ISRAEL – LAND AND PEOPLE – Week 29 / July 10th

ISRAEL – LAND AND PEOPLE – Week 29 / July 10th

2016Devotional 2016Devotional

“I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”   
Genesis 17:7-8

The debate that rages over Israel’s modern day restoration is undoubtedly a heated one and there are good, honest Christians on both sides of “the divide”.  It is crucial and important for us to make this observation because it is highly dangerous to treat each other with disdain and disrespect because we do not agree on this issue.  Our salvation is not regulated by issues like this, but by our personal repentance and acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Saviour, all based on His finished work on the cross.

The Heart of the Matter

Some Christians see no biblical significance in the modern day restoration of Israel.  For them the State of Israel is just like any other.  The national destiny of the Jewish people in the “Promised Land” has been lost since the time of Christ because of their rejection of His Messianic credentials.  They believe this even though the Scriptures affirm that the promise to them in this regard is an everlasting one! Consequently the church is exclusively the “New Israel of God” (The new Promised Land) and the only hope for all men, be they Jew of Gentile, is the acceptance of the Gospel.

From a certain perspective I must say that the latter statement is true. There is indeed “no other name give among men, under heaven, by which we can be saved”.  We cannot and should not be dual covenant by belief!  (Acts 4:12)

But is this the whole truth?  I think not.  The heart of the matter or the real issue is; has the everlasting promises of God in the Abrahamic Covenant bequeathing the land of Canaan to the Jewish people been revoked?  And if so, what evidence of this “revoking” is in the Bible?  In other words, the debate is about what one thinks of the Abrahamic Covenant.  This alone is the heart of the matter!

The Nature of the Covenant

First mentioned in Genesis 12:1-3 and reinforced time and time again throughout all of Scripture mostly, in fact, in the New Covenant Scriptures, the Abrahamic Covenant sets aside a people and a land for the blessing of the nations.  “In you all the nations of the earth will be blessed…” For the Apostle Paul this was one of the earliest proclamations of the Gospel. (Galatians 3:8)  Thus, the Abrahamic Covenant is that great covenant of the Bible that promises salvation to a world lost in sin.  It is made with Abraham and his descendants after him. (Genesis 17:7)  It is, therefore, “the covenant of decision” and all the other great covenants of the Bible flow out of it.  So, John the Baptist and even Jesus come into the world because of the promises made to Abraham in this covenant. (Luke 1:54-55; 72-75)  The Jewish people, as Abraham’s descendants, are chosen as the servants of the covenant.  In other words, the nation of Israel is not brought into existence as an end itself, but as a means to an end – the salvation of the world.  They are the means by which God delivers His redemptive initiative to the world.

Jesus said “salvation is of the Jews.” (John 4:22) Paul wrote that “they are the custodians of the oracles of God” and from them come the prophets, the giving of the law, the covenants and the Messiah who is God blessed forever.”  (Romans 3:1-2; Romans 9:1-5)

It is truly hard to believe that the covenant has been replaced in the light of all this, because if it has, then the decision to bless the whole world with salvation has also been replaced!!

The Nature of the Debate

The debate over Israel’s modern day restoration is over the continuing power and existence of the Abrahamic Covenant.  In other words, has this covenant been abolished or reconstructed and if so, what biblical evidence is there for it?

Firstly, the “abolitionist theory”, (the total removal of the covenant) is not possible because of the New Covenant.  For instance, in Galatians 3 we are told that “if we are Christ’s, then we are Abraham’s children according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29) Moreover, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law “so that the blessing of Abraham” might come upon us by faith. (Galatians3:14)  The writer of the book of Hebrews insists that the wavering messianic believers can trust God and His promises in the New Covenant because he is faithful, completely, to His promises made in the Abrahamic Covenant. (Hebrews 6:13-20)  Hence, there is absolutely no hint whatsoever that this covenant has been in any way disempowered, replaced, or abolished.  On the contrary, it is affirmed and established, and this after Israel’s rejection of Jesus’ Messianic credentials!  Indeed, in Galatians 3 Paul argues that it cannot be annulled, (Galatians 3:17) and in Romans 3:3-4 Paul clearly states that Israel’s rejection of Jesus has not in any way altered the faithfulness of God to them and, finally, in Romans 11 he argues that Jewish unbelief has not removed from them God’s calling and purpose. (Romans 11:11, 29)

Secondly, then there is the more popular “reconstructionist theory”, otherwise known as Replacement theology, that claims that the Abrahamic Covenant has been altered or adjusted because of Jewish unbelief.  This is an argument from silence, but it must be made by those who see no significance in Israel’s modern day restoration to what was called Palestine. Given the New Testament evidence, that is overwhelming, they inadvertently accuse God of lying! (Romans 3:4)  A covenant that promises the world salvation and promises everlasting possession of the land of Canaan to the Jewish people is not trustworthy!  This is truly amazing when one considers that John the Baptist and Jesus came into the world because of this covenant and that our embracing of the Lord Jesus as Lord and Saviour places us in the promises made in it.  The God we serve does not lie!  (Titus 1:2; Numbers 23:9) Actually, according to Romans 15:8, Jesus came to confirm the promises made to the fathers and not to reconstruct or replace them. For the reconstructionists the words of Paul in Galatians three, attesting to the promise of God in Abraham, as applying to the “seed” (Christ) and not to the “seeds” (many) is taken to support their reconstructionist thesis. They are wrong because the Abrahamic Covenant makes a promise to both; the seed (Genesis 22:18) and the seeds! (Genesis 17:7-8) Paul’s point is that God’s ultimate plan of salvation brought to the world by the people of Israel is appropriated by faith in Jesus and not by the works of the law. (Galatians 3:15-18)

