▶More amazing music from Josh Garrels – his new album “Home”

Home – Another great album from Josh Garrels

I love track 5 – “The Arrow”

Have a listen below, he hits some pretty high notes which make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Very cool!

How do religions die?

Andrew Brown, from the UK’s Guardian newspaper, has written a short article asking “How do religions die?”

Obviously, he writes from the perspective of an Atheist, believing that all religions are passing fads which come and go with the ages.

“If religions are born, they must also be able to die.” he says.

One interesting approach he takes in attempting to answer the question is to “think in terms of gods dying, rather than religions”

With this assertion, he posits that when a God is no longer worshipped in any form, the religion he/she embodies dies.

The question that Andrew’s article raises in my mind is: “What if there is a God who exists even if no one worships him or believes in him?”

Does a true, living God require people to believe in him for him to exist?

The Christian God, claims to have existed since before the beginning of all things:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:1-3

And indeed, the God of the Bible passed through milennia when no one at all worshipped him or knew anything very much about him. Before Abraham’s time, no one that we know of in pre-history had created any sort of organised religion devoted solely to worshipping the creator of the world described in the Bible. People instead made religions up and worshipped stones and images of created things, rather than acknowledging the one who had actually created the world.

Speaking through the prophet Isaiah God says:

“This is what the Lord says—
    Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
    apart from me there is no God.
Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
    Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
    and what is yet to come—
    yes, let them foretell what will come.
Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
    Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
    No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

A little later, speaking about how a man uses a tree, he goes on to say:

15 It is used as fuel for burning;
    some of it he takes and warms himself,
    he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
    he makes an idol and bows down to it.
16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
    over it he prepares his meal,
    he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
    “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
    he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
    “Save me! You are my god!”
18 They know nothing, they understand nothing;
    their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
    and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
19 No one stops to think,
    no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
    I even baked bread over its coals,
    I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
    Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
20 Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
    he cannot save himself, or say,
    “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

Isaiah 44:6-20

It’s funny, isn’t it? The God described in the Bible would agree with Andrew Brown’s article: Religions rise based on the delusions of men and therefore die because they have no basis in truth or in fact.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was indeed a living God who was real and not a lie. A God who didn’t need men to worship him in order to have self-validation.

I worship that God. His name is Jesus Christ.

 

Hell Hath No Fury.

Wiiliam Congreve is the originator of the misquoted phrase “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.

The original goes like this:

Heav’n has no rage like love to hatred turn’d
Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d.

But, I had my eyes opened today by a friend, to the fact that for a Christian Hell hath no fury – at all – full stop.

Through our faith in the death of Jesus Christ as the substitute for our own death, we no longer have to fear the fury of Hell. Christ died in our place to pay for the sins we have committed. Sins which amount to a certain death penalty with no hope for reprieve; the sin must be paid for – by someone.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. John 3:36

With our sins dealt with in Christ, we have heaven to look forward to and that forever.

Imagine that. Stretch a piece of string from one side of your room to another and imagine that it represents the first one million years of your eternal life. Life on earth will only be a millimetre of that string’s length.

I’m not a good person, and never will be. I’m just saved. There are many people I know who are better people than me in every way. But the Bible says that everyone of them has sinned, just as I have, no matter how much better than me they are as good people.

An everyone’s sin must be paid for with death. Everyone must die the second death to pay for sin, unless someone who is able to dies in their place.

The second death is Hell, which by the way is not fun, as our culture would have us believe. It will not be a place where you drink and party and have fun with your friends.

 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. Matthew 13:37-43

If you haven’t arranged for someone to pay for your sin through their own death, then you must pay for it with your own death.

Make arrangements now.

Accept the offer of Jesus Christ to die for your sins.

All you need to do is accept his offer:

  • Accept that you have sinned and need him to die in your place.
  • Make a conscious decision to stop living your life in a way which would introduce more sin into it. Turn away from sin and change your mind about how you will live from now on.
  • Ask Jesus to forgive you for the sins you’ve committed
  • Start to live the way he wants you to live as outlined in the Bible and keep talking to Jesus as you do
  • Done!

Hell hath no fury for you any longer!

Are you a player or a pretender?

Many people in Australia identify themselves as Christians.

Many people in Australia also like to follow football.

If you are going to call yourself a footballer, BUT

  • you don’t know the rules of football
  • you don’t sacrifice your own time to do the things footballers do
  • you don’t go to weekly training sessions
  • you don’t have the boots and gear for playing football
  • you don’t turn up to play football each weekend with the team
  • you don’t work as a team on the field
  • you don’t listen to your coach and captain

then you are not a footballer.

 

If you are going to call yourself a Christian BUT

  • you don’t read the Bible
  • you don’t know what Jesus Christ actually taught in the Bible
  • you don’t sacrifice your own time to do the things Christ wants you to do
  • you don’t try to live by the teachings of Jesus Christ
  • you don’t meet regularly with Christians to encourage each other in your faith
  • you don’t talk to God or listen to him when he tells you how to play the “Christian’ game
  • more importantly, if you have not actually and specifically decided to stop living a life that is not pleasing to God
  • and if you have not accepted God’s offer of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
  • and if you do not have the Holy Spirit living in you (Romans 8:9)

then you are not a Christian.

Is God Trying to Tell Us Something?

Last week I was watching TV and was mildly amused to hear Adam Hills, in his comedy show “The Last Leg” (episode 4 with Jack Dee), declare ‘it’s as if God is saying “What else do I have to do people?”‘ He was referring to a week in which a series of extraordinary events were manifested, including lightning hitting the Vatican twice in the same week that the Pope resigned, an end of the world prophecy and a meteor hitting Russia.

Then, just this morning on the radio I heard a commentator say that all of the wild weather in Australia recently is making people sit back and wonder if there is some reason for it all. Of course he was referring to climate change from global warming, rather than a sign from a deity, but the two similar comments, coming to my attention so swiftly one after another, made me think.

Adam Hills is not a Christian, and in fact opposes some Christian views strongly, and the climate change commentator is also not a Christian, but isn’t it interesting that these two observations from vastly different spheres, both arise from a curiosity over events which are gaining world-wide attention. People are asking questions, “What on earth is going on?” They are taking notice of the changes and trying to find answers.

But are these world-impacting events arising from a “mythical” mysterious supernatural God, or can they be simply explained by science and rational reason?

According to the Bible, God is trying to tell us something.

Jesus says:

“When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” Matthew 16:2-3

Again Jesus says in Matthew 24:

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains … Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it  is near, right at the door. Matthew 24:4-33

Christians are familiar with these verses and are probably already interpreting such events as a sign that the return of Christ is drawing nearer, but what is so interesting to me is that even non-believers, who mock the idea of a supernatural God have noticed that something is going on.

This reminds me of the verse from Roman 1:20:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

If people were without excuse for not recognising and turning to God merely from the evidence of the created world, how much more damning will it be for them when, in response to unusual world-wide events, they acknowledge that “Maybe God is trying to tell us something”, yet still fail to respond to that warning?

 
 

Gay Rights Double Standards and the Seeds of Widespread Religious Persecution

I’ve got to agree with Michel Brown and his article “Gay Rights Activists can’t put the Church in the Closet” in Charisma Magazine, speaking briefly about the double standards which the gay lobby  use when they oppose the right of Christians to follow their faith.

I fear that the “equal rights for everyone” push which we are seeing in the west right now, will be the catalyst for the beginning of severe persecution of Christians.

In fact, I think here in Australia it will lead to unprecedented persecution of Christians.

Gays, Atheists, and a largely Agnostic Australian populace, have trouble understanding that when you follow the Christian faith, it involves your whole being and all of your time. You can’t be a Christian only in Church on Sundays and in your own home.

Jesus Christ admonishes the Pharisees of his day:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Christians cannot be Christians on the outside only. We can’t believe what we believe only in the privacy of our homes. We need to live out our faith from the moment we wake up all throughout each day until the moment we go to sleep. This includes in our workplaces, our sports, our clubs, our private lives and our public lives.

Speaking out against the double standards of Gay rights activists, Atheists and the sentiment of the post-Christian world,  when it denounces freedom of religion, is just a small part of our adhering to the principles of our faith.

I’ll end this post with a quote from Bill Muehlenberg in Christianity Today:

Not long ago Western Christians used to read about the horrible persecution of the church in Communist countries such as the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. We read about the great exploits and sufferings of Richard Wurmbrand (Tortured for Christ), Haralan Popov (Tortured for his Faith), Brother Andrew (God’s Smuggler) and others who ministered amidst great hardship and opposition in Communist lands.I read these books with fascination and horror when I was a young believer in the 1970s. Little did I realise that within a few short decades some of these Communist nations would no longer be under the jackboot of atheistic Communism, but that the “free” West would quickly begin to take their place.

Sure, the US does not yet have its own Gulag, and Australia has not yet set up concentration camps for those troublesome Christians. But the way things are heading, it may not be all that far off. Increasingly it is becoming very risky indeed to publically proclaim your Christian faith in the secular post-Christian West.

In God’s Sight

In God’s Sight

YCBC 14th October 2012

Consider for a moment: what is your opinion of yourself?

Now take a moment longer and consider: what do you think is God’s opinion of you?

Usually the opinion we have of ourselves influences the way we think God views us.

If I think I’m a dirty sinner, God must think I’m a dirty sinner.

But what does the Bible say is God’s opinion of us?

Making Furniture

I sometimes make furniture. When I’ve finished a piece, I’ll put it in its place in the house and then I’ll stand in front of it and just look at it.

“Wow,” I say to myself, “I made that!”

Over the next few weeks my wife will catch me standing in front of the piece of furniture with the same amazed look.

“Look what I made!”

I’m delighted in my creation.

GOD ALSO DELIGHTS IN HIS CREATION

God has the same reaction to his creations.

In Genesis Chapter 1 God does the same thing at the end of every day of creation except for one – the second day.

And at the end of the sixth day Genesis says:

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31

Just like me when I make furniture, God stands back and looks at what he has made and goes “Wow, look what I made!”

God delights in his creations. God delights in you because you are his creation. He stands back and looks at you and goes “Wow, look what I made! Isn’t he/she wonderful!”

So at the most basic level, you and I have an inherent value which delights God just because he made us. Right from the beginning we are delightful to him. So that’s our starting point. We start off in a good position.

Yes, our sinfulness causes him grief, but still at the most primitve level, we are delightful to God because he made us. But for those of us who have accepted Christ’s over of salvation the news only gets better.

HOLY, BLAMELESS, ABOVE REPROACH

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. Colossians 1:21-23

Two things we need to explore in that passage.

1) The word before there is translated from the Greek κατενώπιον which can also be translated directly in front of, or in the sight of.

So IN GOD”S SIGHT we are holy, blameless and above reproach.

Holy – we are set apart for God

Blameless and above reproach – God can find no fault in us, no blame, nothing to correct in us, nothing to disapprove of.

This is an important concept. From God’s point of view we have a standing which is different to our own self-image of ourselves.

In God’s sight, we have taken on the attributes of Christ.

When we believed in Christ, he took our sin and we took on his attributes. A swap happened which left us looking wonderful in God’ sight.

2) The second thing we need to explore is the fact that in order to stay looking wonderful in God’s sight, we need to continue in our faith in him. As long as we remain in Christ, actively living out our faith, we can be assured that we have good standing before God.

And that good standing is wonderful.

LOVED, FORGIVEN

We all know that through faith in Christ we are loved and forgiven.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. 1 John 2:12

But there is more:

WASHED, SANCITIFIED, JUSTIFIED

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. Romans 5:1-2

Sanctified – separated unto God, set apart for a holy purpose.

And there is more:

RIGHTEOUS

Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. Romans 4:4-5

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. Romans 3:22

But wait there’s more:

GLORIFIED

And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:30

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17

Stop for a minute and think about this, because this is incredible.

So these verses are telling us that we will be glorified, in fact we have already been glorified, but specifically, if we share in Christ’s sufferings, we will also share in his glory.

Is that for real?

I’ve done nothing to deserve forgiveness and salvation. How then can I be eligible for sharing in the glory which Christ receives? I don’t deserve that. Do you deserver to be glorified with Christ? When I first read this and realised what it was saying, my jaw dropped. It is jaw-dropping stuff.

But there is still more:

IN THE ROYAL FAMILY

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will… Ephesians 1:4-5

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13

And more:

INHERITANCE

Being part of the royal family means we are given an inheritance in the Kingdom of God.

In him we have obtained an inheritance… Ephesians 1:11

In him you also … were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14

So not only do we become God’s children, promised an inheritance in heaven, but we are told that there IS NO DOUBT that we will receive this inheritance!

NO DOUBT – it is guaranteed! If we have accepted Christ’s offer of salvation and we have received the seal of God’s ownership – the Holy Spirit – then we are GUARANTEED that we take possession of our inheritance. We are guaranteed that we will go to heaven.

Right there is another jaw-dropping moment!

We have hope that we will go to heaven. We have faith that we will go to heaven, but this verse tells us we are absolutely guaranteed to go to heaven. No doubt, no uncertainty, no ifs or buts. We WILL go to haven to receive our inheritance! As long as we remain in Christ, of course.

But wait there’s more:

LEGALLY PERFECT

Here’s another jaw-dropping verse: In Christ we have perfectly fulfilled the O.T. Law!

By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4

What?

So in Christ, we have never eaten bacon, we have sacrificed doves and sheep and goats at the temple in Jerusalem,as required by the law, we have observed all of the festivals and the periods of cleansing, we have been circumcised, we have brought the firstfruits of our produce as tithe, and we have perfectly observed all of the commandments of the law.

Being in Christ has incredible benefits!

To sum up then: IN GOD’S SIGHT we are:

Valuable, delightful

Holy, Blameless, Above Reproach

Loved, Forgiven

Washed, Sanctified, Justified

Righteous

Glorified

His Children

In summary, we are Perfect!

When God looks at us in Christ, he sees perfection in us.

There is no longer any sin, no fault, no blemish, nothing to accuse us of, no imperfection, no guilt, no weakness.

We are perfect, complete, holy and delightful in his sight.

CHRIST PERFECTS US

In fact there was a preacher who said exactly the same thing 114 years ago.

This is a small part of what what he had to say:

When Jesus died, each one of us who believe in Jesus died in Him. And when He suffered, we suffered in Christ. Our sins were laid on Christ’s head and now, Christ’s merits are laid on us… Believers are, in Christ, perfect—every one of them!

I tell you, Christian, you are complete in Him, you are perfect in Christ Jesus! Having been washed in His blood, clothed with His righteousness, united to His Person, you are, this moment, perfect in Him!

From the Sermon ‘Perfection in Christ’ by C.H. Spurgeon JULY 31, 1898.

I’ve borrowed a point from his sermon to demonstrate that what God thinks of you is not influenced by what we think about ourselves. What we think about ourselves does not matter. It does not influence what God thinks about us. His opinion of us is formed independently.

The first chapter of the Song of Solomon demonstrates this:

She: Do not gaze at me because I am dark,

because the sun has looked upon me.

My mother’s sons were angry with me;

they made me keeper of the vineyards,

but my own vineyard I have not kept!

Song of Solomon 1:6

The woman (the church or an individual Christian) doesn’t want the man (Christ) to look at her because she is sunburned and wrinkled and dirty. I am unpleasant to look at, I am not beautiful, she says. The man though, couldn’t care less what she thinks of herself. To him she is simply beautiful.

He: Behold, you are beautiful, my love;

behold, you are beautiful;

your eyes are doves.

Song of Solomon 1:15

He’s smitten, hard core. Just the same way as God is smitten with us.

God says to us, “I don’t care what you say, to me you are beautiful in Christ and will always be beautiful.”

SO…

All of this is astounding information, but what practical use does it have for my life?

These are just words, big theological ideas, concepts.

Well, there are lots of ways this knowledge can be useful to us.

I want to touch briefly, though, on just three points.

Firstly we need to think about what we’ve learned here today. We need to meditate on it. We are perfect in God’s sight. Without stain, without sin, without guilt, to God there is no fault in us.

And this is all because of our faith in Jesus Christ. Keep this in mind as we look at three points arising from this fact.

FLOW ON EFFECTS

So we’ve got to this point based on our faith. Now let’s think about some of the flow on effects.

Let’s apply some logic to what we’ve learned. For example :

By faith we are righteous in God’s sight, therefore…

God hears our prayers

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer… 1 Peter 3:12

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16

The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
Proverbs 15:29

Our righteousness in Christ means we are assured that he hears us when we pray. So we should be encouraged to pray more!

In Ancient Israel the temple of God had a Most Holy Place. It was the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept and it was God’s special dwelling place amongst his people. No one was allowed into the Most Holy Place except the High Priest and then only once a year. It was separated from the Holy Place by a 2 inch thick curtain. When Christ died, the curtain was torn in two.

So that now, because we are righteous in Christ we can enter the Most Holy Place, walk with confidence right up to God and whisper our prayers into his ear. And we know that he hears us.

We need to take advantage of this position we have with God and pray on the behalf of others. We have a place of privilege before God and he wants us to approach him boldly and with confidence when we pray.

CHANGE OUR WORLD VIEW

Roman Bath in Caesarea

Over 2000 years ago, some Roman workers built formwork for a bath in Caesarea in Ancient Israel.

They poured concrete into the formwork, all runny and sloppy, but before long it started to set. It set so rock hard that the ruins for that bath still exist in Israel today. Once it was set, that concrete could not be moved, not by wind or weather, not by anything.

God wants us to set our minds on things above in the same way that concrete from Ancient Israel set.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.1 Peter 1:13

God wants us to change the focus of our lives so they are centred on him and his kingdom.

In Chris we are perfect in his God’s sight. Our future is wholly assured. We know where we are going once we die In fact we are guaranteed of a place in heaven. Heaven is our superannuation scheme . We need to start adding voluntary contributions to that scheme.

Tim and Jo are going to Russia in 14 months, but already they are preparing for the trip. They are learning the language, setting up support networks and setting their minds on where they will be in the near future.

We are going to heaven anywhere between now and 90 years from now. We don’t know when. But we also should also be getting ready for it right now. We’ll be spending the rest of forever there so any investment we make now will be well worth it.

We need to change our view of the world to put our present lives into perspective. We need to start thinking more about our amazing future and investing our time and effort into it.

And finally…

REJOICE!

I’ve been a Christian for over 30 years now and I’ve thought before about the way God sees me as perect in his sight. My response has been to worship him, to praise him and to give thanks him. But there is one thing which the Bible tells us to do which I have hardly ever done.

I hardly ever rejoice.

I guess I have always just expected joy to rise up automatically from somewhere inside me with no effort on my part, but that’s not the way the Bible describes how we should rejoice.

In Scripture we are told to rejoice as an imperative. In other words it’s delivered as a command.

So to obey the Bible’s call to rejoice, we need to make a party in our hearts where there isn’t one. We need to rejoice on purpose, as a deliberate choice.

And when we look at the way God looks upon us, rejoicing seems to be the most natural response.

So, let’s finish with Paul’s words from Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Philippians 4:4