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Archive for April, 2010

Issues – Universalism

 Partake - Issues

Universalism

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John writes in John 1v1-5, talking about Jesus “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”

Jesus talking about Himself John 14v2, 6: “Trust in God; trust also in me. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 17v1-2 “O God, Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

Most modern societies, particularly in the West, are pluralistic with a many cultures, within any city and country. With this advent of pluralism, comes the widely held belief that all religions, creeds, beliefs and non-beliefs are equal, which all ultimately lead to God and that after death, every person will enter heaven and have everlasting life with God. That is universalism, and sadly, some Christian churches hold this belief. However, that is contradictory to what Jesus said in the bible passages I read earlier. That is not to say that each religion does not have an element of truth within it, but only one religion is ultimate and absolute truth and that is Christianity. As Christians in the twenty first century we are often informed that Christianity is wrong, and that Jesus Christ can’t possibly be the only way to God, even if a God or Gods exist.

Just a scant look at each religion throws up the incompatibility between them. For instance the great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam all profess that there is only one God. Contrast this against the religion of Hinduism, which has millions of God, or Buddhism where there may well be no God at all! So Universalism could really be just a form of functional religious atheism.

If we were all going to be with God anyway, why would God bother having a plan of salvation as revealed in the Bible? If Universalism is true, why bother with morals or ethics now during this life as each religion has differing codes of morality and behaviour. Now as soon as a Universalist says that morality is what defines the human (as some do), we can then say well which God, and therefore religion, decides what morality as different religions have different rules of morality!! Taking it even further we could say why would God bother interacting with His creation at all, if humanity is going to be spending eternity with Him anyway! Why would there even be a thing called death at all, if universalism is true! So why is Universalism wrong? Lets have a look very briefly together, how superior Christianity is to Universalism.

Universalism Denies Salvation by Grace

Universalists inevitably proclaim that it is due to God’s nature of love and mercy that everyone will have everlasting life with God. Surely a merciful God will allow all to live with Him, regardless of the path they took in this early life! However the Bible states that while God is a God of love and mercy, He is also a God of justice and the sins of people need to be dealt with. That is where God’s grace comes in. How does God promise salvation to those reaching out for it? Through His unfailing love, kindness and tender mercy, which is enacted through Grace! Salvation can be attained by no other means, but only through the combination of God’s mercy and grace – God’s twin actions working in unison. Grace is easily defined as: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. So what about Jesus Christ?

Universalism Denies Jesus’ uniqueness being human & divine

That Jesus was a man is not really disputed. But why did Jesus need to fully human? Firstly, so Jesus death could appease God’s anger with us. Secondly so that Jesus can empathize and pray for us. Thirdly, Jesus exhibited true and perfect humanity. Fourthly, due to his perfect humanity, Jesus is to be our example to follow. Fifthly, true human nature is good. Lastly, while God is both above and beyond, He is not so far removed from us, that He cannot interact with his creation.

But he was more than human, He was also fully God – He was fully divine! God’s salvation plan for humans involved triumphant victory over sin, death and the grave. However no person could be found that was eligible or capable to do this. Because of this, God stepped into human history, so that this victory could be achieved. This God-man would be fully human, so as to live every feature of humanity, including suffering and death. This God-man would also need to remain fully God, so as to defeat sin, death and the grave. Jesus, being sinless, was this God-man, consisting as he did of two complete natures, the God nature and the human nature. That Jesus is both human and divine is what makes Christianity truly unique amongst the world’s religions. It is why Jesus’ claims to be the only way to God are true and make sense. It is why universalism is shown to be a fallacy. Universalism is wrong because it makes Jesus Christ out to be either a liar or a lunatic or worse – both.

Universalism Denies Jesus’ cross

As all paths under universalism lead to God, why would God have to send Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of the world? Surely, if all paths lead ultimately to God, then there would be no need for Jesus to suffer the agony of the cross. On the cross, Jesus died so that all sins – past, present and future sins – can be forgiven. Salvation is to be found only through God’s grace and mercy exhibited by God the Son on the cross. Moreover, it is only to those who acknowledge Him as Saviour in this earthly life that He will acknowledge before God the Father.

