David Gooding: “To have been so near to Christ on earth, without receiving him and without coming to know him personally, and therefore to be shut out for ever from the glorious company of the saints, while others from distant times and cultures have found the way in—who shall measure the disappointment and frustration of it?”
1 Sam 30:6
David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.
David is in a pretty dire situation at this point. He and his men have joined the Philistines because in Israel they were constantly under threat from Saul. After marching out to attack Israelite forces in chapter 29 (by God’s grace they were sent away before the battle began), they return home and find that the Amalekites have looted their town and taken their wives and children.
The result: The people begin talking about stoning David. But David in light of this tragedy turns to God to find his strength.
Where do you and I turn in times of crisis and disaster? Do we fret and get worried? Do we try to fix it ourselves straight away? Do we turn to friends or family first? What about doctors? Money?
These are all natural responses. But none usually have any helpful affect on the situation – indeed without God’s hand none of them can do anything at all. Instead we should follow David’s example and find strength and comfort in God. God never promises that hardships won’t happen. In fact he promises that if we try to live for him we will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). But he also promises that if we are his people he will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
How do we find strength in God?
- We need to remember his promises. He promises that he works everything for the good of his people – Romans 8:28. He also promises that he uses hardships to build us into who he wants us to be (James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1). That doesn’t make it easy. But we have hope, and it is comforting to know that God has a plan and that he is entirely in control.
- We need to remember that God is faithful and he always keeps his promises. He is merciful and loving. He has rescued his people from sin – and so even though we suffer here and won’t always understand why, we can look forward to heaven when we will suffer no longer (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Revelations 21)
- We pray. We cast our anxieties on God, knowing that he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7, Philippians 4:4-7).
David doesn’t just leave it there though. His men are still distressed and angry. He takes that strength and comfort he has gained from reflecting on God’s character and he acts on it. He and his army go after the Amalekites and God gives them the victory (and as it turns out God had protected all of their family and possessions).
Unlike David, we usually wont have to run after an army. But we do face very real hardships. Trust God and remember his promises and then get up and act. Don’t just worry or be anxious about the situation, seek how best to serve God within it, and do that.
Where do you look for your strength? What do you do with that strength?
Only God can offer strength that lasts – only he gives hope beyond death through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Last week I was away on a camp. To say the least – it was extremely encouraging. The theme for the week was the church, and so we explored what it means to be God’s church. Here are my notes from day one – I know that this post is massive, so I’ve put a summary below in case you don’t have much time.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments the theme of God scattering as judgement (Genesis 11, 2 Kings 25, Deuteronomy 32:26) and gathering as blessing (Ezekiel 11:17, Genesis 12:1-3) is clear.
In Genesis 11, the people were scattered because they were trying to make a name for themselves – not for God. In Contrast, in Genesis 12:1-3 God promises to make Abraham’s name great – for his own glory.
The first time that Israel was gathered as God’s people is at Sinai. (Exodus 19). Hebrews 12:18-29 compares that “gathering” to the spiritual gathering of all Christians, past, present and future, in heaven (Mt Zion). We are in some way spiritually gathered in heaven now, even though we are still here on earth. We are gathered as God’s people even though we are scattered throughout time and place now, and we look forward to when Jesus will return and gather us together in heaven.
The church is God’s gathered people – gathered physically when we come to the local church, and gathered spiritually through Jesus in heaven. When we come together on earth we ae reflecting what is happening in heaven.
What is the point of church? To worship and glorify God. To reflect what is happening in heaven. (Revelations 4).
See also Ephesians 1:3-2:6.
How does the bible describe us as Gods people?
A house, branches, servants, children, Gods family, “the church”
What does the word “church” mean?
The Greek word from the NT is ‘Ekklesia’ which means ‘called out’ or ‘called from’. It’s used to describe a gathering of people – it’s the word used for the riot and the law courts in Acts 19:32, 39.
The first true “church” of Israel.
Read Deuteronomy 9:9-10, 4:1-24.
