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WOW Disciple – Contentment

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Christian Disciple and Contentment…

So Close to My Heart . . .

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Paul writing in the Book of 1 Timothy 6:6-10; 17-19 “A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough. But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after. Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed, with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage-to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.”

A major opponent of contentment is what is labelled the prosperity doctrine. This stipulates that since as Christians we are children of the King, then we should be living like kings in the physical sense. If you are God’s child, then God will bless you so abundantly you will have that earthly mansion, a million pounds in the bank, a good wife or husband and children, if only you follow him. And if you don’t receive these things, then maybe you should be asking for forgiveness, because apparently you are not a child of the King. What a load of rubbish! It is just materialism in another disguise where possessions and material things are their gods and not the living God. Its very source is pride, and not humility, because they proudly proclaim “I am first, and everyone else is last”. I defy anyone who believes this prosperity doctrine to take a trip to the poorer areas of the world and tell that false doctrine to the leaders of the churches who are working faithfully in those areas. I guarantee you would cause more harm than good. That is not to say that God never blesses His children with material possessions, because He does – the Old Testament King Solomon is a prime example of this.

So if the prosperity doctrine is a false teaching, what does a truly biblically balanced view of contentment consist of?

Contentment.

In the Bible passage I read earlier, Paul commands Christian Disciples to be content with godliness. We came into this world with nothing, and we will leave this world with nothing (v6). The bare necessities for contentment of life are food, clothing & shelter (v7). However, we could, with justification say that some other things are also necessary. Cars, books, and computers may with some justification to ourselves as individuals, be a necessity. That is up to our own individual consciences. But what we need to do, when considering purchasing items is, not to ask “Can I afford it?” but rather “Can I justify it, and could the money be better used elsewhere?”

There are many Christian organisations that need money to continue operating. Perhaps, the money I was going to use for the trip overseas, could be of better use elsewhere in the kingdom of God? 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 the faith of God (vv9-10), not to love money because it is a source of evil (v10). Everyday Christians pray that God would not lead them into temptation; and he does not, they do that quite easily by themselves. And those that are rich, are not to flaunt it arrogantly and are not to place their hopes in them (v17). Those who are rich, are commanded to be 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, and donating the money saved to a worthy concerned organisation helping out the poor of the world. Remember we are blessed by God, in order to bless others!

The humble, say “God is first, others are second, and I come last” and puts people before possessions. The Christian Disciple is to place their 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; or camera; or car; or an easier job with more money?” It is so easy to say these things, and forgetting 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. I would hazard to say, that probably the only time we say thank-you to God, is before the food that we eat. We hardly ever thank him, for friends and all the other material blessings He does provide and the pleasure we gain from He gives us. And that is the key to biblical contentment. “Could I really thank my Lord for this particular item I want?”

For more to think about, please do read for yourself 1 Timothy 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 – As a Christian Disciple, in what ways are you not content?

Q2 – What blessings has God bestowed upon me, that I should give Him thanks for?

Q3 – How can I use the money and possessions God has blessed me with, in order that He is glorified and worthy of honour, this week?

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WOW – Doctrine

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88. Partake – The Christian Disciple and Doctrine

Paul writes in Titus 2v1: “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.“

In a lot of churches today, the word ‘doctrine’ is unfashionable. Doctrine belongs to a time gone by, they say, and new experiences of God and miracles from God are the way forward for the church. Some churches teach only what they think people want to hear, tickling the ears instead of exposing them to biblical truth led by the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote about this in 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Is that not indicative of where some parts of the church, particularly in the west, are today? Teachers preferring to tickle the ears of their listeners, instead of stirring people into living transformed lives for Jesus Christ.

What is Doctrine?

The words translated as “doctrine” are found frequently in the letters written by Paul, chiefly in what are called the Pastoral Epistles: 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Doctrine is the study of God, as revealed through the pages of the Bible. The more the Christian Disciple learns about the God they choose to follow, the more

  • The Christian Disciple will be able to deal with the daily pressures of living in a society ever distancing and alienating itself from God;
  • The Christian Disciple will continue learning and understanding the very nature of God and be able to both act and react, rightly in varying circumstances
  • Will continue to develop the relationship between themselves and the God they serve

Who is Doctrine for?

Doctrine is for all Christian Disciples,

  • regardless of the level of academic achievement (or none);
  • regardless of the length of time they have been a Christian Disciple;
  • regardless of their status in the church they attend, whether the Christian Disciple is a church leader or an ordinary church member who sits in the congregation.

