We Beheld His Glory

“Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is My Son, Whom I love.  Listen to Him!”

                                                                                                                                                                Mark 9:7

                As Mark continues to lead his readers into an understanding of the steps by which the Lord Jesus Christ led His followers into real discipleship he brings us to his description of the transfiguration.  The more I examine this text in each of the three Gospels in which it appears the more I am convinced that it is the event that best describes the Kingdom of God coming in power which Jesus states that some of His followers will see before their death.  It may also be one of the events which John is referring to when he writes that, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)  On the mount of transfiguration the disciples saw the Majestic Glory of God descending upon Jesus, and they heard the Father speaking about Him.  So many things are of great significance here, but I want to focus upon just one today. 

                This is the command of God for these disciples, and one would presume us as well, to listen to Jesus.  The grammar here supports a translation that would call us not just to hear Him but to listen obediently.  It is God’s command that we listen obediently to the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are to be doing this constantly in the present.  In 2 Peter 1:12ff the Apostle tells us that this was his understanding of the significance of the transfiguration.  They may have seen a wonderful and powerful vision but what they heard was a command to listen to the word of the Lord.  Peter’s doctrine of the Scriptures seems to come out of this experience.  He has heard from the author of Scripture that he must listen to God’s word through the Prophets.  Now that word is being spoken by the Son of God.  It must be listened to obediently.

                Surely this is the meaning behind the introduction to the book of Hebrews where we read, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)  It is interesting that Hebrews follows this introduction with a repeated call for us to not harden our hearts when we hear His voice.  Here is another call to obedient listening.  How much would our world be changed if we truly listened to the Lord with hearts and minds which are committed to the obedience of faith?

A Call To Secret Prayer

“Pray without ceasing”

                                                1 Thessalonians 5:17

                In recent weeks we have been reminded that we live in an increasingly dangerous world.  There are all kinds of reasons for us to become nervous.  We have the Covid-19 Pandemic, as well as the threat of financial instability, job losses, as well as the seemingly routine day to day bad news that inundates us.  We look ahead and think that things must get better someday.  However someday never seems to come.  For some the solution to our troubles seems to be to turn to God in Prayer.  In the past we would find ourselves organizing and attending great prayer rallies.  These were wonderful things.  Today we are joining in virtual prayer meetings and Worship Services. Still somehow we find ourselves thinking that something more is needed.  When we hear a call to prayer and find ourselves moved to participate we must make sure that we really do pray.  What is needed is secret and real prayer.  We are called to seek the face of God in genuine repentance.  I believe that it was this that W.C. Burns was writing about in his journal entry regarding the day of solemn fasting on March 1, 1840. (In God’s Polished Arrow: W.C. Burns Revival Preacher, by Dr. Michael McMullen, Christian Focus Publications, 2000)

                “We had this day a solemn fast, kept by many I have no doubt very strictly, as far as the duty of abstinence is concerned.  We met at two o’clock P.M. and I spoke upon the exercises appropriate for this day:

  1. Self examination in order to the discovery of sin, of the heart and nature as well as of the tongue and life, by the law and the Spirit of Jehovah.
  2. Humbling the soul before God under sins discovered.
  3. Confession of sin, full and particular, free and filial.
  4. Penitent turning from all sin.
  5. Entering into the covenant of grace by the receiving of Emmanuel and the surrender of the soul to Him and to God through Him.
  6. Special prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon this city, and the other places united with us in this fast, the great end designed in its appointment.  There was great solemnity.”

                The beginning of any great movement of prayer must always be found in individuals who genuinely begin to seek God for themselves.  This always requires heartfelt Gospel repentance.  Leonard Griffith once asked an assembly of believers who had gathered to consider some great cause whether “they really meant it”.  When we endeavour to share the love of Christ in a city such as ours, or in a world such as we find ourselves living we must always begin by asking ourselves whether we really mean it.  Are we serious about the love of God?  This means that we must personally examine ourselves to see whether we have received that Gospel love, and then, are we truly living in it.  For this is the starting point.  We must join with others to really pray for God’s blessing in revival.  This is a vital thing.  Before we join with others we must find ourselves on our knees in secret prayer.  This is the way forward.

For This Reason

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.”

