Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Staying True To The Faith With Cards

Three Reasons To Use Christian Birthday Cards:

A birthday should be a celebration, and as a Christian you probably like to celebrate as much as the next person. 

The problem that you will face is when you go to buy birthday cards for those that you love. Most mainstream birthday cards do not reflect Christian values and degrade many of the things that you believe in. Many of these cards are far too sexual in nature, or they seem to enjoy insulting the recipient. 

You want a card that will help you celebrate someone’s special day, but you do not want to violate your principles to do so, and the best way to do that is by buying Christian birthday cards from a Christian retailer.



Christian Birthday Cards Glorify Christ

In all things Christians are to glorify Christ and the God that created them. Where a secular birthday card may talk about how close the recipient is to the grave, a Christian birthday card tells the story of the years that Christ has loved the recipient. 

The focus of the card is on the goodness of God and how God kept that person alive for another year, and blessed them with friends or family that love them enough to bring them a birthday card. Rather than focusing on the year that has passed, Christian birthday cards point to the good things that exist in the present.

The Cards Are Uplifting

How many times does a person turning forty need to hear a joke about being “over the hill”? To many Christians the joke is tasteless and glorifies death at the expense of God. Secular cards are full of such jokes, laden with sexual innuendos and other things that are unsuitable for Christians to give each other. 

On the other hand, a Christian birthday card is a way to express to someone an interesting verse or thought that can be very uplifting. The right verse, at the right time, can cause the spirit to soar and bring people into a greater relationship with Christ. This can be a double edged sword. When you go to pick out a birthday card for a fellow Christian, and it has a verse of uplifting message, make sure that you take the time to really look for one that says what you want to say to that person. A thoughtful card is powerful, but a thoughtless card can cause a lot of damage.

Good, Clean Humor

So far the focus has been on serious birthday cards, but not all Christian birthday cards have to be serious. There are plenty of good, clean cards that you can give your brothers and sisters in Christ that are sure to get a chuckle, but do not have to stoop to the level of more secular choices. 

The whole point of the card is to show the recipient that you love them and wish to celebrate another year of life with them, and part of celebration is laughter. Do not be afraid to have fun with birthday celebrations, just make sure that the jokes that are on your card are something that you would have given to Christ.

There are a lot of choices out there for birthday cards, but as a Christian, finding the right card is not always easy to do. With a little extra effort you can give the people that you love Christian birthday cards that they will enjoy and that honor Christ at the same time.

I am George Hancock, long-time pastor and Christian for over thirty years. I am encouraged when I see Christians taking the time to find their Christian birthday cards at Christian stores because I know the message will be suitable. For my cards I shop at http://www.dayspring.com/cards/shop_by_occasion/birthday/, and I can find everything that I need.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Seeking Glory And Life After Death

 Unconventional Thoughts On Seeking Glory And Life After Death

Many people assume that seeking eternal life is no friend to hoping for and seeking after one’s enjoyment.  Surprisingly enough, the two are dynamically cohesive.  Truth be told, man is too easily pleased and often too distracted and caught up in fleeting lower forms of happiness only to miss out on ultimate and endless satisfaction.          

 

Striving for things Eternal

Many people are spiritually weak.  People tend to ramble about in life, coasting listlessly.  People tend to be bored and held captive from spirituality.  According to the Bible, we are to fight for faith and take hold of eternal life, which is given to those who eagerly seek, not dawdle.

Seek glory, honor and immortality more than you seek anything on earth.  Seek it, want it and pursue it.  If you are an apathetic person in spirituality, pray to God that he pushes you intensely toward seeking these things such that you know how precious glory and honor can be.

 

True Honor & Glory

Seeking honor is not seeking praise from man, but seeking praise from God.  On judgment day, God will bring to light things that have been hidden in darkness, and then man’s praise will come to him by God.

Seeking Glory is to seek God’s glory.  We first must want it and enjoy it and seek it as the highest treasure of worship.  Admire and delight in Him and do not exchange that for anything, for what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  Seeking is not just to see the glory, but to share in the glory of God.

