Friday, 13 January 2017

The Family Likeness~ Ganeida.

   The Australian poet, Bruce Dawe, who I had the privilege of being taught by, once wrote a funny & satirical poem called Condolences of the Season in which he commiserates with his newborn son on being a patchwork of family traits:

a matronly cosmogony of mums hover above your pram or bassinette
 and by an infallible process of recall
place each distinctive trait (the eyes, for instance,
 which could only be Uncle Tom's, nobody else's,
Aunt Lena's rugged chin, of course
and, yes, who could mistake those ears of Cousin Ted's?

We’ve all done it, scanning the face of some helpless newborn for vestiges of ourselves. My son went so far as to ask me to bring pics of him & his twin so he could prove to his wife that his newborn son looked just like him!

We recognise distinctive family traits immediately.  In my family it is large & luminous eyes; most of our children inherited them, while from their father they inherited a distinctly practical approach to life.  We get it in the natural so why don’t we get it in the supernatural?

I suggest to you we don’t get it because we do not recognise ourselves in the Father & can’t recognise His son in us, because at our core we believe ourselves to be unlovable & unworthy of the love the Father showers upon us. It is a lie & it comes straight from the pit of hell. Satan would like us to believe it because it cripples the work of the Holy Spirit within us. It prevents us from coming to the Father & the reassurance that He does indeed love us.

John 3:16 ~ & we all know it so you can say it with me says: For God so loved the world that He gave His only beloved son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Now put your name in there:  For God so loved…..that He gave His only beloved son that ….believing in Him should not perish but…..should have eternal life.

You are of such value that God gave the most precious thing He had in order to free you from sin. The very moment you confess Jesus as Lord & believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you become a new creation: 

2 Corinthians 5:17 ~Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Say *In Christ.*  Here is our key.

Proverbs 14:12 says There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death

Please listen carefully. There are things we do as Christians, good things, right things, things we are encouraged to do, things we know we ought to do & all too often they lead to death.

We’re told to read our bible.  We’re told to pray.  We’re told to come to church & fellowship with other believers, come to prayer group & bible study, love our neighbour even if they’re awful & these are all good things. They are all *Christian* things but I tell you bluntly that without the one necessary thing they will lead to death.  They will lead you to religion, they will lead you to loyalty to a church or a denomination or a Pastor instead of leading you into Life abundant.

Psalm 103:7 ~ He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel.

Too often we read our bible to learn about God, rather than asking the Holy Spirit to reveal God to us as we read!  Many Christians know God’s deeds without knowing Him! Just like the ancient Israelites.  Moses knew God’s character ~ & because He knew God he had a completely different relationship with Him.

Yes, we are to know about God; it helps build our faith but it is far more important to know God Himself.

For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. Romans 8:29~30

I believe that it is our lack of *being in Christ* that is responsible for most of our difficulties as Christians. Why is it so hard to love our neighbour?  Because we don’t love ourselves & we don’t love ourselves because we do not know who we are in Christ.  We do not know who we are because we do not take the time to spend in God’s presence allowing Him to address the deepest needs of our hearts.

If I truly know I am loved by God then fear will not control me; peer pressure will not control me; anger will not control me; what others think of me will not control me; sin will not control me…How do I know this?  Because scripture says these things:

·      Galatians 5: ~23 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,  faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

·      John 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

·      Luke 12:32 "So don't be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

·      Luke 6:20 Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher

·      1 John 4:17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

·      1 John 3:1 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don't recognize that we are God's children because they don't know him.

Over & over & over God promises wonderful things to His children but most Christians never walk in that authority & freedom. I believe this is one of the greatest hindrances to our own healing, authority, power.  We believe God can do anything & everything He pleases but we do not believe He loves us enough to do so for us! We don’t trust Him to answer in the affirmative because we don’t really know Him & what He is like. We see His work in others but do not see it in ourselves & begin to think that so & so is more spiritual than we are, that God loves them more than us, & it’s just not true.  Scripture tells us God is not a respecter of persons but that He loves those loving me, And those seeking me earnestly do find me. Proverbs 8:17

It is really, really simple. 2 Peter 1:3 By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvellous glory and excellence.

