Monday, May 14, 2018

Thinx 95: Accountability


So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.
But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.
We confess our sins to God and gain forgiveness. We confess our sins to one another and are accountable. And we pray for one another that each be strengthened and encouraged.

Sanctification goes hand in hand with mortification. Putting to death the deeds of the flesh is painful. We need all the help we can get.


© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2018

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Thinx 94: Sermon notes #3


Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers,  with the following letter:
    The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings.  Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions,  it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,  men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth.  For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:  that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.

— Acts 15:22-29 [ESV] (italics mine)
seemed good ἔδοξεν (edoxen) – make a subjective decision based on personal perspectives and values.

This is what everyone does. So the difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is the personal values. The values/perspectives of the Christian must be informed by Scripture.

Also decisions cannot contradict previous declarations by God. Nor can one claim that the Spirit has told them something that contradicts previous declarations by God, as the Spirit is the 3rd person of the Trinity so what the Spirit says, the Father and the Son also say. What the Father and Son say, so the Spirit also says. E.g. gifts of Spirit are also gifts of Son are also gifts of Father.

So it's just not on to claim that you got a private prophetic utterance from the Spirit that your marriage should be dissolved. The will of God the Father and God the Son concerning marriage has already been stated -- what God has joined together let no man separate (Matthew 19:6). To claim that the Spirit can rescind that is to introduce dissension into the Godhead. Jesus has already stated that a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25). Are you saying that God can be divided against himself?


© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2018

Thinx 93: Sermon notes #2

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

— Hebrews 11:5-6 (emphasis mine)

Faith/trust are what it takes to receive anything beyond the usual providential stuff: rain, sunshine, seasons etc. Like it says in Acts 17:28 when Paul is in Athens,"In Him we live and move and have our being."

Decision-making is hard. We are afraid of making the wrong decision. Of “hearing a voice behind you” (Isaiah 30:21) because you had headed off in your own direction.

Everyone does what seems good to them. We also must do what seems right to us. However, we need to do that in the light of God's word and in the context of the people of God (the church). Imagine, having purchased a ticket to fly somewhere, kneeling in a toilet cubicle (in search of some privacy), prayerfully waiting for a voice from heaven authorising you to get on the plane.


© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2018

Thinx 92: Sermon notes #1

Now someone came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.

— Matthew 19:16-22

Interesting how Jesus asks questions first before giving answers. Interesting too how gracious Jesus is. I'd be saying “Which ones???!!! Seriously?? What are you looking for? The absolute minimum rules to keep so that you can max out on breaking all the others? You want to do some good works so that God will owe you something?"

What was that young man really after? He wanted an answer and got one. It wasn't the answer he was expecting. People ask us questions too. Sometimes we're too quick to give answers. And sometimes we're too quick to say a comfortable lie rather than an uncomfortable truth. After all, saying something that's offensive or disappointing is really bad, right?


© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2018

Thinx 91: Preaching

There's an old joke about the minister traveling to a distant church in an outback farming community. He gets there to find that only one man has turned up for the service. The minister asks the man, a farmer, what he should do. The farmer says, "If I take a trailer-load of feed out into the paddock and only one beast turns up, I still feed it."

So the minister does the whole service with all the hymns, the eucharist, the offering, the sermon ... everything. At the end the minister goes to the front door as the farmer ambles out. Shaking the farmer's hand the minister asks how he found the service. The farmers says, "I said I'd feed the beast. I didn't say I'd give it the whole trailer-load!"

So there's this verse in Matthew that keeps prodding me. It says,
“Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time?"

— Matthew 24:25 NRSV

It what I see happening in church when the bloke up front speaks: He's a slave of God. He's talking to other slaves of God. And he's feeding them. And he'd better be feeding them good wholesome food and not junk. The goal is spiritual growth not spiritual indigestion. God will hold him to account for what he says and, I expect, what he fails to say. The barest mininum will not suffice -- the full counsel of God (Acts 20:27) is the goal. And that takes time and commitment both from the speaker and from the listener.

I get it that the world (and even some Christians) think preaching is stupid and out of place in this "scientific age" (whatever that means.) But I believe in it. It seems good to me to preach. It seems good to the Holy Spirit to have people preach. He does good things in peoples hearts when healthy, nourishing food is served up in a sermon.

So I recently had an opportunity to preach at a Redeemed Christian Church of God gathering in Hilton, WA. There were only 10 in the congregation, but I fed them all the same. And it's good that they have a tradition of 50 minute sermons, because I took longer than I expected unpacking Acts 15:1-31. By the time I was done with that, I turned to the pastor, my good friend and neighbour Akin Oyemade, and asked how much time I had left. He said, "it'd be good to wind up fairly soon." Winding up took about 10 minutes but we all got home in time for lunch.

