The Word of God

The Word of God

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional Weekly Devotional

 

                        “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord God,

                         that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine

                         of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the

                         words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to

                         sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and

                         fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not

                         find it.”

                                                            Amos 8:11-12

We live in a time when our world, that is the western world in particular, is literally awash with numerous and various translations of the Word of God and then to add to this we have all sorts of study aids to the Bible and commentaries that seek to address every book contained in this scared volume. And yet, for all of this, we still have congregations that are in the most part biblically illiterate and cannot in truth tell one much about the books of the Bible that they read. There is indeed a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord.”

At one level we must ask, “Why is this so?” And the answer would probably be: Because the people of God are not really encouraged to “receive the word implanted” (James 1:21) or thoroughly ingested by those who occupy our pulpits. Rather the people of God are encouraged to read snippets of the Bible every day that essentially disinvests them from acquiring an understanding of it contents. By contrast the Bible itself encourages us to dwell in its pages “day and night” and Jesus likened our intake of it to that of our daily consumption of food (Matthew 4:4).  Actually, to be honest, we all eat too much and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had too much to eat of the Word of God. Sadly this is not true and in the main, despite all our translations and various “helps” the average Christian knows very little about the Bible.  Paul well knew the power of the Word of God and so when he finally took leave of the Ephesian Church leaders he said, “So, now brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:32). There is indeed a famine of the words of the Lord!

The context of Amos’s statement above is that of a people who, having the Word of God, have nevertheless not taken its pages seriously and have consequently lived in wicked ways and have even sought for ways to undermine its pages in a manner that it appears to condone this wickedness. Jesus understood this twisted practice of the human heart and said in response, “ But why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)” Today the biggest threat to the true Church is the wider church itself in that many denominations and movements that once, by their founding fathers, supported a Bible believing faith have actively sought to dismantle this by condoning behavior and practices that are in reality clearly condemned by scripture. This has impacted their understanding of marriage, family, sexual purity and mission in the world. Peter, in his day, encountered these same people and warned his readers, in his second epistle bearing his name, about them (2 Peter 3:14-18). Churches that remain true to the Word of God are therefore despised and ridiculed by so called fellow expressions of the Christian faith and this encourages the ungodly to join this throng of abusers. The God of the Bible warns through Amos His prophet that these evils will bring upon those who practice them a famine of the words of the Lord. They may seek the words of God and in so doing “run to and fro” but it will not help until they repent and amend their ways.

So then, apart from there being human reasons for which the Bible is a closed book to many in the Church today, there is in fact a heavenly reaction to neglect, wickedness and distortion that locks the truth of the pages of scripture from them. In short the famine “of the words of the Lord” is sent from heaven as judgment or as an instrument of correction with the hope of bringing them to repentance. We should note this carefully.

In the end we must humble our hearts before this amazing book and approach it with great reverence because it is fully inspired (2 Timothy 3:16) or “God breathed” (2 Peter 1:19-21) and we should cultivate reading habits of it that enable us to absorb, understand and know it contextually. When we do this, as the Psalmist declares, it will become “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).” Indeed we should read all of Psalm 119 in order to appreciate the extreme importance of living in the Word of God.

When I first came to Christ He showed me that I needed to live in the Bible and read at least ten chapters of it a day. I did this by the grace of God and consequently my life has been transformed and my understanding of its pages has been enlarged. I then agree with David when he wrote the following:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel

                         of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners,

                         nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight

                         is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law he medi-

                         tates day and night.”

                                                            Psalm 1:1-2

 Malcolm Hedding

 

Divorce and Remarriage

Divorce and Remarriage

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional Weekly Devotional

 

There is no doubt that divorce for any and every reason is a plague in the Church and more important still it robs the Church of God’s presence and blessing. To be honest, I fear that, apart from the intervention of God, the “horse has bolted” and not much will be done to rectify the matter since many preachers and respected leaders are themselves guilty of license in this area. This matter must be urgently addressed by the Church, for no other reason than to attract the blessing of God to our communities. Nothing is more destructive to society than the break- up of Christian homes. This must be stopped, families must be secured with biblical values but where there is divorce this should be governed by scripture; all the time avoiding very hard-line or ‘anything goes positions’. Above all we must call for restoration and clothe ourselves with compassion. It is with this in mind that I write this paper.

 

For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce

                                                 for it covers one’s garment with violence,” says the

                                                 Lord of hosts….”

