Sunday, August 21, 2016

Will the real minister step forward

Apart from me (Jesus said) you can do nothing. John 15:5.

In my third year of college an Anglican Church was holding an evangelistic mission near the college. Many of the students went to support it. No one from the community or church membership turned up one evening so the speaker changed his message. He spoke without notes from John 15 to us as students. For me it was the defining moment for my future ministry. The preacher who in my young eyes seemed very old said that without Jesus Christ in our lives we had nothing and nowhere to go. He emphasised that in ministry we could actually do nothing which was of value to God and eternity. Until that time I had the impression that it was up to me. I did the work but called upon God to bless it. Now I sensed the reality that God was the one who did the work. His call to me was to co-operate with Him.

1 Corinthians 3:6 underscores the fact of God as the worker. We might be seed carriers or water spreaders but results depend upon Him. Paul’s letter to the Philippians 1:13: ‘it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good pleasure.’ Why does the Lord do it this way? He knows our sinful nature would twist the smallest indication of our importance into a grand parade in our honour. Our only boast is the grace of our Saviour who has called us unto Himself. From that relationship He appointed us into His ministry.

What Jesus said in John 15:5, goes against our human nature’s grain. Church or non-Church conferences on Leadership by successful entrepreneurs will give you formulas for reaching the top. The interesting fact is it works. However from the Biblical perspective the success is a sandcastle built on the low tide mark. Over the years seemingly successful ministries collapsed when the power and cunning of ‘the flesh’ failed or the leader moved on. Constantly you will read in the New Testament the greatest threat to a God honouring ministry and spiritual life is the ‘flesh nature.’ In 1 Corinthians 3:3 the NIV defines it as being worldly. In Galatians 5:16–18 the ‘flesh’ is in constant warfare against the spiritual life of a born again man or woman. Perhaps a most significant comment on self reliance comes from Romans 8:8, ‘Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.’

We are told that everyone’s work will be tested by fire 1 Corinthians 3:13. Only the ‘gold, silver and precious gems’ will stand the heat. Each of those aspects can be related to the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only that which is of and from His nature will endure the fiery testing of His presence.  Hebrews 12:29 reminds us, ‘God is a consuming fire.’ Wood, hay and stubble don’t last long in the furnace. The precious gems and the silver and gold are featured in the Tabernacle and the High Priest’s breastplate. The Christian ministry must portray the spiritual equivalent. What could that be? Possibly gold for Christ’s glory, silver expresses His redemption and the gems highlight His heart for His people.

The Lord desires to bless us in the ministry. This will be known in time. He longs to reward us when our ministry is concluded. This will be when we appear before Him to give an account. It isn’t how much we have done for Him that will carry any weight. Rather it will be to what extent has He, through the Holy Spirit within us, been able to accomplish His heart’s delight?  It is a cliché yet undeniably true. Our Master will not be concerned with our success rating in the eyes of the World. He will look to see how faithful we have been to His Word, His calling and His person!

2 Timothy 4:8:‘There is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.’ However, if in the great mercy of God we should receive a crown would we be compelled to follow the example of Revelation 4:10, ‘. . .the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”’

Reflection: From which source is the motivation and power of my ministry flowing?

Request: Lord I desire my efforts to be ‘fire resistant.’ May I be a person in which you can fashion ‘Gold, silver and precious gems’ so as to adorn your Name. Amen!
RayHawkins August 21 2016.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Constantine's Curse

‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’ still holds true. To choose some other music means losing out of a guaranteed subsidy. Within Church history this arrangement can be recognised as taking place between Church Denominations) and State.

In the first two and half centuries Jesus was the ‘paymaster.’ He was the Church’s theme and the guarantor of its funding. During that time the Church thrived in the face of opposition, pagan religions, infiltration by false teachers and Imperial edicts branding it as a threat. The melody of the cross sounded out with grace and glory. Then came Constantine. As he faced Maxentius at Milvian Bridge for the throne of Rome he had a vision. It was of a cross with the inscription ‘by this conquer.’ He had his soldiers stitch a sign of the cross on their shoulders as they prepared for battle. I wonder how many – if any – had the cross in their heart.

