Archive for June, 2012

Held in honour

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
Hebrews 13:4

I am a happily married hetrosexual man and I am passionate about marriage. Not just my own marriage, but marriage everywhere. I hold marriage in high esteem. Marriage is to be honoured and respected. It is to be the pinnicle of human relationships because it was the first human relationship. Marriage takes priority and precedence over every other human relationship. That is why society trives on marriage.

Society needs marriage to be held in high honour. This isn’t just for the good of the religious bunch, but for the good of all. When society sees marriage as something costly, important and precious, society does something good for itself. The fact is that marriage represents and produces many good benefits – the merging of resources, safety and security for women, the possibility of reproduction, protection and gender role modeling for children, etc.

They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Mark 10:4-9

In Mark 10, Jesus defends marriage against a teaching that is threatening to devalue marriage – divorce. It was a big deal in those days because there was a big debate going on between two Jewish schools of thought about whether divorce was lawful/permitted. Divorce is the nemesis of marriage, it is anti marriage and divorce is still a big deal today, it hurts the people involved and their children. To Jesus, the problem of divorce wasn’t whether it was lawful or not. It had to do with the design of marriage. 

This is what Jesus says of marriage:

  • God’s creation of distinct male and female designs (biologically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) form the basis for marriage (Mark 10:6).
  • Marriage is the forming of one flesh (Mark 10:8) – as Adam aptly proclaimed over Eve, “bones of my bones, flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23).
  • This new flesh is to the exclusion of others, even previous family (Mark 10:7).
  • Marriage is the work (a gift) of God. Since it is God who joins together, then only God can pull apart – by death (Mark 10:9; Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:7).

In answering the question, Jesus showed that it wasn’t a matter of whether divorce was allowed, it was a matter of how marriage was designed. Divorce was never a part of that design, it was a later concession because of man’s sinfulness. It still is a concession, it was never a part of plan. God’s feelings towards broken marriages is not neutral, it is grief. It is sadness.

Notice that Jesus didn’t compromise or side line marriage. Jesus honoured marriage. He held marriage in high esteem, as something precious and important. He did it by reiterating and upholding God’s design for marriage, the what, how and why of the design. Let me rephrase that and say it again: Jesus honoured God’s design and definition of marriage.

Marriage, means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
Marriage Act 1961 (Australia)

Why should we uphold the Marriage Act in Australia as it stands? Because it upholds God’s design for marriage, which is good for all of society. Laws are for the good of society – to protect society and individuals within society. Why should we stand against marriage equality or homosexual marriage? The fact is that homosexual marriage is an oxymoron. Marriage requires the union of distinctly different things (specifically gender and sexual orientation), homo means same. And more importantly, it threatens to dishonour marriage.

If you are a Christian and wondering what you should do in the face of the call for Marriage Equality, here’s the answer to your question: do what Jesus did. He met their brokenness with truth and grace. He didn’t compromise, nor did he condemn. There are more practical things that we can all do which I’ll blog in the coming days.

Timothy

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. For there is no one here like him who will readily demonstrate his deep concern for you. Others are busy with their own concerns, not those of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:19-21

Timothy was different from others. While others concerned themselves with their jobs, houses, cars, families and hobbies, Timothy was busy caring about others. A man of his young age would have been thinking about a career, finding a wife and starting a family or perhaps travelling the world, but Timothy cared only for one thing: Christ’s kingdom.

Paul relates being concerned with others as being concerned with Christ’s interest. This theme appears often under the banner of loving others.

  • In Matthew 22:37-40, which Jesus sums up the whole of the Law into “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”, he also says that “the second is like it“. The second being, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The second command to love our neighbour is LIKE the first. It is related to, similar to and reflective of the first.
  • In John 13:34-35, Jesus says “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Again, closely relating God’s love for us to our love for one another.
  • 1 John 4:20 is more stern, telling us that “whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” If one love exist in us, the other will as well.

The principle is this: if we love God, we would also love others. To show concern for others is to show concern for the interest of Christ.

But notice something else, look at the words used to describe Timothy’s concern: “there is no one here like him who will readily demonstrate his deep concern for you”. Timothy’s concern had an outward expression. This expression was unparalleled and unrivaled this article. He readily demonstrated his concern in ways that no one else was willing to – he was willing to travel all the way to Philippi from Rome! Timothy was to be sent 1300km without modern means of transportation, that would be more than a month’s travel!

