Tag Archives: voice

WITHOUT EXCUSE

WITHOUT EXCUSE

“But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: ‘Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world.’

“And again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, ‘I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.’

“And Isaiah boldly says, ‘I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.’

“But concerning Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.'” Romans 10:18-21.

So that’s it! Why did God turn away from His own people and open the door of faith to a people who were not in a covenant relationship with Him? As much as God’s people hated the Gentiles, from a human perspective, they only had themselves to blame for rejecting their Messiah and opening the way for the Gentiles to become part of God’s family of believers.

In their zeal for God, the Jews believed that their way of attaining righteousness through observing the law was the right way. They refused God’s invitation to receive the righteousness of Christ by faith as a gift, and forfeited their place in God’s family. Instead of simply believing the message about Christ, which is the way in which faith comes and grows, they stubbornly persisted in trying to do it their way.

There was no lack of opportunity to hear the message – it was proclaimed all day and all around them, but God’s judgment was on them because they were obstinate and disobedient. God does not arbitrarily condemn anyone without giving him an opportunity to believe in Him at the level at what they can see, hear and understand. Even if they never hear the words about Jesus, creation itself speaks of His power and deity to anyone who will listen.

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress that truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them because God has made it plain. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”  Romans 1:18-20.

However, God is determined to have a family. Since the Jews both refused to obey Him and refused to be His messengers to the Gentiles about Him, He opened the door to the Gentiles anyway, every though they did not purposely seek Him. Such is the love and mercy of God that He offers His free gift of grace to anyone who will receive it. He does not force Himself on those who do not want Him. The message is clear, even in the world around, but if people choose to believe that the universe just happened, or that it was produced by some hypothetical explosion caused by who knows what, then it’s up to them to believe the lies and take the consequences.

Truth can neither be altered nor destroyed. Truth is truth, whatever humans may say. People may decide that the Bible was corrupted or that it is myth or fable or untrue or whatever else they may think about it, but they cannot change the fact that it is the Word of God and that those who believe it are transformed by what they read.

God has mercy and grace for everyone who hears the message and receives Jesus Christ as Messiah and God. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

THE BOOK OF ACTS – CAUGHT IN THE ACT!

CAUGHT IN THE ACT!

“One day on my way to Damascus, armed as always with papers from the high priests authorising my action, right in the middle of the day a blaze of light, light outshining the sun, poured out of the sky on me and my companions. Oh king, it was so bright! We fell flat on our faces. Then I heard a voice in Hebrew, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me? Why do you insist on going against the grain?’

“‘I said, ‘Who are you, Master?’

‘”The voice answered, ‘I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down like an animal. But now, up on your feet — I have a job for you. I’ve hand-picked you to be a servant and witness to what’s happened today, and to what I am going to show you.'” Acts 26:12-15 (The Message).

Did a day ever go by that Paul did not remember his encounter with Jesus? He remembered every detail as though it had happened yesterday. As he recalled it in the presence of the king, his entourage, the governor and all the dignitaries in the Great Hall that day, he relived those moments, felt the electricity of the Divine Presence once again and melted in the atmosphere of perfect Love.

The words of Jesus were branded on his heart. The Voice, like the sound of a thundering cataract, echoed and re-echoed around the caverns of his mind, supporting and steadying him through every danger and trial he experienced on his journey of life with his Master, and leading him ever on to greater heights of obedient love.

He didn’t care what they accused him of doing, what they said about him or what they tried to do to him. Nothing could change or take away from his encounter with the risen Jesus, from the glory of the Presence that melted his hatred, his anger, his hostility and aggression towards those who believed in Him, and changed him in an instant from a vicious persecutor to a hopeless, helpless, passionate lover of Jesus.

“‘I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who began real living by believing in me.'” Acts 26:16-18 (The Message).

Instructions like that should have sent a fanatical Pharisee into a frenzy of protest, had they come from the lips of anyone else than those of his new-found Lord. Go to the Gentiles! Outrageous! Never! But Paul had new eyes and a new heart. Instantaneously he was transformed. He saw, with the eyes of Jesus, the Gentiles as people, not “dogs” or inferior scum to be brushed aside with contempt. Go to the Gentiles? Anything, Lord, if it comes from your lips!

What made the difference for Paul? What should make the difference for us? Not “knowledge” which does nothing to change our hearts. It is only the real, vital, living presence of Jesus that can transform our stony hearts. When we “see” Him, we are changed. When we gaze on Him, we begin to reflect His glory. No work, service, labour, or doing things for Jesus can accomplish what moments of contemplation in His presence can do. There is no substitute for His presence.

Paul saw Him and for the rest of his life he continued to gaze on his Beloved. This is his secret: “And we, who with unveiled faces, all reflect (contemplate) the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV).

Herald Of His Coming

HERALD OF HIS COMING

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” – “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.'” And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1: 1-4).