                                                                                                Malachi 2:16

                                                “Furthermore it has been said, “Whoever divorces his

                                                 wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say

                                                 to you whoever divorces his wife for any reason except

                                                 sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and

                                                 whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits

                                                 adultery.”

                                                                                                Matthew 5:31-32

                                                “But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or

                                                 sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has

                                                 called us to peace.”

                                                                                                1Corinthians 7:15

The Historical View

While early Church leaders had differing views on the matter they generally moved between two positions on divorce and remarriage. That is, divorce and no remarriage as in Tertullian…or…divorce in the case of “uncleanness” or adultery and remarriage as in Origen’s view. He stated that God’s divorce of Israel for spiritual adultery and remarriage to the Church is proof of this (Jeremiah 3:8)! Thomas Aquinas (1226-1274) put in place the Catholic Church’s position on divorce. That of no divorce at all but divorce could be had if the aggrieved party requested an act of nullification from the Pope called, “Divorce a Vinculum Matrimonii.” As you know, Henry the eighth requested this, didn’t get it and consequently broke with the Catholic Church. Strangely, God was in this so what does this say to us?

This view is called the “kinship View” as it views marriage as a sacrament by which the parties are made one and thus in dissolvable (Genesis 2:24). They are one both spiritually and physically. The other Orthodox Churches generally followed this view and within their fraternity it is still embraced today though many of their adherents have abandoned it because of the infiltration of secularism.

The Protestant View

This is where it really becomes intriguing because the Protestant Leaders departed significantly from Rome on this matter as they accused Rome of propagating their view to lure people into celibacy in order to fill the dwindling ranks of their monastic orders. So, the Protestant View, held by great leaders like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Erasmus and Martin Bucer, was that divorce could take place for fornication (which in the original language (pornea) means adultery, homosexuality, bestiality and sexual perversion of any type) and that the offended or innocent party could remarry but only in the Lord. They also viewed what is called “Paul’s Exception” (1Corinthians 7: 14-15) as referring only to abandonment because of one’s faith in Christ and thus they also permitted remarriage. The word used by Paul, in terms of not being in bondage, has roots indicating that one is not in “legal enslavement” and implies remarriage, but only again in the Lord.

As a matter of interest Luther and Calvin spoke of marriage as a civil institution thus over-reacting to the Catholic position of a sacramental institution. This Protestant view is also called the “Majority View” but there are evangelicals, who subscribe to what they call the “Minority View.” That is, the minority view in the evangelical world which holds that divorce for adultery is permissible but not remarriage. The same rule applies to “Paul’s exception”, if applied.

Modern Day Evangelicals

In this world scholars like William Heth, Professor of New Testament and Greek at Taylor University, are the most influential. Heth held the minority view for years but now holds the majority view and writes:

“The majority of evangelicals believe that Jesus permits remarriage after divorce for marital unfaithfulness (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9) and that Paul sanctions remarriage when Christian spouses are abandoned by unbelieving mates. (1Corinthians 7:14-15)”

People like Heth believe that “sexual union is the indispensable means” for the consummation of marriage both in the Old Testament and the New. This union when violated by adultery is destroyed and this is why Jesus permitted divorce, and in his view, remarriage. As to the latter he writes, “Jesus cannot be construed as teaching an “exceptionless absolute” based on Mark alone because both Matthew and Paul qualify Jesus’ prohibition of marriage after divorce.” Moreover, in terms of the full biblical record valid divorces always included the right to remarry but only in the Lord. So then it can be deducted that valid divorces are God’s permissive will for some innocent victims of divorce. It must be stressed, in my view, that Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:9 clearly justify divorce for immorality and permit remarriage, only in the Lord. Having said this it seems to me that it is inconsistent with the heart of God, as revealed in scripture, that the innocent partner in a broken marriage not only be subjected to the trauma and distress of such a break up but also be barred from the joy and comfort that comes to one in a “new” marriage.

Adultery actually must be persistent and everything must be done to seek restoration rather than divorce. It is precisely here that the modern day Church has lost its way. Divorce is permitted for every reason under the sun and the consequence is that many lives, mostly children, are brought to ruin. God hates it! In Jesus’ day, as the records prove, a man could divorce his wife for burning the food; and they did! Many then believe that Jesus spoke strongly about this to rectify the chaos and place the emphasis in the right place just as He did when He said that one has to hate one’s family if you wanted to follow Him (Luke 14:26). We must then embrace a very high view of marriage since it is not simply the union between a man and a woman but also a reflection of the unity and love that exists between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Our emphasis should not be on forgiveness but faithfulness and the boundaries of marriage, divorce and remarriage have to be significantly narrowed.

