The Power of God’s Love – 1

Published on January 4th, 2011no comments

I’m going to start a series of expositions on famous verses – so, let’s start with that well-known passage: John ch.3 v.16 – so familiar that we might overlook some of the detail. It’s time to look at it with fresh eyes.

It starts off with “For God” – this makes sense. God is the source of all creation, so he should be at the forefront – the prime mover in our salvation. It is after all, His idea, His plan.

Our transformation from sinful failure to righteous co-heirs with Christ is not a happy accident, not a consolation prize for being part of Plan-B after God’s original idea falls apart in Eden, not even something we can boast of as an achievement of our own.

God is sovereign, and we would do well to remember it. He is not here as our servant, to provide all our wants and make our life conveniently easy. Quite the reverse. we are here to serve Him – whether we like it or not, whether we realise the significance of what we do. He works through us, through our circumstances and through those around us to achieve what He wants.

We can choose to enter willingly into partnership with Him – but He even supplies the faith and power for us to do that. He owes us nothing and has the right to demand everything from us. Yet, He shows infinte patience and tolerance as we grow in the shadow of His grace.

To top it all – far from promising us a life of ease. He warns us in advance that His intervention in our lives complicates things. By setting us apart as participants in the solution to the world’s problems, he propels us into division, opposition, persecution. We are in conflict with the flow of a world that neither knows nor cares for the purpose of its creator. Yet we can stand with a calm assurance that He will not forsake us, for He has not forsaken His creation – that is why this passage starts with Him – not our problems, not our potential, not even our purpose.

A path to power

Published on January 3rd, 2011no comments

I’m not a big fan of dreams and visions. I write, so my artistry is with words, not pictures. Fortunately for me, the Good Book says “In the beginning was the Word” not “In the beginning was the image” – more seriously, our faith is not limited to what we can describe or imagine. If it was, we would be in trouble, as our thoughts and ideas alone are not big enough. We need a God who is able to do far more than we could ever ask or imagine. Fortunately, we have one. A God whose grace is not limited by our capacity to visualise a better reality for ourselves.

I don’t think I’ve worded that as well as I could. Which is supremely ironic. Not merely because I’m supposed to be good with words – being an expert at clear communication of complex ideas is my profession. But also because I was considering Acts ch.4 v.20 – where Peter and John explain that they cannot help spreading the good news about Jesus, and I saw an image of a river.

This illustrated perfectly what I wanted to explain about what it means to have faith in Jesus and experience His life-changing power. It is as if we are in a river, with clean water flowing over us. This is an immutable law – we cannot change it or prevent it. We can only live in the benefit of it. We can try to muddy up the water pour in waste through lying, cheating – add whatever sin comes to mind. It makes a mess – that’s the natural course it takes – but the moment we stop – the river flows through and cleans us up.

What we need to do is just stop trying to dirty the river up – just say no. And focus on experiencing the cleaning power of the water continually flowing. It’s our choice. We cannot help but be made clean.

Power to Care

Published on January 2nd, 2011no comments

The good news about Jesus Christ is not merely good news for each of us as individuals. When angels announced his birth to shepherds in Luke ch.2 v.14, it wasn’t to them alone – a small exclusive club. It was a call to all of us to respond to our Lord and Creator.

Fortunately for us, along with a responsibility to share the good news comes the power to do so – along with a motivation and the joy of participation in the unfolding of God’s eternal plan for all creation.

The good news is not just for a single exclusive club. Jesus’ birth was celebrated by Magi and shepherds. The transformation that comes from trusting Him is as relevant to the wealthy as it is to the poor. It applies to the both the simple and the wise. It is needed by both the sick  and the healthy. What is more important is that we are not left in the same state as when we first ecountered the truth.

This is the liberating nature of the gospel. The unexceptional are welcome; and through Jesus they can achieve the extraordinary. But the gifted too have a place and a purpose – to see what they have to offer transcend the limits of their own abilities through the intervention of One who understands them and values them as unique individuals.

Power to be Yourself

Published on May 16th, 2010no comments

Deep down inside each of us, a nagging question lurks. Who am I? It is only when we answer that question satisfactorily that we can move on to settling the confusing array of related conundrums: What do you want to do? What is your purpose in life? No wonder there is a queue of at least half a dozen ancient Greek thinkers laying claim to the aphorism, know thyself!

The miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit into our lives brings us to a point where we can explore the first question in relation to ourselves. Acts ch.1 v.8 puts it succinctly: You will receive power, you will be Jesus’ witness.

There you have it! What am I? You are a person of real supernatural power. You are no longer limited to the weakness that beset you before, you can take control, you can be a success.

That may be so – but a success at what?

First and foremost, you are a witness to Jesus’ life-transforming power. Starting where you are, you have the power to boldly proclaim that faith in Jesus has turned your life upside down, that you have found new resources to love, persevere and extend grace to those around you; that you have discovered new depths of joy and freedom in thinking that were alien to you before taking those first seps of faith.

By being set free to declare who you are now, you can begin to see your role develop in becoming a more effective witness . That way, you catch hold of the power to be your new, transformed, victorious self.

Attempt Great Things…

Published on May 16th, 2010no comments

There’s an interesting line in 2 Corinthians ch.3 v.12 – at first sight, you might think it an afterthought, but it plays a crucial part in linking together the first and second halves of the chapter. The passage emphasizes the difference between God’s ministry of reconciliation through His people before Christ and after.

Since our hope is not focused on preparing the way for the Messiah, but on completing the work of reconciliation He has already begun – both in us and in our communities – we have a vision for a future far more expansive, where God’s Kingdom makes an increasingly significant impact, culminating in Jesus’ return.

We have a guarantee, God’s promised Holy Spirit, working through us, helping perfect us and bringing us closer to the Father as we reveal the Son to a world in need of a Saviour.

This is why verse 12 makes such a grand claim – we are very bold. Not just a little bit confident. Not we have a positive feeling that something good might come out of all this – but we are absolutely convinced – in a world crying out for certainty – that the same God who created the universe and sent Jesus to redeem it from a sin-sick destiny; this all-powerful Creator who changed the course of history through raising Jesus from the dead; this Lord of All who seals His promise to us through the gift of His own Spirit to make us alive to Him – this God will prevail. His plan will succeed.

Deep down inside each of us, we look for immortality – we do not want our short life to end without us making an impact on a cold, infinite universe. We are desperate to make our mark. It drives us to procreate, it propels us into writing, communicating our thoughts in the ope that we will live on through our ideas.

It is this primeval urge that is met through a right relationship with our Creator. This desire can be channeled into building the Kingdom that will stand – not only the test of time – but into eternity. That is what gives us a confidence, a boldness to face the universe head on and attempt to turn the world upside down.

Expect Great Things…

Published on May 13th, 2010no comments

William Carey used to say, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” It was a pattern for his own life as he founded a missionary society at a time when others were of the opinion that the Good Lord would save the heathen in His own good time – a way to excuse complacency that still strikes a chord today when we see social injustice, ignorance and superstition continuing to bind up so many around the world.

Carey was inspired by Isaiah ch.54 v.2-3, which is certainly a good place to start. But I’m going to focus on Psalm 37 v.4, which tells us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” It sounds so syrupy, conjuring an image of a loving and benevolent God who exists to indulge his adoring children.

However, it’s far more than that. It’s an instruction, a direct, imperative command – not merely a positive suggestion. It is a clear precondition that states unequivocally that if you wish to have your desires fulfilled, you must get your priorities in order. Your relationship with your creator is at the root of your personal success.  To try to see it any other way, to seek the goodies  for their own sake is to miss the point spectacularly – the phrase “putting the cart before the horse” comes to mind. It just doesn’t work, no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise.

There are two important issues that are addressed by getting your attitude and relationship to God sorted, before seeking the benefits arising from this. The first is that our motives are purified. The Apostle James put it a little more bluntly when he told his readers in chapter 4 of his letter, “You ask, and you don’t get, because you pray with selfish motives.” If God truly delights us, then our hearts’ desires will be focussed on what will please Him. Which brings me to the second point.  Your heart’s desire must be specific – otherwise, how will you know you have received it?

It is of little point, to go around talking of “great things”, believing God for “great things”, positively confessing that He will do “great things” and eagerly anticipating “great things” with a sincere heart that delights in the Lord if you cannot put into words what those “great things” are.

