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

Life in the Word and Spirit – Week 22 / May 28th

Life in the Word and Spirit – Week 22 / May 28th

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                                                “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

                                                “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father

                                                 upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem

                                                 until you are endued with power from on

                                                 high.”

                                                                                                Luke 24:49

 

 

Pentecost

In just a short a few weeks we will celebrate Shavuot or Pentecost which is one of the three great pilgrim festivals of the Bible, the others being Passover and Tabernacles. The Feast of Pentecost is a harvest festival plus it was on this Feast that the Torah (five books of Moses) or Word of the living God was given to Israel at Sinai, that is, fifty days after leaving Egypt, and it was on this same day that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the waiting Disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-4).

 

Pentecost is in every way a joyous celebration as it focuses on God’s “marriage” to Israel at Sinai for it is here at this holy mountain that the Lord God of Israel gives His people a Law that is rich in revelation and instruction and thereby galvanizes them into statehood. The journey of Israel in the wilderness to this climatic place and beyond is most interesting as, apart from the ritual pertaining to the priestly consecration, the focus falls upon; the pillar of cloud and of fire that hung over the camp in the wilderness; the ordination of the seventy elders; the provision of quail and the grace and power that brings forth the Temple of God or Wilderness Tabernacle.

 

The Pillar of Cloud and of Fire

The first of these, the pillar of cloud and of fire, reminds us of the heavenly call to be obedient. When the pillar was lifted, by day or by night, camp was struck and the Israelites went out to follow the cloud or fire and thereby they followed God Himself. Samuel reminds us that “obedience is better than sacrifice” (1Samuel 15:22-23) and the book of Acts tells us that God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts5:32).

 

 

The Ordination of the Seventy Elders

The ordination of the seventy elders (Numbers 11:16-17) places the biblical emphasis upon delegation and ability. The “seventy” could not function until the power of God’s Spirit was upon them. The message is clear; to obey without the means to obey is obedience “still born”. For this reason Jesus told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they were endued “with power from on high” (Luke24: 49)(Acts 1:8). Once again the message is clear; if we have the Word of God without the Power of God we shall dry up; if we have the Power of God without the Word of God we shall blow up. But, if we have the Word of God and the Power of God we shall grow up and serve the interests of God’s kingdom on earth! Without the power of the Holy Spirit we cannot go into the world and truly build Jesus’ Church.

 

The Quail

The Quail episode recorded in Numbers11: 31-35 is also interesting because God’s supernatural provision leads to an outburst of His anger. Anger because the Israelites gorged themselves and thus behaved as if God would not be in their future. A reminder of Who we serve and that we are stewards of His blessings. Having forgotten this they died and were buried at a place called “Hattaavah” meaning, “graves of the craving.” When we abuse God’s provision and abundance we die spiritually and lose our way. Many a Christian has died at Hattaavah because they have been too busy receiving and getting than serving and doing! The Church of Jesus is not a grandstand and should not be filled with spectators but with participators. This too is the abiding message of the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts chapter two. The Disciples of Jesus were filled with the Spirit so as to go into all the world and serve.

 

The Power of the Holy Spirit

Lastly, Zechariah, the restoration Prophet, reminds us that all of God’s work is pursued through God’ ability. “Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord.” This power of God’s Spirit builds a Temple that is completed with shouts of grace (Zechariah 4: 6-7). All this also reminds us that spiritual life is sustained by corporate life. That is, we should worship together and we fail God when we forsake our assembling together (Hebrews 10:24-25). Certainly the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the first Christians in the upper room was a “together experience” (Acts1: 1). Only the Holy Spirit can give us real unity and order and so, when we claim to have His anointing but cannot live together with other believers in unity and love we contradict our claim. Pentecost birthed the Church and formed a people into a community of love no matter what their national, racial, status or gender differences were. When the Spirit came the confusion of tongues that began at Babel was reversed and the multitude heard them speaking as one in the tongues of men (Acts 2:5-12). The multitudes without Christ are ever waiting for the truth about God to be lived out before them and consequently they will respond, as they did on the Day of Pentecost, when the Church embraces and demonstrates this truth through the Word and Spirit of God.

 

Given all of the above it is clear that we have much to learn from the Festival of Pentecost.

 

Malcolm Hedding.

