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Issues – Materialism

Issues

Materialism

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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. “

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 – Government

 Partake - Issues

Government

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G’day and welcome to Partake Issues! Today we are going to talk about government! At the time of producing this, we are in the final stages of the run up to a General Election, where people will be voting for their political representatives. After al the votes are counted there will be a government elected! This of course, is not unique to the UK! All people all over the world live under some from of leadership or government. That government may be democratically elected, a monarchy or even an oppressive dictatorship. Whatever kind of government we find ourselves with, we have one! If there was not a government in place, as hard as it is to imagine, total chaos would reign and people would just do whatever pleases them, regardless of consequences and regardless of other people. Therefore, regardless of whatever government we live under, what does the Bible say should be our reaction and attitude to the government. By government, I mean all levels of government and authority – from local authority to federal government. But first of all, lets look at what the Bible has to say about the function of human government, before going on to look at our responsibility to Government and our community.

The Function of Human Government

Paul writing in Romans 13 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.”

Here Paul indicates that there are at least three functions of a human government: protection, punishment and promotion.

Protection: From the moment Adam sinned, it was plainly obvious that human civilizations would need some form of restraint and law, in order to protect their citizens – form themselves and others. We see this clearly in Acts 21, where the Roman soldiers step in to save Paul from being killed by other people in Jerusalem.

Punishment: Paul stipulates that duly appointed government officials and servants are to be considered as servants of God (even if they don’t believe in God!)

Promotion: Human government, as thought by Paul, was to promote the broad-spectrum welfare of all the community and not just select groups, where its laws are in effect.

Christian Response to Human Government

Paul in 1 Timothy 2v1-3 writes: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour,

The Apostle Peter goes further when writing in 1 Peter 2v13-17 “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king.

From these passages of Scripture we see that it is clearly impossible to be simultaneously a solid Christian and a poor citizen. As Christians we have responsibilities to our government.

Firstly we have a responsibility to recognize and acknowledge that God ordains the Government. We see that from Paul’s writing in Romans 13 and Paul was writing when the Emperor Nero was in power and systematically persecuting and torturing Christians! We also see this thinking in the passage from 1 Peter. There is no authority except as given by God. Even to the most sadistic, dictatorial or atheist governments – they have power only because God has allowed them. So we are to obey our government! But it is not to be slavish obedience regardless of what laws are decreed! No! The exception to this is where obedience to the Government would require the Christian to actively or passively disobey God. For we read in Acts 4v18-20 that the believer is to live in obedience to God rather than man.

Secondly, as much as we probably hate to, we are commanded to pay taxes to the government! For by doing so, the government can set about ensuring, for example, that the weaker and more vulnerable sections of the community are cared for and protected!

Thirdly, and quite possibly, most importantly, Christians are to pray for their leaders, governments and those in authority! Both Peter and Paul command and recommend it! To pray for them is to love them and it is also a way for God to shine into the lives of people. One of the things we are to pray for, is that the government governs righteously, honourably, honestly and with integrity.

The Christian, as a citizen, is free to be law-abiding, conscious that they are under submission to Almighty God. It also means giving respect to all members of society from the lowest to the highest! As Christians, we are to submit ourselves to our Government and be living lives worthy of the Gospel of Christ. This may indeed win some for God, win the recognition of their government as well as influencing Government policy and law. Whatever government you find yourself under, pray for your leaders even if you thoroughly disagree with some or all of their actions. They are in power, only because our God has allowed them. They will answer to Him one day for what they have done with the power given to them by God alone. God is in control, and He is on the ultimate throne and is the definitive power!

Community Responsibility

But just as we have responsibility to our Government, we also have a responsibility for those in our community – both local and global. We are also to work for social justice and be involved in social action – that’s part of our loving of other people. The oppression and persecution of people is to be anathema to us as Christians, just as it is to our God! Where a minority is maltreated and discriminated we should be at the forefront of demanding justice for all! We are to be promoting civil rights and using all aspects of the law to do so. We are to be working to ensure the poorest members of our community, both local and global, are cared for and the oppressed freed!

