I HAVE A COUPLE of cups in my kitchen. They both look much the same, white, same size, same weight. But there is a big difference between them. One of them I bought a number of because they were cheap, I am down to one or two of those because everytime I bang them on a tap accidently a piece breaks off and I have to throw it away. The other one cost me ten dollars and it is as tough as old boots. So many times I have accidently knocked it about and thought uh oh! there goes my ten dollars. But to my surprise it has survived without even the slightest chip.
What am I getting at here? Well the Bible calls us vessels (cups) for the Masters (God) use. As we look at the New Testament we can see that the first Christians; Paul, Peter, the other Disciples and the early Church were far from fragile vessels for God. They took a lot of knocks and it did not break them, in fact they expected hard times. It is easy to skip over some of the things the New Testament says they went through. Take for example James chapter 1v2-4; 'Brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough,your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don't try and squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything,(not fragile) strong in character ,full and complete'.
Or 1 Peter chapter 1v 6-7; ' So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here. These trials are only to test your faith to see if it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests gold and purifies it.......
Romans 8v16-17; ' For His Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we really are Gods children. And since we are His children we will share His treasures--for all God gives to His Son Jesus is now ours to. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will give us later.....
We don't always understand and appreciate that God is constantly working in our lives to turn us from fragile vessels to antifragile vessels for Him. From vessels that are easily broken to vessels that are as tough as old boots for God.
Thats why Peter said to the Christians in his first letter; ' Beloved, don't be surprised at the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you'!
WHAT SHOULD our response to outbreaks of disease such as Ebola be ?
Well Kenneth and Gloria Copeland have some strong opinions on that issue. If you would like teaching and faith on these issues do what I did and Google 'Kenneth Copeland Ebola' and watch his short message on the subject.
He refers to Psalm 91, and that part of Scripture says it all really.
He mentions that it is an evil spirit that gives power to the Ebola virus and that we, Christians, have the authority of Jesus name and the covering of the Blood of Jesus.
A daily reading and meditation on Psalm 91 will increase our faith and illuminate the Truth to us.
I noticed a couple of things in the first few verses. Verse one speaks of something that needs to be done. It is open to anybody. He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High abides under the shadow of the Almighty. It is talking of close relationship with God. Verse 14 puts it another way, 'because he has set his LOVE upon me, therefore will I deliver him.'
It is easy to miss it, but verse 2 has a key to receiving all of the promises in the rest of the Psalm. And aren't they mighty promises!
Verse 2 starts with,'I WILL SAY.' Notice that the promises of the rest of the Psalm are on the condition that this person with a close relationship with God SAYS something. Verse 3 shows us that after the person says something then a whole list of promises are his/hers.
Speaking out our agreement with Gods word, saying we believe it to be true, is a manifestation of faith. It is really worthy of note that this whole Psalm and all of its promises are received by speaking out our faith and trust in God.
Romans 10v10; For with heart one believes to righteousness and with the MOUTH CONFESSION IS MADE UNTO SALVATION.
NASSIM Nicholas Taleb wrote a book, that I have just finished reading, on the subject of uncertainty in our lives. The title, 'The Black Swan' comes from the fact that at one time in history it was accepted as fact that swans came in one colour only, white. Then Australia was discovered and along with it, black swans.
That life is full of unexpected events,impossible for us to predict, is the theme of the book. He also talks a lot about the human tendency to rationalize after the fact of unexpected events. Black swan events happen and we tend to make up stories as to why they happened to give ourselves a sense of control. We don't like to accept the concept of randomness because it makes us feel uncomfortable and out of control of our lives. We feel better if we have a ' because' for everything. He says,' we are explanation seeking beings who tend to think that everything has an identifiable cause, and we grab the most apparent one as the explanation. We should learn instead to invoke some measure of randomness, which means that we just don't know'. unquote.
The book is really about the fact that we all know in the background of our minds, that unexpected and often tragic things happen daily somewhere. To maintain our mental equilibrium we have a tendency to lie to ourselves about how randomness might affect our lives. I realized that even as a Christian I tend to withdraw into the mental haven of certainty. Speaking of unsaved people, Paul said, 'that they are all their lives in bondage to the fear of death', resulting from the fact, ' that they are in the world without God and without hope.'
