Sunday, September 17, 2017

Hallelujah from the Psalms.


Psalm 22 is the prophetic insight into the crucifixion. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” gives way to “praise” in verse 22. “Hallelujah” shattered the gloom of grief and the darkness of despair. “Hallelujah” flowed from the lips of Jesus as He praised His Father for the victory over torture and death. “Hallelujah” is the believers’ anthem of praise for the resurrection of Christ Jesus. 
There Jesus is depicted sharing the reality of His victory with His people. Hallelujah comes from ‘halal’ Jewish word for praise and ‘Jah’ means God. This word resonates throughout Scripture, and particularly in the Psalms. In this collection of 150, the psalm 22 about the crucifixion and resurrection leads the ‘Halal’ chorus. How fitting it is that they would point to the words which would flow from the lips of Jesus.
In the next verse we are invited to agree with what Jesus celebrated. ‘You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all you of the seed of Jacob, glorify Him, and fear Him, all you of the seed of Israel.’ Then, in verse 26 it says that those who seek the Lord shall praise Him and live forever. 
Christians have countless reasons for echoing the many ‘Hallelujahs’ found in the psalms. Psalm 56:4a ‘In God, I will praise His word in God I have put my trust…’. Do we honestly express a “Hallelujah” for the 66 books of the Scriptures? Within this library of God and from Him to us, we can understand Creation and Humanity and the chaos caused by Sin and Satan. More than that, we read of the Lord of Heaven coming to redeem repentant sinners, overthrow sin and death at the cross, offer a new start in life and journey with us to His glory. Psalm 119 is the psalm of praise for God’s Word and its influence within a life.
Those who have heard Handel’s majestic ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from ‘The Messiah’ know the thrill it gives to the heart and mind. Handel tapped into the very essence of the Psalmist’s heart and expressed it with grace and power. It gives expression to how those with faith in and experience with Christ Jesus feel about the Lord and Saviour.  To quote the Psalmist again ‘I will praise the name of God with song, and magnify Him with thanksgiving’ (Ps 69:30). Those who know the transforming grace given by Jesus, His forgiveness, His peace and His promises, cannot help but sing His praises. We may be tone deaf, flat or melodic and exuberant but what the Lord hears is our heart. In turn I believe it makes us sound awesome in the ears of God the Father when we sing praises to God the Son.

The Psalms begins with the word ‘Blessed’ and closes with the word praise. In between are the experiences of God’s people across time. They are confronted with opposition, frustration, enemies, failure, catastrophes and demonic assaults. These are intended by the Devil to shatter God’s promise of being the ‘blessed’ person. What unfolds in the believer’s experience is the faithfulness of God in and through all those moments of pain and confusion. 
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Sure, we will wrestle with many issues throughout life but we tie ourselves to His unchanging grace and eternal Word. That is why we have hope. That is why we can sing “Hallelujah” even as tears flow, for God will not forsake us. The Psalmist even asked Him to collect his tears in a bottle and record them in Heaven’s book (Ps 56:8). I think it was so that later God would vindicate the Psalmist.  This caused the writer, David, to exclaim “In God will I praise (Hallelujah) His word” (verse 10).
The final five Psalms form a quintet of Hallelujahs. What a crescendo we enter into as we read them as a testimony of God’s faithfulness, the believer’s testimony and the declaration
of Faith. “Hallelujah” is proclaimed 20 times. I like to think that number represents 2x10. Two points to testimony and ten expresses God’s perfect order within His world. Are the closing 20 Hallelujahs the Psalmist’s overwhelming testimony and conviction to God’s perfect sovereign rule within a believer’s life? What do you think?

Hallelujah!
Copyright Ray Hawkins Sept 17 2017.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

