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Ministry Sandwich

Salt & Light

There was a man by the name of Anthony, who was later remembered as Anthony the Great 251-356 A.D. He is known because he purposely withdrew from society and isolated himself in the deserts of Arabia. The objective of this retreat was to find a oneness with God. During his 20 years of isolation he did not speak a single word to anyone, ate plain food and drank only water. Upon the expiration of the time he ventured back into society only to return to his cave of isolation for the remainder of his life.

Does this picture accurately portray the life that we as Christians are called to live? Of course not! Now, while we may not follow his example in practice, we can very easily follow it in principle. It is so easy to only connect with those that we feel comfortable with or those who are within our own bubble. In our fear of the world, sometimes we avoid it so much that we even avoid those that need to be saved from the world.

Jesus uses two symbols that embody the Christian’s life. He says that we are SALT and LIGHT. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:13-14. Jesus says that you are the salt and light of the world, He doesn’t say that you might be or that you can choose to be. He says that you either are or you aren’t. We are called to live for the world, not the lust of the flesh, or the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17), but for the world in the sense that there should be a life-giving quality about us. The world is made up of people, people for whom Christ has died (1 Tim 2:6). Simply put, the Christian lives for the world because Jesus died for the world.

A Ministry Sandwich

If Jesus is our example, shouldn’t we live as He lived and minister as He ministered? God doesn’t tell us to do a particular thing and then not show us how to do it. He gives us an example to mirror and this example is in the life of Jesus:

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.” Matthew 4:23.

This here is what I call Jesus’ ‘ministry sandwich.’

  • He TAUGHT in the synagogue or meeting place (we would call this the church),
    • He PREACHED the Gospel of the Kingdom and
  • He HEALED the people in Galilee (which was His community).

The bread of this ministry sandwich is in the teaching and healing acts of Jesus, but the substance of the sandwich is the Gospel. In other words, the teaching and healing are only what they are because of the POWER of the GOSPEL. Otherwise it is fruitless. Now “preaching” is much more than someone standing behind a pulpit and giving an exposition on Scripture. Preaching isn’t just in the spoken word, it’s also in the lived-out word. The Gospel was preached when Jesus taught just as much as when He healed. And the Gospel too is preached just as much as when we heal as when we teach.

This means that every Christian is a preacher of the Gospel because every Christian is an ambassador of the Kingdom. As a church we want to give our community the whole ‘sandwich,’ not half of it. Nobody buys a sandwich only for the bread, they want the whole thing! Yet how often do we compartmentalise the activities of Jesus and never incorporate them together in a well-rounded ministry? In other words, you can teach but if you don’t meet the felt needs of those around you then you’ve only preached half a Gospel. Or alternatively, you can meet the felt needs of those around you but if you don’t teach them of Jesus then you’ve only preached half a Gospel. We want to give them the whole sandwich, not half of it.

Now I love pizza. Pizza is the best. The best pizza that I have ever made was one that I made on a “man camp” with some of my mates several years ago. For those that may be unfamiliar with what a man camp entails, it is simply a camp where men do manly things, like having tea towel fights, pitching a tent, and cooking our own meals. However, at this man camp we made pizzas and this pizza that I made essentially ruined pizza forever for me. The reason for that is, I made the all-time greatest pizza which is now the measuring stick by which I measure all pizzas. Want to start salivating? Then let me tell you how it was done! STEP 1: Build a fire and get some hot coals happening. STEP 2: Place your toppings on your pizza base (pesto, broccolini, pumpkin, roasted peppers, roasted eggplant, pine nuts, sundried tomatoes, olives, feta, and a sprinkling of mozzarella). STEP 3: Fold the pizza in half, wrap it in aluminium foil and place it on the hot coals. STEP 4: Rotate pizza till cooked. STEP 5: (My favourite step) EAT! Now I get it, it’s more of a calzone than a pizza, but it’s just sooo good! Now, Rosie and I went to Italy in 2017 and I was excited about the pizza possibilities. To say that I was disappointed is an understatement. Margarita pizzas only have 3 ingredients! Don’t get me wrong, the pizzas tasted good but certainly not as good as they could.

