reason to stop rejoicing, because we should simply be rejoicing in who He is, and that remains constant regardless of what is happening in our lives
  • We need to be humble. God is infinite, His plans are so full, so deep, so rich, so perfect that they are unsearchable by us. Who are we to think we know better? Who are we to live in sin and rebellion to him? Who are we to ask why He does what He does? Who are we even to be noticed and loved by Him? Yet he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7) and in His mercy and grace He does call us to know Him and to ask questions. But we do that humbly, knowing that God is unfathomably more awesome then we can understand.
  • Just enjoy God. Know His character and bask in the light of who He is. Pray for His help to do that, read His word so that you can understand it further. Just enjoy God for who He is!
God is in control and He works out everything to bring glory to Him in ways that we do not understand. His paths are more wonderful then we can understand, deeper and more glorious then we can search. We cannot comprehend all He does in the world around us, in our lives and the lives of others. But God knows what He does, and we can glorify Him that He is working through everything to bring about His good and perfect purpose. We can glorify Him for who He is, and we should do that.

Where is the Joy in your walk with God? Are you basking in who He is? Are you simply enjoying the God who created, sustains and saved us? Are you enjoying His creation, which sings his praises (Psalm 19)?

To God be the glory! Great things He has done!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Nat.

Monday, 16 September 2013

1 Peter 5


To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 
 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 
Final Greetings 
With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. 
She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. 
Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Isaiah 53


Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

What do you worship?

I'm going to do a devotion for the school on Monday (God willing), and I thought I'd share it here. If you have any thoughts then feel free to comment below! All help will be appreciated.

Before I read the passage, I have a few questions for you to think about.
  • Where do you get your approval or your meaning in life?
  • What do you put most of your time, thought and effort into?
  • What would you sacrifice anything for?
Have a think about that while I read this passage from 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.

We were created to worship. That’s why we find it so easy to worship things. But because of our sinfulness we so often worship created things instead of the creator. We find things to replace God in our lives. The problem with that is that created things cannot save us.

The type of idols that Habakkuk is talking about aren’t exactly the same as we see today. He is talking about statues that people worship – and in our world there are some examples of that: people worship statues of Buddha or they worship trees and animals, but usually we don’t see that as much in Australia. Habakkuk points out that those idols are just wood and stone, they aren’t actually gods and they cannot save.

Instead, we so often worship different things. Remember those questions I asked you to think about before? Your answers to them will probably point out what you worship. Instead of giving God the best of our time and running to him for our meaning in life we so often put other things first. Maybe for you it’s sport, maybe it’s family, maybe it’s having the newest gadget or being really really good at Call of Duty.

I find that for me, it’s often my friends that I put before God. I work hard to get their approval and I find that even when I’m reading the bible or praying I’d prefer to be hanging out with my friends.

Sometimes we even try to put God into a box and make him into an idol. We think about him one way and ignore other parts of his character to make ourselves feel better.

Ultimately though, whatever we worship points to one thing. Why do I want my friends approval? Because I enjoy being around them and it makes me feel good. Why do we like being really good at video games? So that people will look at us and tell us how good we are. Why do we try to shape God into someone who is more appealing to us? Because we want things to go our way, we don’t want God to be in control and we don’t want him to do what he wants – we want our own way. We replace the one true God with other things out of pride and selfishness. We put ourselves in first place when only God deserves that place.

I want to tell you three things about idols and then three ways we can work on worshipping God alone.

  1. They never give what they promise. They may make us feel good for a little while, but they will always fail. Friends will stuff up and make mistakes, your PS3 will lag or break, your car will break down. We can't even trust in ourselves because we all sin and stuff up too. None of us are perfect. All of these things will slip away and if we build our lives on them then they’ll come crashing down like the house that was built on sand. Even if we base our lives on something that will last as long as we live, the truth is that we all die. God on the other hand always keeps his promises and he alone can give us eternal life.
  2. They always demand more. We can always have more money, better friendships, a better car and more stuff. Satan uses these things to distract us so that we won’t look to God. Jesus doesn’t demand more from us because it isn’t about us. We couldn’t do it ourselves. He did it all, and we need to obey him out of love and thanksgiving.
  3. These idols can’t help us because our problem isn’t physical, it’s spiritual. They cannot deal with our sin and our selfishness. Only God can. Only Jesus can take away our sin because he alone is perfect and he died in our place. Only God deserves our worship because he created us, he keeps us alive and he has done so much to save us. 
We worshipped our way into idolatry and we need to worship our way out. So how can we worship the one true God who satisfies completely and who alone can save?

