Peter Holloway

The Bottom Line – Psalm 73

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Looking out at the world can be a soul destroying thing. This world is full of evil, and full of evildoers, who somehow always seem to thrive and do well. And as we look out we are inclined to stumble. The natural instinct is to envy the wicked their ease, to see their unpunished prosperity and wonder why they do wrong and yet prosper. The more we look, the worse it appears. It makes life to be a wearisome task.

But, if we are to free ourselves from stumbling we must enter into the sanctuary, the place where God is – only there will this life make sense. We can only come into God’s presence resting on the reconciliation to God won by his Son. But, as we enter into God’s nearer presence, our embittered souls are sweetened and our spiritual compasses are realigned. God is our goal, our measure of what is good and right; God, and not this world is our goal and our glory. No-one else, nothing else matters except our relationship with the living God, the Creator God, the Redeemer God, the Consummating God who will one day reveal himself and his purposes in fullness.

The more we look at the world, the less we look at God. The more we look at God, the better we see the reality of this world and the world to come.

For every son and daughter of Adam the bottom line is:

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever!

Psalm 73:25-26

Keep Calm and Trust in God

Keep Calm

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs you obviously don’t realise the seriousness of the situation! So goes the tongue in cheek rewriting of Kipling’s poem. Of course, Kipling is pointing us towards the mark of a true man – the ability to hold your head up high in the face of all that the world and mankind throw at you. But Kipling missed the spiritual dimension. It’s all very well being a man in this big bad world if this big bad world is all there is, but it’s not. We’re inundated with ‘how to live your dream’ and ‘how to stand firm’ memes. We’re encouraged to find in ourselves and in our humanity all that there is to be a fine upstanding human in our own world. There are two problems with this: 1. It doesn’t hold true for most people and 2. It ignores the spiritual realm: God, providence and the spiritual forces at work in the world and the heavenly places.

So where does this leave us? How do we live in a troubled world in circumstances that are less than perfect? Keep calm and trust in God! This is the message of the whole Bible, but particularly in Psalm 46.

Our assertion must be with the Psalmist, not that we have within what we need to succeed, but that God is our refuge and strength. God is our help, now, in our trouble. It takes a big man to admit he needs help. It’s somehow easier to put on that Kiplingesque inner manliness and play the strong quiet tower of strength. But that’s not what God requires of us!

God is our strength, not us, therefore we will not fear – not because we have our own grounds for keeping our heads, but because we know someone who is stronger than our situation. Though the mountains be thrown into the sea God is in control!

So, as Christians we don’t look inward to our core strength – it’s not sufficient. We look to God. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. We look to the God indwelt city of God’s people. We look to his divine presence, help, & hope. “Come behold the works of the LORD…” the Psalmist says – this is where we look to and find strength.

Though the world truly and literally be falling apart around us we have a hope:

Be still and know that I am God,
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46:10,11

Keep calm and trust in God

Grow old along with me

Rabbi ben Ezra
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

From Rabbi ben Ezra by Robert Browning

Taken from my grandfather’s poetry book. I like the sentiment of this first stanza.

Authentic Church

church

Authentic is all the rage at the moment. We want honest people, transparent ideals, reality, authenticity. This need for authenticity has seeped into the Church too. Of course, it is a genuine need and one that becomes more necessary with every generation of Church. As we become involved in our local fellowship, as one generation passes on to another we gradually accumulate that which is not biblical and include it in our traditions – and that is what they are: extrabiblical traditions. That’s what the Pharisees became and promoted – human tradition over biblical truth. The thing is, we can as easily make a tradition out of modern praise as we can out of singing 300 year old hymns. It’s not the what but the why that matters.

As I look around me I can see churches and denominations failing. I can see new startups beginning to address these traditions, but very often lacking a sound basis for that change. To be honest, give them 20 years of existence and they will have their own traditions to pass on.

So, how do we get it right? How do we get to authentic Church?

The first thing to realise is that we are already authentic Church if we are born again of the Spirit of God! Throughout the Bible God promises: “They will be my people, I will be their God!” This is our true position, we belong to Him, wholly, as a people, our identity is bound up in His ownership of and inhabiting of us as a people.

