Will the church of the Apostles survive?

“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.” A.W. Tozer

This blog is copied in part from one I wrote over 3 years ago inspired by a thought provoking Bill Muehlenberg article.

I was immediately struck by the content because it is a position in which I and people close to me have struggled through. The tragedy when the church remains oblivious to or totally unconcerned about losing members. In particular members who are devoted, willing and crying to do the Lord’s work.

 

“The very people on whom a church relies for lay leadership, service and financial support are going away.”

 

Whilst church members rather apply their personal agendas the Holy Spirit grows more distant. The joy and peace of the Holy Spirit at work in our midst becomes a memory.

 

In his blog Bill says “There would be many reasons why people stop going to church. We all might have our suggestions as to why this is occurring. I have my own ideas. Let me list a few such possibilities here:

-Many believers are not being fed from the Word of God.

-Many believers are put off by the attempt to cater solely to youth or elderly or the resolutely stagnant while ignoring their needs.

-Many believers are tired of just being bench warmers, with no role to play.

-Many believers are looking for the real deal.

-Many believers are desiring genuine Holy Ghost revival, not just pep talks, self-help seminars, and a me-centred gospel.

-Many believers are starving for the reality of First Century Christianity.”

 

That, in my book, is a bulls-eye.

The first question I need to answer is if this ‘drop out’ menace is the result of an egocentric leadership. Only you can answer that question in your church.

“But the problem is, so often our leaders are so busy doing church, that they do not have this needed time to reassess . . . . . “

 

The second question I need to answer is how many people would return and grow the church if we returned instead to Jesus worship. When I say ‘grow the church’ it is not necessarily all about numbers but more importantly all about the ‘Holy Spirit’.

I was born again as a direct result of family, friends and church leading me towards the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit who was evident in the church and active in the church and filled us all in the church with His peace and love. I did not give my life to Jesus Christ as the result of a lecture, a barbecue, a fun evening or some other entertainment.

I agree those things do have a role to play in the fellowship of the church – but it is just a supporting role.

I was a willing member of the congregation as a result of sermons and talks and guest speakers focussing on the one real reason why I was a Christian. The fact Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again for me, so that my sins are forgiven.

2 Corinthians 5:  21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

People may disagree when I say surely we need to invite Jesus back into the church where we can praise Him, talk to Him, worship Him and obey Him. If we don’t do that in church and if we don’t lead people towards that end then where do the Christians, the seekers and the strugglers go to for fulfilment? If we cannot or do not coach the new generation will Christianity survive?

 

Here’s a question for all of us.

How many people have you drawn to the foot of the Cross to meet Jesus Christ?

When last did you receive or offer prayer to invite the filling of the Holy Spirit?

 

The Apostles did that (and more)

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

 

Quotes

 

If we do not teach our children to follow Jesus Christ, the world will teach them not to.

Never reason from what you do not know.   Ramsay

People generally quarrel because they cannot argue.   G K Chesterton

I have no other but a woman’s reason; I think him so because I think him so.   Shakespeare

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Have you ever had a baby?

Have you ever had a baby? Well I haven’t but …….. hmm maybe the wrong question.

Are you a parent who has experienced the joy of your child’s birth? I know every new father I meet is boasting to anyone and everyone whilst mother develops an awesome and inspirational love for the child. The birth of a new born child is such an incredible experience it has to be one of the supreme emotions a human can go through. In fact I don’t know why I restricted that to humans only. Any parent.

Have you ever considered how God must have felt when His Son was born knowing the pain, suffering and death he was to endure? If you knew that lay in store for your child what would be your reaction?

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God loves us so much that He gave us His one and only Son ……………  so that we may have eternal life with Him. My love for my family is deep and strong but I waver at the thought of offering or giving one of them to a person who is disobedient, rejects me or says I do not exist. In fact I am ashamed to say my Christian virtues go into a wobble faced with anybody who is otherwise. In other words they do not agree with me (you can read that sentence several ways!).

But really – give your own child as an offering to save someone else’s child is a huge step. That is love.

1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Then again Jesus was obedient to God His Father and willingly gave of himself to save a sinner like me (oooh and you too!).

