Monday, 30 June 2008
As human beings we are cracked and flawed, we are not as we were originally intended to be, nor supposed to be. Being a Christian is being part of on going process of transformation in which we become fully human, as Christ was fully human. We are not left guessing as to what exactly this means...Jesus gave us the example of what it means to live a perfect human life. On the final day, all those who put their faith in Christ Jesus, will be transformed and made like Jesus himself; pure, spotless and without blemish. We will be glorified like Christ is glorified. For some the change on that final day will be more significant than others, but nevertheless it will be as complete for all those that belong to God.
Being glorified is not something we undergo for our own gain, but something which points back to God himself; without Christ we would not glorified at all. We are being strengthened and empowered because Christ is 'in us', thus our glory is a testament to the infinite power and grace of the indwelling spirit of the living God. Furthermore we are not giving Christ something he did not have in the first place, as if we giving God 'more glory.' No, we giving back to Christ everything that was already in his possession...we can be said to be the illumination of Christ's glory, a lampstand on a hill. It is as if Christ reveals his glory to us, so we praise him and worship him by changing the way we live, and in turn we reveal more of the glory of God.
Paul writes here with his eyes firmly focussed on heaven. Indeed this is such an important thing to remember for us living the Christian life, it gives us a greater perspective, a persective which is beyond ourselves and our immediate situation. We are living are living for the glory of God, and we are living in view of God one day transforming us once and for all in to who we are destined to be. Colossians 3:1 - 4 puts this whole idea in context very nicely for us... 'Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.'
Take a moment to examine yourself...does your life truly reflect the glory of God? Is your undergoing a transformation or do you feel left stagnant and stationery, in the same place you were many years ago? Do you feel you are overcoming spiritual strongholds and areas you are weak in, making ground for Christ Jesus in your life?
Friday, 27 June 2008
What does it mean for 'Christ to be honoured by the way you live?' Well another way of understanding this verse would be to say 'may Christ be glorified by the way you live.' It is essentially saying therefore everything you do, every thought you have, every word you speak, and every action you make, God should be glorified as a result. C.S Lewis argued that as human beings every decision we make brings us closer to God or further away from Him...I would continue this line further, every decision we makes either brings glory and honour to God or it does not.
Do not take this verse lightly, glorifying God is of utmost importance...in fact glorifying God is man's chief end, everything we do should bring glory to God, it is the principal reason why we were brought into existence and why we continue to exist. God's only purpose in his own existence is to bring glory to himself, it is his nature. Indeed John Piper writes 'God's overwhelming passion is to exalt the value of his own glory?'
In life it to common that we have our own agendas and so it is no different in Christian life . We have our own ideas, opinions and strategies of how things should be done best; all to often we can become preoccupied with these agendas and we lose sight of principal aim...to bring glory to God. In my church we are under going building work and various plans are floating around as how to best carry out this work. Innevitably people will be looking at all sorts of problemsproblems of planning, finance, logistics, building and a whole host of other stuff. My prayer for those in leadership and those concerned with this building project is that they don't lose sight of their principal aim, to bring glory to God.
Why are we doing this structural work? To have more seating space. Why do want more seating space? So we can accomodate more people into our sunday morning service? Why do we want more people? So we can teach them, encourage them, bring them into the presence of God. Why do we want this? So people will learn how to glorify God more and more through, and in their lives!
Let him (man) give God all the glory, who alone makes him to differ from the worst of people in this world and the most miserable of the damned in hell...Let him ascribe all glory to Him whose workmanship we are, created in Christ jesus for good works.' Jonathan Edwards (1703 - 1758)
Thursday, 26 June 2008
Antoine Dufour (guitar) and Tommy Gauthier (violin), feature in this video...both from Canada (the french speaking part) . This combination of instruments is truly stunning...Watch out from 1:56 -2:10, this is my favourite part of the whole composition, a wonderful rising sequence.
