Sunday, 19 August 2018

The orientation to live a Christ -centred life

Our vision at Christian Life Camps Bay is to be a church of healing, inclusion and growth, summed up as ‘Be Changed, Be Nice, Be Used’.

Here are some of the main areas of healing, inclusion and growth that we believe God has called us into as a local church. 

Firstly, there's our Vision of Healing (summed up as 'Be Changed')

We are thinking primarily, about how our orientation gets changed and healed-up so that we become people who live to glorify and enjoy Christ forever.

The greatest and most magnificent change of all is to be transformed from living a self-centred to a Christ centred life. This is a healed-up life made whole in Christ. This is a life lived to glorify and enjoy Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour forever.

In Philippians 1:20-23, the Apostle Paul, in prison, wrote about how he lived this way, saying; ‘It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.’ (ESV)

In verse 20 the word 'honoured' translates the Greek word, 'μεγαλύνω  (megalynō), which means to make, or declare great, or to magnify. This life that is orientated around honouring Christ is like being a magnifying glass, and no matter what happens to us, people looking at us will see big and magnificent Jesus is!

On another occasion, during a terrible, life-threatening storm on a ship in the Mediterranean, Paul spoke about ‘the God to whom I belong and whom I worship’ (Acts 27:23). That is how we want to live, as those who belong to, and worship, God.

That's what is means to 'be changed'.

In the next blog, I will share how this life orientation happens through experiencing salvation

Friday, 10 August 2018

What to do when things fall apart?

With many feeling fearful and considering emigration to a ‘safer place’, “what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). 

In a wicked world, in which the foundations are shaken, and lies and oppression are rife, the believer has four assurances in God (from Psalm 11 & 12): 

1- The Lord is our Refuge 

Psalms 11:1 (ESV) ‘In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain.

Rather than always trying to run to a safer place, I choose to find my security in God. This world is a dangerous place. In a way, there is no totally safe place in this world which is under judgment. It’s ‘as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him’ (Amos 5:19).

2- The Lord Reigns 

Psalms 11:4 (ESV) ‘The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.’

The Lord is King and in Jesus and the Holy Spirit, God has already, decisively asserted his kingly authority to get his will done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 12:22-29).

But God’s kingly authority has not yet fully conquered the world. There are still enemies of God’s will all over the place (1 Corinthians 15:25-26).

Pessimism sees only the ‘not yet’ of the kingdom. Triumphalism imagines that the kingdom has already full won (1 Corinthians 4:8-13). Realism believes in the already and the not yet of God’s invading reign.

3- The Lord is Righteous 

Psalms 11:7 (ESV) For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.

In a wicked, evil world, we take heart that God is good.‘The Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds.’ The day will come when all wickedness and evil will have lost and God and his righteousness will have won! (Psalms 11:5-7).

4-  The Lord’s word is Refined and perfectly reliable 

Psalms 12:6 (ESV) The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.

A big part of the problem in this fallen world, is who do we believe? It seems that ‘everyone utters lies’ (Psalms 12:2) and ‘vileness is exalted among the children of men’ (Psalms 12:8).

Thank God that he a God of truth (Psalms 31:5) who does not lie (Numbers 23:19). God’s word is the truth (John 17:17). In a world of deception, deceit and falsehood we can rely on the refined, pure, perfectly reliable word of our God (Psalms 19:7).

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

How to Pray? Adoration

Getting back to the Lord’s Prayer, we find that the second aspect of prayer is adoration, as we say ‘hallowed by your name’. This aspect of prayer has to do with God’s Name, which must be treated at Holy.

God’s ‘name’ is everything God is and does (1 Samuel 25:25). Psalms 150:2 says; ‘Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!’ (ESV). That sums up God's name - All he does (his mighty deeds), and all he is (his excellent greatness). 

And all this can be encapsulated in one word, ‘HOLY’! God is holy. In heaven the angels perpetually worship him as ‘holy, holy, holy’ (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). Both Hebrew and Greek words translated ‘holy’ can mean ‘sacred’. Repeating holy three times, indicates a perfection of holiness. 

Holy means set apart. God is holy because there is none like him. He is the only One who is God. Nehemiah 9:5-6 says; ‘Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 “You are the Lord, you alone’.

