Jul 252013
 

relationship with JesusDuring the summer holidays I thought I would use some of the Foundations material I have recently written at church, looking into the wonderful subject of being in a relationship with Jesus.

When somebody becomes a Christian, they don’t just have their sins forgiven and a ticket to heaven when they die; they enter into a relationship with their saviour, Jesus.

Many religions focus on various rituals you have to perform and things you have to do in order to get on God’s good side, or to somehow gain his favour. But as we have discussed before we are saved by grace through faith. Effectively all our religious rituals and requirements have already been fully completed in Jesus. He has done everything required. This means that everything we do subsequently is purely out of our relationship with Him.

Just like any other relationship, we will want to deepen our relationship with Jesus by spending time with Him, getting to know Him better and finding out what His will is for our lives.

It is important to stress from the outset that setting time aside to study and read God’s word and to seek Him in prayer is out of relationship with Him, not through any obligation, sense of duty or striving to gain extra merit points. We are saved by grace and we must continue in our faith by grace as we seek to know Him better.

What I am going to cover over the coming weeks may sound like a list of obligations we have to go through to get more standing with God: a daily check list where we tick off 15 minutes bible study, 20 minutes prayer and listen to a worship song, that’s my ‘God bit’ for the day. It is actually very easy to slip into that way, especially if you have been a Christian for a long time, but this is not at all how I want it to come across.

We seek Jesus because we love Him and because we want to please Him, and this is not through any sense of duty. Imagine if I gave my wife a bunch of flowers and said that it was a requirement due to a nuptial agreement we made during our marriage vows. That would not go down too well. My wife wants to hear me say ‘I love you’ (and as I have discovered, not just the once!!).

Over the next few weeks (and I have no idea how long this will continue) we are going to look at 4 ways that will help us develop and deepen our relationship with Jesus. They are not the only ways, but they are certainly good places to start. I have alluded to some of them already but you’ll have to come back each Friday to find out what the next subject is.

 July 25, 2013  Posted by at 6:27 pm Uncategorized 1 Response »
Jul 182013
 

Does God change his mindFor those of you who have been following my blog for the past few weeks, you will know that I have been working through 2 Kings as I am reading through the bible in a year. I recently came across a passage which seems to suggest that God changes His mind.

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord.  I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’” (2 Kings 20:1-6)

A lot of the passages we read in the bible can be quite confusing and can seem contradictory, but if we take scripture as a whole we can find a way through the confusion.

As we ponder this passage I want to consider 2 truths from the bible;

1. God knows all things

Two passages that confirm this are; 1 John 3:20 and John 21:17

2. God does not change His mind

Amongst other passages, we can look at 1 Samuel 15:29

The fact that God knows all things means He knew that Hezekiah was going to repent, (which may not have happened if Isaiah had not prophesied to him). I believe that there are two perspectives here: from God’s perspective, He didn’t change his mind. He knew how Hezekiah would respond from eternity past and graciously sent him a warning, knowing it would lead to repentance and another 15 years on the throne. From our perspective He has changed His mind.

The thing we can miss by analysing this too closely and trying to explain the mysteries of God is – God loves to hear our prayers and acts accordingly. The amazing thing is that God hears our prayers and is motivated by our heartfelt repentance. We see this type of scenario repeated again and again in the bible, where God accomplishes extraordinary things through prayers of faith. We certainly need to get hold of the truth that prayer matters.

Do you have any prayers that you have given up on? Why not get on your knees before the God who graciously answers prayer and who even seems to change His mind!

I hope you don’t mind me adding this video, but it helps to highlight the power of persitent faithful prayer. This amazing healing testimony happened this week. Have a look and be amazed

 July 18, 2013  Posted by at 10:09 pm Prayer, Repentance No Responses »
Jul 112013
 

Future grace“‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home”. (Amazing Grace – John Newton).

Gods grace extends throughout our lives. It is grace that ushered us into His kingdom when we were first saved; it is grace that will keep us going whatever life throws at us.

This will be my last post for a while on the subject of grace. Although I have covered a lot of ground, I could have covered much more. However, to finish off I am going to talk about ‘future grace’. This is not specifically a biblical term but the concept is found throughout the bible.

The apostle Paul is credited with writing about 13 letters in the New Testament (some are debated). All of them start and end with the same theme of grace, beginning with something like ‘grace to you’ and ending ‘grace with you’.

As Paul writes he is blessing each one of his readers (including us) with future grace from start to finish. They start ‘to you’ because Paul realises that he is writing God’s blessings to the church, to all those who are going to read his letters. He writes ‘grace with you’ at the end, because when the reading has finished, God’s blessings of grace are going to be with us in whatever situation we find ourselves in.

Grace is not just a past reality but a future one. When I pick up my bible to read it, God’s grace comes to me and when I put down my bible and act upon it God’s grace goes with me.

We know that life is not all plain sailing and when troubles come, future grace holds us up and sustains us.

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1)

We can get distracted by trying to work out what Pauls ‘thorn in the flesh’ was in 2 Corinthians 12:7 and not take the promise to Paul that God’s grace is sufficient, sufficient to carry us through whatever happens to us.

Future grace helps us to endure and bear up under any trials we go through. We can see that God’s grace has been faithful in the past so we can trust that whatever trials may lie ahead, His grace is there to cover them too.

And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)

Future grace helps us not to lose heart.

 July 11, 2013  Posted by at 8:38 pm Grace 1 Response »
Jul 042013
 

God is very patientLast week we looked at God’s amazing grace towards Elijah as He gently restored him after Elijah wanted to take his own life. This week I want to explore more of God’s amazing grace and patience as we look at the life of Elijah’s enemy, King Ahab.

Ahab was a very evil man.

In the generations following King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel descended into total anarchy before God as each king was described as worse than his predecessor. The most wicked of all was King Ahab who arrives on the scene in 1 Kings 16:29 and sets about a destructive course of breaking every commandment he possibly can, aided and abetted by his wife Jezebel (whose name has become a byword for feminine evil, prostitution and all kinds of wickedness).

Together they established the worship of Baal in Israel, an evil Canaanite practice involving, among other things, child sacrifice. At the same time they undertook to massacre and silence all of God’s prophets in the land. In a spectacular display of God’s power and glory Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and even though Ahab refused to acknowledge the one true God by repenting of this evil, God still protected Ahab against the enemies of Israel. (1 Kings 20:13).

The last straw comes when Ahab and Jezebel arrange for an innocent man (Naboth) to be killed and his property stolen (1 kings 21:1-16). Elijah pronounces God’s judgement on Ahab in 1 Kings 21:17-22. After all this evil, God’s great mercy causes Ahab to repent, pray and fast (1 Kings 21:27). The most amazing thing then happens – God forgives him!

This absolutely amazes me. God says to Elijah; “have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself, I will not bring disaster in his day”. (1 Kings 21:29).

If you ever begin to question how patient God is towards wicked sinners, read these few chapters again and see how consistently Ahab rebelled, but how slowly God judged him, giving him chance after chance to repent.

If you think you have gone too far from God and the possibility of his forgiveness, consider Ahab. As long as you still have breath you can turn to God whatever your condition.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).

 July 4, 2013  Posted by at 8:00 pm Fasting, Grace, Repentance No Responses »