                                                                                                                                                                Colossians 1:9

                It is important at a time like this that we stop and reflect upon what is of crucial importance to us as believers in the LORD Jesus Christ.  We can easily fall into a self centred panic or defiance.  I have heard, and experienced both during these past few days.  That is both from others, and within myself as well.  Phil Newton approaches at time of crisis with a reflection upon the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians with the following quotation.

                “It is important to remember that whenever the New Testament writers addressed problem situations, or distressing circumstances, they always pointed the Church back to Jesus Christ and the Gospel.  It was in seeing Christ afresh and reliving the glories of the gospel that they were strengthened to persevere.”

                This is what Paul calls us to in the first chapter of his letter to the Colossians.  His response is rooted in intercessory prayer.  “We have not stopped praying for you.”  Intercessory prayer is the calling of every believer.  We are to be in prayer constantly for one another, especially in times of crisis.  In these past days we have been given a gift of time.  Time has been given where we can get down on our knees and pray for one another.  It is vital that we do so. 

                As we look more closely at Colossians one it is important that we take note of what Paul is praying for.  It is that the Colossians be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual understanding.  The word that Paul uses here for understanding is a word that is best translated as “putting the facts together”.  With the help of the Holy Spirit we are to be given an experiential understanding of God’s purposes in our lives.  He is in fact at work within us causing us to know His will for us.  Paul tells us that this understanding will be seen in at least four areas.

  1. So that we will live a lifestyle that is worthy of the LORD, pleasing Him in every way.
  2. That we will bear fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.
  3. That we might be strengthened with power according to God’s glorious might so that we might patiently persevere.
  4. That we might joyfully give thanks to the Father who has qualified you, (through the cross), to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
  5. For He has delivered us from darkness to light by forgiving our sins.

The LORD has a wonderful purpose which is at work in our lives.  All of this is received in faith.  Do you believe?

                In closing we have provided ministry through this website for you.  There is a video Bible Study on the Bible Study page.  Please also check out the video sermons which will be posted for every Sunday morning on the Sermon page.  We will hopefully be adding other features in the coming days.  As always we will be continuing to pray for each of you.

Some Thoughts On Our Present Crisis

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.”

                                                                                                                                                                Romans 1:17

                In recent days we have found ourselves facing a health care emergency which is testing each of us.  It almost seems as if everything is out of control.  We find ourselves tempted to give into panic, joining the crowd rushing to the stores in order to hoard supplies.  Some of us are tempted to defy the advice we have been given.  We want to continue to do what we have always done.  Our world seems to be out of control and we don’t know how to best respond to the circumstances we are facing.  It is there that the Apostle Paul’s quotation from the Book of Habakkuk is so helpful.  Habakkuk was facing difficult, dangerous and uncertain times when he approached God for a word of wisdom.  In essence God said to him “trust me”. 

                No matter what we think the Lord is still sovereign over the crisis we are facing.  We, as people of faith, are called to live not by fear, but by faith.  In doing so we must first of all believe that the LORD is in control.  He has put us into a certain set of circumstances.  It is all part of His refining process as He calls us to really trust Him.

                Therefore we will be following the wisdom which we have received regarding short term decisions we must make in order to keep everyone safe.  We will therefore be doing the following over the next two weeks.  That is from now until the end of March.

  1. All Services and Meetings in person will be cancelled until the end of the month. 
  2. This includes board meetings, outreaches, Church Services, and Bible Studies.
  3. We will be endeavouring to communicate with as many as possible over social media to provide Sermons and Bible Studies.
  4. We will be holding board meetings by phone and email.
  5. We will be looking for new ways to provide ministry to each of you. 
  6. Keep checking this blog for updates on our programs.

Above all keep in mind that we are called to be people who love the LORD Jesus Christ and who want to serve Him and the people around us.  Take note of the people in need around and do what you can to serve them.   This morning I came across this helpful quotation  from Brian Zahnd in his helpful Lenten book The Unvarnished Jesus.

