Team Hope Ireland Christmas Shoebox Appeal 2020

This post is one of a series related to the Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal 2020. In this time of physical contact restrictions the appeal has had to move online for this year which leads to some unique challenges. The needs have never been greater in the recipient countries so please #TeamUpForTeamHope and contribute generously to the appeal this year.

Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal 2020

This post is one of a series related to the Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal 2020. In this time of physical contact restrictions the appeal has had to move online for this year which leads to some unique challenges. The needs have never been greater in the recipient countries so please #TeamUpForTeamHope and contribute generously to the appeal this year.

Team Hope CSA 2020

This post is one in a series related to the Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal 2020. In this time of physical contact restrictions the appeal has had to move online for this year which leads to some unique challenges. The needs have never been greater in the recipient countries so please #TeamUpForTeamHope and contribute generously to the appeal this year.

Promises, beloved!

]Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

2 Peter 1:1-4 (NAS)

Peter is telling us that God’s divine power – which gives us everything we need to live a godly life- is mediated to us through the promises scattered throughout Scripture.

For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,

“I will dwell in them and walk among them;
And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord.
“And do not touch what is unclean;
And I will welcome you.
18 “And I will be a father to you,
And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,”
Says the Lord Almighty.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

2 Corinthians 6:16-18, 7:1 (NAS)

Paul tells us of the greatest promises in Scripture: God Himself will be a Father to us. He also emphasizes that holiness is required to experience this.

Here are a couple of promises from Proverbs that have helped me this morning:

The fear of the Lord leads to life,
And he who has it will abide in satisfaction;
He will not be visited with evil.

Proverbs 19:23

The righteous man walks in his integrity;
His children are blessed after him.

Proverbs 20:7

Cleansing the Temple

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

John 2:13-22

The Scripture is clear that, in the New Testament, the temple of God is no longer in Jerusalem but it is in the bodies of believers both individually and corporately:

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

1 Cor. 6:19

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22

Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”

Matthew 24:1-2

Therefore it is also clear that Jesus intends the same purity for His spiritual temple, both corporately and individually, that He expressed for the earthly temple in the passage from John 2 quoted above (c.f. Mal. 3:1, Psalm 69:9). We should therefore not be surprised when we encounter various trials (James 1:2, 1 Peter 4:12) – God is cleansing His temple.

Don’t be surprised if everything is upset and in turmoil internally at times. There is a season for everything and this just might be that season for you. God might touch your hard secular work (represented by oxen), your Christian works (represented by sheep), your financial affairs (the money changers) and any other spirits that might be operating on you internally (represented by the doves).

It might have taken 46 years (more or less) to have got your internal state to the place it currently is. When Jesus comes in He could overturn it all in less than an hour and raise it up to something new in 3 days.

Enjoy!

Abiding

He who dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High will rest under the Shadow of the Almighty.

Psalm 91:1

As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

1 John 2:27

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

John 15:4-10

It seems to me that there are few things more important for a Christian to learn and to continue learning about than how to abide in Christ.

This is a spiritual thing, it cannot be learned unless you know that the Spirit of God dwells in you and understand something of what that means for your internal disposition. In other words, like so much of the Christian life, you must be able to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). If you don’t know how to do that then you need to question whether you have ever encountered God and allowed Him to overwhelm you (Matt. 22:37-40).

But presuming you are spiritual, then the great essential thing is to abide in Him (Luke 10:42). This is where the battle is – it means bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4-6), setting your mind on things above (Col. 3:1-3), putting to death the deeds of the flesh (Col. 3:5-8), taking up our cross daily (Matt. 16:24).

But who is able for these things? It is so important we realise that God has a unique road for us to follow that He knows we can do (1 John 2:27, Jer. 29:11, Romans 7:24-25, John 12:26). We are empowered by the Holy Spirit (John 14:12-18) and He can teach us and lead us in a way no man can if we would just fall helplessly into His arms, desperately and fully in love with Him.

Hollywood plots

I stayed up way too late last night binge watching a series on Disney+ called “Agent Carter”.

So here’s the plot: Our hero has to defeat a foe from another dimension which is trying to bring the whole world to hell. The script writers have determined that, no matter how unlikely the odds, our hero will win out in the end, defeat the enemy, find love and ensure that everyone around them lives happily ever after.

The fate of everyone involved in the story depends on their relationship to the hero. During the series it becomes increasingly clear to the various characters that if they side with Agent Carter they will be safe and if they oppose her (yes the hero is a woman) they will come to a sticky end. Again, this is because the script writers have written the story in this way. During the series some of the other main actors encourage one another to do what Agent Carter says.

The parallels are really obvious I guess. God is the Script Writer for all our lives and He has determined that our fates will depend on how we relate to His Hero, Jesus Christ our Saviour. The plot may take some very strange looking twists and turns and at times it may seem like our Hero has to lose. But the Script hasn’t been written that way. As long as we do what He says and live according to His principles (not our own) He will keep us safe into eternity.

We all need to understand the Script and its Author and come to know and follow the Hero.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty (2 Peter 1:16, NKJV).

18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

(Romans 9:18-21, NKJV)

Different ways of seeing

In the middle of Jesus’ discourse on the Holy Spirit in John 14-16 He suddenly says this about Himself:

“A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father” (John 16:16).

His disciples are confused so they repeat the statement:

“A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’;and ‘because I go to the Father” (John 16:17)

Finally, Jesus repeats the statement again before not answering their questions about it (see Proverbs 25:2):

“A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me” (John 16:19)

When something is repeated 3 times in the space of 3 verses you would expect that the Holy Spirit is trying to draw our attention to something. However this is one of those places where the English translations generally miss something important: The first word translated “see” in each verse above is not the same in the original Greek as the second word translated “see”.