This is beautiful blend of both melody and rhythm. Antoine's guitar playing is sensational, his grasp of every aspect of the guitar; finger picking, strumming, harmonics, and his whole very rhythmic approach. The sound of Tommy's violin is incredible; he has beautiful tone. I particuarly enjoy the the way he slides onto the notes giving a very 'folky' sound. He uses a great variety of fast, very rhythmic playing almost bouncing off the strings, in juxtaposition to long sweeping notes. His use of double stopping just shows the great command of the instrument he has.
Wednesday, 25 June 2008
Paul prays from the Christians in Thessalonica that they may accomplish all the good works their faith promotes them to do. That the good works they do flow from a HEART which loves Jesus Christ, and longs to please him. If they are not done out of the heart, in eternitys eyes they mean nothing. Paul makes it clear the honus of the good works is very much placed on them, in the fact that they are something THEY do as a result of THEIR faith. However they are not something they do alone; they are empowered by the spirit of the Living God only in this way will they be truly fruitful and sucessful. Indeed Psalm 127 makes it very clear, 'unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain.'
Paul is assuming therefore, as we spoke about in the third post in this series...an inner transformation in taking place in the hearts of the Thessalonian believers. They are not interested in doing the things they once did before they knew Christ Jesus, but now they have a new set of goals and aims...these a result of their faith. Paul doesn't describe how this should actually work out in practise, but we can infer it means any good work done, not out of the sake of doing good works, but out of faith, empowered by the indwelling Spirit of Christ
Take a moment to reflect on your own life; are you indeed doing any good work for the sake of Jesus Christ or are you concerned with principally your own aims and ambitions? If you are doing good things, are they done out of love for Jesus Christ and love for other people, or they done to seek some other sort of reward? Finally, are you relying on your own strength and will power to accomplish your good works or do you pray this prayer of Paul...that God would give you the power?
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
"The song came and went
Like the times that we spent
Hiding out from the rain under the carnival tent
I laughed and shed smile
It would last for awhile
You dont know what you got till you lose it all again
Listen to the mandolin rain
Listen to the music on the lake
Listen to my heart break every time she runs away
Listen to the banjo wind
A sad song drifting low
Listen to the tears roll
Down my face as she turns to go"
I love it when you find a song which resonates deeply within you....This song surely does for me.
Monday, 23 June 2008
We can best understand this statement initially by asserting what it doesn't mean. We could easily interpret this verse incorrectly, arguing that in some way perhaps Paul was suggesting that the Christians in Thessalonica need to attain a certain level of godliness to become worthy Christians; that they would somehow EARN their right to be called by God. In turn they would be 'worthy of their calling.' This view is certainly not what Paul is trying to communicate...Paul makes it obvious everyone is a sinner and nobody is ever 'worthy to be called' in the sense that they are good enough by their own merit.
In Romans 8:30 it reads 'those he predestined, he also called...' and thus in some way the saving process (salvation) has already begun for those who have been called. If you have been called by God you have been saved (justified)and been made 'acceptable' by him. Thus the Thessalonian Christians could not be counted 'worthy of their salvation' by their own effort because, indeed we can say with confidence they already were saved.
Thus Paulis saying something very different, he is emploring his fellow Christians to live a life 'worthy of the one' who called them. Because they have been called, because they have been made right with God, there should be a profound affect on the way they live their lives. Carson himself writes 'Paul wants us to become what we are not, and prays to that end.' Thus becoming worthy of your calling is essentially an issue of stepping into Christian maturity. Are you going to step into the eternal values God has called you to? Remember citizens of heaven and sons of the most high God live very different lives to those who are not.