The second thing to realise is that we must live as that people and in order to do that we must understand fully just who we are in Christ. Note that I said ‘who we are’, not ‘who I am’ or ‘who you (singular) are’. God called us as a people, sent His Son to be our Groom and we His bride. There’s no place for individualism in the Church. You can’t just sit it out until Christ returns and listen to the God channel on TV.

I’ve attached a PDF that gives a fuller summary, a study that I prepared over 10 years ago, but which I am still convinced would help if we applied it to our understanding of how we ‘do Church’. But I’d like to summarise three things that to me are the hallmarks of Church. These are in order for a reason. We first of all look Godward, secondly we look to one another as God’s people and thirdly, on the basis of the first two things, we look outwardly in witness and evangelism.

Worship

Everything is for God, this universe that He created, the people in it, everything has a solitary purpose for existence: the glory of God. Without this the world has no meaning, the universe has no meaning, our lives have no meaning. We must always look to God first. In our personal lives, and in our corporate lives as the chosen people of the Creator of the universe and sustainer of all things. If we do not do everything to God, for God, in God, then nothing else will matter. All the good deeds in the world done outside of a Godward heart are in vain.

Our doing Church authentically can only be done so wholeheartedly seeking to know God, to touch God, to relate with Him as His people, as He intended. We must rigorously, vigorously channel all that we do as a local church through this attitude. If we do not look to God first and foremost we can do nothing of eternal import.

This is the true nature of worship: we sing in Him and to Him, we serve in Him and to Him, we weep in Him and to Him, we live only and ever in Him and to Him. To do so as a gathered people is to glorify Him as He intended.

Edification

Edification literally means to build up. As we look to God we worship, as we look to one another, understanding who we are in God we should have a heart to help, to build, to encourage, to make one another more able to serve God, because to do so glorifies God and builds up that of which we are also a part – in helping others we please God and help ourselves.

I know that seeker sensitive has been a watchword for a generation of believers, but I honestly believe that edification comes before evangelism. How can we witness when we don’t know how? How can we bring in new believers when the Church is not working as it should?

Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Evangelism

The imperative of the Great Commission is to make disciples – that’s evangelism and edification rolled into one. We have the most incredible message of hope for a hopeless world. Even if it was not a command, we must feel the obligation to share the Good News. As the Godward living people of God, understanding just what that means, as mutually encouraging and edifying believers that faith must overflow the local fellowship into the community.

The story is told of a child who asked his dad: “How big was Jesus?”, the dad thought for a moment and then gave an educated guess. The child, who obviously had been thinking things through responded: “If he’s that big, and I ask Him to live in me, then he’s going to stick out somewhere.” Jesus should stick out in our lives: He’s too big to be contained. That’s our evangelism as a natural outworking of our worship and edification.

So, with each generation of Church and local church we need to strip back to the essentials. Identify tradition for what it is. If it helps, keep it, but only as it helps, never as a rule, and never on a par with Scripture truth. Get your priorities right and see the church, God’s people as God’s, and not ours. Seek him and His Kingdom and all the rest will fall into place.

“so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:12

Authentic Church – A Brief Study

Short Shots: Theologically and Practically in Christ

Coffee, Short Shots

The book of Ephesians is at once simple and exceedingly complex. It’s short enough to read at a single sitting and deep enough to keep you learning for years. Here are a couple of things that help to see what the book is about.

  1. The book of Ephesians contains 6 chapters. The first 3 are predominately theological, the second 3 are mainly practical. This is a pattern for our lives. Get your thinking about God right, based on his Word, then your practical lives will have the right foundation for living as God’s children.

  2. The first section repeatedly tells us that our theological position: our forgiveness, redemption, our privileged place before almighty God is only found in Christ. As believers we already stand forgiven in Christ, our hope is in Christ. Theologically we are already in Christ. Practically speaking we need to move into Christ – our lives don’t match up with our position. This is why Paul urges us to ‘walk worthy of the calling’. It’s not our starting point, but it should be our ending point. Ephesians 4:15-16 tells us:

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

As Christians we often live inconsistent lives. We stand in Christ through faith, but we live out our lives faithless and outside of Christ. Let’s ‘walk worthy’ because we are all looking to the ‘one hope that belongs to our call’

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