The Church in the Apostles’ Creed

4 characteristics that are basic and foundational to understanding what the Church is all about.

O.T. Lesson   Isaiah 56:6-8
N.T. Lesson  I John 1:5-2:6

I believe … in the Holy Christian Church
The communion of Saints
The forgiveness of sins.

The church begins with the appointment of ‘the Twelve‘ [Mark 3:13-19] whom he trained to preach and do wonders (which authenticated them to the people).  The climax of the beginning portion of the establishment of the church comes in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit comes and fills them!   Now, with ‘God in them’, they start to preach with power and confidence. “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” [Acts 2:41]

Though there is controversy  about what the Church really is, Alister McGrath [1. McGrath, Alister, I Believe, Illinois, Inter Varsity Press 1997] notes 4 characteristics that are basic and foundational to understanding what the Church is all about.  [I’m using his outline for this portion].

  1. There is one Church. With Jesus  as the head [Col. 1:18], they have in common “One Lord, One faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.” [Eph 4:5,6]  While we can agree to disagree on peripheral issues, we need to focus on celebrating those things we have in common.
  2. It is a HOLY Church. The word for church in Greek is ecclesia and it means “an assembly”.  The word “saint” has the idea of being set apart – holy is another word that is used in the same connotation.  So it is a group of people who are set apart as the object of God’s favour on the basis of His grace in an assembly.
  3. I have substituted the word “Christian” for “catholic” to avoid confusion with the Roman Catholic Church.  The word “catholic”  means ‘universal’, with the connotation of ‘available to all’.  It is relevant to every culture, every age, every situation [Isaiah 56:7].  [Notice the Alternative Introduction to Communion that I use.]
  4. The Church is Apostolic –– Notice Acts 2:42.  “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” and “You are… members of God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, [this phrase ties together the Old and New Testaments] with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.“[Eph 2:19,20].  The New Testament church was preoccupied with rehearsing what Jesus had said and done and those who were qualified to share this information were the ‘Apostles’.  Jesus had said [Matt 28] that as they were going they should make disciples and instruct them in what he had told them, and in John 14:26 He ‘will remind you of everything I have said to you“.

The church is the communion of saints. We read in I John 1:7,9;2:1,2:  “If we walk in the light … we have fellowship… If we confess our sins … he will forgive…  We have One  who speaks to the Father in our defense– Jesus Christ, the righteous one…  He is the atoning sacrifice … for the sins of the whole world.”  The Apostle Paul illustrates the church as a building with Christ as the Chief Cornerstone.  He also describes it as a body made up of many parts, each indispensable to the effective working of the whole.  If there is not a working harmony, it will soon deteriorate — and that is where the next phrase comes in: the forgiveness of sins

God is in the “Forgiving” business.Reconciling the world to himself… God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” [II Corintians5:19,21].  He has no intention of losing us, unless we refuse to accept His way for us to come into a right-standing with Him.  Note John 3:16-18.  [Hebrews 10: 12-31 develops this very well].

This is the background to the statement in the Lords’ Prayer:  “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors“. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” [Matt 6.12,14,15].

The key illustration Jesus gives is in Matt 18:21-35 MSG

Are we experiencing the fellowship, the communion of the saints — have we let go of the hurts and the alienation of relationships from disagreements, and embraced The Body of Jesus Christ so that we can function in wholeness?    Jesus said,  “This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples — when they see the love you have for each other.“[John 13:35 MSG]

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, OUR LORD. HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY. HE SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED AND WAS BURIED. HE DECENDED TO THE DEAD. ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN. HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN  AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER. HE WILL COME AGAIN TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH,  THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS,  THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS,  THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY,  AND THE LIFE EVER LASTING. AMEN

Other resources used:

  1. Alister McGrath, I Believe — Exploring the Apostles’ Creed, Illinois, InterVarsity Press, 1997. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  2. D. Bruce Lockerbie, The Apostles’ Creed: Do You Really Believe It?  Wheaton, SP Publications Inc., 1977. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  3. Holy Bible, New International Version. International Bible Society, 1984. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  4. Eugene Peterson. The Message, Colorado, Navpress, 1993.  (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  5. Gilbert Staford. Theology for Disciples, Anderson, Warner Press, 1996.  (Buy this book from Amazon.com)

©2000 D H Friesen

A Story about Forgiveness

From the Message: Last Part of Matthew 18

“The Kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants.  As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars.  He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.

“The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’  Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.

“The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars.  He seized him by the throat and demanded, “Pay up!  Now!’

“The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’  But he wouldn’t do it.  He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid.  When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

“The king summoned the man and said, “You evil servant!  I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy.  Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’  The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt.  And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.”

Alternate Invitation to Communion by D.H.Friesen, 1998

” We invite all who have put their faith and trust in Christ to participate in this supper of memorial. Black, White, Yellow, Brown — all are welcome. Every race whether Asian, African, European, Indian, North or South American are welcome. The Bible says that there is no difference — Male or female, slave or free, rich or poor, employer of employee, millionaire or person on income assistance — all are welcome. Those who are healthy as well as those who are sick, the advantaged and the disadvantaged, the intelligent and studied as well as those who are disadvantaged both intellectually and scholastically.

