Contentment

“How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

Genesis 39:9

Joseph was favoured by his father and that provoked jealousy in his brothers such that they would have killed him but for Rueben’s restraint. Nine of Joseph’s brothers wanted him dead but, when Rueben was absent, they sold Joseph to Ishmaelite slave traders. Joseph was seventeen years old. He became a slave in Potiphar’s house in Egypt. His statement quoted above shows that he was not angry or bitter with God. It reveals that he did everything as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). His resistance to temptation (v 8) would be severely tested as Potiphar’s wife came again and again (v 10). Nagging is Satan’s way to test and weaken our resolve to serve the Lord. The Holy Spirit does not nag.

Eventually Joseph had to flee (v 12) and was then falsely accused (v 14) and cast into prison (v 20). Even there he did not get angry or bitter with God but continued to glorify Him (1 Corinthians 10:31). At no time did the Lord leave Joseph. He continued to favour him as a slave and as a prisoner.

Where we are physically in this world is of little importance. What is important is where we are in our relationship with God. Oswald Chambers writes:

“The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, nobler men and women; or they are making us more captious and fault-finding, more insistent upon our own way. The things that happen either make us fiends, or they make us saints; it depends entirely upon the relationship we are in to God.”

“When we understand what God is after we will not get mean and cynical.”

Oswald Chambers

Joseph is an example of one who maintained his relationship with the Lord regardless of his physical circumstances or place. Paul understood this when he wrote, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11). Fear and anxiety reveal that we are not content to serve the Lord where He has placed us. This may be especially so if we are where we are because of the unjust actions of others. We may admire Joseph but have no inclination to serve the Lord as he did. But what is God after? Jesus answers that in John 17:21, “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Sunday 31 May 2020

The Foothills Livestream is having a break today, but we can still set aside the Lord’s Day to worship our Saviour. Here are some suggestions – click the links below and plan your family’s Church at Home!

Watch a service that you may have missed – access recordings of past livestreams here

Watch a livestream from another church. For example:
> CityReach Oakden (Adelaide) – 8:15am Sunday
> Woodvale Baptist – 9:30am Sunday
> Bassendean Church of Christ – 10am Sunday

Watch (or re-watch) Neil’s sermon series on Habakkuk

Sing along to a Worship Playlist

As a family, read out loud a passage of Scripture, for example Psalm 132 or 1 John 1

Have Communion together as a family

If you are on facebook, please connect with us and tell us what you are up to!

Joy, not Anxiety

“Be anxious for nothing …”

Philippians 4:6

Many people in the world are anxious and worrying about current events. We seem to forget that everyone is going to die sometime (Hebrews 9:27). It is only a matter of how and when. Where we spend eternity is of far more importance as it is forever. The arrogance of man is that he thinks he can save himself by defying the Creator who sustains his very being.

Some think they can save the world by maintaining the climate as they believe it was. In this they often forget that the world has been changing considerably during its existence. They acknowledge that there has been an ice age and therefore considerable global warming since then.

Now we have a virus that has allowed governments to turn countries into police states with absolute control of people’s movements. Stores have signs saying they will not accept cash payments. The world is anxious and has therefore surrendered individual rights. As we read prophecies in the Bible it seems we are on the verge of the removal of Jesus calling out His church prior to the Tribulation period. The stage is being set but is that a reason for Christians to be anxious?

The context of Paul writing this explains how and why we don’t need to be anxious. In the previous verse he has written, “The Lord is at hand.” He is not far off and He is coming again. In verse four he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” We can rejoice and not be anxious because each day brings us nearer to that day of our deliverance (Romans 13:11). The fact that we are able to observe this in a way that previous generations could not is the reason we can rejoice and not be anxious. We are concerned for our unsaved family and friends and this will be expressed in more fervent prayer and willingness to share with them. Anxiety is a slur on the character of God.

