Year 3 Day 130
Read - Acts 19v28-41
Message - Scott Woodburn
“First posted Year 2 Day 68 - 29 May”
Our God is a God of order and not of chaos. In the beginning the earth was without form and void (Genesis 1v2) until the Lord spoke and brought order to the universe. Later Paul reminds us that when we worship everything should be done decently and in order for our God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Corinthians 14v40,33). The same cannot be said for the false god Artemis.
Demetrius realised that Christianity was a clear and present danger to the Ephesian way of life. He was a silversmith who made idols for the worship of Artemis and suddenly Christians said that gods made by human hands weren't actually gods at all. His speech stirred up the crowd who started crying out “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (v28) The city was filled with confusion and soon two Christians named Gaius and Aristarchus were dragged into the theatre (v29). Both men would survive their ordeal and thankfully Paul was kept from going in among the crowd (v31).
Eventually a man named Alexander calmed the crowd. He realised that they could all soon be charged with rioting and they didn't actually have any cause for their commotion (v40). Neither Gaius or Aristarchus had done or said anything against Artemis (v37) and so it was time for everyone to go home (v41).
I find this whole account tragic. Demetrius had whipped the crowd up into a frenzy and they spent two hours crying out “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (v34). Some of the crowd cried out one thing, some another thing and others had no idea why they had even come together (v32). Chaos reigned in Ephesus and all for the false goddess Artemis.
All of this is an example of spiritual blindness. Paul would write to the church of Corinth and say "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2v14) The crowd chanted for two hours straight "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians" and yet they did not see their need for Jesus Christ. They did not accept the things of God, the Gospel seemed like folly to them, ultimately they needed to be spiritually awakened by the Gospel and the Spirit.
Today Ephesus is in ruins but still thousands of tourists flock each year to take photos of the places Paul once stood. I wonder how many people who pose in the ruins of the theatre know about the day that thousands chanted the name of Artemis? Not too many chant that name any longer but the silver idols of Artemis have been replaced by a multitude of modern idols which still mask the truth that this world needs Christ.
A Christian by the name of Augustine once said "our heart is restless until it rests in God." He was right and lost souls in our land could do with hearing it. Idols only bring disorder, chaos and ultimately death, they cannot speak or hear or save. Jonah once declared that "those who put there trust in idols forsake their hope of steadfast love" (Jonah 2v8) He was right too.
Brothers and sisters may we reach out with compassion to those who remain blind to their need of Christ. May we be zealous in prayer asking the Lord to open their eyes. May we speak the Gospel to them when opportunity arises and may we live to see days where the Lord brings order from chaos and many hearts find their rest in Jesus.
Q13 Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?
Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God. (Gen. 3:6–8,13, Eccl. 7:29)
Year 3 Day 129
Read - Ezekiel 14:12-23
Message - Alan Burke
There are three names mentioned in these verses that I want us to focus on and then think about the reason why they are mentioned. The first Noah, we all grew up learning about Noah every time we see a Rainbow in the sky we think of the promises of God. It all came about because of God’s judgement on the earth because of the wickedness of man but there was one that found favour in the eyes of the Lord and that was Noah. He was a righteous man and blameless among those of his generation (Gen. 6:9), yet the world was not spared because of his presence, the world still faced judgement the flood came. Then we have Job, remember him? Job was a blameless and upright man but this did not mean that his family were spared or his possessions, we learn how he lost everything (Job 1:1-2:10). Finally Daniel, the prophet who had been exiled some time before Ezekiel and by Ezekiel’s time his reputation as a wise and righteous man had spread. He was an example of righteousness in the midst of unrighteousness. Daniel stood against idolatry even in exile.
Well these elders had come, “seeking” (v1) the Lord as it suited them as such and the word of the Lord comes once more, it makes the point that nothing will be able to save God’s people because of their past faithlessness. The Lord would stretch out His hand against it, just as He had stretched out His hand against the Egyptians (Ex 3:20), He would stretch his hand against His own people. There are different examples given, first famine in v12, wild beasts v15, sword or war v17, plague v19, all are mentioned in v21 for this is what His people would face at the hand of the Babylonians. Even if Noah, Daniel and Job were among them God would not relent in bringing his judgment.
Each one of these men were outstanding examples of righteousness, their lives were set apart, they lived for God, but even their presence, the presence of those who love the Lord, godly men and women in a society will not alone deter the deserving judgment that was coming here. This judgment on the people in Ezekiel’s day is coming, the Lord said three times in these closing verses “as surely as I live, as surely as I live, as surely as I live declares the sovereign Lord”. When this is uses in the OT as God lives, as the Lord lives it is used to speak to how the Lord will keep his word, his oath, He will act, unlike the gods of the nations around, the false gods the people worshiped in their idolatry who were thought to die rise or see, the Lord though is not like the false gods, their idols, He is aways watching and working on behalf of his people (Ps 121:3-5; Josh 3:10; 1 Sam 17:26; Jer 1:12; 10:3-16; Dan 6:20-26).
