During my study for Exodus 14, I encountered a connection between the account of Israel’s enslavement in Egypt and Israel’s enslavement in Babylon. I thought this too technical and long-winded to talk about on Sunday so I’m posting some ideas here for you to read instead.
I’ll open the discussion with these verses from Isaiah 43:16–17 where Isaiah (writing to exiles) is writing about Israel’s deliverance from Babylon – yet wanting his readers to understand that this release as another Exodus:
This is what the LORD says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick.
The context of this passage is the same as our passage in Exodus 14 – Israel’s unfaithfulness and God’s mercy. Notice that in this passage above God promises that He will bring Israel out of Babylon despite the fact that they have forgotten how God is (note the major theme of Exodus is about reminding Israel who God is). God is, in effect, reminding the Israelites that He has done this kind of thing before and He will certainly do it again. The departure from Babylon will be another Exodus.
Of course, to most readers of the Bible, the parallels that exist between Israel’s enslavement in Egypt and their exile in Babylon are pretty straightforward. Here’s the summary:
Israel is in a foreign land
Israel is held against their will
Israel needs to be delivered
Israel is in need of divine intervention in order to deliver them
Ok. Good so far, but let’s delve a little deeper.
There is a theological connection between Genesis 1 and the creation story, and these two events. Recall that in both the exodus and the return from exile God displays His power in a mighty way, resembling what he had previously done in creation. It’s too much to explore all of it here so I’ll give you an example from Isaiah 51:9–10:
Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength,
O arm of the LORD;
awake, as in days gone by,
as in generations of old.
Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces,
who pierced that monster through?
Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
who made a road in the depths of the sea
so that the redeemed might cross over?
Notice a couple of things: Isaiah is calling us to remember the works of God “in days gone by,” and “in generations of old.” The way those acts are described is most certainly a reference to Exodus 14 when God parted the Red Sea. The interesting twist actually appears in his reference to “Rahab” who He cut into pieces. Huh! Now that’s not something we read about in Joshua where the story of Rahab appears. It’s also not remembered in Hebrews 11 where Rahab is illustrated as a woman of remarkable faith.
So who is this “Rahab”? Well, the Near East is filled with stories about who the world came into existence. One of those stories depicts a world in conflict and the creation as the subduing of the sea creature called “Rahab”. As the story goes, it was necessary to tame this monster so that the world could be inhabited. Whichever “god” won the struggle was elevated to the highest order of “god” over other “gods”. In other words, Isaiah is saying that God won this “struggle” against Rahab and by doing so has tamed the chaotic waters.
So, we now see a little more clearly the connection between the cutting into pieces of Rahab and the dividing of the waters of the Red Sea i.e. the power God displayed over the Red Sea in Exodus is another slaying of Rahab.
Isaiah 30:7 and Psalm 87:4 as two further examples of how the writers make a connection between Egypt and Babylon.
Now think about another angle. Think about Pharaoh as Rahab. Isn’t Pharaoh seen as a chaotic figure who is bent on lifting himself up and encroaching on God’s created order? Wasn’t it Pharoah who was preventing God’s creation mandate to humankind to be “fruitful and multiply”. Wasn’t it also Pharoah who was preventing God’s promise to Abraham from taking place? Wasn’t that the purpose of the plagues? To reverse creation back into chaos? These punishments are the reintroduction of the watery chaos found in Genesis 1:2 and the death of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea is the final climatic end to this struggle between the true God and the monster Rahab/Pharoah, where, once again, the waters are tamed.
What happens, in the end, to the Egyptian army (and more importantly) to Pharaoh? He is swallowed by the sea. What happens at the end of the story … I mean … the real end of the story? In Revelation 18:21 we’re told that Babylon “is thrown into the sea.
Curiously, in the new world, there is no sea. (Rev 21:1). There is never the opportunity again, for chaos to reign.
Woah! What an amazing time we had last weekend at our Church Away Day. Here are my highlights:
The incredible service from our Life Groups – particular thanks to Geoff for the scavenger hunt, Felista for the rounders, paul for transporting our kit and Esther for the all-day tea and coffee service!
The BBQ was delicious – thanks Ollie!
The skittles competition was so much fun! I was just pleased Lorrie didn’t beat me!!! Thanks to Joe and Ali for organising this.
Watching Bill play zip zap boing – there is a video somewhere!
Our song for the day was “King Forevermore”. The lines that really resonated around the hall “Lifted high, the sinless man
Crucified, the spotless Lamb, Buried by the sons of man, Rescued by the Father’s hand, To reign as King forever”. That’s to Chris, Joe and the team for leading so well!
There also seemed to be a genuine desire for us to do all things together – this really just made my day.
