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Archive for August, 2014

Issues – Self Interest

 Partake - Issues

Self Interest

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G’day! Welcome to Partake Ministries and our current series, Issues. Today we are going to look together at self-interest.

Philippians 2:4,21 “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

Those verses written by Paul almost two thousand years ago still resonate loudly today. In our culture, particularly in the west, selfish individualism is endemic and rife. “I can do what I want, when I want, because I am right and always right.” “Me, me, me”, people cry through their actions and attitudes! Where material possessions take precedence and the desire for more is ever evident throughout all aspects of life. The interest of others is placed at the bottom of the pile – people are placed below possessions. These are twenty-first century gods and idols. The god of the twenty-first century is “self-interest” and humanity bows to this god quite willingly, because it offers no threat. At its very source is pride! Their actions and attitude proudly proclaims “I am first, and everyone else is last”. As Christians, what should our reaction be to this aspect of our culture? as Christians living within this societal culture, how are we and the Church to respond?

Story of the Rich Young Ruler

Within the Gospels, there is the story told of Jesus’ encounter with a man, who runs up to him and falls on his knees before him. Matthew 19v16-26 describes him as a young man. Mark 10v17-22 he is simply a man and in Luke 18v18-27, he is described as a wealthy ruler. Put altogether, that makes him a rich young ruler. This man wants eternal life, wants it now and so asks Jesus about how to get it. This young man had fully kept the commandments listed by Jesus. However when Jesus said to the young ruler that in order to follow Him, he would have to give up all his wealth and possessions in order to have treasure in heaven and eternal life, the man left disconsolate. His life reflected is absorption with self and his self-interest.

That was a step too far for the rich young ruler. He wanted his riches and also everlasting life but Jesus said he couldn’t have both. He remains the only man who left Jesus’ presence sorrowful, and that due to putting his trust in his riches and wealth alone. Now riches are not necessarily wrong but they do make trusting fully in God very difficult (Mark 10v23). One of his primary problems was that he was not content with what he had materially. He always wanted more and possessions were more important to him than people. He was not willing to make the sacrifice required to follow Jesus. This attitude is endemic throughout our society, and sadly in some sections of the church, but what is the counter-cultural response that Christians and the Church should be making

Contentment

Paul commands Christian Disciples to be content with godliness (1 Timothy 6). By combining contentedness with godliness, Paul means not being worried about anything, because Jesus Christ is to be your sufficiency. Paul says this, because we came into this world with nothing, and we will leave this world with nothing. The bare necessities for contentment of life are food, clothing & shelter. However, we could in the twenty-first century, with some justification say that some other things are also necessary. For example, cars, books and computers may well be a necessity. That is up to our own individual consciences. But what we need to do, when considering purchasing things is, not to so much to ask “Can I afford it?” but rather “Can I justify it, and could the money be better used elsewhere?” Further on in 1 Timothy 6, Paul states that we are not to desire riches, lest we fall into the temptation of coveting and wander away from faith of God (vv9-10) as well as not to love money because it is a source of all kinds of evil. Every day, Christians pray that God would not lead them into temptation; and you know what, He does not need to, because they do that quite easily enough by themselves. And those that are rich are not to flaunt it arrogantly and are certainly not to place their hopes in them (v17). Those who are rich are commanded to be also rich in good deeds, to be generous and sharing (v18), building up heavenly treasure instead of earthly rubbish (v19). I should hasten to add, that contentment should also carry with it, the idea of living simply, in sympathy and solidarity with the poor of the world. Every one of us could to some degree, live that little bit more simply. That is contentment with godliness.

The contented person of humility says, “God is first, others are second, and I come last” and puts people before possessions. They have placed their total trust in God alone, and not in their material possessions. It so easy to fall into the trap of saying – “If only I had that new computer, camera, a new car or an easier job with more money?” It is so easy to say these things, and forget to be content with what we have. And it is even easier to forget to say thank-you to God for giving us all our good things. We hardly ever thank him, for friends and all the material blessings He does provide and the pleasure we gain from what He gives us. A key question to ask ourselves when seeking biblical contentment is: “Could I really thank my Lord for this particular item I want?”

By showing we are content, whether because we have much or because we have little, we reflect a difference to a world, which is all about gaining more and more things. In a culture, where the order is: myself first and others last. As Christians we are to be counter-cultural and put God first, others second and ourselves last. By being content with what we have, we reflect that we are comfortable with what we have.

