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Friday, March 2, 2012

This “Salvation” thing! What is it? How do we explain it?

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  Why the church has to establish big words still mystifies me! While “salvation”  is not the biggest of church words, it is sure misused a lot!

The question I dread hearing asked by a Christian of a non-Christian is “Are you saved?” and worse would be “have you come to salvation?”

This is such a silly and loaded question!

Firstly, the do-gooder causes the person asked the question to feel like a victim.

Secondly, the person may not even know what saved means?

Thirdly the unfortunate victim may be prompted to ask “Saved from what? What is this salvation?” causing the do-gooder to pounce on the question for the set-up it is, going into lengthy answers preprepared and overwhelming the hearer.

What does that achieve but to annoy, embarrass and make people want to run away?

So what should we do?

Let’s start by looking at where this is introduced in the bible
, Romans 10 (NIRV)

The context starts in verse 1. . .

Brothers and sisters, with all my heart I long for the people of Israel to be saved. I pray to God for them. I can give witness about them that they really want to serve God. But how they are trying to do it is not based on what they know.

They didn't know how God makes people right with himself. They tried to get right with God in their own way. They didn't do it in God's way.

Christ has completed the law. So now everyone who believes can be right with God.

So we need to understand Paul is saying the Romans need to understand the context. He is explaining that the Jews by their religions view and practices are trying to make themselves right with God without really understanding how to do it!

Paul is using the term "saved" to speak of his desire to have Jews that know Jesus.

This means they would need to understand and acknowledge that Jesus is the one God! They need to understand they can’t do things to make themselves right with God.

That’s the start of the context!

Paul then quotes lots and lots of Old Testament law, simply because this is of application to Jews!
Quotes include; Leviticus 18:5,  Deuteronomy 30:12,
 Deuteronomy 30:13, Deuteronomy 30:14, Isaiah 28:16, Joel 2:32, Isaiah 52:7, Isaiah 53:1, Psalm 19:4, Deuteronomy 32:21, Isaiah 65:1, Isaiah 65:2, 1 Kings 19:10,14, 1 Kings 19:18.

It is in the middle of this set of quotations that the often quoted verse on “salvation” is revealed, as he says. . .

Say with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord." Believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. Then you will be saved. With your heart you believe and are made right with God. With your mouth you say that Jesus is Lord. And so you are saved. Scripture says, "The one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."—(Isaiah 28:16)

Notice that this remark is backed up and elaborated with a quote about those that trust Jesus will never be put to shame!

Perhaps we could do far better to ask people “Do you know about Jesus and trust him?

This is much more in line with what Paul was getting at!

However, even this is a rather loaded question and perhaps we should generally avoid it if we really care for the unsaved.

Why?

Because we do not want to manipulate!  

Jesus always provided people with clarity to make their own decisions and then left them to make their decision respecting and honoring the decisions, even if they were the wrong ones.

Maybe we should do the same?

Now I am not saying is that we  should not  reveal Jesus to people! Read my blogs and you will see that I try to unveil the mysteries of the bible daily. I point to Jesus as the true answer all the time,  because I know this in my heart and have investigated it with my mind and experienced this in my life!

What we need to do is show others Jesus and then be ready to answer their questions when they come to us to ask them!

The light and glory of God should be evident in our lives to the extent that people cannot but see God’s influence on us!

There may be a time that Holy Spirit could prompt us to ask a person about their trust in Jesus. When that occurs we need to be careful!

At that time they should know us and trust us as we ask them this difficult question! There should be no judgment in our questioning! The person who is answering must know in their heart that they are free to answer in any way they want, without being jumped on! They must know they will be loved and respected no matter what the answer is! |Our attitude to them should not change as a result of the answer.

They should be asking us because their respect for God has grown because they have seen him in our lives!

Why did Paul say what he did in this ancient text?


He tells us. . .

I am talking to you who are not Jews. I am the apostle to the non-Jews. So I think the work I do for God and others is very important.

I hope somehow to stir up my own people to want what you have. Perhaps I can save some of them.

The purpose of the discussion was to cause the Jews to think, respecting the relationship the non-Jews of the time had with Jesus.