There may be many sufferings along the path to glory, which is why ministries like Heart Felt Christian Counseling exist; nevertheless it is how we respond to the sufferings,  that leads  us to the glory.  It is not losing heart, it is our outer self, decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed daily.  We should not look at the things that can now be seen, these things are temporary, look for the things that are unseen,  these things lead to eternal life.


 

Life after death

Different religions have a variety of answers and explanations about what happens to us after death.  The overall arching theme apparent in all of religions, save Christianity, is that one must be a good person in order to inherit those good things that await a man after death.  Though the definition of good and of bliss varies, this line of thinking dominates religions.  This is a striking contrast to what Jesus and the Bible teach, which is that a man can never be good enough, thus needs to rest in the merits of the sinless Savior, having no merits of his own. 

Another way to think of it is that being good is not enough, we must be perfect, because God is Holy and cannot look on wickedness.  He is also just, therefore by His very nature cannot overlook our rebellion against His will and must bring forth justice.  The just penalty for sinning against an infinite God is an eternal sentence in Hell.  Most people think this is outrageous; however it usually boils down to the reality that they simply do not understand the magnitude of God’s purity, thus how absolutely offensive sin is to Him.    

Any reasonable person understands they are not perfect, which is why man must look to Jesus, the perfect one.  And because Jesus is infinite, His death on the cross was sufficient to pay for our eternal indebtedness to God, enabling us to come before His presence and have fellowship with Him forever.   

Being found clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is the gift of God to all who turn from doing whatever they please to doing what pleases Him, and not trusting in their own merits but His, the believer can enjoy God for all of eternity.  If one truly desires enjoyment he would do well to seek out eternal life.  


Cinidi manages to find time to write despite her full time profession as a medical coder in Missouri.  As an author, she has the pleasure of supporting orginizations such as heartfeltcc.com.

Friday, April 26, 2013

An Expert's Diagnosis of My Heart


by Peter Waller

My wife and I have a private joke. Sometimes when someone (including ourselves) does something obviously wrong, we say, “But they shouldn't be too hard on themselves”. We got this from someone who, after telling my wife about some downright childish and wrong behaviour of theirs, said, “But I think I’m being too hard on myself.” We are so quick to justify and overlook our own sin. This leaves us feeling superior to people around us. Well, Romans 1 and 2 has just the tonic we need...

Romans 1:18 – 2:5 starts with a cutting appraisal of mankind, which we'll look at shortly. In it, it seems that Paul is only condemning the vile and unbelievers. But Chapter 2 makes it clear that if anyone judges people for the behaviour in Chapter 1, they are hypocrites, for they are no better. Rather than judge, they are to see God’s patience and forbearance with them as sinners. They are to see his kindness and be motivated to repentance by it.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things... Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.


GRACE: THE WAY TO REPENTANCE

Paul is saying that people who have known God’s kindness should not assume that it is because of their goodness. They should not presume themselves to be good and to have merited God’s kindness. Nor are they to judge those God is opposed to. Paul wants us to see that we are no better than anyone else. And then we will see God’s kindness for what it is – grace – and not for what it isn't – merited favour. 

We must do this if we are to find repentance. God’s way for bringing human repentance is mercy. He gives us extravagant grace and over-the-top, undeserved blessings in order to lead us to repentance. His kindness is meant to be what changes us. We are not recipients of his kindness because we are different from anyone else. Rather, if we are to be different from others it will be because of his kindness.

Perversely, his kindness often leads us to believe that we are righteous. But as we read Romans, we realise it is not the case. We realise that we are all like our first father, Adam. The apple didn't fall far from the tree. Seeing this – the fact that we are made of exactly the same moral material as the vilest sinner – enables God’s kindness to us to have its intended effect. Failing to see this, will result in his kindness only deepening our deception and self-righteousness.

So, until we know God’s kindness – and until we know that it is because of grace, not merit – we will not repent, not really. Since grace is God’s path to repentance, if we don’t know his grace we have missed repentance. Fortunately, he is patient with us in this regard.

In light of all their repeated shortcomings, the person who continues to judge others is hard-hearted and impenitent. The person who doesn't step out of the seat of judge and fall on their knees in repentance before God has a stubborn heart. And they are storing up judgement for themselves.