In your country, this could mean peaceful demonstrations and interacting with your political representatives! Look at some of the great reformers or social activists of the past: Wilberforce helping to abolish slavery; or Martin Luther King Jr. at the forefront of ending segregation and racism. May each one of us, on both a local and international scale, play some small part in ending prejudice, suffering, racism, poverty, bigotry, abuse, oppression and other injustices. As John Stott once said: “The reason for our acceptance of social responsibility… is simple uncomplicated compassion. Love has no need to justify itself. It merely expresses itself in service wherever it sees need.” As Jesus of Nazareth once said: “Love God and love other people.”

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. In what way can I influence and encourage my government to promote justice, free the oppressed and take care of the poor?

Q2. How can I help my government authorities to protect, punish and promote?

Q3. When was the last time I actively prayed for those in authority over me, whether Christian or secular?

Thank you.

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eBook – God’s Two Words For You

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Our first e-book is released! God’s Two Words For You!

Straight talk about God’s Two Words – Jesus Christ and the Bible…

 

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主耶稣爱我、主耶稣爱你

God Luvs You

 

主耶稣爱我、主耶稣爱你

For God so loved the world, that He gave is one and only Son, so that who ever
believed in Him would have everlasting life.
”John 3:16.

Today we have Cathie from Hong Kong and London! 主耶稣爱我、主耶稣爱你

 

God loves you. God is beckoning you to love Him in return. He wants you to be in
relationship with Him. Nothing you can do will make Him love you more than He
already does. If you are not in relationship with God already, now is the time!

 

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Chocolate Christianity

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How not to be a Chocolate Christian

or

How to change Ch-rch to Church!

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Have you ever noticed that chocolate melts under pressure & heat? If you haven’t, take a piece of chocolate and hold it between your fingers! It will soon melt! If you are a Christian, you need to be active in your local church so that you don’t melt under pressure and you will remain firm in your faith! Otherwise you will be a chocolate Christian who easily gives up under the stress and pressure of every day life!

At a church local to where you live, you are needed regardless of who you are!

Perhaps this is you?

  • Interested observer but not a committed Christian
  • Not bothered
  • Not good enough
  • Just want to be left alone
  • Don’t know how to be involved
  • Don’t know why being involved is important
  • Too busy

But why should you be involved?

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Psalm 66

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Psalm 66 – True Joy!

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Tonight we are to study Psalm 66, which is a prayer of joy. The reason for this is, because where ever hope can be found, there is always joy. This is particularly true of the Christian life. As christians, our great hope is knowing that through the Lord Jesus Christ we will have salvation. Salvation is freedom. Freedom from injustice, freedom from sin. It is freedom from our prison of looking after our self, to a new life of entrance into self-forgetful worship & service to God. It is freedom from the limits of pain, decay, death, and entrance into a new world of life, immortality, beauty and joy without end. That is the hope of the Christian, and that is why we can have joy as Christians. But joy, is not just for the future. Joy is also for the present, for the here and now. But, what is joy, and what place should joy take in our life today. But first we will look at Psalm 66, and see where joy fitted into the life of the Psalmist.

All together now-applause for God!

Sing songs to the tune of his glory,

set glory to the rhythms of his praise.

Say of God, “We’ve never seen anything like him!”

When your enemies see you in action,

they slink off like scolded dogs.

The whole earth falls to its knees-

it worships you, sings to you,

can’t stop enjoying your name and fame.

5-6 Take a good look at God’s wonders-

they’ll take your breath away.

He converted sea to dry land;

travelers crossed the river on foot.

Now isn’t that cause for a song?

7 Ever sovereign in his high tower, he keeps

his eye on the godless nations.

Rebels don’t dare

raise a finger against him.

8-12 Bless our God, O peoples!

Give him a thunderous welcome!

Didn’t he set us on the road to life?

Didn’t he keep us out of the ditch?

He trained us first,

passed us like silver through refining fires,

Brought us into hardscrabble country,

pushed us to our very limit,

Road-tested us inside and out,

took us to hell and back;

Finally he brought us

to this well-watered place.

13-15 I’m bringing my prizes and presents to your house.

I’m doing what I said I’d do,

What I solemnly swore I’d do

that day when I was in so much trouble:

The choicest cuts of meat

for the sacrificial meal;

Even the fragrance

of roasted lamb is like a meal!

