How to Pray

It might sound strange, but this is a very real question. “How do I pray?” Even some of the most seasoned Christians have this question in their minds. There is no shame in this. To some people, praying in an affective and comfortable manner comes very naturally. To others it can be a behaviour which is not so comfortable. After all, we are not just talking to just anyone. We are talking to our creator. It can be difficult balance to strike. On the one hand, it is difficult to not to feel just a little afraid when realising that we are being called to speak to the Lord of Lords, the creator of all things. But on the other hand, we also know that God is calling us into relationship with him. He wants us to approach as a child to their loving and ever patient father. 

Consider the apostles. These were men who knew the physical Christ. They ate with him, walked with him, had a social life with him. They were Jewish men, raised in the traditions of the Jewish faith. They were no stranger to Yahweh. However, even they asked Jesus how they should pray. In the book of Matthew, the apostles ask this very question. In chapter six Jesus answers:

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:5-10, 12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This scripture is where we received the “Our Father” prayer. You see, God wants our prayers. He wants us to call on him for all we need in this life. Certainly he wants our reverence and our respect for exactly who he is, but he also wants us to be transparent and communicative. 

God is many things. He is a creator, the king of kings, the restorer of the lost, a forgiver of sins, a healer of bodies and souls; but let’s not forget that he is also a parent. In sacrificing his only begotten son on the cross, he has shown us that he wants us to be welcomed into his holy family. He never wanted slaves. No, he wants family. He wants friendship with us. His love is deeper and his mercy greater than we could ever know. Let’s never shy away of from speaking to the Lord as our father. In Isaiah chapter 9 God is referred to as “wonderful counselor”. There is no topic too upsetting, no drama too painful, that he cannot help us through it. 

I encourage you to always take time out of each day, to quietly approach the Lord for a chat. 

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Let’s pray together!

Lord, thank you that you are always there for us. Even though in these times we cannot see you, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can speak to you and feel your presence in the quiet moments. Thank you that even though the world grows colder in these strange times, we can rest in the secret place of the most high, Jesus Christ. Please always guide us, and teach us how to live in your way. Please always heal our pains and lead us in how to be in ever increasing closeness with you. All our love, father. Amen.

Human Nature and the Gift of Freedom

One of the areas in which humanity struggles with the nature of God is in understanding the age we are in. When God created man, he didn’t make us to be powerless in our submission to Him. No, he created humanity in his own image! He made us to be men and women with free will. He wanted us to know Him, to get to know Him, and to choose of our own free will to honour Him and serve Him with our lives. 

I have often heard the argument from both Christians and non-believers as to why Satan was even in the garden with Adam and eve. They asked the question why if God knew that Adam and Eve would be tempted by evil, why was that scenario allowed to have a place? After all, was it not Adam and Eve’s fall which led to the ultimate fall of man? Was this not the first event that said emotion everything that followed, which led us to require a saviour in the sacrifice of our precious Jesus Christ? Yes, it is true that this was the first event that set all other things after in motion, however we are trying to humanise God in His behaviour. As human beings we are limited in our perception of only what we can see, what we can smell, what we can touch, and what we can experience in the physical. I think sometimes we forget that God does not operate dimensionally the same way the human beings do. Consider the following passage from Isaiah 55:8-9:

““My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:8-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

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We may never completely understand why the path of humanity started out the way that it did in the garden, but what we do know is that God has a plan in each and everyone of us. Through his ultimate act of love, sacrificing his only begotten son Jesus Christ on that rugged cross; God revealed to us how dearly and completely He loves His creation. I am a parent, and I cannot imagine allowing a single hair on my child’s head to be harmed deliberately. I feel bad enough when I tell her off for doing something wrong, or disobeying my wife and I. God is not too dimensional. He is not temporal. He is not like human beings. He is a tri union God, consisting of father, son, and spirit. Through himself and within himself He gave his life to save ours. And even though in this age in which we live, the age of grace, we are still flawed in our human nature; we have been acquitted of the sinfulness of that nature. 

Consider the Old Testament for a moment. When believers in God were under the law, there were a large array of sacrifices and rituals that we had to undertake in order to clear ourselves of sin and atone for our nature. In the New Testament, after the sacrifice of Jesus Christ our saviour; it is He who payed the ultimate price. It is He who bore the weight of sin for all, so that even though we fall short everyday; we carry a gratitude within us which cannot be measured. This does not give us a false security to go on sinning, but instead drives us to live a life as pleasing to our Heavenly Father as possible. All sin is offensive to God. Not just the big ones. We are by nature, sinful and will never in our own ability measure up to what God actually expects. But He did not make us to be slaves, but family. He made us to be His children and His hands and feet in this world. In recognising this sacrifice which He made for us, in pouring out the penalty of death on His own son; we recognise that we cannot save ourselves. 