When we are faced with those who don’t know Jesus, we need to serve, love and respect them as Jesus served, loved and respected us. Jesus did this for us despite our horrible behaviours.

The ancient Jews nailed Jesus to a tree to die!

 Modern men simple scorn Jesus with words and reject words of the church, mocking this institution. They nail Jesus and us with words hoping we will die to loving them! Let’s not drop to their level and rather show the love of Jesus in a way that cannot be mistaken for anything less!

Why do they reject Jesus and the church?

They fail to see Jesus for who he is!

To change that is to enable others to be “saved”, they need to trust God and WANT to speak the truth about Jesus to others.

Their hearts need to be fully involved with Jesus if they are to say they are “saved”.

To do this they have to have seen and understood Jesus through Christians. In that way they see Jesus as the great God!

Let’s help, respect and reveal Jesus through our actions and lives. Let’s forget the trite questions on salvation and rather reveal Holy Spirit’s power in our own lives in the way which others cannot but see God in our lives. Then, when they we ask us how they can become like us it’s time to point to God and explain salvation in simple terms.

That’s the time we pray for Holy Spirit to reveal to them God’s power and love.

Our words must reflect our lives and we should live today in such a way that others see Jesus. That’s how salvation comes to this world!

Let’s go do it!

Fri, March 2, 2012 | link          Comments

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Making tough decisions?
  
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"The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live."
Flora Whittemore


Are you ever faced with a decision that has no clear correct answer?

Once, in one of my work roles as president of a company, this happened almost every day!

We all have to make tough decisions, right?

Time moves on! My roles and the decision making moved on as well. Now there are less difficult decisions, for God is gracious! His leading took me into a different line of work. It was his leading, since the draw of money and prestige was a powerful attraction at the time. It was not a good one for myself and I decided against it. (I am not saying this is a wrong decision for others, but it was for me).

We all get faced with tough decisions! Probably the most difficult one is whether to take a loved one off life support because that is their desire, if they get in that situation! That’s real tough!

We need a solid base from which to make daily decisions if they are not to continually rock our world.

Here are a few tips that we may find helpful:

·         Prolonging a decision is not very useful as it prolongs the agony. So we need to make the decision and then move on. Jesus decided in the Garden of Gethsemane to do his Fathers will and accept death. Then allowed himself to move to his death hours later. The time between the decision and activating it was small. We can learn from that!


·         We need to understand right decisions come from experience and experience from wrong decisions. Making decisions over time helps us make better decisions!


·         Decisions are not always meant to be easy. Read Mark 14:34 where Jesus says “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” If Jesus found decisions tough, then we will as well. That didn’t stop him making them, and it shouldn’t stop us either.


·         The ten commandments are solid guidance and support for decision making. That why God gave them to us! Let’s use them! To know them we need to be able to recite them. Can you? In simplified form
o   One God!
o   No idolizing!
o   No swearing on God, misusing his name!
o   Take a day off each week and rest
,o   Respect Mom and Dad,
o   No murdering,
o   Sex within legal biblical marriage,
o   No stealing,
o   Speak truth about others,
o   Greediness is no good!


·         Base decisions on how God does it
o   Holy trinity co-operates, balancing needs of the community (Father, Son, Holy spirit) and the needs of the individual
o   Holy trinity works in harmony
o   Holy trinity is outward focussed
o   Holy trinity has an eternal rather than immediate perspective
o   Holy trinity reaches out, embraces painful circumstances and brings healing


·         Decisions are best made after a lot of prayer. Let’s talk to God and ask the wisest to help us learn. Jesus spent time in prayer in that garden!


·         Not everyone will understand or support us and they don’t need to, our decision if based on God’s will needs to be done. See Luke 9:51-53 “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.”


·         We must be willing to live and die by our decisions! This is the tough one! Once made, we simply follow the course. No revisiting it! Cycling thoughts don’t help much. I had a father who said the first time you rethink something, it’s good because the first time you are checking you haven’t missed something in the decision. The second time is wasted effort! Let’s not torture ourselves. Let’s be resolute and move on! It’s not always easy, see the story of Daniel who got thrown into a den of lions because of a decision (Daniel 6:6-9). God will however honour our decision. Also see the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego for another example.