      “The sixth sign of the healing of the man born blind takes up an entire chapter and is filled with drama as the man who was healed bests the Pharisees in theological debate and is expelled from the synagogue for it. The story opens with the disciples observing the man born blind and raising a theological question of who is to blame for it. But Jesus dismisses this line of questioning. Jesus is saying that when we observe suffering, the question isn’t who is to blame, but how can we help. We’ve all seen Christian leaders assign blame upon the victims of epidemics, earthquakes, and tsunamis. But blame is what the satan does. Followers of Jesus are called to co-suffering love, not theological stone throwing. So Jesus instructs his disciples that when we observe suffering, it’s not an opportunity to assign blame, but an opportunity to do the works of God by helping to heal, restore, and alleviate suffering. Blame is the devil’s game—love is the high calling of the Christian. As Hans Urs von Balthasar said, “Love alone is credible; nothing else can be believed, and nothing else ought to be believed.” And this brings us to the main point of the sixth sign. The meaning of the sign is made explicit at the end of the story. Look at the last verse of the chapter as Jesus says to the Pharisees, “If you were blind, you would not have sin, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” There is an innocence in admitting that we are too blind to pass judgment on others. We don’t have to have an opinion on everything, especially when the question is who is to blame. It’s enough for us to say, “I don’t know who is to blame, I’m just here to help.” But when we claim to have 20/20 vision in judging the sins of others and assigning blame, our own sin remains. This is the sin of Job’s friends. They couldn’t resist the temptation of trying to explain what had happened by blaming Job. The book of Job is a study in the seductive cruelty of blaming the victim. The lesson we should learn from the story of Jesus healing the man born blind and the Pharisees’ reaction to it is that we should acknowledge our own blindness and let Jesus be both healer and judge.         Lord Jesus, we confess that we are too blind to pass judgment on others, so we turn away from seeking to blame and turn toward trying to love. Help us, we pray. Amen.” (from “The Unvarnished Jesus: A Lenten Journey” by Brian Zahnd)

Doctrine Matters

“The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

                                                                                                                                                Romans 6:10-11

                The doctrine that we believe matters to us.  So often in this day and age we live as if it does not.  Practically we live as if everything depends upon the body of work that we accomplish in life.  In recent years I have heard various commentators in the United States referring to their society as a “meritocracy”.  What they seem to mean by this phrase is that we get in life what we deserve, or what we have earned.  For so many even in our society here in Canada we find ourselves living solely upon the understanding that we will only get in life those things that we have earned.  We believe that what we have received is what we deserve.  We either boast about what we have, or we find ourselves depressed by how we have fallen short of what others have earned. 

                It is in this type of thinking that we must find ourselves recognising that doctrine matters.  As the Apostle Paul has been writing to the Romans he has been proclaiming the true Gospel to them this is that we are redeemed not based upon what we have earned.  If that were the case then we would all be lost for “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  Think about that if God gave each of us exactly what we deserved based upon the life that we have really lived we would all be lost.  He has not given us what we deserve however.  He has given us a free gift, grace in the Lord Jesus Christ crucified on Calvary’s cross.  When the Lord Jesus Christ died upon the cross, Paul states in his doctrine in Romans 6:10, He died to sin once for all.  It was an even that only had to take place once.  That one act of God was eternally effective in dealing with all of our sin.  Nothing else was needed.  Therefore everything in our lives was changed when we came to believe in Him. 

                Paul applies this to us in a very practical way.  “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Robert Haldane puts it this way.  “Unless we keep in mind that we are dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord, we cannot serve Him as we ought:  we shall otherwise be serving in the oldness of the letter, and not in the newness of spirit.”  What Paul is writing here is that we are to keep the doctrine of the crucified Christ always in mind.  Nothing is more important to us than this.  Our flesh loves to fall back in all manner of practical ways into the doctrine of merit.  We trust in it for our salvation believing that we have surely overcome our own sinfulness.  We also use it as a guide for evaluating one another.  How does this other person deserve to be treated?  Consequently we find ourselves boasting in our own flesh.  In doing so we forget that we have fallen short of God’s glory.  We have nothing substantial to boast about. 

                If however we believe the doctrine found here we find ourselves cast upon the finished work of Christ.  We reckon, or count, ourselves as one who has received grace from God in Christ.  He have died with Jesus on the Cross once for all.  It is a finished work, done by God, not by us.  We, by faith, are now living unto God, receiving what Christ has graciously merited for us.  Everything has now changed for us.  Practically we now know that our future is secured by his grace.  We also have been set free to extend the same grace we have received to others.  We love as He has loved us.  Do you believe the doctrine?

Rejoice Greatly

                “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!  Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken.  He will proclaim peace to the nations.  His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth.”

