Pentecost 2020

A lot has happened in the world since I last posted – COVID-19 being the obvious front-runner that has affected all of us.

Here in NZ we came into full lock-down on 25 March, continuing until mid May.  We are still at Level 2, with limited public meetings and travel.  I have carried on shopping for myself, was very relieved that up here we are away from the main centers, and have been intrigued and thankful for how God has brought a whole new life to the Church out of what the enemy intended for disaster.

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Having been online since 1996, and ‘attended church’ online (one way or another) since 2008, I have long felt it was high time churches got away from holding meetings closed up in their precious buildings, and realized the very real opportunities afforded by the outdoors and the Internet.

Well Hallelujah, that is happening at last.

True, some churches videoed their services and put them up on the net, but it was just a token and certainly not the whole story.  The Body of Christ was still very inwards-focused.   Now at last overseas congregation members are being recognized alongside the ‘on-campus’ church, more outreach is being offered, and a new sense of worldwide fellowship is arising.

This was always meant to be – look how the disciples spread the faith across the then known world, without Church buildings or technology – purely by the power of that initial Holy Spirit igniting!

“…the sanctuary had to be emptied before this change could happen…”

Pastors are no longer speaking just to those in the sanctuary (and let’s face it, the sanctuary had to be emptied before this change could happen).   As of this Pentecost weekend, some churches are planning outdoor ‘on campus’ services, streamed worldwide.   Innovation – it can only get better.

Pentecost 2020 may go down as the most unusual Pentecost since 30 AD, with the whole of Jerusalem set alight by the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.   We are in a similar lock-down to the disciples of old, following the epic events in Jerusalem at Passover, 50 days prior.

What will happen this Pentecost? Most certainly some churches intend to meet (while observing protocol). There are online events coming up also.  Will Pentecost 2020 prove to be another memorable occasion?

Most assuredly.    Mighty changes have already taken place, and we can expect more yet.  The Holy Spirit is still working, and while US churchgoers may have noticed only their loss of cozy fellowship, to those watching from the outside the changes so far have been salutary and long overdue.

Though God did not inflict Covid-19 upon the world, He will use it to bring about a whole new way of operation for the Church (see Paul, Romans 8:28).  I predict it will be a breath of fresh air.

So, Church – do not bemoan change, just grab this opportunity and run with it!    Remember: “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

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Blessings this Pentecost!

Patricia

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The Goads

“I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’

And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’” (Acts 26:13-18 KJV)

So began the momentous conversion from Saul the persecutor to Paul the apostle.

Saul was blind for 3 days. His release from blindness, both physical and spiritual, was brought about by his conversion through Ananias, a believer in the Damascus church that he had intended to destroy.

This would not have been the first encounter between Saul and Jesus. It is highly likely that Saul’s zeal in persecuting Christians was his attempt to overcome the first seeds of doubt in his own faith sown over months as the Jewish leaders heard and challenged Jesus’ teachings in the temple courtyard and the marketplace.

The brilliant argument put up by Stephen which led to his death by stoning drove yet another wedge into Saul’s belief in his faith.       And so he went on an all-out rampage to destroy Christ’s followers – even requesting a commission from the High Priest for this Damascus assignment to arrest Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for trial.

Jesus knew right well what state of mind Saul was in. Saul was in turmoil: the foundations of his faith, as a disciple of the great Jewish teacher Gamaliel, were under threat. Hence Christ’s reference to ‘kicking against the goads’ (pricks of conscience). Saul’s behavior in attacking the church was going to cause him greater pain even though he didn’t realize it. He wasn’t fighting against people, he was fighting against God.

He was the author of his own discomfort.

We bring about our own troubles by wrong beliefs and wrong behavior – the whole Bible (especially the Old Testament) is evidence of that. But God knows how to use evil to bring about good outcomes. Paul’s story is one of the greatest examples.

