Holy! Holy! Holy!

                “The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; He sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake.  Great is the LORD in Zion; He is exalted over all the nations.  Let them praise Your great and awesome Name – He is holy.”

                                                                                                                                                                Psalm 99:1-3

                “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His footstool; He is holy.”

                                                                                                                                                                Psalm 99:5

                “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy.”

                                                                                                                                                                Psalm 99:9

                Reginald Heber writes in the first verse of his wonderful hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” these penetrating and powerful words.

                “Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee; Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty!  God in three persons blessed Trinity!”

                In writing these words the hymn writer leads us into a world of praise to the LORD God who is described as three times holy.  There is a focus upon the doctrine of the Trinity in Heber’s hymn.  It is a focus and a doctrine which is woven into much of the praise, worship and teaching of the Scriptures.  Psalm 99 is an example of how that is worked out.  The LORD God is the focus of the invitation to worship which we find here.  He is introduced to us as three times holy.  In fact the Psalm is divided up in such a way that we meet with three refrains around which the Psalm’s teaching and invitations are woven.  In each refrain we find ourselves crying out “Holy!” 

                The message of the Psalm is that we have encountered a LORD God who is absolutely holy in every way.  So often we find ourselves attracted to the various attributes of God.  We love that God is a being of infinite power.  We especially love this attribute when we think that we can somehow bend the infinite power of God to accomplish our purposes.  That God would be on our side is a word of great comfort to us as we live in this uncertain world.

                We also find ourselves attracted to the concept of the love of God.  This is even more comforting to us if we define that love as a type of mushy commitment on God’s behalf to only act in such ways as to do good to everyone no matter how they live. 

                What we find more challenging is the teaching in the Scriptures which tells us that God is Holy.  Many years ago I encountered this description of the LORD God that He was a God of Holy Love.  His love is tempered with holiness and His holiness is tempered with love.  Here we are getting closer to the biblical portrayal of God’s character.  Holiness is defined as God being set apart from everything which is not God.  He is a being who lives in such absolute purity that He is completely and totally opposed to all sin.  For Him all sin must be judged, either in the second death or in the cross.  These are the only options available to a sinner.  To encounter the living God in His absolute holiness is to be overwhelmed with this reality.

                The Biblical writers confront us with this reality in various ways.  In Hebrews 12:28-29 we are confronted with this description. 

                “Therefore, since we are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

                In the third chapter of the book of Exodus Moses encounters God in the burning bush and is told to take off his sandals for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.  In Isaiah 6:3-7 the Old Testament Prophet has his encounter with God and is overwhelmed by the holiness of the LORD and of his own sinfulness.

                And they were calling out to one another:  “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory. “ At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.  “Woe to me! “ I cried. “I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.“  Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.  With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for. ““

                This is the word of hope which we find in the 99th Psalm.  The Lord God is three times holy.  His sovereign holiness is revealed in His justice which brings us to His throne of grace where sin is judged and punished.  There however we meet with the offer of grace because at the throne of grace we meet with the holy God who has provided in His own dear Son the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the World for all who will receive Him.  What a tremendous hope.  All you have to do is receive Him.

A Living Sacrifice

                “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

                                                                                                                                Romans 12:1-2

                The twelfth chapter of Romans begins a long section of the letter in which the Apostle Paul applies the doctrinal message which he has been exploring in the first eleven chapters of the letter.  What this tells us is that practical Christian living is always the result of correctly understanding and incorporating Biblical Christian doctrine into our lives.  The doctrine describes the fundamental way in which we come to abide in the Lord Jesus Christ.  A Christian is a person who by faith abides in Christ.  It is not a philosophy or a lifestyle, it is not even membership in a Church, it is a relationship which is characterized by a trusting commitment to the Son of God.  The Apostle Paul outlines this in the first eleven chapters of the letter.  Then he begins to apply these truths to the life we live.  He starts with a very interesting statement in the first two verses of chapter twelve.

