Wednesday, December 23, 2015

CP 263 OK, Freddy, how was that?

CP 263 OK Freddy, how was that?
Sunday December 20… attend worship. Where? Hillsong Campus, Campbelltown, NSW. People, I loved it. The songs we sang were so spot on in faith and worship of the Son. We could sense the full-on engagement of the church, especially in the singing of a traditional Christ carol which was climaxed with, ‘O come let us adore him, O come let us adore him, O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.’ I know we Lutherans might readily roll our eyes, but we sang that little chorus maybe 15 times and it was soul and spirit-stirring stuff. One of our own hymns has that line, ‘Lost in wonder love and praise.’ It was like that.
The message was ace. This was an older Pastor, Robert Ferguson, down to earth, so scripturally based, wonderful insight and wisdom, it was a delight to be there and listen to someone steeped in the Word proclaiming that Word. I’d be happy to listen to him anytime. There was no doubt about his honouring of Jesus Christ. His sermon was based on Paul’s letter to Philemon in which he requests Philemon to prepare the guest room for his possible coming. He explored the scripture in terms of making room in our lives. Switch off the busy-ness excuse and make room, for God, for others, and when necessary, also for oneself. He also picked up Psalm 10:4, where David writes of the ‘the wicked man, ‘…in whose thoughts there is ‘no room for God.’
Here are his 10 specific challenges to Hillsong members about where they might ‘make room’ in their lives in 2016:
1.     Make room for change
2.     …for blessing to bless
3.     …for service
4.     …for generosity
5.     …for having a mentor
6.     …for mystery
7.     …for expectations
8.     …for forgiveness
9.     …for the supernatural
10.  …for obedience.
This was good stuff. Down the line practical stuff. Young people crave healthy and godly spiritual advice. Let’s face it, they haven’t had much of that from the parental generations, and what we gave them was mostly moral. Being who I am I might have started with making room for the Word, or grace, or gospel, or fellowship, but we’d all see it a little differently.
Suddenly I was hanging out for him to say the one thing that would bring all this together with graceful power. What did my spirit suddenly crave to hear? I’ll try to tell you.
Look at that list again. Now, open your eyes to the gospel story. See Jesus in the wilderness, after the Holy Spirit came upon him, absorbing the call he must now fulfil as the Messiah. Every single point in the above list is taken on board with all his heart, soul, mind and spirit. See the tempter come. Hear the beguiling whisper that it doesn’t have to be like that. Keep looking. Watch the video of his ministry on earth, from beginning to end. Let it run unhindered through your mind and see Him living it out, to the max, even to the cross, even to death, and being laid in the tomb, having also obediently fully embodied my (our) sin and sinfulness.
Right here, are we not witness to the awesome-ness of holy love? Is this not astonishingly awesome and fantastic and amazing? A great and wondrous mind-blowing, sin-destroying truth is revealed. Everything the Father has ever required of Adam and his offspring has been completed, for me, for us, in Him! His ‘performance’, his track record of righteousness in making room, is credited to me, to us. I dare to say it. In Christ, where only God can put me, I have become the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Now see Jesus alive. Having ‘made room’ for his Father, and his brothers and sisters in humanity, there are now ‘many rooms’ with the Father, made ready for us! His life is in me. His heart is now my heart. His Spirit is within me. His love has been poured into my heart. Now, for heaven’s sake, I am worthy and well-prepared to have a crack at that list…
After all, he did say, ‘Follow me.’ Merry Christmas…


Saturday, December 19, 2015

CP 262 Can you see what I see? Please tell me.