Or make it an ox

garnished with goat meat!

16-20 All believers, come here and listen,

let me tell you what God did for me.

I called out to him with my mouth,

my tongue shaped the sounds of music.

If I had been cozy with evil,

the Lord would never have listened.

But he most surely did listen,

he came on the double when he heard my prayer.

Blessed be God: he didn’t turn a deaf ear,

he stayed with me, loyal in his love.

1. Psalm 66 and joy

a. Joy and the Earth (vs. 1-4) Listen again from another translation to that beginning! ” Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing to the glory of his name! Offer glory and praise! “. The majority of scribes and leaders of Israel normally only gave praise to God silently and in meditation. This was of course acceptable to God. But here among a great number of peoples the whole earth is encouraged to shout with great joy to God. This also was acceptable to God, and it is quite natural for great crowds of people to shout in harmony. If praise is to be widespread, it must be vocal; joyful sounds stir the soul and cause great thanksgiving spread throughout the people.

God is to be praised with both the voice and the heart. Oh, great joy when all the earth will worship God in joyful harmony. One day, all the earth will sing the praises of God, in every language. The whole earth, everyone, is encouraged to sing of the glory and power of God. The psalmist encourages the worshipers to turn their praises to God. The honour of God should be the focus of our praises. It is our glory to give God glory. We turn in joy and admiration to a God who one day will cause all the earth to fear and tremble before him. One day all the earth will bow down to worship God. For those who are enemies of God, who have never believed in him, they too will be forced into submitting worship to Him They are forced to worship Him out of His power and submission, not because they choose to. But their worship will not be like the saints. The worship of the saints, of those who truly believe in Him, will be of truth, love and pure joy and service. The joy of the earth will be to praise God.

b. Joy and the nation of Israel (vs. 5-12). After the selah, possibly a brief pause in the song, the psalmist now exhorts joy because of what God has done for Israel. He has done mighty works for his people the nation of Israel. Did not God start the nation from Genesis 12 and Abraham? Did not God lead His people out of the Egyptian exile by parting the Red Sea with His mighty hand so that his people could walk to freedom? Does not God rule forever by his mighty power? God watched over that nation of Israel, making covenants with Abraham, Moses and David promising that He will be their God and they will be His people.

The people of Israel were people of joy, because they could look and see what God had done for them, and have a sure hope of what He will do for them in the future. God took Israel through hard trials and exiles. The psalmist here continues to encourage the people to loud praise and joyful noise of God because silver and gold do not become pure without some refining, without being put through fire. God kept the feet of Israel from slipping, even though they turned their back on him. God always kept a remnant of believers for himself. In Israel, God sent them into exile to their enemies for punishment of their rebellion against him, but finally He led them into the promised land, flowing with milk and honey (v 12). That is why Israel could have joy, because of the hope they had in their God.

c. Joy and the psalmist (vs. 13 -20) The psalmist’s joy starts with a sacrifice. Something that cost him. A sacrifice of vows and burnt offerings. What he said he would do, he will do. He gave God promises, and he wants to fulfil his promises before God. Because of his great joy, the psalmist tells others of the source of his joy. He gives testimony to the love of God: how he confessed his sins to God, and how God had listened to him and answered his prayers. The Psalmist told the people to come and hear his story. Listen to what God has done for me. They had all seen God’s work, but they also needed to hear that He was a gracious god, So the joy of the psalmist involves sacrifice, testimony and praise,

2. Applying it to ourselves.

As we have just seen the psalmist’s joy involved sacrifice, testimony and praise, So how can we apply these things to ourselves,

a. Sacrifice – As christians we should always give our best to God. The psalmist never presents a starving goat to God as a sacrifice, but well fed animals (v 15) of the best fields, Of all we have, whether small or large, we are actively encouraged to give God the best of it. It was not a waste to burn the fat upon the altar of God, nor to pour out the precious ointment upon the head of Jesus. Sacrifices show our heart love to God. Making sacrifices, shows gratitude to God in action, Joy comes from giving to God.