                                                                                                                                                                Zechariah 9:9-10

            Reflection on the Word of God always seems to usher me into a feeling of awe as I encounter the tremendous promises which our God makes through His servants the Prophets and Apostles.  The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:20 that “No matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.  And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”  Such is the feeling I have as I reflect upon the tremendous word spoken by the Prophet Zechariah in the quotation which heads this page.  This promise, which is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of the week leading up to His cross, comes in the middle of the first part of Zechariah’s twin burdens regarding the events which are coming for the people of God.  As God speaks through the prophet about the judgment of the nations and the salvation of God’s people He gives us this tremendous word of hope.  “Your King comes to you.”   A better translation of this is “Your king comes for you.”  He is coming for our good, in order to sanctify us.  All that God is doing has this end to make us fit for eternity.  Apart from what our King comes to do, in His cross, resurrection, and intercession for us, we will find ourselves without hope when we stand before God in judgment. 

            Thomas Boston, in a quotation found on the Puritan at Heart website, puts this powerfully as he reflects upon our hope for eternal happiness. 

“When death comes, they have no solid ground to hope for eternal happiness. “For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he has

Thomas Boston

gained, when God takes away his soul?” Job 27:8. Whatever hopes they fondly entertain, they are not founded on God’s word, which is the only sure ground of hope; if they knew their own case, they would see themselves only happy in a ‘dream’. And indeed what hope can they have? The law is plain against them, and condemns them. The curses of it, those cords of death, are about them already. The Savior whom they slighted, is now their Judge; and their Judge is their enemy! How then can they hope? They have bolted the door of mercy against themselves, by their unbelief. They have despised the remedy, and therefore must die without mercy. They have no saving interest in Jesus Christ, the only channel of conveyance through which mercy flows– and therefore they can never taste it.

The ‘sword of justice’ guards the door of mercy, so as none can enter in, but the members of the mystical body of Christ, over whose head is a covert of atoning blood, the Mediator’s blood. These indeed may pass without a harm, for justice has nothing to require of them. But others cannot pass, since they are not in Christ– death comes to them with the sting in it– the sting of unpardoned guilt. It is armed against them with all the force which the sanction of a holy law can give it. 1 Cor. 15:56, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” When that law was given on Sinai, “the whole mount quaked greatly,” Exodus 19:18. When the Redeemer was making satisfaction for the elect’s breaking it, “the earth did quake, and the rocks rent,” Matt, 27:51.

What possible ground of hope, then, is there to the wicked man, when death comes upon him armed with the force of this law? How can he escape that fire, which “burnt unto the midst of heaven?” Deut. 4:11. How shall he be able to stand in that smoke, that “ascended up as the smoke of a furnace?” Exod. 19:18. How will he endure the terrible “thunders and lightnings,” verse 16, and dwell in “the darkness, clouds, and thick darkness?” Deut. 4:11. All these comparisons heaped together do but faintly represent the fearful tempest of wrath and indignation, which shall pursue the wicked to the lowest hell; and forever abide on those who are driven to darkness at death.”
Thomas Boston–Human Nature in its four-fold state]

Providence

                “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”

                                                                                                                                                Micah 6:8

                Years ago a friend of mine challenged me by their actions to become a student of the Scriptures.  It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord builds into our lives those key moments in His providence which we look back upon and discover that was when so much of our path in life became set.  This is one of the arguments for God’s grace.  These key moments come about unsought but they form the foundation for our lives.  My friend was sitting in a hallway reading her Bible after classes were finished for the day.  I was with the school track team preparing for our daily workout.  Another friend came by and asked my seated friend what she was doing. Her answer, overheard by me, changed my life.  It was that it had recently occurred to her that she was a pastor’s daughter and she did not understand the Bible.  She then said that she had set herself a goal to read twenty chapters a day so that she could begin to understand God’s Word.  It was as if those words were said for my benefit, because I instantly knew that I must begin to read God’s Word for myself.  There and then began my quest to become Biblically literate.  It is a quest that I am still engaged in.

                Now all of that may seem to be an unusual way to introduce a reflection on Micah 6:8. It is however crucial to my understanding of the verse because it is rooted in the Old Testament Biblical context which calls us to a radically transformed way of living.  John Calvin reflects upon this verse in context by stating that what we see here is God’s confrontation with us based upon His covenant love for us.  So often we approach God in a way that seems right to us.  We believe that anything goes in worship because our intention is to Worship God.  Calvin puts it this way.