For me then both sexual immorality and abandonment violate the fundamental biblical components of marriage and, if persisted in, leave the innocent party without any options at reconciliation. They are consequently not in legal bondage and can remarry but only in the Lord. These “two violations” have to be carefully and thoroughly proved and serious efforts at restoration should be our first and paramount concern. The evangelical theologian Hays writes:

“The Church must recognize and teach that marriage is grounded not in feelings of love but in the practice of love. Nor is the marriage bond contingent upon self-gratification or personal fulfillment. The church has swallowed a great quantity of pop psychology that has no foundation in the biblical depiction of marriage…….When marital union is rightly understood as a covenant, the question of divorce assumes a very different aspect. Those who have made promises to God should trust God for grace sufficient to keep those promises, and they should expect the community of faith to help them to keep faith, by supporting them and holding them accountable.” Blomberg adds:

“Married people should always be seeking ways to improve and enhance relations with spouses rather than wondering how they can get out of commitments they have made.” This is so very true!

Conclusions

I have now, chiefly because of my research on this matter, come to the “Majority View.” I have to recognize that this view was held by great spiritual leaders that we admire and quote in our sermons all the time and yet I admit that there are still issues to be resolved. However, I believe that people holding my view have to be stricter and stronger in asserting the biblical position on this matter and I believe that people holding to the “Minority View” need to be a little more caring for the injured and innocent party since great preachers have also held this position. Both positions have been long accepted views within the evangelical Church. This is like grappling with God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Once we hold a strong position either way we tend to be unbalanced. I am guilty of this as we all are from time to time!

Malcolm Hedding.

Passover 2018

Passover 2018

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional

 

                        “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared

                         to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and

                         worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and

                         godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and

                         glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

                         who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from

                         every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special

                         people, zealous for good works.”

 

                                                                                    Titus 2:11-14

 

In these coming days we will celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The cross of Jesus is the shining light of God’s love for a sinful world and what happened upon it was given power and meaning by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Jesus removed God’s anger and wrath from over our lives and consequently brought us forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God our Father. By the cross and resurrection of Jesus, God our Father in Heaven, has then imputed Christ’s righteousness to our lives meaning that being in Christ He sees us as perfect; just as if we had never sinned. We are the recipients of eternal life and therefore we are saved from an eternity separated from God. This is what it means to be saved!

Death has been conquered and its dark and foreboding sting has been removed from us. It is now a mere doorway to the glorious and real eternal presence of God. We are truly saved from our sins and rejoice in the sure hope of living out an eternal purpose with God our Savior. This is good news indeed and constitutes a glorious message of hope for those who would embrace it. Sadly, according to Jesus, few will!

It is then no coincidence that the history of the human race is divided by the coming of Jesus and His saving work on the cross. The cross towers over history and calls us home to God our Father. Truly every person is living before Christ or after Christ. That is, we either have Him in our lives and are consequently saved from our sins or we do not have Him in our lives and remain in our sins and under the wrath of God. Which is it? I sincerely hope that it is the former since Christ in us is the only way to the eternal glory of God.

May the great God of Israel “who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever, Amen.”

Malcolm Hedding

Broken Foundations-Part Two

Broken Foundations-Part Two

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional Weekly Devotional

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will

come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of

money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to

parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving,

slanders, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,

traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather

 than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but

denying its power. And from such turn away!”

 2 Timothy 3:1-5

 

Paul warned that a day would come when people would embrace a form of godliness but would deny the power thereof. That day is upon us! It is a fact that many Christians today live their lives in a way that totally denies the biblical picture of what it means to be saved and much of this is imparted to them by weak preaching that routinely emphasizes how much God loves them and will thus constantly put up with and forgive their frequent failures. They live in habitual sin, frequently come to Church and even tithe and volunteer when required. They will go to hell!

 

The truth is; that receiving Jesus into one’s life by true repentance and faith in His finished work on the cross means that one is literally filled with the amazing power and life of God. This in turn means that one’s life is totally regenerated by the Holy Spirit, one’s desires radically and continually change and one’s behavior routinely reflects righteousness. This is what it means to be saved.

 

John the Apostle wrote his first epistle in order to clearly outline what it means to be born again. We should and must pay careful attention to his words and so let’s take a look at what he says a true Christian looks like.