These guidelines we have looked at are just that, guidelines. Your decision must be yours and so is yours to make. However it is helpful to remember John 5:30 “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”

God needs to be central to tough decisions if we are to be successful. We need to make them, and if we fail “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous!”(1 John 2:1)

Now isn’t that a great thought for today!
Thu, March 1, 2012 | link          Comments

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Unexpected developments, how do we react?
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If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience. ~George Bernard Shaw

Sometimes things just deviate from what we expect to happen don’t they?

Examples of this may be

·         that we go to a party to have a good time and the host falls ill, or
·         we take a day off work to enjoy the sunshine and it rains, or
·         we get a terminal illness and then unexpectantly without causative medical intervention we get better, or
·         we lose a love and find they were not for us, and then find our lifelong spouse soon afterwards, or
·         many other events you know better than anyone else. . .



These and many other things happen to us, some are good, some are not so good!

Unexpected branches in life take us to unexpected places. This is in fact true living!

Have you considered that doing the exact same thing, at the exact same time, each day, would be boring?

After a hundred days of this monotony we would be willing to do anything to change it, even so slightly. I think a movie rendering of this, is that famous Groundhog day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell where the day repeats over and over again.

Variations are what give us the joy of life! Unexpected variations provide us with material to enjoy and enrich life.

The joy of life is in knowing that life is moving towards a good destination despite variations. As Christians, we know this! Our bible tells us there is an ultimate good destination.

However, do we believe it?

Sometimes it takes looking back to look forward. Years ago, a guy by the name of Jeremiah (amongst others) explained Jesus would come and be a new type of king. He lived just over 600 years before Jesus.

He said;

"A new day is coming," announces the Lord.
      "At that time I will raise up from David's royal line
      a true and rightful Branch.
   He will be a King who will rule wisely.
      He will do what is fair and right in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved.
      Israel will live in safety.
   And the Branch will be called
      The Lord Who Makes Us Right With Himself.

Jesus was a descendant of David, but was he a king?

The best answer comes from a discussion in which Jesus answered this. The scene is a trial to determine if Jesus was to get the death sentence. The danger to Rome was, this guy who had appeared on the scene would try and make out he was a ruler and subvert the people from Roman authority.  Pilate, who represented the authority, is asking him questions. Here is how the discussion went. . .

John 18:33-37(NIRV); Then Pilate went back inside the palace. He ordered Jesus to be brought to him. Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"

"Is that your own idea?" Jesus asked. "Or did others talk to you about me?"

 "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What have you done?"

Jesus said, "My kingdom is not part of this world. If it were, those who serve me would fight. They would try to keep the Jews from arresting me. My kingdom is from another place."

"So you are a king, then!" said Pilate.

   Jesus answered, "You are right to say I am a king. In fact, that's the reason I was born. I came into the world to give witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of truth listens to me."

Jesus was a king, but not of this earth. He didn’t come to be a political leader of men (and I wish many of our churches would get that!) He came for us, the people, the public, the poor in spirit, who needed to be fulfilled.

To the Israelites, this was a deviation or branch from their planning and understanding. How did they deal with the unexpected?

They rejected what they did not understand!

Do we do this?


It takes courage to face life and accept anomalies and move on.

Do we simply reject Jesus again and again, over the years?

Does Jesus pop up in conversations and events over and over again?

Do we do as Bernard Shaw suggests, repeat our behaviour, rejecting God's love and teaching as the unexpected happens again? Do we fail to learn?

What is wrong with that?

When unexpected events intrude on our day and perhaps we take the time to ask if it is an influence of God, we see the value of them and gain from them. Sometimes it takes courage, sometimes it is easier, but always we gain from them.

So today, no matter what the circumstances, we can move forward and gain from them since we know God holds our future.

That’s a great thought isn’t it?

Wed, February 29, 2012 | link          Comments

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What is the Tetragrammaton?
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  Okay, I know it sounds like a new type of nuclear device, but it isn’t!

It is far, far more powerful but in a up building creative power rather than the disintegrating destructive nature of a nuclear device!

The Tetragrammaton is word of four letters (coming from the Greek τετραγράμματον which means four letter word).