Here we find God in human form as the Son of God and capable of doing anything He wants to do on earth. He knows He is going to be humiliated and tortured and crucified but He allows the whole ghastly process to run to its conclusion. At no stage did He call on those miraculous powers to hurt or exact retribution on those against Him.

I don’t know about you but if I enjoyed those miracle powers there is little chance I would not use them against my enemies. Especially in the face of such pain. Jesus never lifted a finger against them instead He blessed them towards the end.

Actually come to think of it Jesus has said to me (and you) that we can perform all these miracles and more in His name. Makes you think huh?

1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.

You cannot ask for any greater sacrifice than a man who is prepared to die for you.

The issue now is one of believing the Word of God.

If you do believe then ask yourself why or how you cannot offer your life to Him.

That is, after all, the only thing He ask of us.

1 John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

I cannot improve on that verse. Walk the walk don’t talk the talk.

May you be blessed this Christmas by a meeting with the Holy Spirit and may you be filled with love and joy and compassion and peace.

2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

 

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Fundamentalist me

Fundamentalism is apparently a negative word in many places today. I am shattered to hear, not only the attitude, but also the source of many of these statements.

Firstly let me state how I view fundamentalism and the best interpretation I found was in Got Questions.org.

“Fundamentalists seek to guard the truth of Scripture and defend the Christian faith, which was “once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

The church today is struggling in the postmodern, secular culture and needs people who are not ashamed to proclaim the gospel of Christ. Truth does not change, and adherence to the fundamental principles of doctrine is needful. These principles are the bedrock upon which Christianity stands, and, as Jesus taught, the house built upon the Rock will weather any storm (Matthew 7:24-25).”

Let me also say fundamentalism, as I understand it, applies to the whole Bible which, among other things, promotes loving your neighbour, compassion, forgiveness, grace, mercy, humility, patience, peace and so much more.

If that is fundamentalism then I am a fundamentalist. I do not see the issue with defending the principles and truth of the Word of God. Surely faced with a life situation my first option (and my only option) must be to the Holy Book for the answer?

If I do not believe in the inerrant truth of the Bible then can I pick and choose the parts I like? The gospel of me? Not the Word of God.

Let’s also accept that as in any situation there are those who can be labelled extremists. They are zealots not applying the full Word of God. In this context no allowance is made for grace and mercy. That’s not fundamentalism in my book – it is too extreme for the Holy Book.

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  James 3:17

 

Personally I prefer to think of myself as a follower of Jesus Christ and God His Father.

I believe the Bible is the true Word of God – literally. Therefore it is free of error.

I believe Jesus Christ was born of a virgin and conceived by the Holy Spirit.

I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He died and rose again for my sins.

I believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion.

I believe in the Holy Spirit.

I believe in the miracles recorded in the Word and I believe Jesus will come again to this world.

I believe God hears and answers my prayers to His glory.

Does that make me a fundamentalist?

Then that is what I am – and without apology.

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Encourage living faith

My talk on Sunday.

I don’t know what you are like but I am an absolute sucker for magicians and conjuring and magic tricks. When they come on TV or at a kid’s party you will find me in the front row.  And please don’t tell me how it works (the magic trick) – I don’t want to know. It’s magic!!

But you know the best part? It is the reaction of the kids. The kids become totally absorbed in a show whether it be a magician, a pantomime, a television show or whatever. They are there totally involved laughing and screaming and pointing and joining in with the show. They relax and enjoy themselves. They live in the situation.

Then again I do find myself touched by a really good movie, or affected by music or moved by talented artists even overwhelmed by real life situations on news or media channels.

How about you when you are absorbed or immersed in a book or a movie or music or whatever? Do you let yourself go and become enthralled as you live in that moment, that situation, that happening around you?

I am not ashamed to say I find myself emotionally moved when I really involve myself. I am moved when music gets into my soul. I am moved when a movie grips my mind or my heart, I am moved when watching young talented performers, I am emotionally moved when the moment overcomes me and I let it enfold me and I live it. I live in it.

Similarly there are times when I have been led by Jesus to a warm place where my heart overflows and literally feels as if it is flooding with warmth and joy. I just wish the experience happened more frequently in my walk with Jesus. Living my faith. Living in my faith.

I am filled with positive emotions as a result of His intervention in my life. Peace, joy, fulfilment, calm, wonder, exultation etc. etc.  I want to and try to live my faith. I want to live in my faith.

