Saturday, October 03, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 37:3

They told him, "This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them." Isaiah 37:3

Hezekiah realized that he had no resources or "no strength" left to fight the Assyrians. Sennacherib king of Assyria had already attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them (36:1) and now he was coming for Jerusalem. Unless God intervened they were ruined.

Oswalt in Constable's Commentary, writes: "This kind of admission of helplessness is frequently a necessity before divine help can be received. So long as we believe that we only need some assistance, we are still treating ourselves as lord of the situation and that latent pride cuts us off from all God would give us."

So often when we are facing a difficult situation we ask God for some assistance rather than admitting how powerless we really are. Our independence and self-sufficiency (or our "latent pride") gives us a false sense of confidence and persuades us that we can manage with just a little help.

We see ourselves as "lord of the situation." We tell ourselves others have faced worst situations and survived so surely we should be able to handle whatever comes. This attitude stops us from asking God for all the help we need.

On both occasions when Hezekiah received bad news (v1 & 14) his first reaction was to go to the temple of the Lord. He prays for the people (v.4) and God's reputation (v.20). By his actions Hezekiah acknowledges his inadequacy to resolve the situation.

It requires faith to respond like this, to say to God unless you intervene we are doomed but humility is the pathway to the resources of God.

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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Book Review : Approval Addiction

I have had Approval Addiction by Joyce Meyer on my shelf for some time before deciding to read it. I was in the habit of listening to Joyce's CD messages and didn't feel the need to also read her books. Plus I haven't felt like I have a problem with trying to please people.

However lately I've been doing less driving so haven't been listening to her CDs and thought perhaps there was something to be gained from reading about this issue. This proved to be true. While I don't have a major problem with people-pleasing, I realized, as I read, that in some situations I do gravitate towards doing this. The most challenging thing Joyce said was if someone is controlling your behaviour, it is your fault for letting them. Since reading the book I have found myself being more careful about allowing others to sway my behaviour.

Joyce writes about the various ways people-pleasing can manifest itself and the emotional wounds that can cause someone to become addicted to the approval of others. In this Joyce uses many examples from her own life as well as others.

Joyce can be a bit repetitive. However this may only be a problem for those of us who also listens to her messages besides, sometimes it doesn't hurt to be reminded.

Overall a helpful read.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Not hired servants

When the prodigal son returned to his father, after disgracing himself, he would have been happy to be one of his Father’s hired servants (Luke 15:19). This would be perfectly reasonable, considering he prematurely demanded his inheritance and then wasted it living an immoral lifestyle. The son figured the best he could hope for was that his father would employ him. However his father doesn't employ him, he restores him to the position of a favoured son.

Often as Christians we act like we are in God's employ, like we are his hired servants. We know God has forgiven us, but now we imagine like the prodigal son, we have to somehow repay God for our past indiscretions.

However we are not God’s hired servants. We are his dearly loved children, not because of anything we have done. God simply chose to put us in the position of a favoured son or daughter. We have worth and value because we are his, and this is the way God wants us to see ourselves.

I am his child, dearly loved and special to him.

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 36:18-20

Have the gods of any nations ever delivered their lands from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries have been able to save their lands from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand? Isaiah 36:18-20

In this passage the commander for the king of Assyria is saying, The Lord is just like other gods. Other gods couldn't save people from their lands and since the commander had already taken Samaria and captured the fortified cities of Judah (v.1), he thought it would be no different for Jerusalem. The commander told them that their God wouldn't save them but he didn't realize that the Lord had given Samaria into his hand because of Israel's sins (2 Kings 17). Ultimately the commander was proved wrong and he wasn't able to capture Jerusalem.

The common thought by God's prophets and kings throughout the Old Testament was that there is no god like Jehovah. God's deliverance of his people from Egypt amongst other incidences testified to this. It was something God's leaders reiterated to the people regarding God—there was none like theirs.

The phrase, "none like you" often occurs in modern songs because these songs are based on Scripture. What does it mean for us to sing, "none like you" when we mostly don't live in a polytheistic society?

It means there is nothing or no one who can satisfy the needs of the human heart like God can; there is nothing or no one who can cleanse our sins like God can; there is nothing or no one who can give us security for the future like God can.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Book Review : The Prodigal God

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller sheds new light on the familiar parable of the prodigal son. Keller points out that generally we have focussed on the first son to the exclusion of the second, whereas both sons are lost to their father.

By concentrating on the first son we have lost the impact of what Jesus is saying about the true nature of Christianity. Both sons were trying to finding happiness and fulfilment outside the father's house. The younger son found living with his father restrictive (plus his other brother was probably obnoxious to live with) and the older son thought his father was a slave driver but both boys were wrong about their father.

As Christian we tend to gravitate to one of these positions. Either we are like younger sons who want to find pleasure outside of God's protective boundaries or we are like older sons who are slaving away trying to earn our way into our Father's good graces. Both have a distorted view of God's grace.

Keller then does a good job of applying his argument. He points out that our churches are often full of older brothers who haven't really grasp hold of God's grace and are still trying to earn their way. This tends to make them self-righteous and critical and not attractive to younger brothers.

A challenging and thought provoking read.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Faith & Obedience

This remark was recently posted as a comment on my blog (and lots of other people's too, if Google is anything to go by). I have reproduced it in an abbreviated form as I'd like to explain a couple of words from a Biblical point of view.

"Was Noah Saved by Faith Alone? By Steve Finnell

Those who claim they were saved by "faith alone" like to quote Hebrews 11:7 to prove they were by "faith only," just like Noah.

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of righteousness which is according to faith.(NKJV)

Noah was not saved the minute he had faith, he was saved and became an heir of righteousness after faith plus preparing the ark.

Noah was saved by faith plus obedience, not by faith alone.

He was obedient by preparing the ark for saving his household. If Noah had tried being saved by "faith alone" he would have drown just like the rest of the world."

Hebrews 11 commends the "ancients" for their faith (not their obedience) (v.1). Noah was saved by faith and completed his faith by building an ark. If faith doesn't cause us to act it isn't Biblical faith, it's just mental assent. If Noah hadn't built the ark, it would have told us that Noah didn't really believe there was going to be a flood and thus didn't have faith. We also see how this works in Abraham's life in James 2:22 "You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did".

Furthermore where I live "obedience" has come to mean something that I have to do that I don't want to. Often there is punishment if I choose not to do whatever it is I'm supposed to do. It's often controlling and lacking in love which is not the Biblical understanding of obedience. In the Bible obedience is motivated by love (John 14) not duty. It is something I want to do because I love God not something I have to do in order to get something from God.

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 30:32

Every stroke the Lord lays on them with his punishing club will be to the music of timbrels and harps, as he fights them in battle with the blows of his arm. Isaiah 30:32

In the Message Bible the verse reads: "Every blow God lands on them with his club is in time to the music of drums and pipes."

There is throughout Scripture an interesting connection between singing and warfare (Psalm 149:6-9, 2 Chronicles 20:21-22).

In our church services we are doing far more than just singing songs. We can be engaging in spiritual warfare without even moving from our seats. Our praise to God harms the enemy of souls in ways we don't realize.

Why would this be? Singing is important because we sing out the truth of God’s word and proclaim God’s goodness regardless of our circumstances. We declare God’s character and reinforce spiritual truth as we sing to him. We affirm God’s attributes and make a declaration to the spiritual forces of evil that we are going to put our trust in an invisible God. As we sing unto the Lord with our hearts and minds, we are inflicting damage on the devil and shifting things in the spiritual realm.

Furthermore singing is a corporate activity where believers come together who may have nothing else in common except their Christian faith and yet together they become an army. The strength in unity becomes a further attack on the devil who tries to isolate and cause friction between Christians.

Karl Faase recently twittered, "In a culture cynical, critical and dismissive of faith our most subversive act is to stand together in worship singing statements of faith."

When we stand and sing together, let's engage wholeheartedly and be mindful of what we are achieving in the spiritual realm.

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