God's library


Libraries are a fascinating place. So many words hiding behind covers, so many areas to explore. So much wisdom waiting to be found and stories to enjoy. When I visit a library I’m reminded of the quote from Ecclesiastes 12:12 ‘of making many books there is no end.’
When I look into the Book of books I notice that God has His own library. We have a list of some of the books in His keeping. We are aware of some of them from Revelation 20 where it says that on Judgement day He opens the books. One is the book of life, another the one about works and others unnamed. Would one of them be what Malachi 3:16 refers to as God’s book of remembrance? That recorded the names of those who feared the Lord met together to encourage each other. Why? For they lived in godless times.
There is also a book Daniel mentioned as being sealed up for it had God’s knowledge of History’s climax. Is it still a closed book? The answer is found in Revelation 5. The only person worthy to open it was Jesus. He alone had stood the test of righteousness on earth even when He took upon Himself the Sin of the World at the cross it couldn’t break His righteousness. Jesus smashed sin and death’s power.
How is that relevant to you, to me? It means everything. For we are told in Psalm 139 that the Lord God has a dossier on each of us. Imagine that, the good, the bad, the rotten and the sweet He has recorded about us. Even Jesus said that for our unfruitful, barren worthless words we will give account (Matthew 12:36). If that was all that the books contained we are men and women without hope. We may as well eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.
How fortunate we are to have in our library the Bible. For it says, in the words of Jesus “Be of good cheer”! How is that possible? Because, He has the power to blot out certain sections the Heavenly Father has written about us. Imagine that. Heaven’s library books about us can have wipe out applied. What power can erase, cover, smudge, blot out my falling short of God’s standard? What can remove those unfruitful words? Colossians 2:14, ‘Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.’
That’s an awesome declaration. That book has a nail through it. It also has blood stains covering our offenses against God. How did that come about for you, for me, personally? It isn’t automatic. It came to be because you knew you were under God’s wrath and judgement. What could be done by any of us to rectify the problem, placate God’s anger? Only one thing, the unblemished life of Christ who came to solve our problem by standing in our place of judgement. He took our sin and suffered our judgement and showed by His resurrection that He succeeded in His mission.
But, how did His achievement on your behalf, my behalf become ours personally? The importance of this is realised in a statement by Jesus. His disciples had come back from ministry to various villages. They had wonderful stories to tell about their conquest of the demonic forces. Jesus told them of an even greater reason to be thrilled. ‘Rather, rejoice because your names are written in Heaven’ (Luke 10:20). This took place when we made a deliberate choice summed up in Peter’s words to his people. ‘Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…’ (Acts 3:19). Our names were added into a book called ‘The Lamb’s Book of Life’ (Revelation 13:8. 21:27). 
Now it is possible for us to know the smile of God over us. Now we can rejoice in and be humbled by the Psalmist’s words about our new relationship. ‘How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them.’


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Dead People follow Christ.



It begins with a wrestle between wills in the spiritual equivalent of Gethsemane. Do I allow my will to die so that Christ’s will for me will prevail? The trouble is, I know when Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane it lead to the cross. This is where Jesus wants to take me. Here is the implication of His invitation “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me!” Remember Jesus’ closing words at Calvary, “Into your hands I commend my spirit!” That is what I do when I take up my cross.

In essence, this taking up of Christ’s offer of discipleship is inseparable from Salvation. Such a spiritual commitment is expressed in the drama of baptism by immersion. Unfortunately, for some, being saved and becoming a disciple are two distinct experiences. Saved but stagnant, attending services not obeying commandments; lookers not followers; absconders not learners. Such folk are alive and active in their own will but indifferent to Christ’s call.

Disciples exhibit two phrases Paul expressed. One is: “I’ve been crucified; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me with Christ, and the life which I now live, in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for mw’ (Galatians 2:20).

Second one is: ‘I die daily’ (1 Corinthians 15:31b). Can you make a list of that to which your ‘Gethsemane’ calls you, if not daily, at least sometimes?

Those verses point to this reality: To be a disciple is to take up one’s cross and follow Christ. That then implies that only those who have been crucified, therefore dead to their own sovereignty, can be disciples. It is only such ‘dead servants’ who can be fruitful to the Father (John 15:4-8).

Christian discipleship begins with a cross and ends with a crown. Death to self-will, self-importance, to self-centredness allows Christ’s love, life and liberty to take root. The path Jesus walked in His humanity He blazed for us to follow. Fortunately, He keeps us company all the way.

Take up your cross.

The Lord’s insistent command,
“The cross is waiting your hand
Should you want to come, follow me,
You need to know the touch of Calvary.”

How can I the cross define?
Unseen, yet it rules my mind.
Jesus in Gethsemane
Portrayed the cost vividly.
There He prayed fervently
“Father, Your will be done!”  

 To carry my cross is my choice,
Faith’s obedience to His voice.
Ignore the cross, you walk alone. 2
 the Lord only chooses to own
Those who are identified
With Him, the Christ crucified.

