Sunday, March 19, 2017

Christ's greatest challenger.

From a line-up of potential challengers to the Lord Jesus who would you choose as #1? Lucifer, Fame, Power, Sex and Money all are strong claimants. However, Jesus named just one of them as His greatest threat for the allegiance of individuals.

In Matthew 6:24 it is revealed as ‘Wealth’ (NRSV)! ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’

Christ’s words leave no wriggle room. History, Scripture and today’s media highlight the power, attraction and destructive power Mammon has over individuals, religious groups and corporations. When Mammon is life’s focal point it turns into a spiritual python whose embrace squeezes a person’s moral and life to death. As the Lord put it, Mammon will cause its devotee to despise God which takes him or her into hating God and His word.  Jesus also rankled the Pharisees with straight talking and parables about money Luke 12:13-21. 16:1-14. The first conflict in the fledgling church was due to Mammon’s embrace. Ananias and Sapphira tried to prove Christ’s words an empty threat and they became a tombstone testimony that what Jesus said is true (Acts5)!

Paul’s advice to Timothy which was to be passed onto those financially well off contained a warning and a challenge. 1 Timothy 6:10 is an unchanging truth ‘The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.’ The word for ‘eagerness’ is a picture of a person grasping after more and more of Mammon even though it is destroying health, family, friendships and faith. Prosperity preachers are breeding ‘pythons’ in their own lives and those who accept their teaching. The result is a wandering away and pierced with many pains!

There is a control mechanism presented in Scripture by which the Spirit of God uses to protect the life of a devoted disciple. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 uses such words as ‘set your hopes on God’, ‘Do good, [be] generous and ready to share’. The end result is ‘the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of life that really is life.’ I wonder if Paul was motivated to expand on what he had said in Acts 20:35 to the Ephesian elders, ‘The Lord Jesus…said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”’

The sorrow seen Mammon power dictating life’s priorities, relationships and friendships is deep and lasting. Friends cut asunder when a lottery is won but not shared. Testimonies shatters and churches wrecked because the collection was siphoned. How many relationships destroyed in bitter battles over dispersal of money from a deceased estate! The list can go on and on. Those countries whose leaders amass large amounts of money whilst their people starve and beg for help. Such leaders and others need to think on Matthew 16:26: ‘What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?’ An eternity of regret awaits. What is the good of having the largest bank balance when you are under a tombstone?

Jesus summed up His teaching on this matter with “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness…” It is this personal priority and accepting the cross of discipleship and stewardship will ‘Wealth’ be a servant not a god. The cross slays the ‘python’! A heart set on God’s kingdom keeps the heart focused.  It is better to be the widow of the two mites (Luke 21:2) unsung, unknown by any but Jesus than rich, religious and ruled by Mammon. To the rich whose focus in God’s rule and bear their cross, their wealth becomes a good work to meet the needy, suffering and afflicted. It is these acts of grace which honour to Christ, receive His commendation and become part of their treasure in Heaven!
Ray Hawkins March 19 2017.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

It's included in the price.

A young lass I knew was travelling on a plane and was invited to go from economy class to business class. The Stewards later asked her if she would like a drink, nibbles or something to eat during the flight. Imagining she had to pay for them and as she didn’t have any money, this young girl politely said “no thanks” even though she was extremely hungry and thirsty. What she didn’t know was the fact of merely being in that area meant what was offered was free. She hadn’t paid to go business class but had been permitted to join those already there. In a sense, she was participating in an act of grace. Ignorance of what that also included caused her to miss the treats.

I’ve thought about her experience and how it relates too many in their Christian life. When Jesus paid the price for our salvation included in it was every spiritual blessing and our eternal inheritance. He has invited us into a new realm and wants us to know and enjoy His grace. However, that requires each of us to find out the privileges, responsibilities and limitations of Christ’s realm of grace. This means we must avail ourselves of the ‘flight manual’ – the Scriptures. Being ignorant of what the Bible teaches impoverishes the spirit and prevents us from enjoying the journey.

