THE OUTREACH AND MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH (September 2000)
Acts 3: 1 - 11
If at the end of Acts 2 we have a description of the inner life of the church, here,
in Acts 3: 1 - 11, we have a picture of the outer activity of the church. In these
verses we see what is to be the MISSION, the MIGHT and the METHOD of the church; or,
what is the job of the church, what is the power available to do the job, and what is
the way to do it.
1. THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
What is it? From a study of Acts 2: 41 - 47 we might get the impression the church is to be a kind of mutual aid society! But the record does not end with chapter 2; it goes on into chapter 3, where we learn that in terms of service, believers are saved to serve, and their service consists of ministering to others, especially the poor and needy of society. Take a look at the man described in these verses. In him we see a picture of humanity without God; for he is lame, he has been like it from birth; he is helpless, destitute and more concerned about material needs than about spiritual needs, and he is near the temple but outside it. Peter and John not only offered him physical help, but they shared the gospel with him. For we read in verse 8, Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God" and this is the job, the mission of the church in the world. This was Jesus' program, and it is to be ours as well. The mission of the church is to:
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave,
Weep o'er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the Mighty to save.
2. THE MIGHT OF THE CHURCH
What is the church's power to deal with a humanity desperate for wholeness. It is certainly not material power, not the power of money, not the power of personality, nor of human eloquence. The church's real power is divine, spiritual power. It is the power of the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. His Name signifies His Person, all that He, our risen, ascended and exalted Lord is. The church of God is only powerful as she lifts up, exalts and preaches the Lord Jesus. Our one great concern must be to make much of Christ, to exalt and honour and offer Him, and to strip away from our service and activity everything that is inconsistent with His mighty Name. A church is never great because of numbers, or finance or good preaching or worldly reputation. The only true might any church has is in the might of the Name, the might of the Lord Himself. If the Mission of the church is to go out and reach men and women for Christ, and the Might of the church is that power of the Lord Himself, what is the Method of the church?
3. THE METHOD OF THE CHURCH
What was the method used by Peter and John?
a. Their method was one of Divine co-operation. That is, it was the Lord on the Throne working with and through Peter and John,. The exalted Lord was doing His work through human channels, in this case Peter and John.
b. Their method was one of human co-operation. It was not only a case of the Lord working with and through Peter and John, but of Peter and John working together. Here were the Doer and the Dreamer in harness! What a great partnership this was! There is variety in the church, and there is great need for the Lord's workers to respect one another's God-given ministry.
c. Their method consisted of going out to and making contact with the world.
This is what Peter and John did. We are to take the gospel, the message of the love and grace of God, to people where they are. Then, we are to have contact with them.
d. Their method was primarily spiritual in its activity. It was not only Christ- centered, it was evangelistic. The man "crippled from birth" was healed physically, but more important than this, he was saved spiritually. The gospel is a social matter, but primarily it is a spiritual matter. Our souls need healing before our bodies. Thank God for every bit of social activity that is carried on by the church today! The gospel has a social application. Of course it does! But social activity, ministering to the physical and material and temporal needs of men and women, must always be undertaken as an extension and expression of evangelistic concern.
e. Their method was empowered and made effective by prayer. In verse one of chapter three, we read that "Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer". Here we see the secret of their power, individual prayer. Martin Luther wrote: "The prayers of the saints are the decrees of God beginning to operate."
Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
Strength for thy labour the Lord will provide:
Back to the narrow way patiently win them:
Tell the poor wanderer a Saviour has died.
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PRAYING LIKE JESUS PRAYED (October 2000)
Our prayer life often becomes a series of "crisis calls" for help, rather than a systematic, faith filled fellowship with our Heavenly Father.
The Heidelberg Catechism offers some practical ideas to our prayer life by explaining the details of the Lord's Prayer.
OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN.
Why did Christ command us to call God "our Father"?
At the very beginning of our prayer, Christ wants to kindle in us what is basic to our prayer- the childlike awe and trust that God through Christ has become our Father.
Our fathers do not refuse us, the things of this life;
God our Father will even less refuse to give us what we ask in faith.
Why the words "in heaven"?
These words teach us not to think of God's heavenly majesty as something earthly, and to expect everything for body and soul from his almighty power.
HALLOWED BE THY NAME
What does the first request mean?