 

 

The Message of Repentance – Week 17 / April 25

The Message of Repentance – Week 17 / April 25

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“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel. For He has visited

                                                 and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn

                                                 of salvation for us in the house of His servant David.”

                                                                                                                Luke 1:68-69

                                                “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but

                                                 now commands all men everywhere to repent.”

                                                                                                                Acts 17:30

                                                “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus

                                                 it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise

                                                 again from the dead the third day, and that repent-

                                                 ance and remission of sins should be preached in

                                                 His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

                                                                                                                Luke 24:46-47

As days of violence, anarchy, wars and natural disasters cover the earth we can be tempted to give way to despair and therefore wonder where it will all end. Add to this the degradation of the environment and the picture only worsens. Our world is in trouble, we are in trouble!

The root of this trouble lies in humankind’s nature. To put it simply; there is something wrong with the human heart because it has rebelled against God and consequently, having been cut off from God, is predisposed toward evil. The Prophet Jeremiah put it this way; “The heart of man is desperately sick and wicked above all things” (Jeremiah 17: 19). David, the great Psalmist of Israel, declared that, “There is none good no not one,” (Psalm 14:1-3) and Paul writing in his Roman epistle said, “For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He also asserted that the human heart has become a enemy of God and is therefore not neutral but antagonistic to the things of God (Romans 5:10). These notions of humankind’s sinfulness are of course rejected by our secular world and sadly even by some in the Christian church. For “these worlds” humankind is essentially good and all its problems are largely caused by one’s position in life or by circumstances outside of one’s control. We are all victims and not responsible for our behavior and misery! The Bible affirms that we are indeed the sinful troublemakers that it makes us out to be! Addressing the human condition Dr. Peter Watt writes:

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury during the Second World War

wrote, “There cannot be a God of love’, men say, ‘because if there was,

and He looked upon the world, His heart would break.’ The Church points

to the cross and says, ‘It did break.’ It’s God who made the world men say.

It’s He who should bear the load.’ The church points to the cross and says,

‘He did bear it.”

For those then who love God and who have consequently cast themselves upon His grace and redeeming love in Christ, there is a bright, glorious and eternal future (Psalm 1:1-3). The key then to rectifying our “broken and diseased hearts” is, and always will be, repentance. This means owning up to one’s personal wickedness and repenting at the cross for all that one has done and has become. Again, this notion is generally rejected by our arrogant world because of pride. The fallen heart does not easily come to terms with its awful condition but when it repents and embraces Jesus as Lord it enters into God’s only solution for it. This solution is grounded in that which Jesus did for us on the cross. For this reason God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30) and Jesus began and concluded His ministry with a call to repentance (Mark 1:15; Luke 24:46-47).

For those who have the courage to embrace God’s gift of repentance and atoning love in Christ there is laid up for them a pathway of hope, joy and eternal life. This is the unfailing promise of God and this is the only way to travel through a world fast falling apart. We have heart trouble and only the God of the Bible can permanently rectify this condition. In fact His love for the world is so great that His word states that “He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2Peter 3:9).

As we continue to reflect on the great events surrounding Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection we are reminded of God’s grace and love and of His willingness to redeem lives that are sinful, broken and even given over to the Devil. This redeeming love was first brought forth and seen in Israel and then it has gone to the four corners of our world (John 1:6-13). It seeks for and redeems hearts that are humble enough to submit to it and it constantly reminds the world that Jesus came into the world not to condemn it but to save it (John 3:17). This He did by bearing in His own body the awful consequences of the world’s rebellion against God; His sufferings were substitutionary or in our place but He rose from the dead triumphant enabling us all to begin again in fellowship and friendship with God and free from our sins and fallen natures. This is good news!

May you experience the joy, peace and blessing of God in this special season of contemplation.

Malcolm Hedding

Passover and Easter – Week 15 / April 10th

Passover and Easter – Week 15 / April 10th

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                                “Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed

                                 the Passover Lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where do you

                                 want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?”

                                                                                                Mark 14:12

                                “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said,

                                 “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the

                                 world.”

                                                                                                John 1:29

                                “….and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,

                                 “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do

                                 this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also

                                 took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new

                                 covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in

                                 remembrance of Me.”

