Sunday, November 19, 2017

Who is the Christ of Christmas

It is a valid point which a questioner raised. Who is the Christ you want to put back into Christmas? How do you know Him or even where to learn about Him? Certainly not from postcards or even lovely Sunday school stories (though they are often tell things about Him). Some pulpits are even dangerous in their explanation of Jesus as the Messiah. The best, safest and most interesting meeting point is the Bible’s account.

From Genesis to the Gospel there is an unveiling of the One promised and how to recognise Him when He arrives. This then leads into the challenge of making Him known to an unsympathetic world. The book of Acts and the following letters present the case for Jesus as the Son of god, the promised Saviour and the only One before whom we bow and say “my Lord and my God.”

A person either meets Jesus or misses Him through the dimension of faith in the Bible’s testimony. I like to say positive faith draws a person into Christ’s realm. Negative faith (a.k.a unbelief) locks Him out. There can be no Christmas without the reality of a person known as Jesus the Christ. There could never have been a Christmas without the event known as the cross of Calvary. There would not be this debate about His person and achievements without His personal resurrection from the tomb.  The following poem seeks to wrestle with the opening question and the choice positive or negative faith has on the outcome.

Jesus, who are you,
Friend or foe,
Beelzebub or Emmanuel,
Blasphemer or prophet,
How can we know?
The cross,
The cross will show
Who you are!

Jesus, what said the cross.
Victor or villain
Hanging in agony,
Fulfilling prophesy.
How can we know?
The tomb,
The tomb will show
Who you are!

Jesus, what said the tomb?
Conquered or conqueror,
Body decayed or glorified?
Guards, disciples know,
He's Risen!
Yes risen, and it shows
Who you are.

Jesus, what can I say
You're Emmanuel
Before whom I bow.
Now all can know
Jesus Christ, Saviour
Is who you are!

Now I understand who is the Christ of Christmas! He is Jesus!
Copyright Ray Hawkins Nov 26 2017.
Bethlehem's Warrior Baby is available at Christian bookshops and as an ebook.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

It's the Plastic's fault.

Plastic is so cunning. It was meant to be Humanity's great creation but has become a monster. It is taking over the world and environmentalists wring their hands in despair. Square miles of ocean are covered by plastic sheets, ropes, bottles et-cetera killing and maiming the sea and bird life. From cities to country roads Plastic blows free marring the beauty of the landscape. The strange thing is how this soulless commodity has been given 'life' by the attitude of people.

We blame it for its polluting and destructive power without accepting that we, not it, are the real problem. Plastic bottles don't jump out of cars, nor does bait wrapping sneak of the jetty to swim in the river. We who refuse to accept responsibility to recycle, capture and contain this  material are the dealers in death and despoliation. How often do we excuse ourselves by saying as a bottle is left at the camp site bench, "It's only one bottle.!" But 1 times a 100 left a day over a month mounts up.

We may not want to face the fact that the self-excusing tendency in this and other matters has been listed in literature. It is called 'the Adam syndrome.' Genesis chapter 3 holds the story of the blame game and excusing self of responsibility.  God had provided a safe and secure environment for Adam and Eve to enjoy. Part of the upkeep was  not to plunder two specially reserved trees. Tempted by one of the fruits and at the suggestion of the Devil, Eve took then enticed Adam to eat. I wonder where they threw the seed or the scraps? Pollution had its beginning right here.

Then came the blame game. Confronted by the Creator Eve blamed the Devil and Adam blames her. In actual fact Adam was sidestepping his responsibility and inferring God was to blame. This twisted self-righteousness has resided in the human heart ever since. Variations on the theme fill our courthouse drams and media outlets. From politicians to the general public, from pulpit to pew the use of the 'self-escape clause' dominates. Unfortunately, a day will come when each of us will have to give an account of our life and living, relationships and righteousness before the Person who sees heart, mind and motives.

The problem of Plastic is but a modern day expression of personal reluctance to accept responsibility for our actions. The results are catastrophic. People suffer, our environment withers, innocent creatures die and ultimately our personal integrity and well-being fades. The Bible uses the image of a falling short of a standard. Who set the standard? Genesis 3 records it. It is God's Word, His Standard, His righteousness. Because we not only fall short, we intentionally violate it and then cry "Unfair! Unfair!" when we suffer the consequences.