Consider this scripture from the Book of Galatians:

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Have you ever heard of people referring to church attendance or confession of sins as “wiping their slate clean”?  This is not the correct way to look at it. To understand this age of grace in which we live, that is post the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord, is to know that your slate as it were has already been wiped. All of your sins past, present, and future have been put away. This does not mean that we are free to sin, knowing that we have been justified by our Lord. Not at all. It is to be grateful that we have been justified, and each time we sin, is to say to our Lord that we are sorry and that we are grateful that for what He has done for us. The goal of our lives should always be to not sin at all, and to live in a manner which is pleasing to God. We should always be praying to our Lord that each day we shall be less like us, and more like Him. The life of Jesus Christ when He was a man on this earth, should be always seen as an example of how we must live each day. Loving our enemy. Being generous to one another. Treating ourselves with kindness and treating others with that same kindness. This world holds the children of God to a very high standard, and shouldn’t they do that? They are always looking for mistakes made by believers. I guess what they do not understand is that we are not perfect just because we believe in God. However, we have found a relationship in our creator, and it is something which has changed us and wants us to draw closer to Him. 

I want to conclude this message with the following verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This is how we start our relationship with God. Why? Because in this acknowledgement we recognise that it is through Jesus’s death and resurrection, that we are indeed saved. 

Let us pray. 

“Dear Heavenly Father , I thank you that you paid the ultimate price for our sins through the sacrifice of your son, Jesus Christ. I thank you that on that day heaven and earth made contact. The vale was torn and we were saved from the powers of the evil one in this world. I thank you that you so love us that you gave your only begotten son so that we might have this beautiful relationship with you.  Thank you that through this gift you have brought us closer to you, cleansed us in your blood and made our lives unending. Please always guide us in your ways, and lead us in a way of life which blesses others and makes you proud. Please always watch over us, guide us and keep us. May your face shine upon us everyday, as we wait for your return. In Jesus Christ’s mighty name. Amen.”

The Ultimate Act of Love

As with every Easter period, the true believer in Christ takes stock in the gift which we have been blessed with through the Lord our God’s ultimate act of love.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

‭‭John‬ ‭15:12-13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jesus Chris, only begotten son of the Father, suffered a death which He did not deserve. Even Pontius Pilote, of the Roman government did not see why he was being asked to level such a harsh penalty on an obviously innocent man. It had been prophesied in the Old Testament that the messiah would give his life to save His people.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment which brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:5 NIV

So why did Jesus have to do this for us?  Why was this the only way for man to be connected for all eternity with their creator?  Because God’s ways are not our ways. We can’t try to understand the ways of the heavenly kingdom through the earthly eyes of man. In Isaiah 55:8, the Lord our God says:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

You see, our God is building His kingdom. Here in this age, right now, The Lord is gathering His people.  How could we ever understand the depths of the love of our God if He did not demonstrate it through the ultimate sacrifice by fulfilling His law at a level we never could.  He gave His only beloved. He crushed His son in our place. Now, when God looks upon us, he doesn’t see our iniquity. He sees His beautiful child.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of a God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 NIV

No amount of good doing on our part could ever equal the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us on that rugged cross, but because He so loves us, we so love Him and are empowered to live as best we can for His glory. There’s an old gospel song which goes: “To be like Jesus. To be like him. All I ask, is to be like him.”  So let’s reflect during this Easter period on everything we have been given. That we are now free from sin, free from Satan, free from death and forever in the hand of God because of the sacrifice of of our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ.  Let’s pray.

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Dear Heavenly Father,

No words will ever be able to completely explain how much your love means to us. Thank you for saving us and welcoming us home into your kingdom. Thank you for not giving up on us or leaving us behind, but instead paying the ultimate price so that we could know you personally and have eternity in your loving embrace. We are your people, and you are our God.

Forever and always. Praise be to you Lord God.

Amen

The Great Commission Vol. 2

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

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“Even until the end of the age.”  Isn’t it interesting how the time in which we live now is in fact the same age in which Jesus Christ gave His Disciples this directive? Jesus told us that He would be with us always.  How could this be, when He was soon to return to His kingdom?  Through the gift of the Holy Spirit!

““I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.

“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.”
‭‭John‬ ‭14:18-20, 25-27‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Have you not heard that still, calm voice in your heart when you need to make a decision which may affect others? That’s calm voice inside which convicts you when you have gone against God’s will? That beautiful moment when you feel at peace and loved in the most isolated moments? If so, then you know the presence of the Holy Spirit.