– Mt Sinai, the giving of the law before they head toward the promised land.
– The law is given/taught, they are told to worship God his way, not their own way and God meets with his people and tells them how to relate to him – church is similar for us, we have Gods word taught to us as we gather together as his people.
The problem at the Tower if Babel is that the people are disobeying God (see chapter 9:1). They’re also trying to make a name for themselves, seeking their own glory not Trying to give God the glory.
– God scatters them and confuses their languages.
In contrast, God promises Abraham in ch12:1-3 that he will make him a great nation – gathering a people instead of scattering.
In the bible scattering is often judgement (e.g. The Tower of Babel or Israels exile), while gathering is related to Gods blessing.
– God promises to gather Abrahams descendants for his own glory – to make a name for himself, not ourselves.
God worked through Moses to rescue Israel from slavery on Egypt and to keep his promises to Abraham – that’s why they are at Sinai (Exodus 19, Deuteronomy 4). At Sinai, God declares that he has saved Israel to be his ‘treasured possession’ and he gives them his law to obey so they can be his ‘Holy Nation’.
Gods people Gathered where God is under Gods word. That’s church.
Sadly over time Israel and their kings rebelled against God and his word. This resulted in judgement and scattering (2 Kings 25) like God had promised (Deut 32:26). Lamentations 1:10 tells us that Gods people were laid waste by their enemies – the Babylonians as Nebuchadnezzar.
BUT even while in judgement and experiencing the horror of exile and scattering, Ezekiel promises to gather them back. (Ezekiel 11:17, 39:25-28).
But this promise of blessing wasn’t just for Israel – Isaiah and Zechariah promise that this salvation will come to include other nations (Isaiah 56:8, Zechariah 8:20-23).
But how and when would this happen?
From Acts 12:5, Galatians 1:13, 1:2, 2 Corinthians 8:1, Acts 8:1, 13:1, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 16:19, Philemon 1:2 and Ephesians 1:15-23 we learn that church refers to: all Christians, a specific group of Christians, separate gatherings of Christians or even just a small gathering of Christians in a house. We are also described as a body and as “brothers” – God’s children.
All Christians are gathered as Gods people even though we are still scattered around the world.
The writer of these verses is telling us that church isn’t like it was in Exodus. Now God s with us personally and we do not have to fear condemnation by the law, because through Jesus our sins are removed.
We are no longer separated from God, but we can approach the mountain (Heaven) (whereas the Israelites could not touch the mountain).
V22 tells us that we have come to the mountain. Through Jesus we are currently spiritually gathered in heaven with all other Christians (past, present and future), worshipping God and made right with him.
The church is of Massive, heavenly significance, and it’s all about Jesus and glorifying God.
Therefore when we come together it’s a reflection of the spiritual reality that we are all gathered as God’s people.
– Side point: Mt Sinai in Exodus was shaken (Exodus 19:18), but Hebrews tells us that our inheritance cannot and will not be shaken – God’s kingdom/Jesus. We will not lose our salvation. What a Great Comfort we have in Jesus!
Through Jesus we are gathered in heaven, even though currently we are scattered as Christians throughout the world.
Why does this matter?
– It moves our perspective from being about us/individuals to being about God and his purpose throughout history
– It moves it from being about me to being about all Christians from all times and in all places, which means all the glory belongs to God.
– It’s all about Jesus! We are no longer condemned and we can come into God’s presence because of what he’s done for us.
Hebrews 12:29 and Deuteronomy 4:24, God hasn’t changed throughout this. This was his plan – not to change himself, but to change us and our state before him through Jesus. The God of the Old Testament is the same God as the one on the New Testament.
God’s goal throughout all history has been to gather a people to himself, for his glory.
Therefore the church, which is the reflection of the heavenly reality has been God’s plan/mission throughout all time. The church is bigger than the local gathering. It’s even bigger then all Christians who are currently alive. It’s all Christians gathered in God’s presence to worship him in his way eternally. Wow!! That’s breath taking!
What is church?
