Thursday, January 8, 2015
By Graham Robertson
Nowadays, people tend to use gas lighters to light the BBQ, or a bonfire or a cigarette. But I remember when I used matches. When you are looking to light your cigarette (in the old days when I smoked, before I quit) and you spot the box of matches, you are so happy because inside that box will be a match which will allow you to breathe the smoke deep in your lungs and receive that pure sense of reward.
The matchbox promises so much – but what if it contains no live matches? Even if it contained only one match, then that would be a different story, that would be enough.
What if I didn’t need the match to light a cigarette but needed the match for survival. Then that one match left in the box would be very important indeed!
Recently, I have been visiting other churches and not to make a judgement about them, it seems to me that from the outside they have the appearance of a beautiful matchbox but inside there are no live matches. Not all churches are like this but a lot are
Imagine Jesus' disappointment when he opens our box of matches and finds no live matches because we neglect our times with Him, neglecting prayer and reading the Bible and meeting together as the Bible encourages us to do and is essential for our spiritual growth.
At the end of all the gospels is a clear message to go and make disciples and preach the gospel In Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-48;
John 20:21 “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’
We are to be His witnesses, wherever we go, whatever we are doing and whomever we are with. Only one match is needed to light a bonfire! Be ready all ways and always!
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
By Angela Bhandal
Romans 1:17b, ‘The Righteous will live by faith’
What is faith? Belief, confidence, trust, reliance are all words to describe faith. In the Bible, religious faith is a life-shaping attitude towards God. The person with faith considers God’s revelation of Himself and of truth to be ‘certain and sure’. The person with faith therefore responds to all situations and circumstances with love, trust and obedience toward God.
Ephesians 2:8, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast’.
Faith is a gift from God. When someone gives you a gift, you have two options, either 1) to accept the gift or 2) refuse the gift.
If you choose to accept the gift, you unwrap it and are grateful for whatever you have received.
You could also refuse the gift and give it back to the giver ~ but you will never know what it was that you missed out on. (It is impossible to not receive and open a gift, but afterwards we may discard it, and treat it with contempt).
In the case of the gift of faith, it is a life-giving eternal gift with supernatural powers!
When God gives the gift of faith to a person, this enables them to believe in God and all that the Bible speaks about. In fact, without faith it is impossible to believe in God, in Jesus, in His Word because nothing makes sense. ‘Faith’ is like the first step ~ then comes the anointing of Holy Spirit ~ that’s like pouring petrol on a small spark – BOOM! Something amazing and profound happens revelation has been born. And when this person believes in God and puts their hope and trust in Jesus Christ, thus a new believer is born.
Hebrews 11:6, ‘And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him, must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him’.
So we can see that faith helps us to believe that God exists. Maybe we take our faith for granted because we’ve been Christians for so long now, we just believe fullstop! But we shouldn’t do this. The faith that each one of us has is unique and given to us from God. When we get a gift from someone that’s of great value, we treasure it and look after it. It should be the same with our faith because it is a treasure to be valued.
Once when I was younger, I was given a golden locket to commemorate a special birthday by my parents. One day I was a bit short of cash, so I decided to pawn the locket for whatever I could get for it. I really regretted doing that and still do to this day. I didn’t value the gift until I had sold it because I didn’t appreciate it.
Faith is a gift; it helps us believe that God exists. It also helps us to be ‘sure of what we hope for’ and certain of what we do not see. What are some of the things that you are hoping for, that God will do for you?
Are we earnestly seeking Him? We have just read that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him? Hebrews 11 is a chapter that lists men and women whose faith in God was expressed by actions.
-Noah built an ark long before he saw the rains that God warned would flood the earth
-Abraham believed God’s promise of a child long before he saw signs of his wife’s pregnancy
-Joseph, dying in Egypt, looked ahead and spoke of the time four centuries later when his families descendents would return to the land God promised them.
In each case, faith shaped the believer’s perception of the future and made a difference in the choices that each made in the present. Faith should shape our perspective too, transforming the way we live our lives and the decisions we make. We who believe in Jesus, can, be sure of what we hope for, even though we cannot yet see it!
All the people mentioned in Hebrews 11, that great cloud of witnesses, were still living by faith when they died (vs 13), some didn’t receive things promised and only perceived them from a distance. Will you and I still be living in faith when death comes for us, or will we have given up? It is normal to become tired and discouraged but don’t be like the five foolish virgins who missed out because they were not ready when the Bridegroom came (Matthew 25:1-13). How terrible to live all our lives by faith and then loose out on the greatest blessings at the last minute.
Finally, faith can also be ‘ineffectual’, and by this I mean we can place our confidence in false or empty objects, thus believing in vain. In this situation, faith’s object is invalid. For example I understand that in India, Buddhists and Hindus put their faith in many idols such as cows, rats and elephants. They go to great lengths in their faith to worship these animals, they make altars, give money and food. But will a cow bring salvation? We can believe in something hoping it will save us – maybe a husband, wife, friend, a way of life, a diet, an exercise programme.
In addition, we can make ‘intellectual’ commitments without committing our hearts and in this way faith’s response is inadequate. James illustrates this problem with the observation that ‘even the demons believe God exists and shudder’. A ‘faith’ that exists simply as agreement that something is true, without that wholehearted response which motivates action, is a futile faith. The faith in God to which we are called in Jesus engages our total response to the Lord. We consider God trustworthy and because we believe, everything we think and do is shaped by conviction.
Faith in God not only leads us to eternal life, but it helps us to hang in there when life gets tough. Faith enables us to do things that are only possible with God. Faith is a precious gift from God ~ don’t give it away ~ treasure it, because one day you will receive another great reward when the words are spoken over you, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’