The culture around us needs to see Christians living with contentment that only comes through trusting actively in Jesus Christ. This contentment is expressed by placing the interests of others first and above self-interest. Placing people before possessions is contentment displayed. They need to see Christians sacrificially loving each other, which is the outcome of being content. They need to see Christians and the Church being loving, caring, compassionate, kind and putting people ahead of material objects. If people see Christians that are not doing those things, rightly or wrongly, the whole Church is branded as a bunch of fakes and hypocrites. Worse still, God is seen, at best, as nothing more than a distant, uncaring and increasingly irrelevant myth.

People should be seeing God’s love, through your love and godly contentedness. For as Jesus said, “All people will know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another” (John 13:35). We are commanded to love, regardless of what or who the other person is or does. Godly contentment, which is humility in action, is part of unconditional love in action – unabandoned love for God, and unconditional love for others. Too often, even within the Church and the lives of professing Christians, financial profit, the seeking of possessions and pleasure and wanton greed takes priority over people – any people. When that occurs, that means the Church has compromised. They are no better than that rich young ruler who left Jesus’ presence because the demands were too great. Don’t be like that rich young ruler, but rather seek to emulate Jesus Christ, who was the most content person ever to have lived. We are commanded to be in the world but not of the world. We can do this by exhibiting contentedness in action through love to a world and culture that is in need of our Almighty God. Contentedness is the antidote to self-interest.

For more to think about please do ask your self 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. How can I show others that I am content with what I have?

Q2. What would others say, if they could see how and why I buy things?

Q1 Do I ever say to myself: “Can I justify it, and could the money be better used elsewhere?” rather than “Can I afford it?”

Thank you.

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Issues – Times of Trouble

 Partake - Issues

Times of Trouble

G’day and welcome to Partake Issues! Today we are going to talk about times of trouble. Paul writing in 2 Corinthians 4v16- 18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I wonder if sometimes you feel just like giving up, throwing it all away and just be buried by whatever is burdening you. I guess, almost everyone has felt like that at one time or another. Maybe its because you are undergoing troubles or suffering – physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. Whatever it is, as a Christian you are to persevere. We persevere, because we are not alone in our troubles. Also, if we think about it, in the light of eternity, the time of endurance through these troubles, is but the blink of an eye! Wow!

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Persevere!

How are you and I to respond to suffering and other troubles? Naturally, we either treat them too flippantly or far too seriously. The response that God wants His followers to have is to be exercised by it. When we undergo any suffering or trouble, we are to commit it to God, endure it and understand that He is faithful and that it will eventuate in His glory and for our own good (Romans 8v28; 1 Peter 4v18). We are to be joyful when enduring suffering (James 1v2). Now I admit, that that can be pretty hard to do, but we are not left alone. The Holy Spirit indwells us if we are His followers and as one of His names suggests, as the Comforter, He provides comfort during the difficult times. So, just as He perseveres, so are we!

Perseverance in relation to God and His work is the continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in your life as a believer. It is a work of divine grace that is begun in your heart, which is continued and brought to completion.

As a Christian, you will never perish, and nobody or nothing can snatch them out of His hand (John 10v27-29). You have eternal life and you will not be condemned, passed from death to life (John 5v24). God, who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1v6). You are shielded by God’s power (1 Peter 1v15). Nothing can separate you from God/Christ’s love (Romans 8v38-39).

God’s whole purpose for you is to transform you into the image of Jesus Christ. His purpose for you is to make you holy. This is where perseverance for you as a Christian comes in. He may well, as we have seen, use some form of temporal suffering in order to achieve it, but in the light of eternity, it will not be for long!

You are to keep your eyes focussed on Jesus Christ, carry your cross daily and be willing to obey Him. You are to run the race with eyes fixed ahead, forgetting what is past and not looking back at what in the past had entangled us. And yes it is hard to forget, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, it is possible! As a Christian, persevere in your relationship with God. Obey Him and follow Him. Ask questions humbly of Him and expect Him to answer, particularly if you don’t understand something. Persevere in your prayers, your relationships with God and with other people. God will persevere with you, turning you gradually into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. God will not abandon you, but you are free to abandon Him. If you did abandon Him, He would still continue to call you back to Himself. So if He perseveres, so must we! But why do we persevere?

Character

Character results from persevering! As a Christian you are to be transformed and developed, working on improving your service and being transformed in the image of Jesus Christ. That is God’s ultimate purpose for you! But in order to do that, we need to find out what needs to be developed! These characteristics will help you to measure how much the Holy Spirit has been free to develop your character.

