The Cloud of Witnesses.

In our Bible Study tonight we really had no clear idea why The Spirit uses the word cloud in Hebrews 12:1.

I believe John Gill is helpful.

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“Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about,…., As the Israelites were encompassed with the pillar of cloud, or with the clouds of glory in the wilderness, as the Jews say; See Gill on “1Co 10:1,” to which there may be an allusion, here, since it follows, with so great a cloud of witnesses; or “martyrs,” as the Old Testament saints, the instances of whose faith and patience are produced in the preceding chapter: these, some of them, were martyrs in the sense in which that word is commonly used; they suffered in the cause, and for the sake of true religion; and they all bore a noble testimony of God, and for him; and they received a testimony from him; and will be hereafter witnesses for, or against us, to whom they are examples of the above graces: and these may be compared to a “cloud,” for the comfortable and reviving doctrines which they dropped; and for their refreshing examples in the heat of persecution; and for their guidance and direction in the ways of God; and more especially for their number, being like a thick cloud, and so many, that they compass about on every side, and are instructive every way. Hence the following things are inferred and urged, let us lay aside every weight; or burden; every sin, which is a weight and burden to a sensible sinner, and is an hindrance in running the Christian race; not only indwelling sin, but every actual transgression, and therefore to be laid aside; as a burden, it should be laid on Christ; as a sin, it should be abstained from, and put off, with respect to the former conversation: also worldly cares, riches, and honors, when immoderately pursued, are a weight depressing the mind to the earth, and a great hindrance in the work and service of God, and therefore to be laid aside; not that they are to be entirely rejected, and not cared for and used, but the heart should not be set upon them, or be over anxious about them.”

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Gill’s commentary

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Looking forward

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How many of us, even believers, look forward in trepidation to the future? The future is uncertain, from our viewpoint! We don’t believe in luck, chance, finger-crossing, astrology or false prophets−we believe God! He sees and knows the end from the beginning−being outside of time he controls everything in it and especially our futures, “my times are in thy hand” (Psalm 31:15). Common examples of things we look forward to would be holidays, getting married, having children, winning in some sport or watching a big game, starting a new job, taking possession of some new gismo or retirement. There is nothing wrong with these. However as we contemplate our future we should be certain of two things: First, God works all things for our good (Romans 8:28) even affliction− be it ill health or persecution or financial straits. Our good God promises ONLY good to us−that is what it means to be BLESSED (Psalm 21:6). Do you realise as a child of God, possessed and cared for by the MOST HIGH, you are blessed in time and eternity. Why? Because you are united to the one and only BLESSED potentate, king of kings and Lord of Lords. Secondly, many fear death and perhaps rightly, as it is an enemy of God and his people, the last enemy to be destroyed−it is powerful and 100% effectual in its purpose to wrench body and soul apart and usher in our eternal state…BUT death is also a servant of God, the shadow it casts down our lives emanates from a good purpose in God to come for us in Jesus Christ and take us to himself (John 14:3 and 18)−what could be more blessed than to look upon our saviour and have unalloyed fellowship with him without our sinful natures, without the pressure from the surrounding sinful world and without the lies, threats and maliciousness of Satan. Our death is precious to God. Our justification, sanctification AND glorification, our status now, will be our absolute and untainted condition then! 

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untitled.png5 Unending day beckons!

Take heart fellow saint−fear God and you will have nothing else to fear. Reverence him, worship him with your whole life and experience day by day, week by week, year on year his ever-blessed presence that will forever go with us (Joshua 1:9). God keeps all his promises!

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Kingdom of God in the Old Testament Prophets (4)

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Sung Psalm 141

Reading Malachi 1

Notice that Malachi 1:14 speaks of the King of the kingdom, hence he has subjects. The word speaks prophetically of devoted awe (fear) among the Gentiles all over the world (v11). So this kingdom to come is of Gentles (mainly) and is worldwide. The context speaks of Jews who with their priests leading are worshipping in a disgraceful fashion with contempt for God’s altar. Note that the West (Europe and the USA) are largely devoid of true churches now and South America, Southern Africa and the Far East now have growing and faithful churches. God has largely abandoned the apostate western churches. Similarly we have here clear evidence that God will turn from the Jews to the Gentiles to see his kingdom advanced. Christ spoke and exemplified this (Matt.8:11, 12:21,21:43 and Luke 4:25-27). So did Paul and the apostles (Acts 13:46-47, 28:28, Romans 11:12 and 10:19-21). This is the fulfilment of Moses words in Deut.32:21!

