Praise

Hallelujah, Dictionary, Page, Light
Pixabay

Praise: the expression gratitude and respect

When upon God we reflect

We salute His greatness extreme

And shower on Him our unbridled esteem

Let “Hallelujah” be our refrain

And let our admiration on Him remain


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Through Misty Eyes

Through misty eyes I feel the pain

Of ministry heartfelt that others disdain

Fervent faith, and labours keen

Works, in the eyes of others unseen

While these feelings – I well understand

As one who has served God’s commands

My misty eyes are for another

One who was my Christian brother

His reputation in the faith now soiled

By his later actions when to the world he recoiled

I speak of Van Gogh of painting fame

Whose journey from minister to the insane

His ministry by the establishment rebuffed

He downhearted had had enough

And so his life of art , excess, and pain

Is how most now remember his name

Although he was like all men flawed

I know his work was seen by God


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Shared on dVerse

What Are You Searching For?

The Woman of Canaan by Michael Angelo Immenraet, Public Domain

I am going to preface this with a reflection on the media coverage of the fall of Kabul to the Taliban. Several commentators rightfully bemoaned the Talban’s record on women’s rights.  But what got my attention was one comment on social media that said Christianity is no better in that regard.

Since my planned message was going to focus on 4 Biblical women and their examples, I felt moved to address this topic first before proceeding to the main message.

Is Christianity anti–female?  Some argue that Eve being made “from Adam” as a helper shows subservience.  Let’s examine that.  The English says God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and God took one of Adam’s ribs and fashioned a “help meet for him.”

A better reading is that rather than rib, it should be seen a “flesh of his side.”   Note not flesh of his heel that he rule over her, not skin of his head that she reign over him; but flesh of his side that they might be equals, standing side by side.  She was a companion, not a slave.

Some Christian traditions move beyond this and say that priesthood is male.   John Paul II once said that when the priesthood was established on the night Jesus was betrayed, only Jesus and the apostles were present.  But is we read John’s account it is not only the mission of evangelism that is established in that meeting, but communion.  Does this suggest that only men can partake of the bread and wine?  Few if any would say so.

In fact, the first person to ever proclaim the full gospel of the resurrected Christ was not one of the Twelve, but Mary Magdalene.

Let’s look at the Second Temple period for a moment.  After the close of Malachi, a number of rabbinic writings and prayers became common.  One of these is known as the three blessings.  Jewish as part of morning prayers thank God for the new day, and that they are not Gentiles, slaves, or women.  This reinforces the often-cited misconception of Eve’s daughter’s lesser status.   But as we have seen this is not a Biblical principle.

Jesus’ ministry also shows and acceptance of women.  In His parables he uses women as key actors (See the Lost coin: Luke 15:8 – 10, the Parable of the Yeast:  Matthew 13:33, and the Ten Virgins of Matthew 25:1-13).

We can also note that Jesus’ teaching in the Temple were by their context in the outer courts where women and men could both hear his message (note the Widow’s Mite).  His public teaching as well was in homes where Mary and Martha were both called to listen, and on hillsides where men, women, and children could hear Him.

But if we look at Jesus’ ministry, we see that He treated woman in unexpected ways for His time –

It is now that I will note not His parables but His actual interactions, and what the women in these accounts can tell us about our main theme of “What are you searching for?”

I: Woman at Welldidn’t know what she was looking for or needed.    

John 4 tells us of Jesus’ interaction with a Samaritan woman. Their dialogue is one of mutual give and take, and she questions his request for water from her.  She is a Samaritan and a woman (remember the 3 blessings prayer).  He then reveals knowledge of her life, and she tries to deflect only to come to see what she is in need of.  Her life had been irregular if not outwardly sinful.  She had been seeking the wrong things, much as the majority of humanity does. See Romans 1: 35 where people look for the wrong things and worship the created or our own desires (like the woman and her multiple husbands did).

Jesus’ response in another passage reminds us (Matthew 6:33) to “Seek first the kingdom of God. . . and all other things will be given to us). 

Many of us need to learn that lesson and turn our focus to Him and His righteousness.

II: Woman with issue of blood Matthew 9:20–22, Mark 5:25–34, Luke 8:43–48 is another human type.  This woman was afraid to ask.   She had suffered a bleed for 12 years, and the doctors couldn’t help her.  She knew (unlike the Samaritan woman) what she needed but couldn’t bring herself to ask.  She secretly touched Jesus’ garment and her act of faith after being confronted compassionately by Him led to her healing.

Jesus’ teachings on this can be summed up in – Matthew 7: 7-8, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” 

Are we prepared to ask?

III: Mary – who we have already noted as the first preacher of the Gospel, was looking in the wrong places.  She had witnessed the crucifixion and the burial, and when the first day of the week arrived went to finish the burial process.  She had not understood Jesus’ words that the temple would be restored in three days.  

We too get caught up in traditions, religiosity, or our own plans.  In Matthew 28, Mary goes to the tomb to seek a dead Jesus only to be told by the angelic figure, “He is not here He is risen (verse 28).  

Don’t get waylaid by those things that blur our focus on the risen Lord!