Universalism Denies Jesus’ resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ provided the central theme for the sermons and teaching in the early church (Acts 1v22; Acts 4v33, Acts 17v18). But what significance is there in Jesus’ resurrection? The resurrection proved and vindicated all Jesus’ teaching and claims as the suffering Servant and attested to his being fully God and the last Judge of all mankind (Isaiah 53v10-12; Acts 2v36; Acts 3v13-15; Romans 1v4). The resurrection declared God’s approval of Jesus’ obedient service and the fulfilment of all the Old Testament promises, resulting in forgiveness of sins and salvation being only found in and through Jesus Christ, Jesus’ resurrection is a sign of the bodily resurrection for all believers in him, giving a new attitude to death and transforming hopes (1 Corinthians 15v12-58, Romans 8v10, 2 Corinthians 4v14; 1 Peter 1v3 & 21) As the resurrected King, Jesus now intercedes for us and has perfected the redemption of all those who choose to follow him (Romans 5v10; Hebrews 6v20, 1 Peter 1v21).

Universalism Denies Jesus’ authority

Jesus has authority (Matthew 28v18) over all things, all people, all circumstances and happenings. has authority over all spiritual beings, whether angels or demons. Jesus has authority over all nations, governments and rulers. Jesus has authority over all earthly and spiritual authorities. Jesus has the authority. Over all religions, leaders and people – Jesus has the authority and supremacy. This means regardless of what ever the Christian Disciple faces, Jesus is in control. Therefore, as Christian Disciples, we can obey him without fear of retribution from those who would seek to harm us. We have been given a free will, but as his Disciples, we should choose to exercise our free will to obey him and live a life worthy of him. As we grow to rely and depend on Jesus’ authority, we continually gain wisdom, guidance, and power. Because of His authority, Jesus has authority and supremacy over all things – created, non-created, religious and non- religious.

Either Jesus was who he said he was – God – or he was a liar and a lunatic not to be trusted. Universalism and Christianity are non-compatible – the Jesus of the Bible and therefore Christianity, is uniquely superior to all other religions and beliefs encompassed in Universalism.

For more to think about please do read John 14v1-6. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. How does my life of worship to Christ denounce Universalism?

Q2. How does the call for me to be a witness for Jesus affect views of Universalism?

Q3. How have I witnessed universalism in my community or country?

Thank you.

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POD – Psalm 106

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Psalm 106

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1 Praise the LORD.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

his love endures forever.

2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD

or fully declare his praise?

3 Blessed are they who maintain justice,

who constantly do what is right.

4 Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people,

come to my aid when you save them,

5 that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,

that I may share in the joy of your nation

and join your inheritance in giving praise.

6 We have sinned, even as our fathers did;

we have done wrong and acted wickedly.

7 When our fathers were in Egypt,

they gave no thought to your miracles;

they did not remember your many kindnesses,

and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.

8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,

to make his mighty power known.

9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;

he led them through the depths as through a desert.

10 He saved them from the hand of the foe;

from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.

11 The waters covered their adversaries;

not one of them survived.

12 Then they believed his promises

and sang his praise.

13 But they soon forgot what he had done

and did not wait for his counsel.

14 In the desert they gave in to their craving;

in the wasteland they put God to the test.

15 So he gave them what they asked for,

but sent a wasting disease upon them.

16 In the camp they grew envious of Moses

and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the LORD.

17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan;

it buried the company of Abiram.

18 Fire blazed among their followers;

a flame consumed the wicked.

19 At Horeb they made a calf

and worshiped an idol cast from metal.

20 They exchanged their Glory

for an image of a bull, which eats grass.

21 They forgot the God who saved them,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22 miracles in the land of Ham

and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

23 So he said he would destroy them-

had not Moses, his chosen one,

stood in the breach before him

to keep his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land;

they did not believe his promise.

25 They grumbled in their tents

and did not obey the LORD.

26 So he swore to them with uplifted hand

that he would make them fall in the desert,

27 make their descendants fall among the nations

and scatter them throughout the lands.

28 They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor

and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;

29 they provoked the LORD to anger by their wicked deeds,

and a plague broke out among them.

30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened,

and the plague was checked.

31 This was credited to him as righteousness

for endless generations to come.

32 By the waters of Meribah they angered the LORD,

and trouble came to Moses because of them;

33 for they rebelled against the Spirit of God,

and rash words came from Moses’ lips.

34 They did not destroy the peoples

as the LORD had commanded them,

35 but they mingled with the nations

and adopted their customs.

36 They worshiped their idols,

which became a snare to them.

37 They sacrificed their sons

and their daughters to demons.