So Jesus directed us to go out into the world to make disciples of all nations.  How do we do this? In Matthew 11:15, it states “whoever has ears, let them hear”. It is all about Christians sharing their life experiences with the world.  The world may not always want to hear. In this fallen world, we may find that more times than not; we will even be criticised and persecuted just for even mentioning that we are believers. But don’t worry, this is part of the gig.  Some of the most influential people in history were hated for “going against the grain”. If the meassage of salvation through Christ was easy to grasp, there would be no need for people to explain it to others.  It would simply be published once and people would automatically perceive.  We are one with Jesus in this struggle for humanity.  In John 15:18, Jesus explains how they hated Him first without reason. In this same way, we will be hated.

So we talk about our faith proudly.  Not in a manner of arrogance or fundamentalism. We explain our relationship with the living God, in relation to the real world in which we live.  God is love.  God is the creator and reason for all powers and forces which hold us in this age. In trying to break outside of the world view of a fable God, and explaining how so many truths have been revealed to us through the power of the Holy Spirit; God can work in the minds of those who are willing to consider the possibility…..of Him.

Ever find yourself in a situation where you fear that you will be made a fool of? That when faced with questions about your faith, you will not know how to articulate it just right? Trust me, I have been there a thousand times.  Fear not! The Holy Spirit has you covered.  Take a moment for yourself.  Just a few moments when confronted in this way, and ask the Holy Spirit for the words.  They will come. Calm your mind and know that no matter what doubt may be in this world, He has you in the palm of His hand.  He has counted the hairs on your head.

“For I will give you the words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” Luke 21:15 NIV

And, believe when I tell you that there will be power in those words which break down barriers.  I have seen this first hand, and am grateful for the intervention of the Holy Spirit!

The Great Commission Vol.1

“So, my son, throw yourself into this work for Christ. Pass on what you heard from me—the whole congregation saying Amen!—to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others. When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain.”‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭2:1-7‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Good morning Saints! I have written many a message referring to the great commission of the people of God. How Jesus Christ in the flesh, instructed each and everyone of us who carry the cross; to go out into the furthest reaches of the world and make disciples. I’d like to continue to focus on this commission.

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The world is large. And let’s face it, it’s getting larger and more complicated by the minute. But these are amazing times of opportunity in which we live.  Carrying out the great commission of Jesus Christ is able to be achieved in so many ways now. Face to face. Online. In the house of God. Through actions. In the way we live our lives and treat others. Individually, we are more connected to each other than ever before.

As Paul says to Timothy in the above letter, carrying out the great commission is not always going to be hand shakes and high fives. Sometimes it’s going to feel a lot like rejection. People aren’t always going to like what you have to say when you talk about living for God, but they have the choice to listen, or walk away. This is the race we all run in this life. We live this life with our eyes fixed on the creator, and our knowledge of the life to come after; or we reject the truths such things hold.

However, never let the doubt and criticism of anyone ever deter you from continuing to live each day with the goal of sharing the love and peace and truth of Christ with those who will listen.

God bless!

Hearing the Voice of the Father

One of the most difficult breaches to gap in this world, between the follower of Christ and the lost; is proving that Christianity is not religion.  It is in fact relationship.  There are plenty of people in the world today who don’t rule out the possibility of a creator, but to go in search of the true God, to find Him and to form a dialogue and connection with Him is an entirely different thing.

This is what makes the non-believer so cynical.  They see Christians as fools who simply feel comfort in thinking that there is a God and that everything just falls under Him and then we don’t have to think.  Nothing, in fact, is further from the truth for the engaged believer.  There is nothing “simple” about a life in the study of the gospel.  In James Chapter 4 and verse 8, we are instructed to draw near to God.  Why?  Because when we do, He will draw near us.  “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8 NKJV)

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When you actively pursue God and commit yourself to His teaching, He will reveal things to you that the world cannot.  Personally, one massive thing God showed me when I chose to follow Him, and soon discovered how real and absolute is; is that there are in fact two levels to this life we live.  There is a physical world and a spiritual world.  The spiritual world directly influences the physical world.  Behind every world event.  Behind every national leader.  Behind every influencing factor of our world from the media, to entertainment, to music.  Word, both written and spoken.  The way people feel towards God and towards His faithful people.  Every aspect of life on this world is directly influenced by either the forces of God or the forces of Satan.  Now, I could go on and on and deeper and deeper into the things of this nature which God has revealed to me; but I don’t want to get off on too much of a tangent in this message.  My point is, that the closer you draw to God, the closer He will draw to you.