CP 262 Do you see what I see? Please tell me…
So, one of the texts the speaker used last Sunday was this:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Now, he admitted himself that he didn’t do a good job. Understandable enough. He’s a youth Pastor, had never preached before, and only realized he was preaching a couple of days ago. In essence he told us that he had to come to a point in his spiritual life where he understood he needed to take this text seriously and that he had learned to trust God and know that God would show him what he had to do. Good on him.
The ‘advice’ of this text is good. It is wise. It is holy. It is timeless. It is more than advice, it is Torah, it is law. It declares the will of God. It clearly sets out what God asks of us and the promise of blessed direction which is the outcome. We like these words and know and sing them in lovely and lively choruses. We trust these words. But you know, when I ‘see’ this text on screen or in my bible, my first thought is not, ‘I should do this.’ You might think I am weird but every single time these types of texts are in my face I think of my Lord Jesus. Let me try to explain.
 Inevitably, the very first thing that happens is that a picture forms in my mind of Jesus, age 30, in the wilderness after his baptism, and he is meditating on this text. He is wrestling with his call as messiah and he clearly hears these words addressed to himself. He’s praying. ‘Father, I trust you. I submit to you. Be my guide in all things. Your name be holy in my life. Your kingdom come. Your will be done. Your will is my will’
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Now in my heart’s eye I watch his life as if I’m watching a video clip. It’s stunning. Not once, never, not even for a single moment, not in any circumstance, not in any temptation or challenge, does he deviate from this commitment made in the wilderness. Not once. He trusts, and he listens, and his steps are directed.
Finally, this obedience, this unerring faithfulness, comes to a gob-smacking conclusion. The straight path on which his Father has led him has taken him straight to Calvary, to his own crucifixion. It takes him to a place where the Father is silent and he is forsaken. And then he himself is silent, can no longer hear. There he lays, in a tomb, dead as a doornail. What was the promise? Oh, yes. …he will make your paths straight. So much for trusting, whatever, whenever.
My God! I can’t believe it! He is alive again. He lives. For goodness sake he lives. Glory, glory, alleluia. Amen. Alleluia.
Two things. First, what I have seen in my ‘video clip’ is the only possible way for Satan to be overcome and defeated. Sin has to be atoned for and now has been atoned for. The accuser no longer has a case to present. The prosecution not only lapses, it collapses. For that alone I am glad.
Secondly, I have seen something else, something so profound that I can never live my life the same way I used to live it. His perfect fulfilment of the requirements of that text is counted as my perfect fulfilment of it! In that courtroom, His Father, now my Father, has extended Jesus’ perfect track record of trust to me. To me! In Him, I am now utterly righteous. Unalterably, shockingly righteous. His righteousness is my righteousness, right now. I am dressed for presence. Dressed for heaven. Dressed for home. And miracle of miracles, until I get there, now, for the first time, I am free to live and trust the way he lived and trusted. Deo Gratias.

Do you too see what I see? Please let me know… Fred

Sunday, December 13, 2015

CP 261 Please Sir, could I have more?

CP 261 Please Sir, could I have more?
So, last Sunday we attended the big church. It tends to cop a whack of flack. However I was blessed to be there.  Standard procedure is to sing 3-4 worship songs, and the last two of these ‘really met me’ and spoke deep into my soul and spirit. It was like fresh air from a cool change. Below are some words from both songs:

Never forsaken
I know You won't shy away
I am never forsaken
In dark and sleepless nights
To You I'm holding tight
I will rest in the depths of Your mercy

You drench my weary soul
Your Spirit overflows
Here I soak in Your love
I'm covered by Your love
It's surging in my heart
Forever I am found in You my God
My feet had wandered far
But now I'm where You are
Forever I am found in You my God

Corner Stone
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour's love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour's love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