 The cross is the Lord’s glory,
The centre of the Gospel story. 3
Christ’s life changing victory
O’er Satan, sin and death’s misery
Becomes our personal testimony
When we share His Calvary.4


1. Matthew 26:39. 2. Luke 14:27.  3. 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-24.  4. Galatians 2:20.

©Ray Hawkins 13 August 2017.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Scandals in the Bible.


Scandals fill our news network constantly. Disgrace and shame follow in their discovery. Reputations suffer and the family name is sullied. There isn’t any honour in being associated with scandals or is there?
The Greek word ‘skandalon’ which gives us our English ‘scandal’ actually means ‘stumbling block.’ The New Testament uses it to tell the effect the Bible story has in the minds of society when it thinks of Christians. The following brief scandals of faith which cause the non Christian world to stumble Christ’s followers wear with honour. Sure, the cost is high and reputations, ambition and income suffer. However, disciples weigh that in the light of the cross and eternal truth and count the price as nothing.

The scandals begin from the very first words of the Bible, ‘In the beginning, God created … ‘ and it was done in six days. This offends evolutionists with their billions of years and they throw verbal ‘stones’ and unsubstantiated theories to smear Creationists, who often have superior scientific degrees.
This is followed by the opposition to the Biblical basis for marriage in Genesis 2. This has been discussed on previous blogs. Opponents to marriage as being between a man and a woman stumble and crash in disarray on this foundation for the most intimate of relationships.

Staying in Genesis is another frustrating rock of offense that won’t go away. The verifiable and worldwide flood of Noah and the Ark fame. Fossils from all around the world and from the depths to the mountain heights tell of this cataclysmic event. Once again it undermines their uncountable years of death and decay as a series of gradual events. Believers in the Biblical account are vilified and often overlooked in their professions.
Perhaps the greatest and most offensive sense of offense centres upon the One who is the reason for the Bible, the JudeoChristian faith, Jesus the Christ. It isn’t about His Sermon on the Mount, or His good deeds. No! It is because of who He is, why He came, what He did and promise.

Jesus claims to be the One promised in the 39 books of the Old Testament. He is the descendant of King David. He is the Son of Man, the Messiah promised. He is the Son of God, Emmanuel through the virgin birth. Pointers from the Old Testament are verified in the Gospel accounts as taking place in this Man of Galilee. That’s too much for some to handle.
Most offensive however is the Calvary event. The cross arouses such anger, disgust or denial that people have rampaged to silence or destroy those who believe the crucifixion. The cross says that no one is good enough for God. It says there is no other way to be acceptable to the Holy Creator. The cross vindicates the words of Jesus and cancels out the blasphemy charges against Him. For the resurrection declares Him righteous and He is able redeem all those who put their trust in Him.

For Israel the cross is a stumbling block and for Gentiles it is foolishness. For believers the
cross is the Almighty’s wisdom which discredits Human efforts to deal with sin. It is also the power of God by which He transforms the spiritually dead into new life. By Christ’s risen life He can take a person out of the spiritual realm of Darkness and into Christ’s kingdom of light. In accepting the crucified and risen Lord guarantees forgiveness, cleansing and reconciliation with God. Jesus is an offense because He offends our pride, our goodness and our deeds as not able to impress the Heavenly Father.

The final scandal of the Christian Faith is Christ’s insistence that He will return to complete His mission. His first coming was for our salvation. His second coming will be to reign and to judge which scares those who live without Him. Is it any wonder that those who are offended, scandalized by and stumble at the Gospel try and reduce it to myth, carve up its historical integrity or penalise the disciple.
The Bible is a scandalous book which transforms the believer into being a citizen of Heaven. It is a scandal which can never be silenced. It is a scandal over which unbelief causes people to stumble, yet it is a rock on which believers rise to greater heights. As Romans 9:33 says: ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.’

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Where Marriage was created.

The sexual debate has gone full circle from Caesar's time to now. When the Church began its entrance into Gentile territory it faced a sexual minefield. Rome's attitude to sexual relations was in stark contrast to that upheld by the Judeo-Christian faith. How did the Christian faith take on the challenge? 

By paying a high price in its commitment to the Scriptures Jesus believed in. By an understanding that marriage had links to the Creation of Adam and Eve. Believers showed a better way in their marital relationship and its impact upon the children. I don't read of Christians holding protest marches but rather being vilified for their stance and power of debate. The cross triumphed over the sword and the arena by the faithful witness even unto death.