Say By coming to know Him.

We are going no~where fast until we come to know the one who is our saviour deeply & intimately. It is perfectly possible to operate in all the charismatic gifts & yet not know the one who gives the gift.

Matthew 7:22~23
On judgment day many will say to me, 'Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God's laws.'

There is power in the name of Jesus as we see in Mark 9 & Luke 9 but as the disciples pointed out they were not of Jesus’ company.

Hebrews 6:17~19  So when God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath.  Thus by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be strongly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and steadfast. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,…

There is nothing to fear for those who belong to Christ in drawing closer to the Father.  Indeed we are encouraged to come boldly to the Throne of Grace. 

Our human nature tends to crave the charismatic but we should be looking for the signs of the fruits in our life.  The Fruit of the Spirit is the sign to us that we are growing in our relationship with Jesus. I love the charismatic.  I love seeing Jesus manifest Himself to heal, to free, to reveal Himself but it is by the fruit that I know I am growing in my relationship with Him. The lack of fruit in my life tells me I need to spend more time with Him.

Lastly I want to discuss something I have taught on before but it never hurts to reinforce a teaching. We have talked a good bit about how much God loves us but I want to leave you with the biblical definition of Love.  Most of us have heard the Greek word *agape* used to describe God’s type of love.  It was the best equivalent in the Greek the N.T writers could come up with as the Hebrew hesed is a word that has no literal equivalent in either Greek or English.

To understand what is being conveyed you must grasp hesed as a covenant word.   Rabbi Simlai claimed that "The Torah begins with hesed and ends with hesed."  The Torah, the 1st 5 books of our bible, are the books of the Law ~ or teaching ~ that taught the Hebrews how to relate to God.

Like the Hebrew word shalom, hesed has a broad meaning but is perhaps best understood through the Hebrew pictographs: I am quoting from Tiffany Ann Lewis’ TheSound of Lovingkindness.01
MAY 201
Chesed is spelled with the three Hebrew letters:  chet – samech – dalet.

ח  The chet is a picture of a fence symbolizing protection or separation.  It is also the symbol of life as it is the first letter of the word for life chayim.  Interestingly, it is the letter eight a number that represents “new beginnings”.

ס  The samech is another letter of support and protection.  The ancient pictograph of the samech is that of a prop or support, thus it represents God’s support.  The circular shape of the samech can be seen as a picture of God, our support, who has no beginning and no end.  This centre letter is seen by the Sages as a picture of the heart of God where one can reside and be protected by the strong outer circle.

ד  The dalet is a picture of a door or a pathway, a porthole you might say.  Because the dalet is the last letter in the word for lovingkindness (chesed), we can picture ourselves walking through that door and into the next word.  In John 10:7, Jesus releases one of His 7, “I Am” proclamations and says; “…Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”  

While the word is translated variously as lovingkindness, mercy, grace, loyalty, fidelity  ~ & certainly includes all these aspects of God’s character, the protective covenant covering of His love for His people, His relentless pursuit of them, is at the core of what this sort of love means.

Understanding this it is easy to see why the N.T writers chose the neutral Greek word *Agape* to describe love crucified. This is the word chosen in Romans 5:5  For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. 

We understand the biblical definition of love is not a sentimental feeling.  It is always an action. If you look at the definition of love described in 1 Corinthians 13 & compare it to Galatians 5:22~23 you will see they are nearly identical.  This is how God manifests His love to us.  The closer we walk with Him the more we will experience this love & because it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that is the love we will manifest.

Experiencing God’s love & manifesting God’s love through us depends on 2 things we mentioned earlier:

·      coming to know him,
·       Remaining In Christ

It is our prayer that each of us, both individually & as a church, grow in our love & relationship with our Lord & saviour, Jesus Christ.