The final product!! Cooked to perfection 👌

The Whole Sandwich

Follow my thought here church.If we only teach, we only preach half a Gospel. If we only heal, we only preach half a Gospel. It may taste good, but not as good as it could. Something is missing. Nobody wants half a sandwich, let alone half a pizza.

There is a complete picture of ministry that Jesus gives us and that is to teach and to heal. The substance that gives power and efficiency to this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This Gospel we are all called to preach because we are all called to live kingdom lives. So, I say enough to “half-sandwich” ministry! Let us minister to the whole person! Let us live the Gospel not only in our words but also in our actions. They are both inseparable and paramount to the success of the church.

Remember that you ARE the salt of the earth and the light of the world. No ifs, buts or maybes. You are to live for the world unequivocally and unashamedly. Jesus died for the world, so let us get living for it! You may not feel like you are His salt or light, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t. In fact, such a feeling of your own extremity gives God an opportunity to do what only He can. You are a preacher of the Gospel. Period.

Every true disciple is born into the kingdom of God as a missionary. No sooner does he come to know the Saviour than he desires to make others acquainted with Him. The saving and sanctifying truth cannot be shut up in his heart. He who drinks of the living water becomes a fountain of life. The receiver becomes a giver. The grace of Christ in the soul is like a spring in the desert, welling up to refresh all, and making those who are ready to perish eager to drink of the water of life. In doing this work a greater blessing is received than if we work merely to benefit ourselves. It is in working to spread the good news of salvation that we are brought near to the Saviour.” Ministry of Healing pg 102-103.

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Jesus the Word

The Word

There is only one book that has stood the test of time and has spoken to each successive generation in illimitable tones. This book stands as a testament to the truth and a beacon of morality in the midst of a sea of religious and philosophical relativism. It defies tradition and man-made theories that attempt to supplant truth with error. People have denied its validity, churches have withheld it from the masses and nations have resolutely banned it declaring that there is no God. But truth is always valid, and it will always speak even if it is muzzled. The Bible is no mere book. It is God’s book. The greatest movements this world has ever seen have been motivated by this book. This is God’s word and not only has it spoken, but it is speaking and will continue to speak. You can burn it, deny it, or even outlaw it, but you’ll never get rid of it.

The reason for this is that it is a message from God about God. And what is this message? You tend to get the picture of a story from its first page: “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” Genesis 1:1 and in John’s Gospel “in the beginning was the Word…” John 1:1. The main character in both of these introductions is God. He is the only protagonist and is the central character of the story. In the words of Dr S.M. Lockridge:

“You can’t get Him out of your mind.

You can’t get Him off of your hand.

You can’t outlive Him,

And you can’t live without Him…

…Death couldn’t handle Him,

And the grave couldn’t hold Him.”

Creation & Recreation

There are no superlatives known to man that can adequately capture Him and yet He condescends to make Himself known to us. The Biblical narrative is all about God taking the initiative. At the beginning of the story we see God create mankind: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7. God could have easily spoken Adam into existence but instead He stoops down and gets Himself dirty, forming Adam from the dust of the ground. In other words, He comes down to our level because there is no way we could ever get up to His. This tells us who, the main character of this book is and what He is all about. He creates man with His hands.