The Nature of Evidence
It has to be acknowledged by all in this debate that Jesus returns visibly and physically to Jerusalem; (Acts 1:11; Zechariah 14:4) that is, in terms of the context of scripture, to the Old City of Jerusalem.  Indeed, in a mysterious way, He links this return to Jewish acceptance of His Messianic credentials.  (Matthew 23:39) He also Himself stated, in His Olivet Discourse, that one of the signs of His return is the return of the Jews to East Jerusalem. (Luke 21:24) When we add to this the interesting conversation that He had with His disciples on the Mt. of Olives concerning the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel, (Acts 1:6)    the picture becomes clear. That is, a latter day return of the Jews after 70 A.D. to Jerusalem is expected!  On what grounds?  Clearly as the New Testament everywhere affirms, on the grounds of an everlasting promise made to them in Abraham (Hebrews 6:13-20)

Those embracing the “reconstructionist”, or replacement, view of the Abrahamic Covenant not only have to grapple with the weight of evidence in the New Treatment, but also with the weight of evidence in the Old Treatment.  Exile and correction are always followed up with a promise of restoration. (Amos 9:9-15) On what grounds? The answer is the promises of God given in the Abrahamic Covenant. (Haggai 3:14-15; Psalms 105:7-15; Deuteronomy 30:1-10)

It is precisely here that the “reconstructionists” misuse Scripture.  That is, in contradiction of the context of Old Testament Scriptures, which in most cases, in this regard, is literal they affirm that the passages, in this regard , have to be read allegorically!  In short they wrest from scripture its own authority and they assume to themselves this authority and therefore they will decide what Scripture means. As a consequence they debunk any literal interpretation of scripture pointing to a physical restoration of the Jews to the land of Canaan and instead assert that the Church is now the new Promised Land or Canaan.  This assertion is totally unacceptable as a method of exegesis.

The truth is; we are not literalists or spiritualists (the allegorical method of interpreting) but “contextualists.”   The context of Scripture will alone decide our exegesis of it.  If we follow this erroneous method of exegesis to its logical end we can ¬¬¬equally assume that Jesus’ death on the cross was not literal! In fact an early church heresy did precisely this.  There is nothing new.
The Nature of the Divide
While the Abrahamic Covenant promises salvation to the world (Galatians 3:8) and land to Israel as an everlasting possession, the Mosaic Covenant (Moral Law), that flows out of it, demands from Israel that:

1.    She live out the light and blessing of God that she gives to the world (Exodus 19:1-6)
2.    She live out the heavenly demands of justice and righteousness (Micah 6:5-8; Exodus 23:11; Isaiah 5:7)
Failure in these two areas would lead to correction, judgment and exile, but not loss of possession, only loss of domicile!  In all honesty, Christian Zionists fail in these areas.   That is, they stress the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant but ignore the commands of the Mosaic Covenant or Moral Law. They thus stray into political Zionism! Israel’s spiritual condition matters to God and determines her borders.
How sad it is that the church can never find balance.  We always think that “the other side” is wrong when in reality we are both wrong and both right.  Scripture is therefore clear that Israel’s possession of the land of Canaan is unconditional and everlasting (Exodus 32:13) but her domicile (privilege of living on the land of Canaan) is conditional.  That is, conditional upon her righteous behaviour.  This includes treating the stranger with respect and justice. (Two devastating exiles in her history have proved this point well.) In this regard the Church and the Christian Zionist world should find its “voice.”  For Arabs, Palestinians, Christians and other minorities living in the Holy Land this is the issue.  The failure of Christian Zionists to address these issues has prevented these minority groups from hearing their message.  But equally, the failure of Christians who champion these issues to address the consequences of the Abrahamic Covenant adequately has diminished their voice in the Jewish world.  The truth is; we all need to “grow up” and be more balanced.
In the End
In the end Scripture affirms that Israel will exist forever as a nation before God and He will not cut her off because of all that she has done.  (Jeremiah 31:35-37). Scripture clearly implies that her long historical journey will be characterised by two exiles and two returns. (Isaiah11:11) She will finally return a second time in unbelief (Ezekiel 36:24-28) and, through a process of affliction and correction, be spiritually recovered (Hosea 5:14-15; 6:1-3) Paul saw Israel’s “interlude of unbelief “as a time of the salvation of the nations to be followed by Israel’s spiritual recovery. The Deliverer will “come out of Zion.” (Romans 11:25-27) It is surely no co-incidence that we have now witnessed the second return of the Jewish people from exile. We are all “caught” in this unique transition point in history trying to make sense of it all. This is much like the early Church trying to make sense of gentile inclusion in the Church. It is a challenging process requiring grace and much love from those who tackle it. It is deeply troubling when Christians use Scripture as a weapon against each other.   I do not write in this vain.  I believe that in the end we must all acknowledge that there are great Christians on both sides of this debate.  I have set forth my position in this devotional paper.  A position I believe to be true.  More true than all of this however, is faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.

Malcolm Hedding

Our Wretched Condition – Week 26 / June 21st

Our Wretched Condition – Week 26 / June 21st

2016Devotional 2016Devotional


 

                        “For when we were still without strength, in due time

                         Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous

                         man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone

                         would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own

                         love toward us, in that while we were still sinners,

                         Christ died for us.”