 

  1. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” 1 John 2:4-6

 

Yes indeed Jesus gave us many commandments to keep and these are not the grounds of our salvation but the evidence of it as we keep them joyously and spontaneously as an outflow of His life in us. We must take this seriously as His life abiding in us enables as to “walk as He walked!”

 

  1. “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” 1 John 3: 6-9

 

This passage is worthy of careful study and meditation as it essentially states that knowing Christ means that we do not sin and that sin, rebellion against God, is actually a character trait of the devil. Jesus came to break this demonic character trait in our lives and set us free of it. He does this by placing His seed in us and this seed definitely destroys the power of sin in us! Is this your testimony?

 

  1. “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

 

In addition to the above, we are also enabled, by the power of Jesus in us, to overcome anything in the world. The true Christian is not ensnared by the world system because this system is essentially demonic and Jesus in us overcomes anything dark and devilish. Sadly so many who claim Christ as Savior reflect the world and not the nature of His character. For them grace means that they can dabble here and there with sin because God will always forgive them! No He will not! Actually, because of all that God in Christ has done for us and, because of the incredible power (seed) that lives in us, God will not forgive intentional sin. In this regard note Hebrews 10:26-27;

 

“For if we sin willfully after we have received the

                         knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a

                         sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation

                         of fiery indignation, which will devour the adversaries.”

 

This warning, dear friends, was written to Christians who were thinking of retreating from their faith in Christ. Yes, it is a stern warning and we had better take note of it. To be saved by the grace of God means to be totally transformed, to walk in transformation and to desire complete transformation. Anything short of this is actually counterfeit Christianity and we should be careful not to fall into it. Sadly many have!

 

The writer of the book of Hebrews lamented the carnal nature of the Christians that he was writing to, as did Paul to the Christians at Corinth. The former then stated that they were weak and sub-normal in their idea of what Christianity is because they had “broken foundations.” The same could be said of many Christians today. So he writes:

 

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary

                         principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not

                         laying again the foundation of repentance from dead

                         works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of

                         baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the

                         dead, and of eternal judgment.” Hebrews 6:1-2

 

Paul is so outraged at the sub-normal expression of Christianity at Corinth that he questions the authenticity of their salvation experience.

 

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.

                         Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus

                         Christ is in you?-unless indeed you are disqualified.”

                                                                        2 Corinthians 13:5

Essentially Paul is saying, “Do you really know Who is living inside of you? Have you felt His power, love and transforming presence because your behavior contradicts your claim and appears to question this reality. The same is true today so test your self to find out if Jesus is really living in you!

 

  1. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9

John by all that he has written is not advocating for sinless perfection. No he is simply saying that for the true Christian committing sins is the abnormal and not the normal expression of being a believer. Christians generally do not sin habitually or willfully but if they do God by Jesus Christ will forgive them upon real confession and repentance. This is my experience and it should be yours as well because, “Whoever is born of God does not sin.”

 

Finally, Jesus talked about building our lives on good foundations and He also warned that at the end of the age many sloppy Christians, who even did wonderful things in His glorious name, will actually go to hell! This what He said:

 

“Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not

                         prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name

                         and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will

                         declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me you who

                         practice lawlessness.”  Matthew 7:22-23

 

Dear friends, the biblical teaching on being a Christian is certainly demanding but the grace that God has given us in Christ Jesus has give us a power that is well able to make us the people that God wants us to be. We are not orphans as God has sent His Holy Spirit into our lives to transform them and reflect His glory. Let it be so!

 

Malcolm Hedding.

Broken Foundations – Part 1

Broken Foundations – Part 1

2018 devotionals 2018Devotional

 

                        “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and

                         foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and

                         members of the household of God, having been

                         built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,

                         Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”

                                                                        Ephesians 2:19

 

The casual observer will note that instability is everywhere evident in our world. The recent conference on Global Security held in Munich Germany ended with a real note of despair in that it concluded with the thought that serious conflict appears to be on the horizon of world affairs. It’s almost as if the human condition has reached “critical mass” and is no longer able to stop the outcome. It’s like clicking on the send button of an email and then desiring to stop it. It’s just to late! Jesus certainly warned that unless the days before His coming are shortened no flesh would survive (Matthew 24:22). There is something desperately wrong with humanity since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and so, sadly, it is seeking solutions that will not stop the rot.