Hallowed be Thy name means,
Help us to really know you,
to bless, worship, and praise you for all your works
and for all that shines forth from them:
your almighty power, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and truth.
And it means,
Help us to direct all our living -
what we think, say, and do-
so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us
but always honoured and praised.
THY KINGDOM COME
What does the second request mean?
Thy kingdom come, means,
Rule by your Word and spirit in such a way
that more and more we submit to you.
Keep your church strong, and add to it.
Destroy the devil's work;
destroy every force which revolts against you;
and every conspiracy against your word.
Do this until your kingdom is so complete and perfect that in it you are all in all.
THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
What does the third request mean?
Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven means,
Help us and all people
to reject our own wills
and to obey your will without any back talk.
Your will alone is good.
Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD
What does the third request mean?
Give us this daily our daily bread means,
Do take care of all our physical needs
so that we come to know
that you are the only source of everything good,
and that neither our work and worry
nor your gifts
can do us any good without your blessing.
And so help us to give up our trust in creatures
and to put trust in your alone.
FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS
What does the fifth request mean?
Forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors means,
Because of Christ's blood,
do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are,
any of the sins we do
or the evil that constantly clings to us.
Forgive us just as we are fully determined,
as evidence of your grace in us,
to forgive our neighbours.
AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL
What does the sixth request mean?
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil means.
By ourselves we are too weak
to hold our own even for a moment.
And our sworn enemies -
The devil, the world, and our own flesh-
never stop attacking us.
And so, Lord,
uphold us and make us strong
With the strength of your Holy Spirit,
so that we may not go down to defeat
In this spiritual struggle,
but may firmly resist our enemies
until we finally win the complete victory.
FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM, AND THE POWER, AND THE GLORY, FOR EVER AND EVER.
What does the conclusion to this prayer mean?
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever means,
We have made all these requests of you
because, as our all-powerful king,
you not only want to,
but are able to give us all that is good;
and because your holy name,
and not we ourselves,
should receive all the praise, forever.
Use this outline as a pattern for your own prayers, and see the difference it will make.
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HOW DO WE KNOW WE BELONG TO GOD? (November 2000)
As we celebrate the Protestant Reformation on October 29, we are reminded that we are saved by
the grace of God and not by our works. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have
been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest
anyone should boast." In spite of this primary emphasis of the Reformation, we may well ask
ourselves, "how do we know we belong to God?" Do we have any evidence to prove that we are
The Bible teaches that we are to have assurance. Hebrews 3 and 6 speak about being confident,
trusting in the promise of God, and keeping our hope firm to the end: "This hope we have as an
anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast...? This hope is in Christ Jesus, who is the Author
and the Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2), and when he has begun a good work in us, He is
faithful to complete it" (Philippians 1:6).
One reason many people do not have assurance is because they are not grounded in the knowledge that their salvation is based on the righteousness of Christ and not their own works. Another reason is because they do not see enough fruit in their lives. Resting on God's promises is only part of our assurance. There is a need to examine ourselves for fruit in order to have assurance. If we do not see any fruit, we cannot be assured of eternal life. But while we may struggle with sin, no Christian can ever be devoid of all fruit. The key to assurance is realizing that as we struggle with sin (a struggle which is in itself evidence of salvation), we are always producing some fruit. Seeing that fruit plus resting on God's promises produces assurance.
The first letter of John is a helpful outline on assurance. John begins by establishing that unless you are obeying the commandments of Christ, you cannot claim to know Him. "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments" (l John 2:3). John goes on to say that all true Christians abide in Christ, love God and not the world, love fellow believers, practice righteousness, confess Christ, obey Him out of faith, and pray in confidence to Him. These are evidences of salvation put into the context of relying on God's grace. Without these marks we cannot be assured of our salvation, but we do not base our salvation on these marks. And even when we do sin, our assurance need not be shattered because we can go to Christ and find forgiveness with Him.
It would be a helpful exercise to make a list of the fruit described in l John, that you see in your life. Make another list of that fruit which seems to be lacking in your life. If you do not see fruit, growing and alive, pray that God will change your heart so that you would produce fruit for His glory.