Why would people once happy with a free and easy, unrestrained sexual taste remove themselves from that scene? Why would they be willing to be scorned by those once considered friends? Because the came to understand that marriage was more than sex and having legitimate heirs. Behind it was a spiritual dimension that only the Creator would explain much later. This reason undergirding marriage has for many Christians and church goers been neglected, or worse still, debunked.

Genesis tells us that the Lord created Adam first and from his side made Eve. How ridiculous! We all know it is the woman which gives birth. Why would the Creator stretch our credibility with Adam producing Eve? This isn't only recorded in Genesis 2:21-25 but by the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:13. It is only the Scriptures that tells of the reason and it is twofold. One is that when a husband and wife come together in the sexual act they become one flesh. This is why the Bible is so strident against promiscuity. It is also the same reason as to why same sex relationships will never be valid  in the Lord God's sight. 

The other reason is that Eve being formed from out of the side of Adam pointed to Christ and the cross. Jesus is the redeemer. He is also the One (and the only One) from whom the Church could come. The significance of the spear into His side is for forgiveness, yes, but more so for the creation, birth, forming of the Church. That is why the Church is likened to a bride. It takes us back to the Creative act of God in Genesis. Therefore when a person was converted and realised the call upon his or her life a new mindset based upon the Bible developed.

Within this new realm grew a desire to honour the Lord and Saviour. To do that required making a commitment to live a life pleasing to Him. There are many verses in the New Testament explaining the difficulties but determination in living such a life. Too many disciples of Christ have too little understanding of the lifestyle required as pleasing unto their Lord.

Let us stand our ground as to why the Christian concept of marriage is best for our society. we don't have to be rude, crude or derogatory towards other views. However we may need to develop a mindset which will endure various forms of opposition. The best answer is in many ways is being muffled by relationship breakdowns of church goers. What is needed by non-Christians to see is a fulfilled, interesting, growing and enjoyable marriage between a man and a woman who seek to honour Jesus. Let it be your!

Ray Hawkins 13.8.2017
The devotional 'From Eden with Love is about Marriage. It is available from Christian bookshops and as an ebook.
You can get it from me, the author, also.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Marriage, ministry, Mutual responsibility



Lately there has been much discussion about women in ministry. Alongside of this has appeared wife abuse. This blog would like to take you along a path in relation to husband and wives in Christian ministry. When Adam was created God gave Eve to him to be the man’s help mate. There wasn’t any intention of competition or inferiority. God’s principle inherent in that relationship still exists and should be best expressed within the marriage of a minister and his wife. It is called 'one flesh.' That has no emphasis on rank but on oneness and finding each one's differences woven together for mutual strength and honour.  That is a challenge to both. How well do I release my wife to fulfil the Lord’s calling upon her life? Do I have any idea what her gifts and abilities may be? How well am I sustained and encouraged by my 'help-mate!'  

In 1 Corinthians 9:5 there is a snippet concerning the Apostle Peter. It regards to the unsung role of an apostle’s wife. The Apostle Paul wrote, ‘Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?’ Why would Peter have Mrs. ‘Peter’ accompany him on at least some of his ministry ventures? Once again the silence of Scripture intrigues and teases the imagination. The macho apostle in a male chauvinistic world was uninhibited and unashamed to have his wife by his side. What Peter wrote about wives and husbands in 1 Peter 3:1-7 was it out of personal experience. Could he have been showing appreciation of a ‘one flesh’ relationship within ministry? It must have motivated him (with her encouragement?) to see converts separated by their faith woo and win their spouses to the Lord. His advice is still relevant.

There is another couple within Scripture about whom we know a little more and yet not enough. Aquila and Priscilla stand out as a wonderful, faithful, energetic couple. Something which has aroused some commentary responses are the occasions when Priscilla is given precedence over her husband. Again we do not know much about their relationship or up-bringing. We do however gain insights about their team ministry. It wouldn’t be far from the mark to say they were comfortable with each other’s role. Neither would have felt threatened when the other was mentioned first in despatches. How different it has been with some others in the Christian ministry.

The male ego is often fragile while at the same time lapping up the ‘crumbs’ of public applause. Sometimes an immature personality is unsettled or jealous when his wife receives accolades for  exercising her gifts and abilities. The attitude of Diotrephes (3 John) can be rampant within the minister’s house as well as with a local congregation. Where, O where, is the beautiful Biblical incentive of ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others’ Philippians 2:3, 4. In the context of a minister’s relationship with his wife and her expressions of ministry surely the same rule applies.