Friday, 6 January 2017

The wonderfulness of Jesus.~ Rabqa

Under the divine inspiration, Isaiah foretold the birth & life of Jesus Christ Isa 9:6

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

If the Gospels tell us anything they clearly reveal that the atmosphere Christ created was electric with all manner of possibilities.

There were no two days alike when the disciples walked with Jesus. He created excitement everywhere He went. He astounded His generation by His teachings & by His healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons & feeding the multitudes. They discovered the wonderfulness of Jesus.

The atmosphere that you & I live in, is because of the wonderfulness of Jesus, also has all manner of possibilities. The Word of God declares that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil 4:13). For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

The devil wants us to concentrate on how far we have fallen, rather than how far we have risen. Satan wants us to focus on the past instead of the future & on how far we still have to go rather than how far we have come. He wants us to think on how many times we fail instead of how many times we succeed.

 On the other hand God wants us to focus on our strengths & not our weaknesses, our victories & not our losses our Joys not our problems. God wants us to press forward & respond to His upward call & forget what lies behind us. Pay attention to what you focus on & magnify the works of the Lord. Do not believe the lies of the devil.

 When we realise the wonderfulness of Jesus we can stand on His Word & walk in His in Spirit, believe His joy, flow in His gifts, & grow in His fruits.

 God is amazing at night & astonishing in the morning. When you get up in the morning to pray, you can have a fresh astonishment of Jesus. Be thankful for another day to live for Jesus & show His wonderfulness to others. When you go to bed at night, you can lay your head down & have a new amazement that the life of God flowed through you & gave you power to kick the devils brains out.

This is the mark of the true disciple of Christ, is not just that one claims to be a Christian. You know the type they very seldom go to church, they just belong to one. they know about God, BUT they don't know Him.

 The true disciple of Christ has discovered how wonderful he really is. They can't wait to get up in the morning because all manner of possibilities await to share the wonderfulness of Jesus with someone else.

 It can be so easy to testify for Christ. First of all when we testify to others don't tell them about your affiliations, for instance don't tell them that you are a Catholic, a Baptist, a Methodist or an Assembly of God. Just tell them how wonderful Jesus really is.

You will discover when you show someone how wonderful Jesus really is, they will want to experience Him for themselves. You will never get anyone saved by asking them how they were baptised. By sharing the wonderfulness of Jesus will get results.

Are you allowing the wonderfulness of Jesus to work through you? Are your neighbours glad they live near you? Or do they wish you would move out because you are pushing religion down their throats, instead of simply showing them how wonderful Jesus really is.

If you are born again, people should see the wonderfulness of Jesus in you. It does not matter what state of the economy is or what the oil companies are doing. Man shall not live by oil alone or as the Bible says Man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matt 4:4).

The Greek word for "word" is rhema which is said or spoken, an utterance, in contrast to logos which is the expression of a thought, a message, a discourse. Logos is the message; rhema is the communication of the message. In reference to the Bible, logos is the Bible in it's entirety; rhema is a verse from the Bible. the meaning of rhema in distinction to logos is illustrated in Eph 6:17 where the reference is not to the Scriptures as a whole, but to that portion which the believer wields as a sword in a time of need. We learn from Matthew 4:1-11 that we should not be surprised when temptation comes. Satan
deliberately tried to tempt Jesus, & he tries to tempts us.

 How do you respond to temptation? Every time Jesus was tempted He responded with the Word of God. I cannot emphasise this enough: Be diligent to study God's Word, so that when temptation comes, you too will know what action to take in order to resist & overcome it.

Jesse Duplantis tells a story while he was out of town preaching he locked his key in the hotel room. He walked up to receptionist at the desk & told her which room he was staying in, & that he had locked his keys in the room. She asked him if he had his white slip, but no both the key & slip were in the room. Just at the right moment He heard the Holy Spirit saying that it was about time to share the wonderfulness of Jesus. He looked at the receptionist asking her if she went to church, she answered that she used to, Jesse replied that he could tell by the bored look on her face, that when people are not living for Jesus & out of church, their spirit is dried up like a prune. He went on to add that she left the church a few months ago because she listened to strife & it got into her heart & that she had attended a few other churches & found they had trouble.