Carson indeed makes it very obvious in his text of what it means to step into Christian maturity...'we should become increasingly holy, self denying, loving, full of integrity, steeped in the knowledge and Word of God, delighted to trust and obey our heavenly Father.' This cetainly looks like a daunting list of things to live up to and acheive in our owns lives, however GOD IS THE ENABLER. Paul prays that God would enable us, not that we do it by our own strength but instead we acheive this things by the grace of God working in and through our lives. To step into Christian maturity and become worthy of your calling, is surely to step into a new life in Christ Jesus, which consumes more and more of the freely flowing grace of God each day.
I shall leave you with a final quote to reflect on, take a moment to understand what this fully means in light of what we have already discussed...'The greatest spiritual saints are not those who need less grace, but those who consume the most' (Dallas Willard).
Friday, 20 June 2008
There are two things worthy noticing in the very first sentence, we shall look at one here... Paul prays 'GOD would enable them to live a life worthy of their calling.' What is significant to note is that God is the one who 'enables us', he is the initiator of all things. Just as he is the initiator of our faith, giving us the faith to believe in the saving work of the Cross, so he gives us the power to continue in the course of Christian discipleship also.
Satan would easily tell us the lie that pursuing God is a completely personal endeavour, which is a test of your own will and single mindedness. Paul reminds us that we should pray for God to help us in our journey into his likeness. In fact our success in transformation is utterly dependant on the grace of God in every aspect of our life, enabling us to be transformed into a better reflection of Jesus Christ. To 'go it alone' in our Christian faith is surely to lead to failure. I shall leave with a few useful quotes from the Jonathan Edwards (1703 - 1758) who gives good insight into describing our utter dependence on God.
'You stand in need of daily supplies of God. Without Him, you can receive no spiritual light, or comfort, can exercise no grace, and can bring forth no fruit. Without God your souls will wither and pine away, and sink into a most wretched state. You continually need God's intructions and directions. What can a little child do in a vast, howling wilderness without someone to guide and lead the child in the right way? Without God, you will soon fall into snares, pits and many calamities.'
'After a true conversion, the soul is increasingly aware of its own impotence and emptiness. It is aware of its universal dependence on God for everything.'
Examine yourself for a moment; are you truly aware of own incapability of living the Christian life and in turn aware of your utter dependence on the grace of God? How differently do you think your life would look like without God being the most SINGLE IMPORTANT thing in your life? Would your world fall to pieces around you, or would it continue to look much the same?
Thursday, 19 June 2008
I was motivated to write about this prayer of Paul for the Thessalonians because I was so significantly struck by the content of the prayer itself. In comparsion to my own experience the content of Paul prayer here is so different to those I comomonly hear in church services, prayer meetings and indeed the types of prayers I offer in my own devotional life.
So often I feel my prayer life is narrow, and the things I pray for are seemingly insignificant and meaningless in the broader picture of life. Paul's prayer here blows this narrow view wide open....he prays some large and bold statements about what he wishes God to acheive in the lives of the Thessalonian believers. Firstly that they may live WORTHY of the one who called them, that they would accomplish ALL the good works their faith promotes them to do, that God would HONOURED by the way we live, and that they would HONOURED also.
I believe that so often our prayer life can be so self centred and so limited, we thus in turn limit God's ability to move in and through our lives in a drastic and powerful way...we pray each morning that God would give as opportunity to share our faith with somone, that God would bless our children in the sunday school meeting or that God would give us a new and clear sense of direction in our lives.
Instead of praying these seemingly limited prayers, let us think how differernt would our lives look if Paul prayer in 1 Thessalonians was accomplished in our life? Instead of asking God to bless our children in the sunday school meeting what is we prayed that our children would live a life WORTHY of their calling in Christ Jesus. Or instead of praying for one chance encounter with a person on a train and sharing a little bit about what it means to be a Christian, we prayed that God would give us power to accomplish EVERY good work our faith promotes us to do! Lastly instead of asking God to make purpose clear in our lives, perhaps we petitioned to God asking that, in EVERY word and deed and thought, God would be magnified, that he would receive all glory and honour. Surely God would accomplish all of the those small prayers I described earlier, and immeasurably more than we could begin to imagine!
