Archive for December 13th, 2011
Christians are divided over issues concerning the Christmas tree. Many regard the tree as part of a pagan celebration and not Christian.
Some Christians also claim that Jeremiah 10: 1-10 speaks against the Christmas tree? But I doubt that the text is speaking of anything like that, for the context of Jeremiah’s passage speaks more against the idol worship that then existed and cannot rightly be connected to a mere celebration of Christmas which did not begin until many centuries later.
There is a 16th or a 17th century claim made by the early Lutheran church that the Protestant reformer Martin Luther was the first one to come up with the idea of having a Christmas tree in the home.
The story goes like this; Luther was one day in the woods and he saw the trees amongst the snow and thought it would be a good idea to cut down a tree and put candles on it to remind people of Christ’s birth?
The story itself has no actual historical evidence to support it, but really, I don’t see what evidence a person can find for such a claim. What would it matter anyway?
I think what I personally see from the Christmas tree is a reminder of Christ, who is the light of the world, crucified on a tree (1 Peter 2: 24) and that all His people who are crucified with Him and have died to self and are the light of the world (Matthew 5: 14)
That is what I see when I look at the Christmas tree, just a simple reminder of what Christians should be and a simple reminder of Christ who died for us.
Earlier this year we read about one of the most important finds since the Dead Sea Scrolls and in Christian history, this find is said to have been discovered in Israel. 70 ancient Christian books written on metal and bound with wire are said to contain some outstanding writings and images concerning Jesus Christ, The Messiah, including an image of may be the earliest image of Christ, and of a T shaped cross, and an empty tomb and a crucifixion which took place outside the city walls of ancient Jerusalem.
If these books are authentic, then we are looking at what may well be the earliest works from the time of the apostles.
We are still awaiting updates for this account, but let us see what 2012 brings?
Click the link to find out more:
Before we commence I think we should go back to the gospel of Matthew, because there is a passage of scripture there which is so relevant to the Acts. The passage is Matthew 16: 13-29. This was a private conversation that Christ had with His disciples and we are privileged to share it for it concerned Himself and it took place in Caesarea in Philippi on the far north border of the land of Canaan. So there would be less people flocking after Him, it would be quieter. He enquires what the opinion of others were concerning Him? Whom do men say that I, the son of man am? It is worth looking at to note why He called Himself the son of man, others called Him the son of God (Luke 1: 35). But He called Himself the son of man, for He was truly man born of a women. He is made known in Daniel’s vision concerning Christ as the son of man (Daniel 7: 13). In verse 14 of Matthew 16, the disciples answers were not their own, for they said what they heard other people say up and down the country. Jesus wanted to know their thoughts, but whom do you say that I am? It was vital that they knew the truth themselves. It is also a question we should always ask ourselves. Who do we say what kind of Christ the Lord Jesus is? Is He the fairest of 10,000 to our souls? Is it well or wrong with us how are thoughts are concerning Christ? In verse 16 Peter answers this question, but whom do you say that I am? Peters answer is short, but it is full and true and to the point. What was his answer, more than this is a confession of a true Christian answer. Faith addressed to Christ, the living son of the living God. The answer becomes an act of worship, an act of devotion. To other people He was a prophet, the disciples owned Him to be the Messiah, the anointed one. In verse 17 Christ shows He is well pleased with Peters reply or conclusion, he has the happiness of the blessed. Blessed art thou Simon Bar Jonas, Bar meant “Son of Jonas, his father, which meant “Dove”. So He reminds him of his origin. His obscurity Bar Jonas now he is elevated, you could say Bar Christ, the child of a King. Then He gives the glory for Peters reply to God, “For flesh and blood hath not revealed it to you, but my father which is in heaven”. Note the Christian faith is revealed faith. The revelation comes from heaven, through the Holy Spirit. Saving grace is the gift of our God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And blessed are we when our father, Christ’s father reveals truth to us. We have verse 19 which is a vital one concerning the Church. How do you see this verse? I say unto you authority from God, it is His Church, all judgement is given to Him. All the churches power comes from Him, the builder and maker of the Church. He will build it up with living stones. Peter himself says this in 1 Peter 2: 5-6, Christ is the foundation. Peter Did in fact lay the 1st stone of the Church but the foundation is everlasting, so it can only be Christ. When Christ first called Peter, He gave Him the name Cephas, which means stone or rock. This rock, pointed to Himself, placed His hand upon His breast, as He did in John 2: 19, destroy this temple, the temple of the body and I will rebuild it in three days. We are the body 1 Corinthians 3: 2. The apostles had the authority and the keys to bind and loose, the keys to shut and open. The keys are the gospel itself and the authority which Christ gave them as ministers of His gospel. They had authority to allow certain things and forbid and it was all revealed to them by our father in heaven.