MY DIAGNOSIS, YOUR DIAGNOSIS

Given how important it is for us to see the depth of our corruption, it is now good to re-look at what it says in Romans 1:18-31. These verses are cutting. And they are descriptive, not of the worst people, but of all people. As we read them, may God’s Spirit remove the veil from our eyes and heal our blindness to our true condition, outside of Christ. May we realise that they are talking about us. Let’s see them as a diagnosis of our own unregenerate hearts, whether or not we are guilty of each specific behaviour described in them. Paul, a spiritual physician expertly trained by God himself, is diagnosing us all. It is worth reading them as if he has come with his stethoscope and blood pressure gauge and examined us. He has checked our skin and our eyes. He has taken blood tests. He has quizzed us on what symptoms we have experienced. All the while he has scribbled notes. Now he is reviewing his notes and, as he does so, a frown settles on his brow. As we sit and wait anxiously, the frown deepens, until, after clearing his throat, he breaks the awful news of our diseased body in a grave tone:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen... And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.


Footnote 1: Objections

  • "Well, I did seek God so I’m different to the people described above." The bible is clear that all who seek God, do so because he first seeks for them. And they love him because he first loves them. (See 1 John 4:19; Romans 5:8; John 6:35-39, 44; Romans 9-11)
  • "If we’re all the same and are reliant on God’s mercy to seek him and escape from our sinful natures, why does he hold those who don't seek him accountable?"At first I thought this was a difficult question, now I think it is more flawed than difficult. Typically, it is a question about the justice of God: is God just to judge sinners who have no hope of obeying his commands and satisfying his requirements, no matter how hard they try? But the question contains the answer. We are sinners; he is holy. Our sin offends his majesty and holiness and, therefore, he is just in judging all of us. That he saves some is mercy; it does not make him unjust in not saving all. It is his mercy, so he is entitled to dispense it as he pleases. This then moves the question on from justice to why doesn't he save all? This seems to me to be the truly difficult question. In Romans 9 Paul seems tentatively to suggest an answer. He suggests that God's mercy is seen more brilliantly by those he chooses to save against a backdrop of the judgement they deserved being administered to others. This doesn't fully satisfy me, however, and I'm left with Paul's closing words in Romans 11 going through my mind: 
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,

or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Whatever the reason, if we will remember that it is his prerogative to show mercy to whom he pleases, then we will avoid slipping into the trap of believing that God owes salvation to all men.


Footnote 2: A clarification

In relation to the grim diagnosis Paul makes of all men, it seems necessary to clarify something. Christians should move from seeing themselves as sinners to grasping their new identity as saints. This is because of the wonderful doctrine of rebirth or regeneration. The word regeneration has the same root word as genesis which is Greek for “origin”. So regeneration speaks, if you like, of a rewriting of the book of Genesis in the life of believers. And in the second take on Genesis, there is a new Adam – Christ. Now, just as people who have not experienced a new origin are just like their father, Adam, so those who have been regenerated are just like their new father, the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a life free from sin. He obeyed God perfectly, even to the point of giving up his life to die on a Cross. This is the new cloth we have been cut from. And we have the same characteristics and qualities as this second cloth. In the past we were like a filthy rag, now we are pure white. Why we don’t always act like it is because we are still carry the flesh with us and so we are capable of resorting back to our old natures. There will come a day when the old nature is cut from us and we are fully free. But for now it is important that we see that our real selves are the regenerate selves, despite having the old nature clinging on like a dead body tied to us. And that, just as we are capable of living as our old selves (which, in Adam, are slaves to sin) we are also capable of living as our new selves (which, in the second Adam, are slaves to righteousness).