                                                                                                1 Corinthians 11:24-25

 

This year, as in some previous years, Passover and Easter fall in the same week. Their connection is not just one that has to do with our annual calendars but they mirror each other, though separated by thousands of years in terms of their historical context. The one took place 3300 years ago in Egypt and the other 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. What they both have in common is:

  1. The condemnation of the world.

Without the vicarious suffering of another the world, including all of Israel in Egypt, would fall prey to death at the hands of the Angel of Death. Death is more than just our physical expiration; it is being separated from God for all eternity.  We are all a people condemned to die because of our sins.

  1. The marvelous grace of God.

That which saves us from death is not our good works or efforts but the grace of God alone. The Jews in Egypt were as much at risk as the Egyptians were when the Angel of Death approached. Their only hope was the blood of a lamb that had to be appropriated on the door posts and lintels of their homes. In like manner only the blood of the Lamb of God, applied to the doorposts of our hearts can save us from death. God’s grace is wonderful and frees us from a “works based” attempt to please Him. By grace we have been saved!

  1. The changing of our circumstances.

The Israelites of old had to be dressed and ready to leave Egypt in haste. They would now be a changed people who would find their new life in God who came down to deliver them by His mighty hand. They would never be the same again. In like manner we leave the world (Egypt) and follow Christ Who has transformed us, changed our hearts and made us “new creatures.”

  1. The pursuit of the enemy.

Though redeemed and brought under God’s protection, the Israelites were relentlessly pursued by the Egyptians at many levels and not just physically. It’s one thing to come out of Egypt but it’s entirely another to get Egypt out of your heart! For forty years and more the Israelites battled and struggled with the latter. We too have been saved from sin but it takes a lifetime to get sin out of our hearts! In both cases however the enemy has been defeated. “The horse and rider has been thrown into the sea!”

  1. The care, provision and protection of God.

The Exodus story serves as a marvelous lesson about the love that God has for His people. Those redeemed by the blood of a lamb are God’s precious people a holy nation and a royal priesthood. He watches over them day and night. Likewise the Church is also deemed a holy nation and a royal priesthood and Jesus said “Lo I am with you always even unto the end of the age.” The lesson is clear; those that are” blood bought” enjoy God’s presence and cannot be separated from Him.

  1. The hope of a promised land.

The Israelites went out of Egypt with the sure assurance that they would inherit a land of milk and honey; and they did. We too have gone out of the Egypt of sin looking for a city that has “foundations whose architect and builder is God.” God desires to dwell forever with His children and indeed He will. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; I go to prepare a place for you that where I am you may be also.”

Isn’t it amazing how Passover and Easter reflect each other? The truth is, they do reflect each other and are really one and the same! Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples and in the middle of this celebration, as He drank the cup of Redemption, He stated that this represented His blood that, like that of a lamb, would be poured out for the saving of the world and as He broke the Matzos Bread, He called their attention to the fact that this was a symbol of His body that would be broken for the world and for the healing thereof.

As we therefore celebrate these things let us do so with great reverence and fear, for God Himself has come down to save and deliver us from our sins and to give us a new and glorious start in life. To Him be all the praise and glory!

Malcolm Hedding

Some Thoughts About Purim – Week 11 / March 17

Some Thoughts About Purim – Week 11 / March 17

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                  “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief
                   and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another
                   place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet
                   who knows whether you have come to the kingdom
                   for such a time as this?”  Esther 4:14

The story of Purim, which records the deliverance of the Jews, from certain genocide, by Esther is an interesting one indeed. We of course have this record preserved for us in that book of the Bible that goes by Esther’s name. Given that the festival of Purim has just been celebrated by the Jewish world it is worthwhile to meditate on a few things concerning this story.

Some things are unaltered.

As it was in Esther’s time, the hatred of Jews and Israel continues as an evil phenomenon. The Festival of Purim is taken from the word Pur which actually can be interpreted as, those who cast lots (vote for) the destruction of the Jews. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern that this evil desire has not gone away. In one sense Haman lives on today.

Just think of the following:
There has been in one year a 34% rise in anti-Semitism in the UK alone. The Jews of France, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands are constantly being subjected to anti-Semitic attacks of one type or another and then in recent weeks the Jewish community of America has been consistently targeted by anti-Semites who have desecrated Jewish grave yards and community buildings and have consistently threatened their schools with bomb attacks. Israel, the “collective Jew”, exists under the constant threat of attack from the north, south and east. All of this just seventy-five years after the Holocaust.