                This is that our response to God’s mercy which has been revealed in the Gospel must be to surrender ourselves to God.  In verse one Paul uses the word “offer” or “present” here.  Back in chapter six verses 13, 16, and 19 he uses the same word which is always translated as “offer”.  The word refers to the offering of a sacrificial animal on the altar.  The animal so offered was considered to be fully and unconditionally devoted to God.  The Apostle Paul is stating here that the consequence of God’s grace revealed in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is that we surrender every part of our lives unconditionally to God in Christ.  Such surrender is not partial or conditional.  It is total and complete.  John Miller in Outgrowing the Ingrown Church describes it in this way in regard to his own life.  He says that when he came to terms with his own unbelief which resulted in ingrownness in his life he recognised that the way out was through first of all giving himself unconditionally to God.  Then he began to courageously obey God in every area of his life.  The ability or power to do this came, he recognised, not from himself, but from God’s Spirit. 

                This is what the Apostle Paul is writing about as he applies God’s truth to our lives.  It requires courage to obey God in this.  It also requires a growing faith.  This is the test, do we truly believe that God will keep the promises that He has made to us in His Word?  When we truly do believe it then the results are life transforming.  It all begins with a living sacrifice.

For He Himself Is Our Peace

                “For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.”

                                                                                                                                                                Ephesians 2:14-15

                Sometimes we are swept away in wonder over the power and the beauty of the Word of God.  It has a way of sweeping away the cobwebs of our cluttered lives in order to breathe in the pure wind of the Spirit.  It is useful, at times, to step back and take a wide angled view of the Word noting the huge context of the message.   In the book of Ephesians the Apostle Paul gives us a powerful description of the Body of Christ, the Church in all of its wonder.  God has created something new, a new creation, in which He will overrule all of the distinctions that we draw up in order to determine who we think, is acceptable to God.  In Paul’s world, the Jews rejected the Gentiles, calling them a lesser form of humanity, the Gentiles rejected the Jews calling them the enemies of all peoples.  Each one used human distinctions to reject people who were not like them.  We are guilty of this as well.  We are perfectly willing to accept others provided they change and become like us. 

                Paul tells us, in the wider view that God’s solution is to create one new people in Christ.  There is now no longer Jews or Gentiles, there is now Christians, those who are like Christ.  That is the wide angled view of what God is doing in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We must take a closer view however.    John Calvin, in his Sermons on Ephesians (Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1998) draws us in closer with these words.

                “Furthermore, the title that St. Paul gives to our Lord Jesus Christ, namely, that ‘he is our peace’, ought to be carefully considered,”

A.Skevington Wood in his commentary in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978) takes us further as he writes the following.

                “”He Himself” is emphatic (cf. V. 15, “in Himself”).  Christ and no other “has solved the problem of our relationships with God and man” (Barclay, p. 120).  He draws men to God and to each other in His own person.  It is not simply the message He proclaimed or even the message proclaimed about Him that effects this reconciliation.  It is Himself.  There is an echo here of Micah 5:5.  “Peace” is recognised by the Talmud as a name of God.  So Paul can announce that Christ is peace as well as life (Col. 3:4) and hope (Col. 1:27).  The “I am” sayings recorded in the fourth Gospel provided a foundation in the claims of Jesus for such assertions.”

                When we take a close look at what Paul writes here it is clear that his focus is not on the message of Christ which urges us to be at peace with others.  It is that Christ Himself is our peace.  It is only in Him that the deepest needs of our lives are met.  It is only in Him that we are reconciled to God.  Wood points us to a quotation from Micah 5:1-5 which speaks to us about the coming Messiah.

                “Marshall your troops, O city of troops, for a siege is laid against us.  They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod.  But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me on who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.  Therefore Israel will be abandoned until them time when He who is labour gives birth and the rest of His brothers return to join the Israelites.  He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Name of the Lord His God.  And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.  And He will be their peace.”             

Be Patient

                “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.   See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.  You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.  Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.  The Judge is standing at the door.”

                                                                                                                                                                James 5:7-9

                In meditating upon the final chapter of the book of James it becomes apparent that he has been working out a key principle of Christian living throughout the letter.  This is that the Christian life is one continuous pursuit of the promise and purpose of God in every area of our living.  Eugene Peterson focused his study of the Psalms of Ascent upon the premise that the Godly life is in reality “a long obedience in the same direction.”  This seems to be the focus of the letter that James wrote to a group of struggling Christians in the mid first century AD.  He begins the letter with these words,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him.” (James 1:2-5)

In the fifth chapter, after describing a whole host of trials that the Christian must overcome as we live out our faith in this world which is so hostile to the purposes of God, James returns to this theme, commanding believers to be patient as we await the coming of the Lord.  God has called us to become people of faith who passionately pursue the Lord Jesus Christ, and His matchless Holiness, while awaiting His return in Glory.   It is in this patient pursuit of the Lord that we find our faith tried and matured so that it will be revealed as genuine in the Day when the Lord returns. 

