How we need courage among us as the people of God. I was reading Acts 21 a little while ago and was struck by the courage displayed by Paul. We read in Acts 21:10-14
After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”’
When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’
Paul’s declaration that he is willing to die for the name of the Lord Jesus, powerfully challenges me as regards to my devotion to the one who is my Lord, Jesus Christ. The name is so important here. Paul is convinced that Jesus is Lord and as Lord He has total control over his life. So if that means he must die he will willingly do so.
Notice that it is not his own name or honour that determines his action. Rather it is the Name of the Lord Jesus. What will I give for the honour of the Name of the Lord Jesus? This reminds me of the quote by nineteenth century missionary C T Studd “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
Where is my courage? Oh Lord please strengthen me.
Following from Fridays (see here) post about dependence on the Lord I want to muse on the issue of my weakness. We live in a world which is about asserting yourself and being strong. To have depression is to be made very aware that you are weak. This is naturally a very dismaying experience. And according to a worldly points of view it is the very antithesis of what we should be.
However, in the Lord’s economy it is very different. In His way it is our weakness that is the way to success. Paul expresses the matter, out of his personal experience, in 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10
in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
This is the way of fruitfulness in life. It is to be dependent on the Lord so that His strength can come through in my weakness. This is completely counter-cultural. It is life-transforming though, as we realise that I find life when I lose my life. Life is found in God Himself.
The big problem as I recover is that I start to depend on myself. oh Lord save me from such foolishness.
All of us either are or have been single. Although, God calls many to be married; He also calls many to be single. To be single is not a second class state. Churches therefore should value everyone in their particular calling. Never, should we pityingly give the impression to single people that one day they will find Mr Right or Miss Right and then everything will be fine. Let us look then at this calling to singleness.
The LORD Jesus
Let us remind ourselves that the only perfect life lived on earth was by a single man. Our Saviour was sinless in all His ways and lived as such without ever being married. Immediately then we realise that singleness is not a second class state to be in.
Also the LORD had close relationships with both men and women. We remember the family in Bethany who welcomed Him to their home; Martha, Mary and Lazarus. His twelve disciples shared in His ministry and developed a closeness to Him. The world around us leads us to think that any close relationship must have a sexual element to it. This thinking is wrong and single people should be encouraged to cultivate close and wholesome relationships. The relationship of David to Jonathan is an example of this.
The life of our LORD Jesus reminds us that it is most wonderfully possible to live a life of purity in the sight of our God. The calling to singleness is also a calling to sexual purity. Paul could say that to Timothy keep yourself pure (1 Tim. 5:22b) and that should be the desire of all that all single. The Lord in His Word prohibits sex outside of marriage and we fall into sin if we fail in this area. Single people who are “courting” before marriage should be particularly be aware of this. Sex is for marriage and nowhere else.
Many think that if only they were within the security of a marriage relationship then they would be really free. However, Paul says effectively that the reverse is true in 1 Cor. 7:32b-34 An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband. Here Paul is showing that the unmarried person is advantaged over a married person in that they are free to devote themselves to their LORD. A married person has legitimate obligations to fulfil which mean that their freedom in rendering service to their God is to a degree hindered.
Of course herein there is a challenge to the unmarried to make sure that they use their extra freedom profitably. So easily we fritter away the time we have available to serve our LORD.
One of the great things that an unmarried person can miss is that of having a close relationships to another individual. However, one of the great things about being a Christian is that we have a relationship with our Eternal Father God in heaven. Satan would want to persuade the single person that they are lonely and missing out in living a fulfilled life. We should fight against these lies. The Lord is our faithful companion who has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Paul knew something of this wonderful enduring relationship and could say towards the end of his life when facing trial that At my first defence, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength (2 Tim. 4:16-17a). People will let us down; even the very best of them. However, the LORD will never let us down. How amazing it is that we have such a great God.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of December 2004).
I was thinking a little while ago, about someone i had known some years ago. It was interesting to ponder what I remembered about this man. One significant remembrance was that he was a Wolves Supporter.