The Gospel of Jesus is of course the only answer as it powerfully and effectively addresses our sin problem (Romans 1:16) but it too is rejected by a world that essentially wants nothing to do with the God of the Bible (John 15:23). In fact as we have recently witnessed in America, Christians are now mocked openly in the various media outlets, even those like Mike Pence who hold high office. Jesus said that we would be hated by all nations (John 15:18-19)! Still the answer to the world’s woes is the Gospel and the remarkable life of Billy Graham certainly proved this. Where the Gospel is preached simply and powerfully lives are indeed eternally changed. We have a remarkable message and the antagonism to it only proves the real existence of evil and should embolden us to preach it more (Acts 5:27-29).

Sadly however, even vast segments of the Church today have moved away from powerful Gospel preaching because people could be offended. Subjects like sin, the wrath of God and the need for repentance are routinely ignored and thus even the foundations of the Church are crumbling. This is not speculation but the honest truth. The Bible is clear about the fact that we cannot lay any foundation in people’s lives other than Jesus Christ and His saving Gospel (1 Corinthians 3:11). This is urgent business and those of us who love God and honor His word must attend to these issues. Like Nehemiah of old we must repair the broken walls and foundations of the Church of Jesus lest we become a Church that He will “vomit out of His mouth” (Revelation 3:16).

The gospel is an offence to many people because it calls upon them to repent and turn away from their sins (Galatians 5:11). We cannot and we will not avoid this offence and Paul’s life certainly demonstrates this. We have to build on a good foundation now more than ever because the night is coming when no one will be able to work. God is looking for those who will rise up and be repairers of the breach. Will He find you and me?

 

“Those from among you shall build the old waste places;

                         you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

                         and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the

                         Restorer of Streets to dwell in.”

                                                                        Isaiah 58:12

 

Malcolm Hedding

The Ten Days of Awe / September 27

The Ten Days of Awe / September 27

2017Devotional 2017Devotional

 

                        “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh

                         month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a

                         Sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing trumpets, a holy

                         Convocation.”

                                                                        Leviticus 23:24

                         “On the tenth day of the seventh moth you shall have a

                         holy convocation….”

                                                                        Numbers 29:7

                         “I, therefore the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to

                         walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,

                         with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering,

                         bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep

                         the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

                                                                    Ephesians 4:1-3

 Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Great Day of Atonement, there are ten days. These are meant to be days of personal reflection, repentance and prayer and they are to fill us with a healthy fear of God. Therefore they are called the Ten Days of Awe. Not only are we to awaken to righteousness and zeal as we hear the trumpet blast at Rosh Hashanah but we are also to think most seriously about our relationship with God and with one another.

The message of the Bible is about reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). That is, reconciliation with God and with our fellow man. Sin alienates and divides people and thereby births conflicts, wars, murders, outbursts of anger and all manner of hatred between people, families and races (Galatians 5:19-21). Those who come to God by faith in what He has done for them in Christ, the Messiah, have this cycle of alienation and hatred broken in their lives. For the people of God to live in schism and disunity constitutes a denial of the very essence of what it means to be a Christian (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). This should not happen and we should do everything to preserve the unity of the body of Christ. In the end contentious people should be rejected and removed from the community of faith after having been appropriately warned (Titus 3:10). All of this dear friends is very serious business and we would do well to think deeply about it.

When living in Jerusalem a very dear friend of mine, and a beloved Rabbi of blessed memory, asked to see me during the Ten Days of Awe. He had promised to do something for me and had forgotten. While praying and reflecting upon his life he was convicted of this and felt that he had to ask my forgiveness and so it was that he came to my office and apologized for his lapse in memory, asked for my forgiveness and promised to rectify the matter; which he did. I was greatly moved by this and cannot help but wonder what would happen to the body of Christ if we all acted in this way. The Ten Days of Awe therefore enable us to take hold of the grace of God and to be the people that Jesus wants us to be (Ephesians 4:31-32). Five is the number of grace in the bible and so the Ten Days of Awe, two fives, remind us of the amazing, blessed and abundant grace of God that has come to our lives by Christ Jesus. We need to think about this and respond appropriately. This period reminds us of these wonderful tings and challenges us to be all that God, by Christ Jesus, wants us to be.

Indeed the Ten Days of Awe help us to focus on what it means to truly be a child of God; just as Passover or Easter enable us to see more clearly what Jesus did for us on the cross. We need these times to refresh our souls and draw closer to God.

Malcolm Hedding

Days of Celebration – September 19th

Days of Celebration – September 19th

2017Devotional 2017Devotional

 

                                ‘On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried

                                 out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”

                                                                                John 7:37

 

                                “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump,

                                 since you are truly unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover,

                                 was sacrificed for us.