 

The ultimate wickedness of sin is that it convinces many that they are quite good and can even make it to heaven if they live good lives. This is just not true and the Bible everywhere, as it does in the passage above, rejects this notion. We are in fact wretched and wicked and deserve nothing more or less than God’s wrath and rejection. Our preoccupation with ourselves, with all the horrific consequences, has totally corrupted us and left us depraved. We cannot please God by our good works as they are all tainted by evil. Paul “hits the nail on the head” when he declares that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God’s glory is His character and if we are to enter heaven by our works then these must equal the perfection of God’s image and nature. No one can do this! We are wretched and evil! Paul underlines this when he writes:

 

  1. That we are without strength

Meaning that we have no power to attain to God’s likeness and therefore no hope beyond the grave. We are just weak and corrupted by sin and in fact to the degree that we are enemies of God and in constant rebellion against Him.

 

  1. That we are ungodly

We are unlike God in all aspects of our lives. In Adam we were created in His likeness but our rejection of God has severed us from Him, and left us deeply impacted by everything that is not of God. Truly we were the ungodly!

 

  1. That we are sinners

This description of our lives rightly describes us as those who did everything that was contrary to the wishes and desires of God. We were sinners! That is, those who took pleasure in deeds of darkness, encouraged others to join us in them and these in turn brought meaningless, ruin and hopelessness to our lives. We were wretched and blind!

 

The wonder of this passage is that it tells us that God in Christ loved us. We can only fully appreciate this statement when we grasp, once and for all, the depth of our depravity and the consequences that this brought upon us. We were children of wrath destined to be separated from God for all eternity. But God stepped in, we are told because He loved us, and sent Jesus to die for us. This is amazing love because, humanly speaking, no one would lay his or her life down for a wicked person. Would you lay your life down for a murderer like Paul? I think not. Actually, we would hardly give our lives for a good person but God demonstrated His great love for us by laying His life down for each one of us. “Us” being wicked ungodly sinners! This great demonstration of God’s redeeming love is not only amazing but it is powerful because being in Christ we are forgiven, delivered from the wrath of God and empowered to change until we are no longer “the ungodly” but the saints of the living God! We are holy ones! No wonder the writer of the book of Hebrews declared that this great salvation is able to save us to the uttermost. That is, in Jesus we become God’s children and all that He ever wanted us to be. This friends is good news indeed and we should never forget it.

 

 

Malcolm Hedding.

A Living Sacrifice – Week 24 / June 10th

A Living Sacrifice – Week 24 / June 10th

2016Devotional 2016Devotional

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by
the mercies of God, that you present
your bodies a living sacrifice, holy
acceptable to God, which is your reason-
able service”
Romans 12:1

This verse is a response to the failure of Israel as Paul outlines it in Romans nine, ten and eleven. We need a living faith and anything short of this will allow routine, ritual and habit to corrode and govern our spiritual lives. We can have a form of godliness but all the while denying the power thereof; and many do! So, Paul’s exhortation has three thoughts worth pondering:

1.    We should be ever mindful of the mercies of God.
We were sinners living under the wrath of God and without God in the world and without hope. We could do nothing to change our circumstances and were thus dependent entirely on the “mercies of God” to save us. These mercies are supremely demonstrated in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for us. It is His saving work on the cross alone that saves us. There is no greater demonstration of the mercy of God than this and because of it we should surrender our lives completely to Christ and live for Him. Because of God’s mercy we can only but respond appropriately and this means:

2.    We should present our bodies a living sacrifice
While we have life in our mortal bodies we should lay ourselves down on the altar of God’s purpose. This is a decision of the will and it means beginning each day with a choice to serve God and love Him. It is to be noted that what we do with our bodies is important to God. We live in a world where people abuse, disfigure, misuse and destroy their bodies. We see this all around us every day but we are to honor and care for our bodies and surrender them with our minds to the will of God. The true Christian must embrace this choice with the break of every new day and then:

3.    We should thirst after holiness
God in Christ died for us so that we can, by His power, live lives that reflect His character. The Bible calls this holiness and Paul defined it as being conformed to the image of Christ. It is only this pursuit that is acceptable to God and Christians that do not make this their chief joy are in a sense fooling themselves because without holiness they shall not see the Lord! It was Israel’s neglect of these things that led to her failure and we too can fail if we are not mindful of them; hence Paul’s exhortation. Let us heed it well!

Malcolm Hedding

The Four Churches of the Book of Acts – Week 22 / May 26th

The Four Churches of the Book of Acts – Week 22 / May 26th

2016Devotional 2016Devotional

1 Corinthians 3:9-11; Acts 13:1-2; Titus 1:5-6

 

Paul the Apostle believed in “church craft”as he saw himself as a “master builder”. That is, he went about his ministry with intentionality and purpose. He knew what he intended to build and gave himself to it, but sadly today it is not so!

 

Much of Christian work is haphazard and fad driven. There are in fact four types of churches in the book of Acts. Which type of church are you called to build?

 

  1. The Blending Church

This type of church speaks into the culture of which it is a part and it is typified by the church in Jerusalem led by James. It is therefore led by a strong ministry gift around which others gather to enable. This gift ministry can be seen as the tip of the spear enabled by the shaft; those who gather around the lead ministry.

