Monday, 28 December 2015

Christmas Makes or Breaks You

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him            (Matthew 2:3)

Herod the Great?  We would never have heard of this king, with his building works, his ten wives and his swimming pools – but for his involvement in the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.  The news of the event rocked this paranoid man.  Another King….?


The wise men had created a stir on arrival in Jerusalem.  Who was this King that they had travelled so far to see?  The debate has gone on ever since.  Other religious leaders have come and gone…. but somehow the human race will not let Jesus alone, in films, books and arguments.  What do YOU make of Him?


Herod was disturbed.  His own title, ‘King of the Jews’ was a hard-won honour.  Here then, in this visit from eastern strangers, was a threat.  A similar complaint features in Acts 17:7 – “They are acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”


Herod made his own mind up with frenzied determination – in the killing of all male babies under two in the region…. He might not have done so had he known that within a few months he himself would be dead.  The fact is that, whatever private little empire you try to build around yourself, you are going to have to part with it one day.  Christmas says, “Decide now for the King of all the ages; you won’t regret it!”

THOUGHT:  What makes a ‘real’ Christmas?  The world today is only too aware of thousands at the present time, for whom Christmas resembles that of Bethlehem under Herod’s murder of her children.  


Monday, 21 December 2015

The Connecting Point of Everything

“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus”      (Luke 1:31)

This is God’s style – to entrust the beginning of the greatest episode of all civilisation to a peasant girl, living in an obscure middle-east township that no one had ever heard of.  The birth of Jesus is the one happening big enough to make sense of events on the only one of all the planets to be inhabited!  We call this event the Incarnation - God becoming human in space and time.

1. The Incarnation connects with our confused History.  True history doesn’t consist of the rise and fall of nations, in the fragments of collapsed dreams or in a meaningless cycle of births and deaths, but in the coming of a King and a kingdom that will outlast all others (v. 33).

2. The Incarnation connects with our sinful Humanity.  From Luke 1 onwards emerged the God-Man, Jesus, who would teach, heal, love and die in his bid to reclaim every human being in the world - so creating out of His followers a new humanity that would live for ever.

3. The Incarnation connects with our true Home.   It is only because of that Birth – and all that followed from it – that the Bible ends as it does with Eden restored as our true Home, and with the banishment of the evil and conflicts that have plagued civilisation.

4. The Incarnation connects with our final Hope.   No, this world was not a strange cosmic accident!  It’s here as a school, a training ground where we can come to know God in Jesus Christ and so look forward to the New Heaven and New Earth that are surely coming.


Sunday, 13 December 2015

Make Way for the King!

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”     (Matthew 3:1-2) 

There had not been a real prophet in Israel for centuries.  The Roman eagle flew over everything, and such religion as there was had become dessicated and lifeless.  And then this wild man from the desert arrived!  John the Baptist bore the stamp of true God-given originality, with:


For all of thirty years he had been preparing in a desert existence for this one task – to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3 – to ‘prepare the way for the Lord.’  As the fiery announcer of Jesus, people had heard nothing like this for centuries, and they flocked to hear him.


There it was – “Repent!”  Here lay the true authority of a prophet.  John had no need to stump the length and breadth of the country.  People came out to HIM in the desert.  And repentance isn’t simply feeling sorry.  The big question is “Do you intend to stop doing it?  If so, you’ve repented!”


“Yes,” says John. “I baptise you with water – but I’m not the important one!”  The coming One, he said, will baptise you with the reality, of which the water could only be symbolical.

Learn from this Jesus-centred individual.  Men and women with such a focus have the ability to stir great numbers of people.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

Christ is Going to Appear

We wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ   (Titus 2:13)

Here is a clear affirmation of Christ as God.  True, the original New Testament Greek could technically mean, ‘the appearing of our great God (the Father) and our Saviour Jesus Christ’ – but nowhere in the New Testament is God the Father ever said to ‘appear.’  Every one of the ten ‘appearing’ references are of Jesus.  Certainly this is how the Greek church leaders of early Christian history understood the passage – and I guess that their Greek was better than ours!

Actually the reference HAS to be to Christ, because the sentence runs straight on to describe his sacrificial death (v. 14).