Sunday, 15 June 2008
Being back home brings mixed feelings...it has been great to see my family and friends again; that has been a real joy but leaving my old capernwray life has proven difficult. Indeed it is very hard when you change so much in 2 months to return back home to people who have not had the priviledge of experiencing what I have. I thank God and praise him for blessing me with that time away, and indeed I am thankful for the trials and tests I will have to face over the next few months and indeed have faced already in just a few days. Indeed James writes 'consider it pure joy , my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds.' Why? 'Because the testing of our faith will produce endurance. This next few months will certainly the test of all Capernwray taught me.
Thus, I look forward to the future with great anticipation as I hopefully begin to absorb all my newly acquired knowledge and experience, incorporating it into my own life. I look forward to this coming year as I will undertake a Frontier Project at Church. I am expectant for God to work greatly in my life and in the life of my local church. This is truly going to be an exciting year.
Friday, 13 June 2008
Moving on to the New Testament we read this in 1 Corinthians 11:23 - 26…’For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed too break, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he too the cup, after supper saying, ‘’this cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as long as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’
In this passage Paul recites some clear instruction as to the meaning of taking Holy Communion. The symbol given here is perhaps the most important symbol of remembrance left to us by God, a representation of the Cross and all it acheived. The symbolism of Holy Communion (we shall decide to refer to it as a symbol in order to avoid an unnecessary debate on the issue of transubstantiation) is immensely rich and portrays a great depth of meaning to the partaker. I believe we only understand the full meaning of communion in actually taking part, not simply reading or remembering of it; the significance is contained within the act of eating and the act or drinking. Indeed such is the case scripture warns those who take part in the act of Communion, but do not know have a right relationship with Jesus, drink judgement upon themselves (1 Corinthians 11:27 - 30). The text says some have even died from unworthily eating the bread and drinking the cup!
We learn therefore that the physical symbol of communion has serious spiritual implications and should not be treated with apathy or contempt. However communion was never intended to be a symbol of judgement and death; the very fact Paul writes this to
Thus communion is a symbol of God’s ultimate victory; it is the climax of all of history…past, present and future. It is a display of God’s glorious grace; it is the divine appointment, the one moment in time in which God would reconcile the world to himself. Indeed communion represents what God had wanted to achieve before the very beginning of time, Ephesians 1 reads this, ‘even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world (1:4)…he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace (1:5 -6)…in him we have redemption through his blood.’ Never forget communion causes us to remember that God, before the world, chose to send his Son to die, he did this not because things had got out of his control and he had to clean things up, but instead it was the display of his glorious grace…it was the best way in which he grace could be put on show for the rest of mankind to see.
Finally communion does not simply command to us to remember Christ’s death, but instead he commands us to physically act it out in our own lives, giving flesh and life to the significance of all the Cross achieved. There is a part of communion which is beyond theology but can only be understood through experience…the strange emotions and thoughts which overcome us and flood our as a result of simply eating bread and drinking wine. I believe communion has a meaning which is deeper than our mental capacity but is something which we feel in the depth of our very hearts, the very depth of our being.
Thursday, 5 June 2008
After leading the Israelites across the Red Sea, God delivers his people again in a supernatural miracle leading them across the River Jordan in similar style to before. God commands them to build a memorial to what He has done through His people, a memorial so that they remember where they came from; that they have been brought out of slavery and into freedom because of the faithfulness of their God. So frequently the Israelites grumbled because of the hardships they had to endure and had forgotten all the Lord had done for them already.
The Israelites were supposed to return to this memorial - called Gilgal - after each battle so that they remember what God has done. After success in Jericho the Israelites forget to return to the memorial at Gilgal and instead they continued straight forward to capture Ai, they in turn suffer a great defeat losing 36 men (Joshua 5:4 - 5). Israel had forgotten to submit to God and instead of moving in God’s power they moved in their own power and in their own strength; they had become proud. After every other battle they returned to Gilgal and showing a metaphorical symbol of falling on their knees in submission to God again, remembering that they must rely on Him alone. Incidentally they find success in so many future battles including victory over Ai.