We have not because we have not asked. We may not receive because we ask for the wrong thing. My young friend could have asked for alcohol but would have been refused, not because the Stewards would be unkind. Refusal would have been because of her age. I imagine that when the Holy Spirit politely refuses our requests it is for reasons of our welfare and protection.

Remember, ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him’ 2 Peter 1:3. We are prone to latch onto the ‘life’ and ignore, or treat lightly the next key word, ‘godliness’. In a sordid world which tries to ‘gate-crash’ my life, your life, and relationships, I find godliness a constant challenge. However, I need not collapse under the sordid weight of impurity ‘thrown’ at me. What is my protection? The power Christ supplies. Trouble is, that power must be allowed to flow. Where do we tap into its flow? In the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour. Where do we find that knowledge? In the Bible! But the knowing implies the allowing of it to have free access to and through our mind, heart and actions.

Ignorance of God’s word isn’t bliss, it is bondage. For when we trip-up in our Christian life we don’t understand our need for repentance and restitution and God’s grace. It is also self-destructive to our joy in service, worship and fellowship as our self-nature dominates and not the standard of the Lord. Without a growing appreciation and understanding of our standing with and in Christ Jesus we will be blown around and over by false teachings and emotionalism. Without a devotion to Jesus Christ that is enriched by being taught His word we cannot be blessed.

This is why the Bible is so merciless in its warning to and condemnation of false teachers, false prophets and false pastors. They are robbers of God’s blessing to His people. They muddy the clear spring of the Water of life promised in and with the Holy Spirit. They violate the character and integrity of God by their misrepresentation and inaccurate interpretation of the plain teaching of God’s text. James 3:1 makes this threat: ‘Not many of you should become teachers … for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.’ Jesus goes even further in His warning to those intent on self -adulation and deliberate falsification of God’s word. “I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evil doers.’

May each of us grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!


Sunday, March 5, 2017

the Deadly Fossil

Fossil finds generate news items, especially in scientific papers. They are interesting to look at and even debate. However, they are a testimony to their deadness. This is especially true within the realm of Christian ministry. 1 Kings 13 has a depressing story of a ‘fossilized prophet.’ The amount of detail preserved in Scripture concerning this man must surely be as a warning for all in the service of the Lord. The same applies to all who attend the life and worship of a local congregation. As the years roll over us and we deal with the rawness of people’s experiences we need to be on guard. We should to be alert to any hardening influences which want to creep into our spirits. The ‘Old Prophet’ syndrome is easily caught and hard to overcome. Don’t let it be your obituary notice in Heaven’s log book.

How did this man, unnamed, become spiritually hard, barren and ‘deadly?’ He would not have set out to become that way. The paralysis of the spirit must have been insidious, slow and poisonous. His call to serve Yahweh was during the reign of Solomon. When that king died the nation was divided into the North and South kingdoms. Jeroboam established two rival religious and political centres. Their aim was to seduce his supporting tribes from going to Jerusalem in accordance with the Law. It worked! It was idolatrous but it worked. Did the old prophet speak up for Yahweh’s law and worship? Did he denounce such treason? Did he lose heart because no one seemed to listen? Did he think that silence was safety? What forces were in play to keep him in Bethel which no longer meant the house of God? His subsequent behaviour revealed the hardening power of compromise and indifference to the Word of God!

We live in a multi–cultural and litigious society. As such it’s hostile to the moral and spiritual doctrines of Scripture. The safety of silence can become a wonderful hideout. Whilst our Lord did call us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves He didn’t ask us to be mute. Nor does He expect us to back pedal on what His word declares. Ministry has to be gracious, not necessarily popular.

