Posts Tagged ‘New Testament’

Promises Revisited…

Written on July 20th, 2011 by adminno shouts

Acts ch.1 v.8 tells us “..you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” It’s a promise with a purpose. We receive power precisely because we have a specific job to do. We need what’s on offer in order to be able to accomplish it.

But that’s not all. The promise comes in answer to a specific question. It was a tricky, politically charged question. Jesus’ answer was equally to the point – it’s none of your business! You have my mission to complete and here are the tools you will need to achieve all you’ve been called to do.

We’re all called to be Jesus’ witnesses. It’s an interesting Greek word used here – we get the word martyr from it. And that’s the point. A witness has a single responsibility, to give the facts, regardless of the personal cost to themselves. It’s not a witnesses job to tell the audience what they think they want to hear, or to put a specific spin on some information to suit their own agenda. Their responsibility is to the truth.

Truth can be entertaining. It can also be baffling or provoke fear and rage in its hearers. This is why we need the Holy Spirit so badly if we are to communicate the truth effectively. He can and will give us a holy boldness to speak uncomfortable truths. He can help us find the words to explain our faith appropriately to an audience He has already prepared.

It’s a guarantee that we can confidently take God up on, for He has made this promise precisely because He is supremely confident that we are able to do this in partnership with Him.

Power to be Yourself

Written on May 16th, 2010 by adminno shouts

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…

Written on May 16th, 2010 by adminno shouts

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.

Pressing on – a call to persevere

Written on May 4th, 2010 by adminno shouts

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.

Power to be Positive

Written on February 17th, 2010 by adminno shouts

We love Philippians ch.4 v.13 – it is just so incredibly positive to say that I can do all things through Christ. It makes perfect sense. If you believe that you are empowered by the Creator of the universe who intimately knows how everything was created and is capable of supplying the knowledge and skill required to bring about His will through you at the time when He wants it; then this verse is axiomatic.

We can do all things because we are an integral part of the means He has chosen to redeem all things.

The flip-side is that if we find we’re in a situation where we are powerless and unable to make a difference it challenges us on two fronts:

Is this because we are no longer exercising His will. Did we have a clear vision of what He wanted to accomplish? Are our own motives and agendas pure?

Are we being challenged to take on this because God is trying to demonstrate His greatness through our powerlessness? Should we be looking for His miraculous intervention to transform a hopeless situation through our persistent and faithful prayer?

This is why James tells people to pray for wisdom! We need to know the difference between these situations.

However, there is another important point that needs to be stressed. When Paul wrote about being able to do all things, he was not speaking from a position of great material prosperity and physical comfort – indeed, his point was that he had known great challenges and need. But God had been faithful in all circumstances, had met his needs and empowered him to fulfil his calling – providing all he needed to do this – whether it was physical strength, skills, knowledge, supernatural power or just getting the timing right.

Because of his experience of God’s provision in the past, Paul was able to look on negative circumstances with a positive outlook and be certain that God would not only see him through it, but would do so in such a way that God was glorified.

Reflections on Faith (6)

Written on February 9th, 2010 by adminno shouts

Hebrews ch.11 v.6 lays down an important challenge to all who claim to believe. It is not enough to believe that God merely exists. People often quote James ch.2 v.19 at this stage in a discussion on faith – which makes the same point, but in a very different way.

In their case, demons are not expressing an academic opinion on whether there may or may not be a Creator of the universe. They are well aware of the truth behind that. Instead – they have gone one step further, having translated their faith into action, they tremble with the anticipated fear of their impending judgement.

Similarly for us – the question becomes not – do you believe in God, but what sort of God do you believe in?

Is your God one who will judge without mercy?

Is your God one who will be fickle, inconsistent, merely because He can?

Or has your God revealed Himself to be consistent, a rewarder of those who seek to do His will on earth?

It is this arean where doubt actually becomes a useful tool in purifying our faith – where we critically examine our thoughts and experiences and question our assumptions – not on the subject of God’s existence – but to ensure we have fully grasped the depth and complexity of His nature.