38 They shed innocent blood,

the blood of their sons and daughters,

whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,

and the land was desecrated by their blood.

39 They defiled themselves by what they did;

by their deeds they prostituted themselves.

40 Therefore the LORD was angry with his people

and abhorred his inheritance.

41 He handed them over to the nations,

and their foes ruled over them.

42 Their enemies oppressed them

and subjected them to their power.

43 Many times he delivered them,

but they were bent on rebellion

and they wasted away in their sin.

44 But he took note of their distress

when he heard their cry;

45 for their sake he remembered his covenant

and out of his great love he relented.

46 He caused them to be pitied

by all who held them captive.

47 Save us, O LORD our God,

and gather us from the nations,

that we may give thanks to your holy name

and glory in your praise.

48 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,

from everlasting to everlasting.

Let all the people say, “Amen!”

Praise the LORD.

Right mouse click to save/download this Psalm as a MP3 file


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POD – Psalm 106

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Psalm 106


Right mouse click to save/download this Psalm as a MP3 file

1 Praise the LORD.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

his love endures forever.

2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD

or fully declare his praise?

3 Blessed are they who maintain justice,

who constantly do what is right.

4 Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people,

come to my aid when you save them,

5 that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,

that I may share in the joy of your nation

and join your inheritance in giving praise.

6 We have sinned, even as our fathers did;

we have done wrong and acted wickedly.

7 When our fathers were in Egypt,

they gave no thought to your miracles;

they did not remember your many kindnesses,

and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.

8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,

to make his mighty power known.

9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;

he led them through the depths as through a desert.

10 He saved them from the hand of the foe;

from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.

11 The waters covered their adversaries;

not one of them survived.

12 Then they believed his promises

and sang his praise.

13 But they soon forgot what he had done

and did not wait for his counsel.

14 In the desert they gave in to their craving;

in the wasteland they put God to the test.

15 So he gave them what they asked for,

but sent a wasting disease upon them.

16 In the camp they grew envious of Moses

and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the LORD.

17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan;

it buried the company of Abiram.

18 Fire blazed among their followers;

a flame consumed the wicked.

19 At Horeb they made a calf

and worshiped an idol cast from metal.

20 They exchanged their Glory

for an image of a bull, which eats grass.

21 They forgot the God who saved them,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22 miracles in the land of Ham

and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

23 So he said he would destroy them-

had not Moses, his chosen one,

stood in the breach before him

to keep his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land;

they did not believe his promise.

25 They grumbled in their tents

and did not obey the LORD.

26 So he swore to them with uplifted hand

that he would make them fall in the desert,

27 make their descendants fall among the nations

and scatter them throughout the lands.

28 They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor

and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;

29 they provoked the LORD to anger by their wicked deeds,

and a plague broke out among them.

30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened,

and the plague was checked.

31 This was credited to him as righteousness

for endless generations to come.

32 By the waters of Meribah they angered the LORD,

and trouble came to Moses because of them;

33 for they rebelled against the Spirit of God,

and rash words came from Moses’ lips.

34 They did not destroy the peoples

as the LORD had commanded them,

35 but they mingled with the nations

and adopted their customs.

36 They worshiped their idols,

which became a snare to them.

37 They sacrificed their sons

and their daughters to demons.

38 They shed innocent blood,

the blood of their sons and daughters,

whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,

and the land was desecrated by their blood.

39 They defiled themselves by what they did;

by their deeds they prostituted themselves.

40 Therefore the LORD was angry with his people

and abhorred his inheritance.

41 He handed them over to the nations,

and their foes ruled over them.

42 Their enemies oppressed them

and subjected them to their power.

43 Many times he delivered them,

but they were bent on rebellion

and they wasted away in their sin.

44 But he took note of their distress

when he heard their cry;

45 for their sake he remembered his covenant

and out of his great love he relented.

46 He caused them to be pitied

by all who held them captive.

47 Save us, O LORD our God,

and gather us from the nations,

that we may give thanks to your holy name

and glory in your praise.

48 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,

from everlasting to everlasting.

Let all the people say, “Amen!”

Praise the LORD.

Right mouse click to save/download this Psalm as a MP3 file

Click on the appropriate link below to subscribe to this website

Paypal Donate If you find these resources helpful to you, please do prayerfully consider making a donation. You can support via PayPal, the universal and most secure way to donate money online. You do not need to be a member of Paypal to use their facilities and all major credit cards are accepted. Thank you

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Issues – Words

 Partake - Issues

Words

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G’day and welcome to Partake and our series looking at some of the issues facing Christian Disciples in the twenty first century. Last time we looked at Materialism, and today we look at something that has the capability of affecting every person on the planet.