 

The dangers are compromise and lack of succession. An example of this compromise is the apartheid era churches in South Africa that embraced segregation in the house of a God! They became a reflection of society and not of Christ!

 

  1. The Sending Church

This church is typified by the church at Antioch which had a number of leaders described as Prophets and Teachers; Paul was amongst them.(Acts 13:1-2)  The church was then led by a ministry team and not one individual or so called Senior Pastor. The sending church is an incubation church in that it brings forth strong Ephesian four gift ministries and then gives them away to the work of God. It therefore has a high degree of commitment to equipping and is dependent upon a strong sense of submission to be successful.

 

The dangers facing this church are schism and discouragement. The former  because strong gifted leaders have to dwell together in love and the latter because this model of church gives away its best ministry gifts as we see with Paul and Barnabas.

 

  1. The Missionary Church

This is the dominant expression of the church in the New Testament. It is in fact the denominational church! That is, a number of churches held together in fellowship by a team of ministers (Apostles) and empowered by a gathering or synod. This is the type of church that Paul built! It requires a well defined manner of working and a strong unified vision. In this regard note 1Corinthians 11:16 and Titus 1:5-6. This remains the most effective and powerful expression of the church in the world.

 

The Wesleys built the Methodist Church

John Wimber built the Vineyard Church

Dudley Daniels built the New Covenant movement Azusa Street led directly to the birthing of the Apostolic Faith Mission, the Church of God ( Full Gospel Church) and the Assemblies of God Count Zinzendorf built the Moravian Church Bhengu planted thousands of churches of the Assemblies of God of Southern Africa.

The Apostolic Faith Mission of Namibia has in one year led 209,000 people to Jesus!

 

It is worth noting that we have much of the New Testament because Paul planted a missionary church. The dangers facing this model is exclusivism and fossilization; a movement becomes a monument.

 

  1. The Persecuted Church

Pictured by the Church at Rome requiring a high degree of caring and connectedness. Though Paul had never been to Rome he nevertheless was able to name and greet the churches that were everywhere meeting in homes. (Romans 16)

 

Things to Check in 2016

 

  1. Worship leaders or song leaders John 4:23 Most churches today have song leaders, albeit good ones, but not worship leaders. Those who worship God must do so “in spirit and truth.” Truth informs us about the nature and character of God thus enabling us to “worthship” God correctly. Worshipping “in spirit” means connecting with that eternal place within us where God indwells us. We thus begin to mingle with heaven and so Paul states that we should worship God with our minds, involving musical instruments and our languages, and with our spirits, involving our heavenly tongues and languages corporately orchestrated by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 14:14-15)

 

It is important to note that song leading only touches the mind or soul of people. It can be moving and blessed and is worship but the song leader must know “when to the turn the tap off”, thereby abandoning instruments of all types, and how to bring the people into worship by their spirits in the power of the Holy Spirit. I well remember the days in Cape Town when we would sing in tongues for ten and fifteen minutes and in heavenly spiritual songs that were nothing short of glorious. This sadly, in most churches, even so called Spirit filled ones, is a thing of the past. Why?

 

  1. Preachers of a gnostic gospel Ephesians 1:3; 2 Peter 1:3 The gnostic gospel is the proclamation by preachers of special revelation truth that, if acted upon when heard, will give the hearers more of God. I have heard this error all over the world. The truth is God’s “more box” is empty; He has nothing more to give you as He has already blessed us ” with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” The truth is, we do not need more of God, He needs more of us! Paul prays that God’s children will have their eyes open to understand “His inheritance in them!” (Ephesians 1:15-18)

 

What we need is more devotion, prayer, submission, faithfulness and discipline by which to appropriate all that God in Christ has already given us. Beware of the gnostic preachers.

 

  1. The house of God Matthew 21:13 Jesus said that “His house” should be a “house of prayer for all nations.” Today the local church is anything but a house of prayer since the weekly prayer meeting is routinely tucked away in a small room where less than ten percent of the congregation gather for prayer. The truth is, prayer should be the main function of the whole congregation and the local church must urgently restructure itself to make this happen. Indeed the local church is and should be a house of teaching, preaching and singing but its most important function is that of prayer. Until we get our spiritual priorities right in this regard we will not see the revival we all claim we desire and the nation will not be touched again by the power of God.

 

  1. The new apostles Titus 2:15, 1John 2:17; Revelation 2:2 Apostles are those Prophets, Teachers and Evangelists who are sent out to plant new churches where Jesus has not been proclaimed. (Romans 15:14-21) This alone is the qualification of a biblical Apostle. Apostles are not sent out to rehabilitate the cities of our world and their so called “seven mountains” of human endeavor. The truth is, God is determined to overthrow the world order and it is already passing away. You cannot rehabilitate the “Titanic” as it is already sinking but you can get as many people as possible off it if you are “salt and light.” We are called to retard wickedness so that the Gospel of Jesus can be preached everywhere and so our hope is not in a rehabilitated world system but in the visible and real second coming of Jesus.

 

The so called “New Apostolic Movement” is not going to take over the systems of our world before Jesus comes as this is not our calling. We call people out of the world by our preaching and Jesus when He comes will take over the world and rule it with a “rod of iron.” Blessed be His name!

 

Malcolm Hedding.