When he was Caesar in 313 he made Christianity legal and the State religion. The title ‘catholic’ appeared in edicts in 324. Bequests were allowed to the Church and Sunday services were officially endorsed. Constantine’s purpose was clear. Keep the Roman authority and State in unity and harmony in the face of Barbarian attacks. The pagan State was now the ‘paymaster.’ An unequal yoking of the State and Church took place. Christendom was ‘hatched.’

Slowly but surely across the centuries this yoke lingers. Its effect on the spiritual, moral and ethical life of the Church has been devastating. For those in Government care little for Biblical truth, Biblical morality and Biblical ethics. They require compliance and assist this with subsidies to clergy, buildings and charitable works. What appears within Church history is the horror of corruption within the Papacy and gross immorality and dereliction of Christ’s call to service. When the Reformation began hopes were high for a new beginning but the Church and State yoke remained even for the Reformers. There were those who heard the music of the Cross and the melody within Scripture and sought to live to its beat. They paid a high price as Christendom reacted to their threatening ‘music.’

The West is considered a mainly Christian influenced world. The message of Christ has had a great impact over the centuries and has reached-out beyond its borders. However the price of compliance and infiltration by the ungodly into the Church still took place and still does. When you read of atheist priests, ‘Gay’ preachers and theologians who reject the Bible or even the historicity of Jesus it makes people wonder about the Christian Faith. In recent decades various Governments around the World have tried to deafen the music of the Scriptures. Seemingly worthy laws such as the ‘anti-discrimination bill’ have been used to bluff, frighten and silence dissent to practices contrary to the teachings of Christ and His Scriptures.

Something strange however is happening. Heaven’s melody is getting louder. A willingness to stand with the Lord means a dependence upon Him rather than being compliant. Such a stand brings its hardships and misrepresentations. We are threatened with breaching discrimination laws because we hold to Biblical teaching on same sex marriage, sexual practices contrary to Scripture and the uniqueness of Christ for salvation. When the Church speaks against abortion, inhumane treatment of refugees or the impropriety of transgender toilets it is opposed or ignored.

A price may have to be paid by those who hear and heed the music of the Lord and trust Him to meet their needs. One thing is certain, within Christendom there is a sifting going on. The ‘music’ to which people will dance will be dictated by whom they accept as ‘Paymaster.’ Will it be to the Mammon offered by Constantine’s successors or to the accepting of the Communion of Christ Jesus? Will it be the Hallelujah Chorus or ‘Money, Money, Money, it’s a rich man’s world?’

©Ray Hawkins August 2016.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Enemy + you + Love = ?

mural at Sheffield Tasmania
Conspiracy theories breed quicker than mushrooms. I’d like to add another. The constant appeal to “love your enemies” is being pushed by our enemies. They take the quote Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount and try and manipulate us so as to dominate. What do you think?

On Facebook, in magazines and live chat shows this a repeated refrain, especially in regards to treatment of Muslims. I’ve yet to hear or read of it being quoted to someone from another religious group. So I asked the following questions and also replied to myself:

1. Why should I love my enemies whoever they are?

2. What purposes are there in expressing such love?

3. When does ‘loving your enemy’ end?

As a Christian the answer is easy for the first question. Jesus said it! Matthew 5:43-48. He also just before that quote talked about turning the other cheek. Taken in isolation we could imagine Jesus giving His followers a ‘victim mentality.’ However, in reading the Gospels and New Testament letters I gain a fuller and deeper understanding of what underscores Christ’s challenge to ‘love the enemy.’

Jesus set the example quoted in Romans 5:6-11. We were His enemies, yet He loved us. That love sought to remove the animosity and barriers between Him and us. It cost Him dearly which is why the true symbol of love is the cross.  We like to quote John 3:16 concerning this love and fail to appreciate the verses which followed. They speak about the high price to be paid by those who refuse His love, defuse His teaching and abuse His Name and people. Even the Sermon on the Mount, much vaunted as a guide for living, is laced with dire warnings about judgement and Hades. Therefore, how do we express Christ’s love with its warning about rejecting it?