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A CHRISTMAS LETTER
BY A THEOLOGICAL STUDENT
WRITTEN 40 YEARS AGO
(December 2000 - January 2001)
|3485 McTavish St., |
December 19, 1960
It is a most pleasant task for me, to take time out from my studies at this Christmas Season and write you a letter. Although I have been "short of pen" during the past year, you can be sure that I have lifted up your name to our Father in Heaven many times, asking His guidance and blessing over you and your loved ones.
Looking back over the past twelve months brings to mind many things that I would like to share with you, but can only do so briefly. Upon graduation from Sir George Williams University in the Spring, I traveled to British Columbia where I worked under the Presbyterian Home Missions Board. My work, which took me to several areas of B.C. included Children's Camps, Daily Vacation Bible Schools, and Extension Work. Here in our most Westerly Province I was privileged not only to see beautiful scenery, but also to visit the kind of people one enjoys meeting.
In September I returned to Montreal and commenced with ten other colleagues the first year of a three year course in Theology at Presbyterian College. Time has spent itself quickly and now I find myself at the end of the first term. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking a closer look at God's Word and being prepared in general, for the Master's Service.
As part of my training I have been working with College Students at Paul Smiths College, in New York State. The college consists of 500 students, most of whom are enrolled in Forestry. Here, I am able to visit with the students in their rooms and present to them the claims of Christ upon their lives. This work involving me from Friday to Monday is most challenging and interesting. Between this and my studies, I find little extra time to spare.
I will be spending most of my Christmas Holidays here in Montreal, being entertained by various text books. However, I am looking forward to spending Christmas with my fiancee and her family in Ottawa.
In closing I would like to share this thought with you. From the window of my room, I can see a huge Cross on the top of Mount Royal, situated a few blocks from Presbyterian College. However the Cross is only visible when I bow before God on bended knees at my bedside. Only as I have communion with Him does the miracle of the virgin Birth and the cross become real to me; and within my heart I feel the power of the risen Christ. Only as you and I keep our hearts and lives in tune with the risen Lord are we rightly able to participate in the wondrous celebration of His birth.
O Holy child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our Sin, and enter in:
Be born in us today.
May the Prince of Peace guide and keep you,
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CHRIST CAME TO BRING US BACK TO GOD (December 2000 - January 2001)
1 Timothy 1:15
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world
to save sinners - of whom I am the worst." (1 Timothy 1:15).
Christ came. He came into this word. He came for us, to bring us to the holy, living,
mighty God, translated into terms that we can understand. In Christ we see all of God we
need to know: to know the Son is to know the Father.
But this is not the only reason for his coming. If this were all, our Christian gospel
might be little more than a declaration, a manifesto announcing to us all that this is the
kind of God with whom we have to do. Such a manifesto can be encouraging: it is surely good
to be told that the God who is in charge of this universe has the character of Christ, his
love, his purity, his care, and his compassion. But it can also be unnerving and even
depressing: how can we relate our lives to such a God? How can we bring our shabby selves
into that dazzling light?
There is no gospel, no really good news, in the announcement of who God is without any
indication of how we can be related to Him. What we need is not simply the confidence
that Christ brings God to us, but also that He can bring us to God. In Bible terms, we
need not only a Revealer but a Saviour.
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the
world to save sinners". To know Christ is not only to hear the manifesto of God, to know
that when we have seen him we have seen the Father. It is to be delivered, to be liberated,
to be brought home to the family of God. His advent was salvation for the world.
Christ came. He came from the heart of God to save sinners. The opportunity is here again,
for us to get it right, and to receive this Christ as our own.
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LATER! (February 2001)
Have you ever delayed making a decision that you know you should have made? What challenge
have you put off? What promise have you tabled? What opportunity have you tucked away in
the tomorrow file that should be done today?
Mark Twain gave some advice we accept too readily. "Never put off until tomorrow what you
can put off until the day after tomorrow." That's dangerous advice. Yet, we all live by
it, almost as a creed, putting off until some distant tomorrow the urgent opportunities the Lord
has offered us.
There is an interesting story in the Book of Numbers which describes how the people of Israel,
in putting off a decision cost them dearly. The Israelites had left Egypt, and were on the
border of Canaan, the promised land. The Lord instructed Moses to send twelve spies into the
land, not to determine whether it was possible to invade the land, but to assure the people that
the promises which had already been given them, would soon be a reality.