However, simply because Christians are now in the second Adam does not mean that the verses in Romans 2 (concerning God’s kindness leading them to repentance) are nullified. On the contrary, being new creations makes the repentance of Romans 2 possible. Christians are still the recipients of God’s unmerited and incredible kindness. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Without God’s mercy and grace, there would be no new creations. We would still be stuck in the first Adam as rotten sinners condemned to suffer God’s wrath. And while it is important that we shift in our minds from seeing ourselves as sinners to understanding we are saints, we must never go so far as to forget our condition when we first received of God’s kindness. We should always remember our deep poverty at the time God first smiled at us. That first smile was pure mercy. When he kissed our mouths and breathed his life into us it was sheer grace. And when he embraced our old corpses until they came alive it was entirely charity. Being in Christ entitles us to enjoying his smile on an on-going basis. But let’s not forget that our position in Christ has nothing to do with us – it was all Him and it was all mercy on his part. Therefore his favour is founded, ultimately, on grace and mercy.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

God's Commands, Their Effect, Their Current Status and How to Obey Them


By Peter Waller

In this post I am going to look at certain aspects of the commands of God, including:
  • Man’s tendency to try and bypass the commands of God;
  • Differences between the Old and New Testament;
  • How our hearts respond to God’s commands;
  • What God is looking for in this area; and
  • How we grow in obedience to God.

It contains some complex areas that I don’t fully grasp and is not a complete analysis.

SCRIBES SCOLDED FOR REPLACING GOD’S COMMANDS WITH THEIR OWN

Mark records how, one day, scribes came to observe Jesus, seeking to find some fault in him. They noticed his disciples don’t wash their hands before eating, as is required by Jewish elders’ tradition. These traditions are man-made rules apparently intended to apply the Mosaic Law into day to day life. They ask Jesus why his disciples aren’t following these rules. Some preliminary thoughts I had on this are: 
1. Was it really necessary to add to the Mosaic Law? While the 10 commandments are concise, they cover all important areas. Further, the ceremonial laws given through Moses were many and practical. So why were they added to? I think it is because the human heart wants some hoop to jump through so it can gain a sense of achievement and assurance or peace. The human heart is into self-righteousness. The rich young ruler was like this (Mark 10:17-22).
2. In addition, creating additional law served as a power trip for the religious leaders; don’t we all love to be moral judges and founts of wisdom? The human heart is into judging others and moral pride. Further, the passage continues to suggest personal gain may often be at play for creating human rules that act as a loop-hole by which people can avoid sacrificial obedience to God – for example the “Corban” tradition I mention below.
 I don’t suspect the scribes were ready for Jesus’ scathing counter-attack:
“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘These people honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” Mark 7:6-8
Jesus condemns them for rejecting God’s commands in favour of their own. He goes on to refer to the human idea of “Corban” as just one of many examples where religious leaders have done this. Under Jewish tradition, children could avoid honouring their parents by providing for them in their old-age (if necessary) by declaring funds that would be available for this purpose to be “Corban” i.e. given to God. I can see how this serves man in at least two ways:
1. It serves the religious leaders since “Corban” funds would typically flow into the temple treasury; and
2. It serves the children since this may allow them to be deceitful and not give all, or even any, of the funds that they say are “Corban”. It effectively allows them to escape being held accountable for caring for their parents since they can simply explain that they have given the money to God instead (whether or not they actually have). In addition, it again panders to the heart’s desire for self-righteousness and self-justification since giving money to the temple may seem more sacred and godly than caring for your decrepit parents.

THE IMPOTANCE OF THE LAW: AN AGE OLD PROBLEM

This behaviour raises an age old problem, namely, that rules do not lead to obedience. On the contrary, they encourage rebellion. This is because the unregenerate human heart is sick. Jesus goes on to explain that it is not external washing that cleanses or defiles a man, but the internal condition of his heart.
“From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”Marc 7:21-22
It is the bible’s teaching that law’s do not purify us. Rather, they provide an opportunity for us to demonstrate our impurity. In fact, they stir up our sinful natures, just like a sign saying, “Do not walk on the grass” may tempt us to do just that when before we were contentedly walking along the path without any desire to walk on the grass.

THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE LAW

On another occasion, when Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment, he replies: “Love God with all your heart, mind and strength. And the second is similar: love others as you love yourself. On these two commandments depends all the Law.” Now, you may think that by saying this Jesus is simplifying the Law. Our silly minds can be inclined to think: “Oh well, that is much better than a long list of laws – now I just need to remember two – how convenient.”

