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Archive for September, 2007


28. Partake – Christian Discipleship and Who is God

I have heard people say to me, I believe in God’s existence but I don’t need to study the Bible to know Him! But belief in His existence is not enough! Even satan and his demons believe in God’s existence! It is only through the Bible we can study God and His relationship with the universe. All we can know about God is not contained in the Bible, but the Bible contains all we can know about God during our earthly life! That is because God is infinite and beyond our limitations of space and time! Yet the God we as Christian disciples follow and worship, is knowable through the Bible. This means that God is a personal God and not a remote being. That is a key to studying Him! He wants to be known and has given us the Bible in order for us to do so.

How can we know about God?

In the Bible, what we know of God are the fundamental qualities or powers of His being. The Bible elucidates statements about God, by God, through which we try and understand God, using our finite minds. The Bible reveals God to us! God is spirit, yet a personal and infinite being (John 4:24). He is one in substance, nature and being and incapable of division (Deuteronomy 6v4). Yet He is three coequal people, or the Trinity! It is through the Bible we discover what pleases, angers, offends, or gives joy Him!

The words revealed in the Bible describe His attributes! The fact we are able to take hold and understand this about an infinite God is evidence that God desires to be known by humans! So what are some of the attributes of God? There are two different kinds of attributes: natural and moral.

1. Natural Attributes

a. Transcendent – God’s self-existence apart from and independent of creation. This reflects God’s majesty and greatness. Romans 11:33; 1Chronicles 29:11; 1Kings 8:27

b. Immanent/Omnipresent – God is wholly present everywhere. God fills the universe in all it’s parts without division Psalm 139:7-12; Jerermiah 23:23-24

c. Omnipotent – God has power to do all things that are the object of power. With God all things are possible Luke 1:37. He is El Shaddai or God Almighty. Jerermiah 32:17-18 Nothing is too hard for you.

d. Omniscient – God has perfect knowledge of all things – actual, past, present, future and possible. 1 John 3:20 God knows all things; Psalm 47:5 Infinite understanding.

e. Infinite – God has no limits. He has an internal and a qualitative absence of limitation. Boundless activity – Romans 11:33; 1Timothy1:16; Psalm 147:5

f. Immutable – God is unchangeable. Malachi 3:6 – I AM God and I change not; Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

g. Eternal – God is without beginning or end. He is the alpha and omega. God is outside of time – time is in God, and He is free from the succession of time. God lives in the eternal present – past, present and future, are NOW for God – He is the I AM YAHWEH Exodus 3:14. From everlasting to everlasting you are God. 1 Timothy1:17; Psalm 102:7

h. Spirit – God is a free personal Spirit

· God is not material. He is invisible and indestructible. John 4:24; 1Timothy1:17; 1Timothy6:15-16

· God is Life Jn 14:6. Energy & activity!

· God has Personality. Self-consciousness & communicative!

2. Moral Attributes

a. Goodness – absolute perfection. Seeking creations’ welfare.

· Love – God is love 1 John 4:8-10. God communicates and gives of Himself.

· Grace – God gives us what we do not deserve. God’s riches at Christ’s expense Ephesians 2:7; The unmerited goodness of God John 1:16.

· Mercy – God does not give us what we deserve. The goodness of God to those in distress – tenderness & compassion (Ephesians 2:3-5)

· Long-suffering – God is slow to anger. God longs to forgive (Exodus 34:6-7)

· TruthJohn 14:6 The revelation source and foundation of all truth is God/Jesus

b. Holiness – moral excellence and perfection of God. Separation from sin. What God is!! Heb 7:26 “Be holy, for I am Holy”.

c. Righteousness – Holiness in action. God’s actions conform to His Holiness. Justice deals with the ab­sence of righteousness. Sin must be dealt with – (Genesis 18:25 & Psalm 89:14)

Why do we study this God? There are at least 4 reasons!

a) Avoids confusion! As we study God, we come to know truths about Him and are able to discern what are true and false facts about Him! “Truth combats error” Satan distorts scripture to put people off the truth.

b) Truth develops character 2 Peter 1:3-9 – The strongest Christian disciples are those with a good growing knowledge of biblical truth. Since study increases our knowledge of God, it increases the possibilities of love, growth and service of the Christian disciple. We study it to put it into practice! What we believe about God, affects our behaviour! James 1:22 says “We must be doers of the Word not just hearers of this is to be effective.”

c) We are commanded to grow in our knowledge of God – 2 Timothy 4:2-4

d) This God is to be worshipped and part of our service and submission to this God, is that worship is given to Him alone (Deuteronomy 5v6-9). As humans we are created in His image, and as Christian disciples we were bought at a price when Jesus died on the cross and we accepted Him as our Lord and saviour. He is due our worship and reverence! It is on worship that I hope to discuss next time!