IV: Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30 and Matthew 15:21-28)

This woman’s child has unclean spirits assailing her.  Though a Gentile and a woman she approaches Jesus.  She is initially rebuffed being told that Jesus has come the feed the children of Israel.

But shecontinued to seek what was beyond her reach or hope.

Are we any different? Remember “All have sinned and fallen short;”None righteous no not one,”

She therefore stands her ground.  She notes that the dogs can eat the crumbs that fall from the children’s table.

Jesus recognises her faith and commends it.  We too should not get caught up in our unworthiness, but trust in His mercy.

“While we were yet sinners” He came to seek us (Romans 5:8)!

Do we know what we are looking for? Are we afraid to ask? Do we sometimes look in the wrong places?  Are we trying to perfect ourselves? Or do we accept our own limitations and despite them seek the kingdom and His righteousness? 

I challenge you to know where your focus should lie.  I encourage you to ask, praying without ceasing for what you need.  I remind you to look to God, not to religion or yourself. 

We should be like the Syrophoenician woman.  He is here for us.


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Potter’s Wheel

Clay, Pottery, Hands, Potter, Potter'S Wheel, Dirty

People of God on a wheel made

Moulded and formed of the Maker’s clay

Crafted to perfection by the Master’s hand

Impurities and flaws purged away

Thus a kingdom shall be formed

Mere mud transformed and by grace adorned

Completed to fulfill the perfect plan

Crafted by One greater than any mortal man


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Thank you Pastor Vince for a great message.

In Times Of Confusion

Crowd, Demonstration, Flag, Man, March

Dear Lord, today has been a day

In which the world is beset by confusion

Focusing on the news bad

And agendas of others – life’s intrusions

But You are the One who is in charge

No matter what tales to which the media gives warning

Of wars and rumours of wars

Conspiracies and global warming

You are the God we will focus on

For You alone are Master of all

Each and every morning


Padre

I have heard two sermons this week which make this point. Don’t get caught up in the worries of the world, for all things work together for good to those that seek God’s kingdom.

The Ultimate Complaint Department

Complaint, Statement, Clipboard, Letter
Pixabay

In the current climate of perceived self-privilege, “Karen-ism,” and taking personal affront to anything that we don’t like hearing or seeing, it’s easy to resort to complaining.  “I want to talk to your supervisor,” seems to be the general topic of hundreds of YouTube videos.  But be careful at complaining too readily. 

Sometime shorty before the siege and capture of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, the prophet Habakkuk had his go at the complaining game.  He calls on God to do something about the evil, injustice, and idolatry in Israel.   When he finished his litany of grievances, God replies.  God says that He knows of the corruption of the leaders, and of the problems that Habakkuk has laid out.  He continues to say that He will indeed act.  In fact, God will allow the Babylonians to come and conquer the land.

This response catches Habakkuk on the back foot.  “They are worse than we are!” is essential Habakkuk’s reply to this news.  God nonetheless tell the prophet that this is what will come to pass, but to remember that it is God’s hands, not in men.  He tells Habakkuk that the righteous will live by faith, and in His appointed time Babylon will be brought down and punished for their evil.

Sometimes the cure for ills is not in our comfort, or in our “rights and privileges.”   Personally, I think that the pandemic has proven that.  The greater good, such as masks or self-isolations, outweighed individualism.  This is not a polemic for blind acquiescence to governmental authority, but instead a call for us to keep perspective.  Like Habakkuk we can rest assured in the end God’s will shall be done.

For those who may still pondering governmental links (if so, sorry I brought them up), remember that the “woes” that Habakkuk cited: unfair economic practices, human exploitation, corrupt rule, and the worship of power, will all be remembered by God, and the perpetrators will be held accountable. 

Next time then, before you head to the Complaint Department, or demand a manager, remember to weigh the situation in perspective, and the possibility that you might not like the answer.


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Kingdom

Jesus, Children Of God, God Is Pleased
Pixabay

A kingdom not made by hands

Not the creation of any man

A people of power united together

The Lord God at their centre

The spiritual descendants of Abraham

Younger siblings of the Lion-Lamb

Seeking first the Father’s way

Having recieved blessings they cannot repay

But it is a kingdom with a mission

Prepared to share with the world their great commission


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Inspired by Pastor Vince’s first lesson of a series on the Kingdom of God.

Rise From The Ashes

Sunrise, Beach, Ocean, Sea, Seascape

Rise with me from ashes

To build and start again

Putting reliance in the Saviour

And not in mortal men

Politicians they shall fail us

The rich seek but there own

But those of faith shall prosper

And achieve an eternal home

While this world seems bleak –

Full of darkness

And troubles seem immense

He will bear His children’s burdens

And true justice He will dispense


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A Step at a Time: Towards Authenticity

Chain, Broken, Link, Freedom, Unleashed
Pixabay

Last week Pastor Vince spoke to us about the need to be authentic.  In that message he said he was going to use a text, not to make a theological exposition but as a jumping off point.   I will start off the same, before moving on to some expository.  Yes, I am a theologian.

