Thursday, 24 October 2019
Reading 1 Timothy this morning I was reminded by the Apostle Paul of a sobering command he left for Timothy and for us as Christians today. Paul says to Timothy, " I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness," 1 Timothy 2:1-2. Did you read it again? That is right, as Christians, we are to pray for those in authority over us, kings, queens, prime ministers, members of parliament, presidents, lords, senators.... and the list goes on. But without context, we miss the impact of this important lesson.
Paul's context in writing to Timothy is very important because Nero was Roman Emperor over the Roman Empire at this time. Nero was known as being cruel especially to Christians, blaming them for the great fire of Rome and thus punishing them. So we must take note, Paul is calling Timothy in his teaching on worship in the church, to make requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving before God for everyone, including the governing authorities.
Then he goes on with further instruction for Christians to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Why? Because he says "this is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth." What is that truth? Pauls says the truth is that "there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all people."
This is a great reminder for all Christians today, especially in my context of the West, where today there is much political animosity, with the recent election in Canada which has left many people feeling divided, the UK also feels divided and which is most likely close to elections as they still work through the Brexit issue with all its uncertainty. No doubt there are also many political challenges and unrest facing my American friends in the USA as well. However, this must be said, Christians, we may or may not like the decisions of our current governments, no more than those Christians in the first century who were faced with the possibility of persecution, but to us, like Paul instructs our first-century brothers and sisters in Christ, are urged to pray, intercede and make requests to God for our ruling authorities AND we are called to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness because this is what pleases God and helps lead others to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So now what is your response to Paul's instructions to the current political climate in which you reside today? I hope your first response is what Paul instructs, to pray. Second, to make every effort to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness for the sake of the Gospel.
Saturday, 14 September 2019
Church Ministries that serve our communities are important and necessary, living out the love of Christ by being His hands and feet in our communities. However, there is a danger that serving in these ministries, for many Christians can become an excuse to neglect the hard work of evangelism. Why? Their reason is serving can often seem easier and much more humanly rewarding than having a hard Gospel conversation with people in our communities. When a community ministry is up and running for many years, whilst there is no spiritual fruit, there becomes a problem. Church renewal expert Paul Borden warns,
"Ministries to the community are important, but if they are not done properly and strategically, they don't cause congregations to grow and often eventually hasten their demise."1
Let's not forget that the main ministry in the life of a Christian is leading people to Christ and discipling them in Christ, this means seeking out Gospel conversations, regardless of how I feel. Gospel ministry seeks to serve the people of our communities who diverse needs, however, their most import need is spiritual reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. Any Christian who does not obey the command of Jesus to make disciples are living in disobedience. My concern is that there will be many who will come before Christ after this life who will be turned away because Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commands," Jn 14:15.
As your church serves your community make sure the Gospel is central to all that is said and done. If a community program has been functioning for years with no Gospel fruit, though it may be a good ministry, either the program needs to be shut down or a new focus needs to be thought through in order to become more effective, Gospel-centered. When individuals are changed by the power of the Gospel, our communities change! Our communities begin to reconcile, forgive, love, serve and come together, looking more like Jesus everyday!
Gospel ministry must have a balance of love in action along with speaking the truth, in words, sharing the truth of one's problem of sin and the need for reconciling people to God, through belief in Christ's work on the cross to bring reconciliation on our behalf. Otherwise, we end up meeting temporal needs at the demise of eternal needs.
1. Paul Borden, Make or Break Your Church in 365 Days, 2012, p. 126.
Thursday, 12 September 2019
Read Mark 9:14-29
I was reading through Mark 9 today and came across this unique story where the disciples of Jesus were trying to cast out a demon from a demon-possessed boy. However, they could not succeed. The boy's father said to Jesus, “I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” It makes me wonder if the disciples had success in the past in this ministry or did they assume when they saw Jesus cast out demons in his ministry with a command that this was enough for them to give it a go as well? Whatever their past experience, they tried to cast out this demon and were completely unsuccessful, much to this poor father’s dismay and despair.
