Friday, 27 January 2017

The Body Parts Of A Prophet

body-parts-of-a-prophet
¶ Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Luke 24:44
The thirty-nine books of the Old Testament are generally categorised into History, Law, Poetry and Prophets. This is the genius of God. He has chosen to communicate His Word to all mankind through a story with sub-stories, art, decrees, narratives, and biographies. He has also chosen to do so largely through prophets. Some of these people were formerly princes, or shepherds, or farmers, or priests. Some of them were so odd they struck fear into entire towns and villages whenever they entered. Others were so ordinary they were laughed to scorn when they dared prophesy to Kings of nations. There was something peculiar about these instruments of God and we are now going to dissect one of them to see what was going on.
So Samuel called upon the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.
First Samuel 12:18
¶ Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
Amos 7:14-15
Jeremiah Sermon SeriesFor those of you who have been tracking with me through our Jeremiah series, I have attempted to show that Jeremiah was not cold-hearted, boney-finger pointing, party-pooper, but a deeply compassionate, caring, and sensitive young man who was given a job by God which he didn’t want. He became known as the prophet who wept. Through the series we have seen how he grew into a prophetic statesman who wanted God’s people to return to God instead of rebelling against God. Yet, no matter how well meaning a prophet was, people still recoiled at the prophet’s message. 
¶ “For my people are foolish;
they know me not;
they are stupid children;
they have no understanding.
They are ‘wise’—in doing evil!
But how to do good they know not.”
JEREMIAH 4:22
ears-of-a-prophet
This week I had an interesting coffee with someone who died. Let me explain. Several months ago he experienced intolerable pain and was taken to hospital in the dead of night. As he got to Emergency Department, he passed out. The medical staff realised that he hadn’t just fainted, he had had a cardiac arrest. Despite their best efforts, the E.C.G. showed a flat-line for the twenty minutes they worked on him. Then an African doctor came into the room and took the dead man’s right foot. In less than a minute a feint pulse suddenly appeared on the ECG screen and the cardiologist ordered that he be taken immediately to ICU to be put on their specialised equipment. In all, doctors say that he was clinically dead for forty-five minutes before he was revived. During this time, and the subsequent recovery time afterwards, he met with the Lord in a way that he struggled to explain to me. “It was more real than you are across this table from me now” he said. “The Lord spoke to me,” he went on, “but not with words.” “I heard Him, but not in the same way I am hearing you now.” 
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
JESUS, Matthew 11:15
Prophets learned to use their spiritual ears. When Jesus said, “let him hear” it might sound like He was asking for permission on that person’s behalf, but the beauty of the Greek language, in which the New Testament is written, is that each verb tells us far more than can be translated into English. ἀκουέτω (akou-ettoe) is the Greek verb translated let him hear. It is what translators refer to as an imperative  – a command, in the sense of a parent saying to one of their two squabbling children – Let him go!  This is why more modern translations put an exclamation mark into the translation, such as the New English Translation (NET Bible)-
The one who has ears had better listen!
JESUS, Matthew 11:15
Prophets used these kinds of ears which Christ referred to. Some people argue that if God speaks He will have no trouble being heard and understood. If this is indeed the case, the New Testament would have had no need to repeat this imperative “Listen!” thirteen times (Matt. 11:1513:913:43Mark 4:9Lk. 8:814:35Rev. 2:71117293:61322). Just as in any relationship, it’s possible (and common) for you to listen to someone without hearing what they are saying. Prophets learned to listen, hear and heed (advanced listening) what God was saying to them.