Doctrine Matters

So, for every Christian Disciple, doctrine matters. Doctrine matters because what you believe about God, ultimately affects how you will behave. If the Christian Disciple has solid, biblical doctrine being practised in their life, they will live a life of total obedience to Jesus Christ. For the Christian Disciple is to hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5v6) and this can only come about through the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. As the mind is renewed and transformed (Romans 12v1) with teaching about Jesus Christ, and the Christian Disciple puts into practice what the mind learns, the life of the Christian Disciple is transformed. Then people will ask questions. Questions regarding the reason why the Christian Disciple has been transformed. Questions asking about the reason for the hope the Christian Disciples hold onto. That way the Gospel and Good News of Jesus Christ is spread. That is one of the ultimate reasons why doctrine is important – it is also evangelism.

Learn and practice

The need to learn and practice true biblical Doctrine is ultimately important when faced with persecution for being a Christian Disciple. If the Christian Disciple’s faith is based on anything less than the belief in Jesus Christ as both God and Man, then ultimately that foundation will break, and there can be no hope. If the Christian Disciple is only seeking to have their ears tickled with what they want to hear, then enduring persecution for being a Christian Disciple is much harder than if that Christian Disciple has had a solid Doctrinal teaching about living the Christian life. With solid Doctrinal teaching, the Christian Disciple has hope, and an unending hope, enabling them to endure persecution.

True or false

Another reason, learning solid doctrine is important is so that the Christian Disciple will be able to discern true Apostolic & biblical teaching from the false teaching of heretics and those who want to lead Christian Disciples astray. Titus 1v9: “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” Or as Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1v3 “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer.” Or further on 1 Timothy 6v3-4: “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing.”

Christian Discipleship is fulltime, for 24 hours of the day, every day. The Christian Disciple is to partake of righteousness as commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as other things as commanded and instructed in the Bible. The Christian Disciple, can engage in Active Daily Discipleship, through learning true Biblical doctrine. By learning biblical doctrine, the Christian Disciple will be enabled to start discerning true beliefs from false beliefs and ultimately engage biblical doctrine into living a life worthy of Jesus Christ. Experiences and miracles are important, but to base Christian Discipleship upon them and not on solid biblical doctrine, produces a rollercoaster effect and not the constant reliance on the indwelling Holy Spirit for direction, guidance and trust.

For more to think about please do read for yourself the book of Titus. It is 3 short chapters and won’t take very long.

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. How does what I believe about God, change the way I live for God?

Q2. As I look back on my Christian life, can I notice discernable differences in how my life has changed as I put into practise my beliefs?

Q3. When engaging with others, do I seek to have my ears tickled with what I want to hear or do I seek to be exposed to apostolic truths about the God I profess to serve?

Finally, here are a couple of recommended books to help your study of Doctrine. Both of these are well written, easy to read, easy to understand and pack a punch.

  • Knowing God by JI Packer
  • Basic Christianity by JRW Stott

Part of Partakers WOWDiscipleship Seminar

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ADD – Develop Creativity

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Develops Creativity

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“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1v1 & 27

Our God is a creative God! His creativity is all around us! Further to this, as humans we are created in His image, and as a result, we are creative! Everybody has some form of significant creative potential. If you don’t think you do, perhaps it is because you haven’t found your creative niche yet! The natural creativity of children is amazing! However, quite frequently significant persons bury creativity under layers of conditioning and negativity. Some of the greatest culprits are teachers, parents and peers, but there is hope because the conditioning process can be reversed. It is a process with a high cost factor, because creativity is essentially a life style. It has to pervade every area of your experience. None more so than in your area of service as a Christian Disciple!

Examples of Biblical creativity

Jesus used creativity in his teaching! He took every day people and objects, creating lessons out of them. Think of some of your favourite parables and see the creativity behind them! As for the Psalms, they are filled with creative language in order to praise God, seeking penance before God and expressing a desire to know God better! Similarly some of the symbolic language of the Bible is very creative. Take for example the genealogy of Matthew 1. To us it may well be tedious and insignificant, but to its initial audience of a small group of Jewish believers, it includes enormous significance and creative symbolism! The way Matthew constructed the genealogy highlights many things, one of which was his highlighting of Abraham, David and of course, Jesus! We know to the Jewish mind, numbers were not just mathematically significant but also held great symbolism! The number seven represents perfection. Each of the 3 stages in the genealogy of Matthew 1 contains 14 stages making a total of 42 times perfection! So what Matthew was saying that Jesus was a great deal more than perfect! Now if you were not a first century Jew, you would not at first see creative symbolism!