In the book of 1st Kings, the voice of God is referred to as a “whisper” or “still small voice” (depending on your translation).  Have you heard it?  Have you ever been in a situation of concern or confusion or question and heard that calm voice break through the clouds and speak to you?  It comes from deep inside, which makes sense as the Lord makes His home within the souls of the believers.  It’s usually unexpected and logical beyond doubt.  It comes suddenly and peacefully.  The answer to the question that has been keeping you up at night.  The realization that the mountain you face is entirely able to be conquered?  This is not our own entire dialogue.  We already know how we sound, don’t we?  It’s different.  It comes when we are in need and need the guidance of a parent and the one who loves us more than any human being ever could.  To find this connection with God, it requires surrender.  It requires looking at the state of the world around you and realizing particular things.  How beautiful and perfect nature is all on it’s own.  Without us.  How amazing the design of the human body and all living things are.  How limited humanity is in it’s capabilities.  We can only really influence what things we have been given authority over.  It is then that you start also noticing the things that are not of God in this world.  The non-believer will always try to stumble Christians with questions like: “If your God is real, why do so many bad things happen in the world?”  This is actually a reasonable question from their perspective.  Once you study the gospel and allow God to open your spiritual eyes, you will be able to answer this question and questions of the like.  You will realize that there are levels to this life and ages which precede each other.  And, in this age humanity has been placed on the earth with the right to make its own decisions.  We have been given authority to change and influence the world we live in and make up our own minds.  You will also have it revealed to you that in this age there are both heavenly and satanic forces at work behind the scenes.  It is a war that wages both in the physical and the spiritual.  Why do we blame God when evil happens?  Why do we not blame Satan?   Why is the world so opposed to the Christian God, but so accepting of any other god?  Why don’t they ask themselves this question?  This battle wages only because it serves the ultimate plans of God.   Satan will never overcome God.  It carries a deep theology (a discussion for another time), but Satan is in this world because this is his sentence.  He is given a short leash because the Lord God allows it for the duration of this age.  This earth is a proving ground for the believer.  We are to be tested.  We are to overcome the weapons which Satan uses against us.  We are to be members of the Kingdom of Heaven and to be the ever-growing outpost of Heave here on earth.  Defined in the spiritual battle which we fight every day.  Purified by the fire of God we will be strong enough when we lean into God’s teachings and call on Him to guide us in every aspect of our lives.

Have you not heard the voice of the accuser as well?  That voice that places a scenario in your head of loss or defeat.  That thought of “what would I do if I lost them?”  Or “how would I handle it if…?”  Know who that is and take that thought captive.  The Lord your God is your strength.  This life will not always make sense.  It will not always be fair, but there is something which the enemy can never take away from us: Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

“See, it is I who created the blacksmith

who fans the coals into flame

and forges a weapon fit for its work.

And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;

no weapon forged against you will prevail,

and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.

This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,

and this is their vindication from me,”

Isaiah 54:16-17 (NIV)

So I urge you to lean into God.  Don’t surrender knowledge, but open your hearts and minds to levels of understanding beyond human capability.  Believe me that you will be surprised at who you find and ways in which you will grow.  Can I pray for you today?

Lord,

We lean into you today.  No matter what we face in our lives, we chose to focus our hearts on you.  We pray that in everything we go through, you will guide us and teach us.  You will hold our hand when we need your direction and carry us when we feel like we can’t go on.  In the midst of every aspect of our lives, we make you the centerpiece and the light on light in the darkness.  Please make us the city on the hill which the world cannot ignore.  Make us everything we need to be in the age in order to be your Kingdom on earth and strong enough to run this race until you return.  Open our eyes to the things unseen.  Make us joyful for what makes you joyful.  Break our hearts for what breaks yours and make us strong enough to stand against the agenda of the enemy in this world.

Thank you Father.

Amen.

Jesus Christ: A Man of Sorrows (Part II)

Today I’d like to continue my discussion on the person of Jesus Christ.  In part 1 I spoke on why the Bible, in the Book of Isaiah; Jesus is referred to as a man of sorrows.  Why He carried such a heavy burden.  I goes far beyond the physical realities of the crucifixion.  It goes far beyond the physical scars.  It is also sorrows of heart break.  Watching the world you love in the grips of Satanic torment.  Seeing the human capacity for so much love and so much tolerance, along side it’s capacity to hate and destroy.

I would like to continue speaking on this topic this week, but I would like to discuss the levels at which Jesus Christ was and is entirely humble.  As human beings, many of us find it difficult at the best of times to humble ourselves.  We often find it all too easy to be arrogant or to hold ourselves over others due to accomplishment of success.  How quickly we lose sight of the fact that we have nothing which was not gifted to us by God.  And our accomplishments and blessings are only and always to glorify God’s love in our lives.  Right?  I think in order to fully understand Jesus’ capacity to be humble, we must first recognize His authority.