eyes-of-a-prophet
When God called Moses to be a Prophet and the Deliverer of Israel out of Egypt, He used a burning bush to get his attention. Moses saw something odd. Prophets tend to seethings differently to most of us. 
(Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let us go to the seer,” for today’s “prophet” was formerly called a seer.)
First Samuel 9:9
Prophets saw people and often wept.
¶  Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!
Jeremiah 9:1
How easy it is for us to look at people but never actually see them? God opened the eyes of the prophets to see what they were already looking at and then to begin to see with their spiritual eyes. The prophets themselves foretold of the coming New Covenant when this would become increasingly common when the Holy Spirit was poured out onto believers.
¶  “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
Joel 2:28-29
heart-of-a-prophet
The heart of a prophet was full of love for God. In First John we are told that it is simply impossible to love God without loving people. The prophet who closes our Old Testament, Malachi, sounds like he is angry and perhaps cold-hearted. But nothing could be further from the truth. Angry? Yes. When a heart is full of love it is more prone to anger – because that heart’s expectations of the ones they love are higher. Malachi was angry that the people had neglected God and His House (Mal. 1). Malachi was angry that the people of God had compromised marriage (a picture of our relationship with God for the world to observe, Mal. 2). Malachi was angry that the people had begun to treat their religion as routine and worthy of their left-over time/talent/treasure, and as such, he charged with robbing from God because He deserved their first, their best, not their spare-change (Mal. 3). And Malachi was angry because fathers no longer cared enough for their children to ensure that they were taught the ways of God, and as such, the land was now full of fatherless delinquents who carried out violence in the streets (Mal. 4). But Malachi’s anger was caused by his heart being full of love for God and people. He cared. Just as a parent who cares for their child and thus does all they can to guide them, correct them, and discipline them, so Malachi sought to guide, correct, and even bring a disciplining rebuke to those who had grown complacent, routinised, and half-hearted in their devotion to God.
Christ has called His Church, you and me, to a prophetic voice to our generation. In this light, we each and all would do well to develop the ears, eyes and heart of a prophet by drawing nearer to God with open ears, open eyes, and an open heart. Time prevents me from exploring the other body parts of a prophet, but I do hope that as come together as the Church we will be an increasingly complete prophetic body to a world that seems to be becoming increasingly delinquent and violent just as it was in Malachi’s day.
But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
Malachi 4:2
Ps. Andrew

Friday, 20 January 2017

PRESSING ON

PRESSING ON
Mount-Oakleigh-bushwalkPlease don’t tell her, but when I was able to go bush-walking with Kim, I was able to experience what Christ commanded His first disciples to do, and what the first disciples would then go on to describe as they exhorted others to follow Christ as well. When Christ told His disciples, “Come! Follow Me!” He was telling His disciples, that Christianity was never merely going to be an event – like joining a church, filling out a ‘Decision Card’, or merely ticking a Question Box on a Census Form! Rather, following Christ was going to require, walking, tracking, listening, serving, watching, learning, and keeping up.  After Christ ascended victorious back to His Father and Glory, the Disciples would describe Christianity as “a walk”. And if you have embarked on this walk, you will have come to know that this spiritual walk with Christ involves twists and turns, ascents and descents, obstacles, and adverse weather. But most commonly, walking with Christ involves overcoming the temptation to stand still – or worse still, to keep going while looking back.
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:4
A few years ago I had a momentous birthday. It was a time of reflection for me. I realised that in many ways I had stopped growing. I knew that unless I took deliberate steps to stretch myself out of my comfort-zone, I might never be willing or able to do so as I got older. I set a goal to earn a particular academic award. This involved me undertaking some formal classes in learning Biblical Greek. On December 10th, 2016, after three years of study, I completed my tenth Biblical Greek Exam (5 exams for Greek Level 1, and another 5 for Greek Level 2). Trying to fit this study into a life that was already too busy, was extremely difficult. The temptation to quit was constantly overwhelming. But I knew that this was a season that would pass, and that I needed to press on.
¶ Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.
Ephesians 4:17
When I have been bushwalking with Kim, I had to press on. It was emotionally, physically, and emotionally and physically draining (and did I mention that it was emotionally and physically?) draining. These walks, and my Greek studies, were metaphors of our life following Christ. There a times of ease, times of learning, times of difficulty, and times of challenges. In our spiritual development, there should be no quitting. Like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim, we too must press on. This means, that if we are following Christ, we are not now who we once were – nor are we who we will be if keep following Christ. The Christian walk changes us. But as we clock up a few miles, it’s too easy to slow down or lose the passion for the journey. The seasoned apostle Paul wrote toward the end of his life, that he too had to press on
¶ Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:1214
Two verses before this startling example of what it means to follow Christ over a long time, the Apostle gives us a glimpse of the motive and goal for doing so. And I wonder, if we, and I mean those of us who have been following Christ for decades, can begin realign our walk with Christ to this motive and goal as well? 
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
Philippians 3:8-10