Why the importance of creativity?

  • Creativity perpetuates the learning process. As long as you live you should be learning, and remember that Christian Discipleship is essentially a call to perpetual learning.
  • Creativity is essential to meet the growing demands of a changing society. Package thinkers are out of business for an impact tomorrow. If we do not prepare those that we lead to change, they will not be a change element in our next generation.
  • Creativity is important to both affect & infect your communication with a characteristic freshness & vitality. We are commanded to communicate the truth. A communicative individual is always a creative individual.
  • Creativity develops your leadership style.
  • Creativity will overhaul your lifestyle. Most Christian Disciples seem to only exist and not live! If a person is living in the past or in the future, they cannot be enjoying the present.

What are the principles of creativity?

  • Creativity is largely a matter of effort. The mind is like a muscle and grows with use.
  • Quantity is essential to quality in the creative process. Scientific evidence suggests that it is only a maximum of 6% of ideas that are good. You have to get more ideas to get some winning ideas.
  • Results of which are good, bad or indifferent are welcome. Don’t pass judgment at the outset of the creativity process; you have go to withhold it.
  • Incubation generates illumination. Put your ideas on the back burner. Put time between thinking of ideas. Then don’t be surprised when a moment of inspiration of how to complete it arrives!
  • Group effort stimulates creativity if you learn how to listen.

How to activate creativity?

  • Experience provides fuel for ideation, which is the formation of ideas.
  • Problem solving. Get your drive going in the right direction.
  • Involvement in hobbies & fine arts. Photographic sites like http://www.Flickr.com are great places to see creativity in process and get tips on how to improve! There are oodles of websites out there for almost every conceivable hobby!
  • Reading. Creativity thrives on reading the only problem is passivity. Read it until you can tell somebody else. We tend to read the stuff with which we agree which only serves to reinforce our own prejudices and presuppositions. Read things that you know you won’t necessarily agree with, and expand your reading and thinking!
  • Writing. Keep a journal, a blog or a website! It’s easier than you may well think! Write down questions, examples and your meditations.
  • Spend time with creative people. Think with those you are leading. You think your ideas are so good because you have never tested them against someone diametrically opposed to yours.
  • Creativity can be used in the church. Just take for example worship services. Is worship just singing songs? Or can other means be used in order to worship, such as responsive prayers and bible readings? What about dancing as part of creative worship? What about creative outreach or evangelism? Try something new! By being creative, the church can be culturally relevant whilst still remaining biblically faithful to God.

For more to think about please do read Genesis 1 and 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. Knowing I am in the image of a creative God, how am I developing my own creativity for His service?

Q2. How can creativity be used during Church worship services?

Q3. Remembering some of the parables Jesus taught, what sort of things did He use creatively and how can I in some way emulate His creativity in my ministry?

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ADD – God’s Purposes & Will

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God’s Purposes & Will

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“God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfil his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ — everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” (Ephesians 1v9-11).

These verses tell us about the counsel of God’s Will (Ephesians 1v11). God’s Will is inextricably linked with the future and Things to Come. The future has us naturally wonder what are God God’s Purposes and Will? What are His decrees and how is Jesus interacting with us now?

1. God’s Purposes

What is the reason for creation? (Ephesians 1v3-11; Revelation 4v11). The glory of God – that God will be praised.

  • God’s purposes and plans are in eternity (Psalm 33v11)
  • God’s purposes originate in God’s wisdom and holiness.
  • God is free to do anything in accordance with His character. He cannot do anything contrary to His character.

2. God’s Will

  • Directive Will – Things God determines to come to pass. (Isaiah 14v24)
  • Permissive Will – Things God allows or permits to occur.

Sin and rebellion (not directive will). God is big enough to grant and cope with the free will He as given humanity.

Sin – God permits sin, but is not the author of sin. God made man with a free will, allowing for the possibility of sin. Although sin and corruption entered the world with great human loss, and the resulting death on the Cross: God thought freedom of will was worth giving to us. It is to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1)

SalvationElection – God chooses individuals to fulfil His purposes (Romans 9). God chooses those who are/will be saved (John 15v16). These are the chosen ones or the elect. However, it is not His will that any should perish (2 Peter 3v9), it is His will all men should be saved (1 Timothy2v3-4).