These truths are so important for Christian living today, in particular the idea of submission. In a modern society which teaches us to survive at all costs and look out for yourself and only yourself, the word submission is synonymous with weakness and defeat. However in context of the Christian life submission could not be a more important idea to grasp and practice. We must continually submit our lives to Jesus and bring everything we have to the feet of Jesus; the man of submission is the man with blood stained knees, kneeling at the foot of the cross. Jesus indeed teaches us that if anyone who wishes to follow him must deny himself and take up his cross daily. Peter Reid comments ‘the fastest way to spiritual greatness is humility, however it is the road least taken.’
Thus submission is not a single act but a continual practise. Just as the Israelites would return continually to the Memorial of Gilgal after every victory, so we must continually return to Jesus with every decision, every worry and every victory we face in life. The sin of pride is what Israel was guilty of in this passage and we must remember the sin of pride is a prevailing issue for both non believers and believers alike and we must do as Peter says ‘Humble yourselves therefore under God’s mighty hand’ (1 Peter 5:6). It’s much less painful to humble ourselves then to let God do it for us, for there will come a day where every knee will bow. Let us not be standing upright in the foolishness of our own pride when it comes to that day, for surely if God so requires He will break our legs and our ankles and bring us to this place of kneeling before Him whether we like it or not. Let us continually practise humility and submission and wage war or our pride.
The Memorial of Gilgal was not just a symbol of submission but a means of reminding the people of God where they had come from; they had been brought of Egypt and were heading for the Promised Land. Thus we too must remember how far we have come from. It seems astonishing that once we were lost to ourselves and dead in our transgressions but through Christ Jesus we have new life, the ultimate display of his glory and grace. The hymn amazing grace expresses this so well… ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like, I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.’ Let us never forget indeed we were blind and lost but now were found in Christ, let us live in constant awareness of the great distance God has brought us, he taken us from the miry clay and set our feet upon a great rock! A writer wrote this about the life of Brother Lawrence, ‘the awareness of his unworthiness, kept him, on one hand, at the ready to accept anything that might lead to his improvement and, on the other hand, ever grateful for the favours and grace God constantly bestowed on him.’ Our salvation is truly the most unforgettable deed; let us never forget to walk in the reality of what it means. So let us ‘‘sing praise to the Lord who reigns in Zion. Tell the world about his unforgettable deeds,’ (Psalm 9:11).
Monday, 2 June 2008
In Deuteronomy 31:9 - 12 it reads ‘So Moses wrote this entire body of instruction in a book and gave it to the priests, who carried the
Sunday, 1 June 2008
Let's look at some scripture...
We witness this idea in the very beginning of scripture in Genesis 9:12 - 15 in the context of Noah and the great flood. We read…’then God said “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and all living creatures. Never again will the flood waters destroy all life.’’ The final sentence places this passage in context of the destruction of the earth and God uses symbol of the rainbow at the end of this time to signify a few key aspects of his character. First of all it shows us that God values life in particular showing God value of individual life; ‘never again’ the text reads ‘will the flood waters destroy of all life.’ He saves only 8 people from which he would grow a great nation, a people set apart from himself. Furthermore it shows the divine purpose God has for these people; he has a task for his people and he sets the apart for his purposes. Secondly it shows God’s faithfulness to his people, that God has established a covenant with his people; a long lasting promise which God wants his people to be in constant remembrance and awareness of. He uses the rainbow to remind his people of this covenant relationship he has with them and everything it means for His people to live in accordance to that covenant relationship. Finally it shows us a symbol or the order and regularity of God in that the coming of the flood introduces the ideas of seasons, a regularity in nature in which all animal and plant life are organised.