There is a remedy for anxiety. Faith in Jesus is the remedy. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Reading the Bible will reveal to us how frequently God’s people have been in dire situations yet He delivered them. Paul writes, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). We cannot just dispel anxiety. It is not in our power to do so. It is there or it is not. Knowing and believing God’s word is the way God frees us of anxiety so we can rejoice in faith in Him.

That’s Ridiculous!

“If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy”

2 Kings 5:3

These few words from a young Jewish slave girl led to the salvation of a leprous commander of the Syrian army, Naaman. Eventually the leprosy would make it impossible for him to hold this position or he might be killed in battle.

The young girl’s words to her mistress were passed to her husband. Naaman then spoke to the king of Syria. Surprisingly each person along the line believed the words of a young slave girl. Perhaps we underestimate the power of a word spoken in or out of season. This girl apparently spoke out of compassion and may not have thought more would come of it.

It may be that we think evangelism means sharing the whole Gospel story at one time. If the opportunity affords that is great but such occasions may be rare. It may be that we sometimes say nothing because the circumstances don’t allow for a full explanation at that time. This young girl shows us that our part may be just a few words of hope at a time of perceived or real need.

Naaman was without hope regarding his leprosy. There was no known cure. He was a proud man so the Lord took him through steps that humbled him until he knew that the only God is the God of Israel (v 15). Sometimes a little nudge is all that is required to get the ball rolling. We may only have a moment to say one or two sentences but that may be enough.

These few words triggered a whole series of events that reveal so much about our God, about people and the way of salvation. Eventually, not without hesitation, Naaman humbled himself and obeyed the word of the Lord even though it seemed ridiculous in the extreme. When, in limited faith, he obeyed God’s word, God healed him. Then he glorified God.

Moses asked the people to look in faith at a serpent on a pole (Numbers 21) and Joshua asked the people to march a total of thirteen times around Jericho (Joshua 6). These also seemed ridiculous but God was, and always will be, faithful to His word.

We may make just a comment or two and then God will send it on its way. The present circumstances may stir some to seek the only effective remedy. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “Ask and it will be given you” (Matthew 7:7).

A Mother’s Love

“If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us”

1 John 4:12

First we must remember what kind of love “His love” is. John has told us: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). It is unconditional and sacrificial love. This kind of love neither asks nor expects anything in return. “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and the outworking of this is that He loves in this way as will those who love Him.

A child may be asked why they love their mother. The answer that this question provokes is usually along the lines of benefits to the child. She is kind, a good cook, picks up after me and so on. However, this is not a good question to ask. If love is based on performance then it isn’t God’s kind of love. It treats love as a reward for behaviour. If that was true concerning God’s love for mankind Jesus would never have come down and stayed on the cross to redeem us. Paul writes in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His own [kind of] love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Apart from the enactment of God’s kind of love perhaps the nearest we have in this fallen world is a mother’s love for her child. Rarely will a mother cease to love her child no matter what they do. She may not approve all the actions or words of her child but she will still love her child.

Our society has for a few decades moved in the direction of moving children from the care of their mother to the care of hirelings. They care for the child for pay and not for love in the way a mother loves her child. Jesus said, “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees” (John 10:12). While most child carers probably love children and their work, they can never love the child like their own mother. Unfortunately not all mothers have the choice whether to work or not. Society pressure dictates that many need to work to some degree to pay the bills. Parents need to wait on the Lord and allow Him to lead them in the best direction for their children. Our society does not know Christ so we should not allow it to be the decision maker for us. There is something special about a mother’s love for her child. It knows deep love and deep grief like no other just as our Heavenly Father knows.

Christ’s Patience

Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

Luke 9:54

Jesus and His disciples had entered a Samaritan village but they were apparently refused hospitality. James and John were incensed that they and Jesus should be treated this way so they asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven to destroy those people. They thought they knew Jesus but in fact they knew only their idea of Jesus. Jesus rebuked them quite strongly: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (Luke 9:55-56).

