Apr 282017
 

Shadows of JesusI love listening to good preaching, when somebody expounds the scriptures and brings fresh insight and revelation.

I would have loved to hear Jesus preach. On more than one occasion it says in the bible that the people were amazed by His preaching and that He spoke with authority.

One occasion I would have loved to be present for was when Jesus was walking and talking to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus shortly after His resurrection. He initially made out that He didn’t know what was going on but then this bit fascinates me:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)

Oh I would have loved to have been there. It was hardly surprising that later on they recounted that ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road’ (Luke 24:32)

If you are new to Christianity or unfamiliar with the bible, you might well wonder why we bother to read the Old Testament. What real relevance does it have for our lives today? But when you think about it, Jesus and the early church only had the Old Testament to refer to and it had everything they needed to understand who God is and what He wants to do with our lives. Jesus knew what His purpose was by studying ‘the law and the prophets’ what we understand to be ‘The Old Testament.’ He would have had revelation after revelation about where He fitted in to the father’s plan. I wonder what was going through His mind for example when he read Isaiah 53 and some of the Psalms which spoke quite clearly about the anguish of His death.

In my opinion, one of the most challenging verses in the whole bible is;

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)

All scripture? Really? If this is true, we need to keep digging to find out how profitable scripture is. There is so much more than just reading it on a ‘surface’ level

Jesus’ shadow is cast throughout the bible. Sometimes it would seem that He actually appeared physically in what is called a Theophany. But He can also be found in the ordinances of the tabernacle and the sacrifices, the events and characters of the Old Testament as well as through specific prophecies. We will look at as many ways that I can find.

I have no idea how long this series is going to take. Many have undertaken to write whole books on the subject. But I think it will be a worthwhile exercise to study this subject in greater depth. As we do, we will get a much greater understanding of God and His purposes and get a better awareness of His great plan of salvation and a fresh revelation of Jesus. A worthwhile exercise I hope you agree.

 April 28, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Shadows 2 Responses »
Apr 212017
 

Honouring God with your serviceJust recently we have been looking at different ways to honour God. We started by looking at how we can honour God at work, then we looked at the issue of money and then spent a couple of weeks looking at how we can honour Him with our bodies.

This week, I am going to look at how we can honour Him with our service to Him.

It’s important to note first of all that God doesn’t need our service. He is infinite, all powerful, all knowing. He lacks nothing, so there is nothing that we can give to Him that He needs.

nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:25)

He is also all loving and part of that love is allowing us to be fulfilled by serving Him. That may sound a bit strange, but God made us, He knows us better than we know ourselves and so He knows what fulfills and completes us and ultimately satisfies us.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

He designed works and service so that we could feel worth and acceptance. You know how satisfied you feel when you complete something or do a good job.

God himself, in the form of Jesus, led the way in demonstrating what service and self-sacrifice was like;

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

We reflect God when we consider others and serve them. In fact when we are serving others the bible says that we are serving God anyway.

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

I’m going to finish this blog with a few practicalities and thoughts about how we can honour God through our service:

  • Ask God to reveal to you what He wants you to do and then expect Him to speak to you through; His word, other people, church leadership and any number of other ways.
  • Once you know what He wants you to do, make yourself available and free up time to do it.
  • Be aware of your natural abilities. God has given you natural gifts in order for you to serve Him through them. As the Ephesians 2 verse suggests, He has created us with specific gifts and talents we can use to serve Him. You are unique, only you can fulfill the role that God has given you to complete.
  • Encourage others in their gifts and help others to see that they are making a contribution. So many people feel what they are offering is insignificant. You can change their whole outlook with an encouraging word. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Be humble. It’s not all about you and your ministry. It’s all about God and His glory. Try to do as much as you can in secret!
  • Be faithful. It often starts with the small things, be consistent and persistent. Keep going even when nobody seems to notice (see previous point) One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. (Luke 16:10)

None of your service will be wasted. It has eternal significance. Let me encourage you to keep going.

 April 21, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Uncategorized No Responses »
Apr 132017
 

7lastwordsAs you probably know, my blog goes out every Friday and as we are currently in Easter week, I thought I would send one on a ‘Good Friday’ theme.