God is unique. There is only One God. In Mark 12:29 we read of how Jesus affirmed the teaching of Deuteronomy 6:4 about the oneness of God, saying; 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ (ESV)

However, in Mark 12:36-37, Jesus also affirms the plurality of Persons within the Godhead. In this passage, Jesus spoke of how ‘David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, "'The Lord (κύριος) said to my Lord (κύρiw)’. Then Jesus asked, ‘David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?’ (ESV)

Mark 12:36-37 uses the same Greek titles for the ‘Lord’ Father and for the ‘Lord’ Jesus. ‘Son’, in this passage, obviously does not mean that Jesus is inferior to the Father. It defines his function, not his nature.

Then in 2 Cor. 3:17, we are told that ‘the Lord (κύριος) is the Spirit’. So, within the One Essential Being of the Lord God there are Three distinct ‘Lords’ or Persons; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

To clarify what the Trinity is, it’s helpful to remember what it’s not:

It is not Thi-Theism – Not three Separate Gods.

It is not Modalism - God appearing in different forms at different times.

It is not Arianism – An ancient heresy that taught that Jesus and the Spirit are less God than the Father.

In the next Blog, I will think about how the holiness, uniqueness, or oneness of God calls for our undivided loyalty.

Friday, 20 July 2018

How to Pray? Make the Connection

To develop in our moment by moment intimacy with God it is important to set aside time each day to be alone with God. 

We see Jesus drawing aside to meet with his Father on various occasions in the Gospels (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12). In Luke 5:16, we read that ‘he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.’ ‘Would withdraw’ can be translated ‘was withdrawing’. In other words, Jesus was regularly withdrawing to pray. 

The Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus taught to his disciples, is a prayer that one could say (Luke 11:2-4) and it is also an outline of how to prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). As I have reflected on this outline of prayer, I have detected seven key aspects of prayer that I like to include in my time alone with God. 

Firstly, there is connection to ‘Our Father in heaven’. Without this vital spiritual connection, prayer is a ritual of recitation but is not the intimate communion God intends us to enjoy with Him (Mathew 6:7-9). 

We make this prayer connection to God by faith, believing ‘that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him’ (Hebrews 11:6). 

And the Holy Spirit works in us, setting up this prayer link and even enabling us in what to say to our Father (Romans 8:15-16). That’s why it’s so vital that we are born again of, and indwelt by, God’s Spirit (John 1:12-13; 3:6-8; Romans 8:9). 

So, in faith, enabled by God’s Spirit, we start talking to God, trusting that he is like the God Jesus taught us about (John 1:1, 14, 18; 14:6-9) and that because of Jesus’ death on the cross (Ephesians 1:7; 2:14-18) and his risen life at the Father’s side in heaven (Hebrews 7:25), we have a real connection with God as ‘our Father’. 

To help me connect with God, I sometimes spend a time praying tongues, as this is a God given way to get built up in the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:4). 

(More on this prayer gift of tongues in the next blog.)

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Believers today and the Old Testament Law

As believers in the new Covenant, our relationship to the Law of the Old Testament is another of the radical tensions of our faith. 

On the one hand, the Law of the Old Covenant has been ‘abolished’ by Jesus ‘blood’ on the Cross (Ephesians 2:13-15). As a rigid system of rules and regulations, it has ended and been done away with (Romans 10:4; Hebrews 10:1-9). Galatians 3:24-25 says that ‘the law was our guardian until Christ came’ and ‘now that faith has come, we are no longer under the guardian’.

On the other hand, God’s Law is also ‘established’ or upheld in the New Covenant (Romans 3:31). Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” (Matthew 5:17, ESV). ‘Fulfil’, translates the Greek word, ‘plēroō’, and means both to ‘end of’ and ‘to fill up’. And we see Jesus filling out the law’s full meaning in his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 to 7.

Paul shares his own experience of this tension in relation to the law in 1 Corinthians 9:20-21, where he says that on the one hand he 'not under the law’, but, on the other hand he is ‘under the law of Christ’.

'The law of Christ' is Paul’s way of referring to the republishing and fulfilling and giving fullest meaning to the law in the New Testament. We find examples of this republishing and filling out of the law in passages like Matthew chapters 5-7, Ephesians chapter 4-6; John 13:34 and Romans 13:8-10.

A careful look at the New Testament will show that the Ten Commandments are republished and given fullest meaning the New Testament. 

(Below I have listed where the New Testament republishes each of the Ten Commandments.)

The New Testament reveals that the fullest meaning and intention of the law is love. 

Jesus taught that to love God and to love neighbour are the greatest and second greatest commandments, upon which all other commandments depend (Matthew 22:36-40). Mark 12:33-34 commends as wisdom that loving God and neighbour ‘is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices’.