  1. The first step to worshipping God is asking yourself if you’re a Christian. If you aren’t then you are still living in sin and you are God’s enemy and under his punishment which leads to hell. So how do you turn to God? Repent and Believe – put your trust in Jesus as the only way that you can be forgiven and give up your sin and selfishness.
  2. We can worship God more by understanding the gospel more. When we realise how much we don’t deserve Jesus’ sacrifice for us we will be more and more thankful for all he has done. Through Jesus there is complete forgiveness – we don’t need the approval of those around us. Through Jesus we are adopted as God’s children – we don’t need to be great and amazing in this world because it isn’t about us – it’s about God.
  3. We also can be working to worship God more by changing our thinking. We do that through a lot of prayer and by reading God’s word. When you start focusing on those things that you worship instead of God then pray for God’s help to change and start thinking about him. 

So my question for you is this: if God isn’t first in your life then what is? Everything else will ultimately fail and cannot help you eternally. Only God will keep his promises and only he has the power to forgive sin. God is the one and only true God, our idols are nothing. I’m going to pray that we will worship him alone.

Friday, 13 September 2013

VOM Prayer Watch

Prayer Watch

CHINA: House Church Pastor Attacked by Government Agents

Li Shuangping, pastor of Linfen house church, was abducted, beaten and threatened by government agents on the night of 13 August.

While Li was driving to his home in Shanxi province, a man who appeared to be drunk staggered in front of his vehicle, at which point Li stopped. A black sedan pulled up alongside Li, and three men hurried out.

The men forcibly seized Li from his vehicle, with help from the man who pretended to be drunk, and dragged him into the sedan. As one man drove, the other three restrained and harassed him in the backseat.

After blindfolding him and tying him with a rope, they beat him for the duration of the journey, inflicting noticeable wounds on his head, neck and torso. The driver strayed from the main roads until reaching a cornfield, where the other men pushed Li out of the sedan.

Throughout the journey, one man repeatedly threatened to kill Li for his involvement in the house church. The threats ranged from being tossed in the river to being forced to drink sulphuric acid. The man also threatened to track down and kidnap Li's family.

The abducted pastor believes that the assailants work for the local government which has previously targeted him for his involvement with Linfen church.

Sources: ChinaAid, Christian Solidarity Worldwide
  • Ask the Lord to provide protection for Pastor Li, his family and his congregation, keeping them at peace and free from the spirit of fear.
  • Also pray that the members of the Linfen house church will continue to gather together in fellowship to the glory of God, reaching multitudes more in China with the Gospel, including Li's abductors.

PHILIPPINES: Displaced Christians Wait to Return Home

Voice of the Martyrs is helping hundreds of Christians who were run out of their villages at the end of July by the Muslim Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The government has provided only 1 or 2 kilograms of rice to the evacuees, not nearly enough to sustain them. VOM has provided 168 Christian evacuee families with food supplies, mosquito nets, sleeping mats, blankets and medicine.

The Christians have been unable to return home, as the BIFF remain in their villages, but some of the men still attempt to sneak back into the villages to get food for their families.

Source: Voice of the Martyrs USA
  • Please pray that these believers will be able to return to their homes soon.
  • Pray they will be encouraged together as the body of Christ during this difficult time (1 Peter 1:6–7).
  • Pray the Lord will use these believers as a witness for His Gospel, ask Him to bring conviction and repentance to many members of the BIFF.

AFGHANISTAN:  MP - “Execute Afghan Christian Converts”

A member of Afghanistan's Parliament has suggested that all those who have converted from Islam to Christianity should be executed, according to Islamic Sharia Law, in order to stop the rapid growth of Christianity among Afghans within and outside the country.

An Afghani news service, Ava, has published a report stating that the number of Christians is increasing in the country. The Afghan news service also quoted Nazir Ahmad Hanafi, Afghani Parliament Member, as saying, "Afghani citizens continue to convert to Christianity in India. Numerous Afghanis have become Christians in India. This is an offence to Islamic Laws and according to the Koran they need to be executed".

Islamic leaders of Afghanistan consider the growth of Christianity to be a threat. This phenomenon has reached the point where there have been reports that some Afghani Islamic clerics warned the government against the influence of Christianity in the country.

A while ago, the Islamic Council of Afghanistan notified President Karzai about more Christian aid-workers and missionaries coming to Afghanistan and the likelihood of more conversions across the country.

Source: Mohabat News
  • Thank the Lord for the work of His Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of Afghani people inside and outside Afghanistan. Pray He will continue to build His church.
  • Pray the Lord will protect workers engaged in humanitarian work and Gospel witness throughout the country.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

God hardens hearts for his glory.