Romans 12:20 tells us to feed our enemy if he is hungry or give him a drink if thirsty. Sounds nice, warm and fuzzy. What we overlook is the judgement which is falling on his head. It is likened to burning coals! What will determine the outcome is his response. Who is the one to decide? The Lord of vengeance and none other. The disciple is to do good works, as Jesus did and taught. What we often fail to understand is that such deeds become a blessing or a judgement on the recipients. As we serve them in the name of Jesus it is not merely as a ‘handout’. It’s meant to be an introduction to the One who wants to be their Saviour with an offer of new beginnings. Did Jesus put a ‘times-up’ on love? Yes! In most cases it would be when death intervenes. For after that judgement takes place (Hebrews 9:27. Revelation 20:11-15.) Some parables speak on this matter and deals with nations, false teachers and spiritual frauds.

When should we imagine our expressing love to our enemies has crossed over into a justice mode? I’d suggest it is when that person (or persons) has received and tasted our love in Christ’s name and then repeatedly trampled on it. When our prayers for him or her are despised and the Lord’s grace repelled over and over then it is time to move on. It could be likened to what Jesus said about a village rejecting the message of the Messiah. Shake off the dust from your sandals as a witness against them. Should an enemy have evil intent upon my family, person or country love for him gives way to a greater love. That is love for my family! What action takes place depends upon what aggression is faced.

When we talk about ‘love and others’ we unconsciously lump them all together. This seems to miss the Scriptural teachings in each case. To love my wife is on a different platform than loving my neighbour. To love my Christian family of faith is a different investment than loving my enemies. To love my Lord and Saviour is a far superior love to all the others and dictates how I love them. Therefore, when it comes to loving my enemies I will do it, even reluctantly, because of my love and commitment to Jesus Christ. As stated above, my underlying reason is to obey Jesus, make an enemy my friend, plus seek to deliver him or her from an eternal separation from the Holy and Everlasting God. Such love isn’t sentimental or pious. It is tough and needs the total resources of the Holy Spirit within to keep the love flowing.

©Ray Hawkins August 2016.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Check the Chains you wear.

A mural from Sheffield, Tas.
Pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Colossians 4:3. Paul the apostle of Christ.

When the apostle Paul gave his testimony before Festus and King Agrippa, they heard the greatest offer the heart can hear. Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles included the news that God was offering forgiveness for sins committed against Him. The Roman Governor and the Idumean king Agrippa seemed to have found this too much for their mind to handle. Festus said Paul was mad and Agrippa teased Paul by inferring he, Agrippa, was almost persuaded. This seems to sum up two of the three responses to the message of the cross. The cry of Festus still echoes through many lips to-day. Agrippa also has many ‘spiritual’ descendants who, like him, are ‘almost’, and that’s the state in which they die.

Paul, a shackled prisoner without any earthly abode stood before them. Prisoner though he was he spoke as a liberated man. Paul knew he had hope. It included a place and a kingdom with Jesus who was the One promised by Scripture. How preposterous it must have seemed! The Lord’s people are often in situations similar to Paul They are prisoners of faith but have a hope in a better world to come. Festus, Agrippa, Bernice and the others failed to realise they too were prisoners. Dressed in regal attire outwardly they were inwardly shackled by sin, guilt, shame and fear. They wore not the iron chains around their body but far stronger chains imprisoned their souls. 

We all are prisoners of something or someone. In speaking to the assembled court Paul testified to the fact he was on trial as a prisoner of hope. Such hope was bound up in the promise God had given to Israel. Later on he repeated this truth to Jewish leaders in Rome: ‘It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.’ In effect Paul was a prisoner twice over. One was is in the literal sense of being in chains for his faith. The other was in the spiritual sense by which he was a prisoner of Christ Jesus. On both occasions his hearers were either prisoners of despair, unbelief or playthings of their unholy desires. Paul held on to a promise, they clung to wishful thinking for better things tomorrow.

As prisoners of Christ we are His ambassadors in chains declaring the freedom we have in Jesus. It sounds incongruous but it is real. True freedom is only found when we live in the environment for which we were created. For a brief moment a fish out of water might imagine it is free from its watery home only to die disillusioned. Those who reject the environment of Christ Jesus live under the same disappointment. Imagining themselves free of the Lord’s perimeters they are actually playthings of fads, fashion and futility. We were created to know, enjoy, serve and worship our Creator. To cast that relationship aside causes the soul’s darkness, self-delusion, meaninglessness and a sense of foreboding about death.