Our theme was Hebrews 13:20-21 and the two talks were focussed around how “God equips us in everything good to do His will”. We said:
Christians are generally blind to two things: Sin’s power and presence; God’s provision and process
We underestimate sin’s power over us and sin’s presence in us
We also undervalue God’s provision for sin and the process He takes to rid us of it
We are sheep in need of a Shepherd (v 20)
As long as Jesus is alive, I’m alive because He is alive in me (v 20)
God is working for my growth not my comfort (v21)
Some of the take-homes were:
Are we growing in our affection of Jesus?
Do we have a discernible spirit of repentance?
Do I have a personal responsibility for my spiritual growth?
Do I have a growing love for God and love for my neighbour?
We had such a good time that we’ve booked the same venue for next year. Date is to be confirmed!
Every now and then I get asked what I’m listening to. As a musician, I find it incredibly difficult to find music that I just like listening to. In my opinion, so much music, Christian and secular, is overly commercial and extraordinary “samey”. So if you’re looking for some new tunes here’s what my current playlist looks like:
Strings of Light – Yussef Kamaal.
If you like British Jazz with a twist of electronic Dance Music then you’re in for a treat. Listen here
Nicotine – Meg Lawrenson
Of course, she is never far from my playlist – not only is she a crazy wonderful daughter … she’s become a really awesome singer-songwriter. Listen here
Mausoleum – Seryn
This starts as a pretty chilled out vibe – perfect for a sunny Saturday morning! Some profound lyrics … “In the walls of the mausoleum, And we’re all just trying to reach the other side” Listen here
Endless – Portico Quartet
Portico Quartet are an instrumental band from London and are well known for their use of the Hang (a weird but cool modern percussion instrument – think Steel Pan meets Cajon). Listen here
Our Lady – Mark Guilians Jazz Quartet
Sorry … if you don’t like Jazz then you can skip this one too. Listen here
Tico Tico – The Black Market Trust
On Tuesday I spend the day playing this on my sax with the Royal Marines Band Service so it’s standard .. gotta be on my list. Listen here
Symphony No 7 Op 92: Allegretto – Beethoven
This is another work-related piece. One of my ensembles that I direct are playing this in concert this week so again, gotta be on my list Listen here
King Forevermore (God The Uncreated One) – The A Cappella Company
How’s this for a choral version of one of my favourite songs – King Forever! Listen here
In our studies in the book of Exodus, we have discovered that God is at war with the gods of Egypt, but who exactly are these gods and why are so many pages of Scripture given to talk about these “other gods”?
The gods of Egypt
There has been a lot written about the gods that the Egyptians worshipped and how the God of the Bible, seeking to release the Hebrews of slavery, proved that He alone is the God to be worshipped. The Egyptians deified a great many things: the river Nile, bulls, frogs, thunder, the sky etc. They believed that since certain things were valuable to life there must be some kind of power in the background that orchestrates it. For example, they saw the power of the life-giving Nile river, how everything around it was green and good (particularly when contrasted with the desert) and as the seasons came and went – and prosperity with it – they concluded that they must be a “person” directing and empowering the movement and flow of the Nile.
So, one by one, God comes against these things that the Egyptians attributed to a, or many gods. But are there actually “gods” behind these things?
Well, when we look outside of the book of Exodus we see that the entire Bible is literally full of references to “other gods”. Verses like:
“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment”. (Psalm 82:1)
“There is none like you among the gods, O Lord” (Psalm 86:8)
“For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods” (Psalm 96:4)
One of the most extraordinary verses is actually found in Deuteronomy 4:19 where God forbids the Israelites from worshipping “the sun, the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven . . . [which] Yahweh your God has allotted to all the peoples everywhere under heaven.” In other words, they were told not to worship other gods, not because those gods did not exist, but because they were supposed to rule other peoples, not God’s people.
Turning to the New Testament we see that there is, again, an acknowledgement that other gods do actually exist and they are not just personifications of natural things. Paul, writing to the church in Corinth explained:
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
Paul acknowledges that there is a REAL “personality” with REAL power that is REALLY invested in the life of this world. Further, Paul writes about the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers and the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12) whom he has “disarmed” and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” (Colossians 2:15).
So it’s clear, just from a brief examination of Scripture that there are actual forces that power certain things that pertain to life here in this world. They are not personifications of natural events or occurrences but they rule, having cosmic power to wield evil.
Why is it important to understand “other gods”?
Jesus said that Satan, the chief “other god”, is the “father of lies” (John 8:44). Paul says that he can actually appear like an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14–15). Additionally, Paul says, his servants also disguise themselves as “servants of righteousness”. This has a number of implications for us each and every day:
What in the world is going on?