Israel’s migration through the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land was recognised in Scripture as symbolic of their journey through life. In order to navigate the treacherous and unknown path, they had to follow the landmarks which God pointed out to them on the way. He promised to accompany them, to show them the right way and to keep them from wandering off the path, getting lost and dying without food and water. His word would light the way for them.

Their destination was Mount Zion, (tsyiown – meaning landmark) the highest point in the city of Jerusalem. God had told them that it was in Jerusalem that He would establish His name. When they were settled in the land, they were to go to Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate His appointed feasts which were prophetic of the work of the promised Messiah.

There were obstacles and dangers on the way. If they wandered off the path by failing to keep His commandments, they would die but, if they realised they were lost, they were to return to the path by repenting of their disobedience and by following His instructions (Torah – His commandments) which would keep them on the path and take them to their destination.

It was this imagery which lay behind the opening words of Mark’s gospel. His announcement – “the beginning of the good news about Jesus, the Messiah, and the Son of God” would put his readers in the picture. Using Hebraic thought, he related the story of John the Baptist whose role was to call the people to repent (shuv – meaning to return to the path from which they had wandered and got lost).

Isaiah had prophesied, centuries before, that God would send a man ahead of the Messiah to prepare His way and to announce His arrival like the herald who would go before a king to alert the people that he was coming. God’s people had wandered off the path through disobedience and misunderstanding of His word. It was now time to come back so that, when Messiah came, they would learn to follow Him because He was God’s representative to bring them back to God through the forgiveness of sins and to show them the way to the Father by His perfect life.

Mark wanted his readers to understand that John’s appearance and message fitted perfectly into God’s prophetic timetable. He was no upstart preacher, some crank who dressed funny and spoke funny, but His appointed herald to prepare the way for His Messiah. John’s message was a clarion call to return to the way of Yahweh – to come out of the wilderness where for centuries they had wandered around with no one to show them the right way.

They had not heard God’s voice for four hundred years after the ministry of Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets. Now, at last, God began to speak again, through John, the last of the prophets of the old era. His role was to prepare the way for the Son of God who came from God not only to speak God’s word but to be God’s final word to His people. If they did not listen to Jesus, God had nothing more to say to them.

Jesus did not come from God with a new message. He came from the Father to show His people how to live the way He had instructed them from the beginning. He came to interpret God’s eternal message. He did not come to do away with torah, but to live it out in the spirit of Torah which was the revelation of God’s mercy to show us how it is done.

On the mountain with God in the wilderness, Moses had begged God to show him His glory. God revealed the meaning of His name – mercy and compassion. In the flesh Jesus became the meaning of God’s name by showing mercy and compassion to His people, culminating in His death to rescue them from the consequences of and slavery to sin.

Just as John the Baptist called his people to shuv – to return to the way of the Lord, so the Holy Spirit still calls His people today. Jesus issued one simple instruction to the twelve men who became His disciples – “Follow me,” and the instruction has not changed. The church of the Lord Jesus has, in the main, become lost in the wilderness of ignorance and sin again because its leaders and those who follow them have ignored His call and made up their own way.

A lady made a profound statement to me in conversation recently, “Without Jesus, all we have left is religion.” How true that is! Many churches have plenty of religion but no Jesus. How tragic that mere humans have usurped His place and taken His people off the path and back into the wilderness where they have become exactly what His people were when He came – harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

John’s message is as relevant today as it was then: “Repent! Return to God’s way because the good news is that Jesus is here!”

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Today Is The Day

TODAY IS THE DAY

As has just been said, ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.’

Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter His rest if not those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter because of their unbelief. (Heb. 3:15-19)

These are serious words written about people who lived and died long ago, but applicable to us today. Today! We have no other time but today.

God’s people, the children of Israel, must have been excited at the thought that, through Moses they would finally be free of the hated Egyptians and their cruel whips. With what expectation they gathered on that fateful night when the angel of death passed over the land of Egypt and left at least one dead in every household! They were untouched by the simple act of smearing blood on the doorposts of their houses. That was a miracle! It had to be because blood in and of itself could do nothing for them.

Then there was the unforgettable moment when the uncrossable Red Sea gave way and became a pathway through which they could walk on dry land. They saw it! They walked across it, and when they were through, the water collapsed back on itself and swallowed up the Egyptian army because it was not under God’s protection as they were.

So many miracles in the wilderness! Every day a vast cloud covered the camp and sheltered them from the searing desert heat. At night the same cloud glowed with warmth and kept them comfortable in the freezing cold. Every morning they gathered the mysterious manna which was there six days out of seven. On the seventh day the ground was just ground, sandy, rocky and barren – no sign of the manna. It was heavenly bread, packed with all the goodness of all their food put together which nourished them and kept their bodies healthy and strong for their journey.

Where would they find water in a desert where is rained only every ten years? God did it again. He split a huge granite rock and so much water gushed out that it eroded the surrounding rocks and filled the plain below it with enough water to satisfy the needs of millions of people and animals for a whole year. How is that for a miracle!

