Have you had a week?

In 1 Peter 4.12-19 we find encouragement for when we have had ‘a week’, a difficult few days. 

The first thing to see here is that we are in this together, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, when one part suffers, we all do (1 Corinthians 12.26). If you have not suffered this week directly, we know you have been praying for, and ministering to, those who have had ‘a week‘.

When we have difficult times, it is still right to glorify God, because He is still good, right?

Regardless of the issues of our day, God is still good, Jesus still died for our sins to open the way to God, and was raised on the third day and now sits at the right hand of the Father, right? Therefore, we can still glorify Him, we can praise our way through problems, not for them, that would be odd, but in them. He is still good, He still deserves our praise. 

Choosing to do things like this will help beyond measure when we are suffering; focusing our minds on the timeless truth that God is who He is, Jesus did what He did on that cross, and that the Holy Spirit does what He does in our lives. 

This will stop us suffering through suffering, and help us to live the immortal words of the band Journey who said Don’t Stop Believin’.

Science and God

‘…man [can] use his scientific discoveries in the advancement of human welfare.’

(H.C. Theissen).

Often times, science and God are put on opposing sides of an argument. However, science simply details and describes the wondrous works and designs of God, and can be a great tool in the hand of His people to improve human welfare, something surely close to the heart of our Father in heaven. 

Simply, science says how, but God says why. Science can tell us how things in life happen, but God gives us the reason why life happens.

In Job 38 we read of the wondrous works of God, then, a few pages forward in Psalm 111, we read;

Praise the Lord!

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,

in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

Great are the works of the Lord,

studied by all who delight in them.

God’s wonderful work invites us to study it.

Whether it be science, history, theology, philosophy…God’s great works deserve study. The greatness of God’s work invites close study. 

“There is a science laboratory in Cambridge, England, called the Cavendish Laboratory, named after the eighteenth-century English chemist and physicist Sir Henry Cavendish (1731–1810). It is distinguished by having the words of Psalm 111:2 inscribed over the entrance to its building as a charter for every believing scientist: Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.”


So, science and God…opposing sides, no!

Working together to declare His majesty and wondrous works, yes!

29.04.19 – Romans 7.7-12 – Like Little Children

Recently I attended a pastor’s conference in New York and one evening went for dinner with a couple of guys in Manhattan. As we were crossing the road, this convoy approached…

…lots of people stopped to take pictures and videos of New York’s bravest heading off into action, as evidently did I, and I couldn’t wait to get home to show this to Roman, our 4 year old. He loves Fireman Sam, and his face when he saw my video of FDNY flying past was just wonderful. Wide-eyed, open-mouthed, just thrilled to see real life heroes heading into action. As his Dad, seeing him like that brings a tear to my eye.

Today in his letter to the church in Rome, Paul references this exact point in our life; when we lived so simply, so purely, and with awe-struck wonder,

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Paul writes that without the law, we would not know what sin is (v.7), and gives the example of coveting. Nobody knows what this is until someone says, ‘Don’t covet’, or, ‘That is coveting, stop it’. Now we know what covetousness is, Paul writes, we find ourselves doing it all the time, and calling it sin. Apart from the law, he goes on to say,  sin lies dead. What promised to be good and what promised abundant life actually turned out to be a holy and righteous standard (v.12) that we can never actually reach.

But, despair not, there is something in there that alludes to a better way. Paul writes I was once alive apart from the law; do our children know what covetousness is? Do our children know a strict regime of rules, regulations, and laws? Or do our children know that to love one another is good, to treat each other with kindness is good, to show forgiveness is good, to think of others before ourselves is good? 

Do they know that thou shalt not…or do they know that Jesus loves them and they should love others?

Paul writes very clearly that the law itself is not sin, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. The problem is us. Sin corrupts the law, so, as we have talked about in the last few days, we must die to both, to sin and to the law. The law is holy, righteous, and good, but the problem is us. 

We need another way to become holy, righteous, and good

There was One who lived this life. 

There was One who fulfilled, to the last iota, the holy, righteous, and good law. 

There was One who took the consequence of sin upon Himself and put it to death. 

There is One who says ‘Follow me’.

There is One who says ‘I am the way, I am the truth, and I am the life’.

There is One who says ‘Abide in me, and I in you.’

The One is Jesus.

He is our way to become alive apart from the law, to live a life of wide-eyed, open-mouthed, and awe-struck wonder.

Point to ponder – Am I alive apart from the law, or am I trying to supplement the all sufficient work of Jesus by keeping rules and laws?

Prayer – Father, we thank you that we have this amazing opportunity to become as little children again, to live with such simplicity, with such purity, and with such awe-struck wonder. We thank you that this is all because of Jesus and His finished work on the cross, and nothing that we can bring. Remind us of that today; more of He, less of me. Amen.

22.04.19 – Romans 6.12-14 – Instruments for righteousness

In the fourteenth century two brothers fought for the right to rule over a dukedom in what is now Belgium. The elder brother’s name was Raynald, but he was commonly called “Crassus,”a Latin nickname meaning “fat”.