Attachment-1

We often think only on terms of what we know about our own world, but think very rarely about the realities of the cosmic garden in which we have been planted.  Jesus’ authority reaches far beyond this world, this solar system and even this physical realm.  There are a number of scriptures and verses throughout the Bible which reference the authority of God and of His son Jesus Christ.  I have quoted these below and made bold, any particular sections which draw attention to Jesus Christ’s authority.

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:16-20 NIV)

Consider for a moment, what Jesus meant when He said that “all authority in heaven and on earth” had been given to Him.  Remember that before there was planets.  Before there were stars.  Before there was matter and anti-matter there was God and there was the Kingdom of Heaven.  The Kingdom of Heaven is not of this realm.  It is the unseen to us (for now).  But in all of its divinity, Jesus Christ reigns over it all.  Next quote:

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (Philippians 2:8-11 NIV)

The Roman government tried to intimidate him. False religion tried to silence him. The devil tried to kill him. All failed. Even “death was no match for him” (Acts 2:24 MSG).

Jesus “disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross” (Colossians. 2:15 NLT)

“Two sparrows cost only a penny, but not even one of them can die without your Father’s knowing it” (Matthew. 10:29 NCV)

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”  (Colossians 1:15-20 NIV)

Consider specifically the above quote form Col. 1.  “For in Him all things were created”.  And you might say, that this is referring to God, to Jesus’ Father; no Jesus Himself.  But don’t forget that in John 14:9, Jesus told His disciples that if they had seen Him, then they had seen the Father.  And also, remember that our God IS three-in-one.

  1. The Father
  2. The Son
  3. The Holy Spirit

One last quote on Jesus’ ultimate authority.  In reading this one, I find myself wondering why Satan ever believed He could be God.  Why he ever thought there was an equal plain on which they both stood.  Satan was created by God, as an angelic being.  The angels, as humans, were all created by the Lord’s capacity to design and build.  As you read the below, consider how much we still need to learn.  How much the Lord still needs to teach us.  We need to draw near to Him and allow His understanding to grow our minds to meet the the challenge of even attempting to understand the meaning of it all.  The Holy Spirit spoke to me while I was writing this Bible study this morning.  He said to me: “There are rain drops falling on worlds on the other side of the universe; which I have counted.”

All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence” (Ephesians 1:21-23 MSG)

So why am I drawing so much attention to Jesus Christ’s authority?  Because it all relates back to the burden He carried here on earth.  Imagine having heavenly knowledge of all of the things described above, but not being able to talk much on it, for the audience would not be able to handle the depth of it.  I believe this is why Jesus often demonstrated righteousness through stories.  He used scenarios to describe the correct way to relate to each other.  He used parables to explain how to love.  He used the power of the Holy Spirit to break our hearts for that which broke His, and bring joy our hearts for the things which brought joy to His.  Jesus humbled Himself to be whipped, shacked and brutally executed at the hands of those, who’s authority would have seemed ludicrous to Him.  Men of flesh and blood, wearing crowns fashioned by man.  He had to live by the limits of this world, in this age in order to save His followers from the one whom has been sentenced to dwell here in this age: Satan.  He saw the battles of the spirit, in the physical; with human eyes.  God, born as man so that man could know their God.  What I would give just to hold His hand for an instant.

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So I pray that we will draw near to God.  Read the gospel and reflect on it everyday.  There was much that Jesus could have told us in His time here on earth, but could not as we were not yet ready.  But in John 14, we see how Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit (His Advocate) to teach us and prepare us for His return and the age to come.  The power of the Holy Spirit reveals more and more to us the more we call on God and ask for His guidance in this life.  He IS the way, the truth and the life.  He is our life blood, our oxygen and our guiding light.

I pray that this message has blessed you today.  May God bless you and keep you, all the days of your life.  Amen.

Jesus Christ: A Man of Sorrows (Part I)

Today I have woken up with the need to talk about the person of Jesus Christ.  Born of man, from another realm.  The mighty name of “Jesus Christ” has defined our world on so many levels.  Born as man over two thousand years ago, the message of Jesus has transformed the world and is, in many ways; more influential today than it was in the days that He was flesh and walked upon the earth.

Even though there are forces of Satan in this world that would like to see the message and the church and the people of Jesus Christ, disappear into history and become nothing; the power of the story of Jesus continues to transform lives and save souls everyday.  It is a perfectly positive message, so we should ask why the secular world wants so much to destroy it.  Hmm.  A Bible study for another day.

Jesus Christ was spoken about in prophecy hundreds of years before He was born to His Mother, Mary more than two millennia ago.  The Book of Isaiah is estimated to be written between 700 and 800 BC.  There is a profound scripture in Isaiah which described Jesus Christ vividly.  The scripture is Isaiah 53, and it is quite long.  Please read all the way to the end.

