17 March 2011

THOUGHT - David's slingstone

David is so often a picture of Christ. He is a good shepherd, looking after his Father's sheep. He was anointed and is a mighty King. He also faced and defeated a strong and powerful giant.

Rounded pebbles suitable for a slingI was half awake one morning, and was brought out of that dreamy state with a sudden understanding that Jesus fired off his slingstone at Calvary and it is still on its unerring flight towards the giant's forehead. There must have been a period of perhaps a second or two between David letting loose the stone and the blow that downed Goliath. During that moment he had no idea that he was about to die. If he thought about it at all, he assumed the little pebble would miss, or if it struck him it would bounce harmlessly off his helmet or breastplate. For a short time he had no idea what was coming.

Like the giant, the evil one knows that something has been done against him but doesn't yet see the full implication. For a millenium or two he has been acting as if he thinks he can escape, but the cause of his final demise is on its way and will assuredly arrive.

A good illustration of this kind of behaviour is Colonal Gaddafi. In fact, we all do it. We carry on as if we will live for ever, forgetting that we might die at any moment. Muammar Gaddafi might die today or tomorrow from a heart attack or a stroke, a traffic accident or an assassin's bullet, a slip on the stairs, a falling tree or just plain old age. Yet he continues to act as if he might rule Libya for ever, despite the certainty that we must all die.

That is the same behaviour we see from the evil one, carrying on as if he may still win. Perhaps, like Goliath, he doesn't fully understand what Jesus, this little 'David', has done; the full implication of the cross. I am sure some things are hidden from him.

But it doesn't really matter whether he thinks he can win or not. What is important is that we know he has lost! We know that if we resist him he will run away. We know that prayer is powerful. We know that the enemy will try to distract us, confuse us, and misinform us. He will try to put doubt in our minds and despair in our hearts. But we also know that the Messiah has won the victory once and for ever. We know that we have a share in that victory. We know that it's a victory over death, but also over the enemy. Even captivity has been taken captive!

HalleluYah!

Rejoice, for Jesus IS Lord and King.

16 March 2011

Messenger in orbit

The Mercury Messenger probe is intended to make a long burn to decelerate into Mercury orbit tomorrow (Thursday 17th March). If successful this should be the start of a year of detailed observations of the innermost planet.

The MESSENGER spacecraftIt's taken the spaceprobe six and a half years to get to the right place at the right time and at the right velocity to make a major 15 minute engine burn for capture into Mercurian orbit.

This is, frankly, an astonishing achievement. Hopefully all will go well and the prime mission will return very large amounts of new and detailed knowledge about the innermost planet.

Read more on these web pages...

10 March 2011

RESPONSE - Seven signs in John

In his gospel, John records seven signs that Jesus gave. They were miraculous acts that made people stop, take notice, and respond. One of them (healing a person born blind) was regarded by the rabbis as a messianic miracle, something that only the Messiah would be able to do. Something they could not ignore.

Ben and CathBen Taylor visited me for an afternoon recently, he was in the area to visit and work with Chris Duffett and I was delighted that he could find time to drop in on his way back to Somerset.

Several times he mentioned the seven signs in John, the link leads to articles on Ben and Cath's blog where you'll find additional references to the seven signs and some examples of how they can be used to help people understand who Jesus is. I believe this is important and I encourage everyone to dig deeper for themselves.

Last year I also wrote about healing the man born blind. As a result of this (and other messianic miracles) the religious authorities were faced with a stark choice - accept Jesus as the Messiah, or reject the plain facts.

I'd like to go through the seven signs in John with others as and when there are opportunities. We're planning to do some Bible study in a local coffee shop and maybe this will provide some possibilities. We'll see.

Meanwhile, a very good place to begin would be to read the CMA Resources page on the seven signs. It explains everything clearly and concisely. Also, check back on Ben and Cath's site from time to time for more examples of how they are using these signs to spark meaningful conversations and simple Bible studies with people.

The Great Commission is to go out into the world and make disciples - and this is a great way to do just that. It's not the only way, of course, but if you're thinking, 'How do I begin?' this is a good idea to consider. Read about it, pray about it, and if the Spirit leads you to do it - go for it!

See also: Seven signs in John - a series

05 March 2011

THOUGHT - Through love or by effort?

Some writers and commentators tell us that we can do nothing unless we know Christ's love for us and rest in that love. Others tell us that we must make an effort and try harder to think and act in accordance with Biblical teaching.

Bread like a stoneHow are we to square this circle? Who is right?

I want to suggest there's a false dichotomy here. Rather than a choice between alternatives we are seeing two sides of the same coin. The debate is much like those about faith versus works or grace versus law. We are invited to take sides, we are encouraged to come down on the side of faith or of works.