Exodus 10:1-2
Image source
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord.”
"I have hardened his heart". We don't like hearing that. We like God being in a little box where he can do what we want and be all loving and all merciful without being just, without being pure and without using all things to glorify himself. Sure, if we believe the bible then we "believe" that God is just and in control, but do we truly know it? Or do we subconsciously just ignore those parts of the bible.

The Bible clearly says here that God hardens Pharaoh's heart. It seems clear to me from God's word that God is in control of everything. There are so many passages that establish that (I know many people disagree on that point, whatever you think about it, have a slid biblical basis for it and be ready to discuss it lovingly with those who disagree). Yet at the same time, we are completely responsible for our actions. I don't know exactly how that works out, but I know that God is God, his word is true and therefore bith of those things are true.

In the case of Pharaoh, God hardens his heart, but Pharaoh also chooses to harden his own heart. I don't know how that works - God does, ad I'll trust him with that knowledge. But the point of it is that by it God is able to show forth his mighty power, his just wrath against those who reject him and his infinite mercy, faithfulness and grace toward his people Israel. 

God is glorified even by those who reject him. In them he shows his perfection, justice, holiness and righteousness. Yet he is merciful - he wants all to turn to him and be saved. (1 Timothy 2:4)

We see a similar situation with Jesus. It was always God's purpose for Jesus to die and for the Jews, especially the Pharisees, to reject him. Yet at the same time those who crucified him are responsible and it was entirely their choice to do so. God was complete in control of events and those who did it were completely responsible for it, choosing to do it themselves.

In that situation a similar thing occurs: Gods justice and wrath against sin is shown, since Jesus takes it in our place (if we are Christians), and God's infinite mercy, grace and faithfulness are shown because by it we are saved. His power is also shown because Jesus rose again.

So what do we learn from this?
  • We are completely responsible for our actions
  • God is in control, so we can trust him. He will keep all his promises because he can. For example, he can and will keep his promise to work everything for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).
  • All situations are controlled by God to bring glory to himself. Therefore we need to trust him and give him the praise even if we don't understand why he is allowing things to happen as they are.
I hope that was helpful! It's one of those topics that is hard to think about and extremely confusing, but extremely comforting and encouraging as well.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Nat.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

God's Mercy (Quote)



"God’s mercy is so great that you may sooner drain the sea of its water, or deprive the sun of its light, or make space too narrow, than diminish the great mercy of God." - Charles Spurgeon

The Remnant

Romans 11:5
So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.
Image source
God always preserves a remnant of his people. That is a truth that is evident throughout the bible - there are always Christians in the world, God always has his people in the world.

When you think about it, that's pretty amazing. Since Adam and Eve, God has always kept some people who love and serve him in the world. He has sustained them and provided enough for them to remain trusting in him and to stay alive.

In this passage in Romans, Paul is speaking specifically about a Jewish remnant, and he gives the example of Elijah from 1 Kings 19:10-18. Elijah says to God that he is the only one left who truly follows God in Israel. God proves him wrong, promising that there were 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal.

Likewise, we never know who is one of God's people. When you feel like you're the only Christian out there, then pray, ask for God's help. Yes, it's possible that you are - in that case then you can know that God will sustain you and provide for you as he always has for his people in the past and as he always will in the future. But don't lose hope! God has people serving him who we don't know about - we don't know it all and we need to trust in him.

Paul says that this remnant is chosen by grace. That means that God has saved us entirely by his grace - not by anything we have done. What a wonderful thing that is! We don't have to fear losing our salvation because we have it for free - Jesus died and his death covers all our sin. If we turn to him in repentance and faith then we will be saved, and we will be totally forgiven, even though we still stuff it up. Jesus' sacrifice was big enough to cover all our sin if we are his people. We don't have to fear that we will be 'un-saved'. No one who is truly chosen by God will turn away from him - only those who are faking it or who don't truly understand it will turn away, because they have not been saved by grace.

An interesting parallel to this is found in Genesis 18 when Abraham asks God if he would preserve Sodom and Gomorrah if only 10 righteous people were in it (v32). God removed Lot from that city and destroyed it. God won't destroy the world while his people are in it - I think that means that before God destroys the world he will take his people to be with him. Maybe I'm wrong there - I haven't researched it much at all, but it's an interesting thought.

God preserves a remnant, are you in it?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Sights to See

All his breakers and his waves - this is a must read. God does send us through hardships, and he is faithful in them. The faith of this church was deeply encouraging to me and deeply challenging.

