What are we building?

In 1 Corinthians 3 we read a passage that is so often misunderstood, lets read it and see what comes to mind;

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.

14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Many people look at vv.10-11 and think, aha, this is me and my life…we are so apt to put ourselves at the centre of everything, aren’t we?! They think this about me building my life, me growing and bettering myself.

Paul is actually writing about the church, the fellowshipping, gathering, assembling body of believers there in Corinth. 

V.11 tells us very clearly that no foundation other than Jesus can or should be laid for the church. To flip that around, if Jesus is not the foundation of the church, then really the place is not a church. We ought to be doing our best to build on this foundation and add to the body with gold, silver, and precious stones, not wood, hay, or straw. Simply, we ought to be contributing to the body for the glory of God and for the building up of others, with work we are proud of, done as if for Jesus Himself. 

It’s not our job, however, to make the church grow. We don’t need to enter into complex multiplication programs and try this and maybe that, we simply need to be a body willing to serve, aiming for excellence in all we do, everything done in love for our Lord and Saviour and for each other (with a generous helping of grace thrown in, too!). Back in vv.6-7 Paul clearly states that God gives the growth. Some plant, some water, but God gives the growth. 

So this passage is not about building your own life, it’s about building the church of Jesus Christ. That is something we are all called to be involved in; Jesus builds the church, we make disciples. We make disciples, and Jesus builds the church.

What an amazing opportunity we have to partner with God in this task. We are God’s fellow workers, we, the church, are God’s field, we the church are God’s building. What a pleasure and privilege it is to help build this.

Pray on this today – how can I add to the church?

Head // Heart

In Matthew 7 we read, 

21   “Not everyone who says to me,

‘Lord, Lord,’

will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me,

‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’

23 And then will I declare to them,

‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

What a terrible thought, that we close our eyes in physical death and open them in eternity to be told ‘I never knew you, depart from me…‘.

The difference between that and hearing ‘Well done, good and faitful servant‘ (Matthew 25.23) is simply a matter of head // heart.

The point of Matthew 7.21.23 is to show us that superficial, comprehending, understanding, acknowledging discipleship is not enough. Actually, it’s not a thing at all. Discipleship is none of those things. Knowing who Jesus is, knowing what He did, understanding the Divine payment system at work in His atoning sacrifice, simply saying, “Oh yes, I believe that Jesus was God.”…these things are not what saves us, there is something missing.

Knowing what He did at a deeper level than understanding the stories of the Bible, accepting the truth of who Jesus is and what He did, and what that means for all your yesterdays, today, and all your tomorrows, truly believing in your heart, living a radically different lifestyle because of what you now know to be true by revelation of the Holy Spirit…this is saving faith, not an academic or practical understanding of Jesus and Christianity. 

The Bible has passages like this to challenge us, to convict us when we have wandered, to make us see that aside from the work of the Spirit, we will be stuck at a surface level engagement with Jesus and His life, death, and resurrection, which because they are all real, it is possible to do. 

The same Holy Spirit that inspired the writers of the Bible will illuminate the Word for us, will take us from head to heart, and the Holy Spirit is on mission to glorify Jesus, who in turn takes us to the Father.

Rather than be stuck at surface level, snorkling along looking at the deeper truths from a brain-understanding perspective, let us pray that the Spirit fills us fresh, illuinates the Scriptures for us, and takes us deeper to a place of heart-turning, life-altering action. 

The power of the voice of God

Think back to when you were at school…there was always that one teacher with such a commanding voice, wasn’t there…perhaps it was the principal, maybe an experienced classroom warrior who had been stalking the corridors for decades, maybe a P.E. teacher who could be heard in the next town, or a home economics teacher who could cook food by shouting at it…whoever it was, there was someone in the school with such a powerful voice that when you heard it you straightened up, fixed your tie, walked with head down, sat up straight in class, moved pen along paper even if nothing was being written…there was just someone with such a powerful and commanding voice!

Grab your Bible (or open your Bible app, although this will work better with a paper Bible, trust me), and turn to page 1; Genesis 1, the creation account. Something we all miss is that in v.2, there is the Holy Spirit! Most often when asked when the Spirit makes His first appearance, we might say in Acts, maybe in the Gospels, but there He is;

1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.