I’m not particularly great at showing concern for others. I might feel concerned, but I don’t demonstrate concern very much. If that concern cost me time, it won’t be demonstrated very well… or at all. I’m always strapped for time. Ok lets be honest, I’m pretty bad at showing concern. I’ve got to work on that.

In what way is our love/concern like the love/concern of Christ?  How do we show concern? How does Christ show concern?

(t)ramblings

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

This is what the Lord says:

“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me?
Where will my resting place be?
Has not my hand made all these things,
and so they came into being?”
declares the Lord.

These are the ones I look on with favor:
those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
and who tremble at my word.
Isaiah 66:1-2

My desire is to tremble at His word so that my life would come under it’s gravity. Not with empty religiousity or pagan-like practice (Isaiah 66:3-4), but with humility and in brokeness. The Word is neither words, sentences, paragraphs to be merely committed to memory nor ideologies and values for academic phentermine study,  it is the written direct revelation of Jesus Christ for our redemption (John 1:1; Hebrews 4:12). Between the pages contain the prophesies spoken about Christ, the truths about Christ and the very words of life spoken by Christ (Luke 6:45). They are the very heart of God for my broken life and this broken world.

Confession

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Confession is good for the soul only in the sense that a tweed coat is good for dandruff – it is a palliative rather than a remedy.
Peter De Vries

The common understanding of confession is that it is the admission, acknowledgement and/or disclosure of a fault or wrong. It is also the admission or declaration of truth (Romans 10:9). What we are looking at here is the first meaning – the acknowledgement and disclosure of wrong doing. We are told by pastors, leaders and priests that it is important to our faith. But confession is a strange thing, it doesn’t remove or forgive our sin, but it has a soothing or relieving effect from our sin. Peter De Vries got it right.

Confession to God

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

In 1 John, confession is instructed in light of our walk with God. The writer tells us that we need to walk with God, in whom there is no darkness. Since we cannot “claim to be without sin”, confession is a way to purify ourselves and maintain this walk (John 3:21). An important point to note is that the purification comes not from the confession itself, but from God’s nature of being faithful and just to who Christ is and what He has done (Isaiah 43:25-26; Acts 3:19; Romans 8:1; Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 2:1).

Confession is an outward display of an inward belief that we are sinful and in need of a saviour (1 John 1:8, 10). It goes hand in hand with repenting and believing in the gospel of Christ (Mark 1:15). It is our demonstration of faith in God and relationship (walk) with God.

Confession to one another

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective
James 5:16

Here confession to “each other” is commanded. This time the result is physical healing. This seems to be prescribed when the sickness is afflicted from sin (James 5:14-15; 1 Corinthians 11:30) – the direct correlation between forgiveness of sin and healing is obvious. The passage advocates personal prayer, prayer by elders and prayer for each other when one is sick.

Confession for mercy

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
1 Corinthians 4:5 (See also Luke 8:17; John 3:21; Hebrews 4:12)

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy
Proverbs 28:13

Coming to Christ with our confession is also closely related to the teaching that nothing is hidden before God. The outward disclosure of our shortcomings happen whether we like it or not! We can accept Christ into our hearts and let Him expose us or we can wait till He comes (again) and the whole earth will be exposed and judged (2 Corinthians 5:10). By implication and common wisdom, would it not be more beneficial to confess ourselves with the hope of forgiveness, mercy and grace before judgement comes? That is exactly why people plead guilty in the courts, to plead for a lighter sentence when judgement has come. The case of Christ is: turn yourself in and confess now to receive no sentence.

The good news is that confession and forgiveness go hand in hand. Whether it is confession to God or confession to man, the instruction is to confess our sins to receive forgiveness. Can God grant forgiveness of sin and salvation without confession? Sure. It says so in many scriptures, faith and belief in Christ is all you need to be saved (Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9). But the acceptance that Christ is Lord is the same tangent that we are not because we are flawed (sinful). Confession is exactly that – an outward admission that we are flawed and in need of Christ. Confession is important – the sooner, the better.

David’s experience

Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin
Psalm 32:1-5

Psalm 32 is often brought up when confession is mentioned. It is important to understand that many of the Psalms were written as expressions and descriptions of God encounters. They were not primarily instructive letters or commands in the same way that Leviticus / the Epistles are. Here confession released David from the guilt of sin and the effects of guilt. This release is the work of Lord, in response to David’s confession (Psalm 32:5).

Is this prescriptive for every Christian? I don’t know, but if God can remove David’s guilt, He can also remove yours and mine.