One of the best books regarding getting to know God is the appropriately titled “Knowing God” by JI Packer – it’s a thoroughly modern and readable classic! For more to think about, please do read for yourself 2 Peter 1:3-9. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. From my knowledge of God, what do I find comforting?

Q2. From my knowledge of God, what do I find disturbing?

Q3. How has my knowledge of God grown and affected my behaviour since I became a Christian disciple?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at) I would love to hear from you and if these are making any difference at all to your continual Christian discipleship! Thank you.

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27. Partake – The Christian disciple and Meditation

Psalm 119vv22-27: Don’t let them scorn and insult me, for I have obeyed your laws. Even princes sit and speak against me, but I will meditate on your decrees. Your laws please me; they give me wise advice. I lie in the dust; revive me by your word. I told you my plans, and you answered. Now teach me your decrees. Help me understand the meaning of your commandments, and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.

The Psalmist here describes the benefits of reading and meditating upon the Bible. God’s words become a delight as he follows God’s decrees. A sense of wonder is instilled as God’s word is meditated upon. Strength overcomes tiredness as he listens to God speaking through the Bible. These are also true for the Christian disciple!

.. Prayers ...

Photo courtesy of Maggie

For some people, meditation is passive and involves being quiet, saying a chant, letting the mind go blank and seeking to experience God. However meditation for the Christian disciple is active. It is the filling of the mind with the Bible and not the emptying of thought. It is also not seeking to experience God’s presence, as God is always present with the believer through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Meditation is where imagination is involved and allowing God to speak through the Bible. How is this done?

Meditative Practice

Day 9

Photo courtesy of Linda

Whilst aiming at the positive and the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:1-2), mental prayer is meditation, which involves both reason and intellect. The use of reason and intellect in meditation is achieved through the mental and spiritual process of reading the Bible, so that it becomes a living part of the Christian disciples’ life. By internalising God’s words from the Bible into the heart & mind, God’s thoughts become the Christian disciple’s thoughts. Meditating on the Bible enables the words of the Bible to infiltrate all areas in the life of a Christian disciple.

For meditation to be effective, silence and solitude are prerequisites. However, silence and solitude should not mean loneliness but rather be an aid to meditation, reflection, understanding & peace. One example of how to mediate involves memorization, visualization, personalization and activation. Memorization is to rebuild our thought patterns by memorising words in the Bible passages especially those related to problems we maybe facing or those that glorify God. Visualization is to try and understand God’s words and thoughts from His point of view. Personalization is to stabilize the emotions expressing the words of Bible in the first person. Finally, Activation, which is to draw new conclusions and make new life changing decisions based on the Bible. This all helps in the process of becoming more like Jesus in the journey of the Christian disciple. It also equips us for doing battle with satan and resisting temptation. Jesus fended off and attacked satan by using Scripture correctly so as to negate the temptations. That is why it is a weapon in the spiritual battle. Satan will do all he can to get Christian disciples to compromise their faith, fall into sin and not read the Bible.


Reading and meditation on the bible does many things for the Christian disciple. It equips the Christian disciple for service of God and to convict people of sin. Then as it equips, it is essential for evangelism and pointing others to Jesus. An example of this is when Philip was talking to the Ethiopian about the Christ; it was Isaiah 53, which was the point of query. It also equips in order to give counsel & help others, such as when Paul urged Timothy to use Scripture when teaching others. Then it equips the Christian disciple to use their spiritual gifts, so that the whole church is encouraged and God is glorified. Spiritual maturity derives from building Bible knowledge into the life of the Christian disciple.

One of the very key teachings from the Bible is that God can be known personally. Personal knowledge of God is ultimately crucial because knowing God personally and developing the relationship is what being a Christian disciple is all about. Christian disciples should be rejoicing that God earnestly desires them to attain this knowledge of Him, in order to know Him more and more. The Apostle Peter commands that we grow in the knowledge of Jesus as part of our spiritual journey. The Christian disciple does this in order to become more like Jesus, developing an intimate knowledge of God and of developing an intimacy with Him.

The Bible reveals that God has a program for the universe and it is only revealed in the Bible. So reading and meditation upon it is vital in the life of a Christian disciple. The overall will of God, is that all people come to believe and trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and their Saviour. After starting the Christian life, the new Christian disciple discovers God’s program from humbly reading the Bible. Meditating on the Bible helps the Christian disciple to grow into spiritual maturity and into the ultimate goal of becoming like Jesus. The Christian disciple reads and meditates upon the Bible regularly, knowing the desire to be like Jesus is the goal.

For more to think about please do read for yourself: 2 Timothy 3:15-17. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. What benefit does Paul say I can gain from the Bible?

Q2. What is the relationship between the Bible, God and me?

Q3. How can I adapt my day so that I can spend time reading and meditating on the Bible?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at) I would love to hear from you and if these are making any difference at all to your continual Christian discipleship! Thank you.