If you believe that God wants to turn lives around in your neighbourhood, bring people to a real, personal faith in Him, heal broken hearts and bodies, give direction and purpose to those who feel an empty void – then make these specific things the desire of your heart. Expect Him to intervene, and act on His prompting.

The power to be yourself

Published on May 5th, 2010no comments

Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica contains a fascinating insight that deserves careful, thoughtful examination. 2 Thessalonians ch.2 v.13-14 says that God chose us from the beginning of Creation and called us into a partnership with Himself through the good news about Jesus Christ.

The nature of the partnership is both outward and inward – through faith and the work of the Holy Spirit. We are not left on our own. Neither are we automata. It is our destiny – which means we truly become ourselves and feel united with that vision as we become more and more like Christ.

Each of us, in our own unique way reflect His presence, as if we ware a myriad of diamonds.

Pressing on – a call to persevere

Published on May 4th, 2010no comments

In Philippians ch.3 v.14, the Apostle Paul makes a simple bold statement. It is one that we can identify with and apply to ourselves at times when we feel like giving up.

Paul’s attitude is not to give up. He states that he will press on – he will continue to go forwards – not stop and consolidate, not backtrack to a position of security – but actively continue in the direction that he is convinced is right.

He has a goal in mind – like all of us, he cannot see it physically, but by faith he reaches out to take hold of it – or rather he allows himself to be gripped by its inexorable attraction. He can imagine the end-game, the final goal and therefore is certain of the role his actions and the obstacles around him play in getting there.

By having this perspective, he sees hindrances for what they truly are – not as great mountains that would threaten to extinguish the light of his vision, but as temporary challenges that have already been defeated in an eternal dimension; for all he needs to do is to press on and their demise is as sure as the prospect of him reaching his ultimate goal in Christ.

An uncomfortable promise

Published on May 3rd, 2010no comments

We are always ready to accept nice gifts. Whether from people, or from God. So, when a friend tells you, “Look, here it is in the Bible, you’re promised health, wholeness, purpose and power,” we say, “great, I’m having a big slice of that. Thank you, Lord!”

However, there are other promises, unconditional guarantees from the Good Lord’s mouth that we might not be quite so ready to accept wholeheartedly. John ch.16 v.33 contains one of them.

“In this world, you will have trouble.” But I didn’t sign up for that, I signed up for the Kingdom of God package, being the head and not the tail, having influence and power because of my new relationship with my Creator!

That’s the point. God’s Kingdom is not of this world. The system of this world is in implacable opposition to it. There was no need to trouble you when you were under its control, but now that you are not, you feel the struggle keenly.

There is good news however. Jesus continues His promise by pointing out one important truth. This is not a battle between equals. We are not looking at an eternal match between to sides of the same coin. The world is created, finite and above all – temporal. Jesus, on the other hand, as eternal creator has infinitely greater resources at hand to bring all your troubles to a conclusion that glorifies Him and makes the source of your salvation clear.

That is the good news. Not that we won’t have trouble. We will, it’s guaranteed. But that whatever the world throws at us to bring us down will be turned on its head and be used to glorify the one who saved us as he brings you safely through it.

Psalm 23 – an anthem to prosperity?

Published on May 1st, 2010no comments

I have been thinking about that much-loved part of the Bible that many of us are over-familiar with. It is actually a revolutionary text when you consider the implications of what it so simply, and poetically states.

We’re told in the first verse that, because the Lord is our shepherd, we lack nothing. This is David’s experience, and he’s so convinced about the ability of God to provide his needs, that he inspires us to believe the same. The Good Shepherd who supplies all his needs is the same Good Shepherd who cares for us.

However, there is an important proviso. This Good Shepherd leads and guides – he prompts and directs David into a position where he can experience God’s provision. If we find ourselves thinking, “Well, where is the God who promised to provide my needs?”, it may be time to assess whether we are truly led by Him.

Self-examination is good. It is Biblical. It has a clear purpose and goal: to determine whether we are living our lives in the benefit of the revelation God has given us through His Word, and whether we have a clear vision of His purpose for our individual lives.

Teach the Bible