God’s people gathered together through Jesus to praise and worship God.
What is true/acceptable worship (Hebrews 12:28-13:1-3)?
– Be thankful, be in awe of God/worship with reverence by loving one another.
True worship of God doesn’t just happen when we gather together at church. Singing sons isn’t “worship”. Our whole of lives are worship to God.
We worship God by following his law – not because that saves us (for we have been saved already through repentance and faith in Jesus’ death on our behalf). We worship him by obeying him from the heart. That’s how works fit in with Faith!
Consequently, what would you say to someone who says to you:
“Christians at church have let me down again and again. I would prefer to worship God on my own. Besides, we have podcasts and sermons online now to keep me alive.”
How about someone who says
“This means that our local gatherings are but a pale reflection, a half baked attempt at the glorious heavenly reality”
What can we say about our local gatherings in light of the heavenly gathering?
– They are a picture of what is going on spiritually
How has your attitude towards church been challenged or need to change in the light of God’s purposes for his people?
– For me, I need to be more eager to get to church, because it is a chance to glorify God and to reflect what is happening in heaven by being with God’s people and learning about him and worshipping him along with them.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Hebrews 12, Ephesians 1:3-2:6, Revelations 4-5.
– we will undergo discipline as God’s people: he disciplines those he loves. It proves we are his true children.
– In fact, it is sons who are disciplined, and sons are heirs. We are heirs – co-heirs with Jesus. But true heirs will undergo discipline
o Unlike Esau, who sold his birthright because he wasn’t prepared to make his own soup. He didn’t value his inheritance above food.
– We did not come to Mt Sinai where the people were trembling with fear and had to ask that God speak to Moses and not them out of fear
o We have come to Mt Zion, God’s dwelling place – heaven. We are part of the assembly of the Firstborn
– “Have come” is in the perfect tense – it means we are continually there. It has ongoing significance.
– When we gather at church we express this heavenly reality
– At church we hear God’s voice. Do we respect it like the Israelites? We don’t need to fear condemnation, but we should be in awe of God and his word.
– This is absolutely amazing! Do I recognize it when I go to church? We should be overjoyed!
o E.g. R.C. Sproul. When his wife died he went to church straight after. Why? To hear the gospel again, to be with God’s people and to be with his wife. She was with Jesus and in some sense by going to church he was gathering in some way with God’s people in heaven also.
Ephesians 1:3 -2:6
– In heaven is when we will fully receive every spiritual blessing from God in Christ. (v19 – heaven is where Jesus is)
– Ephesians 2:4-6, we have been raised with Jesus and are spiritually seated with him in some way
– In some sense we also proclaim God’s wisdom to the spiritual authorities in Heaven? We explored this later, and it seems to make sense in this:
o Satan seeks our destruction and disunity between us, others and God
o Through Jesus we are saved, made right with God and our relationships can be right when He’s at the centre
o Therefore by being united and coming together at church and studying God’s word and preaching the gospel, Satan’s defeat is proclaimed to him and God’s wisdom is made clear.
– It’s the equivalent of inaugurated escatology – so the end of all things that has started already
o We have eternal life now
o We will be in heaven one day if we are Christians – we can be sure of that. We have this secured, and even though we don’t see it, we know it is the truth. Now, but not yet. We see it by faith.
o We are seated with Christ now.
o As we preach the gospel it is declaring the complete defeat of satan
- The church is an expression of all of this. That is what we are taking part in when we meet together.
– Do we think of heaven as like an eternal church service? It is – and so so so much more full and glorious.
– Revelations is so full of symbols.
o Here the throne is the main symbol. It signifies God’s right as our king. His power and worthiness of praise.
o Note – the king (God) is indescribably. John can only try to describe his appearance with symbols.
o The rainbow ties to the flood in Genesis. It is the promise of mercy and salvation from judgment. It is the promise that he will not judge again – and when we are saved in Christ it is true that we will not face God’s wrath eternally. Jesus is our ark.
o Seven-fold Spirit? 7 is the number for fullness, completeness, wholeness. God’s Holy Spirit is perfect.