He went on to tell her that she had lost her husband & that she was separated right now. She looked at him asking how he knew that. He said "The wonderfulness of Jesus. He loves you & died for you." She started to cry & a man walked in & said, "Are the prices that high at this hotel that you have to cry?" Jesse answered that question saying "No, but you need to meet Jesus Christ too."

 He could have ignored to hotel's receptionist need & asked for another key so he could get into his room. Instead he chose to seize the opportunity to share the wonderfulness of Jesus.

 Sin is a great disturber, the constant troubler of of the human heart. It casts down that which should be uppermost. Sin casts down your conscience, your reason, & your holy aspiration. But Christ secures the human soul to its right condition. He redresses, re-establishes, revolutionises, & makes all things new.

When you first get saved, Jesus redresses you & makes all things new. As you study the Word of God, you are re-established. When you receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, with evidence of speaking in tongues, you become revolutionised. You refuse to allow the devil to destroy you because you realise that Jesus is in you.

You may know someone that has listened to the devil & walked away from God. You may be wondering how this can happen? SIN is a disturber. It messes up the conscience, reasoning & holy aspiration. God wants to redress them, to re-establish them, & revolutionise their life. I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Not only will He forgive sins, because of confession, but He will cleanse them. Why? Because He is wonderful. We can rule with Jesus with omnipotent power, yet with lamb like gentleness, He sent us to go forth to proclaim the Gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead, & cast out demons Matthew 10:18.

His omnipotent power to do the works of Christ is available to every believer. However we are not to rule with a bulldozer but with the gentleness of a lamb. Psalm 8:4-6 what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honour. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority— I never heard God tell an angel, "Go into the world & preach the Gospel to every creature, heal the sick & cast out demons." He gave that honour & calling to His body, the apple of His eye, the redeemed of the Lord.

The cross to the disciples minds, meant total defeat. But the wonder of God shows us the biggest jewels are found in the darkest places. The disciples said, "It is over, it's finished. Let's go back to fishing. Jesus used to be Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace. But now He's dead."

But the brightest jewel of redemption was about to be discovered in the darkest place—the cross. The cross typified total defeat to the followers of Christ. He was hung between heaven & earth to die in a place called "Skull," the hill of Golgotha. He was totally rejected by society, by the 5,000 he fed, & the multitude that were healed & delivered.
Jesus' darkest moment began as the sins of the world were laid upon His back & His Father turned away from Him. In total desperation He cried "My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me? "(Matt 27:46) The Bible says But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
(Isa 53:10

How can God say that it was His plan to crush Him? Because the brightest jewel was about be reflected in the darkest place. Psalm 16 &22 say (paraphrased) The bulls of Bashan have encircled me...; You will not leave my body in hell? Nor will you let my body see corruption? Hell, paradise & the underworld began to crack & move as God the Father, declared that Jesus had paid the price for man's sin & raised His Son from the dead.

 Jesus put off principalities & powers by making an open show of them. The Father did not allow Jesus' body to see corruption. He walked out of that place & set the captives free. Jesus walked into Heaven with all the saints & boldly proclaimed that man had become the righteousness of God.

During Jesus' earthly walk they said of Him, The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41) For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa 9:6)

 Discover the wonderfulness of Jesus for yourself. Ask Him in to come into your heart & redress, re-establish & revolutionise your life. Only Jesus can smooth away the rough edges of your life until you sparkle like a jewel in the sun.

In 1971 Ray Tomlinson was experimenting ways with people & computers so they could interact. When He sent a message from his computer through a network to different unit in his office he had sent the first e-mail. Now decades later, more than a billion e-mails are sent every day. Many contain important news from loved ones & friends, but others may carry unwanted advertising or a destructive virus. A basic rule governing e-mail use is: "Don't open it unless you trust the sender."

