A whole new ball game!

Hi
John was a close friend of Jesus and in his larger book wrote this. It is words of Jesus…… “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

It is clear in my line of work that staff and customers ( of which there are thousands) are looking for a better life, particularly after the last 10 months.
I guess we are all searching for a better life in one form or another.

But what does Jesus mean by “life . . . more abundantly”? A problem arises when discussing this concept due to the apparent subjectivity of the term “abundant.” What is abundant living for one person may be absolutely unsatisfying for another. A hard-charging, A-type businessman – into exotic holidays, sports cars, and rock climbing – would not consider a rocking chair by the fire, a vegetable garden and a weekly round of golf at the local course to be fulfilling, yet they would probably suit a retired senior citizen just fine. One person’s bowl of cherries is another’s bowl of cherry stones!.

The Greek word Jesus uses to describe the kind of life He came to teach His disciples is perissón, meaning “superabundant,” “superfluous,” “overflowing,” “over and above a certain quantity,” “a quantity so abundant as to be considerably more than what one would expect or anticipate.” In short, He promises us a life far better than we could ever envision, reminiscent of what the Apostle says “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” .Paul informs us that God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think”

However, before we begin to have visions of palatial homes, classic cars, around-the-world trips, and wads of pocket money, we need to step back and consider what God says comprises “life.” Once we determine His view of living, we will have a better grasp of what kind of blessings we can expect as Christ’s disciples.

All we need to do is glance around at our and our brethren’s situations to know that wealth, prestige, position, and power in this world are not high-priority items on God’s list of blessings. In terms of economic, academic, and social strata, most of us come from the lower and middle classes, and we tend to remain in a situation similar to the one in which we were called.

Perhaps the most telling biblical definition of life – particularly eternal life – is uttered by Jesus Himself “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Note that this definition makes no mention of length of days, health, prosperity, family, occupation – in fact, the only thing it does mention is knowing God!

What can we take from this?

» God is not overly concerned with the physical circumstances of our lives. It is enough that He assures us that we need not worry about what we will eat or wear

» Eternal life, the kind of life in which a Christian is truly interested, is not determined by duration but by a relationship with God. This is why, once we are converted and impregnated with the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are said to have eternal life already though not, of course, in its fullness.

» Eternal life – the life God offers us through Jesus Christ and His teaching – is thus about quality, not quantity. Put another way, the abundant life is life as God lives it for once we truly come to know God, we will desire to emulate Him.

» Physical blessings, then, may or may not be by-products of God’s way of life; neither our wealth nor our poverty is a sure indication of our standing with God. Certainly, God desires that we “prosper in all things and be in health” , but the bottom line is “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” , not that we live like royalty.

» Finally, a Christian’s life revolves around, as Peter puts it, “growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” . This suggests that the abundant life is a process of learning, practicing, and maturing, as well as failing, recovering, adjusting, enduring, and overcoming because, in our present state, “we see in a mirror, dimly”.

As humans, we are naturally oriented toward material things, but as Christians, our perspective must change. Paul admonishes, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died [in baptism), and your life is hidden with Christ in God” . To us as a Christian, life – and our perception of abundant life – is a whole new ball game!

A watchful eye

Morning folks
Exodus chapter 12 and verses 40-42 say this “Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night of solemn observance to the LORD for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This is that night of the LORD, a solemn observance for all the children of Israel throughout their generations.”

Israel was to keep the Night to be much observed in part as a night of watchful vigil to commemorate the reason they could leave Egypt so easily: God watched over them as His plan unfolded.

Reading Genesis 15 with the story in Exodus, we can see how God watched over them. Israel’s bondage in Egypt had disciplined Israel, preparing them to go through the wilderness, and afterwards, take the Promised Land. This was God’s plan for them, and He watched it brought to completion. His greater plan is not completed even now, because we are a part of it! Genesis 17 shows that it has eternal consequences and is still in operation.

The Night to be Much Observed is a significant event in God’s plan. Will anyone deny that God watched out for Israel, seeing the blood on the doorposts and lintels and passing over them? Can anyone deny that He watched over them their whole journey?

“Watch” does not mean that God passively observed them as they left. Instead, it means that He actively “guarded” them. “Watched” comes from the Hebrew shamar, used often and translated as “keep.” Whenever one desires to keep something, he guards and protects it. In like manner, God watched, kept, guarded, and protected Israel. Exodus chapter 11 verse 7 shows just how closely God watched, not allowing even a single dog to bark.