So Jesus Christ, our Saviour and our God, will ‘appear’ at the end of the age.  He came first, in the ‘grace of God’ (v. 11), at Bethlehem.  That first coming was humble, localised – and witnessed only by a few.  The Second Coming will be different.  It will be ‘glorious’ and it will be universal.

You will witness it, whether or not you wish it.  Think of it.  Generals, dictators and terrorists will all see the Coming.  So will the stars of sports, screen and stage.  So will atheists, and devotees of every religion and belief-system going.  And – whether we wish it or not  – we will bow to His authority; either joyfully as one of ‘his very own’ (v.14) or in crushing judgment that will consign us to outer darkness.

About the present ‘leasehold’ of humanity’s stay on earth, Stephen Neill has written, ‘We know, without a shadow of doubt, that one day it will run out.’ 

Make the most of this day of choosing, and of ‘grace’ (v. 11).  It won’t last for ever.


Saturday, 21 November 2015

When Terror Rattles the Bars

….You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; for the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall                     (Isaiah 25:4 NKJV)
Right up to the Jihadists of today, the tides of history show up the astonishing inability of violent power-mad men to learn from the past.  ‘Only with guns,’ wrote Chairman Mao, ‘can the whole world be transformed’ (Mao’s Thoughts, page 61).   The Jihadists too have fallen to the lie - oblivious to posterity’s verdict that resorting to violence to win your case is a candid admission that you have already lost the argument.

In Isaiah’s time it was the Assyrians.  Their supreme weapon was Terror; inspired by their distorted religious beliefs.  By enslavement and exile, butchery, mutilations and beheadings, their aim was universal domination.  Yet, despite the ‘blast’ threatened by their unremitting violence, the prophet predicted that this would eventually come to nothing as against ‘the wall’ that represented the stronghold of God’s rule.

And so it proved.  Assyria’s capital fortress-city of Nineveh was taken in August 612 BC, by a coalition of Babylonians and Medes.  The vivid Bible book of Nahum prophesied its downfall in amazing detail, as was confirmed later by nineteenth century archaeologists.  Nahum foresaw the coming disaster as the judgment of God, in the words “I will leave you no prey on the earth.”  For centuries to come, all that was left of Nineveh was a mound - Tell Kunyunjik – ‘The mound of many sheep.’

Its later name was Mosul – a modern city which today’s Jihadists have battled to make their own.  Their weapon is the gun.  The greater weapon by far is prayer by God’s people to Christ, the long-prophesied Son of Man.  The New King James Version gives us the true reading of Isaiah 32:2 in the words,  ‘A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest …. as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.’

‘It is prayer,’ wrote Jacques Ellul, ‘and prayer alone
that can make history’


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Partnership - when Faced by Evil

 ….the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any troubles with the comfort we ourselves have received from God  (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Whether it was Lockerbie in Scotland,  9/11 in America, or – as  in recent days - Paris in November 2015, these are some of the realities of life in a fallen world.   In his passage of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul puts evil, suffering – and the hand of comfort - into a Christian context.  The comfort that derives from God Himself is described by a Greek word, PARAKALEO, which means ‘I call for aid alongside…. I summon assistance.’

Indeed the name, given by Jesus to the Holy Spirit of God, was that of
PARAKLETOS, literally, ‘The Comforter.’  In these words, then, the Bible brings to us the ideas of coming alongside, of counsel, of fortitude and consolation in the middle of adversity and evil. 

In verses 5 and 7 of this Bible chapter, the words ‘partaking’ or ‘sharing’ feature.  Such partnership they knew all about when slaves were sent to the galleys, or when gladiators faced lions.

In one way or another – faced by an evil ideology that comes out of the Pit - we are practising this partnership today, right across the world.  We are part of:

The Partnership of Pain – our common Frailty

Paul emphasizes that ‘If WE are comforted, it is for YOUR comfort and salvation’ (v.6).  In a strange way, the knowledge that many others know what adversity means - and are standing by in support -  creates an unseen bond of help and courage.

The Partnership of Prayer - our common Activity

This is bigger still.  When undisguised evil strikes a city, we fly to prayer - whatever our background.  It is part of being human; the underlying awareness that there is a power; more - a Person - who is only a hairsbreadth away from the heartbeat of our anxieties.