We are repeatedly told in Scripture not to be false witnesses. The Old Prophet was just that in two ways, at least. He was false to his calling and false in what he said to the young man of God. The unnamed man of God knew his mission and carried it out. He was on his way home in accordance with the Lord’s word. Then along comes this senior prophet and deceives him. Was the young man’s acceptance due to respect for the age, perhaps imagining God had changed His mind? Why would this fossilized prophet want to have the young man come home for ‘supper’? Was it nostalgia? Was it seeking to impress?  Whatever it was he became an instrument of death to an unsuspecting young man. For God keeps His word whether it be a warning or a blessing. The young man was attacked and killed by a lion. One of the saddest aspects of this matter is how the ‘fossilized prophet’ is portrayed. He showed no remorse, no conscience nor repentance over what he did or what happened to the young ‘man of God’. The young man was led astray by someone who should have been a mentor but turned out to be a traitor. Within our churches today such characters move with worldly approval, even success. They are faithless and compromising ministers and priests who have lost touch with the Lord Jesus and His word. Sad to say they cause spiritual and ministerial death to many bright and faithful men and women of God.

Another question seeks an answer. How were the Fossilized Prophet’s family affected by his betrayal of the Law’s doctrine and duty? Would they have had any interest in the things of Yahweh? If they bothered to go to any form of worship how genuine could it have been? To cap it all would his treatment of the ‘man of God’ be a stumbling block too high to climb? Did he care? There is such a high price to pay with wide ranging consequences when you are comfortable with the reign of a Jeroboam. We may debate about whether the 'fossilized prophet' would be saved or not, ultimately that is God's decision, based on other matters in the old prophet's life. If saved, his appearance before his Creator and Judge will be traumatic, embarrassing and unrewarding

Fossils may hold pride of place in museums, but in Heaven they have no place of honour.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The truth of False News

Before and after the U.S.A Presidential elections the now President spoke out about “Fake News!” This caused a lot of furore and criticism, especially from the Press and certain T.V. stations. He has been proven correct. Anyone who has dealt with the media knows there are reporters more interested in sensationalising something than presenting the facts without embellishment, bias or vindictive intent.

This shouldn’t surprise any of us. False news actually began in a garden setting. It has been truthfully recorded by the person affected and later included in the book of Genesis. The creature who spoke the false news was in camouflage gear as the Serpent. He is later identified as the Devil in Revelation 12:9. The one he mislead was Eve who in turn relayed it to Adam. The false news was to malign the character of their Creator and undermine the seriousness of His command not to eat the fruit of a certain tree. The result of believing the false report was a curse upon all creation expressed in death. This is always the power of false news in various areas of life, relationships and society.

The Bible defines false news as a lie. Jesus described the creature who spoke it first as the original liar and what he brought about was murder and lies (John 8:44). False news and its intent and outworking is summed up in Scripture as Sin! There isn’t any arena of life which is free from being infected and affected by false news. Politics is in the spotlight at the moment but it isn’t alone. If you believe the Biblical account of creation, especially as a scientist, you are vilified and often debarred by untrue assertions and out of context quotes. To believe in the historic and Biblical accounts about marriage is to be held up to ridicule and lawsuits as well as being falsely accused of hate crimes. All through recorded history there have been religious charlatans with personal agendas or in league with godless forces and anti-Messianic forces who hate the holiness, morality and prophesied purposes of the Creator. They    are recorded as false prophets and false teachers. The New Testament issues
a similar warning about their insidious messages. The vilification of the Jewish people across the centuries was enflamed by false news. What has been documented about the Nazi regime’s propaganda in this matter reveals the end result, a holocaust. This anti-Israel attitude is being promoted even in the United Nations today. Can you perceive where it could, will lead too? (read the Biblical book of Joel or Psalm 2 or Ezekiel 38 Etc).