But our greatest difficulty with God’s Law is not remembering it, but obeying it. And in saying we must love God with everything we have and love others like we do ourselves Jesus is making the Law much harder for us to obey, not any easier.

And that is what he intended to do. In saying these things, he is putting an end to the game of jumping through hoops. He is taking us out of the realm of duty and throwing us into that of desire. He is moving us away from cold achievement into the territories of the heart... Of emotion and desire. Of loyalty and priority. Of joy and delight. In the first passage I quoted, Jesus condemned the scribes for paying lip service to him without any involvement of their hearts. In this chapter, He shows that the question we will have to answer at the end of our lives is not, “Did you murder etc.”, but rather, “Do you love Me?”

I think this is a question worth asking yourself now. And one way to answer it is to ask yourself: Am I stirred by God? Am I loyal to Him? Do I delight in Him? Do I long for Him? Do I miss Him when I don’t spend time with Him? These are typical questions someone may ask their spouse in attempting to ascertain if they are loved. If you answer yes to any of these questions, you can ask a second question: “How much?” For there are degrees of love.  

Another good question to ask is, “Do I obey Him?” Although superficial, cold obedience proves little and will receive no reward from God, Jesus said that those who love him will obey his commands. I mention this to prevent us from becoming too sentimental and wishy-washy. Obedience remains the acid-test of our love for Christ. In short, it is love-inspired obedience that God is after.

It is also worth pointing out that, regardless of how much we love God, none of us love him and others perfectly, as Christ commands – so we all need mercy. This is why Christ had to die – to release us from the requirements of the Law. As Paul says: “You have died to the law through the body of Christ”. He compares the Law to a oppressive husband that a woman is bound to so long as she lives. Once in Christ, we are considered to be dead to our old husband, the Law, and alive to our new Husband – Christ. This is because we die and are raised again with Christ. Paul says we are released from the Law and “serve in the new way of the Spirit and not the old way of the written code.”

From this I conclude that although we are no longer under the Old Covenant – chained to an impotent husband – we are not free to do as we please. Christ has given us a new commandment: to love God and people wholeheartedly. One crucial difference is that our justification no longer depends on our performance in this regard (which is our sanctification). Another is that the New Covenant holds out great hope for us for it gives us new, soft hearts and makes real obedience possible.

HOW ARE WE TO OBEY THIS GREAT COMMAND

So then, can we obey this command of Jesus, at least to some non-insignificant degree? And if so, how do we? Below are four points which form something of a theoretical answer to these questions. How these issues will practically work themselves out will necessarily involve engaging in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, meditation etc.

1. As new creations

In Colossians, Paul summarises our heart condition before we experience rebirth in Christ:

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies [of God] in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death.” Paul describes us as enemies of God. Our hearts were hostile to God: we don’t love him before we are raised as new creation’s with Christ. As Jesus said to Nicodemus: "You must be born again."

2. In the power of the Spirit
Jesus told his disciples they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. And Paul said we were to be filled with the Spirit continually. We need the Holy Spirit.

In Ezekiel, God speaks of the New Covenant, and both of these first two points are clearly made:
“I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Ezekiel 36:26-27
3. Receiving from Him
Throughout our lives, we also need to come empty handed to God and receive. This is the antithesis of “hoop-jumping”. This is the antidote to the poison of self-righteousness. God gives grace to those who humble themselves and declare their self-poverty. John wrote, “We love him because he first loved us.” We need to experience God’s love before we will love him.

4. Gazing at Him
After rebirth we have functioning spiritual eyes with which we are able to see God. And if we will use them to gaze on him – and see him in all his perfections – we will love him.

5. Knowing Him in life and service
As we engage in the joys and challenges of life in a relationship with him we get to know him. And, since he is the most wonderful person of all, we will love him. This is especially true when we seek to live a life serving him in our homes, churches and work places.