It is the Holy name of God in Hebrew. To many of us this word is too holy to say or write, and so I ask forgiveness for writing it here, but I have no other way to explain its significance and show it to others. It is God’s human name in the purest form, יהוה .

In English it is translated YHWH and pronounced "Yahweh" or as "Jehovah". The ancient Hebrew did not have vowels so these are an addition by men.

In our English translations, we often translate it as LORD to honor the sensitivity with which this name is to be treated. The God who causes us to exist reveals this as his name.

So how is this name linked with Jesus?

Isaiah 9:6- 7 says. . .

For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given,
   and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
   there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
   and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
   with justice and righteousness
   from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
   will accomplish this.

 This last sentence in the original is as follows . . .

 
“The zeal” קִנְאַ֛ת means jealousy,
 
“of the LORD” יְהוָ֥ה means Yahweh the proper name of the God of Israel,
“of hosts” צְבָאֹ֖ות means army, war, warfare,
“will accomplish” תַּעֲשֶׂה־ means do,
“This”.    means "with me is God,"

So another way of saying this is the jealousy of God for God and the power of the LORDs army, does this!

 We know the first part of this prophecy is about Jesus! Here we see the linkage of Jesus to YHWH.

God’s army is behind what Jesus does on the cross for us!

Isn’t that incredible? God’s love for God generates the action that results in us being able to interact with the God of the universe, personally!

We should be feeling so honored at that, shouldn’t we? It is simply amazing and difficult to comprehend if you meditate on it for a while.

Now, why am I not completely scared to mention God’s name?

It’s because of what happened when Jesus died. . .

It says in Matthew 27:50-52. . .

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.

That curtain that tore was the barrier between God and men that withheld mankind from entering God’s Holy of Holy places on Earth. Up to then, only the high priest had direct contact with God. Now it was open to all!

The report shows that the power of Jesus death tore it in two.

Now we know this curtain was about 4 inches or 8 cm thick! (It was also about 20m or 65ft tall, so this was a superhuman tear!)

This is God, saying he is opening up the Holy of Holies to men. We need to be careful of how we approach God, but his love flowed out into the world with his power from the moment of Jesus’ death.

That’s why we can use the Tetragrammaton without fear, but should always use it with respect!

Let’s go into today with a renewed energy, knowing God’s name is revealed to us so we might be honored, empowered by Holy Spirit and able to do amazing things!

God bless you today!
Tue, February 28, 2012 | link          Comments

Monday, February 27, 2012

Where was Daniel?
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  Sometimes it is not what is said, but what is not said that speaks the loudest isn’t it?

 I remember years ago when I was arrested for bad behaviour as a teenager, it was not the angry words of my father that spoke the most, but rather the gentle quiet disappointment I saw in his eyes!

Now years later, I have come to know God and I realize my father was reflecting Gods love in that moment! At the time as an angry volatile young teen, that silence spoke more than any words could have!

This Sunday I was sitting in church while a pastor read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the fiery furnace (Daniel 3). He took the customary path of explaining we must not worship idols, which is the key aspect of the story, but there was something else that intrigued me.

Let me first explain a bit of background, like what the story is. . .

Israel was in captivity, having been brought into slavery by the Babylonians who were ruled now by a King called Nebuchadnezzar. He was a powerful world ruler at the time. Now Daniel and his friends had previously had an encounter with this king when they asked to eat simpler food than the opulent, meat and fatty food diet of the kings house. This group, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah had been given a test, eating only vegetables and when it worked out, they had been given permission to eat this diet and also been given work in the king’s service.

Daniel was a person who had God given ability to interpret dreams and when the king has a dream and demands interpretation without telling anyone what the dream was about, God gives Daniel the dream content and an interpretation. The king is highly impressed, placing Daniel in a high position and giving him many gifts.

Around that time the men Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah are renamed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Interesting…here is the name meanings according to wikipedia;

Hebrew etymologies

·         Hananiah means "God who is gracious"
·         Misha'el means "Who is like God?”, also means "to feed" or "to provide"—as in how a husband provides for his family
·         Azariah appropriately means "God has helped"

Chaldean etymologies

It has been asserted that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego's names all pertained to pagan Babylonian gods.
·         Shadrach possibly is derived from Shudur Aku "Command of the moon god"[2]
·         Meshach is probably a variation of Mishaaku, meaning "Who is what Aku is?", and may have been an alteration of his Hebrew name Mishael
·         Abednego is either a corrupted or deliberate use of Abednebo, "servant of Nebo/Nabu," or Abednergo, a variation of Abednergal, "servant of the god Nergal" [3]

 All three were given foreign god names!