The incense offered is typical of prayer (Rev.5:8, 8:3, I Tim.2:8 and Psalm 141:2). The offering is us! (Romans 12:1) and we are the new priesthood (I Peter 2:5). We worship worldwide without the temple (John 4:21-24). In other words this prophecy is NOT to be taken in a literalistic way. It exposes the error of the dispensationalists and the idea the Jews are still God’s chosen and that a literal kingdom among them is to come. Taking OT prophets literally would inevitably cause clashes. This kingdom is the church consisting Jew and Gentile, prophesied throughout the Old Testament, founded on the apostles and prophets and growing since Pentecost.

 

Kingdom of God in the Old Testament prophets (3)

 

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Reading  Micah 4:1-5:6     Micah 4, Micah 5

Note 1: 7-8, the kingdom is coming, comprising weak disabled women and 5:1-2 the judge and king comes.

The threats in Micah’s day (contemporary of Isaiah circa 710-750BC) were:

  1. The Assyrians (5:5-6)
  2. The Babylonians (4:10).

We are looking for prophetic references to the New Testament age. The clearest references to this are “the last days” (defined as the time between Christ’s first and second comings) and the birthplace of the Messiah King in 5:2. In 4:3-5 we see characteristics of this kingdom namely peace, security and faithfulness among the citizens. In 5:1-3 we have the birth of the King Jesus, which even the Sanhedrin recognised and told Herod about (Matthew 2:5). The first verse here could apply to Assyria humbling King Hoshea or it could apply to messiah. In 5:4-6 we have a clear indication that this king will be the chief shepherd of his flock and keep them. Gentiles will be among the sheep. Christ did save Judah from the Assyrians (his angel smote 185,000) but more importantly he saved his church from their sins. These verses especially 4:7 are fulfilled according to Gabriel in Luke 1:32-33 in Christ. Micah 4:6-8 is prophetic of the kingdom coming in the N.T. age because the reign is everlasting. In 4:1-2 we have the gentiles coming to temple mount and flowing into it (uphill mind you which speaks of irresistible grace!). They come for divine teaching. This began with the birth of the N.T church when God began to gather peoples of all nations into his heavenly kingdom (the real Mt. Zion in Jerusalem above).

Employment Tribunal to hear case of Christian NHS worker disciplined for giving book to Muslim colleague

Prayer Alert

Please join us in praying for Victoria Wasteney as her case comes before an Employment Tribunal tomorrow (Tuesday 20th January).

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Victoria, who is Head of Forensic Occupational Therapy at a London hospital, was suspended for nine months and then received a written warning following allegations of ‘harassment and bullying’ by a Muslim staff-member.

An internal disciplinary panel dismissed five complaints against her but upheld three saying that Victoria was wrong to have:

  • Invited her colleague to various church-organised events
  • Prayed with her colleague (despite having her permission to do so)
  • Given her a book about a Muslim woman’s encounter with Christianity

This had taken place over a period of several months in the context of what Victoria believed to be a genuine friendship.
Victoria is challenging her employers because she believes political correctness in the NHS is stifling ordinary conversations about faith and belief.
Please pray for Victoria, for Paul Diamond (who is representing her at tomorrow’s tribunal) and for all at the Christian Legal Centre who are supporting them.