The message was based around the destructiveness of comparing yourself against others. This is a real issue for many of us because it can be a mechanism for building oneself up at the expense of another. Conversely, if I put myself down I am denying my Father’s work in me. It leads to ungodly competitiveness and blesses neither me nor the kingdom. It gives no honour to Jesus Christ.
The pastor / preacher used a number of scripture illustrations like David / Saul and the twelve arguing on the road as Jesus headed toward Jerusalem. My spirit jumped when he read the scripture which revealed when this sin came to humanity. It’s where the tempter lies to Eve and Adam and they fall for it: (Italics mine)
 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” …she (and Adam) took of its fruit and ate… Genesis 3:4-6
Very appropriately, he followed up with the passage from old Isaiah which reveals that this was exactly Satan’s rebellion in the first place: (Italics mine)
12 “How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer,[
b] son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
13 For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
Isaiah 14
My spirit rejoices in this stuff. There is nothing like it when those who teach open up the true gutsy intent and understanding of scripture. My preacher went on to link my freedom to deal with this sin to Jesus and his Lordship. All good. All I wanted from him after that was that he would open Paul’s letter to the young Christians at Philippi and read the passage in which Paul describes, with a sense of awe, the manner of Jesus victory over Satan. (Again, italics mine)
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,[a] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2:5-11
Great text. Best text. Declares to the heavens the victory over evil that Jesus obtained. Crucially, it tells us how he did it. While Satan aggressively grasped upwards toward equality with God, and successfully induced Adam and Eve to reach upwards, Jesus chose the reverse direction, chose voluntary humiliation, chose anti-power, stuck with that choice to the enth, to the cross and to death. And he did it for me, for us. Through that choice and the inevitable death which climaxed it, he emasculated and neutered the Evil one. Amen!
Such a liberating truth. It releases Christ’s Holy Spirit holy love in our lives. It is this Jesus who is both our freedom from Satan, and our model to living it out in victory, including over that business of comparing and competing. What’s he keep on saying to us? “Come follow me.”
‘Please Sir, could I have more?’ Please say that. Please proclaim it. Preach it preacher…

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

CP 260 Pure gold, and 18 small diamonds...

CP 260 Pure gold, with 18 small diamonds…
The retread series NO 3
On Sunday morning we were in Jindabyne with our daughter and her boys at the local playground. It’s at the edge of a great open-space luscious lawn, the size of a football field, which stretches down to the lake. Near the table where we based ourselves there was a woman who was clearly searching for something near the table. Turned out that on Saturday she had been running around, chasing a soccer ball with her little boy. When they finished she noticed that she had lost one of her earings.
That earing was obviously important to her. She had twice returned on Saturday afternoon to look for it without luck. Sunday morning she was there again, searching, searching, searching… She’d even tried to find a metal detector she might borrow. I asked where she thought she had lost it and she indicated the area around the table. ‘What does it look like?’  She said it was gold, a bit over a centimetre round and had 18 tiny diamonds on it. I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I can help here.’ The eyes went down and I began to criss-cross the area without a result. At one point I looked at her and she was 30-40 metres away so I began to think, ‘Fat chance, this is like looking for a needle in a haystack.’
The search area widened as the boys played on. After a half hour or so it was time to go home. I had to accept, and it was sad to accept, that there was to be no ‘lucky strike,’ no fairy-tale ending. Wouldn’t you know, as we headed to the car I looked down and saw a faint flash of something in the grass, and yes, it was the earing, and yes it was beautiful.
Milady was a little way off so we called to her. Overjoyed. Thank you, thank you. I told her I had a reputation! Still the thank yous kept coming, then a hug, then tears, more thank yous and more tears. Her relief was there for all to see. As we moved to the car she was weeping the tears of release. Me? ‘My name’s Fred, and I’m here to help!’ Made my morning.
Afterwards I couldn’t help but think of the story Jesus told about the woman who had ten silver coins, and who had lost one. Turned the house upside down until she found it. When she did find it she was so overjoyed she threw a party. It follows another story where Jesus describes a man losing just one of his flock of 100 sheep, who risked the 99 to find that one. He too chucked a party.
Allow me to make 2 points. First, God the Father also had to deal with the loss of what was most precious to him, Adam and Eve and all their children. The whole story of Scripture is about his seeking the lost, about doing whatever it takes to effect that restoration, even if it means the Son not just coming to us, and living the life of holy obedience and freedom in our place. More than that, he goes, with ‘exocet-like’ precision, to a crucifixion and then a tomb. It was never going into the ‘too hard’ or ‘will take too long’ box. ‘Whatever it takes’ is the motto of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, ponder the joy. I don’t know the exact ‘importance’ of that earing for the woman. I can tell you that you can measure how important it was by the release from her worst fears and the outpouring of her relief and joy. Imagine the joy of our loving God and his angels when you came home.
One final thought. Being participants in that ‘bringing the lost home’ work of God, well that’s our call. There is a challenge here for all of us to let go of our prejudices, criticism and judging, and to live our belief that redemption is the goal, and is possible, even for the worst of sinners amongst us.
Nuff said. Be blessed and be a blessing this week. Jesus is Lord.