From a Guest Blogger
For the past 12 months we’ve had a number of lockdowns with warnings to, “Stay at home, save lives”. During this time I’ve heard about many deaths …
“Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; He flees like a shadow and does not continue.
Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with You [God];
And [God has] set his limits so that he cannot pass.” Job 14:1,2,5
Life is fragile and death is certain. Our days are numbered. No one escapes.
But Jesus said:
“I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25
From Guest Blogger
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
It’s only recently that I’ve begun to realise just how integral the Church is to God’s plan of salvation. I understood that when I was saved I became a child of God and a member of His family but I didn’t fully grasp the implications.
God’s family is more than a theoretical concept, and I am not an only child. Christ died to purchase a people, a bride, a Church, a body (1 Peter 2:9-10; Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Corinthians 12:27). To think that I can remain functionally isolated from the rest of His body is to deny an essential aspect of the gospel.
Membership of a household clearly implies the kind of close, everyday relationships that families who live together participate in. Being built together and being fitted together are more than vague notions. These words don’t describe scattered or isolated individual believers, or a one-time event. They require ongoing close proximity and regular contact. Belonging to, and being actively involved with, one specific local fellowship of believers is inseparable from individual salvation. It’s an absolute essential, not an optional extra.
I was saved to be part of the body. If I’m not, I deny God’s Word and weaken the body of Christ.
From a Guest Blogger
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. John 4:23
“The worship was great!”
When I say something like this, what I’m really talking about is the music. This takes no account of truth, or the state of my heart, or my relationship with God. If it’s just about the quality of the music then it doesn’t even matter whether those participating know God; a believer and an unbeliever could both reach the same conclusion about the quality of ‘the worship’ based on whether or not the music is enjoyable and well-produced.
My evaluation of ‘the worship’ in this sense is presumptuous. It’s based on what it does for me, how it makes me feel, my own enjoyment of it. In reality, who am I to comment on whether the worship is great, or dismal? Worship is not for me, it’s for God.
Jesus said that true worshippers must worship God in spirit and in truth. This kind of worship is a much less tangible activity than music, quite likely invisible to an observer and, therefore, impossible to assess in the terms we often use to evaluate what we call worship. Only God, who sees the heart, is truly able to determine the quality of the worship that’s offered to Him.
From: Guest Blogger
The word of the LORD which came ...
The Bible is true because it is the Word of God, breathed out, written down and preserved from generation to generation, despite many efforts to destroy it. It is an invaluable gift from our loving Father to us. It shows us who God is and what He requires. It reveals the holiness of God and the sinfulness of sin. It shows us our helplessness to meet God’s standard. From Genesis to Revelation it reveals God’s plan of salvation.
Jesus Himself believed the scriptures and quoted them frequently. He never cast doubt on God’s Word. He did not come to do away with the law but to fulfil it. When He said, ‘You have heard it said … but I say …’, He was not undoing, undermining or re-writing God’s Word, He was emphasising the spirit of the law in order to cut through our outward behaviours and expose their root: the sin in our hearts.
God’s Word doesn’t stop being true when times change – it’s true regardless of cultural norms and preferences. The Bible doesn’t become true a bit at a time at the point when you understand it - it was true already, whether you understood and accepted it or not. God’s Word has always been true and always will be, because God never changes.
By Simon Wills
Exodus 39: 1-43
The beauty of this chapter is in its length. It lays out the garments and the preparation of the tabernacle - how it is to be made and presented. The detail to which this chapter goes is quite extraordinary –
They hammered out gold sheets and cut them into threads to be woven in with the blue and purple and scarlet material, and the fine linen.
This crafting would have to be done with immense skill and great care.
The final part of the chapter goes through a long list of the things required to put up the tabernacle. It, too, is of considerable length. All of this was done to allow a chosen man to appropriately present a sacrifice as atonement.
What blessed times we are in now. Where we can come to God in repentance anytime, anywhere, wearing anything. We worship the same God. He deserves the same amount of reverence and care that the Israelites would have approached Him with. And yet He has also allowed us to have this beautiful, close relationship with Him, by His Son Jesus Christ. This God who has every right to strike us down, has given us the right to approach Him freely.
This gift we have from God cannot be overlooked or passed by. We are to remember His sovereignty and loving grace. We must approach Him accordingly, with deep persistent thankfulness.
Colossians 4:2 (NASB)
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.
We can never forget the immensity of Christ’s sacrifice. The work He did on the cross forever secured that relationship we so dearly love.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
From a Guest Blogger
though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials
1 Peter 1:6
To hear many Christians talk one could be forgiven for thinking that faith functions as an anaesthetic. If only a person has a solid theology and a strong enough trust in God then they won’t feel the pain of suffering, loss and disappointment. We tend to be impressed by those who appear to remain strong and positive in the face of tragedy. We can easily be left with the impression that to feel pain is to fail.
But does it follow that if I know beyond doubt that God is in control of all things, and I believe that He has a plan and a purpose in all that He allows, and I submit to His will, trusting that He works all things together for good for His own, then I don’t won’t suffer when suffering comes and I remain untouched by trials?
Consider Job. He expressed great faith and submission in the face of unthinkable loss – The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away – blessed be the name of the Lord.” And yet his grief and mourning were real and deep.
Hannah describes herself as a woman of a sorrowful spirit. But was it lack of faith that caused her to weep bitterly over her situation? Surely it was because of her faith that she poured out her sorrow to the Lord, knowing Him to be full of compassion and sovereign power.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears (2 Corinthians 2:4), not because he lacked a sound knowledge of God but because affliction, anguish and tears are part of our experience in this fallen world.