Jesus warned His people about the prevalence of false news in regard to a specific event involving Him. In His talk about the climax of history and His promised return Jesus spoke about scurrilous reporters creating havoc. As certain signs foretold were to take place people would get emotional or exasperated by reports coming in as to where Jesus could be found, seen or expected (Matthew 24).  When you read that passage it is evident that the reported sighting are being sent and heard quickly. In our W.W.W. generation this should come as no surprise. With Facebook, smartphones, twitter, Instagram and emails (to name a few) fake, false and flawed stories get unleashed and in an instant travel throughout the world. Even when they are corrected by the facts of the matter the poison has been spread, the damage done. Jesus gave the answer to misguided or mischievous reporting of His returning. He simply said, when it happens, “every eye will see” Him.

Unless there is an unchangeable standard by which to measure what is true or false, what is righteous and what is sin, we will be blown around as a piece of paper in a tornado. That standard is the Judeo-Christian book called the Bible. It reveals an unchangeable God with an unchangeable message verified by the unchangeable Messiah who triumphed over Sin and its false news. This is the reality of Christ and the cross. This Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and in His presence through His word we know the truth and are alerted to what will lead us astray from it. This world is under the malicious influence of the ‘serpent’ (1 John 5:19) that is why there is so much false news circulated and believed. However, as believers in and disciples of Christ we look forward to a new era, when righteousness, truth, justice and grace reigns. Maranatha!

©Ray Hawkins Feb 26th 2017.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Engraver.

When I learnt to write it was on a slate board with chalk. Today people have computers – with spell checks. At least I was one step ahead of those in ancient time who had to write. They virtually had to collect the ingredients, clay, then cut into it their words – hieroglyphics – then baked their tablet before posting it. It is from that background of the writer being initially an engraver we can appreciate certain facets of God’s word. A lot of our writing technology today is subject to decay at a faster rate than clay baked. Shards with inscriptions are still be found two thousand and more years later.

It is worthwhile to note that God is the original engraver. The 10 Commandments were chiselled into rock by the finger of God, Exodus 31:18. The originals were placed in the Ark of the Covenant as a testimony to the Nation. The trouble was that the people honoured the writings but were deaf to its message. There were, of course, notable exceptions who stand out in Biblical history. As the Lord wanted His people to know His commands, judgements and statutes He had the people wear them as a sign upon their hands and between their eyes. The New Testament described them as phylacteries. Householders were instructed to have the commandments on their doorposts and gates. In my youth I called upon people whose house had these words printed on their veranda.

The trouble was it was all outward, not inward.

God’s intention is for His people, you and me included, to have them engraved on our hearts. This is another of the implications behind the picture of God as the potter. If we are the clay, and we need to be, guess what He wants to do? Engrave His word into our heart. Hebrews 10:16 quotes Jeremiah who in turn expressed the Lord God’s intention. That was to write His laws into the hearts of His people. The wonder of this is summed up by the Psalmist “Your word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you.’ (119:11) As with clay we too must experience the baking process. For us the 'furnace' comes when what we hear from God’s word and the flames of doubt, fear, opposition and self-interest flare up and blaze away. It is the testimony of our faith and conviction that God’s word is true which cause the flames to engrave God’s word on our heart and mind.

Job’s words in chapter 19:23-24 is a cry for people to properly understand his situation and hope in God. 'O that with an iron pen and with lead they (my words) were engraved on a rock forever.' The Almighty went better that that. He inscribed them into His Scriptures which endures forever. Job's story is unique but his cry is a challenge to us all. We each have a unique testimony, simple or complex, everyday stuff or strange. The Lord wants to use our testimony to witness to His power, grace and providence.  This is especially important within your family arena. Record, on any one of modern day devices (or like me, on old fashion paper) to tell the Lord's dealings in your life. This information can speak to your family and friends long after you are dead. Let your journey with the Lord’s be engraved deep within your being and yet available to be read by the inquisitive, the enquirers and even the cynics.

Job's hope, confidence and longing are poignantly expressed in  Job 19:25—29.