In thinking of this I am reminded of those days when I was a middle distance runner.  The glorious days were those in which we ran a race.  To do well in the race however required that we be disciplined in the hidden days of training, when we ran many hard kilometers.  We struggled through those hard days, but they brought about a strength that saw us through the race that we were running.  James commands his readers to be strengthened in their hearts as they look ahead to the Lord’s return.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:14-21.  The Holy Spirit uses means however.  James calls us to walk with the Spirit in those disciplines to which the Spirit calls us so that we will be strong and mature as we face the difficulties of our lives. 

What are the disciplines that the Spirit calls us to engage in for this purpose?  They must surely begin with the following three things.

  1. A disciplined commitment to developing our lives of prayer.  God has called us to enter into the great privilege of fellowshipping with Him in Christ.  Nothing happens in our lives apart from a growing fellowship with God in prayer.
  2. The meditative application of the Word of God in our lives.  We must be engaged in more than just the reading of the Bible.  It must be transforming our lives as it is applied by the Holy Spirit. 
  3. Increasingly we must find that our lives are becoming centred upon the one goal that is worthy of life.  This is the pursuit of the Kingdom of God as it is revealed in the return of Christ.

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Questions Which Lead To Faith

                “When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you?  Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?  The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus.  You handed Him over to be killed, and you disowned Him before Pilate, though he had decided to let Him go.  You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.  You killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead.  We are witnesses of this.””

                                                                                                                                                                Acts 3:12-15

                The Scriptures so often ask us the key questions which force us to examine our own walk with the living God.  Such is the case here in the third chapter of the Book of Acts.  In verse 12 we are asked these key questions about our response the healing of the crippled man at the beautiful gate at the Temple in Jerusalem.  “Why does this surprise you?”  “Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?”  These are the two key issues we face when it comes to the sign miracles and their significance.  We are astounded that a miracle can even take place.  Then when we accept that the miracle has happened we look for a human source for it.  It is hard for us to accept that God is personally active and intervening in His creation.  I want to take a closer look at what Luke tells us here.

  1. We must ask ourselves about why we are surprised by the sign miracles.  The Scripture teaches that God’s nature is to be a being who reveals Himself to His creation.  Why should this surprise us because we have the testimony of the Word of God that He would in fact do this?  The Scriptures clearly defined what the Messiah would do when He came to us.  The issue we are facing here is one of faith.  Do we believe God when He speaks to us revealing His purposes in grace to us?  Mary was told by the Angel Gabriel that “Nothing was impossible with God.”  She accepted that with faith.  Do we?
  2. This sign miracle was done in the Name of the LORD Jesus Christ.  In fact Luke tells us that God did it in the Name of Jesus in order to Glorify Him.  As Luke focuses our attention here he calls our attention to God as One who reveals Himself.  He is “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers.”  These texts draw our attention to a wonderful passage in the Book of Exodus chapter three and verse six.  “Then He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  There, in the burning bush event God reveals Himself to Moses and speaks His Name “I AM.”  For Peter what the LORD Jesus Christ has done in this crippled man is to reveal Himself as the one who intervenes by the power of His Name.
  3. Luke also tells us here that God has glorified His Servant Jesus.  In Isaiah 53:5 we discover this nugget of truth.  “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”  Why then should is surprise us that He would heal a crippled man?  Why should we attribute that healing to a human source?  The only explanation here is that God is at work through His Holy Servant the LORD Jesus Christ. 
  4. This leads us to our response to Him.  Do we believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Messiah who has come to set us free from sin?  The people that Peter preached to had rejected Him, and their rejection of Him had led to His cross.  God on the other hand had accepted His offering for sin, demonstrating it by raising Him from the dead.  What they were called to do was to repent and believe the Gospel.  This is God’s call upon us today as well.  We must turn from our unbelieving rejection of Him so that we believe God when He tells us that salvation is found in no one else.  The question is will you believe in Him?