They want me back on the last Sunday in April and likely after that as well.


© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2018

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Thinx 90: Regeneration

Let me again experience the joy of your deliverance! Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey!

— Psalm 51:12 NET

Without the gift of the desire to obey, we don't. We are helpless. We are "... fast bound in sin and nature's night"[1]. We need a saviour -- one who meets us in our dungeon, shines light into our darkness and sets us free. One who not only gives us the power to do God's will but also give us the desire to do it.

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2017

Friday, January 15, 2016

Thinx 89: Forgiveness Leading to Fear? to Love?

But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

— Psalm 130:4 ESV

"Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little."

— Luke 7:47 ESV

I'm trying to figure this out. How is it that forgiveness leads to fear? Is this just an OT thing or is there more to "fear" than just being afraid? Is there more to "love"? How should we respond to forgiveness, both in the short term and in the long?

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2016

Thinx 88: The Empty Words of the Comfortable

In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune; it is ready for those whose feet slip.

— Job 12:5 ESV

We've all been in these conversations: the one at ease saying what some unfortunate should have done. It's easy after the fact to say what should have been done.

It's easy to sit back and pontificate rather than stand with the unfortunate one, shovel in hand, waist deep in the muck. Words are always easier than actions. If there are to be words let them be of mercy, encouragement and the calling in of God's purity, power and provision. Intercession is far more effective an agent for change than the empty words of the comfortable.


© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2016

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Thinx 87: Holding On and Being Upheld

Everyday, it's you I live for
Everyday, I'll follow after you
Everyday, I'll walk with you, my lord

— "Everyday", Hillsong United.

I sing it often. Pity it's not true. Sometimes I don't live for God; sometimes I live for others or live for myself. The gap between what I sing and what I am oscillates.
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

— John 10:28 (ESV)

It's just as well Jesus holds me. If my salvation depended upon my efforts alone, there'd be no hope for me.

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Thinx 86: Prayer

"Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish."

— Esther 4:16 (ESV)

It has long been known that three days without water is fatal. Esther invites the Jewish community to go with her on a journey to the edge of death. Everyone's prayers will be fervent, sincere and urgent and even more so because if Esther fails to reach the king then all is lost.

Rarely do I intercede with such intensity, as if my life depended on it. I am unhappy with the shallowness of my faith.


© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Thinx 85: Life After Death

When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom.

— 1 Chronicles 17:11 (ESV)

Note "walk with your fathers". Other translations say "time to die". The latter implies the end of David as a person. The former suggests that David will live on, walking with his fathers (e.g. Abraham, Isaac, Israel) and doing so immediately, not waiting for the resurrection.

Reminds me of the words of Jesus himself:
"But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”

— Luke 20:37,38 (ESV)

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Thinx 84: Following the Crowd

“You must not follow a crowd in doing evil things; in a lawsuit you must not offer testimony that agrees with a crowd so as to pervert justice,

— Exodus 23:2 (NET)

Even if the crowd has important people in it; even if men and women in lab coats with doctorates say it's a good thing; even if the law of the land sanctions what God forbids; Even if your parents or your spouse or your children think it's OK or least socially acceptable.

I fear God. I know he's not to be trifled with.


© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Thinx 83: Hiding the Cost of Discipleship

strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

— Acts 14:22 (ESV)

It is unfair not to tell new believers about the inevitable outcome of their choice to believe the Gospel; focusing purely on the wonderful plan that God indeed has for one's future makes for shallow disciples who are thus left unprepared for the schemes and screams of the flesh, the world, and the Devil.

Making the gospel attractive is one thing; being knowingly evasive about the consequences of faith is quite another.


© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Thinx 82: Persecution and Punishment

For their crime will they escape? In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!

— Psalm 57:6 (ESV)

See the psalmist's plight: hounded all day by enemies who twist his words; who watch his every movement, looking for grounds to accuse. The psalmist has enemies who, like wild animals, acknowledge no law apart from their own evil desire.

Note the psalmist's response: He calls out to God in prayer and praise, expressing trust; he acknowledges his fear and declares its remedy; and he leaves the anger, judgment and punishment to God.


© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Thinx 81: Love and Harm

Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

— Romans 13:10 (NKJV)

This doesn't mean that if you refrain from harming your neighbour, then you've fulfilled the law. Rather, having loved your neighbour in word and action, the sum of these does good to your neighbour rather than harm. The previous verse gives more context.
For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

— Romans 13:9 (NKJV)

To love your neighbour as yourself works like this: When your body is hungry, do you feed it? When your body is in danger, do you protect it? You are demonstrating by feeding and protecting youself, a love for yourself. In the same way, if your neighbour is hungry, feed him, and if he is in danger, protect him.