We need to accept both these statements as equally and absolutely true. When we use words about God with a time element such as ‘chose’, ‘elect’, we need to use these in God’s infinite time framework (timelessness), not in our human finite time framework.

3. Preservation – Doctrine of Continuance

God maintains the existence of all He has made. God has created but not left the universe while He watches from a distance (Islam/Muslim). This thinking is erroneous because it stipulates that God rules only by natural laws and simply observes its progress. However, the Bible tells us that God is actively involved in sustaining creation. For without His involvement, the universe would cease to exist. He does this in two ways.

Continuous Creation – God maintains the universe by continual creation.

Concurrence – God co-operates with all subordinate powers. Men retain their natural powers and exercise them but without God’s concurrence, no force or person can continue to exist or act. (Colossians 1v17; Acts 17v28; Hebrews 1v2-3)

4. Particular Names Of God reflect His Purposes and Will

  • Jehovah Jireh – (Genesis 22v14) – The Lord will provide
  • Jehovah Tsidkenu – (Jeremiah 33v16) – The Lord our righteousness
  • Jehovah Nissi – (Exodus 17) – The Lord is our banner / leader
  • Jehovah Shalom – (Judges 6v24) – The Lord is our peace
  • Jehovah Rapha – (Exodus 15) – The Lord is our healer
  • Jehovah Rohi (Psalm 23) – The Lord is our Shepherd

5. Sovereignty of God or His decrees.

The sovereignty of God dictates that God is in control at all times and nothing can occur outside of His control and will. God is not impersonal and He is involved with all creation. God loves His creation and cares for it. He has created all humans with the power to make decisions by them self. God wont deny our humanity when He deals with us. He speaks to our minds though the Bible and seeks us to respond to him with love and affection.

  • Sovereign decree: When God says “Eternal life is available for all. You may choose to accept or reject it. Those that accept it, I will call my children.” Our reaction as Christian Disciples should be to trust and obey.
  • Conditional decree: When God says “I am willing to give you my opinion and help when you ask.” Our reaction as Christian Disciples should be read the Bible, to pray and talk with God.
  • Natural decree: When God has created a lemon tree, that lemon tree won’t produce potatoes.” Our reaction as Christian Disciples should be to plan ahead knowing the way the natural laws work..

6. How does Jesus interact with Christian Disciples?

Jesus interacts with us by faith in four ways: caring, praying, coming and helping.

Jesus cares and is concerned for us – We all go through storms and troubles. When we find ourselves in these situations, we have four assurances about Jesus as Christian Disciples.

  • By faith – He is praying for us – Jesus Christ is making intercessions for Christian Disciples (Romans 8:34). He knew the disciples troubles (Mark 6:48), just as He knows our troubles now. He feels our cares and knows what we are going through (Hebrews 4:14-16).

  • By faith – He will come to us – Ever felt like God is far away? Well you aren’t alone! King David often felt God was far away and unconcerned. However he also knew God would ultimately rescue him. Paul, the great Apostle, also felt “burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life” 2 Cor 1:8

Jesus always comes to us through difficult times, although He may not come in the time we think He should come, because He knows when we need Him most.

  • By faith – He will help us to grow – Take the example of when the disciples were in the storm and Jesus came to them walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). The purpose of this incident was that Jesus would be leaving them soon, so they had to learn to trust in Him when He wasn’t physically present. Perhaps this is what he was thinking of when he later wrote in his letter “for the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers” (1 Peter 3v12). This all helped Peter to grow in the knowledge of the Lord

  • By faith, He will see us through – Jesus said “Come” and Peter went with Him and walked to the ship. The other disciples must have encouraged by this. Seeing Jesus’ power they worshipped him. Whatever troubles we are undergoing are temporary, and Jesus, for His praise and glory, will see us through.

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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. Read Colossians 1v15-20. How can I deepen my relationship with Jesus knowing these things about Him?


 

Q2. Read Acts 17v24-28. How is God reaching the nations through me?

 


Q3. How does knowing about God’s Purposes and Will affect my life as a Christian Disciple?


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ADD 02-1 Who is God

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Who is God

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

How can we know about God?

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

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

1. Natural Attributes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

h. Spirit – God is a free personal Spirit

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

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

· God has Personality. Self-consciousness & communicative!

2. Moral Attributes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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please do prayerfully consider making a donation.