Notice in v16, how these men could not save their own sons or daughters, referring to them all but think of Job, then in 18 again it is repeated. It is these men alone that would be saved, not their family, they couldn’t save their offspring. And none of us can save our sons and daughters, our family or friends, none of us can change the heart. We are tasked with training up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Prov 22:6) but we can all testify to how that hasn’t gone the way we would have wanted. We are reliant on the Lord himself to work in the hearts of our children and those whom we love, that they may have salvation. For parents of young children, pray with them, read with them, bring them to worship and do all you can as they have been engaged to the Lord at baptism as they have had the sign and seal placed upon them that they will trust in Him. Look down to verse 20, for it is the first time that these mens children are mentioned of being saved and it is by their righteousness, it is by a personal faith, it is not by outward appearances it is by a heart that has been transformed, for it is by grace we are saved, through faith—and this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8).
Q12 What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created?
When God had created man, he entered into a (covenant of life) with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death. (Gal. 3:12, Gen. 2:17)
Year 3 Day 128
Read - Acts 19v21-27
Message - Scott Woodburn
“First posted Year 2 Day 66 - 27 May”
Why does the Gospel make people angry? Why does the Gospel divide families? Why does the Gospel divide churches? The Gospel isn't a nice little fairy story. It declares that Jesus Christ laid down His life for sinners and was raised for their justification. The Gospel demands a response and it calls sinners away from their idols and sin to repentance and faith in Jesus. To those perishing the Gospel is offensive for it strikes at the heart of their delusion and declares that Jesus is Lord.
The offence of the Gospel was on full display in Ephesus. There was a growing disturbance about the Christian faith, here called "the Way" (v23) The problem? More and more people were being converted and they all believed that that gods made with hands were not gods at all (v26). This was increasingly hitting people in the pocket. There was a man called Demetrius who made silver shrines of Artemis (v24). He was no fool and could see the writing on the wall.
If Christianity continued to grow Demetrius' trade was at risk and the false goddess Artemis might be forgotten about (v27). For an Ephesian this would have been utterly unthinkable. Artemis was seen as the daughter of the greek god Zeus. She was revered as the god of the hunt and her temple in Ephesus was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
You see the problem? The Gospel threatened culture, history, trade and tradition. Demetrius could not let this pass and so he spoke against the Christian faith in an attempt to stop this new religion called "the way". Nothing has changed. The Gospel is still offensive and it still threatens the ungodly kingdoms and empires and traditions of this world. As humans we invest so much time and attention in things which are passing away. We get so excited by our sports teams. Our culture and heritage captures our attention. National identify drives us to the streets. All manner of issues send us to the ballot box.
Yet the Gospel trumps everything because the Gospel is more important than everything.
I once was told about a man who somehow had become an elder in a church. On a visit to a home in his district he asked the shocking question "You aren't one of those born again Christians are you?" I hope that man came to realise the foolishness of his question and I hope that he came to trust Christ. If you have never been born again then you are not a Christian. The Gospel transforms. It changes our identity. Our status with God. Our attitudes. Everything.
Why does the Gospel make people angry? Because it tells humanity that they are not the captain of their own ship and instead they need to trust Jesus. Today the temple of Artemis is no more. You can still visit Ephesus but the glory of Artemis has gone. Such a thing will never happen to Christ. He is no idol and he is no fraud. His Gospel stands forever and He still calls upon all to repent and to receive Him by faith.
My friends do not grow angry at such a message. Instead put away your idols and look unto Jesus. Gods made with hands are not gods at all. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life and in this crumbling and fading world He remains the Saviour and friend of sinners.
Q11 What are God’ s works of providence?
God’ s works of providence are, his most holy, (Ps. 145:17) wise, (Ps. 104:24, Isa. 28:29) and powerful preserving, (Heb. 1:3) and governing all his creatures, and all their actions. (Ps. 103:19, Matt. 10:29–31)
Year 3 Day 127
Read - Ezekiel 14:6-11
Message - Alan Burke
The Lord God knows our hearts, He knows all things, He knew the elders were coming to Him and their hearts were not His, they were idolatrous. Now the Lord calls them, all of them, the elders and the people of God to repent, to turn from their idols to renounce their detestable practices, these were those in exile, with idols in their hearts, with stumbling blocks before them, God calls them to turn from these things. These elders were wanting God on their terms, when it suited them, it wasn’t enough for these elders just to show up and want a word from the Lord, it wasn’t ok that they were going through the motions, it may have looked wonderful but it was a nonsense, the Lord calls them to repent, it’s a simple enough command that is given to them, repent, repent from their idolatry, renounce all their destined practices.