Theologian N. T. Wright helps us to understand why this cosmos seems to be at war, both spiritually and politically. There is a world, unseen, that is hostile to God and His people. It is no surprise that history is full of conflict, because its driving animus is conflict between supernatural forces, which are visibly represented by both religious and political communities. In other words, the reason we see so much conflict around the world is because of what powers conflict. When people say that religion is the root cause of war I believe it! Why? Because wars between nations were really only the shadowy surface of the deeper and more fundamental combat between spiritual powers. Daniel 10 suggests that these powers and principalities that Paul writes about in Ephesians 6 are located to geographical areas, responsible for empowering Kings and nations. If that is true it’s hard to suggest any other reason for worldwide conflict. For a really interesting read, I’d suggest Clinton Arnold’s book ‘Power and Magic: The Concept of Power in Ephesians” as well as Samuel Huntington’s classic “Clash of Civilizations”.
False teaching and false apostles
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he is making the point that since Satan and his followers are able to disguise themselves as something that they are not, so too can false teachers and false apostles. He writes:
such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11:13-14)
Paul is making the point that we need to be careful about who our Biblical teachers are, and what we believe about God, because the source of the teaching may actually be false. Paul wrote to Timothy and said:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:3–4
This absolutely typifies the current spiritual climate of churches up and down the country. Notice what Paul says:
The time will come – that’s a certain truth
people will not endure sound teaching
preferring instead to “accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” – the word accumulate means to “pile up in heaps”. The thing they are piling up is “teachers” who tell them what they want to hear.
as a result, they “will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths”
Peter says that “there will be false teachers among you.” (2 Peter 2:1). Peter isn’t writing about what is taking place “out there”, apart from the church. Notice those words “among you”. He is writing about the people in the local church, members of a local congregation. Satan is the counterfeiter. . . . He has a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9), preached by false ministers (2 Corinthians 11:13-12), producing false Christians (2 Corinthians 11:26). . . . Satan plants his counterfeits wherever God plants true believers (Matthew 13:38).
We must be careful and we must not be ignorant. There are powers behind false teaching. The authority of the Bible must take centre stage.
Where is our power from?
Perhaps the biggest implication for us is re regard to our own sanctification. This is exactly how Paul frames “other gods” in Ephesians 6:10-20. The summary: the Christian’s opponents are superhuman spiritual forces and so mere human resources will not work. Be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) – rely on the power and protection of God, embracing the Word of God through specific obedience and fervent and focused prayer.
The reality is that many Christians rely too much on themselves and not enough on the grace of God. In this famous passage, Paul is clearly calling believers to stand firm, not on their own ability or effort, but in the grace of God.
Every now and then I post a list of links to articles, blog posts and interesting things I’ve been reading this week. So, stand by, here’s this weeks list:
This week .. the book of Romans four times. Once in the ESV and three times in the NLT. Favourite part Romans 16:25-27 – “25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from[f] faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
I Hate “Hate Speech”
Pastor, author, and blogger, David Robertson regularly engages with difficult topics and I appreciate the way he writes, as well as his insight. Here is a great post on hate speech
Where do our thoughts come from?
In her book “Am I Just My Brain”, neuroscientist Sharon Dirckx lays out the current understanding of who we are from biologists, philosophers, theologians and psychologists, and points towards a bigger picture, that suggests answers to the fundamental questions of our existence. Not just “What am I?”, but “Who am I?”—and “Why am I?. The blog post introducing the book is here
Stop praying “be with” prayers
Alister Begg is a firm favourite of mine and as I was reading the above post I also discovered this gem of a post
Calvary Global statement on women in ministry
There is not much to say about this one but I’m grateful that the CGN leadership have clearly articulated what they believe. Here’s the link
Jane Nelsen, author of the Positive Discipline books reveals some positive strategies of rebellious and defiant teenagers. Even though Nelsen comes from a humanistic psychology perspective there were some great nuggets like “connect before correct” and the idea that teens need belonging and significance – which I am trying to relate to the hundreds of teens I interact with every day.