Thank you

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ADD – Maintaining a Clear Conscience

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Maintaining a Clear Conscience

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Paul writing in 1 Timothy 1vv18-19 “Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.”

There you are! You are a Disciple of Jesus, repented of your sins and all set to live your life as a Christian disciple and yet… and yet, you still have this continual nagging feeling inside you that you are still guilty! What do you do? Paul writes here that in the quest for living as an authentic Christian Disciple, faith and a clear conscience are essential for victory in our spiritual battle. Faith according to Hebrews 10:38 is belief plus trust plus action. A clear conscience is freedom from guilt (Acts 24:16). Your conscience is the spiritual faculty, which is sensitive to right and wrong and with the help of the Holy Spirit, judges our attitudes and actions. By having a clear conscience, the Christian disciple pacifies guilt and has inner peace (1 John 3:19-21); makes right decisions (Proverbs 14:30); builds right relationships (Hebrews 5:13-14; 10:19,22) and helps give effective service (2 Timothy 1:3)

However, as we know, we have this persistent battle with sin and disobedience. Persistence in disobedience and refusal to heed the conscience leads to the conscience becoming cold, hard and silent according to Paul in 1 Timothy 4v1-2. So what leads to the conscience becoming seared?

  • Escape. Attempting to overthrow God’s standards and hide from reality through substance abuse, sexual immorality and perversion etc.
  • Compensation. Seeking to balance guilt with an over concern for social or religious activity.
  • Preoccupation. There is feverish effort and activity and an inability to rest and relax the mind lest guilt causes further conviction and unrest.
  • Self-deception. Here we have a rationalising and justifying behaviour. Unable to live with guilt, the person blames others. Often gives much attention to minor detail and neglects the weightier matters of honesty, judgment and righteousness.

That’s a seared conscience. Then there is a guilty conscience, which arises from a violation of the conscience. This therefore also affects our relationships with God and with other people.

Relationship to God

  • To hide as Adam tried to do (Genesis 3:8-9)
  • Lack of concern for circumstances and insensitivity towards God and a devaluation of Him (Romans 1:21-25)

Relationship to others

  • Deceptive character or putting on masks/images (Romans 1:22-25)
  • Shame, embarrassment, Hiding from others (Genesis 3:7)
  • Defence mechanisms – Masks, Blame others (Genesis 3:10-12 ; Romans 1:21)
  • Deceptive nature (Proverb 12:15; 1 Timothy 4:2)

Both of these relationships types finish with a hardened heart and depraved mind if left unchecked (Romans 1:23-32)

Common symptoms of guilt feelings include exemplary behaviour – docile and well behaved; physical discomfort – fatigue, stress etc. ; depression – difficulty facing life; defeatist attitudes; self-condemnation – heaping blame on others; self-punishment – denial of self to atone for guilt; expectation of disapproval; undue criticism of others – ascribing ones own faults to others; hostility – antagonistic towards others; compensation – easing conscience by good deeds.

Opposed to the guilty conscience is a clear conscience. A clear conscience is the inner joy and peace of spirit, which results from having made all personal wrongs, right with those whom a person has offended. So what steps can you as a Christian disciple take in order to have a clear conscience.

The first thing is that you must confess your sin. It is a good thing to confess your sins to God the moment you realise you have sinned, coming to Him in penitence and praise. For when someone has sinned against God, the Apostle John says that the sin must be confessed (1 John 1:9). Similarly, when a person offends another, they must acknowledge the wrong to the person they offended and ask their forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24). As a Christian disciple you must decide to clear up all offences at all costs. Satan will do everything in his power to hinder you from gaining a clear conscience. You must recognize that any rationalizations are an attempt by satan, the world or your old nature in order to keep you from a clear conscience, and therefore fracturing your relationship with your Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

The next thing is to gain an attitude of contriteness. This requires an attitude of brokenness, fully accepting responsibility for your own thoughts, actions and attitudes. This needs to be unconditional, not demanding that others admit their guilt as a condition for us asking. It is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, things we can do in life to genuinely say, “I was wrong, will you forgive me?” While this is a humbling experience, it is an essential step in gaining right fellowship with God and other people.

For more to think about please do read for yourself (James 4:1-11). 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 you can pray over any issues together.

  1. Are there things, which have happened in my past, which, every time I recall, I wish, had never happened?
  2. Are there people I know who dislike me, and could it be because of some offence I have committed against them?
  3. Are there those toward whom my life has failed to be an example of a Christian disciple?
  4. Are there those in authority I have failed to respond correctly to?