1938 – 1999
THE UNCLEAN SPIRIT
Matthew 12: 43-45
It is possible for an unclean spirit to go out of a man. A moral cleaning up can take place, a person can be influenced by different company. A strong influence from a Christian church can bring about a radical change. But without any real Salvation or Regeneration the result is not lasting, for there is no keeping power. The unclean spirit returns and the man is worse afterwards. Only Christ received as Lord and saviour and the Holy Spirit indwelling the heart can affect a permanent change.
APPOINTED LEADERSHIP “That you should set in order things that are lacking” (Titus 1: 5)
Paul knew he was appointed of the Lord to evangelise the Gentiles. He knew that the new fellowships were without a fixed God ordered ministry. He left Titus to set this in order for the perfecting and edifying of the body. There is an urgency to his letters to Timothy and Titus to set leadership structures, yet he also knew that as his appointment was of Christ, all things must be wrought by Him. Nothing of man could enter. An evangelist cannot and must not do anything other than by appointment from Christ. In 1 Timothy 5: 22, Paul offers a warning against hasty decisions “Do not hastily lay hands on anyone, for you can make yourself a partaker of there men’s sins”. Even though burdens for the fellowship can be an urgent matter in our minds, we must search and pray. Some men are humbled, brought to repentance, open, others are opposite, secretive, hard-hearted. Paul’s answer to this is patience, purity, righteousness, faith, love and gentleness (1 Timothy 6: 11). In 1 Timothy 5: 22, Paul writes concerning the ordination of Elders. But, do not rashly lay hands on men and ordain them into the ministry, because you can make yourselves partakers in other men’s sins. Some men’s sins are obvious, others are not. Search and pray concerning men’s character. There are secret and open sin’s. Some are humbled, brought to repentance, others are opposite, therefore discernment is necessary. A Church without a fixed and standing ministry is imperfect and wanting. It seems that when numbers reached a certain level, Paul felt leadership must be set for the perfecting and edifying of the body. All things concerning this must be wrought by Christ and His chief minister. Human traditions cannot enter. I’ve often puzzled over Paul’s statements, IE, we are partakers of the divine nature of God, yet we can still be partakers of the table of demons, and other men’s sins. Seek the favour of the Lord at communion and at the time of the laying on of hands. For a minister or an evangelist cannot and must not do anything other than by appointment from Christ, for only He will make the path clear.
Jerusalem itself is 2,500 feet above the level of the Mediterranean Sea on the East, the land falls away down to the dead Sea and the valley of the Jordan, which is 1300 feet below Sea level. When Jesus walked from Jericho, which lies in the Jordan Valley to Jerusalem, He toiled up rugged mountain paths, a climb of 3,800 feet. Galilee is 680ft below Sea level: 12 miles long and surrounded by hills with the snow capped Mt Hermon seen away to the North, where the mountains of Lebanon reach heights of 10,000 feet. The Jordan rises in these mountains and is a fast flowing mountain river in many places. We visualise the land of Israel as one of mountains and valleys, steep climbs and deserts, road less tracks, rough country. The land of Israel is surrounded to the west, the Great Sea, the North Mountains, the East vast deserts and the south desert wilderness. When we think of these things they can help us to remember the Exodus and the 40 years the children of Israel spent in the wilderness.