God has sent us a message in the Person of His Son, & yes, we can trust the Sender. In the Old Testament, God spoke to His people through the prophets & sadly many rejected God's Word. But it was all leading to this: God who at various times spoke in times gone by to the fathers by the prophets, & has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also made the worlds. (Heb 1:1&2)

We may be awed by inexplicable mystery of Almighty God entering our world as a baby, yet remain hesitant to embrace Christ fully & place our lives in His hands. Christmas is the time the Church chose to celebrate Jesus' birth. I don't know why because there are many clues in the Bible that suggest this was not the time. The biggest clue of all is that sheep are never out on the hills or in paddocks during the winter months; they are looked after in barns.

So it is at this time when the unforgettable message of love, redemption & hope sent by God. Will you trust the Sender & open His message today?

Wesley wrote: Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.

God's timeless message of hope is waiting to be received. In the Czech Republic & other places, the Christmas celebrations include "Christingles." A Christingle is an orange, representing the world, with a candle placed in the top of it to symbolise Christ the light of the world. A red ribbon encircles the orange, symbolising the blood of Jesus. Four toothpicks with dried fruits placed through the ribbon into the side of the orange representing the fruits of the earth. This simple visual aid vividly represents the purpose behind Christ's coming to bring light into the darkness & to redeem a broken world by shedding His blood.

In John's account of Christ's life, the disciple describes Jesus as the light of the world. He wrote of Christ: That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. John 1:9 & in verse 29 he writes ...Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Just think of it! The baby in Bethlehem became the living risen Lord who has rescued us from our sins. & John instructs us to walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. John1:7

 Our walk in the light is a test of fellowship with God, since the life of fellowship is a life continuously cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus. It also involves our relationship with one another, which indicates that a walk in the light is lived accountably before both God & man.

Just before I close, let us remember, There were no two days alike when the disciples walked with Jesus. He created excitement everywhere He went. He astounded His generation by His teachings & by His healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons & feeding the multitudes. They discovered the wonderfulness of Jesus.

Acknowledgements Jesse Duplantis

Sunday, 1 January 2017

A time to Rededicate Ourselves ~ Ganeida

As Hanukkah comes to an end it is a good time to pause & reflect upon the New Testament applications of an Old Testament Festival.

Briefly Hanukkah remembers the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by Antioches Epiphanes, who sacrificed a pig [an unclean animal] on the temple altar & declared himself a god.  In response the Maccabees rose up in revolt, overthrew Antioches, purified the temple & resumed their worship of the one true God.  However when they went to light the Temple Menorah they found all but one vial of the temple oil, which lasted for just 24 hours, had been desecrated, yet this oil miraculously burnt for 8 days until more oil could be prepared.

That is the bare bones of the story. Why should we, as New Testament believers, give any heed to Hanukkah? I will give you 3 reasons:

1.     Jesus did. John 10:22
2.   2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

3.  Like the other festivals it is prophetic in nature & gives us insights into the character of Jesus.

Hanukkah is known by @ least 3 other names: the Feast of Dedication; Festival of Lights; or Feast of the Maccabees. Each of these names throws a different prophetic light on the festival.

Hanukkah is a story of conflict.  Its roots are in the divide between liberal theology, which is prepared to compromise with the world, & those who clung stubbornly to the Truth of God’s word. It is the story of the ongoing conflict between good & evil, the love of God & the hatred of satan.

 It is an uncomfortable place.  We don’t like the uncomfortable places but God never flinches from them. Matthew 10, starting @ v34 says:
“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.
‘I have come to set a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
   Your enemies will be right in your own household!’
“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