The Partnership of Posterity – our common Unity

We are called to be Builders of a world where freedom, mutual understanding and support can walk hand in hand.  The purveyors of destruction have to be out-argued and out-faced …. at every level.


Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Trigger of Remembrance

Oh that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll…. engraved in rock for ever!      (Job 19:23)

Days like Remembrance Sunday act as a ‘trigger’ for many emotions, What it is, to remember, and also BE remembered!  It was in the sufferings of Job that certain common questions came to the surface:

1. SHALL I BE REMEMBERED?  Job became desperate that something of his own ‘persona’ would survive, like a remembrance scroll, and in this he speaks not only for the last Spitfire pilot or today’s war casualties, but for common people everywhere.  But here is another question:

2. WHOM SHALL I REMEMBER?  “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25). It was now that Job’s words glowed with hope.  Eventually they’d be part of the greatest oratorio ever composed, Handel’s Messiah: Job’s ultimate comfort would centre in the world’s divine Redeemer, in whom lay the prospect of RESURRECTION.   ‘In the flimsiness of my little life,’ we may wonder, ‘to whom can I turn? Whom shall I remember and hold onto?’  Way ahead of Christ’s coming, Job knew the answer.

3. SHALL HE (the Redeemer) REMEMBER ME?  Job was confident that the coming Redeemer would one day stand upon earth, and that “in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes, I and not another” (Job 19: 26,27).   It would be in his own resurrected body, not in some alien unrelated form, that he would meet the Lord in Person.

If a dying thief from the dregs of society could pray to Christ ‘Remember me’, then by simple trust it is possible for anyone so to be remembered by the Man of the Ages.  He is only a hairsbreadth away from any prayer.


Friday, 30 October 2015

The Devil’s Dispute about Moses’ Body?

But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9)

What is this all about?  The licentious false teachers of Jude’s day were being condemned for defying the authorities of heaven itself.  Their guilt was heightened in that the very prince of angels refrained from direct confrontation even with so fallen a dignitary as the devil; the ultimate rebuke being deferred to the Lord himself.

To understand the ‘dispute’ with the devil about the body of Moses, we should aim to let the Bible interpret the Bible.  The clue lies in the name of the valley where Moses’ body was buried.  The account of Deuteronomy 34:6 informs us that it was at Beth Peor that his body was buried - and buried  by the Lord himself.

But Beth Peor had been earlier associated with the worship of Baal (Numbers 25:1-5).  It was here that God’s people were led by Balaam into immorality and idolatrous worship (see Revelation 2:14).

The implication of Jude 9 is now clear.  It had evidently been the valley of Beth Peor that the devil claimed as his own.  And Israel was condemned for resorting to this site of Baal worship.  Yet the eventual burial of Moses there was the Lord’s own transformation, from then on, of a Satanic stronghold into a place of resurrection testimony!  Here lay the ‘dispute,’ and the devil’s direct rebuke, not from an angel, but from the very Lord who had himself changed Beth Peor into a place of honour.

And history’s lesson is obvious.  False teaching eventually will ‘change the grace of our God into a licence for immorality’ (Jude 4). 


Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Disciplines of Wealth

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.    (Deuteronomy 8:5)

The only tune I can play on the piano is a little piece called ‘Whispering Waltz.’  I received many piano lessons but I never practised.  Here, with Moses, it wasn’t music, but wealth - and its right use - that he was teaching, right there at the borders of the Promised Land.

1.  The lesson of the Wilderness is one of Trust.   The word ‘humble’ occurs frequently in Moses’ sermon (see v. 2, 3, 16).  His people had to reply upon God for everything in the wilderness, where God SAVED them, LED them, and FED them.  “Man does not live on bread alone” (v. 3) is bigger than any piano lesson.

2. The lesson of the Land is one of Obedience.  ‘Listen,’ says Moses in verse 7 – ‘the Lord has brought you into a good land.’  When life is flowing easily, then comes the tendency ‘to FORGET the Lord’ (v.11, 14).  If a family, a people, a church, a nation has at its centre an upholding of the God-given way to live, stability is the result.  And as C.H. Spurgeon declared, ‘Obedience must have Love as its mother, nurse and food.’