Can anyone deny that God watched as the Israelites walked out that night in the very sight of the Egyptians who were burying their dead? Most likely, the Egyptians would want to blame the Israelites for the death of their children and animals. They would be enraged. They could not see God, nor blame Him directly, as it were; but they would take it out on His people. But they stood by numbly instead of resisting or fighting.
The Night to Be Much Observed is the official marking of God’s watchful care. An entire nation of slaves just got up, and without lifting a hand to achieve their liberty, they walked away.

So as those at work I am observing are pressing on through huge challenges searching for extra resilience with our current situation, Christians need to remember that by being part of God’s family, He is watching you as he did his people long ago and always has. He will bring you through and He will give you His strength…… if you ask.
Have a great week
Mark

How good is good?

Morning folks
John chapter 6 verse 44 in the Bible makes a strong statement:” No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. “
With the UK pandemic now forcing a third lock down we do see loads of evidence of good things being done by many people particularly at work as colleagues and leaders try to help and support their team mates and staff .
From an eternal perspective, when thinking about where we will each spend eternity, altbhought helping others is wonderfully good and should be promoted, this can cause us to have a blind spot that is catastrophic!
Did Jesus really mean “no one” can come to Him except…? Was He generalizing, or did He literally mean it? Is there always “open season” in terms of salvation, that is, is it accessible to anyone who wants it?
As a point of contention, this Bible teaching has faded somewhat, but 400 years ago, it was a major issue. It is still Catholic Church teaching that from the moment of birth everybody has good within them. It just needs to be developed. So, at any time in a person’s life, all he or she needs to do is to hear the good news of the Bible, agree with what they heard, accept it because it connects with the good already in them—and they are on their way to Heaven, adding to their goodness by righteous living. The Bible does not agree.
This teaching marks a major division of beliefs between what folks see as Christians.
What the Bible teaches on it is mind-bending and humbling. We can see the biblical truths regarding this fact of goodness and badness unfold by examining what Jesus said Himself, as well as what His apostles added.
Jesus says “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick”. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance”
Everyone—and that term is all-inclusive—whom the Father draws to Christ for spiritual salvation is not good but spiritually sick, a sinner. No matter how good we see them as being, in Gods eyes when compared to the Holy standard He sets, they fall well short as do I and as do you. Additionally, the word “repentance” implies that those brought to Christ for forgiveness and salvation do not possess goodness but are evil, since only those spiritually enabled to see the need to repent would come to Him for spiritual healing. “Good” people would not.
The Apostle Paul adds emphasis to this when he says:
“There is none righteous, no, not one”
Notice the terms he uses—“none” and “all,” that is, none is good, all are evil. David, the author of Psalm 14 from which Paul drew his comments believed this truth a thousand years before the apostle, and in Psalm 14, David attributes this declaration to God Himself. Do we dare accuse God of lying about those He created?
In the book written by Matthew it is exceptionally clear: “So [Jesus] said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
Jesus is plainly stating that, since God is the only One who is good, no one among all humanity can truly claim to possess goodness. No one’s goodness rises anywhere near the level of God’s goodness. Jesus, however, then explained to the rich young ruler what he needed to do. As God in the flesh, He knew what the young man needed to do to get on the road to godly goodness, so He taught Him.
So, my thought this week is to focus on helping those we love and those around us where we legally can under lockdown rules but remember, really remember that for us to be good as God defines it, and for us to have a positive, certain future stretching into eternity, we need God in our lives.
Take care
Mark

New Year Resolution

Good morning
I do trust you are all having a good Christmas break.
As we enter the season for making new years resolutions I had these verses in mind and they come from the second book to the Corinthians chapter3 and verses 12-16 which say: “Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains un-lifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