Our Lord Jesus Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. In the Garden of Gethsemane He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death’. Jesus had no gaps in His theology - He and the Father are perfectly one. He had no lack of awareness of God’s plans and purposes – He knew precisely what His suffering would accomplish and the good that would be worked through His death. His faith was not feeble and His trust was not deficient, nor was there any lack of submission to God’s will. And yet this perfect knowledge and understanding, this complete trust and perfect submission, did not take away the pain. His sorrow and agony were real and intense; greater than any we will ever know.
The trials and sorrows we endure in this life cause real pain, grief and distress, and the Bible does not teach us that faith, or anything else, is the key to avoiding suffering. Rather, God’s Word tells us that suffering is a necessary part of the Christian life. But it also tells us that we can rejoice greatly, because our suffering is only for a little while and because it is not for nothing. It is testing, proving and purifying our faith, as by fire (which is painful), resulting in praise, honour and glory when Jesus returns.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:6-7
By Tony Hersee
As I was reading through a passage in the first letter of the apostle Paul to the Corinthian church, I was struck forcibly by the phrase "and have no love". It occurs three times of in the first three verses of chapter 13, and began to make me consider whether I knew, or even experienced, this quality/fruit in my own life.
These thoughts have been heightened by the present coronavirus crisis, coupled with an attitude of stubborn self-seeking defiance and reliance throughout my whole life, uncaring and irresponsible towards those who should have had my love, support and encouragement.
Paul doesn't pull any punches - he continues - "though I speak with the tongues of men and of
angels but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal". This was a level, position and stage I had not reached in my understanding and application of the Christian faith, and I could see that it urgently needed reviewing.
Other illustrations came to mind as I was considering these things. The recent floods and the engraved water-level marks on various buildings show the fluctuations between the actual and predicted level reached. Hallmarks are given by a silversmith to a metal to represent the standard and measurement of the material he has used in a given item. These were pictures showing me a standard of perfection and a shortfall – simultaneously – in both my imagination and realisation of what my own charity/love was like, and what I achieved in not having them. Being brutally honest, as Daniel was, when addressing King Nebuchadnezzar's son Belshazzar, "I had been weighed in the balances and found wanting/lacking".
As I reflected on these things throughout the remainder of the chapter, I began to be made aware of the sinfulness of my whole life and personality as desperately needing to be changed - and this is what by GOD's grace and power, Jesus Christ has achieved on my behalf, by His death and resurrection.
From a Guest Blogger
Pray then in this way … Your will be done … Matthew 6:9,10
God’s sovereignty has sometimes felt to me like an impenetrable wall. If what God wants to happen will happen, come what may, then why pray? If the outcome of every situation is already determined then all my prayers and tears and pleading are meaningless and for nothing. If every bad thing that happens and every good thing that doesn’t happen is God’s will then what’s to be done? What is there to say?
In a sermon series on the Lord’s prayer, John MacArthur warns against the danger of passive resignation as a response to the sovereignty of God. This kind of fatalism is not something we see in the Bible. The disciples in the storm cried out to God; Jonah, taking the consequences of his own sin, called out to God in his distress; Hannah poured out her sorrow before the Lord; Jesus pleaded with His Father to take the cup of suffering away.
God’s sovereignty, rather than killing my motivation to pray, ought to be the greatest incentive to approach Him in prayer. If God was not sovereign my prayers would be futile because He would be unable to act. How could He change hearts, lives and circumstances or bring about events unless He ruled all things? How could He bring life from death, or give peace in the storm, or hope in despair? How could He possibly work all things together for my good and His glory?
But I’m invited (and commanded) to come to the One whose power is limitless, who controls all things and even directs the thoughts and intentions of His enemies, the sovereign Lord of lords who has ordained prayer as one of the means by which His will is accomplished.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.
James 5:16b The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
James 4:2b You do not have because you do not ask.
From a Guest Blogger
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
One of the greatest insults you can give to a person is to say, “I don’t believe you”. To doubt the veracity of what a person says is to say that you don’t trust them. If you question them in public, you cast doubt on the reliability of their word, you are attacking their character and you may be damaging their reputation. You are saying to them and to others that they are not trustworthy, not reliable, not honourable – that you don’t trust them, and neither should they.
The Pharisees relentlessly questioned Jesus and doubted His word – these weren’t honest questions, searching for truth. They were trying to trap Him, to point out seeming inconsistencies in what He said. But then the Pharisees hated Jesus, so why wouldn’t they? They did not profess to love Him, or follow Him, or worship Him. In fact, they hated the things He said and wanted to discredit Him.
So, what about you? Would you say that you love Him? Trust Him? Really trust Him? Do you want others to know Him and love Him and trust Him for the salvation of their souls? Do you care that the majority in our world despise Him and scoff at His Word?
Do you, too, have many questions? Will you join the many who undermine the truth of God’s Word with your questions, or will you humbly submit your questions to the truth of His Word, asking Him to open your eyes by the gracious work of His Holy Spirit and allowing Him to transform you by the renewing of your mind?
FROM A GUEST BLOGGER
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
It’s possible to read the Bible as a work of literature - an account of history, a collection of poetry, an ancient book of rules, an interesting perspective on God, life and the universe – but it will have no real impact upon you at all. You can approach it with scepticism, cynicism and criticism, doubting its authority and casting doubt upon it with insinuations and clever questions (in much the same way as the Pharisees approached Jesus) but you will not experience its power. You can focus on the individual authors, deciding whether or not you like or believe what they wrote, but you are ignoring, dismissing and insulting the real Author.
Unless the Holy Spirit graciously opens your eyes to see, your mind to understand, and your heart to love the Bible as the true, inerrant, wonderful, precious, living, powerful Word of God – complete and perfect, with no mistakes.
Then you will know what it is to,
not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2