Hanukkah reminds us that the Truth costs. God’s word will always bring us into conflict with the world.  The world says there are no absolutes; accept all; tolerate all; include all. Scripture says My word is Truth [John17:17] ~ an absolute; Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don't touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you [2Corinthians6:17] ~ intolerance;  "You must be holy because I am holy." [1Peter 1:16]~ exclusion.
This does NOT make a believer a better human being. Its point is to divide. As there will be a division between the believer & the unbeliever in the end  Matthew 25:46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life," so there is meant to be a difference between the believer & the unbeliever in this world & it will bring us into conflict ~ even into conflict with those of our own household! That is not a comfortable place to be ~ & because we are human we look for ways to squirm around this, to compromise without compromising & it cannot be done!
Jesus has been there. We are told in John 7:5 For even his brothers didn't believe in him. In fact  in Mark 3 Jesus issues yet another uncomfortable statement as His mother & brothers sought to speak with Him: For whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.”
Do not ever make the mistake of thinking the Love of God negates the justice of God.  It is not so.  Grace & mercy are extended to those who accept the conditions of the cross: repentance from sin & the Lordship of Christ. God loves the sinner, yes, but forgiveness only comes by way of the cross.  There are no shortcuts.  There are no alternatives.  There are not many paths. Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:6 He loved us enough to make a way back into right relationship with Him [John 3:16] but the choice to accept the offer or not is ours.
The conflict resulted in the cross but there you will find a most amazing revelation. In the Original temple there was the outer court; there was the inner court & there was the Holy of Holies wherein the Spirit of God dwelt. Within the Holy of Holies lay the Ark of the Covenant between 2 cherubim & the covering was known as the Mercy Seat.

The new covenant is through the shed blood of Christ on the cross but here is the thing. When the Romans erected their crosses they would put a short seat on them where the suffering man could lift himself up & gain a short respite from the slow suffocation that was crucifixion.  That seat was known as the Mercy Seat.

Hanukkah reminds us of the one Great central question in life: John 10:22...

 It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade.  The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Is Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, or not? Each man must decide in his own heart the truth of the matter.  If Jesus is the Christ then there is a God, there is an afterlife, there is a judgement & there will be rewards & punishment. In that day the veil of deception that satan has thrown over this world will be removed & we will all be without excuse.

C.S. Lewis put it this way:  "A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg--or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.

One of the things that delights me about God, because I was a B.A in literature before I was anything else, is how God consistently ties His symbolism together.  Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights. Many families who celebrate Hanukkah have a menorah for each person in the family & each night a candle is lit until on the 8th & final night all 8 candles are lit ~ yet there are 9 candles on a Hanukkah menorah.  The 9th candle is known as the Shamash candle or the servant candle. This is the first candle lit each night & it is from the Shamash candle that all the other candles are lit.

Now we know that we are now the Temple for the Holy Spirit & Christ is the servant King who sent His Holy Spirit to dwell with us.  It is from Christ that the new birth comes.  It is through His empowering of us through His Holy Spirit that we are sealed unto the day of redemption & it is this seal that identifies us to all the spiritual powers & authorities as belonging to Christ. As the Hanukkah candles receive life from the Shamash so too do we receive life from Christ, who is the light of the world.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12

Finally Hanukkah is known as the Feast of Dedication. Antiochnes Epiphanes desecrated the temple at Jerusalem in the worst possible way, so much so that the altar was torn down & the stones taken away. A new altar was built of unhewn stones.

At Hanukkah we remember we are now the new Temple for the Holy Spirit because now God dwells with men through His very Spirit. Yet like the old temple we allow ourselves to be defiled by the things of this world: 1 John2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

We need to rededicate ourselves, allowing Christ to cleanse us of all unrighteousness, & to fill us anew with the oil of His Holy Spirit that we may indeed be the Light of the World as Jesus called us to be in Matthew 5:14.
Philippians 2:15 puts it this way:  Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

Hanukkah is not obsolete. Each candle reminds us of a covenant promise from the first given to Adam in the garden that from his seed would come one to bruise satan’s head to the last that looks forward to the everlasting union of Christ with His church. 

Revelation 22.5

And there will be no night there--no need for lamps or sun--for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

Hebrews 3:7~8
That is why the Holy Spirit says, "Today when you hear his voice, don't harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness.

Rather be like the people of Acts 2.

So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”
Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.”