Easter is one of my favourite times of the year. I know we can celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection any time of the year, but I find this season a particularly good time to reflect and appreciate all that Jesus did for us. I have sent this out slightly early so that you can set some time aside from your busy schedule and just dwell again on this amazing event and these 7 short but not insignificant sentences uttered by Jesus at the lowest and most difficult point of His life, as He hung on the cross.

1. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

The whole point of the cross was forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus was making a way for us to be forgiven by the father. Killing animals was never the ultimate plan. These sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus was now making. We could never save ourselves so God had to step in.

It was quite clear that no-one present grasped the enormity of what was happening, except Jesus himself. Jesus had stated plainly what He was going to do, but God veiled people’s minds, so that they couldn’t understand the significance of what was happening. Not even the Devil knew what was going on or he would have done everything in his power to stop it (1 Corinthians 2:8). No, he thought he was winning.

Just as on the road to Emmaus when the disciples eyes were suddenly opened and their hearts warmed, it would only be later that the revelation would come that what appeared to be the greatest defeat would actually be the greatest victory.

What amazes me is that God still forgives us even when we do know what we are doing. His grace is that amazing.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).

2. And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

As Jesus hung on the cross, he was mocked by the religious leaders, the soldiers and especially by the two criminals who were being crucified with him. One of the criminals came to his senses though and started to realise that there was something amazing about this man being crucified with them and that He had actually done nothing wrong. After rebuking the other criminal he turned to Jesus and said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus responded to this criminal, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). The word paradise, from the Greek word ‘paradeisos’, which means ‘garden’ was used in the Greek Old Testament as a word for the Garden of Eden. This was understood to be heaven when God would restore all things to how they were in the garden of Eden before sin entered the world. Paradise was sometimes thought to be the place where righteous people went after death. This seems to be the way Jesus uses paradise in this passage.

When you think about it, this is an astounding statement from Jesus. This man doesn’t appear to have been a follower of Jesus, has not previously believed in Him, done no good works, hasn’t properly repented or been baptised. It is a troublesome verse for anyone trying to establish how people can be saved. Jesus, in his amazing grace and mercy, makes this man the first beneficiary of His impending sacrifice.

We need to leave the judgement of who gets saved, to God, we proclaim the good news, but it is only He who can see into people’s hearts and establish how genuine they are. I wonder how many surprises we will get in heaven when we see people who had shown no interest in God, reveal they had a ‘death bed experience’ or something similar.

3. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” (John 19:26)

As Jesus was dying, his mother and a few other women were the only ones brave enough to stick around while all but one of the disciples had fled. The solitary disciple is not named but it is believed to be John.

If you are a parent, can you imagine the horror of not just seeing your son die in front of you, but the manner in which He was dying? This man she had nursed and received amazing promises about was hanging in front of her; bruised, broken, torn to shreds and naked. What unspeakable horrors she was going through.

Even in this most agonising of moments, Jesus was making plans for the protection of His mother, He was doing His best to look after her. He was perfectly embodying the command in the law that said “Honour your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12) Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law and this was just one of the many ways He did it. But He also, in this act, reveals further His humanity and compassion.

4. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

Jesus knew His scriptures, He had been studying them since He was a boy. I’m sure He would have had the whole lot memorised. So it is no surprise that He should quote scripture, especially as it referred to all the events that were happening to Him. In this 4th sentence He quotes Psalm 22 as he references verses 1 & 2:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1-2)

Think of it, Jesus had enjoyed perfect fellowship with the father for all eternity. We will never fully comprehend what Jesus was going through at this moment, but it must have been more painful than all the physical torture He had been going through combined. From intimate and loving community to utter abandonment. But not just that, He was taking on the horror and filth of every heinous sin that had ever or would ever be committed. This from the man who had led a perfect, sin-free life, suddenly exposed to the horrors of mankind’s depravity.

Hanging there, Jesus was more alone than anyone has ever been. The weight of the world was literally on His shoulders. All for you and me. What love, what sacrifice!

5. After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” (John 19:28)

The reference to fulfilling the scripture is probably from Psalm 69 where it says “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” (Psalm 69:21)

The process of crucifixion would have made Jesus extremely thirsty. He would have lost a lot of bodily fluid including; blood, sweat and tears. The soldiers did indeed give Jesus sour wine, a cheap beverage common among lower class people at that time.

It occurred to me that during Jesus’ ministry he has mentioned thirst twice and both in the context of coming to Him to quench that thirst. The first time was during his conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

The second time is when Jesus stands up in the temple on the last day of the feast and proclaims;

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38)

In effect, He became thirsty physically so that we would never need to be thirsty spiritually. His sacrifice has forever quenched our thirst!

6. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)

It is finished is 3 words in English and just one in Greek and is hugely significant in meaning. Jesus used the Greek word ‘Tetelestai’ which means ‘paid in full’. When a merchant at the market or wherever had a debt and it was paid off, the creditor would write “Tetelestai” on the certificate of debt signifying that it was “paid in full” The transaction is completed. Jesus was saying that He had accomplished what He had set out to do. He has now paid the debt for our sin and we can now approach God the father free from condemnation. It means we can’t add anything to our salvation and we have security for all eternity. This one word reverberates through history and is probably the most significant word that anybody has ever spoken.

7. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

This is now Jesus’ third quote from the Psalms, it comes from Psalm 31:5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

It shows Jesus’ complete trust in the father. He has just felt completely abandoned when He takes on the weight of mankind’s sin, but He knows that once that has been dealt with the father is going to lift Him up and seat Him in the place of all power and place all things under His feet. Because He has been completely obedient, Jesus is going to receive full vindication. His mission has been accomplished. What a saviour!

Enjoy the rest of Easter.

 April 13, 2017  Posted by at 8:00 pm Easter, Good Friday No Responses »
Apr 072017
 

7 ways to honour God with our bodiesLast week we looked at various different aspects set out in the bible as to why God considers what we do with our bodies as important. God is not just interested in our spirit or soul but our body as well. Jesus of course inhabited a body when He walked on earth (and now has a glorified one in heaven) and the Holy Spirit has chosen to inhabit our bodies now.

This week I am going to look at different parts of the body and use them as reference points as to how you can honour God with your body

1. Eyes

We can honour God with what we choose to look at, or more importantly what we don’t look at. I am referring mainly to sexual images and pornography. Our eyes are a major portal into our body. What we look at can very quickly shape our desires and attitudes. Jesus defined adultery by stating that it was not just the act itself, but what goes on in our minds and hearts when we dwell on what we look at. We have already looked at this subject when we studied ‘The sermon on the mount’ http://adrianpursglove.com/tearing-out-your-eye/;

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

But eyes can be used to lust after other things, such as a piece of cake! This leads me on to another part of the body

2. Stomach

Gluttony is named as one of the major sins in the bible but it is rarely spoken of today. It has almost become an ‘acceptable’ sin. One that we, especially in the West, commit regularly without a second thought. When was the last time you had such a huge meal that you felt uncomfortable? You had eaten far more than you needed to. That is the sin of gluttony.

If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it. (Proverbs 25:16)

We can also do the same with alcohol. Drink more than we need to and lose control.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)

3. Tongue

The Apostle James has a lot to say about how dangerous the tongue can be. How we use our tongue can honour God by encouraging others, but it can also dishonour Him by talking angrily or hurtfully to others, by spreading gossip or telling lies

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. (James 3:5-6) strong words!

4. Ears

Just as the tongue can be used to honour or dishonour God, so what we listen to can do the same. We can honour God by refusing to listen to gossip or people who trash talk other people or even people who just speak lies:

An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue. (Proverbs 17:4)

5. Arms & legs

I’m referring here to physical exercise. Obviously the bible doesn’t talk too much about going to the Gym or working out but it does suggest that physical exercise has some use;

for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way (1 Timothy 4:8)

As our bodies are referred to as temples of the Holy Spirit it would be wise to look after them and keep them healthy. After all, the more energy we have, the more we can achieve for God. We do have to be balanced in this though as many can take exercise too far and be in danger of actually worshipping the body.

6. Back

OK, I know I am pushing the analogy a bit here but I am referring to sleep and rest. Being too tired and exhausted is not a good thing. God has given us sleep as a gift

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:2)

God also introduced the principle of Sabbath rest, so that we could recuperate.

And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)

Our bodies get tired as a constant reminder that we are not God. He has set limits on our bodies to keep us humble and reliant on Him. He of course does not need to sleep;

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:4)

7. Hands

Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:17)

There are many ways we can use our hands to honour God. It could refer to our employment which we looked at a couple of weeks ago. It could refer to being creative. It could refer to using our hands to help others and it could also refer to works of service which we perform for God. This is what I am going to look at next week.

 April 7, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Uncategorized No Responses »