1. Persistence & EndurancePersistence & endurance is developing staying power, to hold courageously under fire. In other words – bulldog tenacity. Things like criticism, circumstances, opposition & problems can stop you cold, if you allow them.. The problem is that we sometimes think the Christian life is a sprint race. When in fact it is a marathon, where a second wind of the long hard grind is necessary. What is it that stops you? The size of a person is determined by what it takes to stop him or her. Winners are people who have formed the habit of doing things that failures hate to do. Don’t let anything stop you!

2. Resistance – This is not resistance to ideas but resistance to opposition. Criticism is the occupational hazard for leaders (1 Peter 2v20-24). Discouragement is a cancer of the Spirit. Be resistant to discouragement and hyper-criticism. Let the Holy Spirit encourage you!

3. ServanthoodMatthew 20v26-28 “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Priority is be given to service. An essential part of developing character, is serving.If Jesus, as King, could be a humble servant, in that He came to earth as a member of His own creation, then you and I can also be identified as humble servants..

4.Consistent Example – Modelling is the greatest unconscious form of learning what we know. As Paul writes in Philippians 3v17 – 4v9 “Follow me as I follow Christ”. Whether you like it or not, people are following you, but are you following Christ closely? Those who are following and watching you, do not do what you tell them to do, but do what you do!

5. Self-mastery – You need to be unencumbered by the things that weigh you down. This is the danger of an affluent society. (Hebrews 12:1-2) “Travel light”. You need to decide what is good and what is evil. The real decision is between that which is good, that which is better and which is better or best. Choose the best!!

6. Virile Private Life – Two things to keep in balance are involvement & isolation. You cannot do enough for others if you are constantly in the company of others. You also need time alone but not as a complete hermit!

7. Confidence – The number one problem in our culture today, is a lack of confidence. Paul said in Philippians 4v13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. For you as Christian Disciple, self-confidence is Christ-confidence – this is not egotism. Say to your self “I can’t lose. I can only make mistakes”. Confidence is spawned by the ability to say no. The New Testament is the doctrine of moderation in all things. You don’t have to do everything you are capable of achieving.

8. Teachability – You are to be teachable because you have an unlimited ceiling of being taught. A key part of your being a Christian Disciple is a willingness to be taught by other people, even if you are in a teaching role!

9. Positive Attitude – A danger in becoming negative, is that a root of bitterness sets up. The greatest therapy is that of thanksgiving & prayer. God says you can do it. Satan says you can’t do it.

10. Your capacity to believe God – What is there in your life that you are trusting in God for that He alone can do? (2 Corinthians 4v7) In your life, Jesus is to have the supremacy and glory over all things!

Whatever you are going through – persevere and develop character. Allow yourself to be transformed daily by God the Holy Spirit into the image of God the Son in obedience to the will of God the Father.

For more to think about please do ask your self 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. After reading 2 Timothy 2v11-13, what motivates me to endure and persevere?

Q2. After reading Philippians 3v17, how can I follow Jesus Christ more closely?

Q3. After reading 2 Corinthians 4:7, what is there in my life that where I show trust in God for that which He alone can do?

Thank you.

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Letter to Government

Nick Baines's Blog

This is the text of a letter I have sent to the Prime Minister and which will be referenced in national media tomorrow.

Recognising the complexities of such matters and the difficult role of the Prime Minister in them, I wrote the letter as a constructive stimulus to discussion of the wider questions provoked by what is happening in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. Attempting to fix the immediate will prove costly in every respect, if we don’t have a long-term, overarching and holistic vision for what we – along with other governments, agencies and partners (such as the churches) – need to achieve. The lack of clarity about such a comprehensive and coherent vision is being commonly remarked upon, and my letter seeks concisely and respectfully to elicit some response to these serious questions.

Dear Prime Minister,

Iraq and IS

I am conscious of the speed at which events are…

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Depression, a view from the inside.

Annabel Giles

Poor Robin Williams. A long-term solution for a short-term problem. That’s what they say, isn’t it? ‘They’ being people who’ve probably never had to live with depression.

I’ll come straight out with it. I’ve struggled with depression all my adult life. And anxiety. And life. For people with a brain chemistry like mine, the whole bloody business of just being alive is dangerous and difficult.