I am a fan of Oswald Chambers and here are his comments regarding John 4:14 which reads “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

“This is not a simple stream of water it is an overflowing fountain. If you find His life is not springing up as it should, you are to blame – something is obstructing the flow.

We are to be fountains through which Jesus can flow as ‘rivers of living water’ in blessing to everyone. Yet some of us are like the Dead Sea always receiving but never giving because our relationship is not right with the Lord Jesus. Is there anything hindering your faith in Him?”

My problem is when I do find those fountains of living water flowing from me they can stop flowing after a while.  My human nature allows me to slide back – again. I create the obstruction and the flow stops. I need the support of those around me to maintain the flow and to stay where I want to be all the time. I want to be a conduit for the living waters flowing from Him.

Family and friends and my church are obvious sources of support but sadly this is not always the case. Family, friends and the church can – and do – become opinionated and careless discouragers.

Brother Yun is a quite remarkable evangelist from China who has written several books and I will quote from his book titled “Living Water”. He quotes, first of all, from Hebrews 1:7 – “He sends his angels like the winds, his servants like flames of fire”.

“Satan can’t stand in the face of God’s fire. He hates it and spends much time trying to douse the flames.” Then later on he says:-

“Many churchgoers see it as their duty to extinguish any signs of fire in the church. Even the smell of a smouldering ember causes them great alarm. Often when a Christian gets a vision from God believers come along and do everything they can to throw a wet blanket over the zealous disciple. Wet blankets are highly effective at dousing flames.”

While it is human nature to accept opinion as fact we must be careful voicing negative opinions. What we say may heavily influence the actions of those who hear our opinions.

Brother Yun again – “Many passionate followers of Christ have missed their ministry as a result – the ministry God has called them to perform. The wet blanket brigade celebrate – they have another disciple in their image.”

BUT – NOT in the image of Jesus Christ. The image of Jesus Christ is clearly where I want to be?

Let me put that another way – in the words of Oswald Chambers – “Are you more devoted to your idea of what Jesus wants than to Jesus Himself?” In other words do you love the thought of Jesus Christ or do you actually love Jesus Christ Himself.

I have to give the Son of God His opportunity to work in me. I want the direct simplicity of His life worked out in me exactly as it was worked out in His life on earth?

Is our concentration on Jesus Christ and do we praise Him with ALL our hearts? Because that is what we say during our service of worship – to love Him with all our heart, all our souls and all our mind.

The church is a place where I should feel loved and encouraged. The church is a place where I should love and encourage others. My desire is to grow in my knowledge of and love for God the Father. This is the place where we (meaning all of us – not just a few) decide on the type of Christian environment in which we want to participate, grow and find Jesus Christ. Church should be my safe spiritual home where Jesus reaches out to me and teaches me. Where I openly provide Jesus with the opportunity to reach out to me and teach me. Where maybe Jesus has reached out to teach me using a member of the church. It must be my Christian duty to provide that member with the opportunity to fulfil God’s call. It is the encouragement and support every Christian needs to move closer to their God. To obey God’s call.

Oswald Chambers asks the question “Is the Lord Jesus Christ being abundantly satisfied by your life, or are you exhibiting a walk of spiritual pride before Him? Never let your common sense become so prominent and forceful that it pushes the Son of God to one side. Common sense is a gift that God gave to our human nature— but common sense is not the gift of His Son.”

The wonderful thing about our faith is how simple it is. Jesus Christ wants nothing more than my love and my devotion to Him. To HIM. Not to a cause. Not to a mission. Not to a ministry. Not to anything. Just Him. Just Jesus Christ Himself. The other things may very well follow if it is His will.

In Matthew 18:3-4(NLT) Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

It is as simple as the life and love of a little child. Humble and not self-centred. Simple love and devotion for Jesus Christ – nothing else. Unreserved.

I have invited the Son of God into my life and I assume many of you have done the same. Surely having issued that invitation my purpose is to allow Him to do His work in me. Is the simple life of Jesus Christ allowed to flow out of me? Exactly as it flowed out of Him when He was walking this earth.

John 14: “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”

Is the Son of God given an opportunity to do His work in me and through me? Am I filled with the Holy Spirit of God? Is Jesus in me?  Do I allow the Father to be glorified through me?