We live in a world that has largely rejected Jesus Christ and governments that make decisions and pass laws that are contrary to God’s nature and will. Those who refuse to receive Jesus are becoming more hostile toward Him and His people with words and actions of hatred. The temptation for us is to think like James and John and want Jesus to bring down fire and judge the world now. It isn’t uncommon for an unbeliever to question God’s existence by asking why God doesn’t intervene. Of course God has and will intervene – but first He is saving all who want to be saved. John records, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). The next verse makes it clear that the world was already condemned (John 3:18).

Concerning the promise of the coming judgment in the Day of the Lord Peter writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The troubling times we are experiencing are the Lord’s provocation for people to seek Him. This is an opportunity for Christians to share the Gospel of Christ to more receptive hearts. Wickedness in the world should not provoke us to call down the fires of heavenly judgment but to show compassion. One of the symptoms that reveal that we have the same attitude as James and John is that we will cease sharing the Gospel and making disciples. Paul warned the Thessalonian Christians against this behaviour (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). For now we have an open door to make disciples of Jesus and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus gives us the assurance “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Take Comfort

“But of that day and hour no one knows … But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be”

Matthew 24:36, 37

Jesus wants His disciples to understand that there will be no warning of His Second Coming. People will be eating, getting married and all the things that people do when unaware of imminent judgment. When it comes it will be totally unexpected by the world’s population in spite of the warnings in God’s word. Those of us who have believed God’s warning and are prepared will not be here. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 that all believers will be caught up to be with Jesus in “the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). This will leave a confused and fearful world in which there are absolutely no believers.

For the second time in human history for a while there will be no believers on earth. The first time was after Adam sinned until he was restored by God. This removal of all believers is what Paul speaks of when he wrote, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Without the Holy Spirit’s presence in Christ’s church, corruption and wickedness will be unrestrained. Paul gives detailed descriptions of what that will be like in Romans 1:20-32 and 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Jesus gives the days of Noah as a partial description of those days. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:6, 11). Believers are salt and light and by the Holy Spirit act as restrainers on the sinfulness of mankind.

Though we don’t know the day of our departure we do know that it is imminent. That is, it is the next thing to happen on God’s prophetic calendar and it will be without warning. In Paul’s description of that event in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 he says it should bring us comfort. We will only be comforted if we actually believe what Paul has written and our desire to be with Jesus is greater than our desire for this world. God told Abraham what He was about to do because Abraham took God at His word (Genesis 18:17). Those, and only those, who take God at His word will be comforted.

First and Last

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus”

Revelation 22:20

This is the last recorded prayer in the Bible. In difficult and stressful times we are inclined to desire His coming just to be away from our current circumstances but that is just one side of the coin. The other side is a desire to be with Jesus and His righteousness. He is coming to bring an end to sin and death and to take His own to be with Him forever. Just as He did in His first coming Jesus will do so at just the right time, not early and not late (Galatians 4:4-5). Our desire is for Jesus to reign in righteousness and peace but that will only happen when Jesus returns and establishes His earthly kingdom. Then the will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). From the beginning it has been God’s desire to dwell with and in His creation. Our desire is to dwell with God just as it is His desire to dwell with us.

The above prayer, the last recorded, contrasts greatly with the first recorded prayer in the Bible: “So he [Adam] said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself’” (Genesis 3:10). Instead of desiring God’s presence Adam and Eve fled God’s presence. Disobedience will always do that. More than once I avoided my parents as long as I could because I had been disobedient to them. It is the nature of fallen man to not want to face his disobedience and guilt but to try to escape the presence of God. This is the exact opposite of what he should do. Jonah, one of the more notoriously rebellious men in the Bible also wanted to escape the presence of the Lord (Jonah 1:3, 10) but God kept after him.