We all love ourselves -- we all seek to eat, drink, stay comfortable, and stay safe. It is extremely rare to find anyone who willing seeks opportunities to starve to death. All the things that we would have for ourselves in this regard, seek also for the neighbour. This is what it means to love others as you love yourself.

It is not enough just to avoid harming. One must actively pursue loving.


© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Thinx 80: Infringing God's Copyright

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah

— Psalm 4:2 (ESV)

The science of biomimetics copies what is seen in the natural world and develops products of benefit (usually) to all. Velcro is an example, derived from the structure of burrs.

Sadly, God is very rarely acknowledged as the inventor. His copyright is consistently infringed. I doubt that he's impressed.

Before we point an accusing finger at the scientific and engineering communities, we should also consider our own failure to give credit where it is due.

All that we have and are is directly or indirectly attributable to God's loving provision. For in him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). When we copy his creation and derive wealth and benefit from it, let us honour him by publicly acknowledging the source.


© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Thinx 79: Goodness and Faithfulness

Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?

— Proverbs 20:6 (KJV)

One of these days, when someone tells me he's a good man, I may remember to ask him if he's a faithful man. If he's got a girlfriend/partner/wife, is he faithful to her both in thought and in action, or do his eyes and mind wander when an attractive woman comes into view. Has he made promises and kept them? His goodness is useless if not backed up by faithfulness.
but a faithful man who can find? who answers to the character he gives of himself, or others upon his own representation give him; who is as good as his word, and, having promised assistance and relief, gives it; and who, having boasted that he has done a kindness to such an one and such an one, does the same likewise to another when applied to; or who sticks to his friend, and does not forsake him in his adversity, but supports and supplies him whom he knew in prosperity; it is hard and rare to find such a man

— Gill's Exposition



© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Thinx 78: Weighed down with cares

"But be on your guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day close down upon you suddenly like a trap."

— https://www.bible.com/bible/107/luk.21.34

This is for me, because I am being weighted down with the worries of life. I need to be on my guard, praying. [6 Jan 2003]
"All new news is old news happening to new people"

— Malcolm Muggeridge

Muggeridge was right. Here we are 12 years on from when I wrote the above. Different details; same challenges. I still need to be on my guard.

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Thinx 77: Testing

The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.

— https://www.bible.com/bible/59/psa.11.5

We forget that. He examines us; we experience difficulty so as to test whether our trust in God is real or feigned. Do we love God for who he is or for the material encouragements he gives?

God's knowledge of us is total. The test is applied not so that he can find out something he doesn't know but rather so that we can find out something that we are unaware of: the truth about ourselves.


© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Thinx 76: Thankfulness

For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, "I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink."

— https://www.bible.com/bible/59/hos.2.5

A friend gave me a toasted cheese sandwich. I thanked him and I also gave thanks to God for it. He said he didn't think God had much to do with it. I said, "Who invented wheat? Who invented cows? Who invented milk? ... In Him we live and move and have our being."

How can one not be thankful? Yet a practical atheism, that acknowledges God's existence but denies aspects of his nature, lives on.


© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Thinx 75: Remembrance

"...Treat my Sabbaths as holy and they will be a reminder of our relationship, and then you will know that I am the Lord your God."

— https://www.bible.com/bible/107/ezk.20.20

If the sabbath reminds the Jew of his relationship with God, what reminds us of our relationship with him? Communion, Sabbath-keeping or something else?

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Thinx 74: A distance of zero

God is watching us, from a distance

— Bette Midler, "God is Watching"

“Do you really think anyone can hide himself where I cannot see him?” the Lord asks. “Do you not know that I am everywhere?” the Lord asks.

— https://www.bible.com/bible/107/jer.23.24

Surely God watches us from every atom in our own body, from every atom in the wider environment, and from every dimension. Whatever the measurement, the distance is zero!

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Thinx 73: Before

“You shall have no other gods before me.

— https://www.bible.com/search/bible?q=exodus+20%3A3&version_id=107

The word before is significant, implying not replacement but rather putting YHWH at the bottom of the barrel and stacking deities on top which you work through slowly, only very rarely getting to the bottom.

Thought about that in context of Jeremiah 12:2b
They always talk about you, but they really care nothing about you.

— https://www.bible.com/search/bible?q=jeremiah+12%3A2&version_id=107



© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015

Thinx 72: I believed, therefore I spoke

But since we have the same spirit of faith as that shown in what has been written, “ I believed; therefore I spoke ,” we also believe, therefore we also speak.

— http://bible.com/107/2co.4.13.net

Actions naturally follow faith. Faith without a physical manifestation is a contradiction. The truth must be lived out, not merely assented to intellectually. Christians in the rest of the world understand this and suffer accordingly. The Western church has so far avoided suffering but only by holding its tongue.

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2015