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Believing Praise

“I have become like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Psalm 71:7

“Since my youth, O God, You have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvellous deeds.  Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare Your power to the next generation, Your might to all who are to come.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Psalm 71:17-18

                As we live through these difficult times it is possible that we will do so with a certain degree of bitterness and despair.  It is here that the book of Psalms becomes so very helpful to us.  It was the prophetic worship book of God’s people.  It is still the inspired book of worship songs and hymns for God’s people today.  At its heart is a certain Christ-centredness which causes us to look to the Lord in faith in the middle of the trials and tribulations of our lives.  It is no wonder that many of our most beloved hymns today are based upon the inspired words of the Psalmists.  Such is the case with Isaac Watts and his Hymn “God of My Childhood and My Youth”.

1. God of my childhood and my youth,
The guide of all my days,
I have declared Thy heavenly truth,
And told Thy wondrous ways.

2. Wilt Thou forsake my hoary hairs,
And leave my fainting heart?
Who shall sustain my sinking years,
If God my strength depart?

3. Let me Thy power and truth proclaim
To the surviving age;
And leave a savor of Thy name
When I shall quit the stage.

4. The land of silence and of death
Attends my next remove;
O may these poor remains of breath
Teach the wide world Thy love!

5. Thy righteousness is deep and high,
Unsearchable Thy deeds;
Thy glory spreads beyond the sky,
And all my praise exceeds.

6. Oft have I heard Thy threatenings roar,
And oft endured the grief;
But when Thy hand has pressed me sore,
Thy grace was my relief.

7. By long experience I have known
Thy sovereign power to save;
At Thy command I venture down
Securely to the grave.

8. When I lie buried deep in dust,
My flesh shall be Thy care;
These withering limbs with Thee I trust,
To raise them strong and fair.

Source: The Cyber Hymnal #1918

A New Years Thought on Discipleship

                “While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, He asked, “How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David?  David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”  David himself calls Him ‘Lord’. How then can He be his son?””

                                                                                                                                                                Mark 12:35-37a

                As Mark continues to describe the means that the Lord Jesus Christ used to bring His disciples to faith he takes us further into the teaching of our Lord.  Mark has just presented us with a teacher of the law who is presented as a man who is “not far from the kingdom of God”.  Mark immediately goes on to this question asked of the crowds, and perhaps of the deeply convicted teacher.  It is a question raised by the teaching of the 110th Psalm.  In this Psalm, which was understood to be about the coming Messiah a confusing piece of teaching is given.  David is writing this Psalm about one of his descendants who was believed to be the Christ, the Hebrew Messiah.  As a descendant of David this person is assumed to be inferior to David, but David addresses him as his Lord.  How can this be?  That David was speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and therefore was writing Scripture was understood by all present in the Temple.  What was not understood was how the Messiah could be both David’s descendant and his superior at the same time.  It is this question which Jesus asks the crowd.  The approach that Jesus takes here is to ask a question which will force those who sincerely want an answer to engage in an intense, Spirit directed study of God’s Word in order to discern God’s answer.  James 1:5 tells us “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him.”  This is the expectation that the Lord Jesus Christ has for everyone who truly wants to enter into the Kingdom of God. 

                This text tells us several things about the process by which we become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

  1. What is required is that we come to real faith in Christ as He is revealed to us in the Scriptures.  The Lord convicted His hearers on this point.  He asked them questions designed to force them to wrestle with what the Scriptures really taught.  How often do find ourselves failing to take the teaching of Scripture seriously?
  2. He put His disciples in positions where their failure to live up to God’s standards would be exposed.  He does the same to us.  So often we fail to see the reality of our hardness of heart.  Paul writes in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Kingdom of God.”  He writes “all” not “some”.  The way into God’s Kingdom is always through real humility. 
  3. The Discipleship process for Jesus’ followers was an intense and lengthy one.  There was some much unbelief and hardness of heart to deal with.  Can we expect that it will not be as difficult for us?   If we are to bear fruit for Him then we must expect trials.
  4. He was with them through the whole process.  Not even the atoning death on the cross could remove Him.  On the third day He arose. 
  5. At the heart of the process that Mark describes here is the cross.  Jesus sets His face to obey His Father by going to the cross.  The teaching of the Gospels is that we to must travel the way of the Cross if we are to be Disciples of Christ.