Moses didn't procrastinate. Immediately, he selected twelve strong and trustworthy men, one
from each of the twelve tribes, and sent them into southern Palestine. They came back after
forty days with their assessments. The majority report of 10 was negative and filled with
fear. The minority report, given by Caleb and Joshua, was courageous and daring. Caleb
catches our attention and admiration when he says, "we should by all means go up and take
possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it." We admire his promptness, daring and
complete lack of procrastination.
Unfortunately, it was not Caleb's minority report which won the day. The fearful majority
report appealed to the people. They put off accepting the promise of God. Their actions
teach us four valuable lessons about procrastination.
1. PROCRASTINATION IS QUESTIONING IN THE DARK WHAT GOD HAS PROMISED IN THE LIGHT. The Lord's
promise had not changed as they camped there on the border of blessing. In the quiet of prayer,
the Lord had repeatedly told Moses and the people that he would be faithful to give them the
promised land. The majority report brought back by the ten spies left out the truth of that
promise and the power offered to back it up. They left out the Lord as the primary fact in the
equation of victory.
2. THE SECOND THING THIS ACCOUNT TELLS US IS THAT THINGS BECOME WHAT THEY SEEM. The majority
of the Israelites pictured the worst. The report stated: "we became like grasshoppers in
our own sight, and so we were in their sight." That's the way they acted and responded.
Fear makes us grasshoppers first in our own sight and then in the sight of others.
3. THIRD, CONSIDER THE CONTAGIOUS INFECTION OF PROCRASTINATION. The fear in the ten appealed
to the fear in the whole nation.
4. THE FOURTH TRUTH IN THIS ACCOUNT OF ISRAEL'S PROCRASTINATION AWAKENS US TO THE FACT THAT WE
CAN MISS GOD'S BEST BY SAYING, "LATER". We can wait so long that we lose our power
to say, "NOW". The people of Israel said "NO" to God's promises, and they
ended wandering for another thirty-eight years in the wilderness, before they had a new chance
to go and possess the promised land.
I want to suggest some questions for each of us to ask ourselves. What would I do today if I
knew that success according to God's standards was assured? What would I attempt if I were
sure that the Lord would be there with me infusing wisdom, love, courage and boldness? What
step of personal growth in faith have I been putting off? What forgiveness needs to be offered
to or received from the people in my life? Who needs my love and assurance today in both words
and actions? If this were my last day, what would I do?
Let us join the minority report with Caleb and Joshua. Let's go in and possess this year
saying with him, "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall
surely overcome it". LATER? NO! NOW!
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THE PROMISE OF PEACE IN THE MIDST OF STORM (March 2001)
"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." Isaiah 26:3
This wonderful promise was given by God in the darkest period of Israel's history, so it may well prove to be a special help to us today, when we are surrounded by much gloom and depression and when we are constantly threatened with the three great enemies of doubt, fear and worry. When all is going well and the skies are bright it is easy to read a promise such as this in a very superficial way, but when clouds of trial, disappointment, anxiety and alarm drift across our sky and the sun is hidden, these words become very precious to us. There is no promise anywhere in the Word of God to suggest that while we are in our earthly bodies we shall experience freedom from trouble, war, trial, temptation, tears, anguish, loss, bereavement, etc., but something far better is promised: it is the promise of perfect peace in the midst of all these. Of what value would freedom from all these troubles be if we had no inward peace? Yet it is possible in the midst of the fiercest battle, and while the storm is at its
height, for the trusting soul to experience perfect peace, inward peace, a deep down calm and a quiet confidence. Do you long to experience perfect peace?
1. NOTICE WHAT THIS GREAT BLESSING IS THAT IS OFFERED TO US.
It is described as "perfect peace". But what is perfect peace? Can we define it? Yes, it is a condition of freedom from disturbance within the soul. It is perfect harmony reigning within. The Hebrew word "Shalom" has in it the idea of soundness of health, so that to be filled with perfect peace is to be spiritually healthy and free from all discord within the soul. There is no room, nor can there be, for jealousy, envy, discontent, uncontrolled temper, selfishness, pride, intolerance, harsh criticism, fear or anxiety in the soul that is filled with peace, for all these things are disturbing factors in the heart. They are discordant notes. The peace which God offers, and which we by His grace may experience, is very practical. It is none other than a great calm which He commands. God calls the peace which He gives "perfect peace". In what sense is it perfect?
