Wisdom From Above

Christians throw the term ‘wisdom’ around a lot.

It is a very common thing for Christians to pray and ask God for ‘wisdom’ when faced with the decisions of life.

I have listened to many prayers over the past few weeks – and I can tell you in many prayers I heard a plea for wisdom.

There are a few phrases Christians use a lot in prayers.

Father-God …

If it be Your will …

We ask for your wisdom …

And if there is a decision to be made – a plea for God’s wisdom is almost universal.

You are trying to decide if you should marry Fred, you’ve been offered a job in New Guinea and don’t know if you should take it, you are trying to decide if now is the right time to have a child – and so Christians very commonly pray for God to give them ‘wisdom’ in their decision making.

I suspect there would be few if any Christians here who have not prayed for wisdom in the big and small choices of life.

But, if that is you – then I want to ask you – when you prayed – and said God please give me wisdom – what did you actually mean by that? – what did you want from God?

Recently, after some people had prayed and asked God for wisdom – I asked – what did you mean when you asked God for wisdom?

Most looked at me as if to say – I don’t know – I just want wisdom.

Not…

God’s Good Purpose In Trials

Charles Spurgeon summed all how we should view trials. He said:

So far as personal sorrows are concerned, it would be a very sharp and trying experience to me to think that I have an affliction which God never sent me, that the bitter cup was never filled by His hand, that my trials were never measured out by Him, nor sent to me by His arrangement of their weight and quantity.

… May we see that our heavenly Father fills the cup with loving tenderness, and holds it out, and says, ‘Drink, my child; bitter as it is, it is a love-potion which is meant to do thee permanent good.’

What a great description of trials – they are a love-potion which is meant to do you permanent good.

It is this attitude that allows us to count trials as joy.

This is not the joy that comes from feelings – this the perfect contented joy that comes from knowing God is at work to make us mature, complete and lacking in nothing.

Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him. He didn’t feel joy from the lashes, the crown of thorns, the nails, the cross – He endured them for the joy that would come from persevering to the end.

Trials become a joy when the goal of Christlike maturity is before us.

We know this – but it doesn’t make applying it any easier.

We are put together in such a way that it is a fight to consider trials a joy.

It is…

A Precious Possession

In Titus 2:14 Paul writes that Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession.

The word means a treasured possession – a precious possession.

This is as personal as it gets.

Every one of us has some treasured possession. A family heirloom – a painting – something.

But I think we see it most clearly in our kids.

Every one of my kids had something that was a treasured possession. A stuffed animal or a blanket. Blankie, dolly, monkey, kitty cat.

They loved them till they literally fell apart – but even then they were precious.

Years back we had a garage sale. My wife pulled out all of our old toys and games – ones that had sat at the back of the cupboard for years.

Some were to be sold – some thrown out.

But we nearly made a fatal mistake – blankie was momentarily put in the throw out bin. That would have been a disaster.

Fortunately, the error was picked up in time.

You have to realise that blankie is not much to look at. He has been patched many times, he looks about to disintegrate – but even today he is still very loved.

Blankie, dolly, monkey, kitty cat – would fetch nothing at a garage sale – but they are precious possessions – they are loved by the Lloyds.

It is that kind of love – God lavished on us.

You might think you are a catch – you are not.

We aren’t much to…

A Fitting Ending

Throughout the book of Job – we read about the pain of life in this fallen world.

Death, illness, broken marriages, broken friendships, disabled children, hunger, natural disasters, pain.

This is the legacy of sin in our world and in our lives.

At times it seems hopeless.

At times it seems this is the final word.

But here is the great truth – suffering does not have the final word.

Jesus has the final word.

The end of Job points to Jesus who will destroy sin and suffering forever.

Job never received a direct answer to why he suffered. As far as we know Job never even found out the conversation between God and Satan.

But he didn’t need to.

Job finally learned the point.

The great question is not why am I suffering but who can end the suffering?

Jesus is the One – the only One who can end the suffering. And He already has won the victory and the day of the end of sin and suffering is certain.

Many don’t like the end of Job.

But rightly understood, it is a picture perfect ending. A picture of the complete and final victory of Jesus over sin and suffering.

What is the point of the end of Job? 1 Corinthians 15:54–58 says it so well:

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin,…

God as Accomplice or Lord

In her book No Graven Image Elizabeth Elliott gives a fictional account of a missionary who is faithful yet suffers great loss and cannot complete her ministry.

After it was published, Elizabeth gave some lectures on her book and she said the key to the book was this line right at the end of the book – where the missionary says:

“God, if He was merely my accomplice, had betrayed me. If, on the other hand, He was God, He had freed me.”

If God was her accomplice – if His role was merely to support her in her work – to make sure things ran smoothly as long as she was faithful – then He had betrayed her.

But if God is God – if He does what He does for His own purposes – if He decides what is right and fair – if my suffering makes me realise this – then this tragic ending to the book had shattered her false notion of God and in so doing freed her.

The God who always blesses and never sends suffering is a false God, a God of our own creation, a counterfeit god. He is an idol.

The book’s title refers to the second commandment.

But what is unexpected is that the graven images – the idols – in this book turn out to not be the ones the natives made – but the ones that exist in the heart of Christians.

The book’s message is this: as Christians, we engrave in our minds, images of…

Consider The Ostrich And The Eel

When God appeared to Job out of the whirlwind – one of the questions God asked was:

Job why do you think there are ostriches in the world?