Some things are unusual.
Esther was the Queen of a Gentile Media-Persian King, the truth is she had held her Jewish identity a well kept secret. It also means that to a great degree she had assimilated, and thus in every way she had lived like a Gentile. How else can one explain the fact that not even the King knew of or suspected her Jewish identity and yet God had planted her at the very heart of the kingdom? The God we serve does unusual things in terms of His protection of Israel and the Jewish people. Even now He has Esthers planted in the right places of power and prestige in order to save His people. Joseph is another example of this; he dressed as an Egyptian, worked as an Egyptian and even looked like an Egyptian but he was a Jew sent before his people to save them from starvation and extermination. This is indeed unusual. Ruth, a Gentile woman, is another example of this and she gave hope to Naomi, saved her from poverty and shame and then took her place in David’s lineage.

Some things are unexpected.
Mordecai said to Esther, “…you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Most Christians understand this coming to the kingdom as referring to the kingdom of God. This is not true and is a violation of the context. The “kingdom” to which Esther came was the pagan kingdom of the Media-Persian empire. In other words she had been cunningly placed by God, Who in fact is not referred to at all in the book, in the heart of this pagan empire so as to use her influence in it to save her people.

In like manner, we all have a sphere of influence in the world and we must use it to defend Israel and the Jews and in fact to proclaim the Gospel. Our ” kingdom” is our place of influence in an ungodly world.

Some things are undecided.
Giving verbal support to these things is not good enough and thus it remains undecided whether we will arise like Esther and use our position in the world to defend the purpose of God and even risk our lives for the Church and the Jewish people. There comes a time when having meetings and even praying is not enough to please God, we have to act. The book of Esther is about action and this is why God is not mentioned in the book but His purpose is clear and it needs defending!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the now famous Lutheran Priest, fled Germany just before the Second World War as he wished to escape from the tyranny of Hitler’s Reich. He thus went to New York. One day, as he stood gazing at the Hudson River, he heard the voice of God say to him, “Who are you and what are you doing here.” In short, God was saying to him, “What are you made of and why have you abandoned your sphere of influence?” Consequently he went back to Germany and in his ministry stood up against Nazism. He embraced his sphere of influence that he had abandoned and eventually gave his life for it as the Nazis hanged him just before the war ended. The lesson is, as it was with Esther, will we decide to take the challenge and embrace our world of influence? Mordecai knew, when he spoke to Esther, that the issue was undecided and therefore he told her that if she didn’t rise to the challenge someone else would. This challenge applies to you and me today and the outcome remains undecided!

Malcolm Hedding

Behold I Make All Things New – Week 9 / March 2nd

Behold I Make All Things New – Week 9 / March 2nd

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“For behold, I create new heavens and a

new earth; and the former shall not be

remembered or come to mind. But be

glad and rejoice forever in what I create;

for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing,

and her people a joy.”

Isaiah 65:17-18

 

The world we presently live in has been subjected to futility and consequently decay and death are everywhere evident (Romans 8:18-22). Even we are “trapped” by physical death that, while having no sting because of what Jesus did for us, nevertheless still holds a certain foreboding in all of us. Then there is the raging of the ungodly that brings misery, sorrow, destruction, persecution and war to our earthly experience. This should not be because a lonely cross set on a hill in Jerusalem defeated these things 2000 years ago but it remains ignored and even mocked and so the rot continues.

The good news is that God is going to make all things new again! This is His promise and indeed it is required because of what Jesus did; the cosmos must be set in order (Ephesians 1:9-10). A “new creation family” must have a new world to live in and in this world they will shine like the sun (Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43). So, the final two chapters of the book of Revelation tell us about the coming:

New World Order (Revelation 21:5)

For those who overcome there will be a new order that is truly beyond description. It will be the inheritance of those who have embraced Jesus as Lord and who, in their lives on the present earth, have honored God with transformed lives and deeds of righteousness in the face of great and overwhelming challenges (Revelation 19:8). They have “overcome” this evil age and have become what God wanted them to be by the power of the cross (Galatians 1:3-4).

This new order will be characterized by:

  1. A new heavens and a new earth (Revelation 21:1)

The beauty and glory of this coming creation will be amazing because it will not be retarded by the principles of death and decay. These will be things of the past.