As prisoners of Faith speaking to prisoners of unbelief, what we offer can make it worthwhile for them to exchange ‘chains.’  In Acts 25 and 26 are such words as ‘hope in what God has promised’: ‘God has raised the dead (referring to Jesus) to bring light into their darkness: to deliver from Satan’s power:’ ‘receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me (Christ.).’  We must always see beyond the taunts prisoners of unbelief throw our way as they flaunt their seemingly unrestricted lifestyle. As Proverbs says of them, there is a way which seems right unto man but the end of it is death. (Proverbs 16:25) For the prisoners of Christ the end is Life eternal and beautiful. Therefore from one prisoner to another heed these words, ‘As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (Colossians 4:1.)

Being the Lord Jesus’ prisoner has its limitations morally and ethically. At times we can feel a little despondent as others advance within the World’s scene, accumulating honours, possessions and money while we are despised and ignored. It can hurt when they look with scorn or pity on you as you live under the direction of the Master. Our spiritual sanity can only be assured as we keep our eyes on Jesus Christ through His word. He must be our life, our hope, our true freedom and our message. 

Reflection: What makes being a prisoner of Christ Jesus worthwhile?

Request: May my commitment to you Lord Jesus be something that causes someone somewhere to see it as a magnificent madness. Amen

©Ray Hawkins 31st July 2016.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Knowing the Unseen God.

How can you commit your life to someone you haven’t seen? This is an unasked but implied question to disciples from those on the outside. As a Christian and as a minister I’ve had to find an answer, indeed a personal response, to this question. I’d like to share with you my journey from indifference about Jesus to a faith commitment to Him.

It was my good fortune to have someone ask my mother if her children could go to Sunday school. I’m sure she had numerous reasons for agreeing, including an hour of peace. Across the years I’d heard stories from the Bible and was impressed. Still, Jesus was no more interesting than Caesar or Napoleon or my cricketing hero (of the moment).

In my middle teenage years I was a happy hypocrite ignorant about much of the Bible and indifferent to the One it revealed. God however was on my trail. One night I sensed an ultimatum. ‘Shape up or ship out!’ God was getting serious. What was happening? What I had heard over the years about Jesus and which impressed me had now aroused my mind to act. Was the Bible true and therefore to be let loose within my person or was it a lovely myth? I decided it was true!

The following years such a presumption was put to the test. I needed to be sure. So I compared the Bible with history and found it was factual. I’m no scientist so I needed to know how as such qualified people viewed the reliability of the Scriptures. This took me through a bit of a tangled arena but when I emerged from it I was confident about trusting what God’s Word revealed about creation. Nature, according to Psalm 19 and Romans 1 reveals certain things about the unseen God.

The really big issue however had to deal with Jesus as the Christ, the drama of the cross and resurrection. Was it a mixture of myth, miracle and history? Or, was it an actual, historical, verifiable and prophesied event? Secular as well as Church history endorsed all the areas. To me one of the ‘clinches’ was what happened to the original band of disciples. Their commitment to Jesus as the promised Messiah, the Son of God and promised King of Israel cost them dearly. They lost family and friends and ultimately their lives for an unswerving commitment to Jesus and to the fact of His resurrection and ascension. They weren’t stupid. They wouldn’t pay such a price for a lie!

All of these features made my conviction of commitment to Jesus ‘concrete. It may be summed up this way: I heard, I was intrigued, I investigated, I found answers to my doubts and the charges levelled by sceptics, other religious groups and my own self-indulgent will.

Still, I had never seen Jesus. Still haven’t! My commitment to Him was, and remains, an act of faith in His word. The amazing thing is about this faith relationship is over the years it has been tested, tried and been found true. Not, may I hasten to add, by my grit or denial of tough issues. No, it is because the One to whom I committed my life has journeyed with me. His word has linked me to Him.

At the beginning of my new direction in life I admit it was a true but fragile commitment. It was only across time did it toughen up. This came about through discovering the grace and presence of Jesus and the uncrushable truth of His word. Would I say that in those early months or years I loved Jesus? In a way yes, but not deeply. How can you love someone unseen? He may have been unseen by my eyes but not unknown to my heart. Unseen but not unfelt! Some may question this but I liken it to a blind man unable to see the sun but he can feel its warmth. My love for Jesus grew through knowing Him in worship, obeying His teachings, responding to His promptings, seeing the difference between the old and new me and witnessing His providential grace, mercy and forgiveness. His love to me, and you, never changes. My love for Him has matured and expanded over the nearly sixty years since the night I heard Him say those five words: “Shape up or ship out!”