Grace on grace

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
John 1:14-18

What we have received from Christ is appropriately described as “grace upon grace”. The mental picture that this creates is amazing. The picture I get is one of an Asian grand-mother piling on the rice into a bowl for her grand-son. She isn’t satisfied when the bowl is full, she heaps it on, giving a mountain of rice for her beloved grand-son. And when he is finished with some of the rice that he was already given, more rice is piled on. Rice upon rice; grace upon grace. That is the quantity that we receive from the fullness of grace that is in Christ.

The consistency of His grace is also worth mentioning. When we dig further into His grace, we don’t find a hidden agenda. God didn’t give us this grace because He pitied us as weak creatures or because he was arrogant as a God. What we receive is “grace upon grace”, not grace upon pity or arrogance. There was nothing but grace under the grace.

There is much to be said about this fullness. Christ is described as “full of grace” and thus we receive this grace “out of his fullness”. This tells me two things:

  1. There was no lack in Christ, He was completely filled with grace – He didn’t need anything, He was entirely selfless since He had no lack
  2. There was nothing else in Christ but grace – There was no place for deviation in who He was and what He came to do, everything He did was intentional and an outpouring of His grace. He had nothing else in Him – no hatred, no insecurity, no fear, etc

Jesus is a man of substance and His substance was God’s grace. This is the same substance and quantity that is offered to us. When we understand the extent of God’s grace, there is nothing we can do but accept His grace in awe and wonder. It is more than we can handle, more than we deserve, more than we can ask for or imagine. This is the Jesus Christ I serve.

Wow. Grace upon grace.

A king’s heart displayed

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Say this to the king of Judah, who sent you to seek an oracle from the Lord: “This is what the Lord God of Israel says concerning the words you have heard: ‘You displayed a sensitive spirit and humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard how I intended to make this place and its residents into an appalling example of an accursed people. You tore your clothes and wept before me, and I have heard you,’ says the Lord.
2 Kings 22:18-19 (NET)

Josiah was an outstanding king. He began his rule young at 8 years old and followed the ways of God (2 Kings 22:1-2). At 26 years of age, he showed a concern for the glory of God by restoring the house of God (2 Kings 22:3-7). When he heard God’s law and covenant, he immediately responded in grief and repentence for the nation’s transgressions (2 Kings 22:8-11). Although he heard the written word, it wasn’t enough. He ordered for an oracle of the Lord to discern the Lord’s intentions and instructions (2 Kings 22:12-14). The oracle pronounced judgement on the land but mercy on Josiah for his sensitivity and humility before God (2 Kings 22:15-20). But Josiah wasn’t just concerned with himself, he wanted to set things right before God and continued to reform and restore the nation to God (2 Kings 23).

There are many things praise worthy about Josiah, but what God mentioned was his heart, his humility and his actions. Josiah’s heart was the key to his relationship towards God. The NIV translates verse 19 as “Because your heart was responsive“. He was sensitive to what God was saying through His word and he was responsive to act on what was put in his heart. He wasn’t praised for what he felt on the inside, but what he did on the outside that was true to what he felt in his heart. He was praised for the display of his heart and that he tore his clothes and wept before God. The outworking was just as important as the inworking.

Sometimes when we hear the word of God, we steer away from being responsive and sensitive. I’m guilty of this, we all are. We fall into so many pits here:

  • Impersonal: We apply the word to everyone/anyone else but ourselves
  • Impossible: We chose to move on quickly knowing that acting on His word would cost us
  • Insensitive: We harden our hearts so that His word doesn’t mean much
  • Inactive: We hesitate and forget by not acting on His word immediately

Josiah is a model for all of us. The inworking of God’s word is good, but the outworking is just as important. This is what God says to those who outwork the move of God in our hearts, “I have heard you.” (v19)

Leave and don’t turn back

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

But Lots wife looked back longingly and was turned into a pillar of salt.
Genesis 19:26

Isn’t Lot’s rescue from the wickedly sinful city of Sodom and Gomorrah a picture of salvation?

  • In His grace and mercy (Genesis 19:16), God allowed Lot to be rescued from the impending judgement (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)
  • He warned that His judgement would be coming very soon (2 Peter 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 22:12), so they had to escape quickly (Genesis 19:12-13, 15)
  • God made it easy for them to escape His judgement (Matthew 11:28-30) by allowing them to retreat to a small nearby town (Genesis 19:20-22)
  • Lot was told to bring others and tries to persuade his sons-in-law (Genesis 19:12, 14)
  • The magnitude of God’s grace and mercy (Ephesians 2:7) was shown when they hesitated – they were carried out into safety (Genesis 19:16-17)
  • They were also warned not to look back (Genesis 15:17; Luke 9:62; Philippians 3:13; Hebrews 10:39; Galatians 4:9)

If this episode is a reflection of salvation, what about Lot’s wife? This gesture reveals her heart: even after God’s grace and mercy had been extended to her, she still longs for her past life – the life lived in the boundaries of sin, surrounded by sinfulness. This was even after the old life had been left behind and it had been destroyed (Genesis 19:23-25), her heart had not left. In the same way that the Israelites left Egypt but Egypt had not left them, Lot’s wife had left Sodom and Gomorrah, but it had not left her.