  1. A new city (Revelation 21:2)

The great Patriarchs of our faith went out in pursuit of God because they were given a glimpse of the City of God (Hebrews 11:10; 13:14). Indeed, like them we too abandon the “attraction of the earthly city” because God has something better for us. The eternal City of God will be 1500 miles wide, long and high; its glories are indescribable but John does give us a description of them (Revelation 21:10-21).

This city will have Jewish under-pinnings thereby eternally memorializing the particular role that Israel has played out for the redemption of the world (Revelation 21:12-14) Jesus recognized this when He said, “Salvation is of the Jews”(John 4:22).

  1. A new relationship (Revelation 21:3-4)

God Himself will be visible and amongst His people and He will personally remove the “former things” from them. What a glorious day this is going to be! This embodiment of the divine presence will find its full expression in the person of Jesus. The passage tells us that He:

  • Will be the joy of the city (Revelation 21:9)
  • Will be the desire of the city (Revelation 21:22)
  • Will be the light of the city (Revelation 21:23)
  • Will be the door to the city (Revelation 21:27)
  • Will be the life of the city (Revelation 22:1)
  • Will be the King of the city (Revelation 22:3)
  1. What is absent? (Revelation 21:8; 22:15)

This list is challenging because it tells us that those who:

  • Worship themselves or things other than God
  • Reject the sexual boundaries created by God
  • Practice the occult in rebellion against God
  • Habitually lie and contradict the character of God…and,
  • Take life and thereby dishonor the image of God……………

Will go to hell! They will find themselves “in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.

The abiding expectation and longing that God’s new people have is for the coming of Jesus. We should constantly hold this before our spiritual eyes as it is certain and it constitutes a blessed hope that will keep us true to our confession of faith in Him. “Behold, Jesus says, “I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:7, 12,16, 20)

“Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus!

 

Malcolm Hedding

Biblical Christian Zionism – Week 6 / February 2nd

Biblical Christian Zionism – Week 6 / February 2nd

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“Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s

           house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation;

           I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a bless-

           ing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who

           curses you, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Genesis 12:1-3

“And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him,

           ‘Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are-

          northward, southward, eastward and westward; for all the which

          you see I will give to your descendants (seeds) forever.”

Genesis 13:14-15

“In your seed (singular) all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,

           because you have obeyed my voice.”

Genesis 22:18

“Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does

           not say, ‘And to seeds’, as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your seed”,

          who is Christ.”

Galatians 3:16

“For if the inheritance is of law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave

           it to Abraham by promise.”

Galatians 3:18

“And this I say, that the law, which was given four hundred and thirty

           years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before God

           in Christ.”

Galatians 3:17

“For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear

           by no one greater, He swore by Himself…………Thus God, determining

           to show more abundantly to the heirs (seeds) of promise the immuta-

           bility of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable

           things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong

           consolation, who have fled for refuge  to lay hold of the hope set before

           us.”

Hebrews 6:13,17-18

 

Recently, in response to one of my weekly devotionals, an individual claiming to be Christian accused me of deception, of misleading the people of God and warned me that Jesus was going to judge me for these things. He thus presented himself, very proudly I might add, as my prosecutor, judge and jury. He pressed the case, judged the case and gave his verdict. For him the modern state of Israel is an accident of history, is antichrist and guilty of apartheid.

He states these things as a Christian and all because at the root of it all he subscribes to Replacement Theology which considers the Abrahamic Covenant to be either abolished or adjusted. The result of this re-arrangement of the Abrahamic Covenant is that the modern day restoration of Israel enjoys no biblical significance. It is, as I stated above, a mere accident of history and indeed an immoral one. But is this true? Of course not as it is all based on the false exegesis of scripture.

The passage of scripture this person used to bolster his claims was that found in Galatians 3 where Paul, commenting on the covenant that God made with Abraham, stated that the promises of God were not made to many but to one proved by the use of the word seed as in singular (one person) and not seed in the use of many. So, for this person this proves that the covenant has now been adjusted or indeed abolished as it is all fulfilled in the person of Jesus. Jews therefore no longer have a claim then to the land of Canaan.

