Everybody Knows…

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Last night’s cell group meeting generated an impromptu study on who satan is and when his fall from grace occurred. This was partly sparked by discussion on the early chapters of Genesis which record, amongst other things, the first temptation of Adam and Eve.

I looked up a couple of web-sites that asserted that satan, also known as Lucifer, was originally an archangel and the leader of the heavenly praise. There were no scriptures to back this up, so it seems to be a tradition rather than Bible teaching.

Discussion turned to two traditional passages used in the discussion- Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14. These passages often confuse me because some preachers confidently assert they talk about Lucifer in his pre-fall condition. I struggle with this because they are passages addressed as taunts against two particular human rulers. I can see how you might get an interpretation that the passages are talking about satan but they explicitly state in the text that they are addressed as taunts against the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14) and the King of Tyre (Ezekiel 28)- in fact the Ezekiel passage says this twice.

Then the revelation came. One of the group members read the Isaiah 14 passage and I heard the word I have never read before:

“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!

Isaiah 14:14

The New Living says this:

How you have fallen from heaven,
    morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
    you who once laid low the nations!

I asked the group member, “Is that the New King James?” to which she said “Yes”

So the New King James follows the original King James in translating the “morning star” as Lucifer, and then helpfully adds the section heading “The Fall of Lucifer” right before it.

That’s where they get it from.

Here’s the problem. Lucifer is a Latin name meaning “light bearer” and was used to refer to the morning star, Venus. But the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, not Latin. So when the translators of the King James Version were doing their translation work in the early 1600’s they were still influenced by the so-called Latin Vulgate Bible which was the official Catholic translation.

The translators of the NKJV have no such excuse. They should have translated is as “morning star” and maybe referred to the Lucifer translation in a footnote.

You can still choose to interpret these passages as referring to satan if you like. To me it’s a bit of a stretch to do that, especially when the original writers were clear about whom they were directing their comments at.

The NLT Study Bible, in the footnotes to Isaiah 14:12 say this:

Some see the fall of the king of Babylon here as symbolising the fall of Satan. However there is little here to suggest that Isaiah understood it in this way. He was thinking of the historical king of Babylon… the Hebrew text makes no apparent reference here to the name of Satan.

All of this shows that we should not blindly accept what people teach us about the Bible. If something doesn’t seem to make sense in the way people interpret Scripture, you should always ask for more information about why they believe that.

In an ideal world, every christian would know Hebrew and Greek. Failing that, I think it’s always a good idea to check several versions of Scripture to try and gain a better understanding of a text. Software makes this so easy to do, or use Bible apps or internet search sites such as Bible Gateway.

Reflection on John 20:19-21

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Referencehttps://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+20.19-31

Scripture

These things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in His name.

Observation

The disciples meet in a locked room, and Jesus appears. He shows them His wounds to demonstrate who He is. He breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit.

Thomas missed out on this event and so he refuses to believe that Jesus is alive. A week later the disciples again meet together, and again Jesus appears. Now Thomas is able to believe.

Jesus did much more than is recorded in John’s gospel. But these things are written in order to bring the reader to faith in Jesus.

Application

It must have been an exciting, even fearful, experience to meet with the risen Lord in this way.

Since Jesus ascended to heaven, we have the opportunity to meet the risen Lord every day. This may not be in the physical way of the disciples’ experience, but it is just as real.

The initiative now lies with us. It is up to me to start the conversation, to seek the Lord. When I do that He meets with me, hears my prayers, talks back and shows me His ways.

He truly is Emmanuel- God with us.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I thank you that you are always with me, that your Spirit dwells in me. Help me to fellowship with you in every place I go, in every activity and conversation. Amen.

Reflection on Revelation 1:1-8

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Referencehttps://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=revelation+1.1-8

Scripture

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom of priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Observation

This is the revelation of Jesus Christ, given by God to John. There is a blessing for everyone who reads the words of the prophecy aloud and for those who hear it.

John writes to the seven churches in Asia. Jesus is coming with the clouds and everyone will see Him.

Application

The book of Revelation starts with this big doxology of praise and worship to God. John has seen something huge and is caught up in praise.

We need to train our hearts and minds to recognise who God is, what Christ has done and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When we think and mediate on these things, we too will be moved to praise Him.

Jesus is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him. As followers of Jesus we can see Him before that day and worship Him in the present time.

Prayer

So soon after the celebration of your death and resurrection, Lord Jesus, our hearts are filled with awe and praise. May that continue through every day. Amen.

Is the Church Really Declining?

There is a huge movement, a transformation, in the church right around the world with the old denominations in decline, but Pentecostal and charismatic churches thriving.

From Charisma:

Why These Closing Churches Are Fuelling the Charismatic Movement

Hillsong Church London holds four services, attended by 8,000 people, every Sunday at the Dominion Theatre. Photo courtesy of Hillsong Church London
Hillsong Church London holds four services, attended by 8,000 people, every Sunday at the Dominion Theatre. (Photo courtesy of Hillsong Church London)

Church closings are nothing new in Britain.

In the past six years, 168 Church of England churches have closed, along with 500 Methodist and 100 Roman Catholic churches.

“Christianity in Britain has seen a relentless decline for over 100 years,” says Linda Woodhead, a sociologist at Lancaster University.

Visitors to Britain are often shocked when they see the state of some of this nation’s once-proud church buildings.

But for every Anglican church that has closed over the past six years, more than three Pentecostal or charismatic churches have taken their place, according to an analysis by The Times of London.

These Pentecostal and charismatic churches are drawing young, black, Asian and mixed-race people.