In this weeks episode my friend Mike Neglia presents a podcast on “Clear Communication Only comes through critical thinking” which is definitely one of the episodes I need to listen to again, with a pen in hand
The Gospel-Driven Church: Uniting Church Growth Dreams with the Metrics of Grace
I’ve just started reading this .. I’ll let you know how it goes! For those interested, here’s the book
Why I’m Not A Calvinist
Oooh, controversial (but true) and .. I’m just saying …. I watched it. That’s all 🙂 Here’s the video
Learn How To Do Apologetics in the Twenty-First Century with Ravi Zacharias
In this message Dr. Ravi Zacharias shares strategies for answering faith questions in the twenty-first century. Worth your time. Here’s the video
It might be supernatural, it doesn’t mean it’s God. Don’t validate everything that’s miraculous as the Kingdom. @mrbeechy
If Paul showed up in one of our “churches,” I think we would get a letter. @lensweet
We made an astonishing find in the Galilee this week, 3000 year old standing stone @chris_sinkinson
Moralism divides the world into bad people and good people. The gospel divides the world into bad people and Jesus. @MattSmethurst
Pastors are never instructed by God to preach “what is on their heart.” We are solemnly charged to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Text-driven preaching produces thoroughly equipped men and women. The tools I can equip my congregation with come directly from the Biblical text. @jakegwright
The greatest stumbling block for a child in worship is a parent who doesn’t @johnpiper
What a fantastic start to the Calvary Chapel UK Pastors and Leaders conference! Worship, prayer and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit! @Darnold317
I love to sing! There is something gloriously primitive and powerful in the human voice. For most, it’s a raw, unpolished, stomach wielding expression of emotion. The trouble is, those that are outside of the church, often, sing better than we do. Think about it … The football Europa Cup Final last week saw two teams being cheered on by thousands of fans who were all … singing.
Singing like their team depended on their raw, unpolished, stomach wielding voices to lift them and motivate them to score a goal.
Singing as if no one else is listening (apart from their team)
Of course, the stark contrast is that for Chelsea and Arsenal fans the 22 players on the football pitch need help. Out God does not need help.
“You only sing when you’re winning”
Such is the chant from the seats in the stadium when the opposing team are losing.
Such is the fickle nature of our church worship. We sing when we “feel” like it. When we sense God working. When we are on the mountain it’s easy to sing. Not so much in the valley. Not so much when we don’t like the song because it doesn’t fit our tradition.
At yet God is wining .. all the time … so much so that God’s victory, this side of the cross, is always explained in the past tense. That means that we don’t cheer God on so as to motivate Him to try harder and score a goal.
We sing because the battle is over.
We sing because in Christ we’ve won.
We sing wherever we find ourselves, on the mountain or in the valley
“….. top of the league ….. top of the League”
“Chelsea top of the League”
“United top of the League”
“Southampton top of the League” …… (as if, but we can hope)
It is possible … probably pretty likely … that we don’t always get that into our hearts and minds. Sometimes I can believe something with my mind but not really embrace it with my heart.
So when Paul addresses the messiness of the Corinthian church he throws out this gem about the relationship between our spirit and our mind:
What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. (1 Corinthians 14:15 ESV)
Singing powerfully cements truths into our conscious life. Think about your school days … learning the alphabet song, the periodic table song etc etc. Attempts by the teacher to cement truths into you.
This means that we do have to be mindful about the sort of songs that we sing. At Calvary we take each song on its own merit – is it true and is it helpful? But it also means that a powerful way to disciple each other is to sing.
“Oh when the Saints go marching in”
If you head down to St Mary’s Stadium on any given home game you will most definitely hear this song. Like many around the country, it’s a song about community and belonging. (This particular one is borrowed from the tradition of African-American Spirituals that were around in the late 19th century. Given the historical connection that Southampton Football Club has to the church this song has worked, it’s way onto the terraces of St Mary’s Stadium). Songs like this are not unique. Each club up and down the country have their own version of songs encouraging community and belonging that are based around a common truth.
“You’ll never walk Alone” – Liverpool
“Marching on Together” – Leeds United
“United Road take me Home” – Manchester United
“We’ll keep the blue flag flying high” – Chelsea
When we think about singing in church we actually see a very similar scene. The church is a community that has been formed in response to the gospel. Singing together is a way that we rehearse the great truths of God’s grace that have been extended to us. Singing like this forges devotion and moves us from understanding gospel truth to living a gospel response.
The gospel should make us want to sing but not perform
Worship in wonder but not put on a show.
Singing together brings us closer together.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” (Romans 15:5-10 ESV)
“We are the Champions”
Originally a 1977 song by the rock band Queen it’s found its way onto the football terraces and is sung by fans around the country when they win a game or trophy. It’s sung to remind each other (and the opposition) just in fact who has won.
I find this fascinating because if we just face the facts it’s clear about who the victors are – we have the score sheet to prove it. And yet, there seems to be a need to sing about it. To make a proclamation that it is indeed true. To perhaps … even … dare I say … mock the opposition. To declare again and again, over and over – so that you NEVER forget – “we are the champions”.
And that’s the problem isn’t it? I’m forgetful. Your problem is, you are too. I need you to sing loudly beside me this Sunday because I’m prone to forget the glorious realities of grace and salvation. I need to know that it works for people like me. I need to see losers and strugglers, who can’t sing in tune or hit those high notes, reminding me that Christ is sufficient for my messy life.
This is why the Psalmist writes: “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you” (Psalms 22:22 ESV)
“We’re going up”
Singing is a brief taste of heaven.
Praise is faith lived out through voices.