Who has believed our message

and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,

and like a root out of dry ground.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,

nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by mankind,

a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.

Like one from whom people hide their faces

he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain

and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,

stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to our own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,

yet he did not open his mouth;

he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,

and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.

By oppressiona and judgment he was taken away.

Yet who of his generation protested?

For he was cut off from the land of the living;

for the transgression of my people he was punished.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,

and with the rich in his death,

though he had done no violence,

nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,

and though the Lord makesc his life an offering for sin,

he will see his offspring and prolong his days,

and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

After he has suffered,

he will see the light of life and be satisfied;

by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,

and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,

and he will divide the spoils with the strong,

because he poured out his life unto death,

and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sin of many,

and made intercession for the transgressors.

Jesus Christ: A Man of Sorrows.  Why was Jesus a man of sorrow and pain?  AT first thought, the answer to this question seems quite obvious.  He suffered a crucifixion.  Yes, however it goes much further than this.  Consider Jesus’ life on earth.  If God wanted to, He could have sent His son as a supernatural force on earth.  He could have sent Him as He is described in the final book of the Bible: The Book of Revelation. (See Revelation 19)

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He could have arrived with fire and the kind of entrance that makes all men fall to their knees and awe.  But Jesus was born to a modest couple, in a place where cattle spend the night.  He is from a realm of the unimaginable and the immeasurable, but was born with flesh and blood, skin and bones just like you and I.  He worked a job, and paid His taxes.

Why is the fact that Jesus Christ was born as a man, relevant to what made Him a man of sorrows?  Jesus was made to feel what it was to be human in a fallen world.  At any time, He could have called on the forces of Heaven to deliver Him, and Satan did test Him to do this (See Matthew Chapter 4); but He was here for a greater purpose.  Jesus knew that He was here to introduce us to His Father’s kingdom, and to cleans us of sin.  He knew that if He allowed Himself to be blemished by sin, He would no-longer be suitable to be a clean sacrifice to His Father for our iniquities.

We have all been tempted, haven’t we?  Tempted with fame and fortune.  Tempted with sex and lust.  Tempted with feelings of ecstasy and pleasure.  We have all fallen at one stage or another.  Sin is sin, regardless of how severe on seemingly harmless it may seem at the time.  So was Jesus tempted?  Hard to know exactly how He felt in moments like we see described in Matthew 4, but it is safe to say that in His humanity; He was able to see how easy it is to give in to temptation.  I imagine there were moments when the pressure was on.  This is why Jesus was born into this alien world as man.  He had to be one of us in order to offer the ultimate sacrifice that a human being can offer: Their own life.  But there was no point in us killing ourselves or allowing someone else to slaughter us in order to repent for sin.  We are born into sin and are therefore not pure enough.  Jesus had to go to that rugged, awful cross as a pure man, and I praise Him everyday for the pain and suffering He went through for a people so undeserving.

Well, it’s been a long Bible study, and only part 1!  Stay tuned for part 2, but for now I would like to end this study with a prayer.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for you love.  Thank you for your mercy.  For this life of freedom in Christ that we, your people now live everyday.  You could have abandoned us.  You could have left us alone in our ways.  You could have cut us off for the things we can be, but instead you made the ultimate sacrifice.  God, you gave your precious, your beloved, your only begotten son.  You sacrificed one who is perfect in your sight, for a multitude who are not.  Jesus Christ, only begotten son of the Father, you suffered, struggled and died for us.  And while even on that cross, you looked down at those who mocked and executed you; with eyes of God and eyes of everlasting compassion.  You defeated Satan.  You defeated death and set us all free from both.  We chose to live for you.  Thank you.  We love you always and forever.

Amen.

Walk in the Flesh. War in the Spirit. (Part III)

In this final portion of my three-part message, I want to talk a little more on the Church’s place in the world.  If you have not yet read parts 1 and 2 of this message, I encourage you to do so as this message will be of more value to you.  At least, I hope you definitely take something positive from it.

So in previous parts of this message I spoke on spiritual warfare.  I described the spiritual battle that all Christians face in this life, and why the battle occurs.  I described how even if there is a physical opposition in our lives, there is more times than not; a spiritual reason which we must recognize.

Eph 6 12

So what is “The Church”?  When I say “Church”, what images come to mind?  If you ask a believer, you may get a few different descriptions.  If you ask a non-believer you may get some entirely different ones.  Is it s building?  Is it a place where people go to worship God?  It can be.  But what is the actual meaning of the word “Church”?  The Church is described in the Bible as several different things.

In Colossians 1:24-27, Paul refers to the Church as the Lords body.