The first word translated “see” is the Greek word θεωρεῖτέ (thee -or- rei-te) and is often used in the sense of beholding something with your physical eyes.

The second word translated “see” is the Greek word ὄψεσθέ (ops -es-te) which is often used in the sense of perceiving something.

I am no Greek scholar and, anyway, it is not good to make a doctrine out of a single Greek word difference. But let’s look at a possible distinction in some other ways.

It is of course well known that seeing something can have different depths to it. For example, I might see my wife sitting at the table and perceive that she is very happy about something. Someone else seeing her might not perceive that about her. That person might just see her sitting at the table.

The context of the verses is also very important of course. For all the earlier part of Chapter 16 Jesus had been explaining the role of the Holy Spirit. He explained how (in verse 7) it was to the advantage of the disciples that Jesus went away. By going back to the Father He could send the Holy Spirit. He also explained (in verses 13-15) that the Holy Spirit would speak whatever He hears from Jesus.

So this is what these thrice repeated verses mean: In a little while Jesus was going back to heaven and the disciples would not see Him in the same way again. A little while later (after Pentecost) they would see Him again but this time it would not be physically but in the form of the Holy Spirit. This would require them to see differently since now they needed to perceive and hear some One spiritual. They would no longer have in front of them Jesus in the flesh.

Paul confirms this in 2 Corinthians 5:16b:

“Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.”

Again, the context is important.

A Relevant Application

In the first half of the same verse Paul has this very relevant and important application for our lives, particularly in the context of the current upheavals since the murder of George Floyd:

“Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.” (2 Cor. 5:16a)

The crucial thing is that we perceive the underlying Spirit (or spirit) and character of the people we meet. We ought not to regard people according to their outward appearance including the colour of their skin (see also 1 Samuel 16:7 and Gal. 3:28).

Martin Luther King Jr. made it clear that this was his aspiration also for all people (in his “I have a dream” speech from 1963) :

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day
live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color
of their skin but by the content of their character”

I used to think that that was the whole answer to the race problem – ignore the outside and act according to the inside of someone – but I don’t think that is enough. Now I think we ought to be more aware of the fact that the outside of some people determines how they get treated and think all their lives. Now I think we need to be more proactive as a church and those who call themselves by God’s name in addressing why this is. May God give us all wisdom and much love while we work through this together.

In the end though if we are to consistently see the Bride of Christ as she really is, and all humans as they really are, we have to see them according to their spirit or character and not according to their external appearance.

Time and the Trinity

My daughter (19) had this insight to give us recently during our daily breaking of bread times. We have been doing these together as a family since the lockdown started and it has been a great blessing. There are 6 of us in the house – our family + 1. E. arrived to stay with us a couple of days before the lockdown started supposedly on her way to Greece to work as a missionary among refugees there. However, she found herself stuck with us for two months instead.

But back to the insight.

1. Future, God the Father. Our Father has planned good works for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10) and completely guarantees all our future once we obey.

2. Present, God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells within us and guides us daily as we abide in Him (John 14:16-18).

3. Past, Jesus, God the Son. Jesus has paid the price for all our sins. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

I believe the Holy Spirit prompted me at the beginning of the lockdown to break bread daily with everyone in the house. We each take turns at bringing a word and the results have been very encouraging.

Thor

We are watching a lot of films during this pandemic.

Typically, I will sit down with my two daughters and watch a film most nights. We are going through the Marvel movies on Disney+. Last night we watched the first Thor movie.

Thor is a character from Norse mythology. This particular mythology has been very influential in the writings of C.S. Lewis (Out of the Silent Planet, The Narnia Chronicles, etc.) and J.R.R. Tolkien (Hobbit, Lord of the Rings).

Norse mythology has a God the Father figure (Odin), a son figure (Thor) and a devil figure (Loki).

C.S. Lewis and others like J.R.R. Tolkien often explore in their writings the connections between ancient legends and myths and a universal knowledge of God. They draw upon an understanding that His ways permeates all pagan and ancient societies as well as our current times. Their argument goes that there is something good to be found in all these legends.

Likewise with the Thor film. The major theme of the film is this: Training and redemption of a son of God. We are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26) and because we are sons, God disciplines us (Heb. 12:5-11). In the movie, Thor is a son and heir of the Kingdom (of Asgard) and his father (Odin) wants to give him the authority and power to rule.

However, Thor disqualifies himself through arrogance, pride and being a hot head and is banished by his father to the wilderness of earth and stripped of his power. During his subsequent trials the father seems to be in a coma and apparently unconscious of his needs. To make matters worse his evil brother, Loki, who represents the devil, seems able to take the throne and run amok. Some of his friends try to help but are powerless. In the end a mechanical monster sent by Loki kills Thor and all seems over.

Through all this Thor is humbled and his character improves. His last act is to lay down his life for his love interest and the world.

But, of course, that is not the end. Thor is brought back to life by the power of the father which is invested in the hammer (which even has a triquetra inscribed on it). By the will of the father, the hammer would only give its power to one who was found worthy of it. Thor initially thinks that by using his own physical strength he could wield it but discovers that the hammer does not yield its power to that kind of persuasion.

If we consider the hammer as a simile for the Cross we can see the message more clearly. The Cross only has power because the One who loved the world enough to lay down His life for it, hung on it. Likewise the hammer in the film does not release its power until the one who wields it is found worthy.

Of course there are problems with the film’s depictions. It is not hard to find faults. But as Marvel movie’s go, this one seems to me to be one of the more profitable for a Christian to think about.