I watched one programme on the ABC tonight, about transgendered sex workers. I really felt sorrow for them. They suffered terrible sexual abuse and rejection as kids in the Philippines. Yet the lifestyle they’re now living is repeating all that abuse and keeping them in sin and self-loathing. May they be reached out with the gospel!
Then the next programme (Q&A) had the head of the Hayden Planetarium in New York talking nonsense about making contact with ‘intelligent life’ in outer space. Duh! That Intelligent One has already revealed Himself in the man Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12, 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Mathematical modelling and men in green suits cannot and will not fix man’s problems: only the gospel can.
If Buddhism wishes to destabilise its foundations by syncretising its beliefs with science, then so be it. But for Christians to do so, especially with evolution, is nothing short of a disaster; it contradicts the most foundational truths of how God made the world. All that God has revealed about Himself in Scripture is entirely self-sufficient: it does not need science to help explain it or reveal more about God. One need not understand science at all to comprehend the goodness and power of God. Colossians 2:8-10 reads: Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. This is fact, not mere opinion.
Here is my sermon today on Genesis 50, the book’s final chapter (Gen. 50, c.f. Matthew 28:1-9 were the readings). My apologies in advance for getting the names Joseph and Jacob occasionally mixed up.
This chapter is crucial in the overall narrative of the Bible, as it points to the suffering and gracious forgiveness of Christ through the suffering and forgiveness of Joseph (compare Genesis 50:15-21 to Acts 2:22-24).
What I found most interesting in the narrative today is the way the brothers seek the forgiveness of Joseph. They confect a quote from their dead father to command and manipulate Joseph’s forgiveness. My translation of vv. 16-17 (from Hebrew) reads: So they commanded Joseph, saying, “Thus yourfathercommanded in the face of death, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, pleasecarry the trespasses of your brothers and their sin; for they dealt to you.”’ Now, please, carry the trespasses of the servants of the God of your father.”Notice that the brothers refer to Jacob as ‘your father’ (rather than ‘our father’), thus putting more emotional force on Joseph. This is all the more potent, since Joseph is still grieving Jacob’s death.
Additionally, the verb ‘command’ is twice used here (tzawa) – in the first instance it is used in the Pi’el form, the stronger form of the verb. They’re trying to laying it on Joseph really thickly! Joseph is not only to forgive in obedience to his older brothers as they command, but also in accordance to the “command” of their own recently deceased father (who cannot verify if he actually said those things)! It is very manipulative behaviour on the brothers’ part, and Joseph probably knows that the quite is not bone fide. Yet the brothers overlook the fact that 1) they have already been forgiven; and 2) forgiveness cannot be commanded or guilted out of people!! It’s a free gift! Yet Joseph loves and blesses these undeserving men, as Jesus forgives (50:22-26). Yet sometimes it is hard for us to actually be convinced deep down that we have been forgiven, just as it was hard for Joseph’s brothers to understand that too.
Next week at Georges River Congregational Church, I will be preaching a mini-series on the love of God and what it means in various contexts before moving onto Luke’s gospel. Feel free to pop in and visit us!
From Pastor Haydn: GRCC Church Bulletin Devotion – The Best Reason to Pray
Having looked at why we often don’t pray, the question remains, why pray? After all, if we have so many reasons not to pray – even understandable ones –why do it? We may use Matthew 6:8 to justify it: “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him”. Jesus said this because some of the pious people of His day prayed publicly to be seen as virtuous (6:5) or to be more windy than Scottish bagpipes (6:7). We can pray to God because He cares!
But why does He care? Although God knows what we need He likes to hear from us because He wants relationship, not our information. If my eldest daughter wants to ask me for something, she stand on the corner of George Street and shout to the neighbourhood “Daddy give me a bath!” If my youngest daughter needs food, she doesn’t babble, “Give me lunch. Oh Daddy, give me lunch. Daddy, Daddy, lunch, lunch, give me lunch”. Neither do they use formulas or ye olde 1662 English. Nor do they stay silent and wait for me. If they tried talking to me like that, I might actually stop listening to them! They can talk to me as they would anyone else because that’s what relationship is.