As one of the most highly educated men of his age, with dual citizenship and at least 3 languages, Paul became the main initiator of God’s purpose to bring Christianity to the Gentiles, and in the process wrote letters to the Gentile churches in Asia Minor, Greece and Italy, that form approx 28% of the New Testament.

Patricia
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Ask – Seek – Knock

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:7-12)

One of the reasons Jesus was a disappointment to the worldly folk among those He ministered to, was their expectation that the Messiah would bring worldly success and earthly treasures – conquest over their enemies and wealth as a nation and individually.

Most of Jesus’ messages and parables on the other hand – and indeed the whole purpose of His life – were aimed at giving His followers something far more important: security in the eternity to come.

The importance of pressing into the REAL directive of this quotation cannot be given too much emphasis.  The quote expresses the supreme importance of seeking after TRUTH, as the main purpose of this life.

It is not the offer of a heavenly vending machine that will spit out the goodies of life on demand, as some modern churches are trying to have us believe. The ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is one of those highly dangerous end-time deceptions referred to in Matthew 24, the Lord’s final words of warning before He went to His death.

Indeed, it is one of the most wicked deceptions ever perpetrated by the enemy, all the more so because it is being offered from within the church.

Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many  …  But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” (Matthew 24:11, 13)

Beloved, let us not be deceived.

Patricia
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Death And Life

“Death and Life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Proverbs 18:21 KJV)

The power of sound is inestimable: we can realize this when we think that in Genesis God is recorded as having spoken light into darkness and order into chaos.

All the way through the process of creation recorded in Genesis 1, each creative act begins with the words, “And God said…”

Our words are puny by comparison; yet they still have enormous power to affect the things and people around us, and also ourselves – something many people do not realize, or even want to realize.

Blessing and cursing are two sides of the same coin of the currency of our speech, and in these days, these terms have become almost valueless in that people regard them as somehow wrapped up in religious protocol, and not part of ‘everyday life’.

Not so: when we speak good things, we bless, and when we speak bad things, we curse. The words we utter go out into the ethers and do their work – for good or for bad. Equally, they remain with us – an abiding influence on self and character that most people do not give a passing thought to.

Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees, put it this way:

“Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12: 34-37 NKJV)

Guard your mouth – it has immense power. Many a parent has cursed an offspring’s life by speaking negativity over them.

Speak in haste: repent at leisure.

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Patricia
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Be Not Afraid

This quotation comes from one of the most loved of the Bible stories about Jesus’ miracles – the healing of Jairus’ daughter.

As well as being a great story for children, it was an awesome demonstration of the Lord’s power.  Yet we don’t always read it carefully enough to get every ounce of meaning from it.

Be not afraid, only believe.’” He said. (Mark 5:36 KJV)  The events that led to this statement were very interesting.

Jairus, an official of the synagogue had come hurrying to Jesus to ask Him to save his 12 year old daughter, who was on the point of death.  Jairus was convinced that Jesus could save his daughter.

No doubt, Jesus could have performed a miracle of healing on this girl from a distance, as He did with the centurion’s servant in Matthew 8.  However, events were to occur that would bring about an even greater miracle.

They started off for Jairus’ house immediately, but a diversion cropped up along the way.  They passed by the house of a woman who had had severe bleeding for 12 years.  She too was convinced that Jesus could heal her and she struggled through the crowd with the thought that if she could only touch his cloak, she would be healed.

She did manage to touch His cloak, and she was healed immediately, but Jesus stopped, because He felt the power go out of Him.  He asked, “Who touched my clothes?”,  He knew that someone with strong faith had drawn upon His power. The response of His disciples to His question was almost comical:  “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?” – an interesting commentary on their lack of understanding.

Fearfully, the woman came forward and knelt at His feet.  Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”

This diversion along the way brought about a situation set for an even greater miracle – somewhat similar to the raising of Lazarus.  As they continued towards Jairus’ house, people came to say that Jairus’ daughter had died. “Why trouble the Master any further?” they said.