- Isaiah 11:2 -The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.
o Lightning and Thunder – potentially link to Mount Sinai
– This is the throne room of the King of Kings. It is glorious. It is terrifying. We are gathered there, and we will be gathered there worshipping him.
– The living creatures (All that is below is speculation)
o Lion, ox, eagle and man – the four main types of living creation? (Livestock, Wild animals on ground and in air, and then man?). All of creation worshipping God? The mightiest of living creation?
o The eyes link to Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1 – All-seeing?
– Regardless, what is clear that they are all worshipping God. Their place in the universe is always to bring Glory to God. Psalm 19.
– 24 elders join in worshipping
o White garments – a symbol of victory? Purity?
o 12 Patriarchs and 12 apostles? Symbolizing all of God’s people worshipping God?
- Maybe not, because in Revelations 14:3 the 144 000 are mentioned separate from the elders, and the 144 000 cleadly represent the Christians.
– All the symbolism isn’t the main point though – don’t get caught up in it.
– This is the point: They are all falling down before God, worshipping him. He created everything. They worship him. They take their crowns, their works, and throw them at God’s feet, worshipping him with all they have.
– God alone has and deserves all glory, honour and praise. He is the creator and nothing compares to him. We were created to bring glory to him! Isn’t that fantastic!! We were made to delight in God above everything else.
– But there is more to it then simply all creation declaring his praises. Chapter 5 talks about the scroll. God’s plans and purposes. And no one can open it.
– Except Jesus. He alone is worthy – for he is God. No one else is worthy to come before God by their own works – we all sin. We have failed. We are not worthy to come before God. Yet in Jesus there is forgiveness and mercy – we are clothed in his righteousness when we put our faith in him.
– Who is this Jesus? This King? This conqueror? This Lion of Judah and Root of Jesse? A lamb. A lamb who had been slain.
o When we think of power, we choose lions, eagles, oxen. Only the Kingdom of God would dare to choose a lamb as its symbol of power and authority.
– At the very centre of this heavenly drama is the lamb – Jesus, slain for our sins. Purchasing humanity for himself with his blood. The gospel is the centre-piece of everything.
– He was slain so that people of every nation can enter God’s kingdom. Heaven will be full of people from every nation!
– That is Glorious!
– Verse 11 – Jesus is worthy of all praise
The church is the earthly picture of all that is described here.
We were created for God’s glory, and Jesus is the centrepiece of that. By his grace and his death and resurrection on our behalf we can come before God in praise for all eternity. How fantastic is that!
– How do I do that now?
o When I go to church with people who, like me, are sinful, I need to remember and be overjoyed that I am being part of this wider worship of God.
o Love the church, get involved.
(Note: Escatological = End times, Doxological = Giving God the glory. The church is all about glorifying God.)
(Note: Eschatological = End times, Doxological = Giving God the glory. The church is all about glorifying God.)
The church is a group of people gathered by the gospel into eschatological and doxological fellowship with God… (This will get expanded on in the other talks)
I’ve been reading Ezekiel and was looking at ch 43 today – here’s v9:
Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever. (Ezekiel 43:9 ESV).
The reality of the situation is we are utterly depraved and wretched. We have disobeyed God and rejected him. And we cannot just put away our sin because no matter how hard we try, we still fail and are still sinful.
But God in his mercy chose to dwell with us in the form of Jesus, and he sent him – his son – into the world as a man to live the perfect life that we couldn’t live. And at Gods timing we murdered Jesus. We killed the son of God. The God-man. But in his glorious grace, that was Gods plan – to take the sin of his people (those he was and is gathering to himself throughout history) and lay it on Jesus. When Jesus died he took the sin of his people as Gods punishment against it so we can be saved. When Jesus died he took my sin, he took Gods wrath against that sin and he clothed me with his perfect righteousness so I can be adopted as a son of God and made one of his people. That came into effect when I became a Christian – when I repented I my sin and put my faith in Jesus as the only one go can save.