3. The lesson of Prosperity is one of Remembrance.  ‘You thought you had done rather well for yourselves?’ asks Moses.  “But REMEMBER the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (v. 17,18). 

There can be an age-old burden attaching to wealth: First there’s the burden of getting it, next that of keeping it, finally that of parting with it!  Clement of Alexandria highlighted the problem when he wrote "Wealth is like a  Viper". 


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Check the Small Print

“So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple”    (Luke 14:33 RSV)

How to detect a disciple of Christ?  Here were crowds, enthusiastic for a ‘Jesus Movement.’  But Jesus turns on superficiality - with a challenge:

1. THE LOVE TEST.   Jesus was not undermining the fifth commandment when insisting (v.26) that a disciple must first ‘hate’ father, mother and relatives; He was using the Hebrew idiom of ‘Selection.’ Romans 9:13 is entirely about God’s selective purposes with its quotation from Malachi 1:2,3: “Jacob I loved; Esau I hated.”  When love for Christ takes over, it must occupy the number one spot.  True – it may well enhance all other loves, but that’s the test!  Which comes first?

2. THE DEATH TEST.  Jesus then declared (v. 27) that those who did not carry their cross could not be a disciple.  Everyone knew that the cross was a terrible Roman instrument of execution.  Carrying one’s cross meant that you were to put your own interests last – to the very point of death if necessary.  Certainly it means death to self-interest, self-indulgence, self-satisfaction and self-esteem. Many are marked at baptism with the cross - the mark of death - upon their foreheads.

3. THE FINISHING TEST.  Jesus then told two parables – about the man who failed to think ahead about the cost of his building project, and the soldier-king who didn’t weigh up the full implications of going to war; both consigned ultimately to history’s book of heroic failures.

If discipleship is so demanding, then where does the appeal lie?  Surely in the Man of Galilee Himself.  Everything is worthwhile for His eternal friendship.


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A Star Gives Way to the Sun

“He must increase, but I must decrease”    (John 3:30 KJV)

William Magee of Dublin spoke of three kinds of preacher; the one to whom you cannot listen, the one to whom you can listen – and the one to whom you MUST listen! 

John the Baptist was definitely in the last category.  He never travelled or performed any great miracle - yet his preaching moved all Israel; it got him into trouble with the authorities and it finally cost him his head.  His was the greatest task of a long convoy of prophets; not simply to prophesy the Messiah’s coming but to announce that He had COME - and that therefore his own ministry could now ‘decrease.’  John was like the star heralding the dawn – now eclipsed by the Sun’s arrival.

 1. He was consistent to the end.   John never deviated from his calling.  “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  That should be the motto of every believer – for Christ to stay supreme in our loyalties always.

2. He was humble to the end.  Nobody was bolder than John - speaking of Christ coming with a threshing fork in his hand… with an axe… with fire!  But he himself was no more than ‘a voice, calling out in the wilderness.’  Ironically it has always been the people of humility who permanently bless and change the world.

3. He was enduring to the end.  “I must decrease.”  This did not mean that John could now ‘retire,’ put on his slippers and watch TV.  His testimony continued in prison under Herod – to the very last.

Be inspired yourself today – by this man of blood and fire.


Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Day of Small Things

 “Who despises the day of small things?” Men will rejoice when they see the plumb-line in the hand of Zerubbabel  (Zechariah 4:10)

There were three stages in the re-construction of God’s ancient people after their restoration from terrible exile.  Stage 1 was the re-building of the Temple in Jerusalem under the governor, Zerubbabel.  Stage 2 came with the arrival of Ezra, and the establishing of the laws for the renewed community.  Stage 3 took place with the re-building of Jerusalem’s walls.

It was all a massive undertaking – but it had to begin small!  People would look at Zerubbabel, as he held the plumb-line for the first, tiny stage in the rebuilding of the great Temple – simply holding a piece of string, to ensure that the wall would be straight!  The operation would end with the seven lights of the Temple’s lamp lit – to represent ‘the eyes of the Lord which range throughout the earth’ (v. 11).  Yes, it’s the whole world that God ultimately has in view!