“As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he said unto the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Be not afraid, only believe.’” (Mark 5:36 KJV)

Jesus moved immediately to correct the worldly, negative thinking – natural as it was under the circumstances. His words were short, and to the point.

We could all do with remembering these words when the trials of life seem to overwhelm us.  All too often, we go through living with an underlying, almost subconscious, nagging fear and apprehension that saps our peace and makes us vulnerable to the works of the enemy.

Remember the words of Isaiah 41:10 –

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

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Patricia
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Catching Men

“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’

“For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.

“And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.’   So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him..”
Luke 5:8-11

The stunning miracle that Jesus performed in these verses caught the attention of all those present, and caused Simon Peter to recognize immediately who Jesus was.

This event can be interpreted as an illustration of the power of the Lord to bring prosperity to His followers. However, as Pastor John points out in a video on this scripture, the words hold a far more important message, and Jesus lost no time in delivering it.

As Pastor John says, “This story is not about how to get rich – it’s about how to get free from riches.”

It’s all about freedom – about getting free and about giving freedom to others.

How important that is! Here were four businessmen whose business had just been blessed with an enormous gift of business resources (perishable goods, incidentally, and ripe for selling at a profit). Yet such was the power of the Lord and of His presence, that having brought their boats to land, “they forsook all and followed Him.”

He had made it plain (as He would do many times during His ministry) that there are far more important priorities than riches, to be pursued in this life.

What a powerful story – and what a powerful lesson for us all.

That freedom is still available today, while most people are stressing and straining at this business of living – struggling with a changing and ever more difficult world.  While we focus our minds on the problems around us, we only magnify and increase them, and give them more power in our lives.

He holds the answer.

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Patricia
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Absolute Truth

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (John 8:31-32)

Jesus made this statement in the Temple courtyards of Jerusalem, in the middle of a discussion He was having with ‘the Jews’ (a term used by John for the religious elders of the day), who were beginning to show their hand openly in their attempts to trap and destroy Him.

This episode is especially applicable in today’s world.  We are at a point now in the history of mankind when there is a serious attack going on against the concept of Truth – not only in the ivory towers of philosophic discussion: this attack is impinging on crucial aspects of real life.

The Sadducees of the present day – the so-called ‘intellectuals’ – are bent on denying the concept of absolute truth. By their standards, the idea of absolute truth is old-fashioned and outmoded, and has already been relegated to the trash.   It appears this new thinking is impacting seriously on education, where students are now encouraged to give whatever answer to a question they think fit – and it seems that all answers will be marked ‘correct’.

Likewise generally, one man’s idea is treated as being as good as another man’s – on any subject: a trend fostered even further by the entrenched Internet rituals of ‘liking’ and ‘commenting’ on anything and everything on facebook, blogs and websites and, apparently even the education process.    The ultimate outcome of all this can only be a complete erosion of standards and values.

Frankly, I view this as an attempt by the enemy to tear down the foundations of our society – and I use that word in an all-encompassing sense of societies in general.    It is also, of course, a direct attack on God, who is Truth, and His word.

We are certainly coming close to the end times.   Jesus foresaw these events clearly:

“Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,” (Matthew 24:11-12)

We live in a world that is governed by pretty strict rules of causality, set up by the Father to enable us to function in a predictable manner. I rather doubt those intellectual prophetic ‘brains’ have thought of the logical outcome of the course they are steering in trying to nullify absolute truth.

If they were to plant cannabis seeds and come up with a crop of marigolds, they might be somewhat put out: even more so if their own offspring turned out to be a bunch of jackal whelps.

They cannot have it both ways. Either there is an identifiable absolute truth, or else all is chaos. Jesus’ words and sayings throughout the New Testament are consistent with the importance of understanding this truth – and His behavior throughout His life was an impeccable testimony to His words.

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Patricia

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