But not only does He create with His hands, He can also recreate with His hands. Jesus gives sight to a man born blind: “When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.” John 9:6-7. Do you see the parallels here with creation? Jesus stoops down, in the dirt, reaches out and touches this man with His hands just as He did with Adam. Jesus, here is unapologetically declaring that He is God the Son and the one who can not only create man in His image but can also recreate man into His image. He is the Word where: “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1:3. Which means that it is “His royal right to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by Him.” Desire of Ages 751

That is why the Bible uses the action of creation to explain the power of salvation. When God creates, He creates instantly. When God saves, He saves instantly: “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” Rom 4:17. You cannot understand salvation if you do not understand creation. Creation and salvation are intricately linked and are in fact inseparable; based upon the principle that God performs instantly what He has promised. If you can’t trust the Word in Genesis 1-2 how can you trust the Word in John 3:16? Or when the Word promises to raise the dead to life again “at a moment, in the twinkling of an eye?” 1 Cor 1:52.

“The creative energy that called the worlds into existence is in the word of God. This word imparts power; it begets life. Every command is a promise; accepted by the will, received into the soul, it brings with it the life of the Infinite One. It transforms the nature and re-creates the soul in the image of God.” Education 126

Jesus is the Word, and the word has power. It has the power not only to create what wasn’t already there, but it has the power to recreate in the soul what was once there. The Bible is no mere book and Jesus is no mere man. Even these words by Dr S.M. Lockridge don’t fully grasp Him:

“He’s enduringly strong.

He’s entirely sincere.

He’s eternally steadfast.

He’s immortally graceful.

He’s imperially powerful.

He’s impartially merciful.

He’s the greatest phenomenon that ever crossed the horizon of this world.

He’s God’s Son.

He’s a sinner’s Saviour.

He’s the centrepiece of civilization.

He stands in the solitude of Himself.

He’s awesome.

He’s unique.

He’s unparalleled.

He’s unprecedented.

He’s the loftiest idea in literature.

He’s the highest personality in philosophy.

He’s the supreme problem in higher criticism.

He’s the fundamental doctrine of true theology.

He’s the cardinal necessity of spiritual religion.

He’s the miracle of the age.

He’s the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him.

He’s the only one qualified to be an all sufficient Saviour…

… His office is manifold.

His promise is sure.

His light is matchless.

His goodness is limitless.

His mercy is everlasting.

His love never changes.

His Word is enough.

His grace is sufficient.

His reign is righteous.

And His yoke is easy, and his burden is light.

I wish I could describe Him to you, but He’s indescribable.

He’s incomprehensible.

He’s invincible.

He’s irresistible.”

This is the main character of Scripture. This is the Man behind the story and the Man that has shaped the story. He is the desire of our hearts, whether we recognise it or not. He is everything that we need and yet everything that we want. Do you know Him? Let Him, who has the power to create what wasn’t already there, recreate in your soul what was once there.  

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Acts of the Holy Spirit

The Key Player

I really don’t like the uninspired additions to the Bible, particularly those lonely pages that read “The Old Testament” or “The New Testament.” Now I understand that they serve as demarcations between the two canons but instead of making things easier they have actually caused more confusion, causing Christians to pitch the Old Testament against the New. Another uninspired addition that I’m perturbed by is the title for the book of Acts. I don’t know who took the liberty upon themselves to give Acts the title “Acts of the Apostles,” but I don’t believe it to be the best. This is because the central character in the book is not the Apostles nor is it their work but rather that of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles were merely the conduits of the Spirit.

When you read Acts, you will come to the quick conclusion that without the Holy Spirit it was all impossible. From the very outset of the book, Jesus stresses the importance of the Spirit and indicates that before they do anything, they first must wait to receive the promise from the Father (Acts 1:4).

Filled

Jesus says that they will be “…baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:5. Notice that Jesus tells them how they will receive the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t say that they will receive Him in part. He says that they will be “baptised.” Baptism is a complete immersion experience. You go under the water and come up from the water (Matt 3:16). Jesus uses this language to communicate this powerful truth, not only are we to be fully immersed in water but also fully immersed in the Spirit.