(i) IT IS PERFECT AS TO ITS QUALITY.
That is to say, it is perfect in the kind of peace it is. There is an imperfect peace. There is the imperfect peace of Ignorance, when we imagine that all is going well, whereas in actual fact all is not well. There is the imperfect peace of Dependence, which is a peace that is dependent upon some thing or some person in this world. The "thing" may fail, the "person" may die - and where then is their peace? In contrast with these, God's peace is perfect.
(ii) IT IS PERFECT AS TO ITS QUANTITY.
That is to say, the supply of it is sufficient and it exactly meets our need.
(iii) IT IS PERFECT AS TO ITS CONSTANCY.
That is to say, it is permanent and not intermittent. The promise says, "You will KEEP..."
2. HOW DOES THIS PERFECT PEACE COME TO US?
(i) BY CHRIST JESUS.
In Philippians 4:7 we notice that the Lord Jesus Christ is the source from Whom the peace of God flows into our souls. This peace is the possession of those who are resting on the finished work of Christ for salvation.
(ii) BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The Lord Jesus Christ secured peace for us upon the cross of Calvary, and that peace is offered to us by Him as the source; but it is conveyed to our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit.
(iii) BY HIS WORD.
Psalm l19:165 says "Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble." Here is a promise of perfect peace to those who love, meditate in and obey the Word of God.
(iv) BY PLENTY OF PRAYER AND PRAISE.
Notice in Phillipians 4: 6,7, the promise of peace is preceded by the conditions of "prayer, petition and thanksgiving".
3. TWO SPECIAL CONDITIONS MUST BE MET IF WE WOULD EXPERIENCE PERFECT PEACE.
Who will God keep in perfect peace? The one "whose mind is steadfast", and the one who trusts" in God. Both these expressions denote faith, but one is a head word and one is a heart word. What is the difference? With our head we believe that God is the Author of peace, the giver of peace, and that He is able and willing to give us peace; and with the heart we trust Him to do it and we receive His peace by faith.
Perfect peace is the Lord Himself with us, not an experience, not a doctrine, not an "it", or a code of belief - but the Lord Himself; and when we are steadfast in keeping our minds and hearts focused on God, we will find "perfect peace and rest".
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WHAT IS SO "GOOD" ABOUT GOOD FRIDAY? (April 2001)
"Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole
garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had
twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they
bowed their knees before Him and mocked Him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' Then they spat
on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took
the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified,"
Matthew 27: 27 - 31.
We often affirm our faith by repeating the Apostles' Creed. And we say, "and in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried:" Strangely enough, we remember the day of the crucifixion of Christ as 'Good Friday".
Why is it that we call 'Good Friday' GOOD? Surely it is strange to take a day in which an innocent man was brutally murdered, a day in which the power of justice was turned upside down, and the focus of religion went blind, and label it for all future history, as good, Good Friday. What is so good about judicial murder? What is so good about physical pain and agony? What is so good about innocent suffering and unmerited death? We call it Good Friday, because it was a day as Saint Paul says in Romans 5:2, "but when sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Or, as a new translation has it, "but when sin increased, God's grace increased much more." This is true in all of life where God is involved, but it was especially true on that first Good Friday.
Sin abounded. Jesus had fallen into the hands, not of muggers and hoodlums, or a pack of rascals, but 'clean' hands, the politely washed hands of society's most respected members, ministers, lawyers, statesmen, women of class, people from industry, and other important individuals. It was in the midst of these nice, quiet, peace loving and stable people where sin abounded. This ought to cause us, as we remember the events of Good Friday to stop, take notice, and to take stock of our own lives. For sin abounded, increased so much, that it had succeeded in blinding the minds of the best people in the community, and they had no idea that they were sinning. Indeed, that is the way it was from the beginning, and continues to be, men and women, including us, in revolt against God, and therefore standing condemned before a holy God and banished from His sight forever.
But grace, God's grace did much, much more abound. As in everything, everywhere, and always, sin abounded, yes, but the love of God abounded more. It proved stronger than the brutality of man.