For God it is the same. All we need do is to come to Him as we are. We need not use the ‘right’ words – in fact, we can be totally honest with Him. We can tell Him the dark stuff in our hearts that others may never see (Matt 6:6)! Yet we may think, “What will God think of me if I tell Him all that shocking stuff that I thought about my sister the other day?!” He knows those things even before we think it, but He hasn’t rejected us (Ps. 139:2,4).
Is that not incredible? At one level it is quite shocking, at another it is beyond comforting. The best reason we have to pray is that God cares. He cares about the small stuff, the medium, the large, and the extra-extra large. There is no sin or darkness that He has not seen – even our own. If we don’t give God our burdens, He can He help us with them? He will never say to us ‘Get out of my sight – don’t tell me about that’ as others may have done to us. No, He cares, and if you question that, I encourage you to tell Him all about it, so that He will heal your doubts.
When the LION of Judah was a baby, Herod tried to have him killed (just as Pharaoh did to the baby Moses). Today, the life of an unborn baby has less meaning than a Lion named ‘Cecil’ … Those aborting babies and those agreeing with it, not speaking against it, and voting for politicians who support it will one day face that same LION of Judah and give an answer. Lions aren’t ones to be played with, and the Lion of Judah can never be killed (by hunters); He will reign eternal. Don’t disturb the LoJ; He said that those who harm children will have a better fate had they never been born…
Not everyone is upset about Cecil’s untimely demise. It’s all about perspective folks….LOL
“Australians are tone deaf to religious questions today. We struggle to make sense of things beyond the materialities of life and we flounder in constructing a language of grief, loss and disappointment. We distract ourselves from any serious contemplation of our mortality. This lack of a religious sensibility matters because all people need to be equipped to handle the deepest questions of human life and existence … If Christianity indeed fades into a distant misty past for most Australians, … there will be nothing with which to replace it.”
This comes from an article today on why Australia must not forget its Christian heritage.
Often times I come across people who say they want to get out of sin (and for sin to get out of them). Sometimes they self-initiate this but other times someone else wants me to effect that change. That is often because they presume that I might be able to succeed in that person’s life where they have ‘failed’. Surely, they reason, my son/brother (whatever) will listen to Haydn, because he’s been through the hard road. Problem is, most of the time, they don’t listen – and they especially don’t listen to me because of my background. The issue too is that they’re not only not listening to loving Christian people: they’ve not been listening to God in the first place.
In Zechariah 7, the people of God were rebuked for sin and told to bring justice to Israel. But it says in vv. 11-12: They refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which Yahweh of Armies had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from Yahweh of Armies. The Hebrew literally reads in v. 11, “They made their ears heavy”, like a little kid putting his ear to the table and pretending that daddy never told him to eat his broccoli. The result is “great wrath” (v. 12) because they are messing with the God of Armies; they have dangerously presumed upon His grace. It’s like my kids do when they ask ‘Can I have a biscuit?’ I then say no and they ask again, ‘But daddy can I have a biscuit?’
With some people you can tell them all that God needs for them to hear – and say is as lovingly as possible with all manner of lovely inducements, and yet their ears will still be heavy and they try to shrug it off. It’s not your fault that they’re not listening and, God willing, they will one day wake up. We don’t give up trying – but sometimes it’s best to leave a person be and simply let God do that work in them. More often we can get in the way by trying to make deaf people listen (Ps 1:1). It’s hard, but this is what life is like. If people don’t want to listen and change, us mere human beings cannot affect it our way. It’s God’s to do – in His way and in His timing, and when all is said and done they are responsible for their choices.
Awhile ago I posted on this blog a way of reading Scripture that was established by Benedictine monks; it is called Lectio Divina which, in English (translated from Latin), means ‘holy/divine reading’. It focusses on reading Scripture less as an instruction manual and more as a means of deeply connecting with God the Father in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. I am a huge fan of it and I recently found a blog post that aptly captured what the approach does (below).