As a final thought... one of my favourite quotes is from St. Augustine. He prayed, “Grant what thou commandest and then command what thou wilt.” In other words, he asked God to grant him the ability and the heart to obey His commands, rather than trying to manipulate the commands of God to suit him.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

THE REVELATION OF GOD THROUGH THE TABERNACLE AND TEMPLE

 by Rory Wilson


INTRODUCTION 

Throughout the Bible the Tabernacle and Temple play an important role in revealing the magnificence of God. The Temple was extremely important to Jesus as well and it significantly shaped his life. 


THE TABERNACLE  

God first gave Moses the instructions to build the tabernacle while the Israelites were in the desert after being freed from slavery in Egypt. The tabernacle was a tent, a sacred place where God chose to meet with His people. The reason for its temporary structure was to make it mobile, so the Israelites could have a holy sanctuary while they were travelling through the wilderness. 

God gave specific instructions to Moses as to how the Tabernacle was to be built. It was woven with blue, purple and red wool and rams’ skins. The construction also used acacia wood, silver and gold, and the inside contained the Covenant Box holding the two stone tablets upon which the Commandments were written. 

God realised the necessity of His people having a tabernacle when they started worshipping false gods. When He felt distant or quiet to them, they felt as if they had been abandoned, and so created their own physical gods. So the beautiful tent of gold became a visual reminder to the people that God was always with them, and they could witness their leader, Moses, entering in to hear from the Lord. 

The construction of the tabernacle had to be followed using precise instructions given to Moses by the Lord, as it was a tangible place showing the magnificence and splendour of the God who had saved His people. 




The Tabernacle was revered and considered the most holy place. When the Israelites were marching or camping there were always strict arrangements as to the position of the tent; it was always in the centre of the formation, protected and guarded by the tribes. 


THE TEMPLE 

 After the deaths of Moses and Joshua and the failed rulership of Saul, David became king. He was chosen by God to kill Goliath and subsequently rule the land. He found great success and lived comfortably with many servants and much wealth. 

David was aware that as king he lived in luxury, but his King, the Almighty God, still lived in, what was effectively, just a tent. “The king (David) said to the prophet Nathan, ‘Here I am living in house built of cedar, but God’s Covenant Box is kept in a tent!” (2 Sam 7:2). He decided to build a temple, a new place where God could dwell and the leader could speak with Him. However, God told David that one of his sons, Solomon, would build the Temple instead. 

The Temple was a magnificent construction, 27 meters long and over 13 meters high. The whole interior was covered in gold and contained sculptures built from olive wood. The Lord was very precise with His plans for the building, which took Solomon seven years to complete (1 Kgs 7:38). This again shows the immense importance that God placed on His Temple and Tabernacle, and they were to be used by His followers as places for worship and devotion. 




Throughout Jesus’ life he also demonstrates his reverence and respect for God’s Temple and he has a desire to keep it a place of holiness. 

The first recorded occurrence of Jesus being in a temple is mentioned in Luke 2:42 - 52. He is a twelve year old boy visiting Jerusalem with his family. When his parents start the journey back to Nazareth, they realise he is not with them. They return to Jerusalem to find him “in the Temple, sitting with the Jewish teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his intelligent answers”. 

The applicable part of the story in this study is Jesus’ instinct that he should be God’s house; learning, listening, sharing and imparting. He refers to the temple as his father’s house, even while speaking to his earthly father. He understands the importance of being in God’s dwelling place and building up his Biblical knowledge and faith. But with that came the discernment that part of God’s word was to honour his earthly parents. So, although he tried to explain to them that he should be in God’s house, they didn’t understand so he went with them and was obedient always. 

Later in his adult life Jesus saw people turning God’s Temple into a marketplace; men were selling animals for sacrifices. He was angered by this and took decisive action, “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. He said to them “It is written in the Scriptures that God said, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a hideout for thieves’.” (Mt 21:12 – 13, NAS) 

John 2:15 - 17 goes on to say that “he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. And to those who were selling the doves He said, "Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business." 

Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: "Passion for God's house will consume me." 

And that’s a constant theme in Jesus’ life: His passion for God’s House, the Temple. He always understood how holy and sacred it was. 

As we progress with the account in Matthew 21, immediately after chasing the money-changers from the temple, Jesus healed the blind and crippled who had come there. 