Jesus, our Master, said in Matthew Chapter 12 How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, which gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is blight on the orchard. Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.” Jesus took words extremely seriously and so must we for we are a result of our speech and we will be judged for what we say.

Words Alive!

Have you guessed what issue we will be talking about? Yes – that’s right – the issue is about Words! Words matter and for the Christian disciple they are off the utmost importance as the building blocks of communication: whether by thought or through the tongue. One of the greatest sins of the twenty first century, that all Christian Disciples need to be wary of, is the use of words. Communication, which is cynical, sarcastic, murderous and discouraging, surrounds us and we are coerced to join in, when in fact we should be standing alone against it. The twenty first century is the communications century – everything can be communicated around the world at the click of a mouse button. What we say, think and write has the potential to be a sinful action of sinful inaction. Regardless of what other people say or do, we are to speak, think and write without sinning. Let those be responsible before God for their own actions and inactions – you are only responsible for yours!

Words are the central means of communication regardless of our language, nationality or culture. Needless to say that every one of us has either been hurt, or has hurt others, by communicated words. The power of the tongue in communication and speech is awesome. It has the power of life & death and those who love it will eat & bear its fruit. The tongue is a fire, which left unguarded, can corrupt the whole body and set the whole course of life on fire. We need to watch the words we speak and control our speech, or it will control us.

A Right Use!

So what is a right use of the tongue in communicating? We are to use our words to nourish others, encourage and lift them up. For the tongue of the righteous is choice silver. (Prov.10:21). Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet in the soul and healing to the bones. We find that if we give an apt reply we will find joy and discover the goodness and healing a timely word brings! But we are not to speak glibly and hypocritically but with truth, sincerity and love – as a mother speaks to her daughter.

Guard it!

How can we guard its use? By asking the Holy Spirit to watch over our lips and set a guard over our mouth, according to the Psalmist in Psalm 141:3. It is a measure of wisdom to speak words when required and with discernment. Any fool can speak words all the time, but sometimes there is a need for silence, for even then foolish people are thought to be wise. Frequently, we are told by the world to be quick to speak and slow to listen. But as Christian Disciples we are to do the opposite, and stand alone against it! We are to be slow to speak and quick to listen, according to James 1:19.

Jesus’ Words

Jesus’ words encouraged and healed, such as to the woman caught in adultery, when he used discernment and wisdom. He actively encouraged others gently towards paths of right living. He spoke words lovingly to his mother. He even spoke words of kindness whilst He hung from His cross, during his last moments before death! He is to be our guide and Master in the use of speech, thoughts and words. That is not to say he didn’t rebuke with an attitude of love, as he most certainly did on occasion to the Pharisees and other religious leaders.

Matthew 5v21-22 is an example of the seriousness of words. Jesus speaking: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Here Jesus equates calling somebody a fool with the physical act of murder! Murder has its beginning in anger developing into uncontrollable rage! Words, thoughts and attitudes of anger can lead the Christian Disciple to sin even more if they aren’t stopped quickly. Similarly, adultery has its beginning in lustful thoughts! The words we formulate in our minds and those that proceed via our mouths are of utmost importance to God and therefore should be of utmost importance to us! Let the words you communicate and think about, be like those of Jesus – “full of grace”. Do not sin, either in your deeds, in your thinking and all means of communicating.

How are you doing?

How are you doing in your use of words? Are your actions backing up your words? Are the words you use always full of grace, uplifting, encouraging and building! Sure there are times when words are to be used for rebuking in love, but always used under the control of the Holy Spirit. The words you speak reflect your inner attitudes, your inner thoughts and your inner being. The words you speak and communicate reflect who you are. If the words you communicate are derogatory, inflaming and cursory then that reflects your inner thoughts and attitudes. Control your tongue, commands James. A person who controls their tongue can be likened to a ship with a rudder, and able to be steered to safety! An uncontrolled tongue reflects a ship that is heading into dangerous water! Your words and all your communication have the power to bring life and encouragement but also on the contrary, has the power to bring corruption, degradation and death. Let the Holy Spirit who lives inside you if you are a Christian Disciple; help you to use your words for the supreme glory of Jesus Christ, who after all is your Master! By doing that, you will truly be seen to be one of His disciples and be Standing Alone for Him and His majesty! He is to have supremacy over all things in your life, including your words! Make no mistake, one of the issues facing Christians and a possible barrier to standing alone, is the use, abuse and misuse of words.