“As human beings redeemed by the blood of the Lamb we stand on the same ground at the foot of the cross — Thanking God for his mercy and grace and participating together in the celebration and remembrance of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ which was for our sins and the sins of the whole world.” [return to the sermon]

The Lifelong Learner’s Teaching Archive: February 13, 2000 Senior’s Service

Contribution versus committment

In Castlegar, the local churches co-ordinate together to minister to the city’s seniors’ residences every week.  This is the service for February 13, 2000, as given by Kinnaird Church of God.

TELERICO PLACE – FEB 13, 2000

514 IN MY HEART THERE RINGS

INTRODUCTION

44 CHILDREN OF THE HEAVENLY FATHER

519 SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL

459 BRIEF SERVICE ENDING WITH

462 SAVIOUR LIKE A SHEPHERD

374 O LOVE THAT WILT NOT LET ME GO

509 BRIEF SERVICE ENDING WITH

513 O HOW HE LOVES YOU AND ME

364 MY JESUS I LOVE THEE

186 THE OLD RUGGED CROSS

435 WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS

MESSAGE

67  THE LOVE OF GOD

43 GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS

BENEDICTION

May the LORD bless you and keep you. May the LORD shine His face upon you and favour you. May the LORD lift up his face toward you and grant you  SHALOM (His peace).  AMEN

*USE HYMNAL OF WORSHIP AND CELEBRATION , WORD

MESSAGE

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  It’s named after a man who was a slave in Ireland and then went back to tell them that they could be set free to love God.  The Bible says that God sent the very best Valentine ever– “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” [John 3:16].

Today, Valentines are often just a way of being polite.  Even those who are sincere are often only serious for the time being.  Like the Leprechaun in Finnians Rainbow: “If you can’t be with the one you love — love the one you’re with.”

So commitments to relationships become rarities, and those who are find themselves being embarrassed for having stuck it out through thick and thin.

Marriage ceremonies have been rewritten to say “….to live together, as long as we both shall love…”  Scripture says, “But God demonstrated his love to us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”  [Romans 5:8]

It’s like the difference between and egg and the bacon in the pan– The chicken made a contribution, but the pig said, “Good-bye” (committment!).

God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” [ John 3:17]

Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose.  We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus the Messiah!” [Romans 5:11 MSG]

Thank you for your Valentine!

©2000 D H Friesen

I Believe in the Holy Spirit: The Apostles’ Creed

The Valentine of the Holy Spirit

God gave us His Valentine– it was Jesus Christ. “God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Rom.5: 8] Jesus gave us His Valentine when he promised the Holy Spirit- “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of Truth.” [John 14:16,17]

The Valentine of the Holy Spirit is what we would like to talk about.

We first meet the Holy Spirit in Gen. 1:2: “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” ‘The image suggested by the word is that of an eagle protecting its young [1. Fox, Everett, The Five Books of Moses, New York, Schocken Books 1995. p.13]. There at the beginning of Creation is the intimation that the Holy Spirit is part of the action. You meet Him in the story of Noah in Gen. 6: “My Spirit will not contend with man forever.” And the flood wiped out all breathing life. The Holy Spirit is intimated at the Tower of Babel story: “Come let us go down and confuse their language,” [Gen. 11:1-9]

The Holy Spirit also has a unique role in the lives of individual people. Young David, a shepherd and the son of Jesse, was anointed by the Prophet Samuel “and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power,” [I Sam 16:13]. And that was a major part of the influence on David’s life. Even when he violated God’s rules, he acknowledged his sin and begged forgiveness: “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me,” [Psalms 51:10-12].

Notice though, that Jesus said, “will send” [John 14:26], and in verse 17, “he lives with you and will be IN you“. In the OT the Holy Spirit came upon people and empowered them for specific jobs, but now He is to come and live within us. In Acts 1:5 Jesus promised just before he left that “In a few days you will be immersed in the Ruah Hakodesh” — (Stern p151) — the Breath of the Holy God. And this was fulfilled on the 1st day of the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2: “a sound like the blowing of a violent wind…. they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and come to rest on each…All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues [or languages] as the Spirit enabled them.” [Acts 2:1-4].

Jesus told stories in Matthew 25 to illustrate and warn about understanding these concepts. “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins…”. The oil here is a symbol of the Holy Spirit; the bridegroom is the Son of God. There is no True Life without the Holy Spirit in the life; it cannot be brought or purchased, and it cannot be transferred from one person to another — it can only come from God. There is however an alternative spirit that often parades itself as the Holy Spirit but isn’t. I John 4 warns us, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world…. You dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater that the one who is in the world.”[I John 4:1,4]

The next story is about what to do about what God gives you. Though there can be several interpretations and applications, I would like to suggest that we consider some things Dr Blackaby suggested:

  1. God calls us to a relationship with Him. Nothing happens of God in our lives until we respond to his call.
  2. God invites us to join him in a ministry he has outlined for us to do. No employment or activity will have an eternal dimension unless it is God at work.
  3. God equips us and gifts us to do the ministry-job he has called us to join him on.