There are many other reasons for this commitment leading to love I may share another time. Just to close I’d like to add the following. Could I be mistaken? There is always a slim wedge of doubt which tries to get between me and the Lord. If I am mistaken (which is unlikely), this cannot be denied.  My Lord has blessed, protected, guided and thrilled me across the years of marriage, parenting and ministry. I (we) have a hope that points beyond this life. Such a hope tells me I shall see Him face to face. That is Christ’s gift of transforming grace and power He worked on your behalf and mine on the cross of Calvary. His resurrection secured it eternally.

One of my favourite verses comes from 2Timothy 1:12 and speaks of the intimacy of faith which matures over the years: ‘I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him’ (NRSV).

Peter expressed it very well to the persecuted church:  ‘Jesus Christ, whom, having not seen you love…’ 1 Peter 1:8. This apostle was building on the promise of the risen Lord in John 20:29, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

©Ray Hawkins July 24th  2016.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Imperative of ministry.

A mural at Sheffield, Tasmania
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15.

An ‘imperative’ is a word or statement of authority we do well to heed.  Scripture is saturated with them. Unfortunately we tend to do mental gymnastics with such imperatives. They are converted into noble suggestions. By doing this we rob them of their sense of urgency, warning or command.

Paul’s words to Timothy as recorded in the two epistles have a number of imperatives to take to heart. The one calling to study the word of truth is both a command and a warning. The aged apostle, restricted by imprisonment, never forgot to be a mentor to his ‘son.’ He wanted Timothy to be able to fulfil the work he was called to do. Also when called to give account of his ministry no shame would cling to his presentation. Surely that is our heart’s desire also.

‘Do your best’ is from a Greek word calling for diligence. In daily life and work there is abhorrence for the person who is lazy and not fulfilling his or her role. Such characters make things difficult, even dangerous, for others. The same is true in ministry. We are not all equal in scholastic ability or communicating skills but we can all give of our best. The motivation is surely for the honour of our Lord.

‘To present yourself to God’ has overtones of a formal meeting being arranged. Hebrews 13:17: defines God’s servants as ‘men who must give an account.’ There is an official reporting time already set by the Lord. We should not take this lightly. It will deal with our calling as ministers not about our salvation. Between now and that time we have opportunity to get ourselves ready to meet our Master.  The words used by Paul when taking Communion become good advice in this matter. 1 Corinthians 11:31: ‘If we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgement.’ Such a self assessment must be under the scrutiny of scripture. It requires of us honesty and an acceptance of what the Bible has to say on personal issues touched upon.

‘As one approved’ means you have passed the inspection. You have been tried, tested and you stand true. Your testimony of God’s faithfulness is vouched for by others and your conscience as you stand confident in His Word.  In a sense the words of Peter can be applied to you, ‘. . .your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may prove genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.’ 1 Peter 1:7– 8

‘A workman’ is often used in Scripture for a field labourer. How applicable! As workman with and in the Gospel we work in the harvest field called the world. From Jesus’ parables dealing with fields some ministry insights are gleaned. There are those who sow seed, rock removers, bird chasers, weed pullers and reapers. At any one time we might be found doing anyone of those tasks. We must know the tools of our trade. In this context it is of course the Scriptures. The Master’s equipment for the various tasks can be found in His ‘toolshed’ of His word. Do we know what ‘implement’ to use and how to handle it when confronted by weed scatterers or birds, thorns or hidden rock?

‘Who correctly handles…’ expresses competency and confidence in the equipment. It is apparent that Scripture can be mishandled, misrepresented and misunderstood. Some of this is from ignorance and at other times from evil intent.  As with any craft the implements take time to master. We who are the Lord’s field workers must apply ourselves with diligence to mastering the many facets of God’s toolbox. The wonder of what is in this toolbox never ceases to amaze the faithful student and experienced worker.