In many ways Lectio D. compliments the one-year plan: the one-year gives me the broadest scope of looking into the Bible; for me personally, I am taken deeper into God’s Word than the merely academic study of it. It is thoroughly Spirit-lead, and while it involves methodical steps, its true effectiveness is in it not being mechanically, and legalistically applied. Rather, it is about letting God do the work rather than relying on mental process (Prov. 3:5). Here is what it involves:
A well rounded approach to scripture involves what I call both informational and formational reading. Most Bible studies tends toward the informational side of the equation. Informational study is predominantly about getting to know the Bible stories and the principles presented therein. Formational reading involves taking time to encounter the text in a way that shapes us as disciples. One approach isn’t better than the other. In fact, they feed one another. Lectio is a practice that is very much a formational reading of Scripture.
The Stages of Lectio Divinic Prayer
The four Lectio Divina steps are as follows:
Reading: This first movement consists of slowly and attentively reading a portion of Scripture several times, or perhaps a devotion. You may want to jot down words or phrases that seem to stand out.
Meditation: In this second movement, as the name implies we meditate on the text. This “meditation” is not like Eastern meditation traditions that focus on emptying the mind; rather, the intent of meditation is to engage with the Scriptures with an active mind. For example, you may ponder a phrase or word that arrests your attention in your first readings of the text and ‘sit with it’, wondering how it speaks to your life right now. You may imaginatively place yourself in the story all the while listening for the Holy Spirit to speak within you about the meaning of this text for your life. Another suggestion is to depict what you have read to an artistic representation.
This section is not about merely intellectual digestion of the Word, but engaging the emotions. That is, it is to involve us deeply, even the parts of us that we may be reserved about surrendering to God. To do this, we need to engage all our senses as is possible.
Prayer: In this third movement, speak to God from your heart about what you discover in the text in heart-felt, honest prayer (Ps. 62:8). The Word may convict your heart about something, if so confess and ask for God’s forgiveness. Perhaps confess where you disagree with God’s Word, or with God Himself, to wrestle through with Him all those issues. If the Word touches a hurt, you may seek God’s care. If the Word reveals a calling then from you might pledge yourself to God or ask for guidance.
Contemplation: When all is said and done, this process comes to an end by simply joyfully resting in God’s presence. We offer back to God our loving focus and attention with a heart full of gratitude. This movement focuses in particular on what we need to do in response to what we have learned, which may be something God wants us to do, to enjoy a new revelation of God’s grace, or something to share with others.
Don’t over-think this method or be legalistic about it. The essence of Lectio is slowing down in your reading enough to prayerfully consider what God may be saying to you right now. Chat with God about what you are hearing and then just tarry a few quiet moments in God’s presence. Just prayerfully follow the four stages; the Holy Spirit will do the rest. In some ways I have found this form of reading more valuable to my growth as a disciple than my more academic studies of scripture. Nevertheless, I will repeat what I said earlier, formational and informational reading enhance one another. A mature and holistic study of God’s Word will include both approaches. I hope this post has helped you understand better how to pray through Scripture.
(This is adapted from an article sourced from The Practical Disciple.) The writer of this blog has a great video on prayer journalling:
There are many Christians today insisting (in various ways, and employing defective semantic tricks to support it) that they can be both gay and Christian (e.g. Wes Hill and Justin Lee). But it is a lie. Yes, it is gaining in popularity and yes many Christians don’t understand sexuality enough to counter it, but it is not true … It will horribly mislead those who follow it. (And no, just because sexuality is complex, doesn’t mean we can make up our adventure as we go along.) We can overcome sin and NOT be defined by our struggles, temptations, or past because that is PRECISELY what Jesus achieved on the cross, Titus 2:11-14. I know this from having read God’s Word and from painful experience! You cannot marry sin with a Christian identity, no matter how easy that might make life in the short-term- we must defeat sin or it will defeat us. And those agreeing with this lie and propagating it keep others enslaved in sin. This article rightly tackles this lie.