Sunday, October 31, 2010

Holidays

I have been busy this week getting organized for a couple of weeks holidays so I’ll be missing from here for a short while. I plan to post my devotional thought on Romans 6 before I go. We are planning to catch up with family and friends; do a bit pre- Christmas shopping as well as some sight seeing.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Devotional Thought : Romans 5:17

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17

We can reign in life because of God's abundant provision of grace – grace that is not barely enough or sufficient but abundant and also because we have been given the gift of righteousness. God’s righteousness is a gift because we were not able to earn it. He freely gives it to us through Jesus.

The New Living Translation puts it this way: "for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ."

To reign in life is to live in triumph over sin and death. This doesn’t mean that sin and death have been eliminated, at least not yet. However it does mean we are not paralysed by our sin since we know we have been enabled to live victoriously in the presence of sin and death. Even if there are times when we feel weighed down by our shortcomings we know that this is only temporary and ultimately we will triumph.

This promise is "for all who receive it." We are not good receivers. To receive means to acknowledge we need God’s abundance grace, we need God’s gift of righteousness. We can’t do it on our own. Our own resources are inadequate to "reign in life" so we need to come to God and allow him to empower us, not as a once off event but often.

Many years ago Annie Hawks wrote these words: "I need thee, O I need thee; every hour I need thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee."

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Always a remnant

Today I finished my church history subject. The book we studied was: Shelley, B. Church History in Plain Language. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008 and this is a little piece I wrote about the Middle Ages.

All through the Middle Ages, as the popes were becoming more corrupted by power and money, God still had those who were faithful to Him. There were those like John Wyclif who were prepared to speak out against the unbiblical teachings of the papacy and those like John Hus who were prepared to lay down their lives rather than deny the truth.

God always has a remnant that is faithful to Him. During the darkest periods of church history when there was so much corruption and heresy in the church, there were always some who understood God’s truth. This is a great encouragement to us today when there seems to be so much apathy in the church. We may feel like we are the only one in our community who is going on with God but this isn’t so. God has many who are faithful to Him.

"Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me"? And what was God's answer to him? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace (Romans 11:3-5).

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thankful for the rain

I read this on the web today: "The drought in New South Wales has officially ended after more than nine years, with none of the state's regions drought-declared. At the height of the dry spell in 2003, 99.5 per cent of New South Wales was in drought."

I personally find the whole climate change issue overrated – not non-existent, but certainly overrated. The photo here is of our local weir which a few months ago we were told would probably never be full again or that it would take a decade to fill. Yet here it is about 95% full. For some reason the long term cyclic nature of our weather patterns is ignored.

So while the floods caused a great deal of damage it is lovely to see everything so green, paddocks with grass, water in dams and for that I am thankful.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Devotional Thought : Romans 4:4-5

Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God ... his faith is credited as righteousness. Romans 4:4-5

It seems rather obvious but when we are employed we receive a wage. As Paul explains we don’t consider the money a gift. After all we have given up our time and put in some effort in order to do the work so we expect a wage. It is the employer’s obligation to us. In using this illustration Paul is seeking to make it clear that we do not work for our salvation. Salvation is a gift – not something we are owed because of the time we give up or the effort we put in. It is a gift we receive when we trust God.

Later in the chapter (v.13-16) Paul talks about the difference between a contract (or law) and a promise. In a contract the two people involved each contribute something. When you buy a house one person agrees to hand over a certain sum of money and the other person agrees to hand over the house. Both parties contribute something of equal value. But in a promise one person agrees to something without the other person contributing anything. It is God who makes the promise agreeing to grant us salvation without us making a contribution. Verse 16 says "Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring".

In both these illustrations Paul wants us to see that we receive salvation by faith. We cannot earn it or buy it. Yet perhaps what God asks of us is harder. He wants us to trust, believe, and accept.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Using our freedom to serve in love

I was reading something I wrote a while ago and decided it was worth revisiting. My thoughts were about spontaneous favours vs forced favours based on this verse from Philemon: "But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced" (v.14).