Salvation is not a single decision made in one point in time. It is continuous choice to accept God’s grace and not to look back. That is why we are told to consider the cost of being a disciple of Christ (Luke 9:62; Luke 14:33), because looking back is disastrous. It might be a daily or weekly episode, but whenever our old life and it’s sin comes around to haunt us, we need to decide to leave it and not turn back.

שַׁדַּי

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

May the sovereign God bless you! May he make you fruitful and give you a multitude of descendants! Then you will become a large nation.
Genesis 28:3

Then God said to him, “I am the sovereign God. Be fruitful and multiply! A nation – even a company of nations – will descend from you; kings will be among your descendants!
Genesis 35:11

because of the God of your father,
who will help you,
because of the sovereign God,
who will bless you
with blessings from the sky above,
blessings from the deep that lies below,
and blessings of the breasts and womb.
Genesis 49:25

When God commanded reproduction (Genesis 1:28), He had already enabled it in His nature. El Shaddai meaning God who nourishes, supplies and satisfies. “Shaddai” seems to have its meaning from a number of sources:

  • The root word shadad (verb), meaning “to overcome” or “to destroy” indicating omnipotence
  • Shad meaning “breast”, or shadairn meaning “breasts” (Genesis 49:26) indicating sufficiency and nourishment
  • Dai meaning enough, indicating sufficient provision

El Shaddai is often mentioned when God’s providence/ reproductive fruitfulness is needed particularly in Genesis (Genesis 17:1-2, 28:3, 35:11, 48:3-4, 49:24-25). Children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3) because reproduction comes from Him. Not just the command, but the design and ability.

We need to treat the ability and responsibility to reproduce with respect, never to downplay it (as is the case with homosexuality) or to disrespect it (as is the case with abortion). Life is sacred and life comes from God.

The Law

Friday, June 8th, 2012

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
Romans 7:7-13

These days the Old Testament Law is personified as a hard school disciplinarian who punishes anyone who defies it’s rules. But that isn’t the picture that we get here. Read what Paul says, “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” (v12) So why would Paul give credit to the Law when it had no power to bring righteousness (Galatians 3:11)? Becuase of 2 reasons:

  1. We would not know what sin is without the Law (v7)
  2. The Law was instrumental that sin would bring about our death (v10), we can then recognize sin for what it is (v12)

The Law certainly isn’t bad. The Law reveals God’s character and the glory of His holiness. It allowed man to know God. The Law defined for us what sin is – anything outside of His character and His glory. It revealed sin for what it truly is, an instrument of death and seperation from God. There is one more reason why the Law was given.

Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.

Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.
Galatians 3:19, 21

The Law was added because of the transgressions until Jesus Christ came. Before Christ, forgiveness of sin came through the Law. The Law was God’s grace to His people in the Old Testament! Without the Law, the Israelites would have been entirely wiped out for their transgressions.

Pillars

Monday, June 4th, 2012

“… James, Cephas, and John, who had a reputation as pillars…”
Galatians 2:9

The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never depart from it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God (the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from my God), and my new name as well.
Revelation 3:12

These men had a reputation as the pillars of the church. Pillars are things that support and hold up large buildings. If the pillars crumbled, the building crumbled. If the church were seen as a building, these men were known to support and hold up the church. They were indispensable to the church. They stood for everything that the church is. That was their reputation. That was what they were known for.

In the letter to the Church in Philadelphia, God speaks and says that the one who conquerers will be made a pillar in His temple eternally. God himself will label the pillar three times, once with God’s name, once with new Jerusalem’s name and another with His new name. The identity of the person ceases for eternity and it is replaced with God’s stamp – His own label and His own identity. What high praise and joy for such a person!

James, Peter (Cephas) and John’s reputation must have preceded them. Their identities must have been so lost in God’s that they could be known as pillars.

What is my reputation in the church? Am I known to hold up and support the church? Do I stand for the church and His kingdom?