The Call of God – Week 21 / May 19th

The Call of God – Week 21 / May 19th

2016Devotional 2016Devotional

                “But The Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel
                 of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles, Kings, and
                 the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things
                 he must suffer for My Name’s sake.”
Acts 9:15-26

No doubt one of the great privileges of life is to be called into the “Five-fold” ministry of the ascended Christ. These are not people with gifts but they are themselves the gift of Jesus to His Church in the world. Paul defines these people in his letter to the church at Ephesus as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. (Ephesians 4:11) While they do have gifts of the Spirit and unique leadership skills they are chiefly called to beautify the church. That is, their focus is to bring every believer under their sphere of influence to the fullness of the stature of Christ. This is not an easy task and those who embark upon it have to themselves demonstrate the life of Jesus before they can call others to embrace it for themselves.

This high calling means that the servant of Jesus will have to walk the way of the cross and this in turn means embracing the way of suffering and trial. ( 2 Corinthians 3:7-11) To assume that Jesus can be implanted in people’s lives apart from this road is foolishness. Paul’s calling was great but to achieve it he had to face a journey punctuated by intense suffering. Jesus had to have His way with Paul since Paul’s ministry required a vessel so committed to Christ that He could impart to the world through him much of the New Testament. I once heard a great man of God share his testimony and then, in the question time afterwards, a young man commendably stated that he desired to be like him. The man of God looked lovingly at him and replied, “Young man make sure you are willing to pay the price before setting out to follow me.” That’s it exactly! We need men and women who are willing to embrace the road of suffering as well as the one of blessing. I fear that the latter has been over emphasized in recent years.

Of course Jesus will never ask you to bear more than you can handle since He knows our limitations but the calling to serve Christ requires resolve and determination. Jesus made this plain time and time again. Also commitment to the heavenly task imparted to one is also required from the servant of Jesus. Paul knew that he was called as an Apostle to the Gentiles and therefore he made this his lifelong focus and commitment. I know some remarkable men who have dedicated their lives completely to a heavenly calling. They were never distracted from the calling that they knew was theirs in Christ. Very often their road was a lonely one and even a misunderstood one but they held to it and never gave up.
The call of God is a precious thing and we all have it in one way or another. To let it manifest in our lives we must welcome the work of the Holy Spirit in us that weakens our flesh by trials and difficulties. It is only by this weakening process that we become the life giving bread that Jesus desires to give to the world. (2 Corinthians 1:8-10) The truth is, we must welcome Christ fully into our lives and then accept all and everything that comes our way. He will work it together for our good and make us a blessing to the Body of Christ and the world. Who is sufficient for these things?

Malcolm Hedding.

The Nations – Week 17 / April 22nd

The Nations – Week 17 / April 22nd

2016Devotional 2016Devotional

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men
to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined
their preappointed times and the boundaries of their
dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope
that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He
is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:26-27

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization,
not upon the power of government, far from it. We have

staked the future of all our political institutions upon the
capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the
capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to
control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the
Ten Commandments of God.”    James Madison

The Bible at one level recognizes three groups of people; the Jews, the Gentiles and the Church. The Jews regulate history by their journey through it, the Gentiles seek and grope for the God that the Jews reveal to them and the Church reflects the glory, power and character of this God by Jesus Christ. However, having said this it is also true that God has set the habitation and boundaries of nation states thus giving them the opportunity to seek Him and find Him. Nations that do this have discovered that the values of the God of the Bible lift their people out of poverty and bless them with prosperity, peace and safety. It is therefore no coincidence that those nations that have been greatly impacted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the values of the Bible have become the most successful. In fact the whole world is seeking to get into them because of the blessing and stability that they offer.

The greatest example of this truth is the United States of America. There is absolutely no doubt that it was founded on the Bible and in particular the five Books of Moses, as James Madison’s quote above demonstrates. Even the famous Liberty Bell is inscribed with a verse from the book of Leviticus and the Ten Commandments were emblazoned upon countless local community halls and courts of justice. The vigorous preaching of the Gospel in the market place was openly encouraged and in many cities the Monday morning papers carried the Sunday sermons of prominent preachers. Theology was the considered the “Queen of Sciences” and men everywhere honored God and at least entered His house twice a year; to celebrate Jesus’ birth and death. President after President affirmed their personal faith in God, including Washington and Lincoln and they frequently called the nation to prayer. Christmas was declared a national holiday and the very currency of the Union stated, “In God We Trust.” That is, we trust in the God of the Bible.

Truly a nation like this groped for God, found Him and gave Him much glory. They even sang hymns that boldly called upon God to bless America and time and time again prominent leaders and politicians would end their speeches with the refrain, “God bless America.” While America is a clear example of what God will do with a people that honors Him, much of the world today is a clear example of what happens when nations reject Him and opt for other gods. Misery, poverty, chaos, tyranny and conflict are the result. Dr. Jedidiah Morse preached these words in 1799:

  “To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and
  political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. In proportion as the
  genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief
  or the corruption of its doctrine, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same
  proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine
  freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism. I hold this to be a
  truth confirmed by experience. If so, it follows, that all efforts made to destroy the
  foundations of our holy religion, ultimately tend to the subversion also of our
  political freedom and happiness. Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be
  overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings
  that flow from them, must fall with them.”

How strange it is then that western nations, that once were made great by the enlightenment that biblical values brought to them, are now abandoning their foundations in favor of the godlessness of secular humanism. For instance all the Nordic countries have the Christian Cross in their flags, a reminder of their roots and values, but now they have become bastions of secularism and are drifting back into the paganism that was theirs before the fair name of Jesus reached their shores. Where the great values of the Bible are rejected, and even scoffed at, it will not be long until the darkness embraced will engulf the region in chaos.