You cannot do it on your own. But Jesus will do it through you so that His Father may be glorified. So that your Father may be glorified.

The question is do I allow Him into my life? Do I let Him move close enough to be one with me? Do I allow Him to work through me?   Do I actually ask Him into my life?

Do I provide the support and the love necessary to help others? Do I encourage other followers of Jesus Christ?  Do I actually ask Him how I can help others?

God always hears the prayers of His Son, and if the Son of God has been formed in me the Father will always hear my prayers. How is the Son of God formed in me? Through the Holy Spirit being in me and for me to be in the Holy Spirit and for me to be led by Him.

Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.” —John 11:41

 

 

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A Passion for Prayer

Highly advanced aliens land on the earth for a visit. The first person they see is you. As a gesture of good will to mankind they offer you a simple device which can cure illness, change the attitude of people, bring harmony and peace to your country and relieve us from the burden of sin. They give it to you and leave it with you and in your hands.

What would you do with such a powerful and simple device?

  1. Sell it to the Guptas
  2. If you are a man – take it to pieces to see how it works.
  3. Keep it to yourself – a secret
  4. Hand it over to the United Nations or the president of your country
  5. Share it with everyone and anyone who wants it to the benefit of all

Imagine the power you hold in your hands? The ability to change things for better in the world. Especially when you know it works and you have seen it in action.

Now please can I ask all of you to hold your two hands together, palm to palm, fingers pointing upwards.

Amazing! You all own one of these devices. A direct line of prayer to the God who made heaven and earth.

Karl Barth  said – To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of this world.

There is so much to be passionate about in prayer because the results are there for us all to see. How many of you here today have witnessed or been involved in praying for something and God has provided?

Do you know how often God positively answers prayer?

Prayer is not just a church ritual to make us feel better. Prayer is raw power. Prayer is access to the Almighty God.

Your prayer can obtain what otherwise will be withheld. Prayer can accomplish what otherwise remains undone. Prayer can accomplish what a willing God can accomplish. How can you not be passionate in prayer?

James 5:13-15 (The Message) Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out.

I don’t know about you but the biggest danger in my life is a casual – far too casual – approach to my communication with God. There are times when I take it for granted or just casually say something to Him. Bordering on the irreverent and even the offensive.

Over the past 3 weeks we have talked about prayer and the necessity of a right attitude – maybe that should be a righteous attitude – when talking with God. A need for openness and reverence and sincerity and directness when kneeling before the Almighty God.

What we need to remember is the miracles that do follow prayer when God listens to us and our call to Him. Whilst the aliens landing and handing over a machine is a joke the power of prayer is not a joke. It is real and most of us – if not all of us – have been witnesses to or involved in prayer that has healed the sick, healed the broken-hearted, healed the hurting, healed the angry, healed the unforgiving, healed the unwise, healed the rifts splitting peace and harmony, healed personal issues and so I can go on ad infinitum.

What is the limit to the power of prayer?

Well – what is the limit to the power of God? A loving God willing and wanting to move closer to us.

I read a quote the other day which said “Don’t tell me the sky is the limit. There are footsteps on the moon”. Well now there are man-made vehicles on Mars and other far distant planets. What is the limit for man now?

Nowhere near the limits of God – if He has any at all. How can the God who created all of the heavens and earth be limited by anything? So why should your prayer in righteousness, in reverence, directly, openly and sincerely be any problem?

The Gospel reading today illustrates the point. Jesus instructed the disciples not to tell anyone else He was the Messiah. He told them to keep the secret because at this stage they did not understand what Jesus was really all about. Many thought He was a military commander come to rid Israel of its invaders. The danger was their lack of understanding of Jesus and who He is and what He came here to do.

Sometimes we fail to understand who Jesus Christ really is and His power on earth and in the heavens. Do we really appreciate what Jesus did on earth when He walked as a man? Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jesus Christ can do anything – cure the sick, still the seas, feed the 5 000, change water into wine and so we can go on. Furthermore Jesus made us a promise that we can do anything He did – and even greater things – if we do it in His name.

Do you honestly believe that is true?

If we do not, how can we believe in the power of prayer?

If you really believe in the Word of God and believe He died and rose again from the dead – then what is the limit of your prayers? I do not believe there is a limit.