CITIES OF REFUGE
“Here have we no continuing City, but we seek one to come” (Hebrews 13: 14)
God teaches that men ought not to suffer for that which is rather through unhappiness rather than their crimes. In Deuteronomy 20: 4-7 God was also teaching love by banishing the man slayer from His own City and confining him to the City of refuge. To have fear and dread of the guilt of the blood. Christ is our refuge and wherever we are, He is a refuge at hand, a very present help in times of trouble.
The way the cities of refuge were situated tell us the man slayer would never be half a day from a refuge. In Christ we’re just a prayer away. The man slayer was safe in any of these Cities. Believers who flees to Christ are protected from the wrath of God and the curse of the Lord. Romans 8: 1 tells us there is no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus. A person of any nationality could find refuge in any of the Levite Cities. In Christ there is no difference. He is able to save to uttermost and all who come to Him. Even in the outer suburbs of the Cities, the offenders were safe. Even in the hem of Christ’s garment, there is healing and sinners are made whole.
“Never forget your election”
Faith should be ambitious, for the Lord desires His people to enjoy all the spiritual blessings that are In Christ for us. But, faith must also be active and go on to posses the blessings. Be strong, be men of valour, overcome the enemy and triumph over difficulties. It is then that faith enters into a blessing. These are the untold riches in Christ, all spiritual blessings, all things are ours, then let us not rest satisfied until we enter into the fullness of the blessing of Christ. Till we are enriched in Him as we may and should be filled full, complete in Him. The blessing of the Lord is an argument for us to go onto greater things. The larger the cup the more is needed to fill it. God has blessed us hitherto, then He will bless us ever more. Our position in Christ includes Mountain wood and Valley. All things are ours in Christ. The wood should be cut down to get to the mountain. All things are yours and you are Christ’s. Blessings from the Lord are an argument for us to go on to greater things. The larger the cup, the more is needed to fill it. We are viewed in Christ a greater people spiritually. We must show ourselves great in Him, in strength, courage and faith. Remove obstacles, take the mountains, and cut down the wood. Enter the promise land and posses the blessing. The idea that Christ can be received as saviour without being Lord is false. He does not save rebels, there must be submission and true repentance towards God before there can be Salvation. God has set His King on His holy hill, Zion “lest He be angry and you perish”. Paul sought the prayers of the saints and he avoided excellency of speech and enticing words of men’s wisdom. He desired the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. The wisdom from above was first pure, no frivolity, trifling, joking, foolish stories to make us laugh. The bridge across the impassable Gulf that separates the sinner from the saviour has been removed by the one who pardons that He purifies, who saves that He may Sanctify. Remove either of these two and the bridge falls. Preserve them in strength and Salvation comes.
“Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel. To all who were carried away captive, who I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon” (Jeremiah 29: 4)
The assurance and comfort is from the Lord of hosts and He is able to deliver us from captivity. The God of Israel tells us He is still in covenant with His people, so be on guard against anybody and anything that brings disturbance. “Build yourselves houses and dwell in them”. Hope of a return from captivity to freedom, from disturbance to peace, carry on as best you can, resolve to make the best out of the reality that we have and not get disturbed, because we have not all that we would like to have. If the earth is the Lords, then wherever a child of God goes, he does not go off his fathers land. Seek the peace of the City were I have caused you to be carried away captive. Pray for our Church, our City, promote it, proclaim Gods greatness in it. Do not plot or plan to shake off the yoke of captivity. Live Godly lives, peaceable under Him. Be honest and patient, waiting for God in His time to work His plan. Live in peace and you will find peace. Do not let people who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you came to be dreamed. Dreams of our own making, which we have desired. Avoid smooth nice prophecies, that are not totally honest with God and ourselves. 70 years is a long period time (Jeremiah 29: 10). The return to the place where He wants us will not be quick. Even though we are dispersed, some in one place, some in another, we will be brought together in one body. All His thoughts are working towards this end product. When things are working their worst, then they begin to mend. “He will give us the hope, the end of our captivity that we desire in Him. Not the expectations of our own dreams or our fancies, but the expectation of our faith, and the expression of our prayers
When deliverance is coming, we must go forward and meet it in prayer. God has said it, and we can depend upon it. The substance of Jesus’ words are rock. It is not enough to base our foundation on Him, we must also build our Christian character in Him. The house must be well built, for within we fail. Self interest takes place instead of self-renunciation, worldly interests take place of worldly renunciation. Simple character flaws like refusing to admit when we are wrong are a stumbling block to unity. Where self interest lies behind our thinking, our decisions our motive or motivation. Then Christ is pushed to the back, we fall when an issue comes along which needs careful thought and considerate discussion. And we either dismiss it, sweep it under the carpet or get annoyed. We fall, our house of Christian character which has its foundation on Christ is sadly built on sand. Some of the qualities which we regard as rock are in the reality of the gospels, sand. We live in unreality, we say but do not do and so we fall.
Christ in you is the hope of glory not self. We are divided at the centre of our thinking. We look at people, their position in the Church setting and their status outside. We look at what they own, their possessions and their academic achievements. We look with worldly eyes and hope to see the spiritual qualities. Jesus looked at the person and He would simplify them to make them great. God chooses the least, for he who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he, and there is none greater than John the Baptist, except he who is least. Who is the least? Who do you or I know who Jesus sees as the least in our fellowship? When did we look at a person with the eyes of Christ and realise that this girl or boy, man or woman is pleasurable to the Lord? Do you know anyone who us In Christ? Someone you want to share fellowship with, spend time with, talk to, listen to what he or she has to say. Take notice, eagerly look forward to seeing again. Who do you or I know who makes us feel good, uplifted and encouraged like Paul at the place of the three Taverns when the Christians from Rome met him? His spirit lifted (Acts 28: 15).
We are divided at the centre of our thinking and a house divided against itself cannot stand. We are the house, if we say we have Christ in us the our character should be like His. We talk of the wonder of the cross, but do our lives resemble in any way the life of the man on the cross/ We need a fresh vision of the Christ of Calvary. We need to get back to basics and be single minded in our thoughts. We need to look again at our Salvation. Have we really accepted the gift in repentance and faith? I personally have not heard a testimony to this in years. How can an unregenerate person go on with God? Is this a new doctrine? Certainly it is not. The apostles doctrine which the early Church continued in, the work of Sanctification or holiness is by nothing else but the blood of Christ. Calvary again. The glorious light, which the Church in all its wisdom has somehow managed to dim, not put out. Never. Light is the over comer of darkness. Justification, sanctified, glorification, this is therefore the threefold wonder of the cross, a full Salvation.
We are held captive by self, self renunciation is something we may talk about now and again, but do not practice. Self rule is rebellion against the cross. It is disobedience against the person of the Holy Spirit. We are going nowhere, our purpose as a fellowship is not controlled by Christ. We desire many things, but nothing supremely. We are inwardly at conflict with ourselves and so the way forward is neutralised, cancelled out by the conflict within. We have no controlling purpose within, our eyes are not single, they are cataracted and the light that is in us sometimes turns to darkness. The fatal twist, we ignore the warning signs, we are divided at the centre of our thinking. Our criticisms are directed at the other person, not ourselves.
“I John saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21: 2)
John saw a vision of a City without a Church building as his ideal of heavenly life. The one place in the world from which heaven seems most far away. The City where the life of man is at most, intense. The focal point of countries unrest, where pressures are the greatest, a great mass of human need spilling out from the broken homes, broken relationships. Without the relationships of man, one with another, with master and servant, husband and wife, buyer and seller, creditor and debtor, there is no Christianity. Without reality in our lives, we are not living the life of Christ in us. He came down from His throne to share the heavenly life with fallen man in the home. The School, the market place, with all the corruption, intensity of life, work wages, pressures, poverty, addiction, the traffic, the noise, sin and an abundance of all things bad.