I’ll tell you even more. I’m currently in the middle of the worst depression I’ve ever had. It’s been rumbling on for the last couple of years and it’s become almost unbearable. This bout has been triggered by a series of events so bizarre and extraordinary, you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Which I’m not going to do, as everything I say these days ends up in the Daily Mail and this stuff is far too important to me to be treated…

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Issues – Worship

 Partake - Issues

Worship

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G’day and welcome to Partake Issues! I often here people say their church has the best worship and that other church worship services are inferior! Or I hear that a person has moved churches, because the experience is different and better there! What are we to think as Christians in the twenty first century about biblical worship?

The Psalmist writes in Psalm 105v1-6: “Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. Sing to him; yes, sing his praises. Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds. Exult in his holy name; rejoice, you who worship the Lord. Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him. Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given, you children of his servant Abraham, you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.”

Today there are many different churches using different worship styles to worship the one True and Living God! We can even think of different churches in the New Testament worshipping differently, such as the church of Philippi church being more liturgical and ordered, while the church of Corinth is more free and less controlled! As His followers and His worshippers, we are required to worship God and to worship Him publicly and with others! There is a meaning of worship, whereby our very life is to be a spiritual act of worship according to Paul in Romans 12. Paul meant that every aspect of our life is to be an act of worship, where our life is to be for the majesty and honour of God! However, the definition of worship I want to talk about today is about public acts of worship, such as in a church or chapel service. Where worshipping is to give respect, honour and glory to God! When this is done in reverence, in truth and in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, then the Christian Disciple continues to mature and grow spiritually. Let us look at the what, why and how of Biblical worship!

What is worship?

Worship is, by way of act, attitude, or thought, a way of giving supreme honour and reverence to God! As Christian Disciples, God Almighty alone is worthy of our reverence, submission and worship. There are many other things that are worshipped and thus are ‘gods’, with a small ‘g’. Money, careers, possessions, other people are 21st century examples of things which are worshipped by humans. Thus the threat of materialism is a huge danger to Christian Disciples, because the worship of material possessions takes the supreme place of worship to God, and some Christian Disciples have been duped by it! But the Bible clearly states that God alone is to be worshipped. For God is to carry the worshipping Christian Disciple, and not the Christian Disciple to carry the god.

Why worship?

Perhaps the greatest reason that we worship is because God commands it! The 10 Commandments (Exodus 21v1-3) insist that God alone is worshipped, adored and paid homage to! As humans we are made in His image and as Christian Disciples, He owns us because we claim Jesus to be our Lord and Master! So it is right and just that we give worship to this God who paid the penalty for sin, so that we may be His children, and wants us to call Him Father! As Christian Disciples, we discover an inner personal satisfaction when God is worshipped and adored, both for the present and in the future (Romans 12v2; Col 3v24)!

Another reason to give worship is that God deserves our worship! All of God’s attributes demand that we revere and worship Him! His holiness, goodness, love, mercy and providence are but a beginning as to why He, and He alone, is worthy of our worship. It is by His grace, and through His grace alone, that we worship Him!

How are we to worship?

In some church services, a general confession of sin comes at the start. This is because before engaging in exultant praise, Christian Disciples should approach with penitence and examine their inner selves just as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6. We also gather in expectation of meeting God and that He will receive the worship!

Worship services should consist of more than just singing songs. The church is 2000 years old and in that time a lot of resources can be found to help people worship, apart from singing songs! There are items like responsive prayers and psalms, whereby prayers and psalms are spoken between the congregation to each other and to the leader! There are times of silence, or times of spoken liturgy where truths of God are both spoken and heard. Saying the Apostles Creed or Nicene Creed help build the body in affirming their belief in an awesome God worthy of worship! Times of worship should be more diverse than just singing songs and should express the cultural and personality diversity of the people worshipping! Remember, Jesus and certainly the early church participated in services which would certainly have contained liturgy, Scripture reading and songs!

Other core parts of some worship services are the Holy Communion and Baptism! These were fundamental in churches in the New Testament period and are just as important today! Holy Communion is where we as Christian Disciples remember Jesus’ death for our sin, acceptance of His death for us, and our dependence on Him for our spiritual life. Baptism is where Christian Disciples identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The third element of worship is the reading and preaching of the Bible! This where God’s word is read in public! This is where God’s Word is preached so as to that God’s word can be applied to the hearer’s lives! Sermons can be the pinnacle of a worship service as God’s revealed word is expounded, talked about and explained! Yet, sadly, for a lot of people its not considered worship! It most certainly is!