Read coverage in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph
Help us to continue to support Victoria

‘Open door’

The young Muslim woman who eventually made the complaints was appointed as a newly qualified occupational therapist in a group of thirty managed by Victoria.
Victoria operated an ‘open door’ policy to all members of her team and the new employee came to her to chat and seek advice on a number of occasions.   “One of the earliest conversations I can recall was one in which she said she had just moved to London. She felt that God had a real plan and a purpose for her,” recalls Victoria.
Victoria told her that she went to church, but was “very cautious because our environment is such that these things can be misconstrued and, with her being from a different faith background, I was mindful of being respectful of that”.   They discovered that they shared a concern to combat human-trafficking and Victoria explained work being done by her church in that area.   Over a period of time, Victoria invited her colleague to several church-organised events and thought no more about it. Later, when the woman was due to be off work for hospital treatment, Victoria gave her a book to read during her recuperation.   “A friend had recommended it to me, a book called I Dared to Call Him Father. I hadn’t read it. I still haven’t. But it is a story about a Muslim woman and her encounter with Christianity. Because we had had these conversations it did not seem abnormal.”

‘Offered to pray’

On another occasion the woman came to Victoria’s office in tears, upset about her health and problems at home.
“I said to her that she had strong faith and she should draw on that faith,” explained Victoria. “I said ‘Pray!’ She told me she could not pray, so I replied ‘Maybe I can pray for you?’ And she said ‘OK’.
“I asked if I could put my hand on her knee, and she said yes. I don’t know if I said ‘Lord’ or ‘God’ but I said what I thought was the most neutral. Then I said ‘I trust that You will bring peace and You will bring healing’.”

However, the colleague later made eight complaints against Victoria, leading to Victoria being accused of ‘harassment and bullying’, suspended for nine months and then being disciplined.
Read more in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph

‘Forced to hide things that matter most’

Andrea comments “Victoria’s case highlights the risks of the current ‘equality and diversity’ framework. Rather than bringing people together and creating more cohesive workplaces where people can be honest about who they are and build meaningful relationships, ‘political correctness’ means that many workplaces are becoming fragmented, superficial and suspicious. People are being forced to hide their identity and the things that matter most to them.”
“The NHS is increasingly dominated by a suffocating liberal agenda that chooses to bend over backwards to accommodate certain beliefs but punishes the Christian.”

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Forgive

To the dear sister who said I should read my Bible and see that we are commanded to forgive our persecutors, even the killers who murder family members I append this post…

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    • FORGIVE
    • Christ requires us to forgive those who sin against us in Matthew 6:12,14 and 15. As we forgive others we show that we have been forgiven and will be forgiven. There is no forgiveness i.e.,salvation to those who harbour grudges and do not forgive the sins of others. But is this forgiveness to be unconditional? When it comes to a Christian brother or sister it is clear that the person who wronged us is to be spoken to and asked to repent. If they don’t then you are to take a friend and confront them. If they will not repent of their wrong in the presence of the friend then the matter is to be taken to the elders of the church (Matthew 18:15-17.
  • We know that God forgives the sins of all who repent and believe in his Son (Acts 2:38) and he goes on forgiving in the blood of Christ all his people who continually confess their sin and repent (I John 1:9). So ultimately God alone has the power to forgive sins (Mark 2:7,Dan.9:9) and blot them out and everyone needs this forgiveness or they are lost. The forgiveness of God necessitates repentance and faith! But God’s people are called like him to forgive those who sin against them but must they be repentant first? I believe so, if we are to be like God. Unbelievers cannot and will not repent. They may well be our enemies and mistreat us. We are called to return good for evil, seek to bless them by praying for them and do them good including witnessing to them but MUST we forgive them unconditionally? I think NOT!
    • God’s forgiveness, and hence ours is ONLY for those who repent! God alone forgives sinners and Christ did this omnipotently from the cross and those he forgave were later saved. A similar event happened with Stephen and his, “lay not this sin to their charge” was the basis of the salvation of Saul of Tarsus! We are to love our enemies but not necessarily forgive them-it was the brother believer who was to be forgiven 70×7 (Luke 17:3-4, Matthew 18:21-22). Each time he was forgiven he had apologised and repented.

Lord of the harvest!