Do we really understand God’s Word – the Holy bible – and have we understood the contents? I am not talking about reading a chapter a day – or however many you read. I am talking about really understanding and believing in the Word of God.

If we do not really understand the Word of God, how can we believe in the power of prayer?

If we use God’s Word when we pray, when we prepare to pray and in our everyday lives then we grow in our knowledge and love of God. We learn the Truth. The Truth draws us into a closer relationship with the Holy Spirit and the light which is Jesus Christ. We need them both in our lives all the time.

R A Torrey was a prolific and powerful Christian author at the turn on of the 20th century. Here’s what he said……..

“We learn to abide in Christ by feeding upon His Word, His written Word as found in the bible, and looking to the Holy Spirit to plant these words in our hearts and to make them a living thing in our hearts.

If we then let the words of Christ abide in us, they will stir us up in prayer. They will be the mould in which our prayers are shaped” and then later on he says “Triumphant prayer is almost impossible where there is neglect of the study of the Word of God.”

He also describes the prayers of George Muller who would begin by reading and meditating upon God’s Word until, out of this study of the Bible, a prayer began to form itself in his heart. A prayer led by God and His Word. How powerful is that prayer when God Himself is the author.

I cannot conclude any better than using the words of Jesus Christ printed in

John 14:15-17 (The Message Bible)

The Spirit of Truth

“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!

Amen

 

 

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Man’s inhumanity

Why is it that today we attempt to isolate ourselves inside our culture, our skin colour, our way of living, our faith (or lack of it) our . . . . . . .   and so we can go on. What is it that stops us from accepting “others” or “them” as a part of our lives on this earth? Even as a part of this earth and God’s creations?

The results of this attitude can be seen daily on the news, in the media and general discussion. Hatred, bigotry, prejudice, racism, intolerance, chauvinism, bias, violence, superiority, arrogance, demands, narrow mindedness, lack of thought and so we can go on. Believe me I know about it because I have suffered these lousy attitudes in my life to a greater or lesser degree. Giving and receiving!

Is this because I am “only human” or because I am too absorbed in my personal god – me?

Is this because there is only one way to live – by my standards? Everyone else is wrong?

Is this because I do not accept the choice of “others” in the way they live their lives? They are misguided?

I am ashamed to say my answer to the questions is “yes”.

And I consider myself a Christian!

Genesis 1:27 (NKJV) So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

God created men and women in His own image. Yes they do have different roles to play but inequality is not part of God’s plan. Men and women are created equal – but not the same. The Word of God is silent on the superiority of one race over another, one sex over another, one culture over another or one anything over another. Except good over evil of course.

The Word does, however, say there is only one God.

And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27 Anger is often the result of hurt pride or jealousy.

Romans 12:9-10 (NLT). Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other.

The amazing part of my journey, the ups and the downs, is the fact God’s Word, so powerful and so filled with mental, emotional and spiritual sustenance, has not played a bigger part in my life. Perhaps it has not been allowed to play a bigger part! The Word tells me how to be free.

John 8:32. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Once I am free in the Word I find joy and deep satisfaction in life.

Once again I am led to the faith I try to follow and believe. If I am a witness to the light and if I am showing “others” and “them” the light, am I not making this world a better place? Am I not helping to heal and restore? Am I not obedient to the commands of a God I proclaim to serve?

My God wants one thing and that is a loving and reverent relationship with me and you and “them” and the “others”. The more Jesus we have the less antipathy towards “them” and “others”.

Abraham Lincoln said “The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people.”

 

Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV) Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

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How is my faith

Jesus replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The disciples of Jesus. O Ye of little faith? You have got to be joking! Right? The disciples –  ye of little faith?

Well what is faith? What do we mean when we talk about faith?

Many people refer to their church or belief as a ‘faith’. I belong to the Protestant faith or the Jewish faith. Jesus was not talking about that ‘faith’.

We do need to understand what faith is and what it is not.

If I wanted to borrow some money I am sure I could approach members of this congregation and ask them to lend me some for a while. No problem I presume with most of you?

Oh dear. Hmmmm.  I detect a strong lack of faith amongst you!