Moses knew he was called to help his people, but when he went at it on his own he ended up having to leave for 40 years. And in the meantime the Israelis suffered.

So don’t worry about what your gift is, or what your gifting is — rather ask God to show you where He is working, and where He wants to have you join Him. He will supply the special gifting needed. “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit– just as it has taught you, remain in him.” [I John 2:27]

‘John is not ruling out human teachers…. John’s response was that what the readers were taught under the Spirit’s ministry through the apostles not only was adequate but was the only reliable truth…. The teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit does not involve revelation of new truth or the explanation of all difficult passages of scripture to our satisfaction. Rather, it is the development of the capacity to appreciate and appropriate God’s truth already revealed– making the Bible meaningful in thought and daily living. All the things necessary to know for salvation and Christian living’. [2. The NIV Study Bible, Grand Rapids, Zondervan 1984]

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, OUR LORD. HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY. HE SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED AND WAS BURIED. HE DECENDED TO THE DEAD. ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN. HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER. HE WILL COME AGAIN TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH, THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS, THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS, THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY, AND THE LIFE EVER LASTING. AMEN

Other resources used:

  1. Alister McGrath, I Believe — Exploring the Apostles’ Creed, Illinois, InterVarsity Press, 1997. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  2. D. Bruce Lockerbie, The Apostles’ Creed: Do You Really Believe It? Wheaton, SP Publications Inc., 1977. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  3. Holy Bible, New International Version. International Bible Society, 1984. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  4. Eugene Peterson. The Message, Colorado, Navpress, 1993. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  5. Gilbert Staford. Theology for Disciples, Anderson, Warner Press, 1996. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)

©2000 D H Friesen

Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus.

I BELIEVE: REVIEWING OUR FAITH

APOSTLES’ CREED- RESURRECTION

O.T. Lesson Psalm 16
N.T. Lesson: Acts 1:1-11

Josh McDowell said,”After more than 700 hours of studying this subject, and thoroughly investigating it’s foundation, I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most wicked, vicious hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men, or it is the most fantastic fact of history.” (McDowell 179)

Christianity stands or falls on this event.  Let’s take a look at the N.T. story in Matt 28:1-15…”An earthquake…the stone rolled back and an angel saying, “He is not here.  He is risen as he said…The chief priests told them (the guards) “You are to say ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep’. So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed…”   Jesus had predicted the event– look at John 2:18-22: “Destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days…After he was raised his disciples recalled…and believed.”

The Old Testament had predicted it– Psalms 16:10: “you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. And the early disciples used this passage to demonstrate the truths of the Good News [of the Gospel].  Acts 2:29-36 “David died and was buried… but he was a prophet…seeing what was ahead. he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ…

This fact became the centre feature of the Followers of The Way– notice what the apostle Paul says: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings becoming like him [in spirit] to his death [in the hope] that if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].” (Phil 3:10,1; NIV/ AMP)

Many people who do not want to have to acknowledge God’s plan for their lives have tried to get around that by pretending the resurrection never happened.   I Cor. 15:12-19 indicates that it was something that was there in the N.T. times already– “If there is no resurrection…then not even Christ was raised… then those who have fallen asleep [died] in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”  Some have claimed the disciples were hallucination and only thought they saw him alive; however, the lists of people who saw him and the locations and descriptions of those events clearly ‘debunk’ that theory.

Professor Kirsopp Lake (McDowell 255) tried to suggest that the women went to the wrong tomb, the disciples had already gone to Galilee and the women didn’t say anything for several weeks.  If that was true the Pharisees could have stopped the belief of the disciples by producing the real body.  The change in the lives of the disciples was so dramatic that even the Jewish leaders took notice “When they saw the courage of Peter and John…. they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

The good news is that this is available to us– Paul writes to the Romans — “Paul a servant of Christ Jesus… set apart for the gospel… he promised regarding his Son … who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead…through him …we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith…. I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes….” (Romans 1:1-6,16,17)

But Jesus didn’t stick around here- He went back to His Father in heaven where he reigns.  He’s in charge of the universe [see Psalm 2] and at the same time pleads our case before his Father- intimately interested in our affairs and what affects us [see I John 2:1,2 and I Peter 5:7}  And eventually in his own good time the Bible says that he is coming back to take us who have put our faith and trust in him, with him to live and reign with him forever.

The phrase in the creed indicates that there will come a day of accountability when everyone will have to answer the great question- “What have you done about Jesus?”God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him.“[John 3:17,18] However in Romans 1:18-20 we read … “So they have no excuse whatever for not knowing God“[NLT]

Do you know Him?  Are you intimately acquainted with Him?  Is the power of His resurrection at work in your life?  He pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal  And His is inviting you to become involved in the work He is doing.

Reference: Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, San Bernardino, Here’s Life, 1979.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, OUR LORD. HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY. HE SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED AND WAS BURIED. HE DECENDED TO THE DEAD.  ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN. HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN  AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER. HE WILL COME AGAIN TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH,  THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS,  THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS,  THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY,  AND THE LIFE EVER LASTING. AMEN

Other resources used:

  1. Alister McGrath, I Believe — Exploring the Apostles’ Creed, Illinois, InterVarsity Press, 1997.
  2. D. Bruce Lockerbie, The Apostles’ Creed: Do You Really Believe It?  Wheaton, SP Publications Inc., 1977. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  3. Holy Bible, New International Version. International Bible Society, 1984.
  4. Eugene Peterson. The Message, Colorado, Navpress, 1993.
  5. Gilbert Staford. Theology for Disciples, Anderson, Warner Press, 1996.