Is there any hope the problem symbolised by Plastic will be overcome. Yes! But is there any power available to redress the self-excusing heart and its blaming of others? Yes! It begins and ends in  knowing, understanding and accepting the Biblical revelation about God's grace and forgiveness. The problem of the heart and its falling short of God's standard is dealt with in the message of the Cross. The power to be lifted up to meet the standard God has set is in a relationship with Jesus as Lord and Saviour. This is a faith and trust matter. That is why people who make Jesus Lord experience the term 'being made new.'

What then does all this have to do with plastic?  Much. When we follow the Lord we will care for the environment. We will be held accountable and not play the blame game. Also we know that He has promised a better world to come when all the pollution symbolised by plastic is removed and controlled.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

To the Forgotten from my childhood.

Many people play small but important roles in a child’s life growing up. Only as that child reaches senior years do he/she appreciate those investors even though names are long forgotten. This is especially true of those in my experiences of being a child in Sunday School then youth club at the Rockdale (NSW) Church of Christ. They have long since entered into the presence of the Lord ere I reflected upon how much grace and patience they showed me over years.

       If I could say, “Thank you!” to…
                                               Seventy–nine years I’ve been able to have seen
                                                A life far different than might have been.
                                                         Age looks back to youthful scenes
                                                   And I wonder who those unknowns were
                                                     Who begged you, “Lord, be merciful to Ray.”
                                                              And You met me to change my way
                                                                               From worldliness
                                                                                   To godliness.

How I would like to say, “Thank you”
                                                    To the unknown, unsung faithful ones
                                                        Concerned for me in careless days,
                                                          Wanting you to change my ways.
                                                        Long did they labour against despair
                                                             As you stored their fervent prayer
                                                                             For confrontation
                                                                             And transformation.

Such a moment came with driving force.
                                               Their prayers empowered by your grace
                                                   Made me sense we were face to face.
                                                     You showed me how you saw me,
                                                             A most unpleasant identity.
                                                              Then offered a new destiny
                                                                      Mine to forsake
                                                                        Or undertake.

A stricken heart.
                                                                  Condemned mind.
                                                                    A fearful choice,
                                                                 “Shape up or ship out.”
                                                           Claimed, Christ’s forgiveness.
                                                              Delivered from hypocrisy.
                                                                 Cleansed from iniquity.
                                                             And, though then unknown,
                                                                   Called to ministry.

                                                               Is it any wonder that
                                                              I would, if I could, say
                                                         To unknown men and women,
                                                         “Thank you for praying for me
                                                              See, what you and God
                                                                     Have done for me!”
                                                                           Thank you."

©Ray Hawkins Nov. 2017.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Don't play with the fire.

Yahweh’s spectacular rescue mission on behalf of Israel could have produced a sense of national complacency. He watched over them, opened the Red sea for them, provided for them, protected them, judged them and brought them to the desert of Sinai. That sense of smugness changed at Mount Sinai. His dramatic ‘appearance’ in thunder, lightning, with thick cloud and fire flashing created fear. A realisation of God’s glory and holiness made them tremble. The Lord God who redeemed was to be obeyed not played with. We too must remember He is the unchanging God as Hebrews 12:29 reminds us, ‘Our God is a consuming fire.’ Fortunately abiding in Christ is our safety ‘gear.’

When the Tabernacle and Priesthood were being instituted the family of Aaron was given the Priesthood. Such a meeting place and ministry were unique. Both were set apart from the everyday and linked to the very character of Yahweh.  The ordination for the Priesthood recorded in Leviticus 8 and 9 is a very impressive and symbolic ritual. Aaron and his four sons had detailed instructions to follow. Something possessed Nadab and Abihu, to imagine they had a better way to perform the required sacrificial ritual. They had chosen to enter into the precincts of the Tabernacle to do their own thing. They would worship or serve God as they thought best. They took their censers and kindled a fire using unauthorised elements. It was rejected as ‘strange fire.’ Here was a serious breach of trust, an act of disrespect and a challenge to the authority of the Lord. 