The veil Paul speaks of is the carnality of a deceived mind formed and shaped in the world’s Satan-manipulated cultures. It is so antagonistic to the true God and His Word as we read in the book of Romans in Scripture that it fights the very approach of God to heal them through a great, freely given gift, just as the first-century Jews opposed and rejected Christ.
However, be aware that the miraculous removal of this veil of blindness by God, through the wonderful gifts of His Spirit and of a great hope, also places an obligation on us. With the blindness gone, we are granted the ability to choose between God’s way and the world’s way for the first time in our lives. Choosing to submit to God provides our witness of God, as well as being the means of building the character God greatly desires to create within us.
However, the effects of the self-centred way of life we have absorbed through the course of this world remain in our attitudes and characters, becoming what must be overcome.
It will dog us all our converted lives as a means of testing our determination to be in God’s Kingdom, as well as our love and loyalty to our God and Saviour and it is with these thoughts I am entering into considering my new years resolutions.
Have a safe, peaceful and joyful remainder of 2020 and a Happy new year
Mark

Three Stars for Christmas

Hi Folks
The more I speak with folk at work about this year the more I realise there are 3 absolutes that a human being needs and craves:
1) Forgiveness.
May be you have had to lay staff off, may be you had to delay paying a supplier. May be you lost your temper. Then again a feeling of guilt as there are the hours and hours at work so your family have been pushed into second place. Of course there are so many situations in a persons life where one craves forgiveness from someone else and at Christmas we emotionally find ourselves in a place of wanting this forgiveness more deeply than ever.. right?
2) A new Start
As we rush headlong towards the new year, I am seeing dozens of folk wishing that day would come on 1st January 2021 when they can put 2020 behind them and have a new start. A new year and a new start. A fresh outlook. Baggage gone, weights lifted, COVID lockdowns ended, business back to normal, friendships renewed face to face again, hugs to family . A new start is the dream of millions and millions of us… right?
3) A Road map to life so you know you are getting the best out of it
With lives in such chaos, business struggling, VAT bills to pay in January plus company and personal tax bills many are asking, am I in the right profession? Am I getting the best out of life. Is there an easier way? How can I be happier than I am now? Even folk not in work have the same question. Is this as good as it gets?… right?

John Bunyan wrote Pilgrims Progress and I do recommend this book even if it is the children’s version . Here we are introduced to a Pilgrim on life’s journey and he comes to a mountain where an Angel meets him and offers him forgiveness which results in the heavy back pack representing sin and wrong doing he has had all along life’s journey weighing him down, simply falling off. Then he is given a new fresh identity and then he is given a road map showing him where to travel next.

Bunyan takes his story from the Christian Message – from the Bible.

There is one world view and one only that does not depend on Carma or on good deeds outweighing bad which all others do and which simply offers full and unconditional forgiveness. It is the most fantastic and wonderful bright morning star and it is here being offered this Christmas to all who want it. Forgiveness completely and for everything with full acceptance for who you are by the most important person ever.

Then this same world view offers a new start. Accepting Jesus into your life gives you a new life. Jesus Himself called it new birth. It is that dramatic. A fresh start. A new beginning. Moving from dark to light, night to day, death to life. It is that dramatic and I know!

Finally this world view gives you a direction. A light for your feet and a lamp to your pathway. God has a purpose for your life. You are here for a reason and God can unlock that reason and give you a road map to follow. Knowing this purpose gives you the very best life imaginable no matter if business fails or illness strikes. Gods purpose being known in a persons life is totally transforming.

Becoming a Christian in the way that the Bible explains it provides you as a guarantee with these three great stars of brightness this Christmas. Forgiveness, a new start and a clear road map for life’s journey. It baffles me why folk don’t want to explore such fantastic gifts as these. Do ask me if you want to know more.

Have a wonderful Christmas as this may be my last blog this year…. Then again…….!

Mark

Should we support Government?

Hi folks

Romans chapter 13 verses 1-7 says “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.  Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.  Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs! to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour.”

The subject of government in the Bible is indeed extensive. As we begin, notice that Paul writes that “there is no authority except from God” (verse 1). Though this statement appears in relation to civil authority, God’s oversight is broad and deep. Even Satan’s authority, as god and ruler of this world is assigned by God. Jesus tells Pilate, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” Those in the church with a position of authority also receive it from God . These are important statements on God’s overall sovereignty.

In verse 2, Paul mentions “the ordinance of God.” God’s ordinance states His will, and He clearly establishes civil government. Therefore, we are responsible for obeying civil authority also, for in doing so we are obeying God. These verses do not imply that we must always obey civil government. Other verses show that we must obey it as long as the civil authority does not contradict God’s laws. In verses 3-4, Paul comes close to stating that the civil authority somewhat parallels the Old Testament “avenger of blood.”