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ADD – Creativity

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Develops Creativity

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“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1v1 & 27

Our God is a creative God! His creativity is all around us! Further to this, as humans we are created in His image, and as a result, we are creative! Everybody has some form of significant creative potential. If you don’t think you do, perhaps it is because you haven’t found your creative niche yet! The natural creativity of children is amazing! However, quite frequently significant persons bury creativity under layers of conditioning and negativity. Some of the greatest culprits are teachers, parents and peers, but there is hope because the conditioning process can be reversed. It is a process with a high cost factor, because creativity is essentially a life style. It has to pervade every area of your experience. None more so than in your area of service as a Christian Disciple!

Examples of Biblical creativity

Jesus used creativity in his teaching! He took every day people and objects, creating lessons out of them. Think of some of your favourite parables and see the creativity behind them! As for the Psalms, they are filled with creative language in order to praise God, seeking penance before God and expressing a desire to know God better! Similarly some of the symbolic language of the Bible is very creative. Take for example the genealogy of Matthew 1. To us it may well be tedious and insignificant, but to its initial audience of a small group of Jewish believers, it includes enormous significance and creative symbolism! The way Matthew constructed the genealogy highlights many things, one of which was his highlighting of Abraham, David and of course, Jesus! We know to the Jewish mind, numbers were not just mathematically significant but also held great symbolism! The number seven represents perfection. Each of the 3 stages in the genealogy of Matthew 1 contains 14 stages making a total of 42 times perfection! So what Matthew was saying that Jesus was a great deal more than perfect! Now if you were not a first century Jew, you would not at first see creative symbolism!

Why the importance of creativity?

  • Creativity perpetuates the learning process. As long as you live you should be learning, and remember that Christian Discipleship is essentially a call to perpetual learning.
  • Creativity is essential to meet the growing demands of a changing society. Package thinkers are out of business for an impact tomorrow. If we do not prepare those that we lead to change, they will not be a change element in our next generation.
  • Creativity is important to both affect & infect your communication with a characteristic freshness & vitality. We are commanded to communicate the truth. A communicative individual is always a creative individual.
  • Creativity develops your leadership style.
  • Creativity will overhaul your lifestyle. Most Christian Disciples seem to only exist and not live! If a person is living in the past or in the future, they cannot be enjoying the present.

What are the principles of creativity?

  • Creativity is largely a matter of effort. The mind is like a muscle and grows with use.
  • Quantity is essential to quality in the creative process. Scientific evidence suggests that it is only a maximum of 6% of ideas that are good. You have to get more ideas to get some winning ideas.
  • Results of which are good, bad or indifferent are welcome. Don’t pass judgment at the outset of the creativity process; you have go to withhold it.
  • Incubation generates illumination. Put your ideas on the back burner. Put time between thinking of ideas. Then don’t be surprised when a moment of inspiration of how to complete it arrives!
  • Group effort stimulates creativity if you learn how to listen.

How to activate creativity?

  • Experience provides fuel for ideation, which is the formation of ideas.
  • Problem solving. Get your drive going in the right direction.
  • Involvement in hobbies & fine arts. Photographic sites like http://www.Flickr.com are great places to see creativity in process and get tips on how to improve! There are oodles of websites out there for almost every conceivable hobby!
  • Reading. Creativity thrives on reading the only problem is passivity. Read it until you can tell somebody else. We tend to read the stuff with which we agree which only serves to reinforce our own prejudices and presuppositions. Read things that you know you won’t necessarily agree with, and expand your reading and thinking!
  • Writing. Keep a journal, a blog or a website! It’s easier than you may well think! Write down questions, examples and your meditations.
  • Spend time with creative people. Think with those you are leading. You think your ideas are so good because you have never tested them against someone diametrically opposed to yours.
  • Creativity can be used in the church. Just take for example worship services. Is worship just singing songs? Or can other means be used in order to worship, such as responsive prayers and bible readings? What about dancing as part of creative worship? What about creative outreach or evangelism? Try something new! By being creative, the church can be culturally relevant whilst still remaining biblically faithful to God.

For more to think about please do read Genesis 1 and 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. Knowing I am in the image of a creative God, how am I developing my own creativity for His service?

Q2. How can creativity be used during Church worship services?

Q3. Remembering some of the parables Jesus taught, what sort of things did He use creatively and how can I in some way emulate His creativity in my ministry?

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