The power to save

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Hebrews 2:14-15
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

If we are to reach out with the saving message of Christ, we must closely identify with those God has put on our hearts. It may not be pretty. The vision is usually given to those who are willing to change and make themselves into whatever is necessary for the rescue of lost souls for God. All earthly comforts are set aside and sacrifices made. Often it is a silent and hidden agenda that is not recognised or regarded by officialdom. The reward is in Christ, as He understands the calling, as it was His also.

The way to winning souls is supremely difficult. Self is denied and all is placed on the altar of love, before the God of love. There is nothing half-hearted. This is the laboured praying for souls at all costs. His way was no different. This is never giving up, even when no one really cares enough to commit to serving alongside.

This is not about getting a position in society to influence others. Nor is it about making a profile for yourself and being noticed by the right kind of people (with money and clout that will pick up your expenses and salary) This is about identifying yourself with the risen Christ, and being willing to do without and deny your nearest and dearest, things they would like, and involving yourself with people who may never understand what you are doing, or your motivation.

There is no career path to getting recognised. There is no lauding or showy blessings. This path is so alone. Yet the opportunity to know the Lord Christ in such a single hearted way, is the greatest privilege we will ever experience in this fallen world. If Christ is not real, His power operational and His Spirit filling every part of your person, you will not survive. If you harbour self, pride and complacency, you will not survive. You may get another place to serve out time quietly, but the closeness of the Holy Spirit will not be the same.

Do you really want to serve God? Do you have the vision and love, or is the selfish pushing of our human need for recognition your motivation?

The road to heaven is paved with suffering, heartache and heart break…
Will you walk it?
The Lord Jesus walked it for you.

“Go, labor on; spend, and be spent;
Thy joy to do the Father’s will;
It is the way the Master went;
Should not the servant tread it still?

Go, labor on: ’tis not for nought;
Thy earthly loss is heav’nly gain;
Men heed thee, love thee, praise thee not;
The Master praises, what are men?

Go, labor on; your hands are weak,
Your knees are faint, your souls cast down;
Yet falter not; the prize you seek
Is near, a kingdom and a crown.”

Horatius Bonar

Better

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I love the truth, that God brings whoever he likes to know him, and love him. It is entirely unexpected that any of us should give up our selfish and foolish percieved right to self-determination, and submit to the love and will of God. However, sometimes in our warped human psyche, we think that some people come to God and confess and repent, easier than more wicked people. We nurse the idea that some are more worthy, more inclined to embrace “that sort of thing.” Logically, the more willing sort of person, includes us, and we almost imagine that God had an easy time and exuded less effort, to forgive our sins and make us one of his people.

At times we can watch celebrities on TV and clever, talented people who teach and entertain, and think of how far away they are from God, and how hard it would be for them to be rescued from that life.

In one sense it is true, as the bobdage of the pleasures and desires of this life, cetainly do keep us away from seeking God, and they do blind us to our need. On the other hand, a life filled with trivialities and constant pressure from earth-bound sources, can also cause people to ask serious questions about the value of life’s pursuits, and if they are achieving anything worthwhile at all.

Many people, caught up with dubious activities and enslavement in various social surroundings, from high society to gangs, find themselves caught in a deadly tryst, that leads nowhere, or worse. Surely drugs, alcohol, sex and violence have God beaten. These tempting involvments hold like a vice and ruin lives, sometimes those that have barely even started.

The young man who met Jesus, thought he had kept all God’s laws perfectly, and had to come to the disappointing realisation that he wasn’t good enough. The good things that he had been blessed with were a stumbling block to him, and when challenged by Chrst, found he was not able to put them aside.

The young woman, entrapped by evil and degredation, was set free from them and she confessed her sin and followed Christ relentlessly and whole-heartedly for the rest of her life. She seemed the less-obvious candidate to choose Christ, but she was the one who was changed on the inside, and her live turned around.

God has a mighty job in turning us away from whatever we hold on to, and to bring us to our knees in confession and true repentance. Unbeilef, stubbornness evil pride and selfishness are in the inner core of every human heart, and only a God of love and patience can turn it.