In verses 5-7, God extends our responsibilities to submit to government as a means to keep our consciences clear, as well as to pay taxes, not only so the state can afford to employ these civil servants of God, but also to submit to community customs regarding them and even to give them honour.

These seven verses show three general reasons why humans must be governed. First, law-abiding citizens must be protected. Paul’s life was saved when Roman soldiers stepped in to save him from the murderous intent of angry Jews. Second, evildoers must be restrained. Third, the general welfare is promoted by helping to establish peace. In the first book to Timothy chapter 2, Paul commands us to pray that this function is carried out.

So for our protection during a pandemic, for society to be kept safe from those who would do bad things and for us to be able to live in peace as Christians in a multi cultural society while all others can also live in peace, lets pray.

Have a good week

Mark

What is my focus?

Hi folks

Galatians chapter 5 and verse 22 says this :But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.”

This verse and the teaching on this subject were in my view beautifully put by one of our church leaders recently and got me thinking more about my own walk as a Christian at work.

It is not difficult to trace the source of biblical patience in God’s children. 1 Corinthians 13 v 4 states, “Love suffers long and is kind.” Patience is directly associated with love and hope. In the “love chapter,” Paul lists patience first among love’s works . Paul continues when he writes to the Christians in Rome as he adds  that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”

This makes it evident that God’s patience stands behind His children’s patience as its source and pattern and as a link in a chain. Because the Bible lists it with the fruit of the Spirit ( notice it is not “fruits” with an s but is only one fruit even though it has 7 flavors) it is less a virtue achieved than a gift received. It comes with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we reproduce it.

However, since we are beings of free choice, we are still obligated to God to activate it, exercise it, and use it as a witness that God lives in us. To this end, Paul writes,

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, , kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

“Put on” is literally a dressing term. Used as an idiom, it can also mean to assume the office, manner, character, disposition, or perspective of another. We must “put on” Christ, meaning we must conduct our lives as closely to the way He would were He in our position. Chase Christ, not the fruit. He will develop the fruit in us. We are to practice His way of life because it is eternal life—the way God lives His life. Jesus Christ demonstrated this for us. It will help prepare us for His Kingdom, and it enables us to glorify Him here and now.

Patience is a vital part of the process that enables God to work over a long span of time, if needed, to produce in us other important aspects of His image so that we “may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” God is the Source and His Spirit the means of this very valuable fruit.

So, thank you to Rob for his teaching on this and I trust these few developing thoughts I have from Scripture help my readers too.

At work we are in the spotlight. Focusing on Jesus is the answer to our witness so folk around us see, benefit from and sense the fruit. Not least patience.

Mark

How to Pray

Amos is a little read book in the Old Testament but in chapter 7 verses 1-6 we get some great insight. We read this: “Thus the Lord GOD showed me: Behold, He formed locust swarms at the beginning of the late crop; indeed it was the late crop after the king”s mowings.  And so it was, when they had finished eating the grass of the land, that I said: “O Lord GOD, forgive, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, For he is small!”  So the LORD relented concerning this. “It shall not be,” said the LORD. Thus the Lord GOD showed me: Behold, the Lord GOD called for conflict by fire, and it consumed the great deep and devoured the territory.  Then I said: O Lord GOD, cease, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, For he is small!” So the LORD relented concerning this. “This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.”

Given insight into what God would soon do, Amos was distressed over whether Israel could survive. God relented both times, probably as a result of Amos’ prayer. But because of His earlier pronouncements and the people’s lack of repentence, there is a sense that God would not postpone Israel’s punishment much longer.

The first vision of Amos 7 may be a natural calamity of locusts rising out of the earth and destroying the crops and the grasslands “after the king’s mowings,” a practice akin to our income tax. Without the late crop, the first cutting for the king would be sparse, and without produce for their personal needs, the people would starve. God decided that Israel would be protected from natural calamity in the main, but a few people may suffer very badly and may even die.

The second vision, a divine fire, could literally be fire on the earth.! “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God”. Fire, in biblical symbolism, is a purging and purifying punishment against sin. To save and turn the people back to morality and obedience, God decrees a purifying fire to come upon Israel, probably in the form of a divinely inspired war. Again, God relents, giving the nation another chance to repent.