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There are some wonderful words in Isaiah 65:1, “I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.” Homer Hoeksema in his book “Redeemed with Judgment” enlightens us as he expounds these words. “God calls. Implied is not merely the fact that he sends forth the gospel through preachers, but that God himself speaks: ”I said, Behold me.” When he speaks, he always speaks a divine word, a powerful word, an effective word. I can say,” Behold me! Look at me!” But if you choose to turn your back on me, there is absolutely nothing that I can do about it. But God speaks divine speech. He is the God who spoke and it was done, who commanded and it stood fast (Ps.33:9). His word is the speech that accomplishes what it says…When he says, “Behold me,” men’s eyes are turned away from idols and are fastened upon the face of God as it is revealed in Jesus Christ…Through the preaching God says to men, ”Behold me!” Eyes open and men behold Christ crucified. They believe and are saved.” Luke 10:22,” and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” So if you are like me, very concerned about the world being evangelised and the lack of labourers remember that ultimately God as Lord of the harvest, has to send them out (Matt.9:38), he has to prepare them and the churches that send them, he has to prepare the harvest and he has to make them fruitful by saying to the blind and lost, “Behold me!”. But we must keep praying!

What is means to be a Reformed Christian.

This message was given at our mission in Limerick Reformed Fellowship on Friday January 16th 2015 by Professor Barry Gritters from the Protestant Reformed Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

He first spoke about the DEFORMATION of the church as in the days of the Reformers and sadly in many churches today and the need for it to be REFORMED-how? By the adherence to the word of God, that is the Holy Scriptures. The key area of church life that spurred the Reformers was the degrading of church WORSHIP. Right doctrine serves right worship and this can be summed in, “not unto us but unto thy great name be glory”.

A Reformed Church and  Reformed Christian, that is a true church and a true Christian has the following characteristics:

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COVENANTAL-this means that the essence of Christianity is the spiritual, living bond of friendship between God and his people in Christ and that includes their elect children. It is based on promises and our response is one of love. The real marriage (covenant), of which a good earthly marriage is a picture, is established by God (in unconditional election), maintained by God (by the union of faith) and completed (by his preservation).

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CALVINISTIC-The covenant is defined by the 5 SOLAS, that is it is by GRACE ALONE, through  FAITH ALONE,  in CHRIST ALONE, and to the GLORY OF GOD ALONE. We confess the five points of Calvinism- (TULIP) meaning total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace and the preservation of the saints (a detailed explanation of these is on the church website) http://www.cprf.co.uk/articles.htm#fivepoints

We emphasize the CHURCH. The purpose of Christ was to save his church. Church membership for many reasons is vital.

CONFESSIONAL-we are transparent about our beliefs and hold to centuries-old traditions because the Bible has been studied for millennia and we stand on the shoulders of those who by the Spirit have systematized the Bible’s teaching namely in the THREE FORMS of UNITY (our creeds)-see under confessions. II Thess.2:15 speaks of the “traditions” handed down and Jer.6:16 of the “old paths”.

There is a Reformed view of the CHRISTIAN LIFE. We are antithetical-against the wicked world, the flesh and devil. We seek to obey all the moral commandments. We are pilgrims focussing on heaven and seek first his righteousness and kingdom.

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Here the whole message…HERE.

Exorcism

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Devils, demons, and Satan himself can become a dangerous pre-occupation for some. For others their existence is denied. “The Exorcist” was a smash hit movie. Many charismatic and Pentecostal churches claim to be able to cast out demons-how come? I draw your attention to something my wife saw recently in the Scriptures that Satan actually casts out Satan (Luke 11:17-18, Matthew 12:26). Shamans and false teachers by the power of Satan (ranks of demons) order lesser demons to leave and that is how it is done, it is NOT by the power of God. Christ said to his weak, impotent disciples in Matthew 17:21,” this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” As a wicked kingdom Satan’s shall not stand-remember some of these false teachers will say on judgment day, “did we not cast out demons in thy name” and Christ will say to them I NEVER knew (loved) you! (Matthew 7:22-23, Psalm 6:8). So we do not believe exorcists exist today because that supernatural power belonged only to the apostles (Luke 9:1) but we believe demon-possession exists and that they can be driven out by prayer, fasting and the ministry of the word.

Check out this recent message at CPRC on “Satan-Prince of darkness grim.”