He knows his Redeemer lives. Job has been doing it tough and doesn't have 'cut and dried' simplistic answers to his sadness. We know not where, where or how this man and the Lord entered into a redeemed relationship, but it happened. His conviction was unshakable. Job also believed his Redeemer will stand upon this earth. That is pointing to two events. The first of course when Jesus entered our history at Bethlehem to become the Redeemer. The second time will be when He returns to establish His kingdom. This is the very kingdom  we pray for when we say the Lord’s Prayer!

Job knows he will die yet is convinced he will live and behold His Redeemer. Such a hope and reality points to belief in a personal resurrection. The very thought of this meeting seems to make him go 'weak at the knees'. This is the wonder of our relationship too. We shall see Jesus face to face even though death may stand between us at the moment. For those who know Jesus as Redeemer the fear of meeting Him is non existent. The same cannot be said for those who reject Him as Lord and Saviour.

Until that day we are to live out what the Spirit of God has engraved within. Then when life throws its cruel, callous and chaotic 'stones' at us we will say, even through tears “I know my Redeemer lives!”

File/Devotional seminar – tahlee.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

wisest king - saddest fool

The wisest of men became the saddest of fools.

His judgement in the case of a paternal dispute is legendary (1 Kings 3:16-28). His sword provided the ‘DNA’ evidence for who was the real mother. His wisdom exceeded that of the wise men of the East early in his reign and with it he compiled many proverbs. Given the honour of building the first Israelite temple and being blessed by a promise by God, Solomon had it all.

But he blew it!

How? By failing to remember God’s requirements for a king who sits on the throne of Israel. In Deuteronomy 17:14-20 Moses recorded the Lord God’s expectations for those who rule over His people. They needed to have their own copy of the Law, and read from it every day. The reason was to learn to fear the Lord. Nor were they to hoard excessive wealth and marry numerous wives, a custom prevalent in surrounding cultures. Because the Almighty had promised to be the Nation’s defender, kings were forbidden to rely upon the army of Egypt or the power of horses and chariots. Added to that the king must not consider himself as superior to his people.

In 1 Kings 11 is the sad list of this wisest of men sliding down the moral and spiritual slope into spiritual stupidity and ignominy. I would suggest he stood on the top of the slippery slope when he ignored reading and obeying God’s word. This is evident by the fact he took to himself wives (probably politically expedient) from nations Yahweh had specifically said “no” too! The result was they turned his heart to pander to their idols, and more than likely to their loose morals. Solomon appears to have been a collector of horses, chariots and gold. He also knew how to tax his people. All of this would destroy his reputation, his spiritual life and damage the character of his son Rehoboam.

In his book ‘Bible Characters’, Alexander Whyte says of this king the saddest of statements. ‘There is no repentance anywhere in Solomon’. His father messed up big time but recognised his error and Psalm 51 is a beautiful and humble expression of repentance. No such psalm or comment can be found from the pen or mouth of Solomon. What a warning this is for us all. When we begin the slide downhill from the Lord’s calling, the way to get off is for the Lord to yank you out. Trouble is, He will not, cannot do it until you call out as a sign of repentance, “Lord help! Lord forgive! Lord have mercy!”

Solomon didn’t practice what he wrote. Consider: ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight’ (Proverbs 3:5). ‘The end of the matter; … Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.’ There is so much more that could be added here. Even that beautiful love poem ‘Song of Solomon’ is tainted. If he wrote it, did he have multiple copies made for his numerous wives? How terribly, terribly sad for the poem is so beautiful. Again there is a warning for us. What we write, what we say, may be lovely and true but its power and meaning will be lessened by personal insincerity and hypocrisy.

The apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 it isn’t how you start the race God calls
you to enter, but how you finish. That’s the danger in senior years. We can know God’s word and will, yet think we’ve enough ‘merit points’.  When we imagine there isn’t more to discover from God’s word, more reasons to serve and worship, more awareness of our spiritual weakness, we are hitting the slippery slope. When we do not fear the seductive power of the World or recognise we have taken the wrong track and therefore no need for repentance, the promised winner’s garland is fading.

