Gifts and Presence

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of preaching to the central congregation of Living Rock Church on the gifts of the Spirit.

It's a simple message based on the nature and function of the gifts in general. In particular their importance in making the presence of God manifest in the midst of his people. My texts were Exodus 33 and 1 Corinthians 12.

I've had a lot of positive feedback that the message was simple, clear, accessible, practical and helpful.

If you would like to listen to it online it is available over at the Living Rock Church website.


Unbreakable (2)

He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. (Ps 34:20)

Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” (Da 6:21-22)

And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions — they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces. (Da 6:24)

In a previous post I started to explore some of the significance of Christ's bones being unbroken. I want to continue these musings with the help of a parallel passage from the Old Testament prophets.

The account of Daniel in the lion's den is very familiar to us - or at least we think it is. On closer inspection though we find, amidst the familiarity, some striking parallels with the account of Christ in the tomb: the stone that was rolled over the entrance and sealed with an official seal; the running at the first light of day to see if he was alive; the man who should have been dead being raised up alive; the enemies of God defeated and crushed, and the good news proclaimed throughout all the kingdom.

Once we have spotted this connection we find another intriguing detail: the behaviour of the lions when the opponents of Daniel were cast in. You would have expected hungry lions to have eaten, torn or mauled. But what did these lions do? They broke their bones.

So Daniel was spared from this fate. Not only was he spared from the lions' mouth, but he was spared from their bone-breaking... In another parallel with Christ, not one of his bones was broken.

This helps us explore the significance of Christ's bones being unbroken, because in the Daniel passage we have more detail: the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

Broken bones are for those who have been overpowered, unbroken bones for those who have overcome!

God has sent his messenger, Jesus, to shut the mouth of our accuser who prowls like a lion. There is no condemnation for those who are in him. The enemy has lost his power to harm us, because in Christ we are now blameless before the King. He was not overpowered by any power of the enemy - rather he overcame them all - and in him, so can we!


Bread in the desolate place

And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” (Mt 15:33)

But Moses said, “The people among whom I am number six hundred thousand on foot, and you have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!’ Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?” And the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord's hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.” (Nu 11:21-23)

My friend Roger has recently written a post on the subject of giving in faith in the midst of financial difficulties, which I strongly recommend. I don't have much to add to his post, other than my own reflections on the subject from the two scriptures quoted above.

When we have a natural need our natural response is to look for a natural means to meet that need. There is nothing wrong with this... unless of course we try to squeeze God into the same box!

Faith understands. It understands that God is not limited by the natural means of meeting a need that we can perceive with our own observation or understanding. If we don't know how God is going to do something that doesn't mean God can't do it. In fact God delights to work that way, because that's the realm where faith has to operate.

It doesn't take much faith to trust God for a need that can be met by our pay packet that is coming through at the end of the week - even though we acknowledge that God is the source of all our regular income just as much as any miraculous provision. But when we are in a desolate place in need of bread - that is where our faith must kick in. That is where it is truly revealed whether we really believe what we say about the nature of God's faithfulness. It is where the source of our reliance is unveiled - our own ability to provide - or the Lord's mighty arm.

When we need bread in the desolate place the correct response is not to make a decision based on the little we have in our hands, but to respond in faith and obedience to whatever God tells us to do.