Dollars and Sense!

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I have been reading a book called “The complete idiots guide to money”. It talks about the seeking of money, the keeping of money and the attitudes required spending money wisely. It talks about buying cars, houses and businesses. Also the risks involved in trying to make money by various forms of gambling. From a non Christian perspective it is full of common sense.

I ask myself, if I were to amend this book from a Christian perspective, what would I have to change?

If I went the advocates of the prosperity gospel, they would no doubt tell me to increase my faith and give more in donations, in the assurance that it would return to me a thousand fold in earthly and heavenly wealth.

They may not agree with my distant cousin Henry Ford who said “Wealth is never attained when sought after directly. It always comes as a by-product of providing a useful service.”

In the sport of “fencing” the secret is to keep a grip on the foil but not holding it too tightly, so as to maintain fluidity.

So even from a Christian point of view the earning and saving of money should not prevent the wise and generous enjoyment of it.

The same applies to storing away for future need. Making wise provision is one thing; terrified hoarding against a disaster that may never come is another.

As our Lord Jesus says,

34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

As the writers of this book point out. Many people are handicapped by their past and worried about the future, but we only live in today. How we live today will largely dictate what our lives will be like in the future. If we are making ourselves miserable today with our wails and wants, the chances are the future will bring more of the same.

To live for Christ does not make our daily bread and support irrelevant but are no longer or shouldn’t be our primary concern.

They are right who say we need more faith when it comes to the obtaining and spending of money but they are wrong when they make it both the means and the end.https://i1.wp.com/www.epm.org/static/uploads/images/blog/wesley-giving-quote.jpg

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“A group of sunday school students were discussing the first spiritual reaction which occurred on a persons first believing. Faith, hope , love, or trust etc.. They could not reach a conclusion. An older man listening to them asked ” Which spoke moved the wheel first?”from feathers for arrows by C.H. Spurgeon

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Dollars and Sense!

The Scroll and the Lamb

The issue today is not so much about equality as about right and wrong.

 

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5 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:1-5

I wonder why the Apostle John was so anxious to see the many sealed scroll opened. When you see the terrible judgments which came upon the earth as a result of the scrolls opening you would tend to think it would have better stayed closed.

During the entirety of man’s existence He has been on the receiving end of God’s continued blessing in earthly things. While God’s judgments have occurred throughout history by  and large mankind has enjoyed the benevolence which falls on good and bad alike.

Unfortunately God’s goodness, instead of turning the heart of man back to his maker in worship and gratitude, has prompted man to exalt himself and turn further away from his benefactor.

The great sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of as many, who believe, has left most none the better but rather the worse by adding the sin of unbelief to their other sins.

While none of us enjoy the prospect of dire judgment falling on man and creation, it is when we see God’s great mercy and Christ’s salvation rejected that the consequences of sin are seen as inevitable.

Let us pray the many will be awakened to their danger and Flee to Jesus Christ in faith.

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I used to think that if I once told this wondrous story
of “Free Grace and dying love,” everybody would believe it.
But I have long since learned that so hard
is the heart of man that
he will sooner be damned
than be saved by Christ!
Well, you must make your choice, Sirs. You must make your choice
 for yourselves—only do me this one favor when you
have made your choice—do not blame me for having tried to persuade
 you to act more wisely than I fear your choice will be.
from a sermon by C.H. Spurgeon ,”Flee from the Wrath to come”. no 2704.

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Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.Psalm 23:4

From our human perspective we are everyday surrounded by death. Young people may think they are indestructible but they too have car accidents, overdose on alcohol and drugs or are stricken by disease.

Death is a Terror that we all must face.

David in this Psalm may be talking about the great danger of capture and death he faced daily or he may be considering Death itself. Either way he it is the “Shadow” only the shadow of death and darkness he sees before him.

For the believer both Old and New Testament, Christ has removed the sting of Death and Hell, only a scary shadow  remains. It has become nothing more than a door which closes on the things of earth and opens to God th Father’s exalted heavenly presence.

While we may face its earthly terrors, and even these are mitigated by Christ having gone before us and constant nearness to us, it cannot touch us in Heaven.

We notice here that is God’s rod and staff that comfort us. It is the rod that, while it chastises us, also reminds us that God chastises and disciplines those whom he loves. The staff reminds us of the constant support and protection we have as sheep in the “Great Shepherd’s fold”.

