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Posted By Nan

My apologies for the missing blog entry on Wednesday. I have had many distractions this week, including the departure of the first of my children to leave home, a situation fraught with more stress than it should have due to a less than satisfactory house mate which has led to my daughter needing more help than anticipated. We can only stand in the victory we have in Jesus and trust God to watch over her..

I am continuing to look at John with 3:13-15 today.
These verses are an introduction to the next verses but also a follow on from Jesus' rebuke of Nicodemus in verse 3-14. Here Jesus is declaring himself as the Son of Man and declaring that no one has ever gone into heaven except for the one who came from there, Jesus.

Jesus also refers to the incident in Numbers 21:9 where the people rebelled against God and Moses in the desert. To punish them God sent snakes to bite and kill them. When the people repented and asked Moses to pray for help, God instructed him to make a snake and put it on a pole so that those who were bitten could look at it and live. Jesus likened himself to this incident and said he would have to be lifted up so that people who believed who He was could live too. Moses gave what was temporary, but Jesus was going to give what was permanent.

This is such a strong statement of who Jesus is and what He came to do. It is not recorded here what response there was to Jesus’ words. It is quite likely that those listening did not understand what Jesus meant. I wonder if Nicodemus understand the great importance of Jesus words?

 
Posted By Nan

John 3:9-12
Back to the blog series on John. To recap, the last blog on John covered the visit at night by Nicodemus. We looked at why Nicodemus may have done that: to get a chance to talk to Jesus, or to hide the fact that he was coming. We also looked at Jesus’ comment that we must be born again of water and the Spirit.
Having heard that statement Nicodemus asked Jesus how that could be. In a way, this was not so much a question as a rejection of such a paradoxical statement. It was more a statement of “That can’t be true”. So many in this world put all their faith in science and what can be proven. If they can’t prove it, they don’t believe it. In Jesus’ time the Pharisees were like that. In this present time, there are many outside and inside the church who do not believe what they cannot prove.
Jesus reply was an incredulous one. “How can you not know? You are Israel’s teacher! This rebuke was directed at Nicodemus and the other Pharisees. They set out to teach others yet they did not understand the scriptures. Jesus was also criticising them for spending all their time gaining book knowledge and observing religious ceremonies and traditions but neglect the essential practical side of faith and actually teach people how to have a personal relationship with God.
Jesus continued to rebuke Nicodemus for hearing the testimony of Jesus and others. Who the others are is not clear. There are those who consider them to be the prophets and John the Baptist. Others consider this refers to the disciples. Still others think it refers to the triune God. Whoever we refers to, Jesus is charging Nicodemus and the other Pharisees with hearing the eyewitness testimony and not believing it. Jesus then added that he has told the Pharisees about things happening on earth and they haven’t believed them. He adds that if they can’t believe what they can see, how will they believe the heavenly things they cannot see?
This is such a challenge for all of us. We need to be able to focus on God and not on the religious ceremonies and doctrines of churches that lead us to lose our focus on God. We need to take that leap of faith and accept the things we cannot see and prove. When our faith and our focus are on God, then we will understand the message Jesus has for us.

 
Posted By Nan

having been away for a few days, I have been slowly wading through my backlog of emails. This was The Word for Today on Tuesday. I thought it gave a really good appraisal of John 2 as well as a phenomenal message.

 

Let Jesus Solve Your Problem


'...the mother of Jesus said..."They have no wine."' John 2:3 NKJV
 
In Biblical times offering wine to your guests at a wedding was an expected courtesy. It was also a sign of respect, so running out of it would have been considered a social disaster. But observe how Mary handled it. Instead of looking for someone to blame, or making excuses, she took her problem to Jesus. That's always your best move. 'O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.' Jesus told the servants to fill the jars with water and give some to the headwaiter. When he tasted it, the Bible says, '...the water had become wine...' (John 2:9 NCV) But notice, it happened after they had obeyed Jesus, not before. At a particularly contentious church board meeting when one member suggested they pray about the problem, another responded, 'Has it come to that?' There are basically two reasons we make prayer our last resort instead of our first: we like to think we're able to solve our own problems or we feel insignificant and think, 'It's okay for Mary to ask Jesus; she's His mother, but He's got bigger problems to solve than mine.' No, your problems are important to God-all of them! He delights in you (Psalm 18:19). He rejoices over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride (Isaiah 62:5). You're never too big or too small to ask your heavenly Father for help. Just take your cue from Mary: identify the problem, bring it to Jesus, do what He tells you, and watch Him work it out. 