The Temple was the place for worship, and one of His biggest forms of worship was teaching God’s Word and healing the sick. This was a powerful way in which He gave glory to God, and it resulted in many people praising him. 

Jesus was criticized for healing these people, and his respect for customs and the law were often questioned, but he strongly acknowledges their importance "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them." (Mt 5:17) 

When I read this I realized that, although the laws were important to Jesus, doing God’s work and loving people were far more important to him than upholding religious laws and traditions. 

All these instances of the Temple demonstrate just how important and holy they are, and how they are to be maintained. 


THE TEMPLE IS WITHIN US 

Jesus then takes it further stating the Temple is no longer and stone and golden building, “The Jews then responded to him, ‘What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ They replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he had spoken of was his body” (Jn 2:18 - 21). 

So when Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:16 : 

"Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” Or as The Good News puts it, “Surely you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you! So if anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you yourselves are his temple.” 

It hammers home the point of how important and sacred our bodies are in the eyes of the Lord. 


CONCLUSION 

God made us in His image. He breathed His very breath into us to give us life. The Temple of God is built in His image and it contains His breath! What could be more holy than our very body? 

If there is any doubt at that thought Jesus eradicated it with his own words “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17 20 - 21). 

Jesus again and again reiterated the importance and holiness of the Temple. Moses, Joshua, David and Solomon all recognized the beauty in the divine tabernacle and Temple. All these characteristics have been given to each and every man to be a mobile, walking Temple, to share the Glory of God with others and to bring Him praise.



OpenTheTap.com


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Speaking The Truth In Love


"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ."
Ephesians 4:15

We Have A Declared Shortage
We have a shortage.  We have a shortage in many churches.  It is a shortage that causes division, tribalism, and fractures within congregations.  It is a shortage that has crippled large denominations in the past.  It is a shortage of sound teaching.

And while some might think that I would talk about truth or love because of the above quoted verse, we don't merely need more truth or love.   Ephesians 4:15 is, instead, the capstone of this passage, it is the outcome of a prior action.  Consider the preceding passage:

"11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ."
Ephesians 4:11-15

Is There A Teacher In The House?
So speaking the truth in love is a byproduct of the Church utilizing the gifts that Christ gave it - namely its leaders and teachers.  But what if thoughtful, reasoned teaching is relegated to the sidelines of our collective consciousnesses?

The answer is we become a people increasingly addicted to sound bites, catch phrases, and edgy sermons.  We look to having our minds inspired instead of our thoughts provoked.  We form tribal camps and neglect gentleness, moderation, and measured responses.

Let’s Have A Nuanced Conversation
And while some might hazard to think that I am advocating simple Bible teaching, I am not.  Our world is in need of an intellectually engaged Christian.  Our world is in need of Christians who increasingly bridge the gap between the sciences and faith.  Our world needs Christian thinkers who take seriously the revelation of Scripture and nature.



Heaven has given us the means by which we can grow in the knowledge and relationship with Christ.  It is the sound teaching of learned pastors and teachers.  But if we toss them aside in favor of men who are more entertainers than teachers, what opportunities we will miss.

And Finally
The Ephesians passage links truth spoken in love with those that have had sound, reasoned teaching.  Why is it that the loudest people in this world seem to be those with the least information?  But those that have carefully thought out their faith have a richness and gentleness to their words.  It is time to let these Christians have their day in the sun.



written for Open The Tap by Ken Mafli

Monday, September 17, 2012

Being Spiritual, The Essence Of


"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." Galatians 6vs1 

What is the nature of Authentic Spirituality?

What does Paul mean with the word, “spiritual”? There are many ideas around spirituality. Ironically, some of them are completely un-spiritual, and merely natural. Take for instance, Deism, which maintains that what can be known about God can only be gained by reason and the observation of nature, not supernatural revelation. Well, in 1 Corinthians 2 Paul has quite a bit to say around authentic spirituality:
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” – but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. 
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgement about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 

These verses say a few things very clearly concerning spirituality: 


It's about Wisdom

1. It has primarily to do with wisdom, specifically God’s wisdom; 

2. This wisdom is hidden from man; that is, man cannot understand it or attain it without God revealing it to him; 

3. Even if it is revealed to us (through a book or preacher, for instance), unless we have the Spirit of God, it will appear to be mere foolishness to us; 