The idea that we are completely fallen and ruined in every way, is very hard for us to take in. When we perhaps think we have understood our need and sinfulness before God, we find it so easy to excuse ourselves, and cut off examining our hearts, intentions and attitudes.

It is so painful for us to look at ourselves this way, even as Christians, but it also leads us to the peace and joy of forgiveness and knowing Christ as a friend and confidant, as we go through our lives.

To give up to Christ, and lay down our own ideas, and follow him, is the way to happiness and a peaceful concience.

Our fallen mind-set tells us that this kind of thing will definately make us miserable, and we won’t be able to do anything fun. This is a common, historical theme – that God is a spoil sport and Jesus will ruin your enjoyment of everything.

Admittedly, there are Chrstians who think and live like this, and, yes, some are miserable, but it is not God’s way. Jesus came to set us free from the slavery of this world and our warped thinking. He came to set us free to enjoy life to the maximum. A Christian has brighter eyes and deeper pleasures (even in this world) than others. A Christian sees the hand of God in everything, and can even see his blessing in life’s difficulities.

To know Jesus means your sins don’t weigh you down – they are forgiven. Temptations and sinful desires can be overcome because you have God’s Holy Spirit living in you and giving you power to overcome and foster right desires in your heart and mind.

Certainly, there will be many failures of mind, word and deed, and every Christian fails of falls, but God will never give up on us, even if others do. We tread carefully to heaven, and we must never resort to leaning back on our own judgement or inclimations. When confession is made to God, then we can pick oursleves up and go on.

Women..? Where..?

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It can seem, that church and Christian organisations are just social clubs. The public face is male, making great strides to show “brotherhood” and the paternalistic stance over all that takes place.

Organisations run by men find it hard to take the lead from a woman. They see women as less and therefore should not have the right to take a leading role. We say we believe the opposite, and that women are equal to men, but it doesn’t quite work out in practice. It seems a waste to gift women with high intelligence, since they won’t really be needing it…

How can we say we stand for God when we ignore the gifts in women that men do not have. Men are “encouraged” and put forward positively, in a way women are not. Men seem to be uncomfortable when women are around, especially in a leadership capacity, so that situation does not arise. Women’s role is to support and nurture the men, so that they are emboldened to take their place as leaders. Men do not give way so that a woman can take the lead. Women are encouraged and treated in a way that keeps them quiet and seemingly satisfied with their “lot.” This attitude has a detrimental effect on the lives of women and their opportunities to serve God. Women are disappointed with what they find in “church” and seek fulfilment in a secular capacity and give their best gifts to their profession. If someone should seek more in the “spiritual” realm of life, they are regarded as moving away from “God’s purposes for them as women.” They must subdue and submit to the perceived social more of being “under” and serve the men.

God is not pleased with how His daughters are viewed and treated. No one person can fix this situation, except the Holy Spirit working in our lives to show us the wrong we think and do.

We invoke the scriptures that state women to be silent, thereby not to preach or teach. The scripture says “women are to be silent in the churches..” that would also include- reading, praying, singing – any form of public declaration. The implications of that for church services would be huge.

If women are not to do these things, then what? Sunday school teaching would also be out of the equation, praying in the prayer meeting.. etc. How are women’s gifts to be used?

Perhaps the strength of women is in the secular life and their resilience and work is for that arena, rather than church services… perhaps women’s skills in relationships and analysing situations are for life lived among secular people, where careful behaviour and speech is required…?

Perhaps they would be permitted to serve in the church in advisory capacity and train the men in the skills they do not have. The fruit of the Spirit is often best seen in women’s lives and devotion to Christ is historically a women’s reality. These gifts would be deeply helpful to churches and would promote godly environments and attitudes in everyone. The silent stance is again a problem.

Luke 13:21 NIV

” It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Jesus speaks of women in His parables in a realistic environment and often in a strong position. The work of this woman in spreading the good news of the gospel. It went through the whole batch of dough- the whole church of Christ!

Amos 4:13 NIV

“He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord God Almighty is his name.”

God reveals His thoughts to all mankind- women too. Women know truly who God is and perhaps understand the work of the Holy Spirit more than most men. The fruit of the Spirit are sometimes regarded as “feminine traits” this is curious, since all Christians are entreated to exhibit them in their own lives.