Paul sums it all up, saying; ‘Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10, ESV)

Here are some examples of where the Ten Commandments get referred too and republished in the New Testament:

Commandment 1 - Exodus 20:1-3 - No other gods -1 Corinthians 8:4-6; Acts 14:15.

Commandment 2 - Exodus 20:4-6 - No Idolatry - Galatians. 5:18-21; Romans. 1:22-23; 1 John 5:21.

Commandment 3 – Exodus 20:7 - No blasphemy - James 5:12; 1 Timothy 6:1.
Commandment 4 – Exodus 20:8-11 - Sabbath keeping - Matthew 24:20; Colossians 2:16-17.
Commandment 5 – Exodus 20:12 - Honour father and mother - Ephesians 6:1-3.
Commandment 6 – Exodus 20:13 - No murder - Romans 13:8-10.

Commandment 7 – Exodus 20:14 - No adultery - Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
Commandment 8 – Exodus 20:15 - No stealing- Romans 13:8-10; Ephesians 4:28.
Commandment 9 – Exodus 20:16 - No lying - Colossians 3:9; Revelation 21:7,8, 22:15.
Commandment 10 – Exodus 20:17 - No coveting  - Romans 13:8-10; Ephesians 5:3, 5.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Are you praying?

Are you praying?

I think that one of the big marks of a genuine conversion is that we begin to pray. I mean more than just saying a prayer or doing a religious ritual action. I mean connecting with God in personal communion. 

The apostle Paul was raised as a strict Pharisee (Philippians 3:5) and he must have said a lot of ritual prayers. But after meeting the Risen Jesus on the Damascus Road, the Lord identified that Paul had changed and become a follower of Jesus by simply saying that he “is praying” (Acts 9:11). This was the sign of the big change. Having met the Risen Christ, Paul, for the first time in his life, was truly communing with God in intimate prayer.

Humanity was made for a personal prayer intimacy with God. 

It is built into what we are and what we are meant to be. 

Without a personal relationship with God, our lives have something huge missing. 

In his quest for the meaning of life, the writer of Ecclesiastes describes this need for God. In Ecclesiastes 3:11 he says that God “has put eternity into man's heart”. Our hearts are designed for something more than what this temporal life can offer. 

King David found this more in God. This greatest of Israel’s kings, who had the best that this life can offer, confessed in Psalms 63:1-3; “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” 

To know God as “my God”, to “thirst” for Him personally, to behold his “power and glory” and to find that his “love is better than life”; this is the gift and blessing of intimacy with God for which humanity was created.

This prayer intimacy began for Paul when he encountered the Risen Jesus Christ (Acts 9). 

It can begin for us as we allow the Word of God to lead us to put our faith in this Crucified and Risen Jesus Christ.

'Jesus said, ...... "Blessed are those who have not seen (a post-resurrection appearance) and yet have believed.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book (John' Gospel); 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.' (John 20:29-31 ESV )

Start reading the Gospel of John and may this testimony lead you to "believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

Friday, 6 July 2018

Live to the glory of God
Worship is more than music, words and services. Of course its important to sing and share and manifest the gifts of the Spirit as we 'come together’ and attend services of worship (1 Corinthians 14:26). 

But worship is also a matter of living every single moment to the glory of God. Romans 12:1 issues the call 'to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.’ 

Everything we do in and with our bodies, should be a part of our ‘spiritual  worship’. This life of worship is to be our grateful response to the gospel, which Paul has expounded in detail for eleven chapters of his letter to the Romans and which he summaries in Romans12:1 as 'the mercies of God’. 

Because God in Christ has been merciful in coming himself to pay the penalty for our sins and then rise from the dead to justify us through faith in Jesus as Lord (Romans 3:21-26; 10:9), we should want to say thank you by the way we live the rest of our lives on earth, in the body, as ‘a living sacrifice’ of ‘spiritual worship’.

Paul develops this idea of living to the glory of God in his first letter to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says; ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.’ 

There it is again, worship is the outcome of the impact of the gospel. Because 'you were bought with a price' by Jesus death as a ‘ransom’ (Mark 10:45), you should respond and ‘glorify God in your body.’ 

And this life of living to the glory of God is possible because the indwelling Holy Spirit has turned your body into ‘a temple’. You are walking ‘worship centre’, a carrier of the presence of God. 

Enabled by the perpetual presence of the Holy Spirit ‘within you’, every part and moment of your life can become worship. 

1 Corinthians 10:31 sums this all up saying; 'So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ 

That’s the goal of the gospel, to orientate our lives around God so that we live to his praise and glory, now and forever. Amen.