We were not designed to live in fearful uncertainty. It is not a normal condition for human beings and is not Gods will that we live that way.
As I read I thought of the biggest black swan (unexpected and impossible to predict) event this world has ever seen. A being came from Heaven who was God in a human body, He lived a life that no other human had been able to live, and He voluntarily gave Himself up to a violent death at the hands of people who hated Him. Yet that event was revealed as the ultimate act of love on His part, because it payed for the sins of everybody and opened the way to relationship with God for all. Jesus is the answer to the fear of randomness for everyone.
Those who know God still must live in the worlds uncertainty and randomness, and must experience the death of the body. But what a difference to be in the care of the one to whom all things are possible, who knows of all events ahead of time.
The Psalms say it best;
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms!
IF, AS a Christian, you are experiencing trouble, you are winning!! Over many years and many tough times I have come to realize that tribulations and trials mean I am doing something RIGHT. If the devil was not worried about you he would leave you alone. He only comes against those that are a threat to him.
We don't hear enough about this in Christian teaching. JESUS said, 'In the world you WILL have tribulation, but be of GOOD CHEER for I have overcome the world'.
The title of this post is the title of a book by Pastor Doug Giles (Florida). Doug has an UNUSUAL way of expressing himself. This particular book of his has been a help to me in keeping perspective during hard times. Here are some portions from the book;
QUOTE; We learned that, according to the Bible, saints experience 'hell' because they are kicking but and taking names for God. A righteous life does not exclude a believer from the blunt end of hells pool cue. Matter of fact, it guarantees it!! Do you feel like you're being Kentucky fried by the trials of life? Do you feel like God, satan, people and animals secretly loathe you? If you answered yes to either or both of those questions, you're in good company. Some of the most powerful and amazing folks that God has ever used went through prolonged periods of internal and external crud that reeked worse than a sun dried manatee carcass. And get this; they actually grew - even prospered - through their pain. Yep, they didn't blame God or man, become atheists, start smoking crack, or become bi-curious during their college years just because things didn't go their way. No, they cowboyed up, saw their trials as a gift, embraced whatever discipline God had for them, exercised their faith when under fire and through it all, became holy winners, not haggard whiners!!
Y'know, in days gone by, tough times were no big deal to the believer, because Christians tended to be a tad bit pluckier back then. Where did they get their holy bulldog resiliency? Well they actually read the Bible, believed it and understood from the BALANCE of Scripture that bad times, as well as good, were promised by Jesus, Moses and the boys. Therefore when bad things happened the believers from bygone days did not wail like sirens, move home with mummy, and/or renounce their Christianity because things momentarily were jacked up. No, they rolled with the pain and grew thereby. I know, pretty weird , right? UNQUOTE
BUSH Tucker man was a popular TV series here in Australia a few years ago. The host was an ex army guy named Les. I guess it is still being shown somewhere around the world. The Australian bush and outback was the backdrop for the series and each week Les revealed what he had taught soldiers about finding natural food, in order to live in the bush away from civilization.
One particular part of the show fascinated me. Every episode would finish with Les sitting at his campsite or standing on some high rocky outcrop with a marvellous view of the setting sun or some panorama of the landscape, and he would always say the same thing. 'It doesn't get any better than this'.
That stood out to me because it is an attitude that is very scarce. Striving for success is most peoples reason for living these days. And success means a lot of different things to people. Financial success, success in relationships, creative success, success as a celebrity and many more. As Christians we can get caught up in that mindset and miss what we have in Jesus. At some point in my life I came across the realization that when I genuinely received Jesus as my saviour I had reached the pinnacle of success,'It doesn't get any better than this".
In Gods mind, on that day I became as successful as it is possible for any human being to be. When you have received Jesus in a genuine commitment you have arrived, you are enormously successful. Thats it! nothing else!