The truth is, Paul is not here adjusting anything and he is certainly not addressing the land issue of the Abrahamic Covenant at all. Actually he is addressing the contentious issue that arose in his time between law and grace. That is, are we saved by the keeping the law or by the grace of God brought to us by virtue of Christ’s death on the cross?  This is the only context of the passage in question. He is in fact just stating what the Abrahamic Covenant stated in its original form and thereby demonstrating that the covenant in its original form promised that salvation would come through the nation of Israel in the form of a seed, a single seed. It will be by this seed that all peoples, Jew or Gentile, would be saved. This promise Paul says was given 430 years before God gave the law to Moses and he then reinforces the immutability of the Abrahamic Covenant by staying that it can never be annulled in its original form. In other words the law of Moses has not replaced it.

It is this Covenant that not only promises the coming of a “Seed Savior” but which also bequeaths the land of Israel to the Jewish people (the seeds as in plural) as an everlasting possession and which promises a blessing and a curse depending on how people or nations respond to it. It is one Covenant with a number of components and Paul is only appealing to one of these components to prove his point; namely that salvation will not come to the world by the keeping of the law but in fact by exercising faith in the redemptive work of the “Seed”. The subject of Galatians 3 is that only of law and grace and Paul’s punch line is, “The law is our teacher to bring us to Christ” (3:24) since by hanging on a tree He became a curse for us. The law Is not not our savior but the way to the Savior (the seed) as it convicts us of our sin (Romans:3:20).

Here Paul is actually upholding the veracity of the Abrahamic Covenant not disavowing it. Hebrews 6 asserts that God will remain faithful to the Abrahamic Covenant because it is ratified by His word and character, two immutable things by which it is impossible for God to lie. My detractor is indeed challenging God’s immutability and thereby accusing Him of lying. For him God is actually not faithful to His covenant with Abraham and therefore does mean what He says!

The Abrahamic Covenant is both conditional and unconditional in that it was conditional only upon Abraham’s obedience. Genesis 22, dealing with the “binding of Isaac”, demonstrated Abraham’s faithfulness and obedience to God resulting in the promise that a “seed” would come through the nation (the seeds) who would bless the world with salvation. There is no adjustment here to any part of the Covenant as this promise is made in its original form and therefore it is a part of the whole. This “whole” vouches for the fact that the land of Canaan is the everlasting possession of the Jewish people. The Covenant, according to Paul, will never be annulled, not in whole or in part, and therefore the modern day restoration of Israel to the land of Canaan is evidence of God’s faithfulness to it. Just as Israel’s restoration to the land after the Babylonian exile also was.

This is no different to a binding contract made today in that these have many clauses or components to them and sometimes one or two of these have to be defended to ensure compliance with the whole contract. Paul in Galatians 3 is doing only and just that, nothing and more and nothing less.

This is the truth of God’s word and it is the truth that many of God’s great servants believed on and acted upon including the first century church leaders, John and Charles Wesley, the Puritans, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Bishop Ryle of Liverpool, Derek Prince, Jack Hayford, Franklin Graham and presently the world’s greatest expositor of the Bible, David Pawson. This is just a very small selection of well known and proven teachers of God’s holy word who support the biblical position I have set forth above. I will be most happy, as my detractor has asserted, to be scrutinized with the Wesleys and Charles Spurgeon on that great day when Jesus comes again.

As a biblical Christian Zionist I want to encourage all of you not to be deterred by those who assert that God has no destiny for the Jewish people in the land of Canaan. They are wrong and will be proved to be wrong as they have no biblical grounds for their assertions. Least of all any support for them from Galatians 3. Finally, the Bible teaches that when the Messiah comes again in great power and glory to the Mount of Olives He will do so to defend His people Israel and a Jewish Jerusalem. I pray, please tell me why He would defend, what some assert to be, a political accident!

Most of all dear friends, God’s faithfulness to every part of the Abrahamic Covenant is held up before us by the writer of the book of Hebrews as undeniable proof that the God of the Bible does keep His promises and especially all those made to us in the New Covenant. You can trust His word because He does not lie!

Malcolm Hedding

The Battle of Jerusalem – Week 3 / January 20th

The Battle of Jerusalem – Week 3 / January 20th

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Jerusalem, by its very name, is the city of peace precisely because the city is an imperfect replica of a heavenly one; which scripture terms as, “The Jerusalem Above” (Galatians 4:26). This heavenly city will be the eternal home of the redeemed of all ages and but the present earthly Jerusalem is the “gateway” by the cross to that perfect heavenly and eternal abode. Singular and crucial to this story of epic proportions are the Jewish people who have been designated by God to be the custodians of these treasured truths! (Romans 3:1-2)

 

  1. The Eternal Purpose of God

This may be defined as: That divine initiative to gather a holy family from all the peoples of the earth by which the heart of God will be rejoiced and the purpose of God through the ages will be fulfilled. This truth is reflected in Paul’s second letter to Timothy when he writes:

 

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our

                         Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the

                         sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God,

                         Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not

                         according to our works, but according to his own

                         purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus

                         before time began.” 2 Timothy 1:8-9

 

To achieve this divine initiative the God of the bible made a remarkable choice.