What happened once the Apostles were baptised in the Spirit? You notice a remarkable change in them, their behaviours, and their actions. They are different men because they are filled men. Filled with the Holy Ghost.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:4

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: Acts 4:8

And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31

And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:17

Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him Acts 13:9

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:52

Acts of the Holy Spirit 2.0

You probably get the point by now. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and it was this supernatural enabling that allowed them to do those “acts” we read about. Is it any different for us today? How much of what we presently do could be done without the Holy Spirit? And conversely, how much more could we do if we had more of the Holy Spirit? The church cannot do, what it has been called to do without the Holy Spirit. But when the church is immersed in the Holy Spirit it doesn’t take long before they “turned [the] world upside down” Acts 17:6.

You see then, a more appropriate title for Acts would be “Acts of the Holy Spirit.” What God can do with us when He fills us with the Spirit is unbelievable! When was the last time you asked to be filled with the Holy Spirit? If it was yesterday, it was too long ago. We must daily ask for a fresh baptism from above. And when we do so we will participate in the sequel to the book of Acts, “Acts of Holy Spirit 2.0.”

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A Heavenly Vision

Their Vision

Sometimes I wish God would show me exactly what I should do and how I should do it. I mean, wouldn’t it be so easy to have your own personal Urim and Thummim? Like one of those ‘Magic 8 Balls’, that you would shake, and it gives you a direct answer! I read with envy the account where God revealed to Moses the intricate details concerning the building of the sanctuary:

“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.” Exodus 25:8-9.

Or the plans regarding the temple designed by David but built during the time of his son Solomon:

“David gave Solomon minute directions for building the temple, with patterns of every part, and of all its instruments of service, as had been revealed to him by divine inspiration.” Patriarchs and Prophets pg 751

In both instances, divine inspiration gave elaborate details concerning the building of His dwelling place. Once completed the glory of God descended upon the site, communicating that it was good and that He was with His people (Exo 40:34 & 2 Chronicles 7:1).

Our Vision

Now I do not receive revelations, nor do I see visions, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have a vision to live for. My vision is to proclaim Jesus’ message to the world (Matt 28:18-20) and at this particular intersection in earth’s history I do so in the context of the three angel’s messages of Revelation 14:6-12. Simply put, His vision is my vision.

Now while I have never seen Jesus personally, nor had the privilege of Him audibly speaking to me, it doesn’t mean that I can’t go about fulfilling His vision. We receive His vision through faith, believing that He has not only outlaid the plans before us but will also give us the ability to fulfil what He has promised.

Those building the sanctuary and the temple hadn’t personally received the revelation that Moses and David did, but they still went about the work of building. They did so because they believed through faith in the messenger and the faithfulness of the God who gave them the message. They saw themselves as mere instruments in the midst of a much bigger plan.

Is it any different with us? Whilst we may not have directly received a “supernatural vision” it doesn’t mean that we have no vision to give. God has a vision, and this vision is to build. To build what you might ask? We are to build a temple that lives (1 Peter 2:5)—His church.

So, the next time you wonder whether you have a vision in life, remember that you are called to belong to and build up God’s church. There is nothing more wonderful than that!

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The Latter Rain

The Problem with Laodicea

The ancient city of Laodicea is situated in modern Turkey and was one of the economic centers of the ancient world. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 60 A.D. and instead of receiving help from the empire, the citizens proudly rallied together and repaired the city from their own resources. Laodicea was well known for its medical school, and its specialty was in treating eye diseases with an ointment called eyesalve, which was made from a special powder mixed with oil. All in all, Laodicea’s economic security and position of eminence, filled them with pride. But ironically, while Laodicea could boast in its medical ability in assisting people with their sight, they were unaware of their own blindness. Pride tends to make one blind. There was no local water supply for the city, so they had to transport water through an aqueduct 6 miles north from a city called Hierapolis. Yet, while this water came forth boiling hot from a spring at Hierapolis, by the time it reached Laodicea it was lukewarm, repulsive to drink and only good to wash in.

