In Christ

In Christ

On a recent trip to Kent my family visited St. Martin’s Church, the oldest church building in the English speaking world, c. 597. Aside from the indebtedness felt to the Lord for Christianity coming to the English, we found another treasure on the Church grounds.

We love looking around old cemeteries. Call it creepy if you must but we love to learn of people’s stories, enjoy the peace and quiet, and perhaps most of all look over the Christian imagery on the stones, or in this case the grave itself. We came across this grave which had an iron rail around it, inscribed with “In Adam all die, in Christ shall all be made alive.” It is a reference to 1 Cor 15:22.

Far from teaching universalism (that because of Jesus all will be well for all), Paul is making an important argument in a famous chapter on the Resurrection. It is a great encouragement for the Christian and a wonderful invitation to trust in Jesus for the non-believer. Verse 21 says that sin and death entered the human experience because of one man’s sin, Adam. He is our figurehead. Likewise when we trust in Jesus He becomes our new figure head and we gain all His benefits, which in this case is a Resurrection like His! Whilst we are made alive the moment we believe in part (Jn 10:10) through the gift of the Spirit, still the Christian will know death. In God’s plan “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” But when Christ returns and the dead are raised, the Christian—in their Resurrected and glorified body—they will be made alive forever more, to reign with Jesus in the New Heavens and the New Earth. What a glorious hope someone has when they are in Christ.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Mirror, Mirror

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22–25)

Being doers and not only hearers is something often prayed for in Christian circles, but what does it mean? James likens hearing God’s word but not trusting and obeying it to a man who carefully glances at his face in a mirror[1] in passing, but then quickly going on his way forgets what he saw (even his own face!). (Quite unlike police who train extensively in the field of detail awareness and memorisation).

When we hear God’s word (read or spoken or preached) do we examine it contents like someone who looks intently at themselves in the mirror and then forgets what they saw, or do we dwell upon it so it comes to abide with us and change us from hearers into doers. God’s word is meant to be like a mirror, reflecting His truths upon our lives, identifying encouragements and blemishes to be celebrated or remedied. Its meant to ultimately point to action.

Do we hear about the call to salvation, but then walk away and never seek it?

Do we hear the call to believe that God designed us male and female, but then walk away believing the media instead?

Do we hear the call to comfort, but then not comfort someone in their grief?

The list could go on…

How shall we remedy this? We need to look not just giving an intent glance, but having a deep gaze. A depth to our looking that comes from a knowledge of what this book is, who it has come from and what it offers. Seeing all this as a treasure we look, we pour over it. The more we do this, the more we’ll remember and the more of God’s truth will be stored up in our heart (Ps 119:11) to effect a transforming work. It is when we look in this way that hearing will lead to doing. Yet there is more, we must persevere. We must continue to mull over what we have heard, to talk about it (Dt 6), to take practical steps to reinforce it throughout the week (memorise, sing, pray, etc), to revisit it, to keep in God’s word.

When we handle the word in this way, we will not easily forget, so when the moment comes for faithful action, we’ll remember God’s promise, act on it, and be blessed.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] The earliest mirror was of course looking at ones reflection in water. Later mirrors, like those at the time James wrote, would have be polish stone, metal or rudimentary glass based mirrors. It was not until 1800s that the modern mirror making process was developed and mirrors made inexpensive for ordinary people.

More

Last week my son started doing something very cute. Mum had been teaching him baby sign-language, including the sign for “more.” He has since made this sign his own by modifying it slightly. He taps his index finger into the open palm of his opposite hand, whilst looking at you longingly. As dad is not always around he has taken to tapping his finger in his palm and asking for “more” whenever I enter of leave the room. Aside from being breathe takingly adorable, it immediately struck me that this is the heart attitude we should have towards our heavenly Father, to desire more.

The Psalmist wrote: As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1)

To desire to know and share in fellowship with God the Father is what we were designed for.

Jesus Himself promised great happiness for the one who’d so seek for God and the goodness that can only come through faith in Him: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Mt 5:6).