 

  1. The Amazing Choice of God
  • Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). God called this unique gentile into a special relationship with Himself. This would be for the saving of the world.

 

  • Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Acts 3:13). The patriarchal structure of Israel reflects the eternal purpose of God. That is, He is a God of promise or covenant (Braham), a God of atonement or sacrifice (Isaac) and a God of change or transformation (Jacob).

 

  • Abraham’s Covenant that is eternal, unchanging and guaranteed by the immutability of God Himself. (Hebrews 6:13-18). This means that in all aspects, including that of the land of Canaan nothing will ever change. God Himself declares that He is the Lord and He does not change. Numbers twenty-three and verse nineteen states, “God is not a man, that He should lie…”

 

  • Abraham’s children; the vehicle of world redemption. (John 4:22; Romans 3:1-2; Romans 9:1-5) Everything we have as Christians is Jewish, even our Messiah.

 

  1. The grave warning of God

 “Behold, the whirlwind of the Lord goes forth with

  fury, a continuing whirlwind; it will fall violently

  on the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the

  Lord will not return until He has done it, and until

  He has performed the intents of His heart. In the

  latter days you will consider it.” Jeremiah 30:23-24

 

The construction of the Bible is such that it begins with an emphasis on the serious consequences of sin and rebellion against God. The heart of man has become “desperately sick and wicked above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9) and deserves nothing less than the thundering of God’s anger and wrath (Hebrews 12:18-21). We downplay our depravity to our spiritual loss! (Hebrews 10:26-31) This is especially true because God has determined in Christ to reach out to us and save us from our sins. He did this through the Jewish people and their eternal city Jerusalem! In short, by Jesus’ death in Jerusalem we are “saved from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

 

Moreover, since Israel has been the means by which God has brought His love and gift of eternal life to us our dealings with her and with her eternal city will determine whether we are blessed or cursed (Genesis 12:3).  This is no small matter and we “laugh it off” to our peril. Balaam, who set out to curse Israel, was restrained by the Holy Spirit and instead declared, “Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you” (Numbers 24: 9) This applies to the Church and to the nations of the world. We have been, a long time ago, warned of this:

 

“And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem

                        a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave

                        it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of

                        the earth are gathered against it.” Zechariah 12:3

 

                        “For I am with you, says the Lord, to save you; though I

                         make a full end of all the nations where I have scattered

                         you….” Jeremiah 30:11

 

It is interesting that we are presently witnessing a concerted effort by the world community to wrest Jerusalem from Israeli control. This warning is clear; in doing so they will rupture themselves!

 

  1. The Final Battle of God

 “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil

 will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the

 nations against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the

 houses rifled and the women ravished. Half of the city

 shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people

 shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will

 go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in

 the day of battle. And in that day his feet will stand on

 the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east.”

                                                Zechariah 14:1-4

 

The final and great battle of world history will be over the great city of Jerusalem. The “powers” of evil, both seen and unseen, will increasingly seek to dismantle Israel and disinvest her of her Capital, Jerusalem. In doing this they are, as they have always done throughout history, attempting to frustrate and liquidate the purpose of God on the earth. A Jewish Jerusalem is the platform, and thus the destination, of Jesus’ return to the earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  All the scriptures pertaining to the visible second coming of Christ portray Him as returning to a Jewish controlled Jerusalem.  In fact Jesus comes to defend His people living there! (Zechariah 12:8) This amazing day will be and is being resisted by all the powers of darkness and so we have to choose on what side of this battle we are going to stand? Will we risk persecution, demonic resistance and unpopularity and side with Israel or will we side with the Devil and his hordes, the Bible calls them the “sons of tumult.” (Numbers 24:17)

 