Jesus likens this lukewarmness with His church. Yes, you heard me right! He is not speaking of the beast or Babylon, but His church! This is the church that He loved and gave His life for. To His church He says, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:15-17

Did you catch what Jesus said? He said that He wishes to vomit us out! Now why would He say this? Jesus employs such language because He loves. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” Revelation 3:19. He wishes to waken the church from its spiritual malaise and propel it to proclaim the Everlasting Gospel “to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people…” Revelation 14:6. Present circumstance may indicate that God’s church will permanently remain upon the fence, but we are assured that there will come a time when it does wake up, receiving a refreshing from on high, which supernaturally enables them to close off this work and declare the mystery of God. The Great Controversy points forward to this time in great anticipation when “there will be among the people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times.” Great Controversy 464 (see also Revelation 18:1-4).

The Latter Rain

So, what is it that reverses Laodicea’s chronic condition? It is the latter rain. James, Jesus’ brother, borrows this language from Joel 2:23 where He speaks of the latter rain in connection with the second coming of Jesus. “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” James 5:7-8. In the Ancient Near East, the early rain would fall just after the seed had been sown and that would help the seed to germinate and begin its growth. The latter rain, however, would come at the end of the season and would bring the crop to maturation, ready for harvest. Both of these rains, at the appointed time of the beginning and end of the cycle were necessary for fruitfulness of the crop.

And while the early and latter rain are both outpourings from the Spirit, they both have different purposes. The early rain assists God’s people in their growth in spiritual graces, but the latter rain has a specific purpose, at a specific time, in preparing God’s people for the coming of Jesus. The early rain prepares for the latter rain. With no early rain, the latter rain means nothing because there has been no growth to complete.

The Bible repeatedly speaks of the coming of Christ as the great harvest at the end of the age (see Matt 13:39 & Revelation 14:14-16) and it is the latter rain which prepares God’s people for the return of Christ. “The Holy Spirit did for them that which they could not have accomplished for themselves in a lifetime” Acts of the Apostles 38-40. And so, it is when the latter rain is poured out without measure that the movement which began with great power at Pentecost finishes with an even greater power!

The ultimate question is how can we make sure that we are a part of this? The answer is simple, it doesn’t need to be complicated. God has outlined our lukewarm condition, but do we recognise it? Or do we instead seek to justify ourselves? The only remedy for such a state is to heed the counsel given by Jesus Himself to His people.   

“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:18-21

Jesus knocks at the door of your heart, but will you answer?

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Birth Pains

Khloe’s birth

I still remember quite vividly the events surrounding Khloe’s birth. I remember Rosie hitting me at 1am in the morning when she had her first contraction. I remember timing those contractions, speaking with the midwife, and packing the car. I remember getting to the hospital only to be told that we had to go home and wait, for another 12 hours… I remember walking with Rosie around the block and supporting her when the waves of contractions came and laughing to myself when the neighbourhood kids who were playing in the streets, stopped, and looked strangely at this woman who was grunting in the middle of the street. I also remember that moment when Rosie grabbed my arm and said, ‘take me to the hospital now,’ to which I obliged. Now I am not going to go into all the details about what happened next. Needless to say, it was intense (definitely more so for Rosie), but even though the experience was harrowing it did end with great joy!

Contractions are evidences that the delivery of a baby is near. From my personal observance, and from the birthing guide that Rosie has given me to read, I can tell you that the closer and more intense those contractions are from each other, the more advanced the labour is and the nearer the child is to coming. Yet, what does this have to do with the Bible? I mean, this is a Bible study not a birthing class!

The earth’s birth pains

Well… Jesus likens the events preceding His return to labour: “all these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matt 24:8 ESV. He tells us that the increase in wars, earthquakes, famines, and pestilences are our natural course towards the end. While these events have always been business as usual, they’ve never occurred with as much intensity & frequency as what we see in modern times. Yet, let us not forget that nothing catches God by surprise. Jesus foresaw this 2000 years ago and told us.