You would think they would refuse and rebel as we have seen in the past they were headstrong guys, but they didn’t!

The actual story of the fiery furnace is as follows;

Nebuchadnezzar had a nine-story high statue, made of gold erected in the Plain of Dura and expected everyone to bow down to it on command of music playing. These three, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused and people who disliked them reported them to the king. Punishment was being burned alive! The king was real angry and had the furnace heated much hotter in usual. When they were thrown in the guys who tossed them down into the flames died of burns themselves.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were seen by the king looking through what was probably the ash door at the base of the furnace walking around with a fourth individual totally unharmed and asked them to come out. Which they did! They were not harmed at all!

This pointed out to everyone that they worshipped the true God.

Most people take the obvious moral of the story to be that we are not to worship idols.

I agree but notice more!

While they refused to worship idols themselves, they did not argue or refuse to be named with idol worship god names themselves!

Often we make such a big deal of not being falsely identified with idolatry, that we make ourselves positively unpopular. That is NOT what Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did!

Theirs was a quiet belief that was personal and not aimed to impact others unless necessary. They were humble servants!

Something we can learn from!

Secondly, where was Daniel?

These four were linked since the beginning in this service of the king. Daniel had become much more influential than the others and also knew more of the kings planning and business. In fact the bible says “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.”

So Daniel might have known of this event before the time. If so, why was he not alongside his friends. He had been in the past! Also, he wrote the account and so you would expect he would have included himself in the story if he had a part.

The simple answer is that he probably was not around at the time. Daniel was top of the order that served the king from a magic perspective and having ambassadorial assignments. It is simply probably that he was on a trip out of the area and so not subject to the law at the time because he could not have heard the music.

Sometimes to enable us to grow in God’s service we need to be disconnected from our spiritual leaders. When this happens and stressful testing times appear, it is often God who is offering us a special gift! One of personal involvement with himself!

The fourth figure in that fire according to Nebuchadnezzar looked like a son of the gods. God walked with them!

In times of deep testing we must remember are not alone and that God walks with us!

Today as we ponder on these stories around our God, we need to know that we don’t need to make a big thing about following God, but we need to follow him. We need to remember that God is with us every inch of the way as we walk the paths of life.

Whether they are difficult or easy to walk!

Have a great day!
Mon, February 27, 2012 | link          Comments


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Rift in Evil

By Ken X Briggs

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This suspense thriller centers on Kiara, a beautiful young woman pursued by a murderous group of people, who relentlessly and ruthlessly hunt her and her sisters. Kiara has no idea why she is being targeted! When Kiara and her family turn to the law for help, this fails. Her pursuers’ powers reach deeply into the political and law enforcement world. Family support for her dwindles when they too have to flee her pursuers. Can Kiara escape the clutches of both the law and dishonest big business? With the media broadcasting that Kiara and friends are dangerous and subversive, can Kiara clear her name and bring her pursuers to justice?

 

 
  

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 RiftInEvil.gifThe town of Zinaville is dropped into a spiral of evil causing a young man and a beautiful but abused woman to launch into an investigation that unveils an evil conspiracy.

A horrific mining accident results in Joshua Robyn's father being killed. Joshua struggles both with himself and his townsfolk as he tries to make sense of an incomprehensible situation. Is it an accident or a murder? Why is there a seeming link to evil? Why is his work environment suddenly threatening? What is the conspiracy about and what are they trying to do? As action moves dramatically from exotic African grasslands to the heart of North America's cities, the plot unfolds and the pace quickens. Will there be time? Why is a beautiful abused young woman in the center of this plot?

Evil tendrils tighten on their lives and the interplay between the visible and invisible world shows opposing forces at work.

Will there be a rift in evil?

Will they be able to stop the evil in time?

 

 

 
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  • Published: September, 2010
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