Let us be prepared and take comfort from this imperishable hope in Christ.

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The Scroll and the Lamb

The Silence of God?

Sir Robert Anderson wrote a book called “the Silence of God”. The purpose of the book was to deal with atheism’s claim that God’s non intervention and seeming inactivity in the woes of human existence, Christian or otherwise, was proof of His non-existence.

“A silent Heaven! Yes, but it is not the silence of callous indifference or helpless weakness.

It is the silence of a great sabbatic rest, the silence of a peace which is absolute and

profound­­ silence which is the public pledge and proof that the way is open for the

guiltiest of mankind to draw near to God. When faith murmurs, and unbelief revolts, and

men challenge the Supreme to break that silence and declare Himself, how little do they

realize what the challenge means! It means the withdrawal of the amnesty; it means the

end of the reign of grace; it means the closing of the day of mercy and the dawning of the

day of wrath. Robert Anderson “The Silence of God”.”

While the Christian in times of trial and sorrow may be perplexed by God’s seeming distance and inactivity ,we remember that Christ Himself went through the same experience.

Anything we go through is made the worse by our grief stricken blindness.We can not see that God is there and abides with us.

It may be trite to say but this life is not all there is. Our sorrows and sufferings although they may be sharp are in the measure of eternity short.

God will deliver but when is up to Him. When He seems to smite He also upholds. If we could understand all the ways of God, He would not be God. For the believer in days like these faith our great need

But if the Christian has such difficulties in time of stress and strain, where will the unbeliever be found? The non christian’s sufferings will be equivalent to jumping from the frying fan into the fire.

“No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish Luke 13 :3”

“From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
Matt. 4:17

 

In our day one could look at the Church and its silence on society’s rampant sin and immorality and make the same claim. Either parts of the church do not believe in sin, Hell and the need for repentance or they are embarrassed by them and have been howled down by the advocates of human sin in the name of freedom.

While it is true Christ in his ministry did not hit people over the head repeatedly with their sin, he never ignored it either. If His agony of the Cross says anything it is that sin has a terrible price. While we can honestly own our sinfulness and to being sinners this does not mean that salvation gives anyone a license to sin.

Even in this world sin has its consequences. People will rush into God displeasing ways of thinking and believing, they inevitably lead down to ruin . Sorrow and suffering  devoid of Christ’s comfort and heaven’s home and rest for His children, is the inescapable result of life lived in disobedience to God and rejecting so great a salvation freely offered to all.

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The  Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well at Sychar was not the sort of person you would expect to take an interest in the religious and theological arguments of the day. It obviously did not carry over into her moral behavior as her past and present living arrangements would suggest.https://i1.wp.com/www.swordofthespirit.net/bulwark/samaritan-woman-at-the-well01sm.jpg

Everybody has an opinion about politics and religion and other burning topics. We can all speculate and theorise till the cows come home. Like this woman our high minded opinions and search for truth and enlightenment do not  stop  our self indulgence and desire for gratification of sinful desires.

It is only by meeting Jesus that our pretences and façade are brushed aside and the sordid reality is held up to the light.

We see in Jesus’ dealing with the women no overt condemnation. While He acknowledged the sinful state she was living in ,He does not labour the fact. He instead offers her the water of life in the knowledge that those who drink that water receive cleansing and deliverance from sin’s bondage.

There is here a mixture of truth and tact that we would all do well to emulate. We are to speak out against sin in all its forms but in dealing with sinners we must remember that it is their salvation we seek not their condemnation.

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The Silence of God?

False Worship!

11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. Acts 14:11-18

 

The story of Paul and Barnabas’s visit to Lystra gives a vivid picture of the fickleness of human adulation and idolatry. After performing a miracle of healing on a lame man, the crowd attributed to them status of two Roman gods, Zeus and Hermes.

The only effect this had on the two men was one of horror and it took all the missionaries persuasion to prevent them making sacrifices to them.

This admiration did not last long because a group of Jewish rabble rousers stirred up the people against them with the result that Paul was stoned but thankfully survived.

While the bringers of the Christian message are not likely to be idolized by the masses some Christians fall into this trap. The phenomenon of tele- evangelists has this tendency. They become “Christian” “Oprah Winfreys” or “Dr Phils” etc.