                “We think that God must approve of our actions because of our intention to worship Him.”

                                                                                                (John Calvin; Sermons on the Book of Micah, p. 306)

However the evidence of the entire Scripture helps us discover that God is to be approached only through His Covenant love.  Such love was revealed at Sinai in the Old Covenant and in the cross in the new.  There is no other way. 

                There is a message of great joy here for us.  Each of these covenant events was in fact an event of grace.  Both describe something that God did for us which we in fact could not do for ourselves.  He touched our lives at the key moment and nothing will ever be the same again.  It is just like the words from my friend which I overheard in a High School hall.  They were not said with the idea of their eternal significance.  That is however how God used them.  In the process of obeying what God had called me to do I began the journey which led my discovery for myself of God’s gracious invitation to come to the cross of Christ and receive life.  I praise God for His grace and for His providential intervention in my life for without it I would be lost.

Thanks Be Unto God

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to such a task?”

                                                                                                                                                2 Corinthians 2:14-16

                Every Wednesday evening between the beginning of September and the end of June a group of us gather at First Baptist Church Brampton for a Bible Study.  It is such a joyful and wonderful thing to share together with a smaller group of Christian brothers and sisters a time of fellowship and prayer, while we look more deeply into the message of the Scriptures.  A number of years ago we spent time exploring the book of the Old Testament prophet Micah.  In this book we encounter the warnings of God regarding the coming judgement of the exile that the people of God would experience.  The reasons for this judgement are clearly spelled out by the prophet.  Mixed in with his words of warning and condemnation Micah gives us some of the most wonderful words of promise and hope. 

                Here we find the promise of a coming Messiah who will be eternal God come as a human being to serve His heavenly Father.  He was to be born into the town of Bethlehem, and would be of the family of David the King.  Micah tells us that this Messiah will lead His people into a deep and rich experience of the peace of God.  It is wonderful to discuss together the way in which this promise became living reality in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus Himself points to promises like this as He describes the purpose for which He has come.  The Apostle John records that Jesus taught that He is the Good Shepherd who lays His life down for His sheep.  Micah pointed to that very thing as being at the heart of the Messiah’s ministry.  In His Cross and Resurrection we are reconciled to God.

                As the Apostle Paul writes about this reality in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 he tells us that in these great promises of God we encounter the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In the message of the Gospel God brings both judgement and hope into our world.  What our experience of it will be is determined by how we respond to the Lord Jesus Christ.  If we by faith put our trust and obedience in Him we discover that He is our Savoir, who brings into our lives the abundant grace and love of the Gospel.  If we reject Him by refusing to believe in Him then to us He becomes our judge.  The question is ‘Who is He to you?

                Come and join us, if you can on Wednesday nights at 7PM so that you can share in the blessings we are experiencing in our Bible Study.

An Account Of Who He Is

                “‘Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.  See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua!  There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription upon it,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.  In that day each of you will invite his neighbour to sit under his vine and fig tree,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

                                                                                                                                                                Zechariah 3:8-10

                In taking a closer look at the third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Prophet Zechariah further treasure is revealed to us.  This chapter, which is right in the middle of the series of night visions that were given to Zechariah, gives us the central, redemptive message of redemption which was revealed to this post-exilic prophet.  Through His Messiah, who is pointed to by the High Priest, God is going to remove the sin of His people in one day.  Looking ahead we know that this prophetic word was fulfilled in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.  At Calvary, in the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ, God dealt with, and removed all of our sin.  Romans 5:8 the Apostle Paul tells us that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  What great love God has given to us.  We are simply called to receive it.  It has been given to us in Christ simply based upon the unconditional love of God. 

                God’s great act of love given to us in Christ is astounding in its impact upon our lives.  It meets us in our brokenness, while we are rejecting Him, and offers us reconciliation, even though we do not deserve it.  No wonder the Lord immediately begins to speak through Zechariah about the celebration which breaks out when such sacrificial love is given and received.  The picture points back to the celebration that took place at the end of the Day of Atonement, when all of the events of the day were winding down people would invite others to join in a great celebration which broke out in response to God’s grace. 