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Eritrean Christians tell of torture

Eritrean Christians tell of torture
By Tanya Datta
BBC News, northern Ethiopia

An Eritrean refugee lies contorted on the ground. Balanced on his belly, his hands clutch his feet behind his back, bending his legs back almost double. Paulus is demonstrating a torture technique known colloquially as “the helicopter”. It is one he knows well. It was in this excruciating position, he claims, that soldiers left him tied up for 136 hours, in an attempt to force him to recant his faith.

“They kept asking me to sign a document,” he recalls, “and agree to not participate in church activities or express my faith in any form. I was told I would be untied and released the minute I agreed to their requests.”

Paulus is an evangelical Christian from Eritrea, one of an increasing number fleeing the tiny Red Sea state because of religious persecution. Home these days is Shimelba refugee camp in northern Ethiopia, close to the disputed border with Eritrea. Here, in the Ebenezer Evangelical Church on camp, Paulus is free to worship in a way that is unthinkable back in his homeland.


During the past five years, a brutal campaign has been waged in Eritrea against Christian minorities, focusing mainly on the evangelical and Pentecostal movements. Weddings, baptisms, church services and prayer meetings have been raided by security forces. Guests or congregation members have rounded up and detained en masse. According to Compass Direct, a non-governmental organisation reporting on the persecution of Christians around the world, it is estimated that almost 2,000 people are being held in jails across Eritrea because of their religious beliefs.

The crackdown on Eritrea’s minority churches followed a government announcement in May 2002 that only its four oldest faiths – Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran and Islam – would receive official sanction. The rest were invited to register and declare their sources of funding. To date, none has been registered.


Evangelical Christians who have been arrested face severe pressure to recant their faith. Some prisoners have been held in metal shipping containers. Accounts of torture, lack of food and terrible conditions are commonplace. Samuel (not his real name) is 24 and university-educated. Along with 19 others, he was arrested in 2005 when he attended the wedding of a friend. For the next 12 months, he was imprisoned and forced to do backbreaking manual labour. He was also regularly beaten.

Patriarch Antonious used to have good relations with the president. On one occasion, Samuel said, he was suspended by his arms from a tree for three days in the form of a crucifixion. He was also constantly pressured to leave his faith. “They asked me if I would like to leave it. They asked every night for four months,” he said. Some of his friends did recant after endless beatings.

Samuel, as well as Paulus, were repeatedly asked about their links with the US. Evangelical and Pentecostal churches are widely perceived by the Eritrean authorities as having originated in the States, even though many fund themselves. The US is threatening to declare Eritrea a rogue state for its alleged support of terrorists, and the mood of President Isaias Afwerki and his Marxist-oriented government is now openly anti-American. Yet even official, long-established faiths have not escaped government interference. Patriarch Abune Antonios, the head of the Eritrean Orthodox Church – a faith followed by more than 40% of Eritrea’s population – has been under house arrest for almost two years.

‘No repression’

Four months ago, the 80-year-old who suffers from diabetes was moved to an undisclosed location. Since then, there has been little information about what happened to him. No official reason has been given for his disappearance. His supporters, however, claim that he was arrested after he objected to the jailing of church leaders from the Medhane Alem, a spiritual renewal movement within the Orthodox church.

In May this year, a new patriarch was installed with the support of some Eritrean bishops. But the new patriarch has not been accepted by the Coptic Church in Alexandria, Egypt. Abba Seraphim is the head of the British Orthodox Church, which is launching an online petition to protest about the plight of the patriarch.

He told me the patriarch was put under house arrest after he refused to do the government’s bidding. “The only thing we’ve heard is that he’s being kept in a darkened room. He managed to get a message to someone complaining about this,” Mr Seraphim said. But, according to Girma Asmeron, the Eritrean ambassador to Belgium, the disappearance of Patriarch Antonios is far from sinister. The patriarch, he claims, has retired to an isolated monastery and is very much “alive, kicking and praying”.

Mr Asmeron denies that there is any repression of religious freedom in Eritrea. He says persecution claims have been made up. And allegations of torture, he says, are stories invented by refugees “simply as a certificate” to enable them to get political asylum. Refugees certainly continue to pour out of Eritrea. In two years, the number of asylum applications by Eritreans to the West has increased by 57%. The UNHCR recently described the exodus as “one of the world’s most protracted refugee situations”. My last contact with Eritrea’s persecuted Christians came in an e-mail sent to me last week.

“The situation in Eritrea is getting worse and worse after the president stated that the US is funding the Pentecostal church in Eritrea,” it said.

“Many Christians are suffering in military concentrations [camps] and police stations… Pray for the Christians in Eritrea, and pray for the prisoners and their families.”

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26. Partake – The Christian disciple and Prayer

Paul writing in Ephesians 6v18 – “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all of God’s holy people.”