 So as we prepare to come to communion I suggest we take a quiet moment with the Holy Spirit to rededicate ourselves to God, under the sonship of Jesus Christ & through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

A Short Christmas Message.~ Ganeida

Last night Hanukkah began.  This morning we celebrate the birth of Christ even though we know Christ was not born on December 25th.  Both are celebrations of a great victory of light over darkness & both are a time of coming together with family & community but the focus too often shifts from Christ to too much food & expensive gifts & we know this is a time when alcohol fueled violence increases & for many, many people it is a time of loneliness, isolation & great sadness. I understand.  I buried my youngest brother just a week or so before Christmas. For many others, & my youngest daughter is one, there is nothing quite like the glitz & sparkle & anticipation of Christmas.

There are some truths I can tell you.  God loves celebrations.  He invented them.  It was His idea to have the *moed*, special times of celebration when His people were to come apart & spend some quality time with Him. Jesus loved celebrations.  His first miracle was at a wedding.  He was accused of being a wine bibber & a glutton [Luke 7:34] & you don’t get accused of such things by staying home & being sombre!

I also happen to know Jesus acknowledged Hanukkah ~ by one of its other names, Feast of Dedication. [John 10:22] It was at Hanukkah that the Pharisees demanded, If you are the Christ, Tell us plainly.

We often hear Christians draw the analogy between Christ’s birth as the Father’s gift to a fallen world & the giving of gifts to each other & there is some truth to that but there is so much more to the story.

Philippians 2:7/8 says: Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross.

I cannot imagine ~ & I have tried! What it meant for the God of the universe to lay aside His glory & place himself at the mercy of mere humans as a baby whose every need was dependant on another. The God who spoke a word & separated the light from the darkness, who could call upon legions of angels to do His every bidding, who raised the dead, made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, confined within a womb, absolutely helpless.

James 1:17 says: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Jesus was the perfect lamb without spot or blemish, slain from the foundation of the world.  Christmas is about one thing, & one thing only: This is the point in time wherein God entered into man’s dimension to accomplish one purpose, & one purpose only: to die that men might live.

I like babies.  They are cute & cuddly & completely non~threatening but the thing about babies is that they grow up. Every parent knows they only have a set amount of time in which to train up a child.  God had 30 years to train up His son that He might become the gift beyond all gifts to the nations of the world. He trained Him to be a slave.  He trained Him to be a servant. He trained Him in obedience. When He was fully trained He was sent to the cross.

Christmas has always been about the cross.  Without a birth there could not have been a death & a death was necessary.  The wages of sin is death & all have fallen short of the glory of God.  All of us were condemned under the law to death until Jesus took the penalty for our sin upon Himself. It is not the sort of gift you finding lying under a Christmas tree.  It has no monetary value yet cost the giver His very heart’s blood.

If we followed the Jewish calendar Hanukkah & Christmas would fall together each year giving greater meaning to Jesus words in John 8:12 ~ "I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life." In Matthew 5:14 He says: “You are the light of the world.”   Because one of the names for Hanukkah is Festival of Lights.

It is no coincidence that light surrounded the birth of Jesus: there was that star ~ & the heavenly host lighting up the night sky where shepherds watched their flocks.  What He brought was a kingdom ruled by Light, a kingdom where the first became last & the last first, where those who ruled were the slaves of all.

So this year we are going to do things a little differently.  I am going to hand out some coupons. As sons & daughters of the Light we are going to practise being that Light.  I admit to having a head start on the rest of you but don’t let that deter you.  On the first small coupons [& you should have one for each person here] write out a blessing over their life.  It could be for health, finances, increase, wisdom ~ anything at all & before we take communion we will take a moment to speak those blessings over each other, a gift that costs nothing except some time & thought. To help you if you want something scriptural I have some sheets with biblical blessings listed. You can find them here: 

The larger coupon is to take away.  Think about someone in your family or community you would like to bless in a nonmonetary way & present the coupon to them to be redeemed at a suitable time.

Here is the blessing I chose for our church community this Christmas starting @ Deuteronomy 28:5

…"Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.Blessed shall you be when you come in, & Blessed shall you be when you go out.The LORD shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways. The LORD will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God gives you.…