©2000 D H Friesen

I Believe in Jesus Christ: The Apostles’ Creed

“I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST HIS ONLY SON OUR LORD”

O.T. Lesson   Isa 53:1-6
N.T. Lesson   John 1:1-14

Real enjoyment, fun if you will, for the Christian is Jesus.  After the resurrection, the New Testament believers suddenly found the key to the Old Testament.  The Old Testament was de-mystified, and from one end to the other, it was noted that the story was of Jesus.  They found him in the Pentateuch and in the Historical books, in the poetic and in the prophetic.   He was in Creation, actively involved with the patriarchs– in the Passover, the wilderness wanderings, in the Judges, in the story of the Royalty of Israel.  He was in the law and in the sacrifices and in what they represented.  And he was in predictions of the Messiah– of his life, of his death, of his resurrection, of his ascension and of his coming again.

The Messiah had been seen in shadow but now after his resurrection it was in the open for all to see.  His humanity was demonstrated in his name Jesus– just an ordinary Jewish name but with a new dimension!  Tacitus the Roman historian mentions him as “Christ, who was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontus Pilate in the reign of Tiberias” [1. Mc Grath, I Believe, Illinois, Intervarsity Press, Page 39.], and Josephus the Jewish historian devotes a whole paragraph to these final events [2. Josephus, Antiquities, Book XVIII, Chapter 3, p3].   But he was more than merely an historical figure.  He was the Son of God– His first-born, unique Son, and the NT believers became preoccupied with him.  Look at the book of The Acts of the Apostles chapters 3 and 4.

When the Old Testament was translated into Greek [called the Septuagent, which was the translation Paul used] the special name for God which came out of Ex.3:14 “I AM WHO I AM or I WILL BE THERE AS I WILL BE THERE. [sometimes indicated by the letters YHWH, and written in English as Jehovah, Yahweh] was translated as Kyrios and translated in English as LORD.  The normal definition was sir, Mr. or Master or owner, a title of respect.  And sometimes in the NT it has that connotation;  however, it often goes over to the larger meaning and identifies Jesus with the special name for God from the OT.  [In Matt 12 Jesus calls himself ‘Lord of the Sabbath”, and in Luke 20 he challenges the theologians of the day to  the title of ‘Lord’ to the Messiah. and then in John 20:28 Thomas exclaims “My Lord and my God“].  In Acts 2:36 Peter identifies Jesus in these words “Let all Israel be assured — God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

The Apostles took Jesus’ statement recorded in Matt 28: 18 seriously– “All authority is given to me in heaven and earth” and Paul writes in Eph 1:18ff “Christ.. is seated.. in the heavenly realms far above all rule and authority, power and dominion and every title that can be given not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”  Not only is he Lord in an abstract way but also individually.  Romans 14:7-9 says,”None of us lives to himself alone, and none of us dies to himself alone.  If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.  For this very reason Christ died and returned to life so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”

Can you truly say that “Jesus is Lord” in your life today?

(Buy this book from Amazon.com) 2   (Buy this book from Amazon.com)

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, OUR LORD. HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY.  HE SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED AND WAS BURIED. HE DECENDED TO THE DEAD.  ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN. HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN  AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER. HE WILL COME AGAIN TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH,  THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS,  THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS,  THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY,  AND THE LIFE EVER LASTING. AMEN

Other resources used:

  1. Alister McGrath, I Believe — Exploring the Apostles’ Creed, Illinois, InterVarsity Press, 1997. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  2. D. Bruce Lockerbie, The Apostles’ Creed: Do You Really Believe It?  Wheaton, SP Publications Inc., 1977. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  3. Holy Bible, New International Version. International Bible Society, 1984. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  4. Eugene Peterson. The Message, Colorado, Navpress, 1993.  (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  5. Gilbert Staford. Theology for Disciples, Anderson, Warner Press, 1996.  (Buy this book from Amazon.com)

©2000 D H Friesen

I Believe: The Apostles’ Creed

REVIEWING OUR FAITH

O.T. Lesson Psalm 8
N.T. Lesson Hebrews 10:32-11:1

The opening words of the Apostles’ Creed are “I Believe….  Lets take a brief look at what it means to ‘believe’.