                                “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the

                                 leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread

                                 of sincerity and truth.”

                                                                                1 Corinthians 5:7-8

 

We are approaching that time of the year when the Jewish World will again celebrate the Feasts of the Lord in that the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles are about to transpire. So, we need to ask ourselves, yet again, why should we celebrate these biblical festivals? The answer is simple; because they reflect more completely the life, ministry and death of Jesus! Jesus Himself celebrated Passover, Shavuot and the Feast of Tabernacles but He put the significance of His death, resurrection and coming kingdom into them. He even celebrated the non-biblical Feast of Hanukkah. It is important to note that we enjoy these as celebrations and not as obligations. Surely, after years of attending Church and reading the Bible regularly, we know the meaning and important truths lying behind each of these biblical feasts and memorials? The real answer is; no we do not; as we forget so easily and therefore we drift from God, lose sight of His love and grace, and disconnect ourselves from His purpose in the world. We live for ourselves, serve mammon and no longer know how to love those around us. The cycles of Biblical celebration, that God gives us, are for our renewal. This can be understood in the following ways:

 

Renewal of the Biblical truth that they so powerfully convey.

Passover, Pentecost, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles are rich in instruction. They remind us that we are accountable to God, that we depend upon His atoning grace for our deliverance and that we are to rejoice in the knowledge that we are part of His kingdom. As Christians we remember that Paul stated in his letter to the Church at Rome that when we no longer give God thanks in all these things, we stray from Him and turn aside to foolishness (Romans 1:21). Our world abundantly demonstrates this. We need to be constantly renewed and therefore reminded of who God is and what He has done for us. Such is the state of our hearts that failure to remember His goodness is the highway to forgetfulness and this in turn leads to weakness, corruption and apathy in our lives. A faith that is lukewarm and unresponsive to God is not acceptable to Him and is thus rejected (Revelation 3:16). Yes, indeed, we need the biblical Feasts to remind us constantly of the goodness of God.

 

Renewal of the Young amongst us.

The Bible repeatedly teaches us to take special care of the children. Jesus echoed the same truth when He placed a child on His lap and blessed him. In fact He attributed greatness to children because their faith was so innocent and trusting (Matthew 18:1-5). To harm them is to attract the extreme displeasure of their Father in Heaven (Matthew 18:6). In addition the last book of Moses, called Deuteronomy, exhorts parents to instruct their children in their homes concerning the great themes of who God is and what He has done for us and requires from us (Deuteronomy 6:1-9). A child, according to the book of Proverbs, is like a tender “creeping plant” that can be trained in the way in which he or she should go. This requires love, affection, correction and discipline. Most of all it requires from Parents that they should teach by example! The Word of God does not call people sheep for nothing (Isaiah 53:6). Sheep follow easily and parents who do not “walk the life that they talk” are teaching their children how to fail God in life and consequently they will not have success in the things that really matter.

 

Renewal of Community life

All the Biblical festivals are community celebrations. We celebrate them with the people of God. Too much of Christianity today is self centered and contradicts Paul’s frequent exhortations to relate in different ways to one another (Ephesians 4:25-32). Interacting with the family of God teaches us a lot about patience, faithfulness, submission and love. All of these are imparted to our lives when we have do things that others want us to do and we don’t really want to! Living in community is not easy but it is God’s plan for us.

 

Passover, Pentecost, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles teach us to fear God, walk in His grace and power and be joyful. Paul said that, “The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”(Romans 14:17).  Passover reminds us of the “door” to the Kingdom of God, which is the blood of the Lamb. Pentecost reminds us that the power of the Kingdom of God is the Word and Spirit of God and Rosh Hashanah reminds us of God’s holy command to be pleasing to Him and like Him. Yom Kippur, of the only way to have peace with God through His atoning love and grace and the Feast of Tabernacles of the fact that God wants His people to have life and joy in abundance. God’s people should have a lot of fun!

 

The community of God is to experience these things together. Again I want to affirm that the great Feasts of the Bible are celebrations and not obligations! We explore their meaning and significance together and thereby learn how to better love God, one another and the world. We are the poorer spiritually for neglecting them.

 

Renewal of appreciation for Israel and the Jewish people.