Solomon is a warning best expressed in his father’s lament about King Saul, ‘How the mighty have fallen.’ Saul died most noble in battle. Solomon withered into a most ignoble departure into the presence of the Lord he had disappointed.

Lord, kick us, me, off the slippery slope! Keep me focused on the race set before us, before me! Let me not be a stumbling block to other runners, or would be runners! Lord, hear our - my plea. Amen!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Word abuse makes 'Love' suffer

In English it is a four letter word. However, those four letters embrace almost a catalogue of meanings. Today’s blog concludes the 5 imperatives of 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. The word in the Greek is agape and mostly translated love. In the Language of the New Testament love can come under four heading. Eros, Storge, Phileo and Agape express the range of emotional relationships which come under the umbrella of the English ‘love. ‘Let all that you do be done in love’ 1 Corinthians 16:14 NRSV

A man can love his wife and car in the same breath, we can love God or a pet frog or other things too numerous to mention. The English word for love suffers from 'word abuse'. In turn, it produces confusion of understanding.  How easier it would have been to have a range of words, as in Greek, to expound 'love'. So, when Paul expresses this final imperative what word was chosen from the Greek language? Agape! This expresses the highest and most noble insight into expressing love. Whilst it can embrace emotion the word defines love as independent to it. Such love causes the person to rise above personal preferences for the sake of another’s welfare, even as the inconvenience of the one showing agape.

When you read the epistle to the Corinthians it is evident that love was selective, lacking or misunderstood. That is why Paul went to lengths to compile that beautiful piece of love in chapter 13. Agape isn’t bounded by family, cultural or moral fences. It is an open expression of the agape shown to us through Christ and Calvary. This is why such love is costly, behind it and overshadowing it is the cross. It is so easy to get all enthusiastic about following Jesus, who doesn’t need what He offers. Trouble is the Lord puts a two letter word in from of our enthusiastic excitement. “If” is the word of choice and at the same time a sifter of the heart. For “if” points the individual to a cross, personalised and nonnegotiable! Any person who calls Jesus Lord and Saviour has shared in the crucifixion of Christ according to Romans 6. Then the holy Spirit takes that person to the ‘discipleship fitting room’ for the cross the person has been chosen to wear.

How does that relate to agape love in our lives? Primarily in subordinating personal comfort, preference and wisdom to the Master’s honour. This is more than bible reading and worship, important and essential though they be. Love for Christ confronts the personal cross in regards to relationships. In a sense there is often a wrestling match unseen by others except Heaven and the Devil’s realm, which is our Gethsemane. ‘Let all that you do be done in love’ sounds so spiritual and easy, that is until God calls upon you to do something distasteful.

Think about some of the scenarios possible. ‘Love your enemies,’ but they hate me! Pray for them, feed them, treat them with respect even though they are unrepentant. Justice they will face but we are not the judge, we are disciples. This applies to those with whom we disagree morally and with whom we may debate quite strongly. Fear of contagion may arouse disgust but Christ Jesus calls us to help them if they have needs we can meet. That isn’t condoning, it isn’t even liking the person. It is our obedience to Christ and the price expresses the cross placed upon us. It is allowing the Lord to call them to account at His time and place. It offers us an opportunity to witness to our Lord and Saviour.

Apply this principle of love and personal cross to your own scene and enjoyable relationships. Not always easy is it! Putting oneself ‘out’ for the sake of another can be costly and inconvenient. Why bother? It is the right thing. It is what the Lord delights in. It makes agape a reality (even though it may suffer a little from ungraciousness in the initial stages). It often metamorphoses into a blessing.

Paul concludes these five imperatives on the theme of love because without it the previous four won’t impress God. They will be without substance. They will be the sound of gongs and cymbals (Ch. 13).

In conclusion may I be permitted to rearrange just a little these five imperatives? 

‘Let all that you do be done in love.’ This will require you to ‘keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, and be strong!’

©Ray Hawkins29 Jan. 2017.