Judgement was swift. Fire fell from heaven and they died. Their death was to be a testimony to the danger of abusing the grace and glory of God. Why? ‘You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name’ Exodus 20:7. The Lord had to impress upon the nation that ministry, worship and God’s character and commands must not be trifled with.

Leviticus 10:9 sees the Lord add to the ordination requirement, ‘you and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die.’ Does this give us a clue to what caused Nadab and Abihu to act so irresponsibly? The
Lord requires those who worship Him and, more so those who minister before Him, to be clear headed and self‒controlled. It is interesting to note that the kings of Israel had similar obligations. (Proverbs 31:4–5) If we consider ourselves as ‘Kings and Priests’ in the service of the Lord God do such restrictions apply today?

Leviticus 10:10–11: ‘You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.’ The history of Israel details the conflict between His holiness and the tendency of the nation to drag it down. Leviticus 21:6.says, ‘They (priests) must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God. Because they present the offerings made to the Lord by fire, the food of their God, they are to be holy.’ Malachi’s account of the moral and religious attitude of the priests and people of his day makes depressing reading. ‘You profane it (God’s Name) by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled’, and of its food, ‘it is contemptible.’ And you say, “What a burden!” and you sniff at it contemptuously’ Malachi 1:12–13.

Today the ministry of the Church is a far cry to that of the Tabernacle. However there are certain principles which are unchanging in both realms. Ministers of the Gospel are to uphold the holiness of the Eternal God, the integrity of the Cross and the uniqueness of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Familiarity can breed contempt or coarseness with sacred things. A healthy fear of our Lord and a desire to honour His word will be our safeguard. There will be various ways of presenting a message to a wide range of audiences. However, the servant of the Lord has no authority to alter the ‘fire’ which God has entrusted to him or her.

©Ray Hawkins October 29 2017.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

God's will - our Joy.

There are books galore about guidance, knowing the will of God and related subjects. Most are helpful and motivational. Fortunately, Jesus didn't have the books by religious or secular gurus to explain how many steps you need to be sure of where you are going. He had a direct link with the One who would guide Him. Also, Jesus relied upon a book to refresh His mind and calling. Today, that book is maligned or marginalised to the detriment of a faith relationship with the Lord.

Christians know that doing the will of God is fundamental to their life, worship and service and the joy inherent in them all. Jesus made a promise to His followers in John 15:11."These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and your joy may be filled." (Nestle's Greek text). Therefore, if the joy Jesus knew and which carried Him through the cross can be ours, what is the key to it?  Defining the source of His joy pushes us to realising it is 'doing His Father's will." John 7:16-17 reveals an unbreakable, invisible and invincible link which wrapped itself around Jesus and The Father. 'Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."'

Why then are there so many miserable and spineless Christians roaming around churches today? They have no doctrinal strength in their mind and no joy in their heart. Why? Because they are either ignorant of, or playing loose with the will of God! It was the joy of doing the Father's will which gave added strength to Christ on the cross. It is that joy which He gives to fair dinkum, true blue disciples. (Australian slang for faithful, committed people). Peter wrote about such folk in 1 Peter 1:8 'Having not seen (Him) you love ... yet believing you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.' The believers to whom Peter wrote were experiencing their own form of Calvary. What bound them to their Cross and turned it into a platform of praise and joy? Love for Jesus which grew out of Faith in Him which was woven in them when they heard the Gospel of the Cross. Now they were able to see beyond the pain to the glory of an unfading inheritance.

That invisible, invincible and incredible link between the true blue believer and Christ stems from the Father. This is grasped from Matthew 17:5. There, on what we call 'the mount of Transfiguration' came The Father's expressed will: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear Him!" Why is this important? Let the apostle John explain. 'He that does the will of God abides forever.' ( 1 John 2:17) 'This is His (The Father's) commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ...' (1 John 3:23). What do we know about the Name, that is the very person we call Jesus? Read the Old Testament for insights to the promised One. Read the Gospels to understand about the Word (title for Jesus) becoming flesh and blood and  His dependence upon the Will of The Father. Read the other books to discern how the Holy Spirit unveiled The Son in, to and through the Apostles to us.