The great Feasts of the Bible enable Christians to understand more fully the Jewish roots of their faith and thus they learn to appreciate the people of Israel and understand that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22), that all the things we hold dear as Christians are Jewish (Romans 9:1-5) and that we serve a Jewish King (Revelation 5:5) (Revelation 19:16)! In short, we share in the spiritual things that belong to the Jews and thus we are indebted to them (Romans 15:27). This takes on an important significance when we realize that Israel’s modern day restoration is the fulfillment of God’s eternal promise to Abraham and therefore, in the not too distant future, Israel will welcome her Messiah and thereby usher in for the world a time of unparalleled peace and joy. This will be the ultimate fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16-19).

 

Even so Lord Jesus come!

 

Malcolm Hedding

Watch and Pray / September 12th

Watch and Pray / September 12th

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                        “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be

                         serious and watchful in your prayers.”

                                                                        1 Peter 4:7

 

                        “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon,

                         and in the stars; and on earth distress of nations

                         with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring.”

                                                                        Luke 21:25

 The “mystery of iniquity”, about which the Bible has much to say (2 Thessalonians 2:7) is essentially an attempt by the powers of darkness to ultimately enslave the whole human race by eradicating or diluting the message of the true Church and by destroying Israel the visible reminder of God in the world (Psalm 83:1-8). To a certain and indeed terrifying degree the powers of darkness will almost achieve their goal by the fact that a super human being will arise who will solve the world’s growing problems. His solution will outlaw Christianity as we know it, harness the global financial systems and regulate the possession of weapons by the imposition of global government (Revelation 13:1-3). In short a new world order will be ushered in that will put mankind at the center of all things, banish the unseen God and instead install a visible god who will receive the adulation and worship of the world (Revelation 13:8). Great celebrations will be held across world heralding the arrival of peace; all the peoples of the world will rejoice (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

 

The drama unfolding across the world at present is a sure sign that the picture described above is drawing nigh to reality. The rise and proliferation of nuclear weapons, the volatile situation in the Middle East, the emergence of Russia as a renewed and weaponized super-power, the North Korean determination to provoke conflict, the spread of Islamic terror attacks across the globe and the hatred of Israel and of Jews everywhere is going to erupt in conflicts that will shake and scare the world. It is because of this that the nations of the world will willingly give up their sovereignty and demand world government. The Bible has warned us about all of this.

 

But God Himself has warned the world, not only through His word, but also by strange signs in the heavens and by natural disasters on earth. This has always been the manner in which the God of Israel seeks to get the attention of the world and to write these off as inconsequential is to be naïve and really biblically illiterate. It was God Himself who stated, in the very first book of the Bible, that the luminaries were put in place, not only to give light by day and night, but also to act as signs of God’s great works on the earth (Genesis 1:14). That is, works of blessing and of judgment as in the birth of Christ (Matthew 2:1-2) and the coming great Day of the Lord (Acts 2:17-21). So, while we should not become sensational and goofy about these things, it is true that the double Tetrads producing a blood moon over Israel at Passover and Succot for two years in a row mean something and the total eclipse of the sun on the 21st August over America also meant something as did the two hurricanes that have hit the country in quick succession and then there is the sign of Israel that will appear in the heavens shortly.

 

I truly believe that the message is clear:

 

  1. That the God of the Bible is calling His people to purify themselves and live lives of prayer and godliness (Ephesians 5:15-21).

 

  1. That the God of the Bible is calling the world to repentance as He is warning of more acts of judgment and of a great judgment to come (Revelation 16:8-9).

 

  1. That the God of the Bible is drawing attention to Israel as the custodians of the Word of God and as the platform for the soon return of the Messiah (Romans 3:1-2; Acts 1:11).

 

  1. That the God of the Bible is seeking to mobilize His Church to preach the Gospel everywhere, as never before, because the hour is coming, of such darkness and persecution, wherein no one will be able to work (minister) (Matthew 28:18-20; John 9:4).

 

My friends, these things are real and, while scoffers will mock and discount them even from within the church, we must discern the times we are living in (Matthew 16:1-3) and watch and pray as Jesus taught us to (Mark 13:33-37) (2 Peter 3:1-7). Do not bury your head in the sand and ignore the warning signs all around you; warning signs on the earth and in the heavens. The people in Noah’s day laughed at him and ignored him, writing him off as a goofball but they were wrong and he was right. Jesus said, “As it was in the days of Noah so will it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:36-39).” We discount God’s acts around us to our peril. I say again; watch and pray!