In the wider world this is seen in the pop cults of the day. Rock stars, movie stars and Talk show hosts gather around them a host of “worshippers” for whom they can do no wrong.

The oft repeated maxim is that when people stop worshipping the true God they will gladly worship anything else.

While the result of this Idolatry may not turn ugly as it did at Lystra, it will end badly. God is not mocked. All those who set up and make anything a substitute for Him will reap frustration and despair, both here and in eternity.

The Christian must do as these two men of God did and redirect our worship to the One to whom it rightfully belongs.

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The Gentleness of God

 

Maurice Roberts in his book “the Thought of God” draws attention to the stunning effects of God’s gentleness. He says that while we in the church are impressed by great events and large scale ministries and the mighty works of the Spirit, God more often works among us in ways of gentleness and stillness.

As we see in the story of Elijah, God was not in the wind and fire as much as in the still small voice. This is not to preclude the power of God in mighty ways but shows that his power is as much seen in the ways of tenderness and peace.

Surely we experience the way  God works in our lives.  He is tender and compassionate to us in our sufferings, and while they are allowed to run their course, we are upheld and supported by him in ways we only realize afterwards.

God’s dealings with the new believer typify this gentleness in that very often they are brought to Christ  not so much by a lightning bolt but by a quiet word or the Saviour exemplified by another in normal life.

We in this bold, brash, excitement seeking church, need to look more at the gentle workings of God’s Spirit among us as typified in He who was gentleness divine.

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False Worship!

The Gates of Hell

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18 N.I.V.

G. Campbell Morgan points out that in the past this verse was taken to mean that the forces of death and hell were portrayed as attacking the Church and despite their efforts the church would remain intact. This is true and a comfort in these times of decline in morals and numbers of people attending church.

Morgan takes it as saying not so much the church being attacked but rather the church is to do the attacking and prevailing over the enemy. Perhaps instead of seeing a castle or fortress we should be thinking of a tank bursting through the gates of Hades or death.

Whether He is correct in its interpretation or not the fact remains that the Church for a long time has been for the most part on the defensive. Generally we have not been doing much to assault Satan’s kingdom and it is burgeoning out in all its baneful influence and actions.

We may deliver some from its thrall but mostly, Satan’s kingdom is untroubled by a church which no longer speaks out against wrongdoing, immorality and godlessness.

The fact that this is clearly prophesied in scripture does not excuse the Church and Christians generally, from doing their duty of proclaiming God’s hatred of sin and the need for repentance and faith in Christ. We fail also in not being examples and light bearers in a dark and getting darker world.

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 How can this be?

I wonder why Christ took the approach He did in speaking to Nicodemus. There is much in what Jesus says that even after all these centuries of study that are hard to pin down as to an exact meaning and interpretation.

If we look at another of our Saviours evening conversations, this time on the road to Emmaus, He deals with the doubt and incomprehension of these two disciples by, starting at Moses and the prophets, explaining the scriptures regarding Himself to them.

Perhaps it had more to do with Nicodemus himself.  Did he come to Jesus to confirm His credentials as one sent from God, or was it to compare notes? This great Teacher of the law came to one who was far more than just another teacher.

Nor was Christ another miracle working prophet like Elijah or Elisha. Here was one who was not only from God but was God, though veiled in flesh.

This was indeed the Messiah the Jews long expected but not here to do what they expected. Nicodemus saw no further than the temporal salvation of the Jews. Christ came to bring eternal salvation which was to encompass the whole world.

For someone like Nicodemus and his mindset it would require no less than a new  birth and a spiritual transformation to begin to understand Jesus, His teaching and the salvation which was to be accomplished by way of the Cross .

He needed to understand that the work of God’s Spirit is not something you can always predict and codify and tie up in a phylactery. It is invisible and powerful like the wind, but  can be seen and felt by its effects .

However much of what Christ said that night was understood by Nicodemus, it was not without effect. He could no longer regard Jesus and his ministry indifferently. We see in the sidelights of John’s gospel that he ,in his quiet way, became a follower of Jesus and in the end followed him boldly and at the worst of times.

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Sid Field was a famous commedian very popular in the 1940’s. . Many famous people were enormous fans of his. He was also very influential and a model to many actors and commedians by his unique manner and style.