What does God look for in the lives of His people.

Micah 8:6 NIV

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Macho posturing has no place here… we are all to act fairly towards each other and to allow others space and show mercy to each other, and to walk with God in humility… this is impossible for us without the inner working of the Holy Spirit. Lording it over others is not here. Keeping people in their place is not here. Making jokes at the expense of sections of the community is not here. Referring to personal points of view, is not here….

It’s way harder than we think.

The Apostles were all men, the disciples were all men, and many instances are cited for the leadership of men in the Scriptures. However, the truths in the whole bible are unfairly weighted in our minds as for men and against women. It is a pity, but this is how it is seen and theological views are built on a very one-sided view of men and women, which is not God honouring or women honouring, or men honouring.

The instances of women leading appear less than male role models, but they are there. Perhaps it is to teach us to look closer to the truth than we might ordinarily do. We need to see the whole panoply of God’s truth and viewpoint, not just follow what preachers, commentators and writers say. The Word of God is living and powerful… we must all “see” it.

Ephesians 5 instructs Christian men and women to submit to one another… it then instructs women to be submissive to their husband. This is often interpreted that the woman is at the whim of every man… This is patently not so.

Submitting to each other, and the submission to husbands, does not seem to go together. There are many and varied commentators interpretations concerning this issue. They all reflect the preoccupations of the writer and the time and place where he wrote. Women commentators come later.

Every couple and every family must find their way to live this out to the glory of God. Men are not always the best leaders, most intelligent, creative, inspiring… the truth for each couple will have to be worked out in their lives as a couple and their individual walk with God. The social pressures played out in “church” settings, just ladles on the grief and pain.

There should be no competition. The smart man might recognise the wife as the best leader and wisely listen to her. More often it is a shared position, with the submission practiced on both sides.

As for work. There are still those who think women should not go outside the home, and do paid work. The person who works in another place outside the home, seems to have some sort of invisible status, and the woman at home is the glorified sweeper up..! This is curious, especially when we consider the attitude of Christ as the servant of all.

Women as well as men need strenuous, responsible activity and every human being has the right to work. So should not every Christian have suitable activity in the church of Christ, that suits their God-given gifts..? Maybe it will be organising the hospitality, or maybe it will be coordinating the evangelism… half of all human society is women after all… In Christian settings, there are often more women than men.

Much is written and spoken about this issue and related issues… it still remains very one-sided… Men will say supportive (and patronizing) things in meetings, but a superficial examination of their lives reveals otherwise. I have heard church leader comment, that they “have to keep them out..!” These are the instances where the resentment and paranoid oppression of women, is displayed, and no one picks it up.

“Pride of man and earthly glory, tower and temple fall to dust” Joachim Neander wrote this in the 17th Century. Our vaunted efforts to build great churches fall into the unknown and uncared for. We set such store by what we do, but most of the church stuff will not survive the fire.

It’s the pride that brings us down, and that keeps women out of the circle and ensconces the most strident man at the front. It would be a soap opera, if it wasn’t so serious.

I suppose this will be just another article. Women trying to be on top.. I think Christian women have a far deeper and wider understanding than the leadership think, they are godly women who try to keep peace. But it won’t last, because it is unjust and ungodly.

Lord, may the Holy Spirit come down and change the culture of our fellowships. May every Christian have the opportunity to express their love for Christ and serve Him in the way He commands.

 

 

Earthquake!

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Earthquakes abound in our world. Some we hear about, most we don’t. The earth is restless, waiting for the redemption and setting free of God’s people. These are the last days. Wars, rumours of wars, tourmoil in the natural world and in human society. This earthquake story happend some years ago in Turkey and the world was left stunned as we watched on our TV screens. This is Gods’ message in every human disatser. JESUS said “Come to me, all you who are troubled and deeply burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

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The shock of earthquake has hit Turkey, and once agian we are seeing on our TV screens, the impact of mighty tremours on the surface of our planet. Our buildings and roads are instantly turned into piles of rubble and concrete, and lives are torn in two and many lost forever to this world.

We watch the rescue teams who test, search and dig day and night, to try to rescue the few that may have survived the trauma, and perhaps bring them to the surface and safety.