I know somebody will say,'what about working for God?' 'what about winning souls?' 'what about leadership, planting churches and all of that?' Yes that all comes under the heading of obedience which is part of our relational committment to God. But once you begin to do what God wants you to do it doesn't take long to find out that you can only do it in Him. Jesus said,'I will build my Church' and 'without me you can do nothing'. Paul said, 'I worked harder than all the others put together, yet not me but the Grace of God that is in me". I know a mighty man of God who has seen wonderful things in his ministry over many years. He often says,'I just walk around behind the Holy Spirit'. David Herzog says with a smile upon his face,'God does it all and makes me look good.'
We can't get any more successful than receiving Jesus as our saviour. After that we get the honour of being co-labourers with God as He establishes Christs Kingdom on the earth.
It is very important though to know about and receive the pure heart that Jesus obtained for us, as mentioned by Peter in Acts chapter 15 : 8,9. Without that treasure it will be difficult to settle into success in Christ. We need to take all that God has provided for us through Jesus' wonderful sacrifice.
'And you are complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power ' Col 2:10
THE HOUSE church movement got my attention a few years ago after I read a book that put forth the case that most of the Body of Christ is not doing Church the way it is supposed to be done.
I began to think the authors, Frank Viola and George Barna, were right but I had difficulty coming completely out on their side in some of the issues they raised.
I pretty quickly realised that my thinking was being affected by the fact that I had spent many years in a leadership dominated Church where the leadership was firmly in control.
That Church had a profound affect on my life as a Christian and the blessings I received there are foundational to who I am today. Therefore my intention is not to be critical. I suspect that sometimes Gods intentions are deeper than we realise. I should say that I also often felt very frustrated at that Church.
Viola and Barnas book leads to the conclusion that the New Testament shows us that house Churches are the way to go. One of the things I began to think about was the amount of money tied up in Churches with full time staff and building and utilities overheads. Recently I read an article by a Minister who had been part of the leadership group in a big Church with a budget of more than one million dollars a year. Interestingly he said that money was tight even with that income, because of the overheads.
He began to get the sense that things should be somehow different and eventually he resigned and started a house Church. The aim was to eventually have a thousand member Church, meeting in 50-80 homes, with a one million dollar budget again, but this time giving 80% of the money to needy causes and missions.
In the past thirteen years the house Churches have been able to channel one million dollars to various community projects and they have also started 450 Churches in India.
He also said that no person in the house meetings takes a salary. I presume that means they all work.
I have to admit, that article convinced me that the house Church movement is on the right track.
IT is surprising, but the New Testament teaches that there is only ONE way to please God.
Hebrews 11 v 6 says : But without FAITH it is impossible to please Him (God)
On the face of it that would seem to be somewhat strange, to simple. What about all the rest of the Bible or the Christian life Lord ?
But Romans 10v17 adds a bit more depth to it : So then FAITH comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
FAITH is the doorway to ALL of the Word of God. No wonder God says we can't please Him without it. There are two ways to read the Bible, with FAITH and without FAITH. I know of somebody who read the entire Bible from cover to cover at one time in his life. He didn't become a Christian and had no interest in it afterwards for the rest of his life. Paul talked about such people when he said, 'they heard the message of the Gospel but it did them no good, because when they heard it they did not accept it with FAITH (Heb 4v2). Another version says, 'because it wasn't mixed with FAITH'.
Even as Christians, though we have FAITH in Jesus, we can still read the word and not mix it with FAITH. In a lot of Churches around the world there are people who attend every week and read the Bible every so often, and who are saved (hopefully) but do very little for God. Why? Because they do not mix FAITH with their experience of God and the Bible.
Take praying for example. God hears our prayers, but to have prayers that are always answered and are powerful, I must pray in FAITH.
Jesus taught, 'whatever you desire when you pray, believe that you have received it and you shall have it'.(Mark 11v24)
I had an experience while I was a Taxi driver. An Indian lady had been helped to my Cab at the rank, by some of her co workers. She was in a lot of pain and wanted to be driven to a destination about 30 kms away. I thought they should take her to a doctor. I didn't want the responsibility if she got worse. But she insisted so off we went. After a while I began to think that I should pray for this woman. She was obviously a Hindu by the Red mark on her forehead and her jewellery. I said that I was a Christian and that the Bible taught that if we laid our hands on people God would heal them (Mark 16). She agreed and I put my hand on her arm and asked the Father, in Jesus, name to heal her.
