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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Even If He Does Not

FlamesShadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Dan 3:16-18

It has been said that faith is spelt R.I.S.K.

The decision of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego may be the ultimate example of this.

Unlike the "faith preachers" of today, they did not believe that simply having enough faith in God would make them immune from hardships. Theirs was not absolute trust in faith but absolute trust in God.

Faith To Surrender
Firstly, they had the faith to surrender themselves to the circumstance. They did not try to hide away in the hope that no-one would notice their absence. They did not avoid the issue but faced it head on.

Faith To Stand 
Secondly, they had the faith to stand when everyone else was bowing down to Nebuchadnezzar's statue. Man looks at the outward appearance but God sees the heart (1 Sam 16:7) so perhaps they they might have thought they could get away with making physical obeisance while keeping their hearts set on God. But instead they chose to stand amongst a crowd of prostrate people. Their faith was visible to all.

Faith To Sacrifice
Thirdly, and this is what sets Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego apart from those who believe you only need enough faith to avoid the unpleasant aspects of life, they were willing to trust God even if it cost them their lives. They knew God could save them. But even if they had to die an excruciating death in the flames, they would not deny Him.

Great faith is not believing God for the impossible but trusting Him through the unbearable.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Day Of Small Things

ripplesJesus said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8

God In The Small Things
Who dares despise the day of small things? Zech 4:10

One tiny drop of Holy Spirit power is all it takes. We can work hard to do great things for God in our own strength and achieve absolutely nothing at all.

But when we discover where the Holy Spirit is at work and we begin to cooperate with Him, the ripples will extend well beyond our sphere of influence.

This idea of small things making a big difference is seen throughout Scripture.

Gideon's army was reduced to 32,000 men to 300 before God would allow them to defeat the Midianite hordes.

God took a shepherd to slay a giant.

Jesus spoke of faith the size of a mustard seed being all that was required to move a mountain and took a single packed lunch to feed over 5,000 people.

And to Paul He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

God can do far more through one person's small step of obedience than through a church-load of people with bright ideas.

God Gets The Glory 
Why is this?

It's actually quite simple.

When we achieve things in our own strength, we get the glory. But when God uses ordinary weak people the glory is all His. And He will not share His glory with anyone (Is 42:8, 48:11)

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ 1 Cor 1:26-31

We don't need to be in a rush to do things for God. If we think we are ready for Him to use then, almost certainly, we are not. God calls on us to wait until the Holy Spirit comes upon us.

Then the smallest things He asks us to do will have ripples way beyond what we can imagine (Eph 3:20).

Friday, April 12, 2013

What About Him?

follow jesus footprintsPeter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them ... When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:20-22


Are you jealous?

Is there someone you know who has the car you want? Or the house you could only dream of? Or the attentive spouse? Or successful children? Or fruitful ministry?

Do you wish you had the bubbly personality, the clutch of friends, the model's body?

Have you ever looked at someone and wished that God would bless you as much as He seems to bless them?

Don't do that. Jesus doesn't compare you with others. He doesn't say, "come, follow your pastor." He doesn't say, "come, follow your friend." No. He says, "come, follow me."

Your only measure of success should be the degree to which you plant your feet in the footprints of the Master.

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Heb 12:1-2

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Dealing With Doubt

Yes-No-Maybe--YesNoMaybe-Dice-Black-on-Yellow-front-800x800Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” 
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:24-28

Basis For Belief
Thomas, often referred to as doubting Thomas, gets a bit of a bad press. He refused to take the accounts of Jesus' resurrection on faith and wanted evidence for his belief.

Sometimes we expect people to believe all sorts of claims about God and the Christian faith without recognising the genuine need for evidence.

Let's not forget that the apostles and other early disciples did have clear evidence that Jesus was alive. Peter and John saw the empty tomb and the apostles, apart from Thomas, witnessed Jesus empty a locked room and speak to them.

Thomas wasn't actually asking any more of the Lord than any of the others had already received. He simply wanted some evidence.

Facts and Faith
blind faithJesus, of course, offered a blessing to those who believed without seeing (Jn 20:29).

But He did not ask for blind faith.

He gave Thomas the evidence he needed to believe.

Many Christians have come to faith with little or no physical evidence. Perhaps this is why so many intellectuals find it hard to accept Christianity. And yet there remains an overwhelming body of genuine evidence for the truth of the Christian faith which, if examined carefully and with an open mind, is perfectly able to convince the skeptic.

It is unreasonable for us to demand faith from people without offering evidence. Even Peter said:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Pet 3:15

Answering Atheists 
The resurrection convinced Thomas that Jesus was God. If we can provide good evidence that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead then we have a credible reason for our hope.

But most Christians do not have the basic knowledge to present the arguments for the resurrection. This is quite tragic as there are so many resources available.

My favourite website is Apologetics 315 (apologetics is simply a fancy name for arguing in favour of the faith). There are lots of resources there including articles, videos and mp3s. But it will take you some time to find your way around as there is so much material.

So here's a quick acrostic to help you, courtesy of Timothy McGrew from his talk Evidence Jesus is Alive  

Reasons To Believe Jesus Is Alive 
evidence-jesus-is-aliveA - Appearances. Jesus appeared to many different people at different times and in different places. The most compelling example is that of the 500 people who saw Him at the same time - that could not be an hallucination (1 Cor 15:6).

L - Low Status of Women. Women were the last people who would be taken seriously as witnesses is first century Israel. No-one who wanted the account of the resurrection to be believed would invent a story about women being the first to see the risen Jesus.

I - Immediate Proclamation in Jerusalem. It didn't take centuries, or even decades, for the disciples to start telling people Jesus had risen from the dead. Just 7 weeks after the crucifixion they were preaching about it publicly in the Temple.

V - Voluntary Suffering of the Disciples. All the apostles (with the possible exception of John) died as martyrs, willing to give their lives rather than deny they had seen the risen Jesus.

E - Empty Tomb. No serious alternative explanation of the empty tomb has been offered. No-one ever found the body of Jesus which was a major problem for the authorities.

I've just given headlines here. I recommend you listen to the interview with Tim McGrew to get the full arguments so you can have a basic preparation for dealing with the doubts of the skeptics. It will build your faith too.

You may also like to visit this site

Of course, having the good answers is not enough. There is no substitute for praying for the skeptic. Pray like only prayer will work and make your case like only that will work.