For more to think about please do read James 3vv1-11. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. Are the words I speak, words that heal and encourage, or are they also used to hurt and damage people?

Q2. When I am talking with other people, is it for gossiping, maliciousness or are they for healing, encouraging and uplifting others?

Q3. When was the last time I confessed and asked forgiveness for my sinful use, misuse and abuse of words?

Thank you.

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Issues – Materialism

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Materialism

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John 2:15-17, the Apostle John writing: “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world-wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important-has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out-but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. “

Yesterday, we talked about standing alone as Christians Disciples, followers of Jesus Christ. Today, I wonder what you think is quite possibly one of the greatest challenges to the Christian Disciple standing alone and being faithful to God in the twenty first century? I want to propose to you that this threat is the temptation of materialism, or to be materialistic. This is where following Jesus’ command to follow Him, take up the cross for ourselves becomes practical. This is where loving God and loving others becomes difficult. Materialism grips both the Church community and also Christian Disciples if it is allowed. Eschewing and casting off materialism will see Christian Disciples who are radical by the very society, which we are trying to win for Jesus.

What is materialism?

Every person has in differing quantities: possessions and money. These things, in and of themselves, are not evil. It is however our reaction and attitudes toward them that causes us to be seduced in this area. Materialism is a reliance on possessions, money people or even the church, as our ultimate objects of trust, instead of God. The Apostle John writing in 1 John 2v16 gives a very accurate picture of materialism: “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” That, brother and sisters, is materialism!

A Particular Sin

If there were to be a particular sin that marks our generation, especially in the West, then it would be this sin of materialism and the worship of money, objects and people. Every day hundreds of thousands of people die from lack of food, water, clothing and shelter. For each of us in the West, these things are taken for granted. When we feel like a change of house or location, we just move. The whole Christian community is one that reflects the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit. The Church is to be a community where the strongest members support the weakest members. Where one member of the Christian community suffers and hurts, the whole Christian community suffers and hurts! This applies not only to the local church in a local community context, but also to the universal Church and therefore has a national and international context as well. Too often as Christians we are found turning a blind eye to the suffering of others where the bare necessities of life are in sparse existence. Too often we gather possessions and people, instead of giving up our time and money generously to help the poor and needy of both our local and global communities. When one member of the universal body of Christ is hurting, the whole body hurts!

So what?

As Christian Disciples living in the world of the twenty first century, where wealth is seen as a sign of success, the cult of celebrity is rife and where family, morals, ethics, community and God have taken a back seat, how should a Christian Disciple respond to materialism? A lot of Churches measure their success solely by the number of members in the congregations or by how much money goes into the offering pot each week. However, not just good things grow. Islam measures its success on the so-called growth in those who would consider themselves a Muslim. It is probably the fastest growing religion in Australia. However, every gardener will tell you that even weeds grow! So counting numbers is not the best way to measure success.

The measure of a successful Christian Disciple can be seen in thee verses from 1 John 2:15-17. The Apostle John writing: “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world-wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important-has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out-but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. “

Also in Matthew 22v37-40: where Jesus is saying: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

Action Stations!

By doing these two things, we show we trust in God and not in anything or anybody else. By exhibiting these commands, we cast off materialism and any thought of materialism from our lives. By doing those two things, both as a Church and as individual Christian Disciples, society will see we are neither dangerous nor deluded. To Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and his aficionados who think all religion is pure evil, based on delusion and that religion has never done a good thing in history to benefit humanity, it will help show the folly and irrationality of their thinking. If Church communities and Christian Disciples make radical steps such as eschewing materialism, both in being and making Disciples, I think the Church and Christian Disciples would no longer be seen as evil, deluded and irrelevant. Rather they would be seen as a thriving community of people, resulting in Jesus being glorified and holy transformation sought. After all, Jesus is to be the master of those who would call themselves a Christian Disciple and the Head of the Church.

As a Christian Disciple and the church as a whole, you and I are to eschew materialism, cast it off and live a life worthy of our God, living in total obedience to Him and reflected in the love we display for both our local and global communities.

For more to think about, please do read for yourself Matthew 22:37-40. 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 – As a Christian Disciple, in what ways am I being seduced by materialism and the gathering of possessions, people and power?