Through faith alone our sins are put on Jesus. They are removed. So God can dwell with us. And so we can eternally glorify him like we were created to do. We do that in church, in life and we look forward to when we will do it more fully and perfectly in heaven. That is the gospel. That is Gods overarching plan throughout history.
Isn’t it glorious!
NIGERIA: Continue to Pray For Nigerian Kidnap Victims
Three months after the kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls, the Islamic militant leader behind the abduction surfaced in a video on Sunday with a defiant and dismissive message.
For 90 days the families of the more than 200 girls had hoped for good news. Instead, their hopes were met with scorn in a new video from Boko Haram leader Abubaker Shekau, who mocks the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign.
The social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls quickly drew worldwide attention to the plight of the Chibok schoolgirls. But just as quickly, it faded from the global spotlight. And in that time Boko Haram has stepped up its terror campaign. In the new video, Shekau claims responsibility for a June bomb blast in the capital, Abuja, which left 21 dead.
So far the Nigerian government has appeared impotent in the face of the increasingly brazen Boko Haram attacks; they have all but ruled out a military rescue as it could further endanger the lives of the girls.
In the three months alone since the raid at the school in Chibok, Boko Haram has carried out nine major gun and bomb attacks, adding another 1,100 victims to the 5,000 it has already claimed since 2009. In its heartlands in north-east Nigeria, it continues to gain the upper hand against the Nigerian military, despite President Jonathan deploying vast numbers of troops.
“We have no idea when they might suddenly attack again,” said Henry Wasi, 46, whose 16-year-old daughter is among the 223 girls still missing.”My wife is praying every day at the church, because she knows it is now only God who will bring back our girls.”
There was a measure of comfort for the Chibok parents on Sunday when they were visited by Malala Yousefzai, the young Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for also having the audacity to seek an education.
Sources: The Telegraph, CBS News
- Ask the Lord to hear the cries of the girls and their families and deliver the girls from their current torment.
- Pray that the believers in Nigeria will continue to find their daily strength from our Lord so that they may faithfully serve Him.
- Ask Him to intervene whether through the government and military or by His miraculous hand to bring an end to the violence in Nigeria.
COLOMBIA: Pray for Family of Murdered Pastor and Teenage Son
Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) killed a pastor and his oldest son recently after the pastor refused to shut down his church or allow them to recruit his oldest son and daughter.
The FARC guerrillas confronted the pastor three months ago because he had reopened a church located in a red zone. They told the pastor that if he didn’t allow them to recruit his two oldest children he would have to close his church. When he refused to do either, they immediately killed the pastor and his son.
The pastor’s wife is now left to care for the couple’s three daughters alone.
Source: Voice of the Martyrs USA
- Pray God will comfort and strengthen this widow and her daughters; pray He will be their provider and protector.
- Ask Him to strengthen their faith and draw them into a deeper relationship with Him.
- Pray these deaths will not be in vain, that the Lord may use this tragedy to somehow benefit His church in Colombia and reveal Himself to many members of FARC.
IRAN: House Church Members Imprisoned for their Faith
Mohammad Roghangir and Suroush Saraie were arrested on Saturday 5 July in Bandar Azali in northern Iran. It is believed that they have been taken to Shiraz prison in order to serve sentences handed down in July 2013.
On 12 October 2012 seven believers were arrested in a raid on a prayer meeting in Shiraz. Mohammad and Suroush were among them. Although they were released from detention on 19 March 2013, they were then tried on 16 July 2013. Mohammad was sentenced to six years in prison and Suroush received two and half years. They remained at liberty pending an appeal which was subsequently rejected.
The leader of an associated fellowship, Abdolreza Haghnejad (also known as Matthias), was also arrested on 5 July. Security officials raided his home in Rasht and confiscated Christian materials, including Bibles. He has yet to be charged.
Source: Middle East Concern
- Pray Mohammad, Suroush, Abdolreza and their loved ones will experience the Lord’s sustaining and strengthening presence during this time.