4. This is because God’s thoughts are different – and far above – man’s thoughts... “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” 


Decoding the Signal

5. The wisdom of man is natural. It depends on our natural faculties: what we can see with our eyes, what we can hear with our ears and what we can understand and reason with our brains. But God’s wisdom is spiritually discerned... “No eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mind has conceived” it. The Spirit of God given to man is the decoder that can receive and decipher or discern the signal of God’s spiritual wisdom. No decoder = scrambled gobbledygook on the screen. 

6. The spiritual man “has the mind of Christ”. That is, he is picking up the heavenly signal, can see the picture and it makes sense to him. Effectively, he knows what God thinks in general and about a particular issue. 

7. This is why he “makes judgement about all things”. So, when he receives information, instead of processing it through his natural faculties, he processes it through the mind of Christ, and discerns God’s thoughts about the matter. And God’s thoughts about a matter are what really matter. God’s point of view is reality. The “wisdom of the rulers of this age”, that is, the wisdom of the pre-eminent natural thinkers, is “coming to nothing”. It is fiction, not reality. Now, a good piece of fiction is wonderful. But if I build my life on it I will end up ashamed, for it is not reality. 

8. What about the statement, “the spiritual man... is not subject to any man’s judgement”? Well, a little later in his epistle Paul writes the following: 

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. 

Based on this, I believe Paul is saying he is not subject to any man’s “natural” judgement. Paul was more concerned on getting God’s judgement of him than of making his own or submitting himself to someone else’s. So it seems to me to be an extension of the basic principle of spirituality: natural man’s wisdom depends on his eyes, ears and mind and is often wrong. God’s wisdom (in the area of judgement in this case) is always right. 


Transformation into one who is Spiritual

9. It is a process to grow into someone more spiritual than natural. Paul says he spoke “a message of wisdom among the mature.” And in the following chapter he says, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.” Most of you will be familiar with Paul’s appeal to the Roman church to “be transformed by the renewing of [their] minds.” This shows us that the transformation from a natural way of thinking to a spiritual one is a process. 


Spiritual wealth

10. A central part of the wisdom of God (as it relates to mankind) has to do with what God has “freely given us” and what “God has prepared for [us] who love him.” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his Only Son.” Ephesians 1 vs 3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” In giving us his Son, God effectively gave us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. Again, there is a contrast between the natural and the spiritual, in this case it has to do with blessings, or wealth. Natural blessings are “coming to nothing”, while spiritual wealth is the real deal that one would do well to attain and build one’s life around. This is not to say that God won’t provide natural blessings for us. But he prioritises spiritual wealth far above natural wealth, because he knows which of these are real and lasting blessings. So then, a spiritual man knows God's generosity is abundant, even infinite.

Holding the Spiritual in Jars of Clay 

I think there are a few more things to say about the topic of the spiritual. 1 Corinthians 15 speaks about Christians currently having a natural body, which will eventually be replaced with a spiritual body. This natural body is described as “weak” or “corruptible”. In one sense, this is true in that our bodies age and break down over time. But it is also true in the sense that we are subject to moral temptation. Remember, this is what Paul warned the “spiritual” about: “...you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” 

Essentially, we are susceptible to turning off our spiritual decoders and reverting to operating in the natural again. We live by sight, not faith. We believe the words that our natural ears hear, not what the Word of God says. And we think (i.e. process our world around us) with our natural minds, not the mind of Christ. We easily lose step with the Spirit of God and turn aside to fiction. Like movie goers who are sucked into the story being told and whose emotions rise and fall according to the director’s design, we leave reality and enter the world of dragons and fairies. No wonder we so often get confused. 

Also, I said in point 9 that becoming spiritual is a process. It would wrong, however, to assume that time is the most important factor in this process. This is obvious from what Paul says to the Corinthians... “You are still spiritual babies”. Paul is exasperated with them because, although much time has passed, they have not grown up. So what are the key ingredients necessary to becoming spiritual? That’s a question I'll try answer next time.