Crowds of people wait, shout, pray, as they stand at the mouth of a hole in the mountain of debris, waiting incessantly for any sound or sign, that someone, anyone is alive.

Suddenly the cry goes up. She’s alive! A stretcher is passed over the heads of the orange-clad rescuers, carefully, gently, thankfully, and on to the waiting ambulance. There is cheering, clapping, high-fives, as the survivor is taken away to be cared for by those who can help.

There was once another rescue mission. A bid to save men, women, boys and girls, from death and destruction. You and I were among those, buried in the filth and trap of sin, unable to release ourselves from the certain death, which is waiting only a step away.

Jesus, our only hope of rescue, waits, searches, calls to us to come to him, and to be found by him. When he finds us, there is such rejoicing in heaven and earth, that someone has been taken from the wreckage of a sinful life, and is now safe forever. He takes them for the clutches of satan, and sets them free to live lives walking with him, and ultimately, to heavens reality.

The only problem for us, is that we don’t realise it and don’t feel our need. We have been trapped for so long, and are so numb toward God, that we die quietly and unsensingly. When he calls you, call out to him, and follow him. Why die when he is so near and loves you so much?

 

Greed

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The face of greed is one that is attractive and monstrously hideous. The gospel of greed is constantly preached on every level of our society, and we are all encouraged to make money, build business, empire and all that is judged to make a country great. The few use the skills and talents of many to make an edifice of the factory and a money-making machine, so that the appearance of progress is seen and felt.

So many get squashed in the process, and their efforts are under recognized and under paid, and so the people at the top get richer and in real terms, the people who actually do the work, get persistently poorer. There are many others who have no hope of ever being able to even attempt such enterprise, and a cloying sense of failure inhabits the street of too many towns and cities.

Generation after generation suffer the after-effects of recession and the destruction of their local businesses, that have seemingly become out-of-date, but even after many years, nothing is put in their place. People have to live their lives in such sorrow, disappointment and the knowledge that it will not get better. They cannot move and have no access to learning anything that will change their lives.

The television shows a multitude of goods with glamour and necessity, but few can really afford such things and so the feeling of exclusion from the general society grows. Pictures of holidays to amazingly beautiful places that are the common destination, it would seem, must fuel the fire of resentment and poverty.

It is all a tiresome dream. Even those who are in the happy layer of society, experience breakdowns in their relationships and in business too, as the culture is now so volatile and fickle, so that nothing is certain and life becomes a turn on the roulette wheel.

Gambling has taken a hold and the high street is full of various types of betting shop. The stakes are so high and the winnings so low, that it becomes pointless to even worry about tomorrow and we just live for today, giving new meaning to the phrase “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” A cold and destructive sadness has gripped the nation and is set against the talking up of all the building and beautiful stuff going on around us, to try and sooth us in our sorrows and comfort us in our looses.

Schools have become sweat-shops where little children are maneuvered and manipulated into believing they are regarded as important, and that what they do is successful. The perpetual motion of the yearly cycle seems to bring changes, but in reality, nothing really changes.

The feeling of inevitability is crushing and outlook for the future shows empty hope and waking dreams. Who can address this situation? We are all caught up in it and the feeling of dread can be so destructive. It is easy to believe that no one is in control and we just have to put up with whatever happens, weather we like it on not.

There is another life, and inner life that no one can touch or destroy, a life that has such quality that it can overwhelm and counteract that destitution on the outside world. Human beings who have this life are the ones who hold the future and the sure and certain hope of a glorious day ahead.

If you are one such person, what are you doing about this state? Do we bury our heads in the sand of our own family, church and friendship group? Or do we use all our powers and resources to reach out. What would you be prepared to do? How much does God require of you?

If you have hope of heaven and are silent towards other people, what does that mean? I am not talking about setting up missions for a week, or some rather lame outreach into the community to salve our consciences. This is a serious and eternal business. God wants all. He is not willing that any should perish in the pit of destruction- what about you?

Gone are the days of philandering with friends in church and we now have the years ahead of deeply committed Christian service for the Master, Jesus the Lord. He calls you… do you hear. If you don’t obey, what does that mean?