When fiery snakes bit them because of their complaining against God, a brass snake on a pole was all it took to save them from the venom. In fact, God’s promise was a built-in medical service which guaranteed their preservation from sickness as long as they trusted Him.

They needed no shops or clothing boutiques. Their clothes and shoes miraculously lasted for the duration of their journey. How did that happen? God, again! For forty years God was an all-inclusive supply store of everything they needed. All they needed to do was ask and trust Him; but they didn’t.

They constantly revealed their unbelief and suspicion of Him by their complaining and threats. Worse still, they refused to obey Him. If He told them to do this, they did that! How is that for insult! They insulted God time and again by their in-you-face disobedience. It’s no wonder they provoked God to such an extent that even Moses’s intervention could not save them. One by one they died in the desert and their bodies were left to rot there instead of moving boldly and confidently into their inheritance.

For forty years, forty years! they went around in circles, just a few weeks journey from their destination but never reaching it because they would not listen in spite of all the miracles! How is that for wicked unbelief!

But lest we judge them, what about us? We may not be crossing a real desert somewhere but life is often like a desert – barren and empty. Instead of trusting God and following His instructions, we complain, we murmur, we rebel and we disobey. We are no different from those who perished in the desert. We decide what to do and how to do it and we act like people in the world who don’t have a Father who loves them.

What’s the purpose of having to traverse the barren times in life? It’s about trust! Trust! That means listening, following, obeying, holding on and keeping on because the wilderness will come to an end. There is the abundance of God’s promises for those who are determined to go His way. When do we start? Today!

For those who trust God today, and today, and today, there is a reward, today! Rest! Trust leads to rest, the rest of leaning on the Father for the supply of every need without a murmur and without a qualm. In the desert? Is this really possible? Yes! God is full – full of everything, and He delights to fill those who know they are empty and come to Him to be filled.

All we need to do is to ask, and trust. After all, God is a perfect Father. And it can begin for you today.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

A Time Of Testing

A TIME OF TESTING

So, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me through the forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ (Heb. 3:7-11).

The period in the wilderness was, for the Israelites, a time of testing, but who was being tested? Both! God was testing His people to see what was in their hearts, and they were testing God’s love and patience by their rebellion and unbelief.

God often deliberately led His people into seeming cul-de-sacs because He wanted to know what was in their hearts. Of course He knew what was in them. He knew them better than they knew themselves. But that was exactly the point. Until they were in a situation where what was in them could come out, it was of no value to them. So what did He do? He tested them,

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Deut. 8:2, 3)

And how did they fare in this test? Their unbelief spilled out in a torrent of abuse and complaint against Moses and against God. Gone was the remembrance of God’s covenant and His promises. Their circumstances blotted out everything except the awareness of what was happening to them right then. They whined; they threatened Moses; they complained against God, and they got it from Him!

How did they test God? They spoke against Him; they failed to understand what He was doing; they negated His promises through their words of unbelief, and they brought His wrath down upon them by their murmuring. Instead of being encouraged by His miraculous intervention time and again, they tried His patience by conveniently forgetting both what He had done for them and what it was really like back in Egypt. They were quite willing to go back there and suffer under a cruel and ruthless Pharaoh rather than trust the God who was doing everything to make their journey as comfortable as possible for them.

Since it was Jesus with whom the writer was comparing Moses and the ‘house’ over which he was a faithful servant, how did He react to His testing in the wilderness? He trusted the Father in those horrific forty days when He had no access to food, water, shelter and protection from the heat of the sun, the cold of the night and the venomous creatures that lived there.

He had to face all this alone without wavering in His confidence in the Father. He made no plans to go it alone. He would not capitulate to the enemy’s insinuations and suggested solutions. He would not break His unity with the Father. He chose to die rather than betray the Father, and because of that He lived.

He taught His disciples to pray, ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ Those words were loaded with meaning for Him because He had been there. He knew the strength of Satan’s tests and the pull of His human desires. This is not so much about what the devil can do; this is about what we can do when under pressure from the devil. We are not victims. If we were, God could not hold us responsible for falling into temptation.

There is no such thing as ‘The devil made me do it.’ We alone are responsible for the choices we make. Neither God nor the devil can decide for us. All the devil can do is to plant lies into our minds. What we do with them is our choice. If we, like Jesus, are fortified with God’s word and empowered by His Spirit, we will do as He did, ‘live by every word that comes from the mouth of God’.

Jesus, our high priest, is qualified to intercede for us because He was faithful over God’s house as an obedient and trusting Son. When our faith in God is put to the test through hardship and suffering, we have both His example and His Spirit to see us through if we are willing to trust Him instead of, like His ‘house’ over which Moses was a servant, revealing rebellion and unbelief by our bitter murmuring.

When God tests us, let us not test Him. His tests always have a miracle and a blessing in store if we trust Him and live in the gratitude of His presence and His provision. If we endure with faith and patience, we shall inherit the promises (Heb. 6: 12).

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.