A lack of faith because you do not know me well enough. We-ell maybe you know me too well! The point is       (now you have finished insulting me) our faith (or lack of faith) in a person or company or situation is based upon our knowledge of them. Their behaviour, attitudes and other factors influence our ‘faith’ in them.

Do we have faith in our God? If our faith in God is lacking do you think it may be the result of our lack of intimacy and knowledge of God? Do we truly know Him? If God is a stranger to us it affects our belief in His Word and the promises He has made to us? Why is God a stranger to us?

There is one way of overcoming that and it is for us to spend more time with God and understand Him through His Word – the Bible.

Let me also confirm that faith is not belief without proof. Many cynics offer this definition for faith. All it does is reduce faith to ‘I believe despite what the evidence tells me’!

Faith is not belief without proof or belief despite the evidence. Faith is a complete trust and confidence in somebody or something. That trust and confidence is built up over a period of time as they (or it) prove themselves faithful to me over and over again.

In our daily lives, we don’t trust complete strangers. The more intimately we know someone and the more time we have had to see him “in action,” the more likely we are to believe and trust him.

In short the main reason we struggle with faith is that we don’t truly know the God in whom we profess to have faith. If God is essentially a stranger to us, we are unlikely to believe, really believe, what He has said in His Word.

We need to spend time in God’s Word getting to know Him. Quality time. Skim reading a few chapters every day is not spending time in God’s Word.

The biblical definition of faith can be found in Hebrews 11.1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

I think that is a lot deeper than shallow religious beliefs. Confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

The Message tells us this way – The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.

As Christians we need to be constantly reminded of Jesus Christ and all He has done for us and even what our response should be to Him. In Romans 10:17 Paul says Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: “Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?”

The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.

So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.

Our faith needs to be built on the solid preaching of the Word. The God breathed Word of the Holy Bible. Sadly, too many churches spend their time, energy, and resources on the creation of “programs” that neither feed the sheep nor draw a clear distinction between godliness and ungodliness.

: “And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7). God knows that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38), and so He commands His people to be in constant remembrance of these things.

If we go onto the 6th verse of Hebrews 11 we find the following – 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

The Message again – It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

Without faith it is impossible to please God because faith is believing the Word of God and acting upon it, not responding to our perceptions. But it is God who responds to those who have faith in Him and believe His Word.

The problem is man has developed his own traditions and beliefs to replace the Word and the teachings of the Word no wonder our Lord Jesus Christ says (Luke 18:8).  However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”     How many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

God is the One responsible for calling us, but we are responsible for responding. Many seem to fail in that responsibility, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). Why? Why do many fail?

There are many obstacles that can get in the way.

What causes a lack of faith? A lack of faith results from relying on human reasoning when a trial or difficulty arises. When a decision is made that is contrary to the express will of God, a lack of faith leads to disobedience. No human being is perfect. We all make mistakes and sometimes sin. There is a difference, however as true Christians do not habitually practice sin. After making a mistake and sinning, Christians repent and try to learn from the experience not to repeat the mistake.

So maybe next time you do something in faith, to the glory of God our Father you will earn the title Men of faith.

He knows disobedience to God represents a lack of faith and like the Israelites of old, disobedience is the result of unbelief. Unbelievers could not enter the Promised Land. Neither will they enter the Kingdom of God.

John 14:12 The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. (The Message)

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has promised you – you will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things. Even greater things. Wow!

So, who is a man of faith? He is a Christian who understands, believes and trusts in God’s Word. He respects God’s Law and obeys it to the best of his ability. With God’s help and by means of the Holy Spirit, he does not allow human reasoning and disobedience to cause him to disregard God’s Word.

 

(This is the talk I presented on the South Coast in July 2017)

 

 

 

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Where is my focus

Joker Aced by the King is a Face book page advertising my book available on kindle. Also available on Takealot.

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I meet them regularly and I am sure you do as well. The Grumpies. The Grumpies sole aim in life appears to be finding fault in others. They sit passing comments, criticise a youngster reading phone messages, parents whose child is behaving as all small children do and will, look aghast at fashion or look at who is talking to who (Again! Skande!), condemn modern social activity, any change, any attempt for growth and so on. They are totally removed from the beauty of life. Where is their joy? Where is their life?

Where is their focus? Where is your focus?