May we sing the old song As the deer as a prayer today to know the Father more, through faith in the Son, and be assured of this by the promised gift and presence of the Spirit.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Proverbs 25:2

It is the glory of God to conceal things,

But the glory of kings is to search things out.

(Proverbs 25:2)

As a practical means of discipleship it is useful to meditate on God’s word, especially passages which the Holy Spirit draw to our attention and really capture our interest. This proverb was one such verse for myself. It sounds so grand! It uses words such as “glory” and “conceal” and “search.” But what does it mean?

Firstly, it is the glory of God to conceal things. God’s glory is His marvellous character. Whilst He freely and openly shows us many things in His Word (His revealed will, c.f. Dt 29:29), He likewise “conceals” things. Perhaps this is buried treasure in His Word that needs to be mined out, or perhaps even His hidden, secret will that we can only come to know through much prayer, and sometimes not at all. Our God is a glorious God and this means He conceals wonderful things so that they will be all the more glorious to us once revealed (or remain a mystery showing Himself to be the sovereign Lord).

Secondly, but the glory of kings is to search things out. The glory, or character of kings, is to search out the deep things of God (1 Cor 2:10) and to delight in them. Kings had the time for such pursuits and were expected to be wise. We may not all be royalty but if we are Christians then we are a royal priesthood and we too are called (1 Pe 2:9) to act kingly by searching the Scriptures and being made wise unto salvation (2 Ti 3:15) and to grow in our knowledge of the Lord. So let’s not stand aloof from the Bible but search it out!

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

1 Timothy 4:10

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially those who believe.

Here is an example of a seemingly unclear Bible verse—often used as a defeater verse[1]—which seems to teach many things which clearer verses utterly reject. Some have seen it as a verse that teaches general atonement (that Jesus’s work in His life, death and resurrection made salvation possible for all but certain for none),[2] whilst others go even further to see it as supporting some form of universalism (that Jesus died so that all people are or will eventually be saved). What does this verse actually mean? As ever we need to understand less clear verses in light of clear verses and also to remember CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT (historical, literary and theological).

Historical Context

Paul is writing to Timothy to persevere in being a good servant of Jesus Christ (v. 6); not to get side-tracked but to focus on the mission. What fuels personal perseverance for Paul and Timothy and also their going to such great lengths to preach the Gospel, but their saving hope in the living God (If all could be saved but none choose to be, or if all will eventually be saved regardless, it doesn’t exactly inspire missions!).

Literary Context

Central to this verses literary context is understanding words such as “all” and “especially.” “All” mustn’t convey that Jesus saves all people but rather that He is available to save anyone. Much the same as a garage might advertise it fixes all makes, it doesn’t mean all makes will be fixed (you have to go to the garage first!). “Especially” is perhaps a misleading translation here when ‘namely’ better reflects in English the original word sense. As such it is saying Jesus stands ready to save anyone, namely, those who believe.

Theological

This verse cannot teach universalism when the bulk of Scripture clearly does not teach this view. Consider just two basic examples:

  • Two verses after the famous verse of Jn 3:16 it says, Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because He has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (v. 18).
  • But to all who did receive him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God. (Ro 1:12)

What 1 Timothy 4:10 is making clear is that the Gospel call (or offer) of salvation is universal but salvation itself is limited to those who believe in Jesus Christ.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] A verse taken out of context to categorically strike down an opponents view.

[2] This contradicts verses such as “Christ died to save His own” (Jn 6:37, 10:14–5) and other verses which affirm limited atonement, that Jesus died for the elect (Eph 1), all those who would come to faith in Him. The folly of general atonement is that if Jesus died for all but not all are saved than His sacrifice was either insufficient or He is not powerful enough to keep those He died to save.

The Whole Armour of God

Roman-Soldiers-1Roman soldiers were some of the best trained and equipped on the battle field of Paul’s day, enabling the Roman Army to be seemingly invincible on the battlefield.

As Ephesians ends Paul spiritualises this into a metaphor for the Christian’s daily life.

Firstly we’re told in v. 10, Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Self-reliance has no place in the life of a Christian; that is pride and sin. We are called to soldier like humility. We do not rely on ourselves but upon our Captain and, in faith, upon the tools He has given for His people’s protection.