Birds that make no sense at all.

They have wings they wave proudly – but they can’t fly. Their feathers are feathers of love not function.

They are stupid. They lay their eggs on the ground where anything can trample them.

They are terrible parents.

Who made them stupid and objects of mirth? I did.

What is the point?

This world is filled with the weirdest creatures. Many of which live in places where no one seems them.

Their colours – their shape – their lifecycle makes no sense.

Why did God put them here – just because. Just because it pleases Him. It is His world and He does what pleases Him.

Every time I watch a nature documentary – I think – God You are amazing.

When we were in New Zealand recently we visited Lake Rotoiti.

And there we saw these guys.

New Zealand longfin eels.

They are born in deep ocean trenches somewhere near Tonga as little 1 millimetre creatures which are transparent, flat, and leaf-shaped – nothing like an eel.

They float to the surface and ocean currents take them the 5000 kilometres to New Zealand.

Most never make it.

Those that make it to one river – the Buller River – transform into an elver – a baby eel – a creature which can live in fresh water – and moves into…

Oh, for a home-cooked sermon

By Kyösti Toivola

Travel or holidays away from home are enjoyable, but one of the comments we hear ourselves say is, ‘Oh, for a home cooked meal!’ While over-priced, professionally presented and pallet pleasing meals are nice, nothing beats the humble home cooked dinner prepared specifically for you (or by you) with loving hands and eaten in loving company.

I believe this also goes with the ‘pulpit food’ we get at our home church.

Here at Grace Bible Church, we are often blessed with some amazing guest speakers – from Bible colleges;  churches locally; churches inter-state and even from overseas. They have all waxed eloquent, with great  oratorical skills, quotable sermons and some with a great accent. But despite all these I’ve found myself  saying, ‘Oh, for a home cooked sermon!

While guest speakers are a great blessing, I know what is best for me, my family, you and our local churches  are preachers that, as I have heard it said, ‘smell like the sheep.’

After listening to a guest speaker at our church, I started listing some points that set my pastors, and your pastors, apart from visiting guest speakers. Points that no traveling international preacher can fulfill for me or you. Points that no podcast preacher, no book author, no guest camp or conference speaker could meet for our local churches.  Points that cause us to hunger for a true ‘home church cooked sermon’.

Our Pastors are accountable to God for the…

Femininity – it was God’s Idea

“Righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34), so I have been praying for our country much lately,  particularly for our society’s apparent “lostness” regarding all things gender & marriage. In a list of prayer items, I came across this statement that Elisabeth Elliot wrote about 15 years ago.  Her sentiment is even more true today:

“I find myself in the sometimes quite uncomfortable position of having to belabor the obvious, and hold up examples of femininity to women who almost feel APOLOGETIC for being feminine or being womanly. I would remind you that femininity is not a curse. It is not even a triviality. It is a gift, a divine gift, to be accepted with both hands, and to thank God for. Because remember, it was His idea….”

Let us praise God for giving humanity (our homes and churches and society) the gift of femininity.  And let us pray that our wives, our daughters and our single women might not be embarrassed by their femininity, but “accept it with both hands” and glorify God through the special gifts and calling that come with being female, by God’s good design.

Pastor Dave

Pew Evangelism

Pew Evangelism

By Kyösti Toivola

So the preacher has waxed eloquent, expounding scripture, arguing for truth, exulting the glory of God, drawing out application from the Word and passionately calling for action from your part.  He finishes a few minutes over time, leads through a closing song and then leaves you with a blessing, “thank you for coming and may God bless you and keep you.”

Then you turn to the person next to you and say, “So, how did you think the Broncos went last night?”

What?!  Talk about totally missing it! All that beautiful Gospel truth and you opt for some trivial query like that?

Yet, I can’t throw the first stone because this is often my shortfall.  Coming out of a time intended to drawer my heart and mind to the glories of my Saviour and my saving Gospel, I often free fall to the dull, trivial, dross with just a turn of my head.

And I don’t think I’m alone in this.   So, why do we do this?

Well, I think there are many possible reasons:

-  maybe we totally missed the point of the message and failed to find personal application?

-  maybe we think that we have ‘done our part for God’ by just ‘enduring’ the service?

-  maybe our view of scripture and preaching is so low that we disregard the message and its implication?

There could be as many reasons as there are church goers, but I would like to highlight one reason that affects you, and…

The Blessings of Coming to Church Earlier

By Kyösti Toivola

Have you ever entered the Church service half way through the first song? You’ve already missed the opening prayer by the worship leader. You notice new people nearby, but it’s too late to greet them. You’re not sure what the sermon is even going to be about because you missed out on a Church bulletin. And you are slightly stressed by the quick walk from the car, through the car park and to the Church doors in the hopes that you don’t appear too late to the service?

I know this feeling far too well and my family has struggled under the pressure it creates. But this does not need to be so.

For some reason coming to Church on time is of less priority than getting to that movie, that sports game or that dinner reservation which we typically come to before the set time, so as to not risk missing anything. But this has convicted me, so I started to consider the many blessings of coming to Church earlier and here are 15 blessings that I came up with:

When you come to Church earlier you have time to:

1. Read the passage. This is a very valuable thing to do. Having a better understanding of the passage as the preacher points out certain elements, saves you from getting lost and not grasping the context. Coming to…