This exchange between Amos and God illustrates a wonderful method He uses to teach us what we need. God sometimes leads us into situations that force us to decide what we really need. We ask Him for it, and then He gives it to us. We think He answered our prayer—and He did—but He also led us to pray the prayer (see Romans chapter 8 and verse 26)! He guides these situations so that we come to think like Him! When He wants to produce character in us, He will work in whatever way is necessary to build it.

We can learn much from this technique. In our earnest prayers, we cry out to Him, believing we truly need what we have requested. We should also pray to understand how God is working, moulding, shaping, and leading us to grow and overcome. When we finally see things from His perspective and pray that prayer, He will respond. How we need this kind of thinking now!

Have a great week

Mark

Stay Awake

Good morning

As businesses across the world try to plan the future I am reading more and more comments from folk who believe they have a crystal ball …. “This will happen” That will happen” and even from Church circles “Jesus will return now because of this pandemic”.

Our only true source of reference about the future must be Scripture.

1 Thessalonians chapter 5 and verses 1-4 say this “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labour pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. “
 

Thieves send no warning messages ahead of them that they are coming, so break-ins are usually sudden and shocking events. We are assured that Christ’s return will be equally surprising to most on the earth. The Bible’s indications are that He will come when a majority of people least expect Him: when newscasts assure us of “Peace at last!” and the whole world is busy with the affairs of this life (See Matthew chapter 24). Then, everything will fall to pieces with a bang!

Yet, Christians should not be taken by surprise. We are supposed to be aware of the signs of the times, evaluating the course of events, and growing in the grace and knowledge of God, so that, no matter when He comes, we are prepared to meet Christ in the air. Because we are not in darkness, our eyes should be fixed on what is truly important during these troubled times: God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.

Like his Master, the Apostle Paul who wrote the words of our text tells us to watch, and he adds, “Be sober” (verse 6). A sober person’s mind is unadulterated by anything that would cause poor judgment, as a drunk’s ability to make proper decisions is affected by the booze in his system. One who is sober is serious, thoughtful, cautious, calm, and not given to excesses of any kind. He/she weighs matters carefully and chooses the wisest course of action.

This should be our stance now, despite what people claim about the timing of Christ’s return. The promise of His coming has not been delayed, and things are not as they always were. God’s plan marches on; He is manoeuvring events, circumstances, and individuals into place. We have been given front-row seats to witness the most astounding series of prophetic fulfilments in human history, and to keep our seats, we must watch, be sober, and prepare for the return of Jesus Christ when ever that might be.

Have a great week

Mark

Which payment to use?

Hi there and welcome to the end of a working week for most of us. Romans chapter 6 verse 23 says this: “ For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It is a verse that came to mind today at work as I was considering some contract work actually. The human race and everyone in that race has a contract to answer and be accountable to.

One of the most basic truths in God’s program involves the fact that the wages of sin is death . The death we are intended to understand here is what happens after we die in the normal sense. If we accept that there is a heaven and a hell as the Bible describes then there is a second and very terrible death coming our way too.

There are only two ways to satisfy this basic truth and be accountable to the eternal contract God spells out: First, all humans must be paid that wage of death because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God . Second, as an alternative, another, an innocent One on whom death has no claim because He never sinned, must pay that wage in our stead, substituting His death for ours. These are the only two ways of satisfying that contract because sin = death. Tough words but words many millions are blindly going through life ignoring or are oblivious too and are rushing helter-skelter into the result!

We find both aspects applied to practical Christian life in the book of Romans. Paul writes in Romans 5 verse 8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It is essential that we thoroughly understand that Christ died, not merely as a benefit, but for us, that is, in our place. His death substitutes for our well-deserved death, which we earned through sin. Earlier, the apostle had written in Romans chapter 4 and verses 1-5

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness! .” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.

When confronted by such scriptures that cannot be broken, our only possible conclusion is that the sin-debt that each person owes to God absolutely cannot be worked off by being good. No matter HOW good that might be.

It is so huge and serious that an already sin-defiled person cannot pay it off. Once a person sins, his debt is absolutely irredeemable by anyone or any action except through death. Either each individual pays for himself ( horrific) , or Christ pays in his place ( wonderful). These are the only acceptable payments. I was wondering which one everyone I know has as payment ready to be made because rest assured, if you are not ready to meet God, He is ready to meet you and the only way to have the debt si sorted is to ask for the solution… it is not an automatic right.

Thanks for reading

Mark