Don’t let anyone discourage, shame, or hinder you from looking at and being aware of the signs concerning Jesus’ return.  Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10 and see what the Apostle Paul has to say about what we should do. May we not declare peace and safety when there is no peace and safety. May we not desire to keep the status quo when we know the status quo is about to be upended. May we discern the times that we are living in and the unique responsibility that we bear. May our yes be yes, and our no be no.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we become alarmists and venture beyond what Scripture has revealed “for of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven” Matt 24:36. We should not speculate on what His word has not revealed. Let us focus instead on what He has revealed, and know that it is near, even at the doors. But notice the certainty of Paul concerning these events, he speaks as if we should know these things; he says “you have no need that I write to you,” “you yourselves know perfectly,” “ you are not in darkness” and “let us watch and be sober” (vvs. 1, 2, 4 & 6).

Who told them about these things and how did they know it? Jesus said it, and it was so important to the early church that it was recorded in 3 of the Gospels. In other words, it was their bread and butter. Now, Thessalonians was written 19 years after Jesus spoke of the signs of the times and this was even written before the Gospels! Think about it. They knew this before it was even written down because to them it was their common teaching, practice and understanding. Birth pains, evidences that the Lord was soon to come and their need to watch and keep their lamps trimmed and burning.

Now I am not advocating a ‘Christless’ apocalyptic message—if that even that needs to be said. What I am saying is that we must preach the end time message that Jesus has given us to preach, in the way that He intended us to preach it. This doesn’t exclude Jesus or the signs of the times. It is not an either-or message but rather both and. In other words, it’s not discerning the signs or knowing Jesus, it’s knowing Jesus and discerning the signs. The everlasting Gospel is not only what Jesus did to save us from our sins but is also the message of when He will come and restore all things. It is everlasting because it teaches an everlasting message about, He “who is and who was and who is to come” Revelation 1:8. The everlasting Gospel tells us what Jesus did, declares what He is doing, and prophesy’s what He will do! And in expectation of that which is before us I say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20.

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The Day of The Lord

Mother’s Day Forgetfulness

Our daughter Khloe is over 2 years old and that means that Rosie (my wife) is a mother. Now as rudimentary as that may sound, it was somewhat lost on me for her first Mother’s Day. I don’t know whether it was general male incompetence or the surrealness of being new parents, but it just didn’t register for me. Now, I obviously knew that she was a ‘mum’ and all, but it never clicked until I was reminded. But to make matters worse, and I am not proud of this, I didn’t actually realise my serious error until the end of the day when she subtly reminded me in the gentle and unassuming way only Rosie can. Now I can honestly say that I have picked up my game in the subsequent years, however Rosie continues to remind me due to my past forgetfulness, dropping subtle hints so I am prepared. And just to let you know, this past Sunday I didn’t forget!

The Second Coming

Yet, just as Rosie reminded me when Mother’s Day was approaching, God too has given us clear reminders of another special day. This is the “day of the Lord” 1 Thessalonians 5:2 and is also known as “the coming of the Son of Man” Matthew 24:27, “His appearing” 2 Timothy 4:8, “His coming” 1 John 2:28 and “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Thessalonians 3:13. Every single New Testament writer speaks about the Second Coming of Jesus and this includes giants such as Peter, James, Paul, John and our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is spoken of with absolute certitude, fully convinced that it will take place. They are not being ambiguous or allegorical but are rather speaking plainly; they meant what they said.

Jesus: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3

Paul: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

James: “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:7-8

Peter: “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?” 2 Peter 3:12

John: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” Revelation 1:7

Why Is It Important?