A NEW CITY, A HOLY CITY
Wherever real life is there Christ is. Not only of the great need, but because there is the raw material there with which Christianity works. The life of man to do something with this, to save scrutiny, the actual working life in the City. “I have come that you might have life, life in all it’s abundance”. Christ’s gift to man is abundant life and life is to be lived. The abundant life doesn’t show itself in abundant dreaming, but in abundant living for him amongst real and tangible things. To actual and practicable purposes. “His servants shall serve Him; as citizens of the new City”. A City where light overcomes the darkness, a City that is good for it’s citizens to live in. A new City. “Behold I make all things new” (Revelation 21: 5). Surely we must take on full responsibility for the burdens and cares of our City. Surely the Lords prayer would be answered in this way? Justification for the world, the founding of a City which shall be in visual reality, A City of God.
One City anywhere on earth whose citizens from the loftiest to the least lived in the spirit of Christ. Where religion overflowed from the Churches onto the streets. Inundating the home, the school, the workshops, putting the salt into the very centre of the social and commercial life of that City. Such acts would seal for that City it’s redemption. Surely such a City was what John saw in his vision? Whatever reference we see and make of a world to come in heavenly realm, are we not justified to seek the scene on our present world? John had been burdened for long years, he agonised and prayed for his City which had been ravaged by greed and corruption. Raped by invasions and wars for centuries. When he saw his City descending out of heaven, it was not something he had not seen before. But a City he knew; JERUSALEM. A New Jerusalem, A Holy City. We see this as heavenly or a ideal of heaven yet why not take it simply as it stands and put the natural force back into the expression? Just supposing John had lived today in maybe Paris, Rome, Berlin, London or Manchester, New York or Melbourne. I saw a Holy City, a New…..
I would that all Gods people were Prophets. John’s vision was to see a City he knew and to see it as God saw it, as God would have it. A Holy City, Renewed, Reformed, Redeemed, risen from the ruins of the old City. Building for God never ceases, the sun never sets on some city anywhere in the land without some stone of the invisible City laid. God’s word has been spoken by some Christians to the lost, some seed will have been sown, hearts touched and reached by Jesus. Salt and light permeating through the busy streets. To believe this is Faith. To live for this is Christianity in practical action. John knew Christ was the light and he saw the vision, a City that would give up its darkness, where light overcomes the darkness.
Let us travel back in our minds to Ephesus, the famous City at Asia Minor (Turkey) in the time of John (The apostle). The same John who rested his head on Jesus’ shoulder at the last supper. A young John living in the love of Christ. He was known as the disciple of love. 3 years earlier Jesus called him and his brother James, “follow me”. Two pretty wild boisterous lads who were known as the sons of thunder, changed by the love of Jesus. He even loves the unlovable. We find it very hard to love some people, don’t we? Some people we try to steer clear of don’t we? And anyway we are just men and women with all our failings, all our weaknesses, just the same as Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Elisha, King David, John, Peter, Paul, William Booth, Wesley, Moody, you, me. What do we say today? “Be strong and of good courage” we will take the City of Jericho, God is with us. We can enter the promise land that God promised us. Caged wild beasts, God can shut their mouths. Create in me a new clean heart, and a right spirit. Testify we unto you God is light. And in Him dwells no darkness. Grass dies, but the word of the Lord endures forever. We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. God shall have all there is of William Booth 70 years later, old, frail, nearly blind, pleading, “repent, come into the Kingdom of heaven” Lo, the kingdom of heaven is not here or there, it is within you. Jesus of Nazareth said that (Luke 17: 21). But John under his ministry at Ephesus was under troubled times, when the leaders of the early Church in Jerusalem sought to keep their links with Judaism. They desired to keep Christianity Jewish, but many began to reach out at Antioch to the Gentiles, amalgamated and consolidated to Christianity as it should be today at Ephesus. During