The whole of a church worship service should be where the spiritually comfortable are discomforted and those spiritually uncomfortable are comforted! From 1 Corinthians 14v25, worship should be where non-Christians present can proclaim, “God is really among you”. So often our church worship services are flat, feeble and weak spiritually. At one extreme in churches, we have worship services that are flippant and no consideration to make worship an awe-inspiring time of devotion to an awesome God! At the other extreme, we have worship services where everybody looks like they have been sucking on lemons and where grace is obviously lacking. Somewhere in between, is where public worship should be. In the broad spectrum of being neither trivialized nor grace-less, is where our church worship services should be! Sometimes we need to worship, even if we don’t feel like it and pray for God to help us worship Him. Over all this, is 1 Corinthians 14v26, which plainly states: “Everything that is done must be useful to all and build them up in the Lord”. Public worship is for the encouragement of the gathered worshipping group of believers and not for the individual worshipper.

The modern construct of only worshipping when its enjoyable or because the experience feels right is not a biblical construct. When you find yourself in a worship service with others, as long as what is being said and sung is biblical, keep worshipping. Even if the style or method is not to your own personal taste! Just because the church down the road from you worships in a different style to you, doesn’t make their worship in valid! We have a God worthy of all types of worship! Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by trying to validate your own style over a different style, by saying your church worships better than any other! The Holy Spirit works in different places in different ways! Stop limiting the Holy Spirit! Through the energy and power of the Holy Spirit, any and all acts of church worship are done in reverence, in truth and in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. Done regardless of our own personal taste, enjoyment level or experience. Main thing is to worship in Spirit and in truth, and that is surely to be a cause of joy, regardless of worship style! Let us use the diversity of worship styles to worship the One True Living God!

For more to think about please do read 1 Corinthians 14v26-39. 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. When I attend worship services, is it for the encouragement of others or just for myself?

Q2. What are my favourite elements of worship and how should I react to those elements I don’t like?

Q3. Does my life of following Jesus Christ, match the words I sing and words I speak in church worship services?

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Death, the great equaliser: Christianity on the Middle Nile

British Museum blog

Julie Anderson, Assistant Keeper (curator), British Museum

A herd of Sudanese camels (photograph A herd of Sudanese camels (photograph J. Anderson)

People are often surprised to discover that two of the largest Christian kingdoms in the medieval world were in Sudan in northeast Africa. Ibn Selim Al-Aswani, an Arab traveller, visited Sudan in the 10th century AD and described the region north of Old Dongola, capital of the medieval kingdom of Makuria, situated roughly 750 kilometres upstream of Aswan Egypt, as an area of ‘about thirty villages, with beautiful buildings, churches and monasteries, many palm-trees, vines, gardens, cultivated fields and broad pastures on which one can see camels’.

Further to the south, Soba East, capital of the medieval kingdom of Alwa, located near modern-day Khartoum, was said to have ‘fine buildings and large monasteries, churches rich with gold and gardens’. This conjures up quite a romantic picture of medieval Sudan and provides us with an insight…

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Issues – Guidance

 Partake - Issues

Guidance

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G’day and welcome to Partake and our continuing series “Issues”. Today we are going to look together at the issue of guidance.

Solomon writing in Proverbs 3v5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

The Prophet Isaiah speaking in Isaiah 6v8: “Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

When Jesus Christ called you personally and said: “Follow Me!” and you responded “YES, Lord!” that was the start of a beautiful relationship between the Living God and yourself. Perhaps the most common question all Christian Disciples ask is “How can I know God’s will and His guidance?” Now of course, being active in prayer and studying the Bible play major roles, in this and they are assured ways of building the relationship between God and yourself. But for this Podcast we will discover that are other aspects to be considered about being guided, and discerning what is God’s will for you and I. These involve being controlled by the Holy Spirit, through counsel and circumstances and through making wise decisions.

1. Controlled by the Holy Spirit

So firstly, the Christian Disciple is guided by being controlled by the Holy Spirit. Another way to say this is by submitting to the Spirit’s leading. Fundamental to being guided by the Spirit, is for you and I to be filled with the Spirit and to keep on being filled with the Spirit, or controlled by the Spirit. When the Spirit is quenched (1 Thessalonians 5v19) or grieved (Ephesians 4v30), then the Spirit no long has control of you and I. In order to allow the Spirit control of us, we need to resubmit ourselves to God!

It is a good daily practice for you and I to do the following on a daily basis.