It made me ponder the fact that there are often times of struggle in our lives as Christians when we attempt ministry for God, to do what we perceive as God’s good work. Often, it is with a deep heart of compassion, seeing a need we try to make a difference the lives of others, whether it is people in our community, our brothers and sisters in the church, or even in our own lives, yet we find that we are banging our heads against the wall, there is no real progress or worse yet, none at all. Yet there is still sickness, pain, challenges, hurt that need healing, hope or reconciliation. In our world, our communities, our churches, our homes, our lives we find brokenness. Brokenness in our bodies, mental health, emotions, relationships, communities in so many ways. Sometimes are feel hopeless as I try to have an impact for Christ, and like the disciples, there seems to be no change, no healing, no power. Do you feel hopeless and helpless as a Christian seeking to serve God in your life and community? Jesus rebuked his disciples for their lack of belief, saying, “You unbelieving generation… how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?”
Honestly, my belief in God’s power is sometimes shallow. Do you find that there are times in your own life when your belief in God’s power shallow?
I feel the sting of Jesus rebuke, because the fact is, there are many times I try to do things myself, or there are some situations that humanly speaking seem impossible to see change, or sometimes it is a simple is assuming that God will work in a situation but I forget to lay the situation before his throne in believing prayer and petition. Do you feel the sting of Jesus rebuke?
However, there is so much hope in this Mark 9 passage, even in Jesus rebuke. Why? There answer is found in Jesus response. Jesus says, “This kind [demon] can come out only by prayer.” The answer to seeing this boy healed and released from the power of this demon, and Jesus' challenge to the disciples work for the Lord is found in believing prayer. Jesus is reminding the disciples that the power to do God’s work comes from God himself. He is the power by which change is brought, where lives are changed and healed. We often see Jesus throughout his ministry, though he had all authority to heal as God Incarnate, spending much time in prayer, living for us an example that we must replicate in our own ministries and our service for Christ which means we must have as our foundation believing prayer (Mt.14:23; Mk 1:35; 6:46; Lk 5:16; 9:18). The principle that is being taught here is that sustained and focused prayer before God which is essential to bringing any kind of hope, change, healing, restoration, reconciliation and more.
The fact is there are some pressures, challenges, hurts, relationship problems, healing in the body, mind, and soul, some ministry victories that will only take place and truly changed through committed believing prayer before our holy, awesome, all-powerful God! As James, the brother of Jesus said, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective,” Js 5:16. Obviously, James must have experienced this truth first-hand and passed in along to the church for our encouragement and edification. Why would he say this if it wasn’t true? Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us move ahead, pursuing righteousness and holiness whilst engaged in prayer as part of our daily routine as much as possible. May God use us in this generation to bring him glory, starting with holding firmly to the throne of our Lord and God through Christ! As we do, let us come before him with boldness as we are taught, “Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” Hb 4:16. I am pumped!
Saturday, 4 May 2019
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made… He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
~ John 1:1-5, 10-12
“I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence — why there is something rather than nothing.”
~ Allan Sandage, PhD (award winning astronomer)
I love springtime, especially since moving to the UK almost a decade ago now, I have come to appreciate it more because it comes earlier than my birth country of Canada. I was shocked the first winter residing in the UK when at the end of January there were crocuses poking through the ground. Daffodils come up early as well and I often get them confused with the bluebell stems. But when the daffodils die out, it seems immediately, the bluebells come out in bloom. The splendour of spring reminds me that there is a creator. C. S. Lewis once said, “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver.” From a Christian perspective, we believe in a creator God, a grand designer and have come to expect meticulous creativity and design in nature. How often do we miss the genius of our Creator because we are not looking or too busy? The Apostle Paul writes, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse,” Rm 1:20. Did you see that? Gods invisible attributes are clearly perceived in the things God has made!