I made these comments: Paul didn't want to presume upon Philemon's kindness. We do others a disservice when we presume upon their kindness or put them under some sort of obligation to assist even if it is for the cause of the gospel. We may see a great opportunity to advance the kingdom but we mustn't pressurize fellow believers into in doing a kindness for someone without their freely given consent. It is God who convicts, challenges and guides His children, not us.

However sometimes I find people’s comments are more interesting than what I write (!) and this was one of the comments:

I came to this realization within the past year and it has alleviated much stress in my marriage when this principle is practiced by both parties. "I would love it if you would help me out by doing this thing for me. But if you do not, I recognize that it is your choice and I still love you and accept you either way and there are no hard feelings." When a person comes at me from this place, my heart's reaction, almost every time, is to then use my freedom to serve them in love.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Devotional Thought : Romans 3:20-21

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. Romans 3:20-21

The purpose of the law is to make us conscious of sin. God knew we would never be able to keep the law, but we did not. Throughout the Old Testament we see the Israelites attempts to keep the law and how miserably they failed. Even the Jews who were working hard to keep the law in Jesus’ times and Paul’s time failed miserably too. Paul wrote: As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you" (Romans 2:21-24)

So the purpose of the law is to show us that we need a Saviour. We can’t achieve God’s standards of holiness by our own efforts. The law leads us to Christ. Paul speaks about this in Galatians 3:24: "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." Christ was the only one who was able to keep the law and we are made righteous by being "in him". This was always part of God’s plan which is why "the Law and the Prophets testify" to it.

Once we have found our righteousness in Christ through faith, we continue the way we began. Paul asks the Galatians "Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?" (Galatians 3:2). We received the Spirit by believing so we continue to live by faith. We don’t rely on observing the law for our justification because we know we simply can’t do it.

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Friday, October 08, 2010

Do it again, Lord

In August 1727 a prayer meeting began with 48 people, 24 single men and 24 single women. It was a 24 hour prayer meeting where they took turns praying around the clock. This prayer meeting lasted for over 100 years and changed the world. The prayer meeting was at a Moravian Church in Herrnhut. Over the years the church would sent out thousands of missionaries and see many come to faith, though the church at Herrnhut would never grow particularly large.

The Moravians had a profound effect on John Wesley. He met them on a boat as he sailed to Georgia in 1736 and was impressed with their faith during a violent storm. Later when Wesley returned to England in 1738 he attended one of their meetings in Aldersgate Street where his heart was “strangely warmed”. He later went to Herrnhut and although he was impressed with many aspects of their Christian life style, he also found them self-righteous and didn’t like their leader, Count von Zinzendorf!

Nevertheless by a small number of people making a commitment to pray the Moravian Church touched the lives of thousands, including John Wesley who in turn touch thousands more. The ongoing results of their prayers affect the church today. The Moravian church and its leadership were not without fault yet God was able to use them mightily to grow His kingdom.

So often we underestimate the power of prayer because we don't see immediate results. However when we consider the long term impact of this small country church our faith will be built up and we will pray, "Do it again, Lord, please do it again."

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Devotional Thought : Romans 2:4

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? Romans 2:4

I really enjoy reading Romans in the Message and this is how Eugene Peterson translates 2:4, “Or did you think that because he's such a nice God, he'd let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he's not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.”

God's kindness is meant to cause us to change. Often we use nagging, threats, or punishment as a way to change behaviour. While these may bring temporary change they will not change someone’s attitude and therefore will not bring lasting change. God wants lasting change. He wants to change our hearts, knowing that once our hearts are right our behaviour will follow.

Jesus was very hard on the Pharisees because they only cared about outward appearances and he had this to say about them: “In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:28).

God’s way of changing people is to show them kindness when they have done nothing to merit it. We cannot justify ourselves before a holy God, not with our penance, or our performance, or our sacrifice. When we are confronted with God’s amazing grace and fully realize that we are recipients of the most undeserved mercy, we are humbled. Humbled because we know we have not done anything that is worthy of God’s favour and then…we change. Change because we are so grateful and want to please the One who has shown us such great love.

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