John’s ministry there a certain other Apostle visited a few times to I’m sure he also had something to do with it. It was a wealthy City, a centre for commerce, sea- port, multinational, people from all over the world traded there. It was essentially great with a strong Hellenistic culture. A busting busy City, with many attractions and as is usual for such a good place, not all the attractions were good. Corruption was rife, villains made a good profit there, they even had a sanctuary, “the right of asylum”. A temple, place of worship built to the glory of a grotesque goddess, Artemis. The scene of the most sordid tales. The theatre of the most glaring sins. It was a beautiful building, in a beautiful City. A roof of cedar wood, columns of jasper, marble pillars, doors of Cypress wood. A magnificently crafted Alter, with a Velvet curtain behind “sound familiar?” But behind the curtain was a darkened room. In it the Horrendous most sacred idol of the heathen’s “Artemis” who was said to be an angel fallen from heaven. Love goddess of Asia Minor. Behind the dark monument to sin, was the securest and wealthiest bank in the western world. Claimed to be under divine protection. The religious gathering held there were frenzied orgies of self-indulgence and self gratification. In spite of it’s great beauty and almost perfect setting, Ephesus was a place of great darkness, abundance of evil, corruption, sin set high on a hill. At night it seemed to be lit up. “A City that could not be hid” Evil cannot be hidden, corruption cannot be covered. Sin cannot be glossed over, it has to be cleaned. John had a vision of a new City, A New Jerusalem. He proclaimed Christ and the same can be said of any City of any country on this planet. What is said of the New Jerusalem. That the Lamb is the light thereof. John saw in his vision a City giving up its darkness room by room, home by home, street by street, district by district. It would be changed from within. Abominations, lies, deceit would disappear. Sin, pain, anguish and sorrow would silently pass away. One day the walls would be jasper, the streets paved with gold, in the middle of the City there would stand a tree of life and its leaves would go forth for the healing of the City.
Survey your home, your street, your district, your town, your City, work hard for the Kingdom. When a Prophet tells of things to come, the coming event is not just brought about by some unrelated cause or sudden shock, but rather by a natural course of the planets unfolding drama. The supreme players in this drama are God’s people and be sure of this, that down to the least and pettiest detail of all that concerns a better world, concerns Christ. God’s judgement fell on Cain and the place where he lived because of lies, murder, Cain went out from the presence of the Lord to the land of Nod, East of Eden (Genesis 4: 16-17). And he built a City there and he called it after the name of his son. But God’s judgements had fallen and he appointed another seed to replace Abel who was slain. Right from the beginning, men knew the terror of the wrath of God and they did something about it. They began to call on the name of the Lord.
God’s judgement can and will come. We are living in a time of grace and for some reason He is holding back His judgement and granting us His favour. His love is as great as His judgements are terrible. “Room and time now give to Jesus, soon will pass God’s day of grace” because of grace His nature poured into man, we have this time. I have a plea to make, and I make it as a serious and practical proposal. Outside of these walls is our City, what can we do for it? What did Jesus do? For He prayed over it the He wept over it, then He died for it. John had a vision, a New City, a New Manchester and the Lamb was the light thereof. “Behold I make all things new” (Revelation 21: 5). One of the Churches main functions is to help man come in, to receive meat, to worship Him together as we and then to go out strengthened to bring about change. If I were to build a new City, the 1st foundation stone I would lay would be that of a Church. And for the 1st sermon preached there I would choose the text “I saw no temple therein” (Revelation 21: 22). So often it happens that when Christians break with Church, they break with Christianity. The reverse should be the truth, the essential Christian life should be lived to the full in Christ. Abundant life is given for abundant living. We can change our City for Him, because He changes us to change things for Him for His glory. Make your home a lovely place to be in, bright, comfortable and homely. For Christians are citizens of Heaven.