The second thing we’re told comes in vv. 11–12 and answers the why of v. 10: Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. We need to be strong in the Lord because we have a real and active enemy who hates us. He is always prowling around looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5). Wake up and smell the coffee and let us not be spiritually naïve! We are at war, every day. (BTW- the list represents different orders or levels of demons. In Jewish thought at the time there were ranks of angels, both fallen and not [c.f. Col 1:16]).

We must be continually aware of these realities.

We must also diligently do something else on a daily basis, turning this instruction into a routine spiritual discipline, v. 13, Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. We can stand firm because the Lord has not left us defenceless. (It is also worth noticing that this is defensive language. Whilst we pray “thy kingdom come” and engage in areas of offense [even at times exorcisms], it seems to me that this verse advises that the natural posture towards the enemy will be defensive, a readiness for when we are attacked, primarily leaving the offensive against these evil realms to the Lord).

How shall we stand? We shall stand by putting on every piece of our armour for each has a collective role to play in our spiritual protection:

  1. The belt of TRUTH (v. 14a)
  2. Breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS (v. 14b)
  3. Shoes of the GOSPEL of peace (v. 15)
  4. Shield of FAITH (v. 16)
  5. Helmet of SALVATION (v. 17a)
  6. Sword of the SPIRIT, which is the WORD OF GOD (v. 17b), which is the only offensive element of the armour listed.
  7. The invisible weapon of PRAYING in the SPIRIT (v. 18)

*The reader may benefit further from reflecting upon the necessity of each piece of armour, its purpose and also what it protects.

So today, and every day, may we stand firm, strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might, not forgetting to prayerfully clad ourselves with His armour.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

A Green Olive Tree

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. (Psalm 52:8a)

Trees are wonderful things in God’s creation, which the Spirit often inspired the writers of Scripture to use as spiritual metaphors. Here is chosen an olive tree, a common and important tree in much of the Mediterranean. An olive tree is known for its shade, its beauty and of course the tasty and soothing oil produced from its olives. David wrote this Psalm when he had gone to the Tabernacle to visit Ahimilech (1 Sam 21). The Tabernacle represented God’s presence, sacrifice for sin and worship (Today believer’s enjoy the presence of God through His Holy Spirit and our sins have been atoned at the Cross; however, we still gather in worship at places like Chapels). He came here as he fled from Saul and here he also met Doeg, Saul’s chief herdsman, who eventually betrayed Ahimilech (he is what is meant by v. 7!). David loved the LORD and enjoyed being in His presence. He recognised when He was in the house of God, he was like a green olive tree.

Can we say we are like a green olive tree, or are we perhaps a half-dead olive tree, or maybe a dead one like Doeg? Whether we are or whether we are not actually hinges upon being in the house of God. Is the public worship of God our joy & a priority above all others? When we gather together each Lord’s Day (and at other times) we declare our trust in God alone (v. 8b), we praise and thank Him (v. 9a) and we seek His face together (v. 9b). Our spiritual health can be measured by faithful delight in attending worship.

This year as we focus on being rooted, may we root ourselves in the Lord, expressed in and aided by being in His house. Oh the blessings that will follow! Then we shall be like a green olive tree.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

A Green Olive Tree

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. (Psalm 52:8a)

Trees are wonderful things in God’s creation, which the Spirit often inspired the writers of Scripture to use as spiritual metaphors. Here is chosen an olive tree, a common and important tree in much of the Mediterranean. An olive tree is known for its shade, its beauty and of course the tasty and soothing oil produced from its olives. David wrote this Psalm when he had gone to the Tabernacle to visit Ahimilech (1 Sam 21). The Tabernacle represented God’s presence, sacrifice for sin and worship (Today believer’s enjoy the presence of God through His Holy Spirit and our sins have been atoned at the Cross; however, we still gather in worship at places like Chapels). He came here as he fled from Saul and here he also met Doeg, Saul’s chief herdsman, who eventually betrayed Ahimilech (he is what is meant by v. 7!). David loved the LORD and enjoyed being in His presence. He recognised when He was in the house of God, he was like a green olive tree.