“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Several times throughout the Bible, from Old Testament to the Book of Revelations, God refers to the Church as His bride.  See Isaiah 54:5, Ephesians 5:25, John 3:29 and of course Revelation 19:7-9.

“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.””

The Church is in fact the culmination of all believers.  It is the title given to the population of people who follow and worship Jesus Christ the Father.  I am a member of the Church as I sit here by the river writing this message.  Whether you are standing in the Church building praising God, working, sleeping, or wherever you are and whatever you are doing; you are the Church.  I am your brother.  So why am I describing the Church?  Let me get down to it then.  I am describing the Church because it is important to realize its importance and our place in this world as it is today.

There are parts of the world today, where Christians (Christ Within), are literally slaughtered for their faith and for the one whom they carry in their hearts.  In other parts of the world, the Christians are persecuted relentlessly for their faith.  There are nations that are actively trying to remove God, that is, the Christian God from their society.  They are intentionally making society believe that God is dead and that there is no room for the Gospel in modern-day life.  Children are being ridiculed for reading the Bible.  Christian monuments are being removed from parks and schools.  If anyone carries out the great commission by sharing their beliefs, they are immediately being falsely accused of offending non-believers and people of other beliefs.  People are made to feel guilty for doing what is right by their Christian standards and the secular rules of Godlessness are being cultivated.  Of course, this not true of everywhere in the world, but it is becoming more and more common nowadays.  Satan is working extra hard to lead people away from God, more than he ever has before.  Just look at some of the movie titles coming out these days.  If the entertainment industry is anything to go off, we can see the underlying spiritual battles taking place before our eyes.  One movie will get released which is clearly satanic in origin, whereas a movie about the resurrection of Christ will be produced and released right along side it.

The secular world, and the forces that drive it against God, would like very much to see the Church disappear  into the darkness of time.  But, it won’t.  How do I know this, you might wonder?  No, it’s not just positive thinking and not just a “figer-crossing” exercise.   There is, of course, a biblical president to this truth.  You see, if there were no Christians, no branches of the vine and no congregation of the Church left on the earth; there would be nothing else.  The presence of the Bride of Christ on this earth is the only reason that the game of life on this world continues at all.  A big statement, I know, but it is a truth I have felt God has revealed to us many a time.  It is the reason why we put on the full armour of God.  It is the reason why why stand, completely unafraid.  God wants everyone to have the opportunity to find Him and to come home to the Kingdom at the end of this race.  It is why he gave us the great commission in the first place!

The Great Commission

So as biblical president, I would like to draw your attention to two scriptures.  The first is 1 Corinthians 15:14 (NIV):

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

What does the Apostle Paul mean?  He is saying that if Satan is right.  If Jesus Christ was just a man and he was not raised from the dead, then this life has an end point.  It terminates and ultimately means nothing outside of what we can know as men in the flesh.  There is no spiritual.  Of course, Paul was a Christian, and a mighty man of God, as we are.  He knew in His heart of hearts the truths which The Holy Spirit has revealed to us.  There is no questions.  But to the secular world, who has not excepted Jesus Christ and thus, does not have access to the power of the Holy Spirit, our faith looks foolish.

I want to leave you with one lasts scripture.  This one explains perfectly how the the world we know, continues for the existence and the ongoing growth and maturity of the people of God.  I hope this message has blessed you today.  I wish you all an amazing week and may God bless and keep you and yours.  And, to all my Australian and New Zealander brothers and sisters, have a peaceful ANZAC day.  Much Love and God Bless!

All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.”  (Ephesians 1:22-23 MSG)

Death Loses Its Sting

Resurrection Sunday.  It is the day when believers gather all over the world to give thanks to Jesus Christ The Lord, for the immeasurable gift which He accomplished for us on that rugged cross.

Why did Jesus have to go through persecution, death and resurrection in order for the new covenant to e formed between Heaven and Earth?  It is a question which is often asked by the non-believer, and sometimes even by the believer.  So why was it necessary?

In my previous Bible Study “Where Heaven and Earth Meet”, I referenced Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans – chapter ^ and verse 23:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NIV)

There is a great deal more to this scripture than what it might immediately appear.  When I first stumbled across this verse many years ago, I assumed it meant that if you sin for long enough; you will die.  This is actually not what Paul was saying at all!

In order to understand the meaning of this scripture, you need to break it down.  Firstly, what is a wage?  It is what we are paid in return for what we work at.  The wages of a hard day’s work can be currency.  It can be something material or even the promise of a returned favour.  If we toil at sin, it is repaid by death.  You might now say: “We all die one day.”  Yes, this is true, but again you need to ask yourself what Paul means by “death”.  “Death” is not referencing expiration of our physical bodies.  This is inevitable.  It is referencing separation from eternal life with the creator.  It is referencing a life lived less than could be.  A limited life which ends when our physical body stops.