Zechariah is saying, ‘Lift your eyes above this small, local, limited scene!  For his part, the prophet can see ahead to the universal shining out of the Light of God (v. 2).  He also sees two olive trees, representing the future anointed ‘witnesses’ who will serve the Lord of all the earth (v. 14: compare Revelation 11: 3-6); they represent the future voice of the world  Church!  Zechariah further is made aware of the empowering Spirit (‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit’- v. 6).

So, Christian worker, if at present all you can see is the equivalent of a plumb-line in what you’re doing, take heart – and remember Zerubbabel!


Saturday, 12 September 2015

Space to Repent

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance?   (Romans 2:4)

Sixteen centuries ago the great church leader Augustine was commenting on the story of the penitent thief, who died beside Jesus Christ: he warned, “There is one case of death-bed repentance recorded, in order that no one should despair, but only one in order that no one should presume.”

The situation addressed at this point in the letter to the Romans concerned those who were counting on God’s apparent forbearance as an excuse to live their own self-pleasing lives.  But whether it was the 400-year delay before judgment came upon the perversity of the Amorites (Genesis 15:16) or the 100 years of grace that was given the wicked city of Nineveh before its final overthrow (Jonah 2:10; Nahum 1:14), the pattern of the Bible is that for both communities and individuals, space is constantly given to repent. 

And true repentance has not all that much to do with ‘feeling sorry.’  The basic question is not, ‘Are you feeling sorry?’ but rather ‘Do you intend to stop doing it?’  And the bottom-line issue is, ‘Who is going to be your God?’

It is more than a single, one-off decision – though true and personal belief certainly begins with a conscious ‘About-Turn’ – away from the unworthy past, and towards a relationship of obedient trust. 

But repentance is a daily way of life as well.  When this happens on a big scale, we could have a world-wide revival that can still save the world ...  Let it begin with you … and me!


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Exhibiting the Gospel

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that …. you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27 ESV)

The believers at Philippi were faced by the political power of the Roman empire, and by the ideological power of a multi-religious system that puts our western ‘pluralism’ in the shade! How daunting the task; how terrifying the opposition! In this letter from prison Paul had written of Defending the gospel (1:7), of Proclaiming it (1:18), now of Exhibiting it.  This happens when Christians are seen to be:

 1. STANDING IN UNITY.  It is ‘the faith of the gospel’ that holds even the most culturally diverse group of believers together.  After leading a 12,000-strong service of the Lord’s Supper at the ‘Amsterdam 2000’ event, I found myself afterwards hugged by bearded Argentinians, costumed Nigerians, smiling Malaysians!  It was the biblical gospel that was holding us; nothing else.

2. STANDING IN ADVERSITY. Those Philippians were exhorted to continue ‘without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you’ (1:28).  Suffering is, remarkably, something that is ‘granted’ to us by the once-crucified Christ (1:29).  To stand by each other, prayerfully and practically, is to provide the world with an exhibition.

3. STANDING IN HUMILITY.  Rivalry and conceit were to be banished, and so was overriding self-interest (2:3,4).  Such humility of spirit always draws observers strongly towards the magnetism of Christ, and his example (2:5-11).

If the gospel has a hold on your church, you may not realise it, but Christ will be exhibited among you, to the whole area.


Thursday, 27 August 2015

God’s Hardening of Hardened Hearts

“Make the heart of this people dull…. lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed”    (Isaiah 6:10)

These words, given to Isaiah during his commissioning as a prophet, might seem like a denial that God is ‘not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9). Was Isaiah to preach, only to create obscurity among his listeners? No. Here are the principles:

1. Persistent hardening against God eventually becomes underlined in a permanent judgment.  Most of Isaiah’s listeners were going to be contemptuous, treating his words as na├»ve ‘kid’s stuff’ ( Isaiah 28:9). They would finally remain in their blindness. This does not mean that we stop praying – and preaching! But from the outset Isaiah was warned.