Why is all this important? Well, around 1/25 verses in the New Testament speak about the Second Coming of Jesus. It is literally the most spoken of event in the New Testament. If that is the case then why don’t we hear much of it in the churches of today? Maybe it’s because we’ve taken the statement from Jesus where He said “occupy till I come” Luke 19:13 a little too seriously. That we have become too comfortable. Looking forward to our next holiday, upgrading the car, or buying the latest smartphone. Not that these things are bad at all, but when we devote more energy towards this then what we do the hope of the church, there is an issue. The antidote for lethargy and spiritual consumerism is in recognising, believing, and living lives that demonstrate that the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Not only will the Second Coming happen, it is also possible that it can be missed. Not in the sense that we won’t know that it has taken place but rather that we weren’t ready for it (ready in the sense that we weren’t abiding in Christ). To miss this is to miss everything, because this is everything. It is the ushering in of His kingdom, the cessation, and the beginning of all things in one! It is hope fulfilled, joy interminable and love abounding. Friends, take heart and look up, for “it is near—at the doors.” Matt 24:33

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Rejoicing In The Lord

The Garden

Ellen White received a letter from a dear friend who was greatly discouraged because her failures were constantly before her. Yet, before she had a chance to reply, she had a dream as to why this lady was feeling the way that she did. In the dream they were both walking through a garden. Ellen was following the guide while picking the flowers, enjoying the general ambience of the place. Her friend however was visibly distressed, not following the guide but instead was amongst the thorns. She bemoaned the fact that there were so many thorns in this garden, completely ignoring the beauty and delight before her. Upon hearing this the guide stopped, turned, and said “Let the thorns alone, for they will only wound you. Gather the roses, the lilies, and the pinks.” SC117

In other words, contrary to what you may believe or presently experience, there is plenty of good about you. The thing is, if you’re looking for the good, you’ll find it andif you’re looking for discouragement, you’ll find it too. Every one of our lives paints a picture of God to those around us. Either that is a good picture or a bad one. One of hope and victory or one of discouragement and gloom.

“If we do represent Christ, we shall make His service appear attractive, as it really is. Christians who gather up gloom and sadness to their souls, and murmur and complain, are giving to others a false representation of God and the Christian life. They give the impression that God is not pleased to have His children happy, and in this they bear false witness against our heavenly Father.” SC 116

Elijah discouraged

Remember the story of Elijah’s discouragement, when threats from the most devoted Baal worshipper against his life causes him, the most devoted Yahweh worshipper, to run for his life.  For the first time Elijah runs from and not towards the battle. “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” 1 Kings 19:4.

This shows us that even the strongest and most seasoned Christians can fall into pits of despair, where hope evaporates and joy ceases. But please know that Elijah did not need to be in this situation. This situation and his attitude was one of his own choosing. Because nothing breeds discouragement more than dwelling upon discouragement. Just as nothing breeds hope more than being hopeful. If we are constantly focusing on disappointments, then we will naturally become disappointed.

Yet, God has a remedy for Elijah and this remedy is for us too. In v15 God reminds Elijah of his mission and gets him to focus on that instead of himself. This is because discouragement often comes from looking at ourselves and not looking at Jesus and His work. For if we were ready to pick up our cross and follow Him, we’d soon find our discouragement vanish and a clear path before our feet. Less of us and more of Him is the remedy for any discouragement.

Choose to see the roses and forget the thorns.

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What To Do With Doubt

The 12th chapter of Steps to Christ ‘What to Do with Doubt’, is a wonderful exposition on what it looks like to believe amid uncertainty. Faith is foundational to the Christian’s experience, the Bible tells us that “The just shall live by faith” Habakkuk 2:4, that we are to “walk by faith and not by sight” 2 Corinthians 5:7 and that “faith is evidence of things not seen” Heb 11:1. If every shred of evidence were not only available to us but also known by us, there would be no need for faith.