Proverbs 4:5-9 is about Wisdom. This information can be so easily applied by a minister to his wife. There is great benefit to him personally and therefore to his ministry in treating his wife as Proverbs explained Wisdom. The word ‘Wisdom’ has been change in the following passage to ‘wife.’ ‘Do not forsake your wife, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you… Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendour.’ Such an outlook releases the wife to express her gifts and abilities with the husband’s encouragement and pride. The consequences of all this trust is to enrich her life and expands her love, respect and admiration for her man. The testimony of such a mutual ministry and relationship is a wonderful attraction and a strong challenge. 

When asked what has been my greatest asset in ministry I unhesitatingly reply, ‘My wife!’ Mary has been my help-mate in every area of my life and ministry. From a human perspective without her I could not have had our fulfilled and successful ministries. She has been God's gift to me!
Ray Hawkins August2017.





Sunday, July 30, 2017

Picture hidden in Words.


Many words have a story woven within them. Discovering that story, picture gives a deeper meaning or nuance to what it says. Whether the word is poetic, symbolic, or even jargon each ultimately points us to something tangible and literal. When Jesus spoke about Himself as ‘the door’ we understand it as a metaphor, a picture expressing something. The same applies to Jesus being ‘the Rock.’ There is only one way into the presence of the Father and therefore Heaven. That is through Jesus as Lord and Saviour. There is only one sure and certain foundation on which to build your life. That is the Word of God.

Some are trying to make people who take the Bible seriously, therefore with a literal understanding of the text as intellectual ‘cavemen!’ Others want to make the plain statements of Scripture as either relevant only to the ancient past, or fantasise into something quite different to what it plainly says. That is where supporters of same-sex marriage linger. Marriage has no meaning outside of the Biblical explanation and, dare I write it, the literal symbolism behind the literal union of Adam and Eve. That points to the literal relationship between Christ and the Church.

The Bible was meant to be read and understood. Then it was expected to be adopted and lived out in relationship, service and worship. Habakkuk was commissioned to write his vision so as to ‘make it plain on tablets, and so a runner may read it’ (2:2). As the apostle Paul wrote about speaking that it is only beneficial if it is understood. Sure, there will be many layers to what is written or said because there are various levels of intellect. But, they are meant to be grasped or searched out. The parables of Jesus are a case in point. There is the very obvious message that would lodge within the ear and have an impact. Then, there is the deeper side to the story waiting to be delved into. Both lead to a literal understanding of the Lord’s intention and teaching.

When it comes to certain facets of Scriptural terms and stories in the Old Testament critics are quick to use them as literally ridiculous. The serpent enticing Eve to take the fruit is one of their chief criticisms. Is there a literal answer. Yes. Revelation 12:9! There the answer is presented. The serpent is none other than ‘the great dragon…the Devil, Satan.’ A literal spirit being. A story in the life of Israel in the wilderness concerns the healing of those bitten by serpents. They had to look to the pole Moses had made on which a moulded serpent was placed. Those who looked towards it when bitten were healed. Centuries passed before the meaning was given. Jesus said it pointed to the Son of Man being lifted up, John 3:14. That still wasn’t clear and later Jesus added Himself into the mix. In John 8:28 and 12:32 He said He would be the one lifted up. The cross explains the event in Numbers 21:4-9. The symbol pointed to the literal.

People want to explain away Biblical teaching which conflicts with their views, especially in morals and science. The non-Christian has no reason to accept the Biblical teachings on these matters. It is a different matter for Christians who believe Jesus is the Son of God, Lord, Saviour and the one before whom all will bow. Christ’s views are for us to check-out, understand, adopt, apply and defend. That is a costly exercise as Christians in the sciences have found. Expose the fundamental fallacies of evolution and you are ‘blacklisted’, ostracised. Defend the literal six days of creation and you are ridiculed. Uphold the veracity of the worldwide flood of Noah’s day is to be considered out of step with the facts. Yet the facts speak of a worldwide flood which in turn the evolutionists refuse to debate or consider.

To take the Bible seriously is to enjoy the richness of its words. The awesome symbolisms of the Tabernacle and its sacrifices, the beautiful poetry of the psalms, the metaphors of the Gospels, especially John’s, all take the reader to some unchanging truth, especially about Jesus. As Jesus said in John 5:39 “they speak of me!”