As I continued driving I was trying to sneak a look at her to see if she was healed. After a short time the Holy Spirit bought to my attention that I was hoping and hope was not faith. I said to the Lord, 'OK I believe she is healed, not because I see it, but because your word has promised healing. Almost immediately I was surprised to hear quiet singing. It was my passenger. The painful condition had been completely healed.
That is why one version of the New Testament gives Hebrews 11v1 as : FAITH is the substance of things hoped, for the evidence of things not seen, FAITH perceiving as real fact, what is not revealed to the senses.
Jesus said it quite a few times: 'Have FAITH in God'.
Lions in the Bible .............................. ..BUT ONE OF THE ELDERS SAID TO ME, ' DO NOT WEEP, BEHOLD, THE LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH, THE ROOT OF DAVID, HAS PREVAILED TO OPEN THE SCROLL AND TO LOOSE IT'S SEVEN SEALS'. ( Rev5v5 )
THE WICKED FLEE WHEN NO MAN PURSUES THEM, BUT THE RIGHTEOUS ARE BOLD AS A LION. ( PROV 28V1 )
THE LION WHICH IS MIGHTIEST AMONG BEASTS, AND TURNS NOT BACK BEFORE ANY. ( Prov 30v30 )
'Safe!! said Mr Beaver, who said anything about safe!! course He's not safe, but He is good. He is the King you know. He's wild you know, not like a tame Lion.'
Wrong will be right when Aslan comes in sight : At the sound of His roar sorrows will be no more : When He bares His teeth winter meets it's death : When He shakes His mane we shall have Spring again. ( C S Lewis..The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe )
And when the King came to the den and to Daniel, he cried out in a voice of anguish. The King said to Daniel,'O Daniel, servant of the living God, is your God whom you serve continually able to deliver you from the lions? Then Daniel said to the King, ' O King live for ever, my God has sent His angel and has shut the lions mouths so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent and blameless before Him; and also before you O King, I have done no harm...........so Daniel was taken up out of the den and no hurt of any kind was found on Him because He believed in His God. (Dan 6v20-23)
ONE of our local TV stations recently featured a movie called Machine Gun Preacher. The true story of Sam Childers, a bikie who became a Christian and started a childrens rescue mission on the border of southern Sudan and Uganda. An armed rebel group in that area kidnap children after killing their parents. Thousands of children have been murdered, tortured, disfigured and been forced into becoming child soldiers. The name Machine Gun Preacher arises from the fact that Sam Childers and his men use guns to rescue the children and protect them in the compound he has built in the area. Apparently the film was not entirely factual, but a visit to his website shows that the work is going on in more or less the same way as the film portrayed. He appears and speaks at the end of the film tacitly giving his approval of it.
The rebel group is heavily armed and to put it candidly, Childers and his men are having to kill people in order to rescue and protect the children. Here are some of my thoughts after viewing the film; why is there not a Country or Government somewhere in the world willing to intervene on behalf of the children? It is well documented that around 30.000 children have been kidnapped over past years. Why is the UN or other similar Global agencies doing nothing? Non interference in another countries affairs can't be used as an excuse when a single civilian has gone into the area, bought land and begun doing what an armed international force should be doing. I thought also that if an armed international force was there doing what Childers is doing ,we would not think twice about casualties inflicted in the rescue of the children. Is it any different when Childers is doing what nobody else would do?
In Luke we read; "it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. In Mathew; "take care that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in Heaven their Angels always see the the face of my Father...
What a terrible world we live in when small children are preyed upon by the worst type of evil and nothing is done. Today I was out and about and I found myself looking at children and thinking how I would feel if such wicked things were done to them. I think if it came to the crunch I would probably have to side with Sam Childers.
I think that anyone who sets themselves to destroy children, in evil hatred, is going to get it in the neck from God, one way or the other.