I was 14 years old and in Pathfinders. It was expedition, which means we had to carry all our gear on our back and orienteer from coordinate to coordinate. On the first day of our hike we got lost, really lost, 5kms lost to be exact, and we only realised it when we were 2 hours from sunset. There was about 10kms of ground to make up and to make matters worse, it started to rain. Imagine it. Lost, dark, wet. Not fun. Our campsite was on the valley floor and we were high up on a ridgeline. Which meant that we had to clamber down to a steep vegetated spur to camp. A reasonably easy exercise during the day, but not so at night, in the rain, where one false step could see you fall a long way. One leader situated himself at the front and the other at the back. Nobody was allowed in front of the first leader or behind the last. The leader at the back had his torch and shined it onto a tree 10m in front of that first leader and we would all walk there in single file. And once we were all there, he’d shine it onto the next tree, and then the next and then the next. Until we were all down.

Now the torch only shone so far and we could only see so much, but we walked in the light we had. Steps to Christ says that “Instead of questioning and caviling concerning that which you do not understand, give heed to the light that already shines upon you, and you will receive greater light.” SC 111. At some point you just need to move forward, even before you have all the information. You need to walk in the light already given, knowing that with each successive step you will see more. God never maps out every intricate detail of His plan. He only reveals so much, and we need to trust Him with the rest. If you never advance, you’ll never see, because it is in the following that your questions are answered.

The truth is we do not need greater evidence. We need more faith! The religious leaders observed manifold witnesses of Jesus’ divinity, the Israelites were partakers of God’s miraculous deliverance from Egypt and Lucifer was in the immediate presence of God. Yet the religious leaders killed Jesus, the Israelites refused to go up into the land and Lucifer rebelled against God. They had more evidence than you could wish for. But the focus is never really about the evidence, the focus is always on our willingness to go where the light shines.

Those who wish to doubt will have opportunity; while those who really desire to know the truth will find plenty of evidence on which to rest their faith. SC 105

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Anzac Day

When I was in Melbourne last year I went to the Shrine of Remembrance, it was a solemn experience for me, as I walked amongst the memorials and recounted the history of those who served and gave their lives for the freedoms that we enjoy today. I was touched, deeply touched, and this was forcefully rammed home when I went into the heart of the shrine. In the very centre of that building, etched on a marble plaque are the words “Greater love hath no man.” And on the 11th of November every year at 11 a.m., Remembrance Day, a ray of sunlight shines through an aperture in the roof which shines on the plaque, lighting up the word “Love” on the inscription. The words “Greater love hath no man” are words spoken by none other than Jesus Himself. Sometimes words can be cheap, they casually escape from our lips and we don’t comprehend the depth of what we’re saying, even what we’re hearing. But when someone comes to you and speaks from the depth of their experience it is compelling. Compelling, because they have been there. They know what it is like, and they know what they are talking about. Regarding sacrifices, God knows what sacrifice is all about. For the greatest sacrifice that has ever been made is the one that was made 2000 years ago on an Old Rugged Cross. Jesus came, bled and died. As He hung on that cross it was as if a ray of light shone down on this fallen world revealing what ‘love’ really was. Truly “Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13.
 
And just as that ray of light shines down through the roof of the Shrine of Remembrance, illuminating that solitary word ‘love.’ I remind you here today that all of heaven came down in the person of Jesus Christ. He was “life, and His life was the light of men, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” John 1:4-5. In other words, heaven’s ‘darling,’ God’s own Son, wilfully came to a world that He knew would reject Him. But He came anyway, why? Because the “Father Himself loves you.” As Jesus hung on that cross all those years ago a great darkness covered the land, demonstrating that the Son, God’s beloved, was forsaken. He breathes His last, dies, is taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb. It all appeared to be over. But then came resurrection, when the darkness was driven away by the brightness of resurrection morning, when Jesus came forth from His tomb alive. Death could have no hold on Him. 
 
Take hope today friends, Jesus’ resurrection makes our resurrection sure. On ANZAC day we remember the sacrifices of those who have given us the freedoms that we enjoy today. They didn’t know us, but still they gave. They gave all that they had, their youth, hopes and dreams, that we might have futures, hopes and dreams. Why? Because, “Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13.
 
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them.”
 
Lest we forget