This got me pondering upon what people remember about me? What do people call to mind when my name crops up or they are led to think about me. Of course the remembrance is partly affected by the person who is doing the recall. His/her interests will determine what they remember of me. Hence, because I have an interest in football I remembered that my aforementioned acquaintance supported Wolves.
Nevertheless, it still stands as a valid question: what do people associate me with? What do people remember me by? I am struck by what is said of the rulers, elders and teacher of law concerning Peter and John. We read: When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Peter and John were not identified as being connected with a religion or an organisation or a movement, but being with Jesus.
So what do people associate with you and me? Am I known as a Christ follower or as a church-goer? Does my life speak of Jesus or religion?
What kind of people are being bred and produced in our churches and families. This is a big issue to challenge parents and church leaders.
The big danger we face is of producing those who have an outward conformity to accepted standards, but their heart is not in it. They conform to the standards that are presented to them out of obligation or respect, but if they had their own way they would be doing differently.
The issue is an issue of leadership and teaching. Are we law teachers and demonstrators or grace teachers and demonstrators?
Law teachers basically present the rules and say that if you keep them all will be fine. But if you don’t keep them then things are going to go bad.
Those who teach grace are continually drawing their students into the wonderful news that there is acceptance. Naturally we are wrecked and written-off because of our sin. However, there is acceptance with God though our Lord Jesus Christ who once died to take away our sins. In leading this way we present the true way as a way of delight where we can know that we are with God. In teaching this way we want to draw hearts into an appreciation of how much good God has demonstrated in Christ. We, of course, need to be demonstrators of this. Children need to see that their parents are livers of grace.
As grace is presented in all its richness to our congregations and children then we long and pray for a heart response. Such a heart response will lead to lives that are wanting to go on and know the Lord and live to please God.
They live to please God not just to keep the standards, but because they love the One who gave the standards.
Parents, church leaders and all involved in discipleship must remember this.
It must be noted though that law teaching is not excluded by the need to teach grace. In fact the law if properly handled shows the need of grace. So in that sense the law when used properly is a means of grace.
Here is the BBC report on the death on November 17th (last week) of the American missionary, John Allen Chau. His willingness to give up all, even life itself, so that others might know the love of God in Christ Jesus is surely the love of God in demonstration. It is must be truly Christ-like self-sacrificial love.
It is reminiscent of the desire of the five American missionaries to reach the Auca Indians back in the 1950’s (see here for basic details).
I am challenged and effected as to how much my life reflects this self-denying love. Am I constrained / compelled by the love of Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:14). I preached on that at our church back in September the audio is here. But how much am I living the message I preached? And now we have this portrayal before us in the life of Mr Chau. In all his weakness, he was willing to risk his life to teh end taht others might have life.
In his letters shortly before his death he mentions about who will step up to take his place if he is taken. Sobering words indeed.
So how seriously do we take the great commission to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19a)? How much am I longing to see people gathered around the throne of God praising God in their own language?
In Matthew 13:22 we read The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. These words are part of our Savior’s explanation of the parable of the sower (or soils). In reading the passage this morning, I was particularly struck by the phrase “the deceitfulness of wealth”. In our Lord’s explanation he is indicating that the good Word of God does not go on to bear fruit in the lives of certain people because, for one reason, it is choked by the deceitfulness of riches.
To be deceitful is to make false claims that deny reality. So how are riches deceitful?
- Riches offer us a happy contented life. However, they so often deliver stressful lives as we have so much property to care for and bank accounts to manage.
- Wealth offers happiness. However, the wealthiest people are often the most miserable people.
- Riches offer freedom to do what I wnat. However, health, relationships and force of circumstances mitigate against this.
- Wealth offers permanent blessings all “on tap” as I use my card and drain from my abundant bank account. However, eternity dawns and we find the riches of this world are useless to bring salvation to the soul.
- Wealth says that I can buy my way to perfect relationships. The wretchedness of my heart wrecks such dreams as so easily I sin against my nearest and dearest.
- Riches offer to be a friend to help me become what I should be. Alas in the end they become a tyrannical god and kill my soul in this world and the next.
Whether we have lots of money or little money we can still be duped into thinking that money will buy me anything. Money is a great friend, but a terrible master.