Yet today he is virtually unknown and forgotten mainly due to lack of recordings of his act.

The believer will not be so forgotten by God. Christ will never lose any of His flock or forget their works in His name.

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The Gates of Hell

An interview with Jesus!

We are familiar with the evening conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus. Although we can never study this precious portion of scripture often enough, I am not seeking to do this here.

I would ask each of us rather in imagination to place ourselves in Nicodemus’s place. Whether by day or by night: let us come to Jesus and converse with Him.

Each one must answer for themselves what they most want to say to the Lord. We all endeavour to pray and yet a face to face conversation is more direct and immediate. True we are not at this time able to speak to Christ in the same way as we speak to our neighbors, but we can still think about what we would say to Him and what He would say to us.

There is no doubt that a great deal of trivia takes up our conversation today. Our Lord in His speech dealt with many things both small and great. Yet because He was on a mission from God and His time was short,most if not everything He said was turned to a spiritual end.  Much of what He said while on earth had an effect on people and tended to lead to conviction, either leading to change for the better or the worse in the hearer. Most of this conviction quickly faded away and the hearers were none the better for it. In some however this conviction endured and had life changing effects being accompanied by the Holy Spirit’s power.

If we were to have a conversation with Jesus I think we could expect a few hard questions and uncomfortable answers.  We may not receive the answers we were hoping for. We would most assuredly receive help with our problems and doubts. There would be admonition for our disobedience and lack of faith but yet with compassion and love undiminished.

Much of our idle curiosity would be resolved into trust in Him for the future and our daily needs.

Our complaints about our fellow believers would be resolved into “brother-love” and forgiveness.

Needless to say we would be the better for the time spent with Him. He would focus our attention on the thing most needful and not let us distract Him into abstruse topics like whether we should worship on this mountain or in Jerusalem, as the woman at the well did.

The fact that Jesus is no longer here in the flesh does not make us poorer in our Christianity. In the Word He has said all that needed to be said, it remains only for us to hear and obey.

We can certainly look forward to the day when Christ returns and bring us to Himself and then we can speak to him and He to us face to face.

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19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.John 3:19-21

If ever there was a time in the world‘s history that love spiritual darkness this is it. When the Christian church spoke out on moral issues it was listened to if only to be ignored. Now if it opens its mouth it is muzzled and told to stay out of it. In Victorian times there was the appearance of high morality and decorum and anything like a scandal was disastrous. Then sin of the times was committed in darkness and hidden under ceremonial sanctity.

Today sin is committed in the broad daylight. It does not merely ask to be condoned but expects to be applauded.

Yet the light of God still shines in the Gospel and the lovers of sin and darkness still hate it and the Christians who profess it.

Let us pray that people instead of shunning the light of Christ will draw near to it and dwell in it for all eternity.

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An interview with Jesus!

Mind at the end of its Tether

“Mind at the end of its tether’, was the title of the last book ever written by H.G. Wells before he died in 1945. He paints a bleak future for mankind with no hope at all.

Whatever way the future unfolds for this world the truth God has for us is that this world is not all there is. The choices we make here, “make or break us “, for eternity. Had Christ not died no glimmer of hope would ever had shone over this sorry world. Those who refuse Christ perpetuate their own hopelessness into eternity.

Even the Christian can give place to despair. There are no easy fixes for it but when we cannot hold on to Christ He holds on to us.

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Someone was asked whether a certain building was haunted and the reply came,”Yes but only by the living”.

It is inevitable that in the church are people who are spiritually dead with a name to live. Others are dying daily, to sin and self. They are alive in Christ and living for him day by day and will never truly die. May we be of that number.

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Made Alive in Christ

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We are taught here that in and of himself the Christian is in His original state in no better condition than the rest of mankind. We were in the same bondage and disobedient state that sin brings into the world.

These verses clearly show that it is God who makes the difference. Motivated by his own loving nature He lifts the believer up out of sin and to a new and heavenly existence. Not by bringing us all at once into heaven, but rather planting heaven into us by the indwelling Spirit of Christ.

He seats us spiritually in the heavenly places as trophies of his boundless grace. Yet no idle life is this but shows itself in an out flowing of that grace expressed through all creation, through all the ages.

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Mind at the end of its Tether