As such I am going to scratch the surface of a technique known as systematic theology which formulates an orderly, and rational account of the doctrines of the Christian faith.  I will take topics that Pastor Vince has addressed recently and arrange them as steppingstones, or a path we can take a step at a time to get to our destination.

A few weeks ago, Vince noted that Praise not only glorifies God, but can left us like an eagle’s wings.  So here is my first foundation stone in tying to days message together.  Praise and worship are in our present age opened, like the tearing of the curtain in the temple.  The Holy of Holies is open to us because Christ has torn the barriers to approaching God down.

Vince in the past has told us about the structure and importance of the Tabernacle and later Temple.  As you approached that place of worship and praise, note we have the approach theme again, you would go from the mundane world to a sacred space, arriving eventually to the Most Holy Place. 

During the period of the Babylonian Captivity, worship, prayer, and praise began to be made in the synagogue as the Temple had been destroyed and the people dispersed.  When the Second Temple was built this new synagogue, system continued to operate along side of it as we see in the Gospels. 

Not only this but structure of the Second Temple was extended from the Tabernacle plan to include an outer court sometimes called The Court of the Gentiles.   It was open to non-Jews, though they could approach no closer to that to the Holy Places.  But they were allowed in!

The synagogue too had a similar design, but in modern synagogues the holy place is replaced with the Ark where the Scriptures rest.  These are brought out onto a platform called the Bimah where they are read aloud.  The congregation sits facing this platform. 

Look at Luke 4:

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

        because he has anointed me

        to proclaim good news to the poor.

        He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

        and recovery of sight for the blind,

        to set the oppressed free,

19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.

So, what does that have to do with being authentic?

As Pastor Vince noted last week, authentic faith – loves and serves. 

Our praise may help us soar like eagles, but never at the cost to others.

Hebrews 13:1 tells us, “Let brotherly love continue.” First John 4: 7-8 says, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God. He that loves not doesn’t know God; for God is love.”

In what is often called the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus makes it clear.  Note some of the parallels from the passage we just looked at in Luke 4.  “When I was hungry, when I was naked, in prison, etc.”  

Authenticity is not about us soaring, it is about lifting others.

This authentic love was something Jesus had to teach.  You may not know this but in the culture of Jesus’ times there was a belief that honour was a finite resource like gold or diamonds.   If I had it, you didn’t.  I kept it by keeping you down.

Vince spoke about humility, and what authentic humility is like.  But this was a hard sell in Jesus’ day.  This makes the Sermon on the Mount even more profound with the Meek, and Humble being praised.

Luke 16:19-31 gives us the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  Their lives are contrasted, as are their deaths.  Notice that even in Hell the rich man doesn’t change his attitude of superiority.  “Send Lazarus to me.” “Send Lazarus to my brothers.”

Paul’s letter to Philemon is a wonderful study in authenticity.   It shows Paul giving authentic and loving praise, It makes an example of authentic humility, and it shows not coercion as some have suggested, but rather Paul’s call on Philemon to realistically see things are the really are.  Systematic theology at its best.

1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— 2 also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.

12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.

22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Philemon needs to extend himself.  He needs authentic humility to get past any perceived wrongs.  He needs to show love, and unconditional love that frees captives, and restores relationships.  He needs to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and help fulfil the promise of the prophesy found in Luke Chapter 4.

Paul one step at a time calls for authenticity, and I have one step at a time taken three of Vince’s themes and presented them to you.  Let’s be real together.


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Selling Our Souls

Contract, Consultation, Pen, Signature, Paper

There is a major online real estate company in the UK that is currently running an ad on radio which I find disturbing. In this commercial an empty nest couple are discussing the kids having left, but their rooms and childhood belongings remain in place for their eventual visits. It is then that there is a message ringtone and they shift their stance and say “after all its only a bunch of old junk.” The indication is that they just saw how much money they could make by selling their home. What makes it worse in my view is the company spokesperson then over dubs saying that said company “knows the real value of your home.”

Of your home? Of your house maybe, the harsh impersonal sale price of the bricks and mortar, but the property in and of itself is not what makes a home! Home is an intangible full of relationships, emotions, and memories. A house might be only a house, but a home is so much more.

We are bombarded by such messages. Advertising and “social influencers” strive to indoctrinate us into the lie of image. Life, however, isn’t about the number of your followers. It isn’t about sexualising our toddlers with “mini make-up” and “sexy clothes.” Yes, the stuff is for sale online, not to mention preteen pageants and the like. Films and game have gratuitous sex and violence, and television is awash with swearing – all in the name of ratings and advertising revenue.

We as a society have gotten so tied up in “what’s in it for me,” and the “bottom lines,” that we are beginning to miss the real values of life. Even our “altruistic” politicing is often reduced to the image we produce. It isn’t, if we are honest, always about social justice, but rather that WE seem to be champions of the cause. Worse still these are fluid. Global warming is eclipsed by race relations, that is eclipsed by gender politics, that is eclipsed . . . .

I am not saying that all well meaning people are just going through the motions, most probably aren’t, but when our own reputations, wealth, etc., dictate our “bottom lines” we need to pause and take stock. Just like the message in the real estate ad. Have we missed something when “home” just means a house, or justice means just making some noise about something?

These are just some things to ponder.


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