Many are the fruits of knowing and doing the will of the Father, expressed to us in the person and work of Jesus. As you set your heart and mind on knowing and doing 'His will' a sense of the wonder of unquenchable joy infiltrates and permeates your life. That's summed up by the apostle Paul in his "Rejoice, and again I say, Rejoice!"

Copyright 22 Oct. 2017. Ray Hawkins.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Joy that defeats Darkness.

Jesus is never said to have laughed, yet He did show a sense of humour. We gather that from such statements as “why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye.” Then there is “I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Even some of His serious and theologically important self-descriptions have that touch. Consider Jesus as ‘the door’ or ‘the Bread from heaven’, their importance is sharpened by the imagery presented which could cause a wry smile to appear.

However there is something far more captivating about Jesus. It is more lasting than humour and more durable. It isn’t spelt out but portrayed. Whether a prostitute or centurion, a child or a man like Nicodemus, it drew them to Him. In His presence they sensed “He welcomes me. I am valued as a person. I am important to Him.” Jesus may have summed up His captivating spirit in John 15:11. “I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (Emphasis added).

Jesus shared this as He was about to enter the darkest experience of anyone at any time in all of eternity. Here His joy would be under extreme pressure as noted in His words to His Father in Gethsemane. He knew that on the cross when the sin of the World for all of time would envelope Him, the power of darkness would be brutal. What sustained Him? What radiant power within his spirit took hold of the darkness and overcame it? Hebrews 12:2 tells us: Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”

What was the radiant joy that trampled the darkness? Many aspects would figure in the answer. Among them would be the vindication of the 39 books which promised the coming of the Messiah. There is found in the Passover ceremony, in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 the enveloping power of darkness which tried to swallow ‘the Lamb of God.’ The removal of the curse caused by Adam’s treachery and the ‘Death’s’ bondage over Mankind. No longer would individuals be subjected to Satan’s accusations and blackmail. Christ had paid sin’s price and cleansed the believer (Colossians 2:13-15). To top it all the despised Servant has been given the Name above every name and before whom all will bow.

Jesus, I sense, summed all that and much, much more in the phrase: “I seek not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me” (John 5:3o. 6:38. 8:16). That was His Joy! That was what He was bestowing upon His disciples. They too were about to be swallowed up by the bitter darkness when all seemed lost. Yet Jesus still placed within their hearts His fragrant promise of coming joyfulness. John 17 Jesus promised them they would see Him in His glory and be with Him forever. That joy would only be know after the bitter bleakness of the crucifixion and the despair of the following days. Christ’s resurrection fulfilled His promise not only about rising from the dead, but of enjoy His abiding joy. After Pentecost this would be tested time and again, but never conquered.

Joy is the eternal fragrance of Christ’s resurrection. When a person hears the gospel, understands then believes it strongly enough to ask Christ to be Saviour and Lord, joy takes hold. The Ethiopian eunuch In Acts 8 highlights that fact. Across the centuries that joy has never diminished. The Devil’s attempt to cover then smother a believer in a return of darkness to the soul crumbles as it meets the resurrection life of Christ. The energy of joyfulness is sustained by abiding in Christ. This is assured as His word abides in the believer. The unleashing of the joy of the Lord isn’t necessarily an emotional feeling. Rather it is a result of a relationship stemming from doing the Father and the Son’s will.

Next week. What does Scripture record as the unquestionable will of God to all?

©Ray Hawkins 15th October 2017.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Energy of a Joyful Heart.

There is enough going on to crush your spirit. There’s no escaping its ‘arrows’. The effect it can, and usually does have, is to make a person a ‘punctured tyre.’ Sure you can keep going, but the movement is hard work and ultimately damaging. The writer of Provers summed it up this way:  A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.’ Proverbs 15:13. He also wrote in 17:22, ‘A broken spirit dries the bones.’

We live in a ‘wacky’ world. Do yo agree? Do you find it nigh on impossible to have the inner energy required to create a merry heart that doesn’t evaporate? Sure, we have a pleasant moments which touch us and then vanish. Is there something which will grip us, take root within and revive a broken spirit? If there is, and it has a proven track record, are you interested?