Our ragged choir of losers is a grad display of the power of the gospel.
But the story hasn’t ended. It’s really only just begun. Our singing together is an affirmation that soon this life will be done and even though the road can sometimes be incredibly hard, we’re on our way to the top of the league.
We’re going up
Singing helps me to lift my gaze to my home.
To thrones above.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we first begun.
As we are studying through the Book of Exodus we wanted to focus on a number of songs that really compliment how we see God speaking to us in this book. I’m sharing them here with you so that you can get to know them during the week and come ready to give your whole heart and mind to singing on Sunday.
If you’re a Spotify user we have a playlist – click here – otherwise here are the YouTube links:
So it’s Mental Health Awareness week so I’ve decided to write a short series of blog posts about how the Bible speaks about, and into, our mental health. This post is rather short but so very fundamental.
There are two keys to understanding mental health from a biblical point of view:
1. behind every emotion is a theological statement
2. every dysfunctional, fallen emotion is a distortion of God’s original, pre-fall design
So let’s explore these a little bit. Firstly the idea that behind every emotion is a theological statement.
Let’s take the common idea of “glass half full / half empty” issue and apply it to what the Bible says. For the Christian, optimism – “glass is half full” – is naive. Why? Well, primarily because we believe what the Bible says about sin and about fallen human nature. Often the optimism simply has a theologically shallow view of the human condition. Equally however, the pessimism of “glass is half empty” is atheistic. Why? because it forgets that God is sovereign. It acts as though God is not on His throne. Often the pessimist simply has a theologically shallow view of God’s Rule.
How does the gospel change this? By standing in contrast to both to these. It not only identifies the true nature of humans but it also declares that God in His sovereignty has done something about it. The message is that Jesus is crucified, has risen from the dead, is alive on the throne, and is coming back with His Kingdom.
That first foundation for understanding biblical mental well-being is that behind every emotion is a theological belief. What we believe about God is the most important thing about us, says Tozer.
Now, the second point is this: every dysfunctional, fallen emotion is a distortion of God’s original, pre-fall design. This idea promotes the fact that God designed us with emotions and since He declared all things to be good at His creation, this includes emotions. However, since we are fallen, we now experience emotions in a deeply broken way. Emotions are not as God intended them to be.
Future posts in this series will start to unpack these issues one by one and give some suggests to keep our minds healthy.
Note: none of this is intended to replace medical advice. It is right and proper that those who are struggling in these areas contact their GP who can offer help.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and so this post is part of a series of posts on that topic. This post is primarily about anxiety – I’ll explain what it is from a biblical point of view and then I’ll try and give you some biblical, Christ-honouring, gospel centred strategies to help overcome unhealthy anxiety and find joy.
The passage of Scripture that I always turn to when thinking about anxiety is Philippians 4:4-6 where both joy and anxiety collide.
Philippians 4:4–6 (ESV) — 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
It’s hard to deny that one of the core themes of our faith is joy. As Christians we’re supposed to be filled with joy. Paul wrote:
Romans 14:17 (ESV) — 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Joy is the biblical cure of despondency. It’s the cure of complaining and grumbling. It’s the cure to emotional weakness:
Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV) — ….the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
What that means is that you and I will never be strong Christians if we don’t decide to rejoice, because the joy of the Lord is a stronghold.
In another post, I’ve written about the two fundamental ideas to understanding emotions and if you haven’t read that yet I’d encourage you to click here and read it before carrying on otherwise what you’re about to read may not make sense.
The theological statement that is behind our joy is this: Jesus is alive.
The pre-fall version of anxiety is this: anxiety was a good emotion turned bad.
If it’s true, from my previous post, that all unhealthy mental struggles are the product of the fall and what originally intended for good has been “made crooked”. What then about anxiety? Well, let’s go back to the time when there wasn’t anything crooked … the Garden of Eden. Is it possible that we see the good emotion that has turned into anxiety?
Genesis 2:15 tells us that The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. that phrase “keep it” means to watch over or keep vigil. It’s a God-given emotion that urges us to act quickly in response to a threat – and this is good – and this is the pre-fall version of anxiety.
What happens then is that threat comes (and fear comes because we feel uncertain about our resources in the face of danger) and we can either choose at that moment to turn to God in faith or take matters into our own hands.
Vigilance minus faith will always produce one of two behaviours: we either choose to be a warrior or worrier (anger or anxiety). Interestingly enough, according to the bible, anger is the fight response to a threat – it’s vigilante justice – it’s the warrior action. The angry person is just as fearful and terrified as the anxious person but the response is just different. Anxiety, however, is the flight response to a threat. It’s vigil without action – it’s the worrier action.
Adam experienced both when he fell. He hid in the garden (Gen 3:8-10) – that was his flight response but He also blamed his wife (3:11-12) for the original sin – that was his fight response.