And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Anyway, fascinating as that is, that is not what we are talking about today!

Take a pen or a highlighter, and underline or highlight the first three words of vv.3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, and 26…what do we see?

And God said…Then God said…

The power of the voice of God is immeasurable, incomprehensible, and incomparable. 

God speaks and it happens.

Let there be light“, “Let there be an expanse…“, “Let the…Let us…Let there be…“, and it happens.

What power is in the voice of God! 

Consitent with the trinitarian nature of our God – three in one – this amazing, awe-inspiring power of voice is also seen in Jesus and the Holy Spirit;

Jesus calls people to life, literally, with His voice in John 5.25 and, 11.43, and the Holy Spirit brings forth knowledge to our minds and mouths that was previously unknown when it is needed most in Matthew 10.19-20.

Today, then, listen for the voice of God; our God is active and involved in His creation and by the power of His Word it is being upheld. So listen for the voice of God, of Jesus, of the Holy Spirit then, like a model student at school, pay attention and put it into action!

The natural choice

John Piper wrote this about worship,

“This is the final end of all existence: the worship of God. God created the universe so that it would display the worth of his glory. And he created us so that we would see this glory and reflect it by knowing and loving it — with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.”

In Revelation 22.9 John receives the simple command, “Worship God!”

Elsewhere in God’s Word to us we are told we are created for His glory (Isaiah 43.7). We are made in His image (Genesis 1.27), to display His glory, for His glory, to bring Him glory. Paul writing to the Corinthians says that whatever we do, we are to do it to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10.31).

So far, then, we can say it is in our DNA to worship God, it comes naturally, it’s the natural thing to do. 

But some days, in some experiences, in some seasons of life, do we really want to? It doesn’t feel like the natural thing to do, does it? This is where we need to be so careful; if we live our faith life based on feelings, when those feelings aren’t there, is our faith not there too?

Does God not still deserve the glory due Him?

Is our fundamental purpose as people not present because we don’t have a certain feeling?

Worship of God is natural to us, but it is also a choice we need to make.

We are not robots, robots made to worship, worship-bots if you will, we are made with the wonderful gift of free will. 

So worship comes natural to us, worship is natural, but worship is also a choice. It’s an attitude, it’s a perspective, it’s a lifestyle, it’s a choice. 

Recently I heard a song with lyrics that communicate this truth beautifully well;

Yes I will, lift You high in the lowest valley
Yes I will, bless Your name
Oh, yes I will, sing for joy when my heart is heavy
All my days, oh yes I will

And I choose to praise
To glorify, glorify
The Name of all names
That nothing can stand against

Even when life is difficult, God is working it out for you.

Even when we don’t particularly feel like worshiping God, we must still choose to praise Him.

Even when we don’t think we need to, we must give Him what is rightfully His, fulfil our most fundamental purpose. 

He is never late, always on time, with us all the time, good or bad. He is still there despite our perceived lack of feeling it, and for this, we can worship Him, glorify Him, trust Him.

See, worship comes naturally, but it is also a choice. When we take to heart the truth of the Word of God, when we put hope, faith, and trust in the name and work of Jesus, when we submit and commit to the Lord, worship becomes the natural choice in all situations. 

Take four minutes now and listen to this, as loud as your current surroundings allow…then have a great day, choosing to praise and glorify God!


End of the story?

Almost every year we hear the Christmas story told (which is a great thing), but, do we ever read on? 

Luke 2 is an amazing chapter, detailing God’s coming to earth in human flesh, the birth of Jesus. We read of shepherds, we read of angels, we read of Jesus being called Jesus, we even flick back to Matthew 2 to see the wise men coming…then we’re done. 

But, there is some fascinating stuff in the rest of Luke 2; Jesus is presented at the temple (not too dissimilar to the baby dedications we do), and we read a little about the childhood of our Lord. 