Pressing On Looks Like
I’m not an expert at pressing on, but from the little experience that I have had in recent times with this necessary trait of Christian maturity, I can advise those starting out in their walk with Christ that it will look something like this:
  • Despite the best of intentions to practice the core daily disciplines of following Christ through His Word, quiet prayer, reflection and witness, there will be days when this doesn’t happen. (See Proverbs 24:16)
  • There will be days when you won’t want to practice these disciplines. (2Cor. 5:7)
  • Tiredness will seek to be your master and excuse you from the essentials of following Christ (daily Bible reading, Sunday church attendance). (See Gal. 6:92Thess. 3:13Heb. 12:3
  • Doing the Christian disciplines out of a sense of duty.
  • And, having to intentionally remind ourselves that the One we follow is the Ultimate Example of what it means to press on.  
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  ¶ Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Hebrews 12:2-3
Thus, pressing on with Christ doesn’t happen when we feel like it – otherwise it might never happen. In fact, if we always felt like practising the spiritual disciplines in being a follower of Christ, the Scriptures would have no need to exhort us to press on. Just as with a bushwalk where you’ve been trudging up hill and over dale, through rivers and swamp, around boulders and over fallen trees, for hours on end, and daylight is running out yet the camp site is still hours away, you must press on. In life it’s the same thing. Challenges come, distraction lure us away, weariness entices us to stay in bed, the work we’ve brought home persuades us to make it our priority rather than being in church that Sunday, are all the obstacles on our path to walking with Christ. Christian maturity can only grow when we press on. “Consider Him” wrote the writer to the Hebrew Christians who, after three decades of telling their Jewish brothers and sisters that Jesus was the Messiah and that His death had brought an end to the Old Covenant, were now having doubts themselves whether this indeed true. Press on! The Hebrews Author tells them, although he used one word to say it: “Endure!” (Heb. 12:3
Our walk with Christ transforms us as we press on. It shapes us into people who are more like the One we follow and love. It transforms us. The more we press on with Christ the more concerned we become for others (1John 4:11-12) and ironically, the more we are enabled to care for them. If you have stalled in your walk with Christ and have become spiritually stagnant, then it’s time to get back up and press on. May we each press on to know Christ more richly and thereby, be enabled to make Him known more sweetly.

Pastor  Andrew

Friday, 13 January 2017

A Full Reward On Offer

full-reward

Watching is not as easy as using your eyes. F.W. Boreham reminds us of something that Ruskin wrote –
“A cat may look at a king but never see the king!”
a-cat-may-look-upon-a-kingA cat cannot discern that the chair upon which the one it is looking at is actually a throne. A cat cannot tell what the regal robes with ermine trimmings denote. A cat cannot find any significance in the bejewelled hat of gold and velvet which the person in front of it is donning. A cat cannot see that certain things are indicators or symbols of something else. 
soldier-sentryWatching is not merely a matter of looking. To “see” something is to understand or appreciate something. After reading this, you may aptly say, “Ah, I see.” Or, if I have failed to convey to you what I am hoping you will gain, you may say, “I can’t see what you’re saying.” When a soldier stands watch, they are expected to not merely look out, but to watch out – in the sense that they are expected to see the movement of shadows, shrubs, objects, and understand that the enemy is stealthily approaching. 
Watching requires seeing, interpreting and understanding. 
It is possible to look at the shortest book in the Bible and fail to see it, which is ironic because it is the book which commands us to watch.
Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.
Second John 8
The Apostle John wrote his pastoral epistle to the churches of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) with the concern that some of these believers were being beguiled into deception and ran the risk of losing their full reward. We know that our salvation is an extravagant reward from God, but it is not the end of His rewards for His people. It is His heart for us to watch ourselves so that we may not lose our full reward. Too many followers of Christ have been deceived into compromise and have thus jeopardised their full reward. 
¶ Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
Second Corinthians 7:1
Perhaps we each need to go beyond looking at God’s Word, and as we read it, see God’s heart and then gaze with understanding into the window it opens to our own soul. If we could really see the schemes, plots, traps, and snares that our ruthless Enemy uses to attempt to hinder us from receiving our full reward, we may be a little more motivated to keep watch over our soul and our work for the Lord with a little more vigilance.

Pastor Andrew