Can we say we are like a green olive tree, or are we perhaps a half-dead olive tree, or maybe a dead one like Doeg? Whether we are or whether we are not actually hinges upon being in the house of God. Is the public worship of God our joy & a priority above all others? When we gather together each Lord’s Day (and at other times) we declare our trust in God alone (v. 8b), we praise and thank Him (v. 9a) and we seek His face together (v. 9b). Our spiritual health can be measured by faithful delight in attending worship.

This year as we focus on being rooted, may we root ourselves in the Lord, expressed in and aided by being in His house. Oh the blessings that will follow! Then we shall be like a green olive tree.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Snow

I must confess that the Canadian in me awoke with a smile of glee when I saw how muchimg_20190201_0823085b15d snow had fallen over night (5”?). For the English who love these one off snow storms, and for the many school children home from school today the ‘love of snow’ feeling is mutual.

Snow is mentioned in the Bible some 24 times and still today it can occasionally snow in the Holy Land.

Firstly with snow I am impressed by its beauty and how it graces the rest of creation in such a way that transforms it into a new and wonderful landscape:

For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth’. (Job 37:6a)

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,”
(Job 38:22)

Praise the Lord from the earth,… fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!
(Ps 148:7a & 8)

Indeed, the snow of our Creator is meant to point us to Him and be a cause of praise to His holy NAME.

Speaking of holiness, snow is also used to describe God’s holy otherness. After Jesus rose from the dead, we are told that, “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.” (Matthew 28:3; c.f. Rev 1:14). “As snow,” means pure and radiant, exuding freshness and life. Indeed, that is why Jesus came, so that we might become clean like Him.

The third thing I always think of when I see snow, is not only the wonder of our Creator God, nor His awesome holiness, but that same purity He promises to freely bestow to all who believe and trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sin:

David’s Prayer— Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Ps 51:7)

May we marvel at our Creator today, remember His holiness and turn to Him in faith to be made whiter than snow.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Doomsday Clock

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The Doomsday Clock has been in the news quite a bit lately. The Clock, run by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, assesses what they believe to be the chance of human initiated world disaster (e.g. nuclear war). It has been frozen at the highest level since 1953 during the Cold War (it began keeping time in 1947). New rivalries between powerful nations, militarism, climate change, tensions in Europe, uncertainty in the USA, a lack of interest in facts; these are just some of the reasons they’ve left the clock at 2 minutes to midnight (midnight representing Doomsday).

Whilst these are real concerns, the clock is the opinion of a select group of scientists. What humours me, in the most serious sense of that saying, is a) the confidence placed in their timing, and b) what their clock fails to take into consideration.

Confidence: Their clock is always moving, when it is near mid-night some people tremble and when it is far away people lose all concern. We shouldn’t place our confidence in the subjective timing of mere humans, but rather the Lord’s clock-watch.

Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour [of His return and the final judgement].” (Matthew 25:13).

The Lord’s Doomsday Clock is always set at 23:59:59.

This is not mean to engender fear or complacency, but rather to propel us to trust in Him for salvation and so be ready for that great day.

Shortcoming: All of the things that the Clock focuses upon are mere symptoms of the problem (i.e. sin). It is also curious that they didn’t name godlessness, immorality and vice. Sure we should look to apply what God’s Word has to say about modern issues, but more importantly we should seek to apply what it says about the disease of sin and the cure of Christ. It wasn’t because of symptoms that God judged the earth in Noah’s day but because of heart issues and wickedness:

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found Favour in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:5–8).

2 Peter 2 makes clear as well that when the Lord’s clock strikes midnight it will be at a time of His own choosing, and the Judgement will fall not merely on sinful deeds (many of which the world no longer consider sinful!) but rather upon ungodliness.

What shall we do to prepare ourselves for the day the Lord’s clock does strike midnight – for unlike the Doomsday Clock which can be reversed by human effort, nothing can retard the advance of God’s eternal clock?

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near” (Isa 55:6)

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris