Articles

Warnings

Blaming your parents for teaching you to do wrong might work in the cousellors office but if you know that your parents were wrong you have already enough information to live differently.

The problem with issuing warnings is that you often arm people with excuses later on. Take for example the warnings expressed in the Ten Commandments against idolatry. Engage in it, warns God and you will not only bring down judgment upon yourself but also your children to the third and even the fourth generation.

They very quickly ignored the warning and brought down upon themselves the wrath of God. The problem was that when the prophets turned up on the scene to tell them why God had punished them they cried foul. “The father’s eat sour grapes” they said “And the children’s teeth are set on edge!” Their argument in a nutshell was that they had suffered for the bad decisions their parents had made. They were the helpless victims of commandment number two.

There are many today that subscribe to similar theories just recently for example a local pastor told his congregation that if any of them had trouble handling money it was probably because one of their ancestors had handled money badly. I assume the cure then is a jolly good exorcism to get rid of the family demon.

Ezekiel dealt with this problem very clearly. He made it clear that the only time you need to be punished for what your father did is when you decide to follow in his footsteps. Naturally there is a tendency for children to do that, thus the warning in the commandment, but the same commandments promises great blessings for those that Love the Lord and obey him.

At the end of the day each one of us is personally accountable for the way we have lived.

Ezekiel spelt it out very clearly and comprehensively by giving examples of the kind of people that will be declared righteous and the ones that won’t. You can read it for yourself in chapter 18. He speaks for example about a man who makes lots of good decisions about the way he lives he avoids offending God and is declared righteous. Such a man however might have a rebellious son who goes out of his way to be an offence to God he will be put to death and the punishment will be on his own head. But then what if that man has a son who turns to God and seeks to avoid sin as his grandfather did? Will he escape the curse of his father? Absolutely says Ezekiel!

The point is that the only time we need to cop what our father’s copped is when we do the sinful things our father did.

God is a God with open arms to welcome anyone who takes a step towards him. While its true that only the elect are saved it is also true that God does not delight in anyone’s death. This means that his preference is by far to offer grace he wants you to have it and will give it freely if you turn to him.

The mystery of predestination and our ability to make choices is a difficult one but you can be sure that if you truly want to be saved from the idolatry in this world you will be.

Live Honestly if You Believe in Grace

If you believe that God acts graciously towards us you can afford to live a transparent life

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isa 1:18)

Let’s get it straight, God did not reject his people because they were sinners. That would be like rejecting a cat because it purrs or a dog because it wags it tail. We cannot ever be anything else but sinful because it’s the nature we inherited from Adam. God hates sin but he has great compassion for us in our sinful state because he sees the pain it causes us.

When Isaiah went among the people to preach repentance he wasn’t calling them to a pristinely sinless life, he was calling them to relationship and a different attitude towards sin. Most particularly he was calling them to be honest about it.

He told them that God was a God who could be reasoned with come to him honestly confessing your sin and you will be forgiven. In fact he has to forgive you because he made a covenant saying he would. This covenant is signed in the blood of Jesus, sealed by the Holy Spirit and delivered by the Gospel that has been preached round the world. This truth, says Jesus, is more certain and more permanent than the universe itself.

How hurtful then it must be that people even those that claim to be his people still want to live dishonestly. Dishonesty is Pride’s most cherished friend. Our covering up the truth is the same as saying that we no longer want God in our lives that we would rather take our punishment in Hell than to be honest with him. It is the absolute enemy of grace because it denies the very substance of God’s plan of salvation for this universe.

There is nothing more prone to disaster than a relationship based on dishonesty. Every parent will tell you that they can cope with just about anything their children do except lying because the liar is saying “I place so little value in our relationship and your love that am prepared to live in deceit I don’t want you to know the truth because I don’t want you to know me”.

James tells us there is only one way for a Christian to live: “Above all, my brothers, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned”. (James 5:12)

What he is saying is that we are to live transparent honest lives before God and before mankind. We have been saved from eternal separation from God by the Living Word. This word is truth and it is the only thing that can set us free.

When you deny truth you burn the bridge that can take you to salvation. Paul tells us that we are to avoid like the plague the temptation to crawl back into our old life of condemnation, shame and broken relationships. This means above all else that we stop being dishonest and tell the truth.

It’s a bit scary, but it is safer in the long run and it beats having to have an infallible memory.

Does God ever wish He wasn’t God?

Being created with a desire to love and be loved is great, but it also causes us no end of pain

I wonder if God ever wishes he wasn’t God? He doesn’t of course but I tell you sometimes I wish I wasn’t human! It’s really hard at times, we are at a terrible disadvantage – God has created us to be such gregarious things and so we are incredibly vulnerable and at times insecure in our relationships.

How many times have you walked away from an encounter feeling hurt by a word out of place – or a particular look or some inappropriate body language? How many times have you let that brew and fester inside you for days or even weeks and then slandered the person who did it as a way of getting revenge? How many times have you turned quite reasonable people into demons over the slightest thing then stomped around in bile up to your knees splashing it over everyone who comes near you? Then, having done all the above, how many times did you discover that the offending incident was nothing more than an unfortunate slip with no particular guile attached to it whatsoever?

“What did he mean by that?”… “How dare he …..!” “Why did his eyes suddenly fall to the ground?” “Why did he walk away just at the point?” “Why wasn’t I invited?” Why wasn’t I mentioned?”

Sound familiar? The Devil absolutely relishes the opportunity to use your insecurity and sensitivity as ingredients for a nice dangerous brew of festering resentment, slander and division, he has even managed a good murder or two over the slightest remark at times. How he loves to convince you that you have a right to be loved and then make you feel that the rest of the human race has conspired to rob you of that right!

Its funny, but have you noticed that the Bible never tells you to march into a church and demand to be loved – It simply orders you to love others. I guess God knew that if you make a half reasonable stab at that you might get a bit in return. But if you do happen to miss out, he’s promised to make it up to 100 fold when you turn up in Heaven. That’s partly why they call it heaven, I guess.

Our Lord also knows how we are easily offended so he gave us a very wise command to deal with it; “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother”. Mat 18:15.

Go on! Tell him that you are hurting. I know you’ll feel a bit silly if he tells you he didn’t mean it but in the end its got to be a whole lot more effective than what you might be doing now, and its actually commanded of you.

The reason we don’t do it is very simple – pride – we like to give it other names but that is what it is. We hate the idea of admitting that we might be just a bit too human and easily offended or that we have misread the situation so we just let it brew and tough it out. We make all kinds of dire predictions about the way the other person will react without ever putting it to the test.

If Jesus is your Lord and not just your ticket to Heaven you will take him seriously but if you want to disobey him all that’s left for you is the Devil and he’s got a whole list of people for you to hate. If you don’t deal with your hurts in the way Jesus has instructed you, then all that is left is Satan’s approach.

Regards

Warren Hicks

Fun with Dick & Jane

High Church attendance in the west didn't make Jesus any more welcome in the marketplace of life

If you were educated anytime between 1930 and the mid sixties you would probably have learned to read with the help of Dick and Jane readers. The series was so much part of our culture that it inspired a film comedy in 1977 starring Jane Fonda which has been re-made with Jim Carry and due for release any moment.

In the words of one fond reader; “Sally, Dick and Jane, were and still are real youngsters to many of us, they played amusing pranks, dressed up in father’s and mother’s clothes, played with their toys, visited grandmother and grandfather on the farm, romped with their pets.. they did many of the things that us healthy, wide-awake youngsters delighted in doing, and children today still love doing. More importantly, they taught us to read, and they made us want more stories – furthering our interest in reading”.

Yes they did everything that normal western kids did in our wonderfully blessed western capitalist society but somehow they never went to church nor did they every hear or partake in a single conversation about God.

Quite strange really when one considers that they were most in use when church attendance was at its peak. At a time when almost everyone considered with pride that they were Christian simply because they belonged to a Christian country.

What makes this really sad is that in Moslem and Hindu, Buddhist and communist countries, the deities of choice featured very much in the normal school curriculum. No Chinese child would be without his copy of chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, no Moslem child would get through his school years without being able to recite huge slabs of the Quran. And it didn’t stop at religious classes; every subject from art to mathematics was tailored to ensure that the child would see the world through the eyes of their idol.

Our God is the creator of the universe every scientific law and every true idea originates with him. He is the one that created our brain, gave us a yearning for knowledge and understanding, not to mention the ability to form sentences and to record those thoughts on paper in the form of symbolic language. He is sovereign over all things and he is the only source of truth that can help us interpret and unite the truths from every academic discipline, yet he was barred from our schools and universities.

He was kept hidden in a world of stain glassed windows, where sixteenth century English was spoken in strange religious tones by men in dresses and women in hats they’d never be seen in anywhere else. We did our best to ensure that he didn’t sneak out of the stone houses we build for him, nor interfere with our lives from Monday to Saturday.

Anyone visiting the West then and now must wonder what it is that Jesus has done to cause us to be so embarrassed about him. Most of all they would wonder why we would want to go to so much trouble to shield our children from him. Dick and Jane loved to watch Spot run but they never seemed to wonder what gave him the ability to do it. Not surprising that we still find it so hard to integrate our faith with the real world.

Matephobia, The fear with Eternal Consequences

The most irrational fears are those that distract you from the things you aught to be afraid of. Mates are like that.

Time once ran an article on phobias. It showed that there were literally thousands of things that people can have an irrational fear of. Apart from common things like insects, heights and confined spaces there were people who were afraid of roosters, fish, otters and even mushrooms. And what young boy hasn’t been afraid of that monster under the bed?

Humans often develop irrational fears as a way of hiding from rational ones. It helps them to isolate the fear in something simple with which they can cope, rather than the real fear with which they can’t. But what happens is that the intensity that rightly belongs to the rational fear is associated with the irrational one. Like the person who feels the fear of death (rational) every time they see a #OOPS#roach (irrational).

The most obvious fear is the fear of death. This fear is perfectly rational because life is very precious and we like to prolong it as long as we can. But facing death rationally means facing up to God rationally. Deep down we all realise that God, the creator of life is the only one with the power to do something for us after we die but we are a very proud bunch who would rather face death than admit to God that we need to be forgiven.

The thing we are most afraid of is matephobia, that is an irrational fear of what my mates might think if I got serious about God. The trouble is we have heard the conversations – even engaged in them ourselves. Rubbishing the church, ridiculing Christians, making fun of anyone who believes in God.

Having flown our flag so high up the pole we are not too ready to let anyone catch us lowering it by doing something as radical as admitting we might have been wrong.

It takes courage, but all the doctors who deal with phobias agree – the only way to cure people of irrational fear is for them to face up to it. Once you do that you realise that there really wasn’t anything to be afraid of.

This is also true of matephobia. In fact people who face this one are always surprised to find that rather than derision they sometimes get a little respect from their mates when they decide to make a stand for Christ.

“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

Now there is a fear that makes sense!

The Spiritual Bedside Manner of a Passionate Preacher

Who do you most need when your life's at stake?

Some thoughts from Jeremiah 8.

To be called a Jeremiah is to be accused of being extremely negative about the human race. He was a little like the modern journalist in that he had a lot of negative things to report. However, unlike our journalists he told the truth and there was a good deal of consistency in what he said. He didn’t make the stupid mistake of thinking there was still hope in humanity in spite of the things they did. When he sat down to write about the evil in his world he didn’t do it so he would have some juicy stories to excite his readers and increase the circulating of his book. He wrote so that the people of God could see exactly what they had turned themselves into.

He lays the charges before them: “they cling to deceit”, “they do not say what is right” “No one repents of his wickedness” “Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle” He exposes their futility: “Since they have rejected the Lord what kind of wisdom do they have?”

His greatest condemnation was towards the ones who were meant to be spiritual leaders: “Prophets and priests alike all practice deceit, they dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace peace’ they say when there is no peace”

A while ago Anglican Philip Jensen, denounced the Archbishop of Canterbury, the world leader of the Church of England, as a theological prostitute who took his salary under false pretences. Heavy stuff even from Phillip but was he right in saying what he did?

Some back here in Sydney were quick to distance themselves. Even those who might privately agree with the sentiments thought Philip had been intemperate in his comments. Philip has a reputation for being less than diplomatic at times but he at least takes the predicament of his church seriously.

When people in medicine are caught acting against the ethics or standards of their profession they are firmly dealt with because lives are at stake. How much more important is a person’s eternal life? If we refuse to tolerate slackness and a disregard for the truth in medicine, why is it that so many people can be so cavalier when it comes to spiritual things?

God spoke through Jeremiah to a nation who thought they could fiddle with the truth of His word and get away with. It cost him dearly he was hated and persecuted, even accused and found guilty of treason. However Jeremiah was faithful because he knew that he was dealing with incredibly important matters.

How important is the truth to you?

Who offends you most people who adjust God’s truth to fit their fancy or the likes of Philip Jenson who occasionally embarrass us with his forthrightness? When my life’s at stake I want more than good bedside manner, I want a man who takes me seriously enough to tell me the truth I cannot be saved any other way.