After a heated battle, Raynald’s younger brother Edward led a successful revolt against him and assumed the title of Duke over his lands. But instead of killing Raynald, Edward devised a sneaky solution. He had a room in the castle built around Crassus, a room with only one door. The door was not locked, the windows were not barred, and Edward promised Raynald that he could regain his land and his title any time that he wanted to. All he would have to do is leave the room. The obstacle to freedom was not in the doors or the windows, but with Raynald himself. Being grossly overweight, he could not fit through the door, even though it was of near-normal size. All Raynald needed to do was slim down to a smaller size, then walk out a free man, with all he had had before his defeat. However, his younger brother kept sending him an assortment of tasty treats, and Raynald’s desire to be free never beat his desire to eat (adapted from EnduringWord).

Today Paul writes on how we should use our bodies (your members) to please God,

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Paul has previously written that we are to consider ourselves dead to sin (6.11) in such a way that as the ways of the world have no influence over someone who has passed away, the ways of sin are to have no influence over us. Rather, Paul writes to the Romans, we are to present our bodies, our whole selves, to God as those who have been brought from death to life. 

Isn’t that what we celebrated yesterday? Being brought from death to life?

Isn’t that what Paul wrote about in 6.4-5? 

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

See, the Easter story isn’t self-contained and separate from the rest of God’s Word to us. It is one wonderful, seminal, foundational, and formative part, for sure, but the interconnectivity and interconnectedness of God’s Word is mind-blowing. 

Sin now has no dominion over us, death has no power over us, for we are not under law but under grace. We truly have been raised to a new life to walk in newness of life. 

All this considered, considering that sin no longer reigns over us, that we have a choice to not obey its passions, we have the power in us to make this choice, the logical question is how are we presenting our bodies?, and to what are we presenting them?

Point to ponder – Am I presenting my body to sin’s passions, or as a living sacrifice to God?

Prayer – Father, we thank you for the world-changing, paradigm-shifting events that took place on that first Easter weekend all those years ago. We thank you that one consequence of that is the fact that we can now present our bodies to you as instruments of righteousness, and that you have broken sin’s hold over us. Amen. 

Same same…but different

As part of the wonderful prayer we read in John 17, Jesus prays about this crazy idea that we would all be one with Him, as He is one with the Father… 

John 17.20-23

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,  that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

So we are all to be one with Jesus, who is one with God. 

Does that mean when I become a Christian I need to stop being me and start being someone else? 

Does that mean we are to be uniform in our appearance, all look the same?

Does that mean we are all to be uniform in human personality, perhaps try to all have the personality of Jesus? 

Simply, no. We are to hold the same values, be one with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…in spirit, but we certainly don’t need to all be the same people.

We need unity, not uniformity.

Unity is Divine, uniformity is human.

Acts of uniformity are acts of mankind; cutting trees to all look the same, giving a bunch of people the same haircut, etc.

However, unity is from God; trees, bushes, grass, flowers all living together for each other’s benefit, but being different.

Unity is a church of believers who are uniquely gifted, uniquely interested, and with unique haircuts, all gathering to worship God, thanking Him for a common salvation (common in that it is for all, not common because it was cheap, 1 Peter 1.17-19).

Yes, there are common traits we will all display when are saved, born again believers, but the unique part of you that makes you ‘you’ will always be there. We are fearfully and wonderfully made!

So, basically, we are to be unified in our core beliefs, same same, but unique in our gifts, service, personality, but different.

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?

What do we miss in the Commission?

When we make or buy a sandwich, there are two core ingredients, aren’t there, the bread, and the filling. If we didn’t have the bread, we would just have food. If we didn’t have the filling, we’d just have a couple of slices of bread, or a roll, or whatever your preferred sandwich of choice looks like. That would just been seen as mad, wouldn’t it, can you imagine…

A – “Hey, what you got there?”

B – “Sandwich”

A – “Where is the bread?”

B – “No need, just got the filling”

A – “Not really a sandwich then, is it?”

‘A’ would then probably walk away thinking they had just talked with quite the crazy person. 

If this is the case for something so trivial, why do we do it with the Bible? Why do we do it with God’s Word to us. A seminary professor once told me that ‘James, bigger picture Jesus is King. When reading His Word, context is king.’ We can’t ignore the bread in order to get to what we think is the filling. When God has assembled the sandwich, so to speak, its all good, and its all relevant! Take the Great Commission for example;

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Matthew 28.19-20a

It’s wonderful, its instructive, but it’s the filling of the sandwich. Whenever we see the word ‘therefore’, we are to do something as a result of something else. 

So often with the Great Commission we focus too much on the middle part of things and forget to look before and after what we, with our fallible human minds, have decided is the important bit. Lets look either side of the Great Commission key sentence;

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28.16-20

What do we see?

We see that this statement comes from a very human environment – there was worship mixed with human doubt.

We that Jesus answers their doubt categorically and unequivocally – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

This then sets us up for Go, therefore. So, because Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, we are to go, therefore, and make disciples of Him, baptising them in the name of the Triune God, teaching them observe all that He taught, lived, demonstrated, showed, and commanded.

Then, we see the other often-forgotten, but equally important phrase, And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We see that Jesus has all authority, therefore we are to go and make disciples in His name, and He will be there with us, always – I am with you always, to the end of the age.

The Great Commission is a truly wonderful parting speech, so to speak, given by our Lord. Let’s not miss half of it because we have decided to focus on the middle. You wouldn’t make a sandwich like that, let’s not read the Word of God, literally here the Words of God, like that!

Remember today – Jesus is King. When reading His Word, context is king. 

Remember today that as we are going about His business making disciples, that we do it in His power, for His glory, and He is with us.