  • Confess all known sin (1 John 1v9) and accept unreservedly the certain assurance of being forgiven for your sins including the sin of quenching or grieving the Holy Spirit. Sin is sin and there are no degrees of sin, big or small, it just is… Any sin creates a barrier whether (in our earthly terminology) it is a big sin like murder or a small sin like lying… Homosexuality and pornography are just as bad as lusting after that girl who just walked by – all are adultery…. That’s one of the reasons the Pharisees got it so mixed up and why Jesus Christ was indignant with scorn towards them misleading people.
  • Devote to being a living sacrifice for Jesus Christ (Romans 12v1-2)
  • Enable the Holy Spirit to convict you of anything wrong and sinful in your life (Psalm 139v23-24)
  • Seeks the Holy Spirit’s divine power in order to serve Jesus Christ (Galatians 5v16; Ephesians 3v16) and to do all things for glory of Jesus Christ, for this is one of the prime roles of the Holy Spirit, and sadly, often a neglected part of the Holy Spirit’s role in the life of the believer.

Additionally, part of being controlled by the Holy Spirit, the Christian Disciple is to yield to Him. Romans 6v13 and James 4v7 command this. In yielding to the Holy Spirit, the body (1 Corinthians 6v20) and mind (Romans 12v1-2) are given to Him sacrificially for the glory of Jesus Christ. Both the body and the mind are yielded, because the body activates what is conceived in the mind. It is a total dedication of all thoughts, plans and actions into God’s hands and the seeking of His divine wisdom.

Being guided by the Holy Spirit is illustrated in Acts 16v6-10 where Paul and his group of people acted quickly! “Paul and his companions went to Phrygia, and then on through the region of Galatia. Their plan was to turn west into Asia province, but the Holy Spirit blocked that route. So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus woul…dn’t let them go there either. Proceeding on through Mysia, they went down to the seaport Troas. That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over to Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans.”

2. Counsel and Circumstances

Additionally to submitting to the Holy Spirit, other people and circumstances are also great helps in regards to guidance. Proverbs 24 reminds us that: “The wise are mightier than the strong,and those with knowledge grow stronger and stronger. So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers. Wisdom is too lofty for fools. Among leaders at the city gate, they have nothing to say.”

We may not be going into physical war, but seeking the advice of others in trying to understand God’s guidance, plays an important role in deciding God’s will in the life of the Christian Disciple. When seeking the advice of others, we should bear in mind that the person should be a reliable, godly and faithful servant of God – and know us well. As Proverbs 25v19 says “Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot”. However, as Christian s we must also be aware that even the godliest of people make mistakes, such as Nathan the prophet when he exhorted David to build the temple in 2 Samuel 7. In the end, each of us alone, is responsible for our own actions and for discerning God’s guidance for themselves.

Then we also have circumstances, which are a great learning tool. Circumstances surround us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, as Christians we are to live above all circumstances, while being mindful of them. Through circumstances, God often disclosed his perfect will. As Paul writes in Romans 8v28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Some examples of where God’s will was discovered through circumstances include:

  • Abraham being asked to substitute a ram caught in a thicket for his son, Isaac (Genesis 22).
  • God arranging for Pharaoh’s daughter to be bathing in the River Nile as the baby Moses floated by (Exodus 2).
  • Paul’s nephew over hearing a plot to murder Paul, and then reporting it to the authorities and therefore saving Paul’s life (Acts 23).

Now some may sceptically claim that these are purely coincidental, but if they are, and all others like these are, its an awful lot of coincidence!

3. Wise Decisions:

Now, its all very well to say that we are to make wise decisions. That would seem obvious! But how do we go about it? A great way is by endeavouring to maintain a right attitude, and asking ourselves the following questions:

  • Have I prayed and meditated on God’s Word regarding the decision?
  • Have I given every area of my life to Jesus Christ?
  • Am I prepared to be obedient to God? (Proverbs 3v5-7)
  • Am I willing to sacrifice my desires for God’s Will?
  • Do I truly love and acting lovingly towards other people?
  • It should not control me habitually (1 Corinthians 6v12)
  • Will it cause another person to sin/stumble? (1 Corinthians 8v9-13)
  • Does it build Christian character? (1 Corinthians 10v23)
  • Does it bring glory to God? (1 Corinthians 10v31)
  • Can I thank God for this activity – could Jesus accompany me?
  • If in doubt, throw it out! (Romans 14v22-23)
  • Abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5v22)

For more to think about please do read Isaiah 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. Am I willing to do whatever God commands me to do?

Q2. Am I willing to be humble enough to ask other people’s advice?

Q3. Am I willing to sacrifice my desires so that God’s Will is achieved and His glory acclaimed?

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