Between the first recorded prayer (the desire to escape the presence of the Lord) and the last prayer recorded in the Bible (the desire for God’s presence to return) something of tremendous significance happened. That something was Jesus Christ’s first coming to save mankind from sin and death and to restore his proper relationship with God. At Easter we give time to remember and reflect on just how He accomplished that. Instead of fleeing His presence we should draw near to Him because His forgiveness is the only way of taking away our sin and restoring our relationship with God. The book of Revelation reveals that many would rather die than seek forgiveness. However, there will be many who seek and receive forgiveness through Christ.

Making a Difference

“Be still and know that I am God”

Psalm 46:10

A statement a person may make concerning their life is, “I want my life to make a difference.” History records many people who made a difference, some for good and some for evil. There are those who made a difference through exploration, scientific discovery, inventiveness, or the desire for conquest and destruction. For most people the difference is not so obvious.

The desire to make a difference has led some people down paths of passion. They evaluate themselves by assessing whether they are making the difference they envisaged in the field of their choice. This can lead to frustration or extreme actions when they feel they are not succeeding.

Christians may also be drawn into the world of wanting to make a difference. Jesus commands us to be salt and light in the world and make disciples so it is understandable that we will want to make a difference. If we don’t feel of use we may run the risk of feeling a failure and suffer similar feelings as an unbeliever. The desire to be of use to the Lord may lead us to go ahead without Him and Jesus says that will accomplish nothing (John 15:5). There are times when He calls us to come aside and just know Him, that is, be intimate with Him, just the two.

Only He can truly assess if what we are doing is really of use to Him. We may have our own idea of usefulness but it may be far from what the Lord considers of use. Paul said that he wouldn’t even try to assess his own usefulness (1 Corinthians 4:3).

That we worship the Lord out of sight of others may be all the use He desires of us at certain times. For the present the Lord has allowed our faith to be tested by being partly shut off from each other and the world so let us leave our circumstances to Him and follow the psalmist’s council: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” He will be exalted! Continuing to spend time reading our Bibles, praying and communing with God is of much use and pleasure to Him. It is a test of our faith in Him and will prepare us for the days ahead when we are again let loose in the community in what may be very different times. Easter is a special time for us and a good time to reflect and “Be still and know that I am God.” This will make a difference in us and then He can make a difference through us in the world.

God’s Loving Kindness

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever, Amen”

Revelation 7:12

What would provoke angels, elders and the four living creatures standing around the throne of God to worship the Lord with these words? In the previous chapter we read that a quarter of the world’s population had been killed by war and famine. The world will be in unimaginable upheaval. Much worse will follow as four angels stand ready to reap destruction on those still living (7:1). Our Creator is a righteous judge and will judge all sin and unrighteousness but because of what the Lord Jesus accomplished on the cross on our behalf He is able to show mercy and save anyone who will call upon His name.

Another angel seals 144,000 Jews who, in the likeness of the apostle Paul, will preach the Gospel throughout the world. A number beyond counting will put their trust in Jesus and many will be murdered for that faith. John sees them before God’s throne in white robes washed in Christ’s blood (vv 9-14). God Himself will dwell with them (v 15) so it isn’t surprising that there will be no more tears (v 17). At present, we who believe have the privilege and responsibility of sharing the Gospel.

In the midst of God pouring out righteous judgment on a rebellious and unbelieving world He shows His abundant mercy by sending messengers throughout the world with the Good News. In spite of the very real threat and likelihood of being murdered, multitudes choose to believe.

When times of trouble come there are many who will reach out to the Lord provided they are warned and informed of God’s available mercy and forgiveness. In the midst of wrath God remains abundantly merciful and will forgive anyone who comes to Him. Jesus is the Lamb who took away the sin of the world and through whom salvation is offered as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23). “It is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). God’s loving kindness toward people is revealed again in this: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There is no sin, and no sinner, so great that Jesus’ death and shed blood cannot forgive and take away. Even in judgment God remembers mercy. Such is the loving kindness of our God.