The Grace of Christmas

A number of years ago we reflected upon Matthew Henry’s exposition of the account in Matthew’s Gospel of Joseph’s reaction to the news of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Henry points us to the mystery and wonder of that special birth and how Joseph responded eventually by faith in God’s revelation about it.  Such obedient faith cuts to the heart of what the Christmas story teaches us.  There we encounter a God who breaks into our world in sacrificial love in order to redeem us through the cross.

                This year I want to reflect upon another thought from Matthew Henry.  This one comes from an exposition of John 1:14 where we read that “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the only begotten who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  The Word that the Apostle John uses in this verse, translated as dwelling, is the word tabernacle.  It is a word that refers us back to the account in the Old Testament book of Exodus in which the Tabernacle was created as a temporary, mobile tent in which God’s people could meet with Him.  Charles Haddon Spurgeon quotes from Henry as he seeks to explain just what the significance of this tent was to God’s people. 

                Spurgeon writes, “Now, you remember that in the Jewish Church its greatest glory was that God tabernacle in its midst: not the tent of Moses, not the various pavilions of the princes of the twelve tribes, but the humble tabernacle in which God dwelt, was the boast of Israel.  They had the King Himself in the midst of them, a present God in their midst.  The Tabernacle was a tent to which men went when they would commune with God, and it was the spot to which God came when He would commune with man.  To use Matthew Henry’s words, it was the “trysting place” between the Creator and the Worshipper.  Here they met each other through the slaughter of the bullock and the lamb, and there was reconciliation between them twain.  Now, Christ’s human flesh was God’s tabernacle, and it is in Christ that God meets with man, and it is in Christ that man has dealings with God.  The Jew of old went into God’s tent, in the centre of the camp, if he would worship: we come to Christ if we would pay our homage.  If the Jew would be released from ceremonial uncleanness, after he had performed the rites, he went up to the sanctuary of his God, that he might feel again that there was peace between God and his soul; and we, having been washed in the precious blood of Christ, have access with boldness unto God, even the father through Christ, who is our tabernacle and the tabernacle of god among men.” 

                Because of this tremendous blessing the God has given to us in Christ we can come to God in worship and praise.  This is the heart of the Christmas account of God’s miraculous delivery of us from sin. 

                If you are in the Brampton area and do not have a Church to attend you are welcome to join us on Sunday December 23rd at 11AM for a special Christmas Sunday Service.  We also pray that you will be able to join us on Monday December 24th at 7PM for a Christmas Eve celebration.  I know that each service will be a blessing to every one of us. 

                We pray that you will receive God’s richest blessings in this Christmas season and in the coming year.

Where Is Your Faith?

““Where is your faith?”  He asked His disciples.  In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the wind and the water, and they obey Him.””

                                                                                                                                                                Luke 8:25

                Reading Crawford Loritt’s essay “Jesus’ Transforming Power on Behalf of the Afflicted” got me to thinking about a great need in the local Church.  It is one which has been occupying an increasing amount of my thinking in recent years.  This is our need for a growing involvement in dependant prayer.  Loritt begins his essay with the following reflection.

“In 2002, in the space of about thirty-six hours, I received an avalanche of bad news. I had just returned home after visiting my sister, who had had surgery. The surgeon was cautiously optimistic that he and his team had removed all of the cancer cells. Then I got a call informing me that that was not the case. She had also contracted a virus and wasn’t expected to survive. Then I got another call from our oldest son, who was rushing to the hospital with his infant son, our first grandchild, who had a very high fever and had suffered a seizure. Then the phone rang again. My wife’s aunt, who was more like a second mother to her, had just died unexpectedly. On top of all of this, I was right in the middle of dealing with a crisis facing our ministry. This rapid sequence of events sent me a very clear message: Crawford, you can’t handle this. This is the time for aggressive surrender and dependence. You need God to step into what you and Karen are facing. Get to God, and he will get to what you are facing. His Presence is what you need.” (from “His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (The Gospel Coalition)” by D. A. Carson, Kathleen Nielson, John Piper, Colin S. Smith, Crawford W. Loritts, Kevin DeYoung, Stephen T. Um, Gary Millar, Timothy J. Keller

                Just today I was reminded of these thoughts from the pen of Richard Lovelace in The Dynamics of the Spiritual Life, which is a book which every Christian who is serious about the renewal of the Church must read.