The joy of knowing His presence with you and His power sustaining you, will be enough to keep you going. All the earthly props and pretences will melt away, and only Christ is left.

He is able to do more than we would ever ask or imagine! What a life to live in that blessed place, where His Spirit enervates and teaches and applies the Word of God to our lives.

“Lord, I lay myself down a your feet, that I might serve aright in this life, and forever enjoy the delights of perfect service above.”

 

 

Do you really?

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As Christian people we continue to have so many problems and issues that dog our lives and hurt us. We are supposed to be people of the scriptures, reading, believing and working out the principles demonstrated there, in our lives, with the Spirit of God dwelling in us and motivating and giving us power to live right. And yet our lives are so taken up with trivialities and the reflection of Christ is hard to see.

Why is it so hard for us to follow the light? Why are we dragged down by responsibility and the hardships that life brings for us?

To be like Christ is a very difficult road, because, in our natural state, we are sinful and selfish, and we are really most comfortable doing what we want to do with the people we best relate to. We find a position in life that suits us and settle into it like a comfortable armchair, believing it to be our destiny.

We do not need to read far in the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life, to see that this was not his mind set, nor reason for being on this planet. He came to do his father’s will and to give his life, deliberately, as a ransom for creatures that hated him and had no intention of believing what he taught. Everything he did and said was for others, from the words that stilled the storm, to the intentional laying down of his very life to pay for our sins.

He was poor, a man of sorrows and aquainted with griefs. No one understood him, he had no confidant, except his father in heaven, and no fellow-human could care for his Spirit or deep emotional needs. Yet he reached out his hands continually to the needy and forgave the sins of the worst kinds of rotters imaginable. He had no prejudice, no ill-will, no spite, no self-righteous cravings and no hope of reaching a ripe old age. The people of his age would see to that…

This perfect person stood out above and beyond anyone, not because of cleverness or fake celebrity, but because he was true and honourable and loving. We don’t like this kind of thing, as it shows us up and makes our conciences hurt and blames us. We like those who are like us and who keep us lulled into a false sense of comfort, and justify our selfish ways.

The closer we seek to be in our walk with God, then the more conscious we become of our own wrong ways and the more painful it is to examine ourselves.

When we pray “Lord, make me as you are” what exactly are we asking for? Are we asking for hardship, pain and loss, or some sort of angelic-like aura around our heads? Perhaps we need to re-evaulate that particular prayer and think carefully about what we ask for. The Jesus of the scriptures, was such a loving and giving person, that we hated him. Is that really what we want? Surely this prayer, above all others, is the most dangerous, indeed perhaps even reckless?

To walk the narrow way is dangerous and only the convinced in heart can manage it, the recklessness of seeing beyond the here and now and seeing the joy of the presence of this amazing God, Jesus.

Can my problems all melt away, or am I doomed to fight endlessly with them, never quite overcoming the deadening grip they hold on me? We can find victory, as our Lord did as he walked this gloomy planet, but the fight is real and our weaknesses and sins will not be finally finished, until we step over the threshold into the glorious home, where Christ’s presence is bodily real.

However, as we learn to overcome them, we can know the power of Christ, daily, and the issues and skirmishes seem lesser and easier to put down. The power of his resurrection is real and his joy knows no bounds, and it is the Christians pleasure to know it and feel it.

Do you long for others to have what you have and know this Chirst? Now is the time to be brave and speak up, not allowing tedium and mediocrity to infest your spirit, but to share the love of Christ to those who happen to be around you. Then you will know him working through your weakness to bring people to the one who can turn them around and make them, also, like him.

Prophet of the Lord

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A prophet is someone who knows God in a deeply personal way and who has weighty insight into the Word of God. This person has the gift of wisdom and can explain the mysteries of God revealed by the Holy Spirit who dwells within that person. Their souls are overcome with Christ and their desires are for the spread of the truth about God and the witness of the gospel of grace to outsiders.
This person is often lonely and sidelined as it is difficult for light to dwell with darkness.
However, the power of God is able to make that person to stand and speak graciously and bring people who are antagonistic to the way of Christ and His glorious kingdom to follow and obey and share.
Lord, may this prayer be of me.

let all of us as God’s people seek Him.

Women who glorify God