The Nazis of Germany did not arrive in a vacuum as the preceding decades witnessed the academic world in Germany casting doubt and rejection upon the pages of scripture. Schools of liberal thought sprung up and systematically undermined the great Christian values of the Reformation and consequently a generation, ravaged by war, had no moral compass to guide its journey into the future. Hitler, an occultist schooled by the Thule Society, stepped into the vacuum and gave glory to the gods of war that once ruled the Norsemen. Their heaven was the great hall of the warrior dead known as Valhalla and so Hitler’s high ranking SS officers were invested in a deep dungeon under a castle in an attempt to identify with this dark shadowy world. They honored and loved war and were determined to wage it. Consequently millions died on the altar of this wicked and savage underworld.

The same is true of the Soviet Union; the Marxist Communists rejected the God of the Bible and persecuted those who followed Him. Once again, having abandoned a proven moral compass they glorified violence and brutality and Stalin systematically murdered more people than Hitler. Countless millions died in his purges and he goes down in history as one of the most evil men that ever lived. By contrast the most successful nations are those that have embraced the Bible and its message but this is rapidly changing. We are witnessing the rapid paganization of the Christian world and with it the plunge toward lawlessness and chaos. Jesus warned of this when He said, ” And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12)

Paul was clear about the fact that the God of the Bible sets the boundaries and the times of nations in order that they should seek Him, grope for Him and find Him. Indeed, he declares, God is close to us and can be found and that He reveals Himself to the world in Jesus of Nazareth. The great cathedrals and churches of Europe and elsewhere remain a silent testimony to this and we should think deeply about these things. Scripture, not for nothing, warns that shortly an individual, like that of Hitler and Stalin,will again step onto the stage of history and reject the God of the Bible and in His place affirm and honor a god of war!

                  “He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire
                   of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself
                   above them all. But in their place he shall honor a god of
                   fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall
                   honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant
                   things.” Daniel 11:27-38

We live in desperate times and we should all pray for our nations and their leaders and we should double our efforts to impact and influence our communities. We need bold faith in Jesus in these days as the the future and well being of our nations depends upon it.

Malcolm Hedding

The Past, Present and Future – Week 16 / April 13th

The Past, Present and Future – Week 16 / April 13th

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                “This I say, therefore and testify in the Lord, that you
                 should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk,
                 In the futility of their mind, having their understanding
                 darkened, being alienated from the life of God………
                 But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have
                 Heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth
                 is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former
                 conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to
                 the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your
                 mind, and that you put on the new man which was
                 created according to God, in righteousness and true
                 holiness.”  Ephesians 4:17-24

 

Here in this important part of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Church we have a challenge to be true Christ followers. In fact he teaches us that having Jesus fill our hearts is more powerful than we can possibly imagine and that we need to learn how to co- operate with Christ in order to be transformed by Him. We should be reminded that living in us is not a power or a force but a real person Who seeks to transform our lives. Walking in this transforming relationship with Him is therefore our greatest spiritual privilege. It is with this in mind then that Paul reminds us of three things:

1. The Past

In these verses the Apostle calls to remembrance the wickedness of our ways. We were without feeling, darkened in our ungodly thought life and alienated from God. That is, we were cut off from Him and trapped in the grip of sin and of the Devil. This, for sure, is not a pretty picture but it does accurately describe each one of us. In chapter two of the same book Paul tells that we were dead in our sins, doomed as to our future and dominated by “the Prince of the power of the air.” To put it mildly, this is not good and Jesus changed all of this when He died in our place on the cross.

2. The Present

For those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus their is a pathway to victory by the power of His Spirit that indwells us. Paul, confident that Jesus is able to save us to the uttermost, meaning that He can overcome any problem, sin and addiction in our lives exhorts us properly appropriate Christ’s power. He thus, with tongue in cheek, asks if they really know what the truth of being in Christ is all about. To say that you follow Jesus is one thing but to be transformed by Him is another. The latter is what really counts and therefore, given the nature of the power of Jesus in us, we are to “put off” our old sinful nature. This is a command and not a suggestion!

This means our problems with our carnal addictions and behavior patterns have nothing to do with ability but with our willingness to change. It is for this reason that Paul affirms that Jesus’ transformation of our lives begins with our minds. In the book of Romans Paul puts it this way, “……..and that you be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” When you and I agree to be changed then Jesus changes us. We must submit our minds to His will and then we shall walk in the victory that He promises us. It for this very reason that Peter in his first epistle exhorts us to, “gird up the loins of our minds.” Your mind, and what you do with it in the present, is the key to overcoming the grip of sin in your life. To put it another way, your mind controls your emotions and your emotions will control your actions. So then, whoever has control of your mind has control of your actions. Jesus in you is greater than anything in your life, and in the world, and therefore, with your mind, give Him control of your emotions and actions and thus your  life!

3. The Future

Those who “learn Christ this way” will be filled with His love, power, patience and tender-hearted kindness. They will be forgiving and gracious and will not allow wickedness, of any type, to get a foothold in their lives. Their words will be uplifting and edifying and their actions will be God glorifying. They will not be perfect and will themselves have to be forgiven from time to time but they will radiate anyway and everywhere the sweet fragrance of Christ.

This is what it means to claim to be a follower of Jesus!

Malcolm Hedding.