In John 1, the Apostle John, who was closest to Jesus, shares with us that Jesus is the one who made everything that we see, cannot see and experience. He is God, is from the beginning and God through Jesus made all things. However, the issue that really stands out in the passage is the sad reality that many people will miss Jesus because their eyes are not truly open. John says, “He came to his own,” but he was rejected because they did not know him as the creator, their maker and did not receive him. God through the Apostle John in this text is trying to get your attention and mine. Paul the Apostle says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,” 2Cor 4:4. If you don’t believe in God or haven’t given him much thought, those who do know God and know him intimately are trying to help you see, to open your eyes to the splendour of the creator who loves you and cares for you because he made you. This passage tells us that the God of this age, which we know is Satan, who is real, as real as you and me, wants you to live life blind to God. It’s like spiritually, he has put a blindfold over the eyes of those who do not believe in God or have not truly considered him.
Why am I writing all of this? My heart aches for people to know God and his Son Jesus Christ. Why? Because our world has a problem, it messed up in so many ways. Just look at the local news this morning, you will most likely see stories of stealing, attempted murder, abuse and much more. But what is worse is that the problem is not just out there in communities, but it is in our homes too, and much closer still is an issue of our own hearts. When we take a cold hard look at our lives, our thoughts, our actions of today and the past we know there are things that we are ashamed of thinking, saying or doing. Maybe we spoke harshly to a work colleague, fellow student or neighbour? Maybe we're not fully honest with our spouse or employer about something that we had done or not done, lying to get out of trouble. Some people will say to me, well I am nice, and I do a lot of kind things for others. To that I say, ok, it is great to do nice, kind things for others but have you really asked yourself why you have done these things? Often, even our best intentions are full of selfishness. An example is that I might buy flowers for my wife on the way home from work, not thinking that it is not really out of love, but because I know she likes flowers and I hope she might feel more amorous toward me. Another example might be that I give money to my favourite charity, as it makes me look good in the community. When we dig down deep, often our motives are selfish and not out of pure unconditional love for others. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Rm 3:23 and that because of our sin, we deserve eternal death, “And these will go away into eternal punishment,” Mt 25:46a.
We have all missed God really; we have missed God’s mark of holiness and perfection. Yes, we might look pretty good compared to our brother or sister, neighbour or friend but according to God, none of us make the cut, we are all too messed up. Yet, the Good News is our creator, Jesus Christ, as I say, “God in a Bod,” came to the world, out of love for you and I, his created people, and the Apostle John pleads with us saying, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Can I encourage you to open your eyes, open them a little further to see your loving creator, Jesus Christ? Will you receive him and believe in his name, the only name that can save you from your sin, selfishness and messed up life and heart. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” Rm 10:9. This a free gift, offered by the God of the universe to you and me, and it cannot be earned or bought by anyone, only by grace and mercy does God extend this invitation to be saved. Jesus your creator wants to have a relationship with you, he wants to save you from all the messy stuff. When you call on Jesus to be your Saviour, your God and choose to follow him, he will flood your life with meaning, purpose, love, joy and so much more. Do we still have bad days? Yes, but he has promised to walk with us, we are never alone. Will God still allow us to suffer at times? Yes, but he is with us through every difficulty. Sometimes life’s greatest lessons come through adversity and suffering. These things God can use to help us learn to persevere and to help others who may be struggling with identical challenges.
I plead with you today, open your eyes to the Lord, to the splendour of your creator who loves you and has given his life for you.
For further information, please connect with “The Story” at http://story4.us/jeffjameslee
Open our eyes Lord, to the splendour of your creation, to the beauty of your loving salvation purchased for us through your coming to the earth over two thousand years ago to save us from our sin and eternal death. Thank you for your creation which gives us a glimpse of your great genius, to your amazing creativity. Thank you for your love and grace given to us through your death, burial, and resurrection. Help those who today are living in blindness and darkness to have their eyes opened to the truth and light that Jesus is God and Creator and has given his life out of love for them, their very creator, who knows them more intimately then they could even know themselves. God, please bring about change in this world of darkness today for your glory. Amen
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