Pentecostalism is one of the fastest-growing movements in world Christendom, with an estimated 500 million followers.

“A century ago the face of European Christianity could have been labeled as white, but now it is increasingly becoming multicolored,” said Israel Olofinjana, a Nigerian-born minister in London told the Times.

While aging Church of England congregations decline, charismatic churches thrive.

Hillsong Church London holds four services, attended by 8,000 people, every Sunday at the Dominion Theatre.

“It feels like God’s nightclub, with love songs to Jesus,” said one young African after attending an evening service.

Christians from Eastern Europe, especially Poland, where Catholic roots run deep, are among the participants. And their enthusiasm is contagious.

“There’s been a seismic shift,” said Robert Beckford, a professor of theology at Canterbury Christ Church University. “Christianity in Britain has become much more ethnically diverse as a result of migration from West Africa, Eastern Europe and, to a degree, Latin America.”

Elizabeth Oldfield, director at Theos, one of England’s leading think tanks, told The Times: “Church structures have to take immigration much more seriously. They’re having to listen to people on the ground that are joining the churches in quite large numbers, speaking a different language, perhaps coming from different forms of worship and working to bring change. It is shaking the church up.”

The Pentecostal growth is bringing renewed hope to many.

“I am optimistic that we will see this nation come back to God,” said Pastor Agu Irukwu of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The group, founded in Nigeria, now has 600 congregations across England. 

Reflection on Acts 5:27-32

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Referencehttps://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts 5.27-32

Scripture

We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Observation

The apostles have been arrested but set free by an angel. They are re-arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin.

The high priest says to them that despite being ordered to remain silent, they have filled the city with their teaching.

Peter and the others reply that they must obey God rather than men. God has raised Christ whom the authorities had executed. God has exalted Him as Lord and Saviour to bring repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.

Application

The testimony of the apostles is simple. The authorities executed Jesus, but God raised Him up and now He gives salvation and forgiveness to all who trust in Him.

We don’t have to make witnessing complicated. We follow a risen Saviour. The Holy Spirit can bring conviction and faith. We just have to say what we have seen and experienced.

Peter says, We are witnesses of these things.” It’s not a myth or made up story- Jesus is alive and He offers eternal life to all who will make Him their king.

Prayer

Thank you Lord for the gift of salvation. Show me how to testify to my friends about your great grace. Amen.

Today’s Sermon

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The Good Friday sermon is ow available on the New Life web-site.

The sermon takes the form of a series of Bible readings and reflections produced by  Pastor Vince Gerhardy, St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Caboolture . You can visit his web-site here

To listen to the sermon click here or to download the mp3 click here

Book Review: Prayer Shield by C. Peter Wagner

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There are lots of books, great books, about prayer available these days. This is the only one that I have come across that dissects the needs of christian leaders for personal prayer teams and offers help in putting such a team together.

Pastors, and other leaders are often targeted specifically by satan in order to limit their effectiveness or sometimes cause them to fall from leadership altogether. It is well-known that pastors in Western countries are lacking in their personal lives- on average about 22 minutes per day in the U.S. compared to 5 hours or more in China.

Wagner suggests that for a pastor to be effective, s/he  must determine to do two things:

  1. Increase their personal prayer times, aiming for something like an hour per day.
  2. Develop a prayer team consisting of people with various gifts of intercession- he uses the terms I-1, I-2, I-3 to describe people who are at various places of prayer and personal closeness to the leader.

Peppered with examples to illustrate his points, this book is inspiring and easy to read.

Over the last couple of years I have increased my personal prayer times. Now I am inspired to seek out the true intercessors in my church and community and start building a team.

 

 

Fishy Price Tag

The Same Sex “marriage” plebiscite scares the activists because they are afraid they might lose and actually fear democracy as an institution. So it’s no surprise that they exaggerate the cost of voting in an attempt to pressure the Government to abandon the plebiscite.

From the Centre for Independent Studies:

Something fishy about PwC’s plebiscite price tag Peter Kurti 24 MARCH 2016 | IDEAS@THECENTRE

same sex marriage equality 1Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised to settle the marriage equality issue democratically by allowing voters to state their views in a national plebiscite later this year.

Malcolm Turnbull has committed to honour that promise — unless he is intimidated into silencing the Australian people, and scuppers the plebiscite plan altogether.

A new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers puts a price tag on each of the options for consulting the Australian people on the future of one of our society’s fundamental institutions.

Leaving it to the pollies is the cheapest option — $17 million according to PwC. And a stand-alone plebiscite with a compulsory vote on same-sex marriage is the most expensive at $525 million.

If it looks like fish and smells like fish, it probably is fish. And this report from PwC definitely has a fishy pong to it. Especially when you add in the estimated $20 million bill for mental health costs.

Scare tactics are being used by same-sex marriage advocates desperate to keep the issue well away from the voters. Suddenly a plebiscite is said to be a waste of time and money.

72% of Australians support marriage equality, according to Australian Marriage Equality’s website. But if that is true, why worry about letting Australians have their say?

It’s not to save money that the advocates want to shut down public debate about changing the meaning of marriage. It’s because they’re worried they might lose a plebiscite vote.

So rather than trust the integrity and decency of the Australian public, advocates would rather silence the people and leave it to the elites to stitch up a deal.

Democracy has a price well worth paying; in fact, it’s a price we must always be prepared to pay. Marriage equality advocates may well be on the side of the angels with justice on their side.

But unless they place their trust in the hands of the Australian voters and allow the people to decide on marriage equality, the advocates will never quite dispel the stench of a fishy fix-up.