In John 10:10, Jesus told us why He came to earth.  He told us clearly why His Father sent a Saviour, and not a condemner.

“Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:7-10 NIV)

John 3 16

Death steals and destroys.  Death can be seen in the eyes of the living if the soul is riddled with that which leads to death.  Do you know what I mean by this?  It is the soul which can live forever.  The body cannot.  Even if we found a way to make the human body live forever, is this the “life” we are ultimately meant to live forever?  No.

God’s payment for the sin in this world, is paid by death.  In my last Bible Study “Where Heaven Meets Earth”, I explained briefly how the debt of sin was settled in the Old testament and under God’s old covenant.  It required the sacrifice of a lamb.  The sin of the person was placed upon this sacrificial lamb, and it’s blood was spilled.  This is what God required.  The wages of sin IS death.  This is where the term “scapegoat” comes from.  It is also why we Christians refer to Jesus Christ as the “Lamb of God”.  Jesus Christ, our beloved saviour, piled the sin of the world upon himself.  And, in sacrificing Himself under the wrath of God; He cleansed us of our sins.  Why do you think Satan was so eager to tempt Jesus Christ in the wilderness?  If Jesus had given into temptation, He would have never been the pure, untainted sacrifice for the sins of man.  Jesus Christ knew this all along.  In rising from the dead and defeating death’s hold over Him with the power of the Holy Spirit; He became a living sacrifice for God.  He cleared our debt permanently and satisfied the wrath of God.  We access this amazing selfless gift by recognizing God’s love and declaring Him as our God!  Now, when God looks upon us, He doesn’t see our sin.  He doesn’t see our faults.  He sees His beloved child.  He sees Jesus.

Romans 10 9

I want to share something with you which is quite personal.  Throughout my walk with Jesus Christ, Satan has often attacked me over the story of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection.  Satan has tried to make the whole story sound false.  He points out things like: “If God is all powerful, why did He need to sacrifice His own Son in order to form a new covenant with His people?  Why didn’t he just decide it and make it so?”  To the atheist and to many mocking parties, this would seem like a good argument.  But doesn’t this sort of questioning sound familiar?  Doesn’t it sound similar to the way Satan questioned Jesus Christ on several occasions?

“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'” (Matthew 4:6 NIV)

Every trick the enemy uses is to direct us away from God and fellowship with Him.  His ways are not our ways.  Humanity is not capable of loving the way He loves us.  We are not capable of omnipotence.  We are not capable of omnipresence.  We are not eternal on our own.  We are not capable of healing with the laying on of hands without Him.  We cannot fathom the ends of the universe and the things unseen.  There are many ways which are not ours, which ARE God’s.  Not everything is for us to know write now, but we DO know that our God is real.  If you pursue Him, and have that amazing God-encounter, you can’t ever question His existence and sovereignty ever again.  The Holy Spirit reveals the ways of God and the ways of Heaven as we read the gospel and reflect upon the things beyond this life.  It is unfortunate that such things cannot be downloaded and simply given to the non-believer.  If they could, would not everyone be a believer overnight?  Isaiah 55 explains God’s ways this way:

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.  Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” – declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:6-8)

There IS a life beyond this one.  This is our time to build the Church of Jesus Christ, to continue the work of His Holy ministry on this earth, and to prepare the Bride (The Church) for His return.  We are to be a shining light in a fallen world.  We are to be the optimism and hope in the midst of the most evil of times.  We are, indeed, to be at peace in the midst of the storm.  We are to live ever day, not with arrogance and self righteousness.  There is nothing we are or have which the Lord our God has not placed into our hands.  What ever the Lord has given us, let’s use it to glorify Him in this world.  Use it to bring the measure of the gospel and the love of God to the world we live in.  These are the days when men shall rise up and woman shall stand strong and be everything they have been called to be by the Holy Spirit.  Let’s go out and change the world!  “…your Kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Let’s pray!

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for for the cross.  Thank you for the three nails.  Thank you for the crown of thorns.  Thank you for the price you paid that we can live this life eternally for you.  Thank you for the empty tomb.  Thank you for so loving us God that you would sacrifice something so unimaginable.  That you would give a gift which cannot be repaid, and will never need to be.  We edge forward Lord.  We run this race and we pray that each and every day, you will teach us how to be more and more like you in this world.  Help us to be a light on a hill in a dark world.  Make us to shine so bright that darkness cannot escape your love within us.  Lead us and guide us in your ways and help us to e trusting and dependent on your for everything we need Lord.  Thank you!

Our Lord, Our Love, Our Life.  Amen.