The writer of Proverbs likened it to a merry heart. Trouble is we can be merry one moment and mournful the next.  A far better word which also has its own energy power- plant is ‘Joy.’ The term must be linked to someone, something beyond a nice, fuzzy feeling, otherwise it too will crash and burn. The best example from Scripture has to be Jeremiah. This prophet was energised by joy amidst spirit depressing, ‘bone’ crushing experiences.

This prophet had it tough. Branded a traitor, his sermons wasted on the callous and indifferent and being shoved down a stinking well as a prison should crush the spirit. To top it all off, he witnessed the destruction of his beloved city Jerusalem, then was forced to go to Egypt never to return. What legacy did he leave us to verify the case for being energised by joy in a joyless situation?

The book of tears, Lamentations which is the 25th book in the Bible, reveals the inner energy of joy. This energy is linked with hope grounded in an unconditional promise. Here are Jeremiah’s power-packed words. “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion; therefore I will hope in Him. The Lord is good to them that wait for him, to the soul that seeks him" 3:21-25.

Was the prophet delirious in his brokenness? No! Where then did he rest his heart? On what was his hope built? The promise of Yahweh that the Messiah would come through Israel. No apostasy of the nation, no captivity by Babylon or others, no device of the Devil would prevent what we call the Christmas event. Jeremiah recorded “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” Jeremiah 15:16. He also believed the promise that in the future of the nation. “It shall be to me (God) a name of joy, a praise and honour before all the nations of the earth …” Jeremiah 33:9.

Notice the energy supply line. God’s promises, recorded in the Bible, provide hope which can be ‘eaten’ by faith and create joy. In turn this dissolves the darkness of despair and ‘pumps up the tyre’ of the heart. There is something beyond description when a person today feeds upon God’s Word. In the words of Scripture, ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.’ A faith relationship grounded on the rock of His promise producing hope that energises the spirit.

Next week: What was the joy of Jesus that He promised to share? John 15:11

©Ray Hawkins October 8th 2017.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

health and well-being

Travellers wanting to fly must go through security check points. Electronic surveillance, sniffer dogs and body searches are designed to uncover explosive materials, illicit compounds and dangerous weapons. This is to ensure the safety of others as well as the individual.

The psalmist realised his need to be ‘explosives free’ in his journey through life. “Search me O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts” was his prayer. He wanted God to give him a security check. Why? The reason is quoted by Jeremiah: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (17:9).

In September 2017 a city in Germany had a number of city blocks evacuated. Why? Because a world war bomb was unearthed on a construction site. It was defused. There are many spiritual bombs often long buried in a person’s heart which one day could explode. The Lord is the ‘Bomb’ unearth-er so as to defuse and destroy the destructive devices of the carnal nature. How sad it is to see lives, relationships, fel
lowships blown apart because a person has put up a sign to God ‘do not enter.’

Doctor or other health professionals are there to provide us with a report on our well-being, health and fitness. They also can recommend the treatments for any ailments causing us concerns. The psalmist in psalm 26:2 has asked the Lord to “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.” There are times when we have to summon up our courage to seek a health check. We don’t want to know if there’ something amiss. This can apply to our relationship with God. Such an attitude is self-destructive. We can call Jesus the ‘Great Physician’ but steer clear of His surgery. Trouble with that is, one day we will stand before Him anyway but this time as our Judge.

Christ Jesus also has His health manual for us to do some self-examinations. The Bible is a book for spiritual, moral, mental and relational health and well-being. To disregard it is a sure recipe for unnecessary distress, broken relationships, loss of motivation for worship, witness and walking in truth and righteousness. 2 Corinthians 13:5 challenges us with ‘Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove your own selves.’ We can be in the ‘the faith’ yet not really enjoying it because of some ungodliness. We can also be a ‘virus’ infecting the life of someone in our family or circle of friends because of our mean spirit and flaying tongue. That is dangerous, especially when we worship the Lord and share in Communion. The account in 1 Corinthians 11:29-30 show the personal and corporate ill-health when a Christian is out of godly well-being. That is why we need to constantly obey 1 Corinthians 11:28 ‘Let a man examine himself. And so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.’