If we learn nothing more from Good Friday, let us remember this, that God's love, God's grace is always greater than our deepest sin.
As we remember the cross, let us remember not only the unfolding of some tragic scene, or listening to the words of a martyr, but seeing once more, how God's
grace, His love, works through human weakness, failure and sin, bringing forgiveness, love, healing, peace and joy.
Good Friday is good, yes indeed, because it reminds us of the love of God. And for us who hear it, it is the irresistible love of God. "Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all."
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"THE ETERNAL GOD IS YOUR REFUGE" (May 2001)
As we face the future as a congregation and as individuals, it is not a time for fear and trepidation, but a time for hope and confidence. The reason is simply this, we are Christians.
We believe in God. And we believe in His Word the Scriptures. In it we find the reason for our hope and confidence. Deuteronomy chapter 33, verse 27 states, "THE ETERNAL GOD IS YOUR REFUGE AND UNDERNEATH ARE THE EVERLASTING ARMS."
1. THE ETERNAL GOD. God has no beginning and no ending. A line from the Hymn "Abide With Me" is "Change and decay in all around I see; Oh Thou who changest not, abide with me." Change is a constant factor in our lives. It can be either good or harmful. In contrast, the one who is CHANGELESS is God. He cannot change because nothing can be added to His perfection. We are stronger in the midst of change, when we are living in harmony with the ETERNAL GOD!
2. THIS ETERNAL GOD IS YOUR REFUGE. A refuge is a place of security no matter what may happen. Nothing can interfere with the Eternal God nor those who take refuge in him. Even death, a serious matter and a great worry to many, does not harm us. Death for a Christian is "Good night" here and "Sunrise" in God's Eternal World. The Refuge applies to this life as well as to the next. A person whose life is in God's protection is spared the frustration and hurt that is experienced by those who are carried away by the passing fads of human behaviour. For example, those who take refuge in chemicals only add to the problem or those who take refuge in what everyone else does, never get to the real issue of the matter. Those who find REFUGE in the ETERNAL GOD are able to meet the problems of life with clear minds and a careful consideration of the facts. They have an infallible centre in the reality of God.
3. UNDERNEATH ARE THE EVERLASTING ARMS! The picture is that of a child falling into the protecting arms of a loving parent or that of a child tired from a day's activity falling asleep in the arms of a loving parent. We live and die in the ARMS OF GOD!
Yes, we do face uncertainties. But each step of the way, we will be able to experience GOD AS OUR REFUGE, AND HIS LOVING PROTECTING ARMS SURROUNDING US AND HOLDING US TO HIMSELF.
"May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way." (2 Thess. 3:16).
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"...HE WHO BEGAN A GOOD WORK IN YOU..." (June 2001)
One of the most comforting and helpful verses of Scripture is found in Philippians chapter one,
verse 6, "being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to
completion until the day of Christ Jesus." God preserves what He brings to life. As Paul
writes, God will complete the work begunb in us. If it were us to us, we would not persevere
to the end. We would find every possible way to lose our salvation. But God, who makes us new,
sustains us in faith for His purpose.
In the New Testament, the great example of god's preservation of His people in spite of their
sins is Simon Peter. Remember that Peter was the chief spokesman for the disciples. On one
occasion, Jesus asked the disciples what the crowds were saying about Him, and it was Peter
who confessed, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16).
On that occasion, Jesus called Peter's faith "rock-like" and said He would build His church
upon it. Jesus made it clear that this faith did not originate with Peter, nor had it been
revealed to Peter by men, but directly by God's action on his heart (Matthew 16:17).
What God starts, God finishes. Peter's rock-like faith was shattered at Jesus' trial.
Confronted by a servant girl, Peter denied his Master with curses (Matthew 26:71-72). Jesus
had predicted that this would happen: "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat"
(Luke 22:31). But Peter did not fall away. Rather, he wept bitterly when he realized what
he had done. His sin did not thwart god's plan for him.
Judas also betrayed Jesus, but he fell away. He was bitter and did not turn back to God.
What was Peter's case different? Because as Jesus had also said, "But I have prayed for you,
Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers"
(Luke 22:32). It is the continual intercession of Jesus Christ that calls us back when we sin,
and guarantees that God's good work in us will be completed.
This is the wonderful truth of scripture. He is ours, and we are His, forever.