                Perhaps the best picture of this celebration that we have is the reception we join in after a wedding ceremony.  A marriage Biblically is a picture of the relation between Christ and the Church.  Biblical marriage is an unconditional covenant relationship designed to point us to the love and commitment between Christ and His bride, the Church.  We, the church, are recipients of His love, not because of our worthiness, but simply because of His character as a gracious God.  He loves us based upon who He is.  This is powerfully illustrated for us in a story relayed by the New Tribes Mission on their Facebook page.

                “The verbs for a particular African language consistently end in one of three vowels,” Dennis Farthing writes from the NTM Missionary Training Center. He shares a translation story that a missionary recently shared with him.

“Almost every verb ends in i, a, and u. But the word for ‘love’ was only found with i and a. Why no u?” this missionary wondered.

Dennis says the Bible translation team included the most influential leaders in the local community.

In an effort to truly understand the concept of “love” in this African language, the missionary began to question them.

“Could you dvi your wife?”

“Yes,” they answered, “that would mean that the wife had been loved, but the love was gone.”

“Could you dva your wife?”

“Yes,” they responded, “that kind of love depends on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.”

“Could you dvu your wife?”

Everyone in the room laughed.

“Of course not!” they replied. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water and never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would have to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say dvu. It just doesn’t exist.”

The missionary sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God dvu people?”

Dennis writes that there was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of the elderly men of the tribe.

Finally they responded, “Do you know what this would mean? This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, while all that time we rejected His great love. He would be compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”

The missionary noted that changing one simple vowel changed the meaning from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you, based on who I am. I love you because of me and not because of you.”

“God encoded the story of His unconditional love right into this African language. For centuries, the little word was there—unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable.”

            Such is the astounding nature of the love that God has given us in Christ.  No wonder we celebrate.

A Call To Serve

“And we will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

                                                                                                                                                                Acts 6:4

                A number of years ago, in conversations with others, in my reading, in message preparation, and in my own personal Bible Study the Lord has impressed on my heart the call to servant hood.  In Mark 9 as we trace through the Gospel account we are confronted by the means that the Lord Jesus Christ used to break up the hard heartedness of His disciples.  As I write this I am reminded of the statement of john Newton regarding his aim in preaching.  “My grand point in preaching is to break the hard heart, and to heal the broken one.”  It seems to me that this was also the intentional approach that the Lord Jesus Christ was following.  Mark presents Jesus as the suffering servant who has come to redeem His people.  His method of transforming His Disciples gives us a wonderful example of how He is dealing with us, as well a pattern for us to follow in serving others.

                The Disciples eventually got the message.  Acts 6 tells us that as they wrestled with a crisis in the Church in Jerusalem that they went back to the Godly priority that they had been called to.  They recognised that they had been appointed to serve the people of God through a commitment to the Word of God and to prayer.  This does not mean that they were not engaged in other tasks.  What it tells us is that they would not allow those other urgent things to move them away from the essential service that they had been called to.  We should be deeply thankful that this is the case because if they had given in to the temptation to neglect the Word of God and prayer we would not have the New Testament today.  In numerous places the Scriptures tell us that these Apostles we called to be taught of the Holy Spirit what the word was that the Lord was speaking to His people.  They listened, and they taught, and eventually they wrote down that New Testament word for the benefit of all of us.  We must praise God for their faithfulness in their calling.

                There is a story told about some Burmese Christian leaders who were in conversation with some missionaries and when the topic of discussion turned to the pioneer missionary Adoniram Judson, to a person they emphasized with tears that he was the one man that they all owed their salvation to because it was Judson who translated the Scriptures into their language.  What a wonderful legacy to leave behind.  In reality we can all say that from a human point of view we owe our salvation to the faithful service of those Apostles who were the human authors that God used to write the New Testament.

                What these thoughts teach us is that we are called to serve God by serving His people.  As servants of God we find that there are many things that we could be doing, some of which will seem to be incredibly urgent.  We must resist the call to be ruled by the urgent things that are thrust upon us so that we will be able to engage in the essential tasks of service which we have been called to.  A true servant is one who listens for his master’s voice.  That is the one who must be obeyed.  When our Lord calls us we obey by serving in that place and means that He appoints.  To serve in this way requires brokenness before the Lord because we will find ourselves following in a way that will always be hidden.  The Lord always gets the credit.  We are merely His faithful servants.