2. History repeats itself.  Earlier, Pharaoh of Egypt repeatedly hardened himself against God’s word through Moses to ‘Let my people go.’ The ultimate hardening of him beyond recovery became God’s judgment on him (Exodus 11:9,10).   Such wilful blindness reached its height in a later generation of religious leaders who hardened themselves against Christ – who himself quotes the Isaiah passage (Matthew 13: 10-23) His use of parables would act like a judgment, sifting out receptive hearts (‘the good ground’) from the unheeding, in his story of the Sower.

3. Some stay hardened, but others will prove receptive! Later still, the imprisoned apostle Paul quoted the Isaiah passage to his unheeding fellow-Jews (Acts 28: 23-28). From now on, he said, God’s salvation would be proclaimed to the Gentiles, “and they will listen!”  The result - as they say - is history. Where do YOU come into the story?


Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Switching Lodgers in your Life

Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning    (Psalm 30:5)

Many will have the recollection of having two people to stay in quick succession – one of whom, maybe, was inspiring, the other exhausting!  Was this something of David the psalmist’s experience towards the end of his life?  He looks back on the occasions when disaster and recovery seemed to alternate: ‘When I felt secure, I said, “I shall never be shaken …. but when you hid your face, I was dismayed”’ (v. 6).

Regarding verse 5 today, the German theologian Hengstenberg wrote that ‘“Weeping” is personified as something like a travelling back-packer, who in the morning leaves the lodging into which he had entered the previous evening.  After him another guest arrives, namely, “Joy.”

The knowledge that such ‘lodgers’ can switch affects believing people:

1.  It makes us humble, because none of us – however rich or self-protected - can guarantee our own well-being and security, even for the next twenty-four hours!  The smallest thing can bring us down. 

2.  It makes us hopeful, because – when pitched into even the severest test – there is always the trusting belief that a new morning will bring a welcome switch of lodger.

3.  It makes us holy, because (v. 5) the believer steadily learns of the permanence of God’s ‘favour’ over a lifetime.  Whatever lodger is in residence, it is the Lord who is in occupation.  Knowing this keeps us growing in godliness and (v. 4,12) causes the heart to sing!



Saturday, 8 August 2015

The Real King

“As for me I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Psalm 2:6 ESV)

Where is the rule when the world is wobbling? Psalm 2 is about true kingship. We see 1. The earthly kings in their angry rebellion against the Lord (v. 1-3); 2. The heavenly King Himself in his holy scorn (v.4-5); 3. The divinely appointed King in His universal triumph (v.6-9).

It is apparent that here is no earthly king. For we then have a quote from this King (v. 7-9): “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”

This is no mere angelic figure. Here is the universal Christ, very Son of God, exercising universal dominion! Verse 7 is quoted in the New Testament; in Hebrews 1:5; in Acts 4:25 and in Acts 13:33.

The phrase, ‘Today I have begotten you’ is to be interpreted not in terms of Christ’s conception (for He is eternal), but rather in terms of His HEIRSHIP as Son - now presented to the world. It was the resurrection in New Testament days that was interpreted as the divine setting forth of the Son of God as rightful Heir to the heritage of the nations - as universal Lord and Messiah. The apostle Peter made this very point on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:36).

You may defy Him, but just wait – it’s this King who has the final word.


Monday, 3 August 2015

Listen to the Hoofbeats!

Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!”  I looked, and there before me was a white horse…. A fiery red horse…. A black horse….a pale horse (Revelation 6:1-8)

In his vision here, the apostle John learns how our earthly story will unfold.  We are introduced to four ‘Apocalyptic Horsemen,’ as they gallop their way through history.  Start with number 2:

The RED horseman (v. 4) – represents war and slaughter, for he wields a sword and is the destroyer of peace, as people kill each other. Then we read of the BLACK horseman (v. 5) – representing economic hardship, for basic food gets priced high – but not luxuries.  The PALE horseman (v.8) – the colour of a corpse - represents death by the unexpected, including epidemics and disaster. Notice! 

1. THE HORSEMEN ARE TO BE EXPECTED.  A voice in the vision cries “Come!”…. and they do and will come – to the end of the age.

2. THE HORSEMEN ARE TO BE ENGAGED.  The followers of Christ  are to follow His example in bringing salvation’s message and loving service to a dying world – from leprosy patients onwards.