But of course if we have faith it will result in works because works are the evidence of an underlying faith. Faith without works is impossible, works without faith are futile. Works springing from faith are like loaves of good, wholesome, energy-giving bread. Works alone are like stones in the desert, deceivingly loaf-like but devoid of life.

It's true that 'we love because Christ first loved us' (John 4:19).

Yet Paul urges the Ephesians to 'live a life worthy of [their] calling' (Ephesians 4:1). And in verse two he explains what this means - humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love. In verse three he tells them 'to make every effort'. Paul makes it perfectly clear that there is a real bond there (the automatic part) but some level of effort is required from us. Read the entire chapter with this in mind.

How many of us live like this? It's important to make the attempt even if we seem to fail. If we truly know Christ and are really aware of his love for us we will automatically do the right things. But our conscious mind is required as well, an effort of will and purpose.

Christ descended and therefore grappled with temptation just as we do. We can see how the love of the Father constantly guided and motivated him - 'I do only what I see the Father do' (John 5:16-30). But we also see how he was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) and how he wrestled in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). He moved in his Father's constant love and approval, but he also had to make an effort of will. Because he is both 'up there' and 'down here', he has grappled with life just the same as we do, yet he is also able to reach us with heavenly truth and love. He is in both places and therefore we can triumph in him in both places - now and eternally, in the world and in the Kingdom of heaven.

And out of his ascended bounty, in order to enable his church to function in a fallen world, he is able to give us apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. The very purpose of this is that we will all reach unity in the faith. All - not just a few, not just the majority - all!

Notice too that we are all to reach unity in two realms - the realm of faith (believing and doing) - and the realm of knowing Christ (trusting and resting). Effort and knowing his love. Our part and his part. Victory needs both!

And see the results! We will be fully mature, not tossed on the waves and blown by the wind but speaking the truth and growing into the Head. We grow from him, built in love, each of us working.

Built in love and doing our work - both!

03 March 2011

Little Paxton - brothers in the Spirit

< 28th February | Index | 31st March 2011 >

We met at Jim's tonight. After chatting for some time over tea and coffee, Sean read a verse from Ephesians and set us off on what quickly became the theme for the evening.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

Walking in woodlandWe have a new life in Christ that is a fundamentally spiritual life. I shared the thought that we know this in our minds and we feel it in our hearts, but sometimes we don't walk it in our lives.

Jim described some of the practical work that he, Rob and another friend Alan are planning to do in St Neots. This will focus particularly on helping some of the lonely people in society, people with few or no friends and family around them.

As we spent more time in prayer I felt the Spirit was saying, 'I will make you blind and deaf to the things of this world, but seeing and hearing to the things of the Kingdom of heaven. You will be like blind and deaf people walking along the pavement. It would be easy to step out in front of a car, or walk into a post. But I will guide you and keep you safe. You need to become blind and deaf to the world but fully see and hear the Holy Spirit.

We read Ephesians 2, particularly verses 6 and 7. But going back to it later, the entire chapter seems very relevant.

We felt that we were especially privileged to know one another as friends, and that we are all growing by spending time together. Jim read Romans 12:10 which sums up this idea very clearly.

< 28th February | Index | 31st March 2011 >

02 March 2011

RESPONSE - Death of Pakistani minister

Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minorities Minister in the Pakistani cabinet, has been murdered by gunmen. An organisation called Tehrik-i-Taliban has claimed responsibility.

Satellite view of IslamabadThere had been death threats against Shahbaz Bhatti and he had chosen to ignore them. He recorded his thoughts about this four months ago in an interview. He was a brave man, a follower of Jesus (Isa), and he preferred to die rather than compromise his views and policies. More details and a video of the interview are available on the BBC website.

What are we to say about this assassination? Are the murderers so afraid of an idea that they must kill to prevent it spreading? Don't they realise that where one dies a hundred more will spring up? Don't they recognise that the Most High calls us to bless and not to curse, to love and not hate?

Violence (and particularly killing) is clearly against the law and will of the Most High worshipped by Abraham (Exodus 20:13). Tehrik-i-Taliban killed Mr Bhatti because they believe he blasphemed their prophet. But which is worse - to disobey the Most High or to blaspheme against a prophet?

Another of the prophets of Islam (Isa, Jesus, Yahshua) shouted out these words (John 12:44-50)...

Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.

Shahbaz Bhatti loved and followed this same Jesus and is therefore also my brother. My sincere condolences go to his family and friends. He was a man of sincerity and high principles. I know Shahbaz would have forgiven his murderers. I pray that they will come to know Isa for themselves and that their hearts will be open to receive him.

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