It would be good to think about your own typical response to fear and threat. Are you one that fights or flights?
Ok, so having laid some groundwork for our understanding about anxiety, what difference does the gospel make?
Well read how Paul describes Jesus in 1 Cor 15:
1 Corinthians 15:45 (NLT) — 45 The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit.
That’s basically the summary of the Bible: the first man, Adam, who was created, put into a garden and fell – and models fight and flight – and the second man, Jesus, who creates all things new, went into a garden and was victorious.
Jesus even models for us the proper, constructive healthy response to Anger and anxiety:
Matthew 26:39 (ESV) — 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Here Jesus, the second man (note that He also is in a garden just like Adam was) models constructive vigilance. He faced death and placed his faith in his Father’s good hands. Note that Jesus’ disciples, on the other hand, modelled destructive fear and anxiety (Peter chose the fight response by cutting off someone’s ear, and then chose the flight response when he denying the Lord 3 times, all the disciples displayed an inability to hold a vigil (Matthew 26:40)
The most crucial aspect is to understand this: we experience the power of life and death in two gardens – the garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemane. If we live in the power of the flesh then we live a fear-based, self-centred life that follows the model of the first Adam in the first Garden but if we live by the power of the Spirit, then we live a faith-based Christ-centred life that follows the model of the second Adam in the second garden.
What what do we do that will help us live in the second garden with Christ? Well go back to the text I introduced at the start of this post:
Philippians 4:6 (ESV) — 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Jesus said in Luke 12:
Luke 12:22 (ESV) — 22 do not be anxious about your life
so the question is how? how do we go about doing that?
In other words, the way to be anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything. When we sense the red mist of anger or the hear the runaway footsteps of anxiety, at that moment, as a pattern of what we have been doing as a regular practice, we pray.
Practising turning to God in faith will keep you from flight or fight. It’s how we learn we learn to move from one garden to the other as we move from “one man” to the other and cast all our cares on Him. It’s faith.
I’m passionate about God’s church. I honestly think it’s one of the best things ever to have been created. To be placed into a family of strangers who love and care for each other solely on the basis of God’s unconditional love is truly a remarkable thing. Having someone to turn to in our hour of need is vital in this day when families and individuals are becoming more and more insular.
I believe that the Christian should make Sunday Morning church attendance a priority. Why? Because the Bible stresses the importance of going to church. Now before we go on we should mention that a person becomes a member of the universal church the moment they believe in Jesus. This is the “mystical” or “spiritual” church and is made up of every true believer in Jesus. Having said that, the Bible emphasises the importance for believers to assemble with other believers on a Sunday. I don’t believe it is good enough for the Christian to claim they are going to church when really all they are doing is hanging out with their friends. That is not the biblical or historical understanding of church. There are several reasons why this is the case:
Commanded by God – “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching”
I find it strange when Christians do not desire to meet together. I understand that on occasion this isn’t always possible – sickness, work commitments and such like often keep us away from the Sunday Morning church gathering and I want you to understand that I’m not talking about those issues. I’m speaking about dance classes, gardening and other hobbies. As Christians, these are not our priorities.
I find it even more strange when Christians are posting all kinds of Bible-related links on their social media feeds but fail to commit to this one basic principle of Christian discipleship.
Fellowship – “Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God”
2 Corinthians 1:4
The truth is we are not designed to live alone. We are not designed to live the Christian life from the relative comfort of our homes. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
What that means is that we desperately need one another and let me be the first to say “I need you”! And look ……. solitary Christians are in danger. The way that spiritual wolves pick off their prey is to separate them from the pack. It’s easier that way. We must stick together. We must chase those who have stopped attending. We must model church as priority.
Receive Teaching – “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth
2 Timothy 2:15
The emphasis here is on “do your best”. Do you best, give your best. Here’s a question we need to ask ourselves from time to time: “Am I doing by best to ensure that whatever is preached on Sunday morning is received?” Practically that might look like:
choosing what we do on Saturday night so that we are ready for Sunday morning
Rising up early on Sunday to pray and meditate on God’s Word so that our hearts are ready
Attending on time – showing up late is disrespectful to God and those serving you – get your heart in the right place
Worship – “Praise the LORD! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for He is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting”
In our worship we are not only singing to Jesus and about Him – we are preaching to ourselves. We are reminding ourselves about the truth of what we are singing. Additionally, we are listening to others sing. This part, for me at least, is always super encouraging. To hear that another Christian is struggling in one way or another, and yet is singing at the top of their voice about the God who saves and delivers them is one of the most encouraging things. It reminds me that our faith is real.
Join us for a day of fellowship, sharing the Word and Worship. Messing about, kids stuff and fellowship for the whole family. including a skittles competition and treasure hunt.