  1. Belief, or faith, means assent.  Agreeing with a proposition.  As in ‘I am of the opinion that there is a God’ or ‘Ford cars are useless’ … a belief founded on some knowledge or experience or based on the opinions of others.
  2. The statement from the creed goes much further.  This is not a mere educational position or knowledge but rather a deep trust.  This is not talking about being spiritually aware, but rather an assurance that the object of our trust is secure and trustworthy– and a suitable anchor for our belief.  See Heb 11:1.
  3. Faith means commitment.   “Take your ordinary life… and place it before God as an offering” [Romans 12:1 (The Message)] Heb 12:2 says, ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith’ And true faith leads to obedience.  Jesus challenged His disciples to “Make disciples … and teach them to obey everything I’ve commanded” [Matt 28:20] Paul commends the Roman believers in Rom. 1:8 and 16:19: ‘Your faith is being reported all over the world, and ‘Everyone has heard about your obedience‘.
  4. In James 1: 22-25, we have the challenge of faith and evidence.  It is like a rope that goes through the ceiling and over a shiv and comes back down with both ends hanging down.  If you grab one end and lean on it, down you go.  But if you grab both ends at the same time you can pick up your feet off the ground.  “Without faith it is impossible to please God‘ [Heb 11:6].Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.   Saving is all his idea, and all his work.  All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role.  If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” [Eph. 2:8-10 MSG}.  Or as James says it, ‘faith without deeds is dead‘  [James 2:26].  In Heb 11, we get the litany of those who ‘put their money where their mouth was’; ending in this statement in verse 39- “These were all commended for their faith (even though) none of them received what was promised.”
  5. The Faith“- That is the belief system described by the word of God as ‘The Sacred Tradition’.  Take a look at I Tim 4:6 where the Faith is described and then contrasted in the following verse “If you will point these things out …  the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed” vs. “Having nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales“.

The Apostles’ Creed, then, is an outline of the tenets of our faith– it grew out of an awareness that we need to obey the injunction from scripture “to be able to give an answer … for the hope you have [I Peter 3:15]. The Apostles’ Creed is not the complete definitive statement.  But it contains the framework- the essentials (as found in the Word of God) that have stood the test of time, of archeology, of research, and of experience in walking with God.

There is also one presupposition we ought to mention- The Bible is THE WORD OF GOD and is the authority that gives structure to our faith and how that is to work out in practice.

Psalm 119 has 176 verses, and almost every one has ways and reasons that God’s Word should be our preoccupation and standard.  It uses words like statutes, laws, precepts, commands, words, promises, and decrees to describe Scripture.

Deuteronomy 4:1,2 says, “Hear the decrees, follow them.  Do not add… and do not subtract and this is mirrored in Rev 22:18 “If anyone adds anything  …God will add to him the plagues… If anyone takes words away from this book, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the Holy City.

Our faith then is described and defined in the Bible by the God of the Bible and it is active in doing and submissive in not doing other than what is described in the Book.   In Acts 17:10-12 we read of “the Bereans who were of more noble character that the Thessalonians for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true“.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, OUR LORD. HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY.  HE SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED AND WAS BURIED. HE DECENDED TO THE DEAD.  ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN. HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN  AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER. HE WILL COME AGAIN TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH,  THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS,  THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS,  THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY,  AND THE LIFE EVER LASTING. AMEN

Other resources used:

  1. Alister McGrath, I Believe — Exploring the Apostles’ Creed, Illinois, InterVarsity Press, 1997. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  2. D. Bruce Lockerbie, The Apostles’ Creed: Do You Really Believe It?  Wheaton, SP Publications Inc., 1977. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  3. Holy Bible, New International Version. International Bible Society, 1984. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  4. Eugene Peterson. The Message, Colorado, Navpress, 1993.  (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  5. Gilbert Staford. Theology for Disciples, Anderson, Warner Press, 1996.  (Buy this book from Amazon.com)

©2000 D H Friesen

Christ Crucified: The Apostles’ Creed

In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 3, we have the genealogical background of Jesus’ mother.  It is introduced with the comment that “He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph…” [v. 23].  In Jesus’ neighbourhood, Joseph was his father and no one would have believed anything differently.  And so the genealogy tracing [we believe] his mother’s roots gives us the very human side of Jesus.  However, what wasn’t generally known was that God had demonstrated His power in the miraculous conception described in the words of Luke’s gospel: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God,” [Luke 1:35 NLT].

God the Son emptied Himself of His divine glory, took on the limitations of a fetus in the womb of the young woman Mary who was engaged to be married.  The angel went and talked to Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, and told him to take Mary as his wife and not think badly of her because of her seemingly premature pregnancy, because it was God’s doing– and to name the baby Yeshua (Jesus)– which means “The Lord saves“.

A story is told about a husband who had taken his wife to a Christmas Eve service at the church she attended.  He refused to stay himself, because he rejected the idea of God becoming a Man.  “I can’t respect a God who would want to give up being God to become like me,” he told his wife.

As he was going home it was snowing and on his front lawn a flock of winter birds huddled against the storm.  The wings were so burdened down with snow they could hardly fly.  A wave of compassion for the helpless birds swept through the man, and he went into his house to bring the birds some bread.  But as he approached them, the scattered in fright, hopping and flitting away.