How to Live for God's Glory: In this article John MacArthur explores how we can practically obey God's command in 1 Corinthians 10:31 to glorify God. I found this helpful as a reminder of how I should be living to glorify God. John Piper also provides a short devotion here about worshipping God in our lives.

Resolutions for Mental Health: In this post, John Piper discusses 10 resolutions shared by a friend and professor. I found them useful to read and am hoping to apply a few at least to my own life.

Questions to Ask when Preparing for Marriage: This is another post by Piper, and even though I'm not preparing for marriage directly yet, these questions were good to consider and look through. I definitely see their relevance to married life.

Falling asleep while Praying: Here's some food for thought, I found this fairly encouraging - I find Im always falling asleep when I'm praying at night.

Blindsided by God...but never betrayed: In this article, Peter Chin looks at how setbacks in his life, such as the catastrophe of his wife getting cancer, have proven God's true character. I greatly recommend it.


Monday, 9 September 2013

The Passover and Jesus

Image Source
Yesterday I was reading through Exodus 12, and I thought it would be cool to point out some parallels between the passover and Jesus. He is after all the 'passover lamb' and the ultimate fulfilment of that celebration.
The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. (Exodus 12:5)
"Without defect" means pure, without fault. Though the lambs sacrificed at the passover had to be physically 'perfect' (not deformed), I think this ties to Jesus in another way as well. He was spiritually without defect. He did not sin, and that was the reason that he could take our sin and pay the price for us. He was perfect, and therefore he could take our sin and we can take his righteousness and be saved.
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt." (Exodus 12:12-13)
If we put our faith in Jesus then we are purified from all sin. Consequently we also escape God's judgement. He sees Jesus' blood that has washed our sins away and we are forgiven and not destroyed.
"And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” (Exodus 12:26-27)
Jesus was sacrificed so that we may be spared from God's wrath when he returns to judge the earth. If you have put your faith in him and have repented of sin then God's wrath is laid on Jesus instead of you and you are forgiven. That was the point of the Passover lamb - that God's wrath would pass over God's people. Jesus is the true and better Passover lamb.
Do not break any of the bones. (Exodus 12:46)
 Jesus was sacrificed for us, but not one of his bones were broken. This was prophesied about by David in Psalm 34:20 and comes to fulfilment in John 19:33
But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.
Isn't it awesome how Jesus fulfilled evert prophecy about him in the OT, even those that he physically could not control. he most certainly is the Messiah, and he most certainly is God.
“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. (Exodus 12:14)
The Passover was to last forever. Well, until what it pointed to came to be. Jesus fulfilled the Passover, he is the once-for-all sacrifice that we need, so we no longer need the blood of sheep to pay for our sins. Jesus paid the price that we never could and he fulfilled the Passover. Now we celebrate the Lord's Supper, which Jesus introduced instead of the Passover and it points us directly to his sacrifice for us.

Have you accepted Jesus into your life as the atonement for your sins? Or are you still under God's wrath?


Edit:
I just had something else pointed out to me: 
"Don't forget about them picking a lamb on the tenth day of Nisan and killing it on the fourteenth day. Just as people were picking lambs Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an ass and on a colt the fowl of an ass. As they yelled hosanna they were unknowingly choosing their lamb sacrifice and as they were killing the lamb they selected on the fourteenth day between the evening sacrifices, they did the same to Jesus and He died at the same time the lamb sacrifice were dying to fulfill the scripture." 
I'm not sure that Jesus died at the same time that the lambs were slain - I thought it was the day after that he was crucified, but his suffering began at that time - he was arrested that night. Either way he fulfills the OT to the letter. God is awesome!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Slavery in the bible.

Image source
The other night, Kevin Rudd (Our Prime Minister), a professing Christian, openly mocked God's word and held it up to be ridiculed on Q and A (See video here). In particular the words I'm referencing are these:
Pastor Matt Prater: "I just believe in what the Bible says and I'm just curious for you, Kevin, if you call yourself a Christian, why don't you believe the words of Jesus in the Bible?" 
Mr Rudd responded: "Well, mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition...Because St Paul said in the New Testament, 'slaves be obedient to your masters'. And, therefore, we should have all fought for the Confederacy in the US war. I mean, for goodness sake, the human condition and social conditions change."
The thing is, he was wrong - he did not even explain God's word accurately. So I figured I'd explain why he was wrong - why slavery is never condoned in the bible, and why it isn't a "natural condition".

Is slavery a natural condition?

I assume that by saying that slavery is a natural condition, Mr Rudd means that it has always existed, or it comes naturally to us. In Genesis 1-2 God created the world, and there was no slavery - Adam and Eve were equals. Therefore it is not a natural condition.