Malcolm Hedding

Biblical Community – Week 32 / August 7th

Biblical Community – Week 32 / August 7th

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“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing
that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease
teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
Acts 5:41-42

The Bible is clear about the fact that the people of God are a Kingdom under the dominion of God Himself. In the Hebrew Scriptures this took the form of a theocracy. The nation was to be a holy nation, separate from all other nations and regulated by a priesthood and sacrificial system. In the New Covenant this changes as all nations are called into the household of faith and they are to be part of a gathering of believers called the ecclesia or “called out ones”. The temple is now not brick and mortar but people who have embraced Jesus’ once for all sacrifice on the cross (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Their main purpose in life is twofold:
1. To be conformed to the image of Christ….and,
2. To be witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection in the world.
Their social interaction is transformed by the power of the indwelling Savior, which in turn means that they love and care for one another. Their mutual life together has no set structure other than that they should gather regularly for the prayers (meaning many prayer meetings), bible study, breaking of bread and fellowship (Acts 2:42). This they can do in a building especially built for this purpose or they can gather in a private dwelling. Paul for instance, at one time, held meetings in a school hall (Ephesians 19:9). However, no matter how they gather their “body life” should and must be “set in order” (Titus 1:5). This means that they are under the spiritual protection of ordained elders and gift ministries designated as Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, Evangelists and Teachers (Ephesians 4:11).

The Church in every generation is subject to pressure and persecution. This may, as it did in the book of Acts, drive them together for survival purposes to live in closer proximity. That is, in shared housing of some type. The early church in Jerusalem was forced to do this (Acts 4:32-37) but elsewhere, as it took root, it structured itself differently. The style of housing is not important! Rather the purity of essential doctrine and preservation of the believing community is. It is true that a Church in persecution and living in shared housing is more holy but it is equally true that a Church living in shared housing and or in community, but free from persecution, can end up in cultic and controlling behavior. Both of these insights are worth nothing.

What matters is not the housing style but the preservation of the life and witness to Jesus. Some huge Churches, housed in big buildings, are a great blessing filled with God’s life. This we cannot deny. On the other hand, as in China, the Church has grown and multiplied in homes. Its very existence was dependent upon it. In all aspects the rule of thumb is that we should not neglect our gathering together (Hebrews 10:23-25) and we should assemble with those who uphold biblical faith and office. A Church, so called, in a house without ordained leadership is as much a problem and a contradiction as a Church in a fancy building without properly ordained leadership. Both problems exist. A Church “housed together” is a shelter from the storm but it could also be a breeding ground for manipulation and brain washing. Our calling is to read the signs of the times around us and structure the Body of Christ in a manner that enables the people of God to worship freely, be conformed to the image of Christ and bear testimony to the good news of Jesus in the world.
Malcolm Hedding.

Days of Deliverance – Week 28 / July 7

Days of Deliverance – Week 28 / July 7

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“ Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us as prey
to their teeth. Our soul has escaped as a bird from
the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we
have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord Who
made heaven and earth.”

Psalm 124:6-8

There is no doubt that the context of this Psalm has to do with Israel’s deliverance from her enemies. The Psalmist affirms that the God of Israel is “on our side when men rose up against us (V2).” Not much has changed since David’s time and today Israel is once again in the “gun-sights” of her enemies. This brings the restored nation to daily vigilance but, while this is necessary, the truth is God watches over Israel to defend and protect her. Her modern history is testimony to this.

Israel’s God is deeply concerned about her spiritual condition and well being and so He allows Israel to go through trials and conflicts in the hope that she will by them hear His voice, repent and return to Him. This was ever so and we see it today as well since the God we serve is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He will yet deliver Israel from the teeth of her enemies but she will have to learn the lesson of Who He is and what He requires of her.

It is also true as a principle that we too are caught in the “cross-hairs” of those who hate God. Indeed Paul stated that anyone wishing to live a godly life in Christ will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). This pathway is unavoidable but by it we too are brought into better alignment with the will and purposes of God. Christians are not strangers to trials and difficulties and God, by Jesus Christ, will bring them through these so that they can give testimony to the fact that the have escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers! Once escaped, like a bird, they will fly higher and therefore soar to greater heights in Christ.

I wish I could tell you that there is a different way but there is not. It is through many tribulations that we enter into the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22) and so we need patience and endurance (James 1:2-3). God will help us, and always will, if we respond appropriately to Him. We should not look upon the present in all of this but upon the eternal future where we will reap an eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).

So, Israel is a living example to us of God’s faithfulness and we should not let discouragement pull us down. As David once did, strengthen yourself in the Lord since He will never leave or forsake you. After all He is the God that made heaven and earth.

Malcolm Hedding