“If they don’t eat, they’ll die,” the man said to himself,  “I’ve got to get food to them somehow.” The talking to the birds he said,  “Don’t be afraid, I want to help you. I want to save you, If only I could communicate with you.  If only, for a moment I could explain to you– but to do that, I’d have to become one of you…”

That’s when he started to understand the meaning of the Incarnation- God becoming Man.1

Not only did Jesus have parents and live in Nazareth, but he did so in a particular time frame.  And this is acknowledged in the statement of the Creed: “Under Pontius Pilate“.  This statement serves as a means of historical verification. [1. Locherbie, D. Bruce, The Apostles’ Creed, Illinois, Victor Books, 1977 P 45-50]   As people have gone into historical research to try to discredit the story of Jesus– his life, his death, his resurrection– this fact has always stumped them.  He really did live– He really did die ‘on a cross’ and the historians have recorded it, and not just those who were ‘Followers of The Way’, but also both Roman and Jewish. [2. Alister McGrath, I Believe — Exploring the Apostles’ Creed, Illinois, InterVarsity Press, 1997. p.39] [3. Josephus Antiquities of the Jews. XVIII chap 3, 3]

But the key event was his death by Crucifixion.  The word ‘excruciating’ comes from the Latin word for torture by crucifixion.  Not only was it the most difficult way to execute someone it was also the most humiliating way to die.  Exposed and naked before society, dying partly from loss of blood, but mostly from asphyxiation.  The pressure on the lungs so great that you can’t breathe.

But for Jesus the most difficult thing was being cut off from his Father.  As he took the load of the sins of the world, his Father could no longer look at him, and the Bible says that darkness covered the area– not an eclipse, for it lasted for 3 hours; not just a storm, but rather God hiding the sun– and in the middle of that experience, Jesus cries “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?“[Matt 27:46].

And He did it for me and for you and every other human being that has ever lived.

The crucifixion is the cure for selfishness, laziness, pickiness, arrogance, and apathy.

The crucifixion answers the question about what is important to God– and in Micah he says to us -“do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.  Jesus said it in his statement on the mount of Olives: “Not my will but Yours“.

He gave up the rights of glory and independence.  He took on the limitations of humanity and adopted the attitude of a slave.  He learned humility (by what he suffered) and deliberately took the lowest place possible– on a cross.

That is why God has exalted him and given him the highest name, given him honour (forever).  Given him the right to praise reserved for only God. [See Phil 2: 6-11].

And on this basis he calls us into relationship with himself.  II Corinthians 5:19-21 “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting peoples sins against them…/we urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, ‘be reconciled to God!’  For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God.” [NLT]

So believe him– throw yourself on his mercy. Accept him– Appropriate his grace. Receive His righteousness [right standing with God].  Then demonstrate your belief by living out His lifestyle in your life.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, OUR LORD. HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY.  HE SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED AND WAS BURIED. HE DECENDED TO THE DEAD.  ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN. HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN  AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER. HE WILL COME AGAIN TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH,  THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS,  THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS,  THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY,  AND THE LIFE EVER LASTING. AMEN

Other resources used:

  1. Alister McGrath, I Believe — Exploring the Apostles’ Creed, Illinois, InterVarsity Press, 1997. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  2. D. Bruce Lockerbie, The Apostles’ Creed: Do You Really Believe It?  Wheaton, SP Publications Inc., 1977. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  3. Holy Bible, New International Version. International Bible Society, 1984. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  4. Eugene Peterson. The Message, Colorado, Navpress, 1993.  (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  5. Gilbert Staford. Theology for Disciples, Anderson, Warner Press, 1996.  (Buy this book from Amazon.com)

©2000 D H Friesen

God the Father, Almighty Creator: the Apostles’ Creed

The Apostles’ Creed II

OT LESSON — Psalm 9
NT LESSON — Galatians 3:26-4:7

Some years ago the UN did a survey and decided that Canada could no longer be considered a “Christian” nation, and so it was dubbed ‘Post Christian’.  There’s still a lot of controversy as to whether that is true or to what extent it is true….  Many say “I believe there is a god…”  but I wonder what kind of a God they believe in.  On the other hand there is a growing Anti- Christian movement  clamouring for attention in North America, usually under the banner of ‘tolerance’ or multi-culturalism or humanism that is reacting to the discredit some have brought on our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ because of their glaring misbehaviours.

This is not news, it goes back to Adam and Eve and every living human since. Genesis 6:6 says “The LORD  was grieved that He had made man” and so He brought the flood to destroy every breathing thing.[See Gen 7]  And when Moses took the Israelis out to the wilderness away from the slavery they were experiencing in Egypt, God became angry at their rebellion while Moses was up on the Mountain talking to God, He said “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them.”  But Moses interceded for them and God relented except to punish those who really had turned away from him with a plague [See Exodus 32]  And in Romans 1:20 Paul explains that “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse“.

Not only is God God as revealed in nature and history, but he is also Father as revealed in the Word.  It is an apt analogy so that we as humans can understand- and has an animal equivalent so that those who might have difficulty can understand in the Shepherd  with his sheep. [See excerpt from Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, Grand Rapids, Zondervan 1970 pages 20-23] “I am the Good shepherd;  I know my sheep and my sheep know me– just as the Father knows me and I know the Father– And I lay down my life for the sheep. “[John 10:14,15] And he has “set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.“[II Cor 1:22]

He loves to forgive, [see Psa 103:10-14] and invites us into the intimacy of grown sons calling him ‘Dad’ [see Gal 4:4-7].