Our attraction to slavery is a result of what happened after creation. In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve sinned, and since then e
very human being has been sinful. As a result we are proud, we are selfish and we like being served. Slavery, an institution that has grown from those three things, is a result of sin. We are naturally sinful and that means we "naturally" tend toward lording it over others. But the bible never justifies that and it never gives an excuse for sin.

What about Paul's command?

Paul tells slaves to be obedient to their masters. In fact, he commands all of us to submit to those who are in authority over us (Romans 13). God does not direct his people to overthrow their governments and to change society through violence or revolution. Instead he calls us to submit to those in authority out of our love for him, and by doing so we will be able to honour him.

The same applies for the institution of slavery. God does not abolish slavery or condemn it directly in the bible, instead he calls slaves to submit to their masters. But he does more then that - in the verses after the one Mr Rudd mentions Paul writes:
"And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him." (Ephesians 6:9)
 If I'm right then within Greco-roman culture slaves were the property of their masters. Their owners could do anything to them and not face any consequences. Yet God, through Paul, commands masters to treat their slaves well. I don't think we appreciate how against the culture this would have been. (Maybe it could be paralleled to us being told to let the boat people in and treat them fairly?). Yet God does command his people to treat their slaves with respect and dignity.

God does not condemn the institution of slavery in the bible, but he does direct his people to use it differently then their culture did.

Other references to Slavery in the bible.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Within God's kingdom we (Christians) are all equal. There is neither slave nor free - we are all slaves of God, willingly giving our lives to him, and we are all adopted as his children. We are equal in God's sight. Though not an explicit condemnation of the institution of slavery, this verse most certainly sets the standard for how we should view all people, regardless of their occupation. (Philemon 1:14-16 is relevant to this point too)
Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. (1 Corinthians 7:21-22)
Paul here urges slaves to gain their freedom if that is possible. Again, setting the standard - slavery, though not condemned in the bible is an institution that one should seek to be out of.

Nevertheless God does make certain commands in Leviticus and other OT books about slavery. In all honesty I don't know how to explain these passages, but they include Exodus 21:20-21, Leviticus 25:44-46 and Deuteronomy 20:10-11. Sandy Grant points out that in the Old Testament Moses permits divorce, but that does not mean that God endorses it - Jesus explains this in Matthew 19:8 - He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." God allows his people to get divorced, even though he does not approve of it. It seems to me that slavery would fit in the same box - it is not specifically sinful in and of itself, but it is so easily twisted and used for cruelty.

Aside from this, slavery is quite a big theme within the bible. In Romans 6 Paul links slavery to our situation - we are slaves of sin, unable to save ourselves, yet in Jesus we are freed to serve him and to be willing slaves of God, the best master of all.

I hope I've at least provided some food for thought. I didn't really do heaps of research into the topic, because I'm extremely busy with school, and I may return to it when I get more time.

God Bless,
Nat.


Sacrificing Family for Work

1 Kings 16:34
In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun.

In this day and age we seem to be prone to do the same as Hiel. We don't do it as obviously, but we most certainly sacrifice our families for the work we do.

Parents work long hours, sending their kids to day care for someone else to look after. Mothers literally kill (abort) their babies because of the inconvenience of having to give up work. Fathers work hard all day and come home to do their own thing, not to spend time with their kids.

What impact does this have on our culture? It seems to me that it raises kids to be angry teenagers who don't know or understand their place in the world and have no one to rely on. It raises adults who don't know how best to build their own families. More importantly: it raises up people who don't know the Lord, because their parents either didn't know him themselves or never bothered to teach their kids what it means to be Christians.

But it's s easy just to point the finger. The truth is, I do it too. From the opposite side of the spectrum. This year has been crazy. As my last year of school there have been heaps of work to do, massive assessments and stressful tests. The result? I've spent much less time with my family and my friends then I should have, and the time spent with them has often been spent as a stressed and grumpy teenager.

How are we living? What are we putting first in our lives? What impact does that have on those around us?

But Hiel was doing something more than just sacrificing his family, wasn't he?
He was rejecting God. He was openly disobeying the God who had pronounced a curse on the man who rebuilds Jericho through Joshua:
At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: "Cursed before the LORD is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: "At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates." (Joshua 6:26)
What is even more important than leading and building your family? Serving God. God is the only way that we can be saved form our sins, he has provided salvation through Jesus and calls us to repent and believe in him.

We all stuff up. The first and biggest thing we need to do to get ourselves right is to turn to God, because nothing we can do can help us. We need God to change us from the inside out. Only then can we truly live how he wants.