In a sporting environment the statement is made that so and so lost because they lost focus. Their concentration waivered from the task in front of them. As a result their performance waned and their opponents took advantage of this lapse.

In a Christian sense this is exactly the situation Satan hopes to achieve. We take our eye off the ball and as a result we negate our relationship with Jesus.

Sadly you see them in most if not every cycle of life and also, even more sadly, in church.

Matt Redman wrote a beautiful song about ‘The Heart of Worship’ where he says ‘it is all about You Lord. It is all about You.’ If you don’t appreciate the music of today how about God’s Word of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

John 4:24. God is spirit and His worshippers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Psalm 29:2. Honour the Lord for the Glory of His name. Worship the Lord in the splendour of His Holiness.

Calvin Coolidge is reported as saying “It is only when men begin to worship that they begin to grow.”

Perhaps somebody can explain to me the conundrum where people attend church as a believer aaand also as a Grumpie. Surely the two are not synonymous?

1 John 4:7  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

Is Christianity not about supporting each other in love? Guiding, helping, leading and showing each one of us the will of God and His way?

The Old Testament prophets Micah and Nehemiah were pretty straight talking and they laid it on the line telling us firstly “You are supposed to know right from wrong” and then following up with “Have the courage to say ‘What you are doing is wrong.’”

What example do you set in your community, in your church, in your home and to all those you meet every day?

We determine the values, the attitudes, the love and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our church. We determine the values and attitudes of our church in our personal attitudes and values. In turn the church influences the community. As the consequence of a positive environment everyone can grow, not only in values and attitudes, but in our acceptance and in our appreciation of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Surely the objective of a follower of Jesus is to be one with the Holy Spirit?

I challenge you when filled with the Holy Spirit and being one with Him to continue being a Grumpie.

Test me – go on.

 

 

 

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Love is

Mags and I spent a few short days with our beautiful grand-daughters (must be hereditary huh?) down the South Coast. Jordy’s photos looking stunning at her matric dance and Kaley and Tayne growing into attractive and really nice girls. Nice? Hate that word! They are all wonderful kids. Then suddenly thinking of the grand-sons in UK with Ross starting university at Leeds and Todd’s last school year(s?). Young men and women who spark pride in parental hearts.

Where has the time gone and why did I not spend more time with them? Probably because they didn’t want to but I remember making the same whines about my sons. Where? Why? When? I just wish I had . .  .  .  .  .  .

Thankfully Mags and I enjoy many happy memories but how sad to reflect on that awful phrase “If only”. Certainly depressing once it is too late. How often do we hear of regrets, sadness and heavy hearts because time was not spent with the ones we love – our family? The things of this world are allowed to cloud matters – our personal wants and desires are placed before our responsibilities and our loved ones.

Then suddenly it is too late. The circumstances may vary from leaving home, emigration, illness or even worse. The stark reality is some day it will all change and even end.

Do we leave our children and grand-children with enough desire to return and spend time with us – even a short time? Hopefully we have been lucky in achieving this goal and we are known as a close knit family.

What if we do not? Well the grumpy grandparents really do become grumpy and start feeling unloved, lonely and aimless. Life is sad. Family is distant.

The children can leave home without having felt that love and support to guide them and help them through their lives. The “absent” parent can create so many issues in the life of a child leading to social and psychological problems through their later years. Dysfunctional is another word.

When the absent parent is the result of one parent withholding child access to another parent then there is a likelihood of another problem. The child starts hating the “withholding” parent, at some stage, for removing somebody crucial from their lives. A sense of futility develops. The child could now suffer guilt and hatred and rejection and feeling incomplete. Again a very sad scenario. Is there a solution to all of this? You bet there is.

Let me tell you a true story about a young boy now a grumpy old man. A young boy from a broken home.

I was raised in a home by a loving mother and a step-father who was jealous of our relationship and basically ignored me. My mother was a devoted and devout Christian who tried to get me to Sunday School, Church, Confirmation and so on. In other words I was raised in a Christian household and religion played a role in my formative years. I attended church regularly. High school I went to a Church school which required me to attend around 7 hours of church, chapel or something religious every week. When I reached matric I considered myself religious and found myself singing in choirs (you better believe it), a server in the city’s cathedral and the school chapel, reading the lesson and generally participating in religion and religious celebrations. In Standard nine I could just about repeat the whole of the evening service and communion service verbatim from the prayer book. I knew my services backwards. I was religious.

