April 29, 2019

Think Spot 29 April 2019

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Think Spot 29 April 2019

 
Matthew 17:1-8 - After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
 

The Jesus I see is full of majesty and awe. He is not simply a king with a crown on his head. He is the King of all Kings and the Lord of Lords. This Jesus Christ did not decay in the grave - He overcame death in the grave and was raised again majestically.

As Paul said that Jesus is “the first-born from among the dead”. Paul writes later in Colossians 2:3, that “in Jesus Christ, all the majestic treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.” Jesus Christ the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who with unparalleled majesty, is the head of His body, the church. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the church would not be in existence 2,000 years later, let alone 2 years after his death. Jesus’ majesty meaning I can depend upon Him for all matters of life.

Go into this week in full confidence that Jesus is fully of majesty! WOW!

 

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April 27, 2019

Highlights in Hebrews 35

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)

35. Hebrews 12:1-3 Keeping spiritually fit.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. NLT

If the writer to the Hebrews had known that we all have a mix of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles throughout our body he might have used them as an illustration of what he wanted to say. If, like me, you are short of the fast-twitch type you always come in at the back of all the sprint races. You may, however, do much better at the cross-country races. He would have been asking us to ensure that we develop as much slow-twitch spiritual muscle as possible. Experts in such things tell us our muscles are a mixture. Slow -twitch enable us to keep going for a long time: run in cross country races or marathons, or row across the Atlantic. Fast-twitch are good for sprinting, playing tennis and catching the bus. Different people have different amounts of each of these in the blend in their legs and everywhere else. Chickens have slow-twitch muscles in their legs with the brown meat so that they can walk and run a long way. The white meat of their breasts and wings gives them much better intense activity like flying, but they can’t keep it up for long. You may know some people, there are too many of them around, who become Christians with a great flourish in their early days or their teen years. They are full of enthusiasm rushing around telling us all to follow Jesus, do a lot of evangelising, go to many youth rallies and so on. But where are they a few years later? They seem to have disappeared from the church scene. Oh, dear. They were so concerned with their fast-twitch spirituality they failed to develop any of the slow-twitch sort.

The writer is talking about slow-twitch spirituality. He talks about ‘endurance’ in 12: 1; about not becoming weary and giving up in 12: 3; about getting a harvest in 12: 11; and, of course, the outstanding characteristic of the heroes of chapter 11 - Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and all the rest is that they fought their way through many difficulties to reach their barely understood destinations.

Above all there is Jesus, who endured hostility and the shame of the cross, because he knew he was going to a place of honour at the right hand of God on high. We know where we are going - not quite to such an honourable place, but into his immediate presence.

If you want to stay healthy into your old age it is no good waiting until you are old before doing anything about it! It is no good thinking you were fit and healthy at school when you played a lot of football, cricket or netball. Health is something that has to be kept up throughout life.

All that is true of physical health, but it is also true of spiritual health. Don’t think you can turn off your fast-twitch spirituality when you leave your teens, get married, move house to another area with the need to fit into a new church. It will probably slowly decline, as the years pass but it must be replaced steadily by slow-twitch spirituality. That does not mean that you just become one of the too many people who go to church, sit in their pew or their comfortable chair and think that is now their Christian life. After all you would have a job to stay even reasonably healthy physically if you only did anything remotely healthy just once a week. No! You need to join a prayer group, a study group, teach Sunday School, or do something to maintain a reasonable level of spiritual fitness. Come on - get off your backside and do something! (with apologies if you already do.)

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Investigating Jesus

Investigating Jesus Part 45

Jesus meets people today

As we have seen in recent studies in this series, Jesus is still living, He is alive and he meets with people today. I have met with Jesus and I am one of many who have encountered the risen and ascended Jesus Christ. I continue to meet with Jesus each day and in all circumstances of life. How does he do this? Jesus walks with us, where ever we go and particularly in the darkest periods of our life. Just as he did with the two people on the road to Emmaus, he walks with those who claim to follow Him (Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-32).

Jesus speaks whenever the Bible is faithfully preached and read from, just as He opened the eyes of those on the Emmaus road when He explained the Scriptures (Luke 24:27). Jesus meets us in the Communion or Lord’s Supper, with the bread and wine, which symbolise His flesh and blood as an act of remembrance of what He did for humanity.

But that is not the end, because Jesus has promised that He is coming again. Not as a baby next time, but as an all conquering Son of God in judgment to gather those who follow Him. Are you ready?

How can you become a Christian today, right now? If you want to turn to God right now, there is no need for delay. God is ready and willing to take you as his own right now. You only have to ask him to forgive you and to give you help on the journey ahead which he will do by giving you the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a nurturing and personal partnership between God and yourself.
The act of deciding to change course in mid-life, is what is called conversion. You may also know it as being born again or deciding to be a Christian. When you place your faith in Jesus, becoming utterly dependent upon him, you turn to God. That means that you have changed your intentions in the way you are going to live in future.

However, once you have made that decision, you leave behind your spiritual isolation and rebellion against him. As you live each day, becoming more involved with Jesus day by day, you will discover you are changing. You will find yourself doing things that please Jesus and developing your relationship with him. Until you enter a personal relationship with God, accepting his gift of salvation for yourself, sin (all that which alienates you from God), controls your rebellion against him. This sin is seen in your attitudes and your activities. God asks you to accept his management and guidance of your life. When you do that, God’s point of view and his strength become your point of view and your source of strength. You turn your mind, will and heart to him for all you do.
If you want to become a Christian and start a new life of adventure following Jesus Christ, you need to open the gift of grace for yourself in order to receive it.
There are three simple steps to take:

  • Admit that you have done wrong against God and his ways and turn away from those attitudes.
  • Believe and trust in Jesus as your Saviour from the consequences of the anger of God towards you and your tendency to sin. Call on him, receive, trust, obey and worship him, recognizing him for who he is and what he has done.
  • Accept the Holy Spirit of God into your life as the major motivating force for what you do. Once sin has been confessed, Jesus is believed in and trusted as Saviour then God the Holy Spirit has entered your life, then you are a Christian.