b. Testimony, – Giving our testimony to people should cause us to have great joy. Telling people what God has done for us, should cause everyone of us to have even greater joy than we have already. Telling others of God’s mercy, grace and love is all part of our joy. When we lead someone to Jesus for the very first time, not only do they feel great joy and peace in their heart, but we feel great joy inside of us. The joy of God bubbles up inside of us and demands that we praise our God the Father.

c. Praise, – Praising God lifts our heart, soul and spirit when we are feeling down. The whole earth one day will praise Him and have great joy; the nation of Israel praised Him for the things He had done for them and had given them much joy, The psalmist praised God, and there was great joy in his heart. He had many reasons to praise God, God listened to His prayers, took his sacrifices and worship, forgave him when he had confessed his sins, God had not withheld his love from him. Surely the praise of God’s people causes great joy to be spread amongst them.

Now that is all very well you may be thinking, but just what is joy? Is joy happiness, or is it more? Here are what some people have said of joy. “We are all strings in the concert of God’s joy” – Leon Bloy. “The joy that Jesus gives is the result of our being at one with Him” – Oswald Chambers. Many people, including some Christians confuse joy with happiness, however there is a vast difference. As C.S. Lewis once wrote: “Joy is never in our power, and pleasure is. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted joy would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasure in the world.”

As humans we only feel happiness or pleasure depending on our circumstances, while joy is always separate from our circumstances. Happiness is a surface emotional response to good things; while joy is a deep-down heartfelt response that endures whether good or bad things happen to us. The world says happiness is looking out for number one and negotiating your personal good in all you do. The greatest good is their own happiness, however the happiness doesn’t last long so the search for happiness continues in its circle.

Joy however, is the result of sacrificial love. It is for the good of others, not for ourselves, which is to be our judge of joy. When we give away our will, for the sake of others, we receive the joy that Jesus desired for us. Happiness and joy are radically different. In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis described his pursuit of joy. He tried to find it in humanism, communism, eroticism, and lots of other human philosophies and searches. But they only led him to places where joy had already been. He did not find joy for himself until he realised that joy would come only as a result of putting Christ first in his life. Joy, unlike happiness, is never an end in itself. It is only as we make Christ our overwhelming first priority that joy, almost without our knowing it, comes. If we seek joy, we will lose it, because it cannot be caught. People of the world seeks happiness not joy. Joy is given only by Christ and serving him. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus had the endurance to go through the pain and suffering because he had the end in view. He was affirming his purpose for the redemption of the world, and so he never lost sight of the joy that was set before him. Joy would come to him out of suffering because he gave himself for the redemption of mankind.

Jesus prayed that his disciples would have joy: “I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they (his disciples) may have the full measure of my joy within them.” (John 17:13). The joy of Christ is transferred to us as we go about the task of serving him in this world. Joy is the second fruit of the Spirit. Joy is to be a quality about us just as it was a quality of the Lord Jesus Christ.

However, sometimes we don’t feel as if joy is part of us. We begin to ask ourselves if we have lost the joy of our Christian lives. We look around at the world we live in and see all the misery and injustices; we see the waste of human life in cancer and HIV Aids, and we don’t feel very joyful. But when we do that, we are confusing happiness and joy. If we have lost the joy of our Christian life, we need to put back into perspective what God is calling us to do and consider if Christ is still truly first in our lives. Joy is Jesus Over Yourself. We can never truly lose joy, but we can misplace it if our priorities get out of line. Joy is not something to be worked at or toward. It is not a goal to be reached, nor is it an end in itself. Joy is the result of our relationship with Christ. A relationship of Jesus Over Yourself. Joy was sacrifice, testimony and praise to the Psalmist. It is for us too in the last days before His coming again.

As this is now the night before Easter week, let us end with that comment from the writer to the book of Hebrews in regards to Jesus and joy. “Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” As E. Underhill said: “This is the secret and meaning of joy, We shall no longer strive for our own way; but commit ourselves, to God’s way, submit to His will, and in doing so find joy and peace, -.

Go out with joy, today!

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Four Portraits of Jesus Christ

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Jesus in the Four Gospels

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In the New Testament, we have four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ which are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are called Gospels. But what is a Gospel, how are the four accounts different or similar and what were the main points each writer sought to communicate.

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