Monday, 28 January 2019

Genesis 30 The founding of God’s Family

“Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me. He has responded to my prayer and given me a son.” That is why she named him Dan.”
Genesis 30:6 NET

Was it an answer to her prayer or was it merely her own arranging of things?

None the less, God took this child, Dan, into his people, Israel, as one of the foundational  12 tribes. 

God works through our actions, even misguided ones.

The use of mandrakes and white sticks in Gen. 30 also indicates how superstitious and inclined to use magic, these people were. Yet they only succeeded because of God (Gen. 30:22; 31:9).

God works through us sometimes despite what we (wrongly) believe and how we (sinfully) behave. Such is His mercy.

It’s humbling to remember that such superstition and sin was involved in the founding of Israel as the twelve tribes of the Lord.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Why Christmas? Answer: To save sinners. How did Jesus save us

In yesterday’s blog, I looked at what Jesus saved us from, and today I would like to reflect on the question, how Jesus saved us?

The simple answer to this question, is that Jesus saved us from the wrath of God (which we saw yesterday was the big threat from which we needed to be saved) by taking on himself, and thus taking away, the penalty and punishment for our sins.

Matthew 1:21 said that Jesus would ‘save his people from their sins’. In John 1:29 (ESV), we read of how John the Baptist ‘saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”’. Jesus saved us from our sins, or from the penalty deserved for our sins, by dying as the sacrificial “Lamb of God”. His death was the death that our sins deserved. On the cross, Jesus offered the real sacrifice that "takes away... sin", to which all the OT animal sacrifices had pointed.

In Romans 3:23-25 (ESV), Paul explains that the cross was a wrath-removing sacrifice. This amazing passage says: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” That word, 'propitiation' means ‘a wrath removing sacrifice’.

Isaiah predicted it hundreds of years before the cross. We read in Isaiah 53:5-6 (ESV): “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

To avoid confusion, we need to note that because Jesus is God (John 1:1, 14), the second Person of the Holy Trinity (Matthew 28:19); Jesus is not saving us from a reluctant, angry Father God. No, in the mystery and resolution of God's love and justice, God, in Christ, was Himself, saving us from Himself. God taking our sin upon Himself in the person of his Son. 2 Cor. 5:19 (ESV) says that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.”

This saving act of Jesus involved what might be called the saving transaction, described in 
2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV), which says: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Our sin was transferred to Jesus, who was 'made ... to be sin', and punished on the cross; and Jesus’ righteousness, or perfect life of obedience, was transferred to us and we get saved from the wrath of God.

In tomorrow’s blog, I will discuss who gets saved by the work of Jesus.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Why Christmas? Answer: To save sinners

I am currently preaching a sermon series on this topic, ‘Why Christmas?’; and have looked at how the Christmas story displays the two sides of reality, the natural and the supernatural. Then I shared on how Christmas and the becoming flesh of the immortal Son of God was so that Jesus could die and so defeat evil. (You could listen to these messages on our church website, This coming Sunday, I will look at how Christmas reveals God and then on Christmas day, will examine how Jesus came to earth to save sinners.

The Scriptures are clear on this saving message of Christmas:

Matthew 1:21 (ESV) – “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Luke 19:10 (ESV) – “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

1 Timothy 1:15 (ESV) -  “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

In this blog, I would like to look at what it is that Jesus saves us from.

Another way of thinking about this, could be to ask: What or who is our greatest threat or danger? What is it that could so destroy us, that Jesus needed to come to earth to save us from it?

·     It was not a lack of education, loneliness, poverty, sickness, suffering.
·     It was not some human threat, like violence or war, or even ourselves, who can really mess up.

·     It was not even the Devil.

All these are dangers and threats, but according to the Word of God, none of these is our greatest threat.

Surprisingly, the Bible reveals that our greatest threat and danger is from God Himself. And, in a very real sense, Jesus came to save us from God. Or from the Justice of God. Or, because Jesus is God (John 1:1), the second Person of the Holy Trinity (Matthew 28:19), God (in Christ) was saving us from Himself.

We might say that God was conflicted within Himself. As to his justice, demanding the punishment of sin; and as to his mercy seeking the pardon of sinners. And that the message of Christmas is that God solved this inner conflict between His justice and His mercy by coming to earth Himself, in the Person of His Son, Jesus, and satisfying the demands of His justice by taking our punishment upon Himself so that he might offer us His mercy. 

Let’s not misunderstand what we mean by our needing to be saved from God; and let's also not miss this fact, that we need to be saved from God, or from the threat of His wrath. 

Romans 2:5 (ESV) says: “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.”

Our greatest and ultimate threat is the God of "wrath" who will one "day" execute His "judgment".

"Wrath" is the fiery, purity and judgment of God.

Here are two important passages that describe this coming wrath of God:

Hebrews 10:26-27 (ESV) “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”

Hebrews 10:29-31 (ESV) 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Jesus came to earth to save us from the wrath of God.

1 Thess. 1:10 (ESV) speaks of 'Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.'

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.)