“If all regenerate church members in Western Christendom were to intercede daily simply for the most obvious spiritual concerns visible in their homes, their workplaces, their local churches and denominations, their nations, and the world and the total mission of the body of Christ within it, the transformation which would result would be incalculable.

Not only would God certainly change those situations in response to prayer – we have Christ’s word that if we ask in his name he will do more than we ask or think – but the church’s comprehension of its task would attain an unprecedented sharpness of focus.

Perhaps much of our prayer now should simply be for God to pour out such a spirit of prayer and supplication in the hearts of his people.”

            The call is to dependant praying as individuals and as Congregations of Believers.  This means that we must, recognise our helplessness apart from God’s intervention, become aware of the limitless power and resources of God, and cast ourselves daily upon the mercy of God. 

We must become a people of dependant prayer once again. ity73 \

An Astonishing Invitation

                “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

                                                                                                                                                                Galatians 1:6-7

                How often have you found yourselves to be truly astonished by the things which you witness or experience?  You find yourselves in the middle of a set of circumstances that stretch your comprehension to the breaking point and you are left wondering just what this will mean for you and for others.  For a little while you find yourself struggling to understand how to respond to the things which you have witnessed.  In the summer of 1972 one such event happened in my life when I found myself responding to a set of disappointing circumstances by becoming bitter of spirit.  While struggling with this inward bitterness I found myself at a youth retreat.  The fact that I was there reluctantly and with a determination to involve myself in any positive way made the events that took place that weekend all the more astonishing.  While sitting through a worship service I found myself encountering such a strong impression of the love of God that I found myself yielding to the LORD Jesus Christ as Saviour and LORD.  In an instant everything in my life was changed.  Years later I found myself agreeing with John Wesley who wrote regarding his own conversion experience that, “I found my heart strangely warmed, and knew that my sins had been forgiven.”  This was my experience and it was very much as if the LORD Jesus Christ had called me to His grace.  I seemed to sense that that was the time for me to come to His grace.  The moment of decision had come unsought.  It was astonishing and completely life transforming. 

                The Apostle Paul tells us in the book of Galatians that this Gospel of the LORD Jesus Christ is a truly liberating thing.  It delivers us from this actively evil world and brings us into the liberty of Christ.  It does this by calling us to repent and to put our faith in the LORD Jesus Christ who is the Son of the Living God and who became human flesh in order to bear our sins upon His cross.  Just this morning a group of us were sharing at a Bible Study  and reflecting upon the fact that what was taking place on the cross of Christ was that the LORD Jesus Christ was bearing all of our sin, all of our brokenness, everything that keeps us away from communion with the Living God, in His body.  Therefore He understands and identifies with every part of our current struggle.  When we feel guilty over our sin, He reminds us that He bore that, and it is forgiven.  He was at all points tempted as we are yet without sin.  What precious freedom this brings into our lives when we begin to see what He has done for us.  What prayerfulness this creates in us when we understand that there is nothing that we can ever bring before the LORD which He has not already borne.  Imagine that you were to go onto a website for an organization which promises that it has made provision to deal with every circumstance you might face in life.  No matter what you describe there is a plan to deal with it.  No matter how costly provision has been made to deal with your circumstance graciously because the organization has already paid for it.  Would you not rush to receive the grace that was being offered to you?

                Imagine further that you were to discover that some people having received knowledge of this gracious gift turned away from it in order to pursue another plan that did not deal adequately with your need and which enslaved you to the evil principles of this world.  Would you not be astonished by this turn of events?  This is the point that the Apostle Paul is at in Galatians one.  Those who had made a start with the LORD Jesus Christ are now deserting Him for something that could not hope to save them.

                Years ago the LORD Jesus Christ called me to grace.  In receiving that grace I found myself meeting one who set me free from sin by bearing it for me.  He gave His life that I may be set free from this evil world so that I might live in His glorious light.  It was astonishing that He might be so gracious to one who was so bound up in sin.  I have never regretted accepting His invitation.  Perhaps today you have heard Him inviting you to receive His grace.  Today is the day of salvation for you.  How will you respond?