When I left school I also left the church. In fact my wife and I agreed to become Methodists (kind of middle of the road concession to each other) so that our sons could be baptised, attend Sunday School, be confirmed, attend church and so on and so forth. Actually I became a holiday Christian – I only attended church at Easter, Christmas, baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Was I happy? Yeah – kinda. I was playing sport on a Sunday morning anyway. Going to church was for the wife and kids. Religion after all is a female thing isn’t it.

Then my life changed quite dramatically. I was diagnosed with leukaemia. An aggressive leukaemia. I found myself hospitalised regularly every week or fortnight in an effort to top up my blood supplies (sometimes 3 or 4 pints of blood a week). At the same time I also required chemo, hospitalisation and specialist visits on a regular basis and all the time that little hole in the pit of my stomach suddenly became more than just a little hole. I didn’t know much but I knew I was lost.

I was frightened. I started to think about more than my selfish life. What happens when you die? What if the bible is true? What if there is a heaven – and that other place? What if what if. People were praying for me to be cured. People I had never seen or met or even asked for their help. I was more than touched.

You know what – their prayers worked. I have been free of leukaemia now for some years. But that didn’t make me a Christian – I was still religious …… but…… a Christian? I didn’t know much but I knew I needed help.

Then I was invited on an Alpha course. I was told Alpha would help me to answer some of my questions. During the Alpha week end I found Jesus Christ. It wasn’t a “wow” experience, an all fall down for me but more a gradual movement towards our Lord. I was amazed at how good I felt. How peaceful I was and ….. I didn’t change much at first outwardly but something profound did change inwardly. I changed gradually inwardly. My friends didn’t notice immediately. I still did some of the things I did before, but I now sensed guilt and felt the need to know God better. I wanted to change. I wanted to know God better. I wanted to be a better man.

The word regeneration describes my change from old to new. An inner re-creating by God’s gracious action and the Holy Spirit. Regeneration is a radical change. Just as our physical birth resulted in a new individual entering the earthly realm, our spiritual birth results in a new person entering the heavenly realm (Ephesians 2:6).

Allowing Jesus Christ to change me into a new person is the single most important step I have ever taken in my life. I recommend it.

If you are blessed with children there is no doubt the grace and love of our Saviour will be the most peaceful, loving and awesome experience you can give your children. The benefits are enormous.

Try it.

 

 

 

 

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Bad language is a growing problem

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

This is a problem in my life today. In fact if I want to stand up as a follower of Jesus it is a huge problem in my life. Let me hasten to add my sledging on the cricket field (and even the golf course) are things of the past. Sadly there is still a lingering addiction which surfaces from time to time. I am not proud of it. In my mind it proves a lack of vocabulary, an inability to articulate clearly, a communication deficiency and an absence of self-control.

I do restrict most of these aberrations to verbal as mouth often beats brain to the punch.

There is little or no excuse for foul, disgusting and filthy language when writing. Particularly on social media.

The only real excuse may be if your education, home life or environment was (maybe still ‘is’) lacking.

Jesus explained that what comes out of our mouths is that which fills our hearts. Sooner or later, the evil in the heart comes out through the mouth in curses and swearing. Our speech will always indicate what is in our hearts.

Matthew 15:11, Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.

Interestingly I have doubts many of the ‘print cursers’ would repeat their words or their crude views in any form of polite company. Obviously if they will (or do) the question remains over their definition of polite company.

The Bible is clear. Swearing and profanity is a sin. If I am pushing towards a reward through Him then I have to accept I am a sinner and I need to change. Religion tells me God will love me if I change. The gospel tells me God’s love changes me. In my case the proof of that pudding is in the eating.

Philippians 3:12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Sin is a reflection of my inner being. My heart. My ‘inner man’ reflects what is inside me and provides evidence of that corruption or pollution in my every day words and actions and thoughts and writing.

As a follower of Jesus Christ I need to repent and place my faith in the hands of Jesus who gave His life so that I may be saved.

Romans 12:2. Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Easy huh?

Nope! It’s not. Changing a lifetime of behaviour patterns requires discipline, will-power and courage. Plus a large slice of faith in His ability to help you change.

 

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