All these things happen together instantly as you turn to God, being ready to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus! That is a WOW moment in your life. Welcome to the family of God. God has chosen you; Jesus has paid for you and has put his mark within you through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:1-13). Once you have made that decision, you leave behind your rebellion against him. As you live each day, becoming more involved with Jesus day by day, you will find yourself changing. You stop doing things which separated you from him and find yourself doing things that develop your relationship with him. How do you develop this relationship? Until you enter that relationship, sin, or that which alienates you from God, controls your rebellion against him in your attitudes and your activities. You develop this relationship by allowing God to take control of your life, as he asks you to accept his management and guidance of your life. God’s point of view and his strength will become your point of view and your source of strength. You turn your mind, will and heart to him for all you do.

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Investigating Jesus

Investigating Jesus Part 44

Jesus' Ascension

1 In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. 3 During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.
4 Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” Acts 1:1-11 (New Living Translation)

Jesus’ resurrection was the catalyst for the mission of the early church, beginning with the disciples and throughout history. Indeed, the growth and spread of the church, is evidence of the historical fact of Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead. Having been raised from the dead, Jesus’ mission to earth is coming to an end. Shortly he will be returning to the right hand of the Father, just as he had told his disciples a few times before he went to the cross.

In the Gospel of Mark 16:14-19, the Gospel of Luke 24:50-51 and in our reading from the book of Acts 1:1-12, we read about Jesus physically ascending into the heavens. Jesus has returned to the right hand of the Father, as he said he would do before his death on the cross. During their last discussion with Jesus, the disciples were still expecting Him to lead a revolution against the Romans (Acts 1:6). Despite all Jesus had said to them, they still did not understand that Jesus had come to lead a spiritual kingdom and not a political kingdom. Now it would be easy to think that Jesus has abandoned them, but no. Jesus tells them to go back to Jerusalem, wait for the Holy Spirit and then go tell others the Good News about Him.

Jesus had told them previously that he was going away and that it was better for them if he did, because the Holy Spirit would be sent to be with them, to live in them and empower them for the work they had to do. Even after Jesus had vanished into the clouds, the disciples still gathered around looking into the sky for Him to return. What were they thinking? Could they not believe what they had just witnessed first-hand? Did they mis-hear what it was that Jesus had said quite clearly/ It was as if they still hadn’t learnt obedience to Jesus’ commands. What happened next?

Well two angels appeared and came to them, saying:
11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!’” (Acts 1:11)

The disciples then returned to Jerusalem and waited, just as they were told to do. They didn’t have to wait long, 10 days. We, of course, some 2000 years later, are the product of their obedience to Jesus. Praise God! We have one remaining podcast in this series, where we look at Jesus still meeting people to day.

 

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Investigating Jesus

Investigating Jesus Part 43

Jesus' Final Words

16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[b] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (New Living Translation)

Jesus’ resurrection is the catalyst for the mission of the church, beginning with the disciples and throughout history. Jesus’ mission to earth is coming to an end and shortly he will be returning to the right hand of the Father. Before he does so though, he has some more words to say to his disciples.

Jesus’ authority

Jesus has been raised from the dead. What happened next? In Matthew 28, Jesus has ascended back to the right hand of God the Father and the Holy Spirit has come upon and in the disciples. Before he left, he issued this commandment to his disciples. What will the disciples do now that Jesus has gone? They will do as Jesus commanded – go and tell the world about this Jesus and teach them to be his disciples. One of the major themes of Matthew’s Gospel is the authority of Jesus. Matthew highlights Jesus’ authority in action and not just merely in words.

For example, Matthew records Jesus’ authority to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6) and Jesus imparted authority to his disciples for a short time when they went on a mission in Matthew 10. Jesus has all the authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Jesus has authority over all things and all people. Jesus has authority over all spiritual beings, whether angels or demons, as well as over all nations, governments, rulers, and over all earthly and spiritual authorities. One of the consequences of Easter is that Jesus’ authority is passed to his disciples. The disciples could be obedient to God without fear of retribution from those who would seek to harm them, regardless of the circumstances they would find themselves in. That is why they were so bold and why the church spread quickly. That was the work of the Holy Spirit who changed them from living in fear to living out their faith boldly. They had great confidence in their God, knowing that through his death and resurrection, Jesus had conquered all enemies.

Therefore, as Christian Disciples, we can obey Him without fear of retribution from those who would seek to harm us. We can obey Him regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in. It is a great comfort to know, that he is in control of everything. Through his death on the cross and his rising from the dead, Jesus has conquered all enemies. People often confuse authority with authoritarian. Authoritarian means severe, rigidity and a dictator.

None of these applies to Jesus. We have been given a free will, but as his Disciples, we should choose to exercise our free will to obey Him and live a life worthy of Him. As the Christian depends on Jesus’ authority, the Christian Disciple gains wisdom, guidance, and power. As we receive His love and grace, we are to show His love and grace to others.

If Jesus had not risen from the dead, then the Disciples would not have had a story to tell. But Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, and the early church exploded numerically as the twelve Disciples exercised Jesus’ authority and his power.

We read about the growth of the early church in the Book of Acts in the Bible. Christianity is a faith whereby all Christian Disciples – all followers of Jesus - are to tell others of the goodness of God.

 

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