JESUS IS LORD

While elections and leaders come and go, what matters most in America and other Western nations is that we repent for turning away from God and rededicate our lives to the way of Jesus, to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims to America and the signing of the Mayflower Compact. Fleeing religious persecution in Europe, this group of Puritans was in search of a new world where they could practice their faith without fear or opposition. Prayer Networks in Australia are encouraging Christians to set aside Wednesday to pray and fast for America—that the nation would return to God, and that God would direct the outcome of the election towards justice.

God is doing a “new” work in the USA and Terry and Barbi Franklin are privileged to be involved. In my next post, I will upload their video where they explain how God through repentance is bringing Christians to prayer and fasting as never before and of course, the results are amazing.

Hope you enjoy Terry and Barbi’s rendition of As One We Stand as much as I did.

Watch this beautiful overview of D.C. as you listen to the beautiful words sung by Barbi and Terry Franklin.

UNDERSTANDING GOD

The Openness of God by Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, John Sanders, William Hasker, and David Basinger (1994). The Openness of God presents a careful and full-orbed argument that God known through Christ desires a “responsive relationship” with his creatures. While it rejects process theology, the book asserts that such classical doctrines as God’s immutability, impassibility, and foreknowledge demand reconsideration. The authors insist that our understanding of God will be more consistently biblical and more true to the actual devotional lives of Christians if we profess that “God, in grace, grants humans significant freedom” and enters into a relationship with a genuine “give-and-take dynamic.” The Openness of God is remarkable in its comprehensiveness, drawing from the disciplines of biblical, historical, systematic, and philosophical theology. Evangelical and other orthodox Christian philosophers have promoted the “relational” or “personalist” perspective on God in recent decades. It was probably the first major attempt to bring the discussion into the evangelical theological arena.

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Christianity Today’s 1995 Book of the Year

God is everlasting, without beginning and without end i.e. God is eternal. God is not limited by anything outside of himself. However, Scripture reveals that God although omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, is not the “All” or the “Everything,” but He is a being rather than Being itself.

What do we read about God in God’s own revelation, the Bible? And what do we “see” in God-in-person Jesus Christ? We see a self-limiting God who grants His creation a degree of autonomy, freedom to go against and resist His will. We see a self-limiting God who enters into time and history and goes on a “journey” with His creation and especially with his covenant people. We see a God who can be deeply affected, grieved, made angry or blessed, by what his creatures do.

It seems that before there was a creation, God was not limited, but self-limitation out of love was potential within God.

Sure, philosophy can sometimes help fill in some gaps left open by the Bible, but we must be careful not to allow philosophy to overtake our thinking about God such that the God of the Bible is a mere symbol for something “more real” who is not really like the passionate, personal, historical, suffering, intervening, resistible God of the Bible. We Christians must begin our thinking about God with Jesus Christ and work our way out from there.

ARE YOU A TRUE BELIEVER IN CHRIST?

“In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:11-14

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.Romans 8:16-17

These verses confirm that it is only those who repent, believe in Jesus and His sacrifice on The Cross, they receive and are sealed with the Holy Spirit.

“And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever1 John 2:17

“If you know that He is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him.1 John 2:29

He will render (repay) to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” Romans 2:6-8

These three verses truly verify that it is only those that do the will of God and practise righteousness are granted eternal life.

“But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously, who tests the heart and the mind,…” Jeremiah 11:20 (ESV)

“For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.” Psalm 66:10 (ESV)

“the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:7-9

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

Note: the above four verses makes it clear that God tests the hearts and minds of true believers.

Faith is what is so very precious to God. And that is why God has to test people to find out if they have genuine faith. That is the biblical truth of the matter.

WILL YOU ENDURE PERSECUTION DURING THE COMING TRIBULATION

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.Philippians 4:13

Philippians 4:13 is likely one of the most misquoted, misapplied, and misunderstood passages within the New Testament. Suffice it to say, it is not about how one can literally do anything you put your mind to simply because you are in Christ. Paul has a specific context in mind here—and it is not about attaining your personal goals and aspirations, developing a healthy conception of self-worth, nor is it designed to be a coping mechanism to deal with the hardships of life. The passage isn’t even about finding the secret of contentment in all things, despite insistence from many that this is the focal point of this passage. This interpretation has more validity due to the previous verses:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Philippians 4:11-12

Paul undoubtedly affirms learning contentment in all circumstances. However, the overarching point of Paul to the Philippians in this passage is not contentment, but one of enduring through suffering, particularly, a suffering brought on through no fault of their own.