Days of Challenge and Celebration – Week 13 / March 25th

Days of Challenge and Celebration – Week 13 / March 25th

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                                                “The Jews established and imposed it upon themselves

                                                and their descendants and all who would join them, that

                                                without fail they should celebrate these two days every

                                                year, according to the written instructions and according

                                                to the prescribed time, that these days should be remem-

                                                bered and kept throughout every generation, every family

                                                every province, and every city, that these days of Purim

                                                should not fail to be observed among the Jews, and that

                                                the memory of them should not perish among their

                                                descendants.”

                                                                                Esther 9:27-28

                                                “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

 

The celebration of Purim reminds us that the God of the Bible will defend His people Israel against those who seek to destroy them. The Persian menace has arisen again and, like Haman of old, is once again calling for Israel’s destruction. This the Mullahs of Iran do openly, routinely and unashamedly and yet the world community not only tolerates this but also has in fact facilitated Iran’s pathway to nuclear armament. Indeed to make matters worse, Iran’s bad behavior has been rewarded with a cash payout of over a billion dollars that will definitely fuel her campaign of terror worldwide. Purim reminds us that God is watching and that He is calling forth brave people, like Esther, to stand up and defend the nation state of Israel. In the end all who would destroy Israel will perish on their “own gallows” and if you don’t believe it ask yourself where are the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans and Nazis today? They have all perished and so too will the dark hordes of Iran’s Islamic republic. The God of the Bible, whose values civilized and made great the western world and the USA, is sovereign and in control of all things and history will always end up as the commentary of His will and purpose on the earth. We are called to stand on His side and work with Him at this point in history and we, like David of old, must serve our generation with the will of God.

 

Also, we must defend the persecuted Church that is also being assaulted by the dark hordes of Islam in the Middle East and Africa. Hundreds of thousands of Christians are being murdered at the hands of these barbarians and we cannot and must not be silent. Thankfully, and finally, the USA declared this slaughter of Christians a genocide but sadly not before the ancient Christian communities of the region had been decimated. It is also time for action and so we must do everything in our power to help the suffering Church. Getting involved with the Shai Fund and Samaritan’s Purse is crucial in this regard. Do not be silent and inactive as this is our time to stand up and be counted!

We will shortly celebrate Passover, which reminds us of the great acts of God in choosing and redeeming Israel from bondage. The lessons of this celebration are numerous and indeed wonderful. It is important to note however that the God of the universe has forever linked His name to the Jewish people. He is the God of Israel. This means that her journey through history involves His reputation and faithfulness. That is, He will guard, preserve and watch over her because of His name sake. It was this fact that He reminded Israel of from the very beginning. He did not choose her because she was great and famous but because she was small and stubborn! Her history would then be a testimony to His grace, power and faithfulness. This is indeed true.

 

Today Israel faces challenges that are great and overwhelming. She will not overcome these by her own strength and ability but by His power and intervention. The more difficult the challenges become so the more she needs His grace and love. He is the God of Passover. That is, the God of deliverance. We can rejoice in this and trust in His faithfulness recognizing all the time that in the end all nations will be humbled including Israel as He “steps in” to deliver Zion. Paul said in Romans eleven that the deliverer will come out of Zion. God will do this for His name sake.

 

Now in these coming days we will celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The cross 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 thus brought us forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God our Father. By the cross and the resurrection God our Father has imputed Christ’s righteousness to our lives meaning that being in Christ He sees us as perfect and thus we are the recipients of eternal life. Death has been conquered and its dark foreboding sting has been removed from us. Death is now a mere doorway to the glorious and real presence of God! We are truly saved from our sins and rejoice in the hope and glory of living out an eternal purpose with God our Savior. What a message and what a Savior! Indeed, it is no coincidence that history itself 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 we are all living before Christ or after Christ; meaning that we are living without Him in our lives or after He has come into our lives. Which is it? I sincerely trust that it is the latter. Christ in you is the only way to the eternal glory of God.

 

May the great God of the Bible “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.

Financial Security in an Unstable World – Week 10 / March 2nd

Financial Security in an Unstable World – Week 10 / March 2nd

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There is no doubt that the financial underpinnings of nations and banking institutions are weak and failing. Much of this is caused by greed and reckless fiscal policy by politicians the world over. To attract votes and thus to secure power irresponsible leaders have promised the electorate things that nations and financial institutions have no money to pay for. The crash of 2008 was birthed out of this reality and just eight years later the exact same scenario is shaping up again. Bernie Sanders, the hopeful democratic nominee and self-confessed socialist/communist, is promising Americans all sorts of “freebies” that the already bankrupt republic definitely cannot pay for; but the people love it so!

 

Paul on the other hand knew that we can rise above all this uncertainty, financially speaking, if we dare to employ the principles of God’s economy by Jesus Christ. Every Christian should embrace this strategy and now more than ever as we see the economic chaos of our world. This heavenly plan is set forth in Paul’s second letter to the Church at Corinth. It is simple, straight forward and predictable and it will place those who follow it in a place of financial freedom dictated by God and not man. Does this sound good? It sure does and so let’s examine it.

 

The Principle

                                    “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also

                                    reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will

                                    also reap bountifully.”