www.thewordfortoday.com.au

 
Posted By Nan

Continuing on from my last blog entry.
When we moved overseas, we first worshipped in an expat Presbyterian church that was so liberal I was surprised when they mentioned the ‘G’ and ‘J’ words. We moved again and worshipped in an expat Anglican church that was definitely more about making the right connections for career advancement than about God. However, during that time there I made the decision to get confirmed with my three oldest children. I did this, not because I believed it was essential from a legalistic perspective, but because I wanted to make that affirmation of my faith.
We tried a few churches when we returned to Australia and ended up in an Anglican church peopled with retirees. We realised this was not serving our children’s needs and was pursuing more secular interests than Godly ones so we found another church, also Anglican. This was the church we eventually left. You may recall one of my early blogs where I talked about this church.
As you can see, my family have lived in a number of places in two different countries. Consequently, we have changed church many times. Along the way, God has taught me that denomination does not mean anything. Being quite active and committed people, we have always found ourselves getting caught up in the activities of the churches to which we belong. The churches encouraged this, this was how you became involved in God’s work, you gave every available moment to church activities and God would reward you for it. The trouble is these activities encroached on our time with God to the detriment of our relationship with Him. It should be all about God, not the activities of the church. Granted, as members of a community we should be assisting each other. The reality is that church activities become so time consuming that there is no time for assisting one another. As our society has become more selfish, Christians also have become more selfish.
When we left the last church we had a number of issues to address. The first was that we were tired. Church activities ate up all our time. We realised we needed to spend more time with God, concentrating on our relationship with Him. We looked at our children who could see no positive benefits from church membership. They wanted to worship and grow in God their own way. As I have previously mentioned, our son told us he got more from his daily devotional than from the church services. He went to church because it was what we did. He didn’t see it as a place to worship God. Chip Brogden from the School of Christ, issued a challenge in one of his articles to take a sabbatical from church. So the family conferred and that is what we decided to do. I do need time to wean myself from church because I am concerned that my children will fall away from God if they are outside the church. In truth, how can church attendance prevent that happening? They didn’t see God in the church services we attended.
For me, my life has been one where God has challenged me to see beyond the denominations and see that He is above all that. This has led to me being freed from the different legalistic doctrines that each denomination subscribes to. My eyes have been opened to allow me to discern between what is legalism and what is of God. I have also been able to see how much of church activity is not about God, but about secular pursuits. I do not know what the future holds for my family. I do know that I appreciate having the time to devote myself to God. It requires discipline, but then our walk with God does require discipline whether we belong to a church or not. It is just that when we belong to a church that need can be obscured by church activities and the perception that if you go to church every Sunday you will be saved.

 
Posted By Nan

I have never really addressed the place my family are at now. Having had two recent conversations with Christian friends who are confronted by our choice, I thought it was important to write about this in my blog.
Two entries ago, I mentioned being approached by a dear Christian friend who obviously felt it was her duty to get me back on the right path. I mentioned in that blog that I am following a path set down by God and that I will always choose God over my friends. I also mentioned that my husband and I feel that our faith is stronger now than it was while we were members of a church. I would like to continue discussing this thought by reviewing my history of church membership.
When I was a teenager and at the age when many teenagers would seek being confirmed, the Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational churches in Australia merged into the Uniting Church of Australia. Sadly, not all Presbyterian churches joined the new Uniting Church and my church was one of them. At that moment, the church I had grown up in ceased to exist and all the young people left. I had been raised in a time when you were a Presbyterian, or an Anglican, or a Methodist or a Catholic. You never mixed, we were obviously genetically incompatible! There were many who felt this should change, which is why many denominations in many countries, including Australia, united. I was caught as a teenager, believing I had to be Presbyterian but not finding the new Presbyterian church fitted where I was anymore. My parents were not big church goers because they had divided loyalties about church membership. Eventually I joined my friends in attending the local Uniting Church. I loved that church and the minister taught me a lot about faith. It was a spiritually alive young congregation. In fact, years after I had moved away, that minister came to the small Presbyterian school chapel we were married in and performed the ceremony.
After marrying, my husband and I went through the whole issue again of which church to worship in. Consequently, our first daughter was baptised in the Uniting Church. We then moved and first worshipped in the Uniting Church before moving to the Presbyterian Church. In fact, I hated that church, I struggled to find any worship of God there and for a while my husband worshipped there and I worshipped in the Uniting Church in a very spiritually alive congregation. I thought about going through confirmation there, but, after discussing it with the minister, we decided I should have an adult baptism. There are Anglican ministers who have been horrified by the fact that I was baptised twice, but I do not believe it matters. I have only anecdotal proof I was baptised, having never seen a certificate to prove my parents baptised me. I guess that is an area of legalism I have little concern for. Eventually, I realised I needed to allow my husband to make the choice about church membership, so I sadly joined him in the Presbyterian Church, an aged congregation with no children. Our second daughter and first son were baptised there. Finally, my husband made the decision we should leave and we started worshipping in the Anglican church. Again it was a lovely, spiritually alive and growing congregation. That minister baptised our youngest son then moved to another parish. That is the last time I have been in a spiritually alive church. The new minister had another agenda and the congregation rapidly transferred attention to secular pursuits.
I will continue this in the next blog.

 


 
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Nan
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