He is also called ALMIGHTY.  It appears like that some 32 times in the OT. The chorus goes “My God is so big so strong and so mighty There’s nothing my God cannot do.”   In Romans 13:1, 2 Paul says that all leadership, whether they acknowledge him or not, is derived from God.  In Luke 1:37, and I Cor 10:13, and Phil 2:13 God gives us the power to do all that he calls us to .  And he isn’t capricious saying one thing and then doing another- He is the same yesterday today and forever.[Heb 13:8]

The LORD God made the heavens and the earth “In the beginning God created…” and the word used is “Poieten” from which we get the word poet and poem.  Eph 2:10 His Workmanship- He is an artist, a craftsman.  “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”[Rev 4:11]  See also Col 1:15-17, and Ro 1:20.  But he didn’t create it and forget about his creation. Psa 104:27-30 talks about how God superintends his creation and in Col 1:17 “In him all things hold together:” The answer to the power that  holds the electrons and the protons and neutrons in their places as well as the galaxies of stars planets, etc.  God signed his creation with his signature when he created human beings for it says in Gen 1:26-27  Then God said “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…”  The scientist Pascal said “There is a God- shaped gap with in us..” and St Augustine-  You made us for yourself, O LORD, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you”.

Jesus told the sceptics to give to Caesar what belonged to him (taxes symbolized by a Roman coin) and to God what belonged to Him– that is us with the imprint / signature of God on us.  “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you,…you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.”

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY SON, OUR LORD. HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY.  HE SUFFERED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, WAS CRUCIFIED, DIED AND WAS BURIED. HE DECENDED TO THE DEAD.  ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN. HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN  AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER. HE WILL COME AGAIN TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH,  THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS,  THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS,  THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY,  AND THE LIFE EVER LASTING. AMEN

Other resources used:

  1. Alister McGrath, I Believe — Exploring the Apostles’ Creed, Illinois, InterVarsity Press, 1997. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  2. D. Bruce Lockerbie, The Apostles’ Creed: Do You Really Believe It?  Wheaton, SP Publications Inc., 1977. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  3. Holy Bible, New International Version. International Bible Society, 1984. (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  4. Eugene Peterson. The Message, Colorado, Navpress, 1993.  (Buy this book from Amazon.com)
  5. Gilbert Staford. Theology for Disciples, Anderson, Warner Press, 1996.  (Buy this book from Amazon.com)

©2000 D H Friesen

He is Our Peace

Young or old, we do not really control our own time of passing through this life. But we do control where we are going, by the choices we make.

Christmas 1999

As I thought about Christmas 1999 and the new millennium I was encouraged and challenged by these thoughts.

God created us and has a vested interest in our welfare.  When mankind turned its back on Him and ignored His directions, they discovered that God kept His promises.  He had promised good, but only on the basis of obedience.  He had promised disaster for disobedience.

But He also promised that He would not abandon mankind entirely and always managed to find someone who would obey, and He also said that eventually He would set the entire thing ‘to rights’.

When Jesus came to earth- His mission was just that- “Come or Bust’ to set the world ‘to rights’ again.

Part of it was to be a human– to experience its joy and its pain, the good and the bad– and at the end of His time here to finish the work of making it possible for human beings to come into a personal intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Over the last weeks a retired lady who was the ideal in a Christian woman dropped dead of a heart attack.  A drunk driver killed a young man who was anything of the kind.  A young Christian woman about to give birth died as a result of a combination of complications and inadequate health care, and an inadequate health facility in Africa.

Young or old, we do not really control our own time of passing through this life.  But we do control where we are going, by the choices we make.   Jesus said, “The son of man did not come to condemn the world but to save the world though Him.   Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s on and only Son.” [John 3:17,18]

As this millennium closes, we reflect on where we have come from.  In looking at the new millennium we anticipate where we are going.  I’m looking back at the wonderful way God has led me.  It has not always been without difficulty, but I can now see it was his hand at work.  I’m looking forward to where I will be– with Him whom to know is life eternal.

And so I leave you with this blessing to the Hebrews recorded in Numbers 6:

“May the Lord bless you and keep you;  May the Lord shine His face upon you
And favour you.
May the Lord lift up His face toward
You and grant you His PEACE”

©1999 D H Friesen

He Will Be Our Peace

Peace in the midst of war

[From ‘thought starters’ by Dr. Robert W. Pearson  written for the ‘Women of the Church of God’  1999 Christ’s Birthday Observance]

MICAH 5:1-5 [4:3-5]

During the earliest days of the recent NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, Pastor Obrad Nikolic e-mailed the North American staff of Church of God Ministries to report that bombs were beginning to fall on his city.  Pastor Nikolic pastors a Church of God congregation of thirty-five constituents in Nis, Serbia.  The anguish of his pastoral heart was revealed as he quoted D.S. Warner’s and E.E. Byrum’s positions on war and voiced his concern for the safety of his people.  Then he issued the Church of God in North America a challenge: “What will the Church of God do to help stop the bombing?”