                                                                        2 Corinthians 9:6

Christians need to be generous in their giving and thus ensure that they always err on the side of abundance. To give generously does not require money but rather faith. Even if we have a little financial strength we can still be generous. In fact God particularly sees this and responds to it. Jesus observed the woman in the Temple give God everything she had, which was not a lot, but it was her everything and so He responded immediately (Mark 12:41-44). By this action, borne out of her love for God, she put herself into God’s miracle economy. God’s promise is sure; if we sow bountifully we will “also reap bountifully.” Please note that we do not give to get back; no we give because we love Jesus and His kingdom and He who knows our hearts will respond by caring for us. This is His promise!

 

The Plan

                                    “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart,

                                    not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a

                                    cheerful giver.”

                                                                        2 Corinthians 9:7

Jesus wants you to respond in your heart to His plan for financial freedom. That is, you must “purpose in your heart” what the level of your generosity will be. So here God expects us to be measured and responsible but also generous. Once we have set this plan in motion we can be filled with joy as we give and God just loves this. What a freedom this brings to us because we know by it that we are expanding God’s work, reflecting His character and enjoying His approval. Those who embrace this plan will live above the world financial system. When Jesus was asked about His commitment to the world system of taxation He called it for what it was; ruler exacting leverage over ruler and these in turn over the people. Nevertheless, Jesus paid His taxes but got the money to do so from a fish’s mouth (Matthew 17:24-27)! The lesson was clear; God’s children have supernatural resources at their disposal! Have you got the plan?

 

The Provision

                                    “And God is able to make all grace abound towards you,

                                    that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, have

                                    an abundance for every good work. As it is written:

                                    “He has dispersed abroad,

                                       He has given to the poor;

                                       His righteousness remains forever,”

                                                            2 Corinthians 9:8-9

What a remarkable passage this is as it promises that we will always have sufficiency in all things; meaning that our general living expenses will always be covered. Moreover, we will also have enough financial resources to spread abroad and thereby give help to God’s kingdom and people. All of this comes out of the plan above.
So then, the harvest we reap will be financial and spiritual. Financially we will have an abundance and spiritually we will grow in righteousness. The former because we determine to handle money God’s way and the latter because we do God’s will on the earth. In all honesty Jesus is more interested in the latter because He wants you and me to grow into the likeness of His character. This is called righteousness. No wonder then, after setting out this supernatural financial plan Paul concludes with a eulogy:

 

“Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and

                                    bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you

                                    have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,

                                    while you are enriched in everything for all liberality

                                    which causes thanksgiving through us to God.”

                                                            2 Corinthians 8:10-11

 

Malcolm Hedding

Paul’s Interesting Advice – Week 9 / February 24th

Paul’s Interesting Advice – Week 9 / February 24th

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“And do this, knowing the time, that now

                                    it is high time to awake out of sleep; for

                                    now our salvation is nearer than when

                                    we first believed. The night is far spent,

                                    the day is at hand. Therefore cast off the

                                    works of darkness, and let us put on the

                                    armor of light. Let us walk properly, as

                                    in the day, not in revelry and drunken-

                                    ness, not in lewdness and lust, not in

                                    strife and envy. But put on the Lord

                                    Jesus Christ, and make no provision for

                                    the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

 

Romans 13:11-14

 

The Apostle Paul saw the world on the edge of an apocalyptic event. That is, events could at anytime escalate into a deep international crisis that would lead to the second coming of Jesus. This is Paul’s world-view since it is repeated time and time again in scripture. Indeed even when teaching on marriage, in his first letter to the Church at Corinth, he states that this step should be carefully thought through because the “time is short.” (1 Corinthians 7:29) Paul was not alone in this view of things as even Peter tells us that “the end of all things is at hand” in his first epistle (1 Peter 4:7) and James calls upon his readers to be patient because “the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:8) John tells us that Jesus Himself says, “And behold I am coming quickly, and My reward is with me, to give to every one according to his work.” (Revelation 22:12)

 

The apostolic band of the early church knew that the blessed hope of the Church was nothing short of Jesus’ soon return and so they lived their lives through this prism and were not ashamed of it. Paul in his pastoral epistle to Titus acknowledges this fact when he writes that the very grace of God in our hearts teaches us to look “for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)

 

When Christians do not have this world-view there is something wrong with them as nothing keeps our lives active for the Kingdom of God and holy like the expectation that events could, even today, escalate into the visible second coming of Jesus. For Paul the grace of God working in us teaches us to live like this. (Titus 2:11-12) It is my experience that many Christians today, even preachers and leaders, disavow this attitude and even mock it. I have heard them do it! In Romans 13 then Paul give us this exhortation and couples it with the following good advice:

 

Because we know the time we should awake from any form of spiritual apathy and follow Christ. Salvation is at hand; meaning that our bodies are about to be transformed and clothed with immortality. When this happens salvation is complete. What a wonderful day this will be!

 

Because the night is far spent we should walk in the light of God and have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness. In fact we must “cast off” the works of darkness” and adorn ourselves with the armor of God. We are involved in a battle and the sooner we know it the better. A battle against our hearts, the world and the Devil! Christ will help us and give us victory.

 

Because the night is far spent we must be children of the day and therefore walk in the sunshine of God. Jesus could come at any time and we must be ready and a very important part of being ready is being in godly relationships with one another. Do not neglect this! And finally;

 

Because the night is far spent and the dawn of Jesus’ coming is approaching we must clothe ourselves with Him and be conformed to His image. This is what really matters and it is the reason why He died for us.

 

In the end we must say that Paul’s advice is good; but who will take it? Please note that he begins this passage by writing, “And do this…….”

 

Malcolm Hedding