The word of truth’ is a confronting term. It doesn’t say ‘words of truth’ as though there are words in there somewhere which are untrue. It is the word! It is the Logos. Paul associated the spoken word and the written word with the Living Word named Jesus. We may, with reverence, rewrite this verse this way: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a fieldworker who isn’t ashamed and who knows how to properly handle Jesus – the Logos of Truth.

Reflection: The Lord and Saviour will one day call me into His presence to give an account of my ministry. At this moment what is a reasonable expectation of what He’d most probably say to me?

Request:  Equip me to be a qualified and diligent field worker within the place of your appointment. When I take hold of the Logos may I have the sense that in some way I am handling or hanging onto Jesus!

Ray Hawkins July 18 2016.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Did Jesus have phobias?

In today’s Westernised society Jesus would be considered intolerant, unloving and a threat to community cohesion. There would be those today who would class him with some type of phobia because of His views. Look at some of His teaching as recorded in the gospels.

Jesus gave the act of adultery a very narrow dimension. To look on someone with lustful purposes will receive a judicial sentence. Also Christ’s view on marriage as between a man and a woman is downright disturbing to same-sex relationship advocates. What hackles must arise when people hear His words quoted about the ‘Broad and Narrow ways and how one equals destruction while the other leads to life. Especially when Jesus declared He is ‘the Way the Truth and the Life’ and without Him heaven is shut.

Child abuse is rampant as our papers sadly report, especially on those who should be protectors of children. Jesus is unmerciful in His condemnation of such people. It would be better for them to jump in the lake with a huge millstone around their neck than perpetrate such acts. What verdict awaits them before the great white throne on judgement day! Forgiveness is possible, but only if the fruits of repentance are evident.

As you read the Gospels it is clear Jesus is scathing of those who use His name, his service to make themselves rich, exploit the widow and orphans, corrupt the Word of God and lead people astray. His words are ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evil doers.’ In Matthew 23 are words directed to the religious (fraudulent) leaders. Make no mistake, they are harsh words. ‘Hypocrites, blind leaders, fools, whitewashed tombs, snakes and vipers’ are His descriptions for such people. Then consider His upturning of trading tables of those in the temple precincts who were fleecing worshippers and selling blemished animals.

To look at such a list, and more could be added, would give the impression that Jesus was a narrow minded bigot, unloving and vindictive. Was He expressing His phobias by such condemnation? In reality the opposite is the truth. His words and actions were from a heart of love and compassion. He was warning such people then and now about an eternal tragedy which awaited unless they changed their ways. Love made Jesus act and speak. Silence would have been easier, safer for Him but deadly for those in such a lifestyle and ungodly activities. The bible is unwavering in stating that there is a judgement day already set and all must appear before it. There is but one avenue of being pardoned.

Jesus experienced peoples’ judgement, the nice and respectable peoples’ ungodliness as well as the rebellious and depraved. That is the message of the Cross! His request to the Father to “forgive them for they know not what they do” offered a new beginning. That requires a commitment of a person’s life to Jesus Christ as the risen Lord and Saviour. It requires a recognition of a life offensive to God and deep sorrow for it. It requires a new lifestyle based upon spiritual, moral and ethical values in harmony with the Holy Scriptures.

When that takes place a number of things happen. To highlight just two: One is a sense of joy under the smile of God. On the negative side you discover many in society and even amongst your family or friends your decision is threatening and unsettling. As you begin to live out and share your new faith and lifestyle you will be labelled as bigoted, racist, unloving and much more. That’s alright, you are in good company for that's how they consider Jesus. But if you seek to cover your faith and want to dabble in a previous lifestyle you are actually hating your accusers. Silence is more of a hate crime against them than sharing your faith. Sure, your words are to be flavoured by grace and your actions with mercy, but the ‘new you’ must begin to emerge. Jesus never authorised His followers to take punitive action against those who lived contrary to His laws. Instead He urged His people to pray for them and express compassion. A far cry from the ideology which kills infidels for a whole number of lifestyle choices.

In the Church’s early days to be called a follower of the Nazarene was considered as an insult, a derogatory term. Christians wore it as an emblem of honour. We are fast approaching a similar scenario. However, Jesus forewarned His disciples about the tough times ahead. His promise remains true for us today, “I am with you always” and “I have overcome the World” plus “I go to prepare a place for you.”

©Ray Hawkins July 2016.