Q2 – What things can I do, not do or give up in order to aid the weakest members of my community – local, national and global?

Q3 – How can I better use my “passion, prayer and intelligence” this week for the glory and honour of God?

Thank you!

Right mouse click to save/download this Psalm as a MP3 file

Paypal Donate If you find these resources helpful to you, please do prayerfully consider making a donation. You can support via PayPal, the universal and most secure way to donate money online. You do not need to be a member of Paypal to use their facilities and all major credit cards are accepted. Thank you

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Issues – Materialism

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Materialism

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John 2:15-17, the Apostle John writing: “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world-wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important-has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out-but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. “

Yesterday, we talked about standing alone as Christians Disciples, followers of Jesus Christ. Today, I wonder what you think is quite possibly one of the greatest challenges to the Christian Disciple standing alone and being faithful to God in the twenty first century? I want to propose to you that this threat is the temptation of materialism, or to be materialistic. This is where following Jesus’ command to follow Him, take up the cross for ourselves becomes practical. This is where loving God and loving others becomes difficult. Materialism grips both the Church community and also Christian Disciples if it is allowed. Eschewing and casting off materialism will see Christian Disciples who are radical by the very society, which we are trying to win for Jesus.

What is materialism?

Every person has in differing quantities: possessions and money. These things, in and of themselves, are not evil. It is however our reaction and attitudes toward them that causes us to be seduced in this area. Materialism is a reliance on possessions, money people or even the church, as our ultimate objects of trust, instead of God. The Apostle John writing in 1 John 2v16 gives a very accurate picture of materialism: “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” That, brother and sisters, is materialism!

A Particular Sin

If there were to be a particular sin that marks our generation, especially in the West, then it would be this sin of materialism and the worship of money, objects and people. Every day hundreds of thousands of people die from lack of food, water, clothing and shelter. For each of us in the West, these things are taken for granted. When we feel like a change of house or location, we just move. The whole Christian community is one that reflects the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit. The Church is to be a community where the strongest members support the weakest members. Where one member of the Christian community suffers and hurts, the whole Christian community suffers and hurts! This applies not only to the local church in a local community context, but also to the universal Church and therefore has a national and international context as well. Too often as Christians we are found turning a blind eye to the suffering of others where the bare necessities of life are in sparse existence. Too often we gather possessions and people, instead of giving up our time and money generously to help the poor and needy of both our local and global communities. When one member of the universal body of Christ is hurting, the whole body hurts!

So what?

As Christian Disciples living in the world of the twenty first century, where wealth is seen as a sign of success, the cult of celebrity is rife and where family, morals, ethics, community and God have taken a back seat, how should a Christian Disciple respond to materialism? A lot of Churches measure their success solely by the number of members in the congregations or by how much money goes into the offering pot each week. However, not just good things grow. Islam measures its success on the so-called growth in those who would consider themselves a Muslim. It is probably the fastest growing religion in Australia. However, every gardener will tell you that even weeds grow! So counting numbers is not the best way to measure success.

The measure of a successful Christian Disciple can be seen in thee verses from 1 John 2:15-17. The Apostle John writing: “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world-wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important-has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out-but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. “

Also in Matthew 22v37-40: where Jesus is saying: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

Action Stations!

By doing these two things, we show we trust in God and not in anything or anybody else. By exhibiting these commands, we cast off materialism and any thought of materialism from our lives. By doing those two things, both as a Church and as individual Christian Disciples, society will see we are neither dangerous nor deluded. To Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and his aficionados who think all religion is pure evil, based on delusion and that religion has never done a good thing in history to benefit humanity, it will help show the folly and irrationality of their thinking. If Church communities and Christian Disciples make radical steps such as eschewing materialism, both in being and making Disciples, I think the Church and Christian Disciples would no longer be seen as evil, deluded and irrelevant. Rather they would be seen as a thriving community of people, resulting in Jesus being glorified and holy transformation sought. After all, Jesus is to be the master of those who would call themselves a Christian Disciple and the Head of the Church.

As a Christian Disciple and the church as a whole, you and I are to eschew materialism, cast it off and live a life worthy of our God, living in total obedience to Him and reflected in the love we display for both our local and global communities.

For more to think about, please do read for yourself Matthew 22:37-40. 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 – As a Christian Disciple, in what ways am I being seduced by materialism and the gathering of possessions, people and power?