Brutal execution of 11 blindfolded Christians in Nigeria, the day after Christmas

The thing that is rather sad about focusing on both the ability to do “all things” and “contentment” is that we don’t focus properly on the message of Paul, which is Christ Himself. Not only does emphasizing the “all things” profoundly miss the point of the passage, but it just doesn’t stand the test of basic logic. It isn’t even an adequate application of this passage, because all things” to Paul here has a specific context, and that context is enduring through suffering for the prize gained through the glorious gospel of our Lord. Even more clearly, they stand to be glorified with Christ, as they too share in His sufferings. Yet equally as sad, though perhaps in a less heinous way, is the focus on learning contentment that is often also presented as the point of this passage. Again, it must be restated: contentment is the fruit, not the root. The root is Jesus Christ

A rather large focus in Philippians surrounds the idea that the knowledge of Christ and His great work is the means by which the Christian is able to endure persecution. What that means is that a true knowledge of Christ leads to us seeing Him as greater than everything else—even our suffering. A true knowledge of Christ will produce in us the heart attitude that believes all else is to be considered as loss, and that to live is Christ. The one who sees Christ as the preeminent One will actually remain stable in the midst of either incredible prosperity or incredible duress, because their eyes are fixated on the risen Christ Himself (Hebrews 12:1-2). They are not lured away to treasure or trust in wealth, yet neither are they acting as if the sky is falling in the midst of even the most horrendous of circumstances. They are able to say with Paul that they may be, “…hard pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Why? Because it is invariably through weakness that the Lord is pleased to show His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). They are content, yet their contentment is born exclusively out of seeing that their light and momentary” afflictions produces an eternal glory, which is the hope of the resurrection that the gospel of Christ brings (2 Corinthians 4:1-5:10).

Taken from article by Grayson Gilbert (Patheos) “Philippians 4:13 is not about your life goals”. Grayson completed his Masters of Divinity degree at Moody Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing church planting under the umbrella of his home church.

CHURCH IS ABOUT MAKING DISCIPLES

The mark of a fully-devoted disciple is a disciple who is making other disciples, a disciple who is bringing others to the faith either through personal evangelism or bringing others with them to church to introduce them to Jesus. Evangelism is the greatest form of discipleship.

Home Groups – a great way to do church

If we in our churches are not creating disciples who regularly create other disciples, we are not succeeding in the Great Commission. Christ called us all to share the good news of eternal life that He made possible through His death and resurrection. If we are not making disciples then what are we doing at church, hopefully not making Couch Potato Christians who sit and soak rather than serve and send. If you want to see who the fully-devoted disciples of Jesus Christ are, don’t necessarily go to the biggest churches or find the Christians with the most seminary degrees or the ones who are the most confident (i.e. arrogant) about their doctrine. Find disciples who are making other disciples. Evangelism is the greatest form of discipleship.

OUR GREAT HOPE, OUR ONLY HOPE – JESUS

 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:21-27

Jesus made a promise to Martha that not only was there a resurrection, but that Jesus himself was the resurrection and the life, and that faith in him would result in eternal life. It’s why this same apostle John, would go on to write the greatest summary statement in all the Bible:

“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.” John 3:16

Paul said, if there is no resurrection then we are to be pitied. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:19

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-6

IT’S WHY WE HAVE HOPE

Paul is recording the central claim of Christianity: Jesus proved his divinity by dying on the cross and rising again, thereby validating everything he said about the resurrection. It’s why we have hope that we who believe in Jesus will see our brother again, that this is not the end. The key here is the list of witnesses: after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to Cephas (Peter), the twelve, then 500 at one time, many of whom were still alive fifteen to twenty years later. It’s like Paul is saying: fact-check me on this one. I know it’s an outrageous claim, but go and talk to the witnesses yourself.

If someone stood up today and started claiming: there were no attacks on 9/11, a plane never flew into the side of Pentagon, even though that was almost twenty years ago, there are thousands of witnesses here that were there and could contradict that. 1 Corinthians is written twenty years after the event of the resurrection, with witnesses still alive, who saw Jesus alive after his death and burial and resurrection. And because Jesus rose from the dead, everything changes!

Here’s what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians about how Jesus’ resurrection secures our own resurrection:

“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;  it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;  it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 54-57

THE ONLY TREASURE OF THE LIFE THAT COUNTS IS JESUS

A great sermon from David Platt – “to be a Christ follower, we discover that Jesus Christ is a treasure chest of Holy Joy and we take everything else and write above it LOSS.”