Why is prayer, along with the Bible, our weapons in spiritual warfare? I wonder when the last time you said “Good morning” to God as you woke up or said “Good night” to God as you fell asleep. Prayer is at the centre in the relationship between God and the Christian disciple. It is the major action of fellowship between God and humans, and of humans communicating with God, both in talking and listening (Genesis 18v33).

Prayer is also a way of “letting God in” to the life of the Christian disciple, and of enjoying the company of God, relating all aspects of life to Him. Calvin, said that part of praying was asking for “what we have learned to be available” in God’s love and of His being the infinitesimal good giver. He goes on to say our “only security” is achieved by calling on the Father for His providence out of His infinite mercy. Martin Luther said that our “protection (by God) lies in prayer”, for the Christian disciple is too weak in their own strength to withstand all that is against them. Prayer is ultimately what humans were made for: conversing with God. This dynamic relationship enables the Christian disciple to engage in prayer that is both “personal and relational.” However, prayer is only the penultimate stage in the relationship with God. Prayer is the forerunner of the day when the Christian disciple will know fully, even as they are fully known (1 Corinthians 13v12). All prayer consists of a desire or longing to know God better, and that is to be our prime motivation: to know God better. That is why it is a spiritual weapon, and it is also the reason satan tries to stop Christian disciples from praying.

The function of prayer according to Augustine was a constant yearning for assistance and strengthening of desire towards the ultimate goal – eternal happiness and worship and knowledge of God. God Himself assists the Christian disciple as they pray: where He corrects and strengthening the yearning. Prayers express desires and thoughts in a contributory way to the journey of the Christian disciple. The Lord’s Prayer and the book Psalms are superb biblical examples of prayer. It is through Scripture that desire to know God and be known by God evolves and develops. That is why prayer and Bible reading go hand in hand.

Prayer emits our words from ourselves to the God we seek to know, as a response to His reaching out to us. A popular method of prayer is the ACTS acronym, whereby prayer is Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Through prayer, God is able to comprehend the Christian disciple regardless of language, grammar or oratory skill as long as the Christian disciple approaches with a correct attitude.

Words however, are not just to be a mental action but also an emotive act, conveying emotions and feeling. Prayer is to convey deep emotions to God, regardless of our language skills. The words spoken in prayer portray our innermost feeling to Him. Because God is personal, He values language and expects His people to talk to Him. If for some reason, the Christian disciple is unable to convey their words in prayer, then Romans 8v26, intimates that the Holy Spirit intercedes. Prayer epitomises the Father-child relationship symbolized in the Christian disciple’s relationship with God. It further symbolizes the freedom and peace in prayer, advocated by Jesus to communicate His deepest desires, as in the Lords Prayer (Matthew 6v9-13) and in John 17.

The Lord’s Prayer – What does Jesus say about prayer? In the first part of the prayer termed “The Lord’s Prayer”, the words spoken give supplication to God that He always be revered as holy, His kingdom rule will come quickly and that His will be accomplished. The second part comprises words of petition, for the past, present and future. By words, “we are known by God.” This prayer is a model for real prayer because it is both God-centred and intelligent. Prayers reveal the Christian disciple’s submission to, and acknowledgment of, God as Master; a God who both knows and cares for His creation.

Does God answer all prayers? First of all the answer we expect, may not be the answer we get! So often we pray, expecting one result and getting another and then think that God hasn’t answered our prayer! Sometimes the answer He gives is yes. At other times it may be no or not yet. When we realise that God works outside of our restrictions of time and space, we learn to trust His judgement and wisdom. We acknowledge that He is the Master and we his servants. Sometimes when we pray, we like to think we are the Masters and He is our servant! Prayers that aren’t answered are due to unconfessed sin (Psalm 66v18); selfishness (James 4v3); doubt (James 1v5-7); disobedience (Proverbs 28v9) or pride (Luke 18v11-14).

A great book to read on prayer is The Message of Prayer by Tim Chester. For more to think about please do read for yourself Ephesians 1 & 6. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. What lessons can I take from this prayer and use to improve my prayer life?

Q2. From this chapter, what is my incentive for prayer?

Q3. What stops me from spending time praying and causes me to struggle in prayer?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at) I would love to hear from you and if these are making any difference at all to your continual Christian discipleship! Thank you.

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Michael W Smith – Above All

Verse 1
Above all powers
Above all kings
Above all nature
And all created things
Above all wisdom
And all the ways of man
You were here
Before the world began

Verse 2
Above all kingdoms
Above all thrones
Above all wonders
The world has ever known
Above all wealth
And treasures of the earth
There’s no way to measure
What You’re worth

Laid behind the stone
You lived to die
Rejected and alone
Like a rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all

Laid behind the stone
You lived to die
Rejected and alone
Like a rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all

Like a rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all

You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all

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