3. THE HORSEMEN ARE TO BE ELIMINATED, not in time, but in eternity.  Such evil will not end until the time comes for the Rider on the white horse to take over completely.

Yes, it seems that the crowned pure-white horseman - who goes ahead of all else in His ride through history on a conquest of LOVE – is Christ.  He carries His church through every ordeal; reappearing towards the end of the visions (chapter 19) – still riding, having been with us all alon


Monday, 27 July 2015

Licence to Kill

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature; sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry      (Colossians 3:5)

Sexual immorality is everything that defies God’s original creation prototype of marriage – the one man-one woman lifelong monogamous relationship laid down for the human race in Genesis 2:24 (see Christ’s endorsement in Matthew 19: 4,5). It is because the Lord is FOR marriage (and for chastity outside marriage) that we have a licence to kill off, within our selves, all things short of this!  How is this done?

STARVE THEM OUT – by monitoring our input of literature, TV and films. If the Holy Spirit lives in us, we have the power to walk past places, products and people that blunt our Christian living.

CROWD THEM OUT.  We are more likely to fail when on our own; when we lack fellowship with other believers. But a crowd – of loving, fellow-believers with whom we regularly meet – will help keep us accountable!

SQUEEZE THEM OUT. There is nothing like Christian ACTIVITY – a piece of volunteer service – to soak up energy, and effectively kill those strange obsessions or fantasies that can waste away months and years.

WEAR THEM OUT. Sometimes we may fail. Then is the time to confess our failure, get up again – and declare ourselves back in the fight once more for the very purity of Jesus Christ himself; to maintain vigilance – and by sheer persistence to wear out the opposition.

Believers have been raised with Christ. The new life is swinging in! The things associated with the past are now listed for Death Row.


Monday, 20 July 2015

The Real Power

 “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above”    (John 19:11)

So said Jesus at his trial before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.  There was an element of power play at the time of the Cross.

1. Raw power.  In an attempt to win their way, the enemies of Jesus had relied on bribes, lies, and secrecy; on torches and lanterns, blood, fists, sticks and nails. Was that ever the way to win?  Such tactics might obtain a short-term result –but history demonstrates that tactics of force are ultimately an admission that the argument has been lost.

2. Vested power.  Ultimately it was the religious interests that felt most threatened by Christ. In the clamour for His blood, it was the most revered and supposed upright leaders of society who – for all their God-talk – took the lead in shouting that Jesus be crucified, and then jeering in His face as he died before their eyes.

3. Token power.  Christ’s enemies knew how to manipulate the weakness of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, to their own ends. He was desperate to keep his job – and finally he caved in, handing Jesus over to be executed. He had no true power at all – as Jesus had pointed out. He was finally summoned in AD 37 for trial in Rome. Greek historians wrote that he was eventually forced to commit suicide.

4. Silent power.  It wasn’t Pilate, but the silent Jesus who, in reality, occupied the Judge’s seat throughout the proceedings. He had the control.

And – as resurrected and ascended King at the right hand of power on high - He still rules, until the end of time.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

God’s Own Forgetfulness

 “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sin no more”     (Jeremiah 31:34)

The worst things we have ever done – and which we would like to forget – have not ‘happened’ yet in the far reaches of the universe.  Because light travels at a certain speed, something we did ten years ago has – from the perspective of a distant star - yet to take place!

What then of the Creator who inhabits all space and eternity?  Our evil actions are not over and done with.  In his sight they stand out for ever.  Our every shameful act and word will come back to condemn us at the end of the world when the books are opened and the divine sentence is pronounced.

BUT – it is at this point that the miracle of complete forgiveness - in the future ‘Covenant’ prophesied by Jeremiah - touches every believer in Christ.  For He is ‘the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world ‘ (Revelation 13:8).  The Cross straddles our whole existence, and so can cover every sin – to the extent that God not only forgives our sins – but he has the capacity to bury them in the sea of his own forgetfulness!

We say, “God, do you remember that terrible thing I did those years ago?  You must hate me.”


If we have prayerfully been to the Cross of Christ for free forgiveness, no situation will ever occur when God can press the memory button on some divine computer, and – hey presto! – bring them all up again on an accusing screen!  They’ve been trashed – for ever.