Posts Tagged With: Bible

The Living Word of God

Keldby Church, Denmark

Before anybody gets me wrong, a caveat: I am really pleased we have the written Word of God available to us daily!

Now to my point. Universal literacy is a relatively modern occurrence. Going further back to the period covered by the Old Testament, the stories, history, laws and commandments were carried by word of mouth from generation to generation.

In medieval times church attenders were often reminded of the stories through pictures on the wall or windows. I love the naive pictures on the walls and ceilings of village churches in Europe – particularly Scandinavia. Without books and literacy there is the need to know and remember the stories in order to pass them on. For that to happen, the stories need to be an integral part of  the person so he or she can share them with children and others.

Is it possible that we have become lazy because we have the Bible in a book, on a shelf which can be readily accessed. We have concordances (even easier now with computers) which help us look up a word, text, passage or name in an instant.

Keldby Church, Denmark

How do we encourage each other to know the Word of God deeply and to eschew our C21st  habit of using Scripture as we do a fast food outlet – quickly and superficially?

I have observed some good programs and apps that encourage memorising the Bible. I have also heard of friends who challenge each other to memorise a chapter or book of Scripture

One of my favourite memories is of an old lady dying of cancer and she was nearly blind. She only spoke Dutch. So, as a keen young pastor I would practise a Psalm in Dutch. When I read the Psalm to her in my halting Dutch she would continue from her memory and get to the end before I could. Over a number of months I tried to catch her out with a Psalm she didn’t remember. She never failed. She had learned all the Psalms as a small girl on a barge that plied the canals of Europe 100 years ago. She had very little schooling, but the Word of God was in her heart and mind.

Would we be able to call on our memory to recite God’s Words to ourselves in a time of need?

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The Son-King

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, Colossians 1:13

In the process of reading Scripture there are those wonderful moments when a verse or part of verse that you know well, resonates anew. There is a wonderful passage in Colossians 1 vv 9-14 where Paul paints a glorious picture of the journey of the Christian’s redemption. A phrase in our staff devotions the other morning that sent tingles down my spine was “and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves“.

When this part of the passage was read my mind immediately drifted into a reverie and, I must confess, I missed what was said after that. (Sorry Bruce!) A majestic king, regal and magnificent came to mind. Majesty and awe intertwined with the fact that I have been invited as a citizen of this Kingdom. I have been “brought in”. What an immense privilege! Me! A citizen of the Kingdom of the father’s son!

Moreover this Kingdom is anchored in the love the Father has for His son-king. This is no ordinary human kingdom. “The kingdom of the son He loves” is different from imperfect human examples. Rather it is pristine, perfect and eternal, underpinned by grace and relationship, from the Father to the son-king and to me.

I awoke from my reverie and it was time for prayer. But the moment away in my thoughts was special.

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Be Holy

In 1 Peter 1:15 & 16 he writes:

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

This is a direct reference to Leviticus 11:44 &45. Holiness is such a foreign concept for our age. The spirit of our times is, “if it feels good, do it!”  Principles, values and consequences have very little place in our Western lifestyle. It would be easy to drag out a litany of examples but sadly I don’t need to because we are all fully aware of what I mean. It is pervasive.

But the biggest tragedy is that God’s children are not immune. We too are tainted by our age. Statistics show that lifestyle choices in the church are not radically different from the rest of the world.

God’s command is an immensely important one. We are to be holy because we are called to reflect the one who redeemed us. Our lives are to be witnesses of God and what he has done in Christ. Our lives are called to be living examples of the power of the gospel.

When we fail to grow in holiness our lives mock God. By not growing in holiness our lives say to the world, “Really, the gospel is not that influential. The power that Paul speaks of is not that life changing.”

The most powerful witness that the body of Christ has, is to live the radical life changing power of the gospel! All our words,sermons and pamphlets will come to naught if our neighbours do not see the change the gospel has wrought in us.

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All Creatures Great and Small

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Blessed to be a Blessing

… and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you. Gen 12:3b

When Abram (later Abraham) was told by God that he was “blessed to be blessing”, Abram was one of the few people with whom God had had such a close and personal encounter. In fact, throughout the Old Testament only a few prophets, priests and Kings encountered God in such a personal and immediate way.

We learn from Romans that it was Abraham’s faith, enabled by the Spirit of God, that enabled him to be that blessing and become the “father of many nations” but most importantly, a crucial and fundamental link in the coming of the Messiah – Jesus.

What people like Abraham, Moses, David and Samuel indicate is what the divine power of God is capable of when unleashed in His people. At Pentecost that power of the presence of God was poured out on the whole church – not just a selected few. All God’s children have his presence and therefore this amazing potential.

I say “potential” because so often we live like OT people who only knew of the presence of God vicariously through a prophet, priest of king. Too often we live outside that presence of God.

My constant challenge to myself and my fellow believers is to live in the power of the presence of God. Church history has many examples, past and contemporary: From the saints tortured under Nero, to missionaries who forsook and still forsake all, to serve God and many, many more who faithfully serve God wherever He has placed them.

So my question is simple but profound: Do you live in the power of the presence of God’s Spirit in your life? Can your neighbors see in your words and deeds that you serve the King of all creation? Is your life advancing God’s name? That is a daily challenge. Living the challenge is true joy!

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The Bible and the Enigma Code

Subtitled: The Bible and Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park Mansion

In 2005 one of the first things I did when we arrived in the UK was visit Bletchley Park. It was just across the railway line and up the road a little from where we lived. As I didn’t have a car, it was an easy visit that I could tick off my list of things to see.

Bletchley Park was/is home to to the first programmable computer – the Colossus (in recent years it has been restored). It was utilised to decipher the German Enigma Code, a sophisticated encryption machine used to encrypt secret messages to be sent around the Reich – particularly to ships. Cracking the code made a huge difference to the Allied war effort.

The Turing Bombe

Where does the Bible fit into the picture? Many people I come across treat Scripture like an encrypted German message and they respond in a variety of ways. Some tell me the Bible is too complicated and they can’t be bothered decoding it. Others spend a lifetime searching for the key. Like some human “Colossus,” their brains are whirring away trying to decipher a secret code that underpins the Bible. If it is not a form of numerology, it is another scheme they try to develop by which the “truth” may be found. Countless hours have been spent and many books written on aspects of Scripture that, sadly, do not draw us closer to the truth.

In fact, the truth of Scripture is quite plain. Maybe it is too easy! The truth of the gospel is quite simple. We are sinners. We cannot in our own strength be reunited with God, so God sent His own son to take the punishment we deserve, by which the affront to His holiness is dealt with and we can be restored to God. And even at this point God applies this truth through the amazing person of the Holy Spirit. In short, we have a triune God dealing with our deepest needs. All we need to do is believe and accept the gift He offers.Now how complicated is that?! There are no spiritual gymnastics required and any efforts on our part to obtain salvation are of no use.

The apostle John wrote nearly 2000 years  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,  that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16) It was true then. It is true now.

Yes there is more, There is the Kingdom of God, there is the call of God on the life of His children, and many other wonderful qualities. All of these extra truths are anchored on the simple gospel truth mentioned in John 3:16 (above).

One final anecdote: I had a wonderful cousin who had Down Syndrome. Stephen understood the gospel and was in love with his Saviour. The gospel message was simple enough and clear enough for him to understand and clasp to himself. He loved telling people about God’s love for them. He did not need a secret code book, or a spiritual decrypter. All he had was a simple faith. That was all he needed.

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