Click here to sign up so we know how many are coming. Lift shares are available – please let us know if you need a ride.
Venue: Minstead Village Hall
10:00 – Arrive for tea and cake, all age wide games 10:30 – Worship & Word (children’s activities provided) 12:00 – Lunch – bring your own 1:30 – a range of activities 4:00 – Worship & Word (children’s activities provided) 5:30 – BBQ (bring and share) 7:00 – Close
Dr. Warren Wiersbe died yesterday in Lincoln, Nebraska at the age of 89. For those not aware, Dr Wiersbe, known as “the pastor’s pastor”, is the author of some 150 books on the Bible. He is also known as a broadcaster, airing his Bible radio program “Back to the Bible” throughout the world. He has also been a lecturer at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Dallas Theological Seminary.
During my own sermon preparations, I don’t remember a week going by when I haven’t wondered “what would Wiersbe say?” and then proceeded to look up what indeed he would say. His writing is straightforward and rich.
I’ll leave you with this … Erwin Lutzer (form Senior Pastor of The Moody Church where Wiersbe was also a Senior Pastor before him) wrote his autobiography and asked Wiersbe to write the forward. I was particularly struck by his words, given the fact that I’m preparing to teach the first chapter of Exodus shortly):
“It’s not an easy road, but if the Lord has called us and put us where we are, He will see to it that we will know His will and accomplish it no matter how impossible it might seem.”
In this mornings sermon we mentioned the Brooklyn Papyrus that provides evidence that the Hebrews were in Egypt during the 18th Century BC. This supports the biblical idea that the Exodus took place in the 15th Century BC.
The Brooklyn Papyrus contains a list of the names of 95 slaves. 70% of the names are Hebrew, including Asher and Issachar. 10 of the names have direct links to other passages in the bible:
Menahema, a feminine form of Menahem
2 Kings 15:14
Ashera, a feminine form of Asher, the name of one of the sons of Jacob
Shiphrah, the name of one of the Hebrew midwives prior to the Exodus
Aqoba, feminine form of Jacob
Ayyabum, the name of the patriarch Job
Sekera, which is a feminine name of Issakar
Dawidi-huat a compound name utilizing the name David
1 Samuel 16:13
Sebtw, a name derived from the Hebrew word eseb meaning “herb”
Hayah-wr another compound name composed of Eve and meaning “bright life”
Hy’b’rw, which appears to be an Egyptian transcription of Hebrew
We start our new sermon series tomorrow and as promised I’ve suggested that you read ahead through the book of Exodus so that you can prepare your own hearts.
Here is a reading plan and as you read through this tremendous book, pray for three things:
that the Holy Spirit would prepare your own heart to allow the Lord to do a work in your that your own imagination couldn’t conceive of. He really does want to transform us by the washing of our minds by the word of God!
that He would give you the courage to share what you are learning about God and about yourself with other Christians – after church, Life Groups or at informal times.
God would give you a heart like His – a missionary heart to make God known.
In preparation for Easter I’ve been reading a book that would normally be a little off-piste for me. It’s by American Anglican theologian Fleming Rutledge. (I did say this was off-piste!). This book took her 20 years to write and has been described as the second part to “The Cross” by John Stott. I have to say I’m not sure that it is “that good”. The book is called “The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ”.
At times it’s quite an extraordinary read … it’s written both powerfully and creatively. By that, I mean that she uses words to paint images and then brings them to contemporary meaning and application. At times it’s made me just stop reading and take in the enormity of the task Jesus had, as well as the beauty of how Jesus did it.
What I particularly appreciated in this book was the sheer breadth undertaken. For example, where most theologians trace one biblical motif to the cross (and are pretty satisfied with that) – The Lamb motif for example, or the goat motif that we discussed on Good Friday. Rutledge proposes eight. She then proceeds to write about them in as they wind through the pages of Scripture.
And she does so using the English language as a symphony orchestra or paint palette – conjuring up images and pictures and, at times, breathtaking, insights into the cross of Jesus.
The eight motifs that she focuses our attention are broad but contain depth:
Passover and Exodus
Ransom and redemption
Descent into hell
Running through the eight motifs are three simple messages:
There is sin and guilt for which atonement needs to be made.
There is slavery, bondage, and oppression from which humankind needs to be delivered.
Jesus alone is the answer to both
Before I close let me say that this book isn’t perfect – far from it. Some of her biblical exegesis is stretched and some of her interpretation is “left field”. Actually, there is a lot I’d disagree with Rutledge over but this book is deep, insightful and profound – definitely worth a read.
We should agree that every Christian should be concerned with reaching out to the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Indeed, throughout our recent studies in Acts we’ve seen that the early church placed a greater emphasis on outreach and evangelism.