There is an increasing tendency for those seeking good health to have a personal trainer. That man or woman will put you through the various regimes to build you up and improve your life. The aim is only achieved as you push through the pain barriers, go beyond what you perceive as your limitations. Your coach is there for your fitness and you must rust him or her. This also applies to our relationship with our spiritual and moral personal trainer. The Holy Spirit has His regime for us to be able to walk the narrow way, stand strong against the forces of evil, and run the race set before us.

That involves kneeling before the Lord in worship, feeding upon His word, drinking of the Living Water, sharpening your relationships with faithfulness. Sometimes the personal trainer will take us through what is felt like ‘the trial of fire.’  Opposition to our faith, hurdles of hardship to jump, mountains of difficulties to climb and valleys of grief and confusion to negotiate. When you emerge from any or all of these you will realise that your personal trainer, the Holy Spirit, has been with you all the way. You may have felt alone but His promise is to be with you all the time, all the way. To use the analogy from Zechariah 13:9, “I will … refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, [you are] my people: and they shall say, the Lord is my God!”

Lord search me! Examine me! Try me! And equip me to be your witness, to walk honourably, to worship you thankfully, to express your wisdom graciously and to express your winsomeness constantly. Amen”
Copyright Ray Hawkins 1 October 2017.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Devil's Love

Sound's strange doesn't it. The Devil loves? We imagine that is an impossibility, but is it? Consider the very basic elements of 'love.'  It includes delighting in something, committed to someone or thing, the pursuit of a purpose and something which arouses the emotions. All of that is what the Devil is capable of.

The difference between his love and Christ's love stems from their very nature. The Devil's is Darkness, Jesus Christ's is Light. The devil love is ego centred and depraved. Christ's love is outgoing and holy. The Devil's titles unmask his character. He hates Christ Jesus and His people. Devil means 'spoiler, destroyer.' The name Satan means adversary. He is also referred to as Apollyon, meaning destroyer and Beelzebub stands for 'Lord of the flies.' (One who breeds on vermin and decay). He is also called the Serpent and the Dragon.

As we live  in a *World under His control we should not be surprised that what he loves predominates society. In this short article only the briefest insights from Scripture can be given. The Devil loves twisting, defiling and thereby confusing **Scripture to a person's mind. Half truths and out of context quotes are his stock in trade. He has formed religious movements on this premise and the occult is his signature expression. Into Christian Denominations Satan infiltrates with his pernicious doctrines strongly stated by Jude's letter. The Devil's hatred for Israel is evident throughout history. Therefore, he will love and use those who deny Israel's right to exist, who deny God has a future for them and who deny the nation of its right to their Land.

Apollyon loves what his servants do even though he knows they are self-destructing. He enjoys seeing ruined lives and gloats over their pitiable state. At this moment as the ***'Serpent'  he is seducing many with terms such as marriage equality, transgender, evolution, power, prestige and the like, He gloats as those who call themselves Christian stand on his side to undermine God's unchanging Scriptures. Then he puts on his 'lawyer's hat' and +accuses them to the Lord God. Being a murderer from the beginning the Dragon loves to maul Christ's people and shred the Lord's written word. The Devil will love people for his purposes with a love which will demean, deprave, deny God's word, disfigure Christ and the cross and ultimately, eternally, destroy the person.

++Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the Devil. Jesus did that at the Cross. By His resurrection power He is still doing it. The best antidote to those whom Satan loves to use to degrade, destroy and kill is the Love of Christ. We have been promised Christ's grace to trample upon and+++ bruise Satan's head. In Christ we are equipped to shatter the Devil's dark and deathly love. By the ministry of the Holy Spirit Heaven's radiance chases the Devil's darkness away. Standing confident in the Truth of God's word we unmask his lies and deceit. 

Christ's love bears the hallmark of the Cross.
Christ's love reverberates with the power of His resurrection.
Christ 's love redeems, transforms, liberates.
Christ's love brings truth, grace, cleansing and fashions you for eternal glory.
Christ's love. Now, that is real LOVE!^

Copy right Ray Hawkins 24th Sept. 2017
*1 John 5:19.   **Matthew4:6.   ***Revelation 12:9. 20:2   + Revelation 12:10.  ++ 1 John 3:8.
+++ Romans 16:20.    ^ Romans 5:8.

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?

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.