One verse in particular stood out to me as I read over the story again this morning;

And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favour of God was upon him. (Luke 2.40)

Particularly the first half, the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. How apt is that for us this time of year; we celebrate Jesus’ first coming then go back to our daily business…we tick over into a new year and slowly but surely return to what is ‘normal’ for us. 

Rather, how we ought to follow the example of Jesus – growing, becoming stronger, becoming filled with wisdom

If He can lay aside, temporarily, His heavenly glory and dwell among us to show us the way, surely we can rouse ourselves to grow in our faith this coming year, surely we can become stronger in our faith, stronger in service, stronger in love, stronger in our relationships this coming year, and surely we should be seeking the wisdom that God gives so freely to those who ask this coming year.

Jesus’ story didn’t end after the angels, shepherds, and wise men went back to doing what they were doing. Likewise, our Christmas story that we replay each and every year is not finished by the morning of the 26th, rather, it should be the catalyst for growth, for change, and for pushing ahead towards the upward call of God in Jesus.

Saint Nicholas

Every year we see the big red plastic models of Santa Claus rolled out of the store cupboard and stood next to tins of shortbread biscuits and jars of stuff we wouldn’t buy for the rest of the year. Sometimes, he even plays the saxophone and dances. His big, jolly, rotund face is everywhere, isnt it, he is in movies, books, songs, people dress up as him…Santa is a big deal!

People want him to be real so badly that it almost feels as if he is a real person for a few weeks a year. But, what lots of people don’t know is that Santa Claus, Perre Noel, or whatever you want to call him, whilst not a real person, is certainly based on a real, genuine person from history.

Wayne Taylor writes,

“There was a man named Nicholas who lived in the Roman Province of Asia (now the country of Turkey) in the fourth century A.D.

People called him Saint Nicholas because he lived a devout, Christian life from an early age.

It is believed that the name Santa Claus came from the Dutch translation of his name, Sinter Klaas.”

Saint Nicholas was a generous man, the most famous story of him involves him giving money to three daughters of a poor man (supposedly into their stocking hanging by their bed) so that the girls could get married.

Nicholas was imprisoned for his faith by the Roman Emperor Diocletian when serving as Bishop of Myra,  but was released when Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. He resumed his faithful and fervent Christian life until the end.

“Saint Nicholas was a real man and was filled with the spirit of joy and giving, because he believed not in a myth but in the divine Savior.”

Wayne Taylor

So, the big, fat, jolly man in the red suit may star in the movies, may have flying fantasy animals, but Saint Nicholas was a real person who gave himself freely to others because of his faith in a Saviour who gave Himself freely once and for all…what a great example for us this Christmas season. 

Baby steps are confident steps

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1.6 

When our two little boys were learning to walk, like all children, they stumbled, fell, tripped, miraculously reappeared on their feet, and tried again. As their Dad, I knew that they would eventually get the hang of taking a few steps, then walking in a (fairly) straight line, then eventually they would build up the coordination to be regular walking humans. 

Throughout the process I tried to help (when not laughing) by removing obstacles from their path, holding their hand when they needed it, or sometimes even picking them up and reorienting them when they hit a dead-end. They knew I was there, and this gave them the confidence to walk on.

The same is true of our loving Father in heaven, perhaps without the laughing (although God does have a sense of humour, my choice in sports team can confirm that). He removes obstacles from our path, helps us past them, walks with us, and can even totally change the course of our lives when we headed down the wrong path. This is all with one goal in mind; our salvation and sanctification. 

I love what Charles Spurgeon said about this verse,

Show me for once a world abandoned and thrown aside half formed; show me a universe east off from the Great Potter’s wheel, with the design in outline, the clay half hardened, and the form unshapely from incompleteness. Direct me, I pray you, to a star, a sun, a satellite–nay, I will challenge you on lower ground: point me out a plant, an emmet, a grain of dust that hath about it any semblance of incompleteness…

But all God’s works are finished with wondrous care; He as accurately fashions the dust of a butterfly’s wing, as those mighty orbs that gladden the silent night.

God always finishes His work, so walk with confidence that our Father in heaven is there;

there directing those steps,

there clearing obstacles,

there holding your hand,

and will step in and change the path if He needs to.