Evangelism = the message of the gospel
Outreach – the associated action
Evangelism is the message of the gospel – we don’t go “evangelising”. We go on “outreach”, and the accompanying message is the “evangel”, the good news message – the gospel.
It is our hope that we “outreach” to people to draw them into a place where we can evangelize (give them a good news message) them. For example, in the past, our family fun days have focussed on providing families with opportunities to have fun so that we can invite their parents to come to our church where we will take the opportunity to share the Good News with them. Likewise, the upcoming Andy Kind event is an “outreach” so that we can “evanglise“.
This is one of the primary functions of the church .
Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Hebrews 10:35–36
Have you ever thrown away something that you later regret throwing away? I have … multiple times! I’ve even been found rummaging around in the bin looking for the thing I just threw away!
Here the writer of Hebrews makes a remarkable statement …. “do not throw away your confidence”. It’s remarkable because it seems that what is being suggested is that we can actively disregard confidence. Notice that the text doesn’t doesn’t say “be careful you don’t lose your confidence”, or “misplace your confidence” or even “have your confidence stolen”. The Greek word is apoballō which means to “throw off”. Be careful you don’t throw it away.
Throwing away our confidence is our confidence in God – our trust in God. This comes very subtly. Sometimes it’s a whisper in my hear that says “You can’t do that. You’re not good enough.” Many times I’ll go along with it and begin to lose confidence in God without even thinking about it!
Look at these other passages in Hebrews that talk about our role in having confidence in God:
But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house,if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. Hebrews 3:6 (NLT)
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Look at this last one, in which the writer lists all of the true reasons why we should have confidence, then exhorts us to act on these truths …… “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence” – this is a different Greek word that we’ve seen before. This word is parrēsia and it literally means the “freedom of speech”. In this context it simply means that we have boldness to say what we like in the presence of God – it’s a boldness, an openness to walk straight into his study and chat. So … since we have this right given to us “to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and (second reason to have keep our confidence) since we have a great priest over the house of God,” .. so we have someone who goes before God with us. This is Jesus, walking into the house of God with us – and we are accepted by God completely on only because Jesus is with us …. therefore, here’s the exhortation … “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19–22
In many ways this sounds like the message to the seven churches of Revelation 2–3 where Jesus is exhorting his church to hold on, keep the faith and pursue godliness.
It’s easy to doubt. We’re called to live by faith and not by sight because the things that are a visible scream at us that God doesn’t care. So we have to practice faith. How do we do this?
Well, I think the first step to holding on to our confidence is to recognise that our confidence comes from God as we seek Him. We are not confident in our own abilities but in Gods. Not our power but Gods. That’s the first thing.
The second thing comes in our seeking God for it. I lost count of how many times in Hebrews the writer exhorts us by saying “Let us”. There is work to be done in apprehending what has already been apprehended for us. This is a looking to God for the answers – it’s looking to God for power and strength. It’s the humble submission to His sovereignty.
One of the most powerful songs that have really spoken to me in recent years is called “God I look to You.” Now I know that it’s not from a church that we’d agree on many points but the lyrics are God-glorifying and honouring … here are some of the words:
God, I look to You, I won’t be overwhelmed Give me vision to see things like You do God I look to You, You’re where my help comes from Give me wisdom, You know just what to do
And I will love You, Lord, my strength (sing that out) I will love You, Lord, my shield I will love You, Lord, my rock forever All my days I will love You, God
I love the defiance of this song “I won’t be overwhelmed”. It reminds me of so many of the Psalms where the Psalmist recalls the trouble he is in and then is reminded of blessings of God, ending the Psalm with words like “I will be be shaken”. Micah wrote: … when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. Micah 7:8
As Christians, we believe that Jesus will one day return to earth. The Bible is super clear about this:
1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 (ESV) — 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
Hebrews 9:28 (ESV) — 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Matthew 24:44 (ESV) — 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
And I could continue to quote a dozen other direct references to the return of Jesus Christ. Additionally, the Christian church has always believed this as a central doctrine. The Apostles Creed from the first century demonstrates that Christians believed that Jesus would one day return so that we could enjoy “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting’. The Nicene from the 4th century states that Jesus “ascended into heaven from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead”
However, it’s not gone unnoticed over the years that many Christians fail to recognise the purpose of our belief. There is a reason for believing that Jesus is coming back and it’s not because the Bible says so. It’s because believing in this inspires hope and greater faithfulness right here in the 21 century. Contrary to some, the purpose of our end times belief is not so that we can find the most bizarre conspiracy theory or fantasy that involves lizard men, blood moons, illuminator and such like. For Christians, Jesus’ return to earth makes us live in the present as faithfully and joyfully and hope-filled as we can be. Jesus return is great news and it’s part of the gospel! Jesus is going to restore all things!