If our concept of God is at fault – it is our duty to use doubt to excise those imperfections in order that our view of Him becomes clearer. By doing so we receive our reward – a deeper, more authentic fellowship with the Lord of Creation, a greater insight into our purpose in His universe.

Reflections on Faith (5)

Written on February 8th, 2010 by adminno shouts

To understand the significance of Hebrews ch.11 v.5 you need to cross-reference it against Genesis ch.5 v.24. Another hero of faith from the beginning of history. We’re told in Genesis that Enoch walked with God. He didn’t just live a good life. He wasn’t remembered for his wealth. It was the quality of his ongoing relationship with his Creator that marked him out as someone different.

He disappeared. But it was understood that this meant he was with God, in His presence eternally as a sign to us that we too have a future in eternity – we too can stand in god’s presence if we dare to cultivate an intimacy with God.

Yes, it makes us stand out. Yes, it is something we work at – as with all relationships. But its benefits are out of this world.

A relationship with God is a step towards a life with purpose. We have a glorious destiny ahead of us – but there is a price to pay. Will you stand up and be counted as one who pleases God rather than men?

Reflections on Faith (4)

Written on February 7th, 2010 by adminno shouts

Hebrews ch.11 v.4 tells us that by faith – Abel still speaks, even though long dead. Faith brings immortality in ways that are not immediately apparent. For a long time I wondered what Romans ch.2 v.7 was talking about – it did not make sense when considering that Paul wrote so much about faith being diametrically opposed to salvation by works. But when seen in the light of this statement from Hebrews, it takes on a new shade of meaning. Allow me to explain.

What will you leave as a legacy to those who come after you? A  small pot of money, a house, some antique nick-nacks? Abel, and those who come after him, saw by faith that future generations would build upon their experience of God. Their legacy – demonstrating that it is possible to live a life pleasing to God though faith – still has value today.

To that extent, by seeking to be people of a pioneering faith,  we too can speak in a voice that will survive the span of many generations. Our words and actions become immortal – continuing to bear fruit amongst our spiritual descendants.

Reflections on Faith (3)

Written on February 2nd, 2010 by adminno shouts

There is a clear message from Hebrews ch.11 v.3 – faith is not a desperate clutching at semantic straws. We are not trying to will ourselves into a state of denial with respect to reality. Faith is neither the product of speculation nor the author of confusion.

Faith brings understanding and insight. Through faith we see the patterns of God’s handiwork displayed through the universe and brought directly to bear on our circumstances.

We see for ourselves the big picture and our place within it. We gain a true perspective of not just our own limitations and need for our Creator; but also of the colossal magnitude of His ability to change and transform everything around us.

To the one who could speak an entire universe into being out of nothing, to whom history is as fluid as water; our troubles may seem infinitesimally small – but so great is His love for all of us, that even these matter.

It stretches our comprehension to its limits to begin to appreciate this greatness – but the effort is worthwhile, for through faith we see a reality that is consistent, that allows for a Divine hand to intervene, and yet retains the imperfections that separate this universe from the Creator.

Reflections on Faith (2)

Written on February 1st, 2010 by adminno shouts

What will you be remembered for? What attribute do you possess that, in the future, when people think back on your life, they will say, “This was the way they lived.” Will it be your integrity, your intellect, your ability to make others laugh?

Hopefully, you won’t be remembered merely as someone who sold their soul to the corporate dream, who lived for work and little else.

Even sporting achievements or TV celebrity status – being famous for merely wanting to be famous – these things fade into insignificance over time – until they are trapped in the scrapbooks of a minority of obsessive fact collectors – in the same way that beetles would be pinned to cards in previous generations.

Hebrews ch.11 v.2 is short and to the point – the figures we look up to from days gone by were commended for their faith. Not their charm and beauty, or their ability to amass piles of shiny yellow metal; but something of infinitely higher worth.

It was their ability to see forward to a world that God had called into being – to live today in the light of the promise of what they were certain was coming. They caught a vision of a reality made the way the Creator intended and would not rest until they saw it into completion. They were as certain of its existence as they were of their own. In effect, they straddled two worlds, knowing deep down that the truth of the word of God would bring the unseen eternal reality they grasped through faith to prevail upon the tangible, temporal world they inhabited.

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