Q2 – What things can I do, not do or give up in order to aid the weakest members of my community – local, national and global?

Q3 – How can I better use my “passion, prayer and intelligence” this week for the glory and honour of God?

Thank you!

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Issues – Standing Alone

Issues Facing Christians Today

Standing Alone

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Jesus speaking and from the Gospel of John 15v18-21 If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the One who sent me.

As Christian Disciples, those who proclaim that they follow Jesus Christ as the Son of God, we have a new identity. What are we to do with it? The Bible is very clear that we are to stay faithful to Jesus Christ, particularly when it is difficult! It means staying faithful to Jesus and His will, regardless of opposition and alternatives. By doing this we are standing alone and being faithful to Him. Satan brings pressure to bear on Christians to reduce their standards and commitment. Christian Disciples undergo challenges from those that either don’t like or understand us. We are constantly tempted to do wrong things or we are tempted not to do right things. Either way, we are tempted to sin against our God. So we are to be separate from sin but not separated from a sinful society. This is what Jesus meant when He said we are to be “In the world but not of the world” (John 17:15-19). The key to standing alone is to have constant identification with Jesus Christ in lifestyle and words. It is to have a permanent reminder that we serve a faithful God and that Jesus Christ is to be our Master. When we sin, either actively or passively, it is because we have some form of memory loss about who we are, if we call ourselves a follower or disciple of Jesus Christ, the one and only Son of God.

Hindrances to standing alone

As we live the Christian life, as Christian Disciples we will face hindrances to identifying with Jesus. Here are three major areas that as Christian Disciples, we all undergo.

Firstly there is an inborn fear of what others will think – fear of being different and being laughed at.

Then there is the fear of losing friends. To have the right friends however, a person must be willing to have enemies. Jesus made friends on the basis of who would accept Him and His message. We may be excluded from the company of those who reject Jesus (Luke 6:26).

Another one is the desire to be like those in the world. In Psalm 73 David envied the success of the godless, until he realized their destiny was disaster; and that he had God and needed nothing else. Always taking what is best is no sacrifice.

How to stand alone

So if they are some of the hindrances, what are some of the keys in battling these hindrances? As Christian Disciples we have to remember God’s way of life is superior. It is a life filled with abundance according to Jesus in John 10:10! Then we realise that acting as light & salt in the world, you are co-operating with God and He is being glorified according to Peter in 1 Peter 4:12-14). Remember; if you give people no reason to ask about the hope and faith you have in Jesus, they probably won’t ask! Jesus said in His final words before His ascension in Matthew 28:18-20, that we are to expect persecution for being his Disciples. If that’s how we identify with our lifestyle how do we identify verbally with Jesus?

How to verbally identify with Christ

Never apologize for what you know and believe to be a superior way of life. However, that does not mean to be smug and arrogant about it because we are commanded to walk humbly and meekly. Then just be natural about it. As a college principle told me a long time ago and I still remember the words “Let your spiritual life be natural and your natural life be spiritual.”

One way to do this is to project the idea that you are not your own boss – Jesus is your Lord and let him take both the strain and glory. Remember that those who reject you also reject Jesus.

Making right decisions in questionable areas

Imagine you are in a situation and you have to make a correct decision in a questionable area. What do you do? Why not ask yourself questions and tell yourself statements such as:

  • Does it bring glory to God? (1 Corinthians10:31)
  • Can I thank God for this activity – could Jesus accompany me?
  • Does it build Christian character? (1 Corinthians10:23)
  • Will it cause another Christian to sin/stumble? (1 Corinthians8:9-13)
  • It should not control me habitually (1 Corinthians6.12)
  • If in doubt, throw it out. (Romans14:22-23)
  • Ask other people for advice. It is important what other people think.
  • Abstain from all appearances of evil (1 Thessalonians5:22)
  • Rely on the Holy Spirit to help you! Ask for His help and guidance!

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. For more to do and think about please do read for yourself, John17:15-19.

Q1 – Have I given every area of my life to Christ in order to be faithful to Him?

Q2 – Am I prepared to be holy and obedient to God in all circumstances?

Q3 – Am I willing to sacrifice my desires for God’s Will, so that I can clearly be seen identifying myself with Jesus in lifestyle and in words?

Tomorrow and the next day, I will talk about what I think are the two greatest hindrances to the Christian Disciple seeking to stand alone, both in an individual and global context.

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