Pursuing peace in an armed conflict like Kosovo is never an easy assignment.  One must ask, “What is peace, and how can peace be attained?”  Some in the church would call for Christians to pursue peace in the middle of war through nonviolent means.  Others support President Clinton’s position of bombing Serbian military targets to force the Serbs to withdraw  from Kosovo.  But how do you respond to Pastor Nikolic’s challenge, especially when you get the news of Serbian atrocities against the Kosovar?

While Christians  differ on how to pursue peace in times of armed conflict, we are in agreement that Peace is not the absence of war.  Peace is living in right relationship in every area of our lives — with God and with each other.   This kind of peace can only be attained through the Christ-Child.  For Micah’s prophecy is true –“And HE will be their peace.”  [Micah 5:5 Living Bible]

In Micah 5:1, the prophet predicts an ASSAULT will take place on Jerusalem.

Micah was born in an obscure place called Moresheth, a small vulnerable town in Southwest Palestine.  David Clark writes in New International Commentary:

“The second half of the eighth century was a turbulent one for the small states of Western Asia.  After the death of Jeroboam II of Israel in 746 B.C., the northern throne was occupied by a parade of worthless pretenders, all equally ineffective in countering the growing power of an Assyria that became strongly expansionist after the accession of Tiglath-Pileser III in 745 B.C.”

So the residents of Moresheth lived in continual fear of attack.   The Assyrians had engaged in 13 military campaigns in the preceding years.  Syria was conquered in 732, its people carted into exile as slaves.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel was defeated in 722, its people enduring the same fate as the Syrian.  Judah was next in line as Assyria hungrily looked toward Egypt.

When Micah prophesied during the years of 714-700 B.C., Judah was living on the edge of annihilation.  Their king, Hezekiah, was a godly man, but the people were becoming lax.  So Micah speaks out of this historical context, and warns of impending doom.  “Marshall your troops, O city of troops, for a siege is laid against us.  They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod” [5:1]  (The fulfilment did not occur until years later in 597 B.C.)

However, even though the Babylonians would eventually defeat Judah and cart its people into slavery, Micah speaks words of ASSURANCE for the Hebrew people (a theme that runs through the Old Testament that though God punishes, He does not punish forever.)

Notice: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.  Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labour gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.”[5:2,3]

God always speaks words of assurance to us when we suffer.

In her book The Hiding Place,  Corrie Ten Boom tells of her experiences in a concentration camp during World War II.  At one point in this experience, she was so overwhelmed by the atrocities that she had witnessed around her that she wondered if all hope had gone.  At this moment she heard the song of a skylark above her and she was reminded of one of God’s promises in Psalm 103:11 — “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.”  As she accepted this promise of God’s mercy and love, she began again to feel the assurance and joy that comes from God even in the midst of catastrophe.

While God doesn’t cause our suffering, He often uses suffering to prepare us to receive what he wants to give us. [“God is faithful; he will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tested, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” I Cor 10:13.  Note that the words tested and tempted can be interchanged.]

In Philip Yancy’s book, “Where is God When it Hurts?” [Zondervan,1977] he quotes Alexander Solzhenitzyn:

“It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good.  Gradually, it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes, not through states, not between classes, not between political parties either, but right through all human hearts.  So, bless you, prison, for having been in my life.”

In I Peter 5:7 the Apostle writes “Cast all your care on him, for he cares for you.”

And in the midst of life’s assaults, God’s words of assurance speak of the ASSISTANCE that he offers his people — the coming Christ-Child who will usher in a kingdom of peace.”He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD,in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.  And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth …  and he will be their peace” [5:4,5]

God does not promise us a “rose garden” while we are in the process of life but we have a hope in the assistance that the Christ-Child will provide.  Micah reveals “He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide”…” And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth“…[4:3 ] and then he goes on to say “They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

AND HE WILL BE THEIR PEACE.

When God becomes the focus and centre of our lives, it gives us the freedom to reach out beyond ourselves.  This frees us up to be far more than mere ‘cogs in the wheel’ and allows us to be ‘pro-active’ in any situation.

In the midst of the Kosovo situation I got this e-mail from Yugoslavia via a friend of mine.

“Today we have heard the sad news of another destruction of the Lord’s property.  The Baptist Church in Nis, under the leadership of our friend Pastor Cedomir, has developed extensive humanitarian ministry in the past few years.  The church has grown as a result of it.  Few days ago they had truck load of aid brought to them.  They were just preparing to give it out to the new refugees with the Gospel, but the missile hit their storage of aid last night.  It was all destroyed.  Pray for Cedomir and his congregation as they tried to salvage something from the ashes and give it to the hungry as reported on the phone.”

Peace is not an absence of war.  But rather, peace is living in right relationship in every area of our lives — with God and with each other.  The wonder of Christmas is that we can live in right relationship with God and each other because of the Christ-Child who said “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you …. You trust in God, trust in me.  I am going to prepare a place for you so that where I am – You may live also. “[John 14:27,1-3].  And in the meantime “all authority in heaven and in earth is given to me.  Therefore go… surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. ‘[Matt 28:18-20]

Next Sunday [Dec 19] we are going to collect our Christ’s Birthday Offering.  This annual offering will be used to introduce people to the Christ-Child. Let us plan to give generously, for HE WANTS TO BE THEIR PEACE as well.