- Pray that God will provide opportunities for all Iranian Christians in prison to clearly share the Gospel with fellow prisoners and guards (Colossians 4:2-3).
- Pray against the government’s campaign to stop the spread of Christianity.
I have 36 draft posts waiting to get finished off.
Yet I’ve just been so flat out that I haven’t been able to keep consistent with this blog! It’s annoying, but also so cool and encouraging that God is keeping me busy and constantly opening up more doors to live for him.
If you haven’t today, then go, read the bible and pray.
CHINA: Pastor Zhang Shaojie Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison
Pastor Zhang Shaojie of Nanle Country Christian Church, Henan Province, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order”; he has also been fined 100,000 RMB (approximately AU$17,000).
Over 20 members of Nanle County Christian Church, Henan, which belongs to the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement, were detained without formal documentation in November 2013. Church members, lawyers and Christians visiting the family of detained Protestant Pastor Zhang Shaojie were beaten, harassed and detained by ‘hired thugs’, police and government agencies in December 2013. Six church members arrested in November and December 2013 remain in detention.
The date for Pastor Zhang’s trial was changed several times and the trial itself was suspended amid concerns about the authenticity of the witnesses’ testimonies. Pastor Zhang was also left with no option but to dismiss his original lawyers when it appeared they were at risk of losing their licences.
The sentence comes just months after a spate of forced demolitions and the removal of religious symbols from churches in Zhejiang Province prompted fears among some Chinese Christians of increasing restrictions on both state-sanctioned and unregistered congregations by the government.
Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide
- Pray for Pastor Zhang, that he will not lose heart but continue to trust in the Lord; pray he will abandon all glory in order to come into a deeper relationship with Christ. (Philippians 3:7-10).
- Pray the Christians will not be fearful of the authorities and will not give up meeting together.
- Pray those in authority may know of Christ’s love and forgiveness by the witness of Pastor Zhang and his church family.
LAOS: Christians Arrested; Falsely Accused of Murder
Five Christians in Laos have been charged with murder after a sick woman, who sought prayer from a local church, converted to Christianity and later died of an unknown illness.
According to reports, Mrs Chan was sick with an unknown illness for two years and had approached the local church for prayer. After her health improved for a short while, she and her eight grown-up children became Christians. Her health later declined and she passed away on 22 June.
Since Christians are denied burial rights in the local cemetery, the children gained permission from the village chief for a Christian burial ceremony to be performed for their mother on their own property. However, the permission was later retracted and the children were informed that a burial ceremony could only take place if they signed an affidavit recanting their Christian faith. The children refused to do this.
On 23 June, a local church leader made an appeal to the district chief regarding the incident. The day following the appeal, the complainant, three other church leaders and a lay person were arrested and charged with the murder of the Christian woman.
Sources: World Evangelical Alliance, Barnabas Fund, Agenzia Fides
- Pray for those arrested, that the Lord would grant them His protection while they are in custody; pray they will be cleared of all charges and released.
- Pray the Christians would not fear, but trust God during this time of trial.
- Ask the Lord to use this case as a demonstration of faithful Christian witness to be used by Him to further extend His kingdom in Laos.
TANZANIA: Pray for Pastors Charged with Blasphemy
A group of 43 Tanzanian pastors, most former Muslims, have been charged with blasphemy for teaching biblical foundations to their church members.
In addition, they have been fined the equivalent of nearly AU$3,000, which they are paying in order to continue their ministry work and to avoid multiple court hearings.
If convicted of blasphemy, they could face up to 14 years in prison. Many of the pastors have been persecuted by their families and continue to face pressure in the largely Muslim areas where they work.
Source: Voice of the Martyrs USA
- Pray the Lord will grant these pastors courage, strength and peace during this time of great suffering and uncertainly.
- Pray against the convictions; pray they will be released to continue in their important work.
- Pray for the authorities and the families of the pastors; pray the Lord will work in their hearts to bring them to repentance.