Don’t miss the gravity of the message given by Paul in Philippians 3:4-9. Everything else in life must pale into nothing in comparison to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus.

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. ” Philippians 1:21

SPECIFICITY – THE MIRACLE OF THE INCARNATION

The God who created the universe became a helpless baby inside the universe He created…the Almighty become the weakest of beings … the hands that stretched out the heavens now too weak to even grasp the hand of His mother…the eyes that see all things now can barely focus…the mouth that spoke the universe into existence now can only offer up the cry of a helpless baby. How amazing is that? It is the miracle of love … the humility of love … and the miracle of specificity.”

Image result for pictures of the Incarnation of Jesus

SPECIFICITY?

“God is omnipresent, everywhere at once. But in the Incarnation, He becomes specific to time and space, to only one point of space and to only one moment of time. God is universal, the light of the world, the spring of all existence. Yet now He becomes specific to one culture, one people, one tribe, one house, one genealogy, one family, one life. The universal God of all existence becomes a Jewish baby, a Jewish boy, then a Jewish rabbi, walking in sandals on the ground and dust of first-century Judea.

Everything He does is now contained in one specific place and one specific moment of time. He forgives specific sinners, embraces specific outcasts, multiplies specific loaves of bread and touches specific people, heals them of their infirmities and raises them from the dead.”

“How does one apply that?” I asked.”

In order to know the power of God’s love, you have to receive it in its specificity, as specifically from Him and specifically to you. His sacrifice as specifically given for you, His Word specifically to your life, His blood and forgiveness poured out specifically for your specific sins.

And so too, you must live your life in God in specificity. Your love must manifest in specificity…in specific actions to the specific people who are here and now in your life…You must love and bless and live out your faith on earth …in specificity.”

Your mission is to manifest the love of God in specificity. Bless specific people with specific actions of love—specifically today.

Another great insight from Jonathan – adapted from The Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn, copyright 2016

Death and Suffering – only credible HOPE

Twin Towers attack

The only truly satisfying answer to the existence of death and suffering is found in God’s word. Pain, suffering and death are intruders into God’s creation and He has already provided a way out with the promise of eternal life.

The BIBLE tells of the creation of a once-good world, in which death and suffering are not “natural” at all, but are intruders. They occur because of humanity’s rebellion against its maker (Genesis 3).  But if fossils formed over millions of years, which so many Christians just blithely accept as “fact”, then that wipes out The Fall as an answer to evil, especially “natural evil”. The fossils show the existence of things like death, bloodshed and suffering. So if these were there millions of years ago, they must have been there before man and hence before sin. This is the rock against which old-age compromises inevitably founder. This is also the reason why the age of things is not some obscure academic debate that Christians can put in the “too-hard-for-now” basket. Because it strikes to the heart of the hugest questions of all in relation to the nature of God, sin, evil, death; questions at the very core of Christian belief (or reasons given for no belief, for that matter).

When we try, however inadequately, to see things from God’s viewpoint rather than our own, things become quite different. There is suddenly nothing unfair about the deaths of any one of us, no matter what the circumstances.

God is the sovereign Judge who is totally holy (1 John 1:5). It is impossible to overstate His utter abhorrence of even the slightest sin. He is our Creator, He establishes the rules for our existence. Just as He destroyed almost all of mankind with Noah’s Flood which incidentally buried the myriad of dead things found in rocks all over the world (fossils); we know from His Word that He will eventually wind up the history of this fallen world and there will be a new heaven and new earth.

“and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Thank goodness God is merciful and loving (2 Peter 3:9), and long-suffering. In the most profound display of mercy and grace imaginable, He stepped into our shoes as a man, JESUS CHRIST, God the Son. He came to suffer and die so that God’s righteous anger against sin could be appeased and the penalty paid for those who place their trust in Him and receive His free gift—forgiveness of their sin and admission into God’s family—by faith.

There are daily reminders of His Curse on all creation all around us. When they are punctuated by horrifically sad concentrated bursts such as recent disasters, we are doubly reminded of the awfulness of sin. Does knowing the answers to the “big picture” make us callous to suffering? Far from it: we are moved even more by compassion, just as the Lord Jesus was when He lived among us. Because of Jesus, Christians—those who take the Bible as the Word of God, and know Jesus Christ as the Creator incarnate—are at the forefront of digging into their pockets to help alleviate suffering.

“If (since) Christ is God and died for me, then nothing I can do in obedience to Him can ever be too much”.  paraphrase C.T.Studd.

For more information check out article by Dr Jonathan Sarfati, “Why would a loving God allow death and suffering?” on http://www.creation.com.