To be honest this great day of the battle for Jerusalem has already begun. It has accelerated and escalated in recent weeks by the UNESCO decision to designate Jerusalem “Islamic”, by resolution 2334 at the UN that seeks to remove Jerusalem from Israeli sovereignty and now by the “Paris Conference” that sought to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. In short Israel is on a collision course with the world but the world is on a collision course with Jesus! Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

 

Malcolm Hedding

           

Thoughts to Ponder – Week 2/ January 9th

Thoughts to Ponder – Week 2/ January 9th

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Of late I have been spoken to and touched by a wonderful verse from scripture. These words have made me think, meditate and consider my response to them. I therefore share this verse with you in the hope that it will do the same for you. I sum it up as:

The Desire of God

“Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of
Zion, streaming to the goodness of the Lord- for wheat
and new wine and oil, for the young of the flock and
the herd; their souls shall be like a well-watered garden,
and they shall sorrow no more at all.” Jeremiah 31:12

In its immediate context this verse is referring to a glorious day of redemption that is coming to Zion. The chapter tells us that it will spring forth because God will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and by it they will come to have a personal knowledge of God Himself (Jeremiah 31:31-34). So, clearly the verse in context is teaching us about the blessings of being redeemed in Christ Jesus by virtue of His finished work on the cross. In this regard, it therefore applies to us; a fact that Paul confirms in his Roman letter when he writes that Jesus was sent to confirm the promises that God had made to Israel and to save us Gentiles by God’s mercy and grace. (Romans 15:8-9)

What caught my attention is the fact that God, by His goodness, gives His flock three things:
1. Wheat
2. New Wine…. and,
3. Oil
Wheat is a symbol of God’s precious Word; it is the very bread of life and God has given it to us. The blessedness of the Bible is beyond our ability to appreciate and we should always remember this. It is a veritable treasure that can transform our lives if received properly (James 1:21) As far as Paul is concerned the Word of God is to be “rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15) and held in reverence (respect) because it is fully inspired (2 Timothy 3:16). The challenge from heaven is to so take hold of the pages of this book that you begin to live it as a walking picture of it! (2 Corinthians 3:1-3) We must be “living epistles’ being read by all men. I fear that not too many of us have embraced “the wheat of God” in this way.

New Wine is a symbol of a life that is filled with the very purpose of God. We can so easily get caught in a form of devotion and practice that is formal and routine. God wants us to have “New Wine.” That is, something fresh, joyful and infectious. This means that our Christian walk is attractive and thereby elicits questions from those who do not know Christ. Jesus spoke of this when He called our attention to the principle of “new wine” which essentially challenges status quo Christianity. In fact, the “new wine Christian” has to very often seek new fields of witness and practice as the old formal expression of following Christ cannot cope with it! (Matthew 9:16-17) Only a living relationship with Jesus will impart this new wine to us.

Oil, as we all well know is a picture of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It is this that sets us apart as Christians. That is, we are anointed ones just as Jesus was the Anointed One or Christ! Paul exhorts us to be filled with the Spirit and thereby baptized into a world of the supernatural. (Ephesians 5:18) We are to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), give expression to manifestations of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7), and we are to build ourselves up by praying in the Holy Spirit (Jude 20). Jesus warned that when He comes again He might not find His people filled with His “oil.” (Matthew 25:1-13) We should take this very seriously!

Now then all this brings us to the most important part of all of this. That is, our text says that as a consequence our souls, “shall be like a well-watered garden.” This is truly a wonderful picture of spiritual health. I am an enthusiastic gardener and recently my garden was designated “The Garden of The Quarter” by the Trustees of our sub-division. This is not to brag but rather to say that I know something about a well-watered garden in that, if is well irrigated, properly prepared and then ready to be watered, it will spring into life with a beauty that is truly therapeutic. The result is one of freshness, beauty and enjoyment. There is nothing better. Now hear this, God wants our souls to be well-watered gardens and this will only take place when we ensure that our lives are being nourished by wheat, new wine and oil. Moreover, it is God Himself that delights in the well-watered garden of our souls for He visits “our garden” and rejoices in its beauty and fragrance:

“Awake, O north wind, and come, O south! Blow upon
my garden, that its species may flow out. Let my beloved
come to his garden and eat its pleasant fruits.” Song of Solomon 4:16

If then you have any desire for the days that are ahead let this desire be to embrace the desire of God. Let the breath of Christ blow upon the well-watered garden of your soul. You cannot aspire to anything better.

Malcolm Hedding