What the Lord required of them was that they repent, turn, renounce, you see those three words that are mentioned there in v6, ‘repent’, ‘turn’ ‘renounce', now the ESV and KJV use the words ‘repent’, ‘turn’ and ‘turn away’. We get the idea. God is calling them to turn back from their idolatry, the idea of renounce although a word that we don’t uses very offend today is a word that that portrays what God is calling His people to do, renounce their idolatry, the false worship, renounce gives the idea of declaring that something is not ours. God wants His people to come back to Himself, instead of having hearts far from him they would be hearts that are for him.
Notice at this stage, as God speaks through Ezekiel there is still room for God’s people to repent and return to God. It didn’t matter if they were an Israelite or aliens whether they were part of the furniture or a blown-in they were called to repent, it was the house of Israel God was calling to repent, it was those in exile, those in Jerusalem repent. But look on, for if they do not repent, the Lord in verse eight will set His face against them and make them an example a byword, so that they would know He is the Lord.
God knew the hearts of the elders of Isreal who had come to Ezekiel, he knew the hearts of his people, he knew their hearts. Their apparent orthodoxy, their outward piety, their outward show meant dam all what mattered was their heart. This is one of those things that we need to sit up a pay heed to, the heart matters not the outward appearances, God looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). Here because of their hearts, because of their false piety, because of their pretending the Lord was going to bring his judgement upon them to make them a byword but it would be so that they would know that He is the Lord.
The Lord calls us all to repent, turn from, renounce, we may not have physical idols, but Jesus Mark’s gospel, first words recorded there, we are told after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel. (Mk 1:14-15). Repent, it is an about turn, to change ones orientation, it is to renounce what we once were. This was the message that the Lord gave Ezekiel to take to the elders, it was the message Jesus took out and it is the message we must hear. It is not enough to want God on our terms, when it suits us, it is not enough to have God second, or third, or forth or to fit God in when everything else is done as the elders of the people of God here, we must repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and we will be saved by a righteousness that is imputed to us through Jesus Christ.
Q10 How did God create man?
God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures. (Gen. 1:26–28, Col. 3:10, Eph. 4:24)
Year 3 Day 126
Read - Acts 18v18-23
Message - Scott Woodburn
“First posted Year 2 Day 57 - 18th May”
Todays passage is easily skipped when we read through Acts 18. We read names and places and travel stops and can quite rapidly move to the next "good" part of the story. Yet as we slow down we can't help but notice something strange. Paul arrives at Cenchreae and cuts his hair "for he was under a vow." (v18). Mmmmmmm...interesting...what is going on with Paul and his hair?
If you've ever read the book of Numbers then perhaps you remember the vow of the Nazirite in chapter six. The one making such a vow would stay away from wine and strong drink. He would let his hair grow and not touch it with a razor. He would stay away from the dead and essentially devote himself to the Lord before ending the vow by shaving the hair from his body.
So did Paul make a Nazirite vow? I don't think so. If this had been such a vow then Paul would have been bound to take his shaved hair to Jerusalem and offer a sacrifice there. Paul doesn't do this so I suspect we shouldn't take this cryptic verse to mean that Paul had taken the vow of the Nazirite.
So what then? I believe that what we see here is Paul cutting his hair to signify the end of a personal vow that he had made to the Lord. In the reformed faith we speak of oaths and vows. An oath involves both men and God, usually when a person makes a promise to another and takes God as a witness. A vow on the other hand is a promise made directly to God.
The Lord Jesus warns us against taking empty and foolish oaths and vows (Matthew 5v33-37) but it is appropriate on certain occasions to vow seriously unto the Lord. Perhaps Paul took this vow as an act of thanksgiving for the Lord's protection? We can't be sure but we can be confident that the Apostle took such an act incredibly seriously.
Is it appropriate for us to take such a vow? On certain occasions yes, but firstly be aware of what a vow is not. We do not use vows as a way to "butter up" God. For example "Lord if you answer my prayers I promise I'll go back to church." Such a vow should not leave your lips. The Lord is not a toy to be played with or manipulated. Instead a vow comes from a thankful and contrite heart. For example "Lord God I have come to realise that I have grown lazy in prayer. I promise for the next month that I will pray each day before breakfast." or "Father you have moved powerfully in my life. I vow that for the next week I will fast each day until dinner and spend the saved time in praise."
Such vows are not to be heralded. They are not reason for you to boast to your friends. You have promised to the Lord, so take your vows seriously and perform what you have promised. Do not act under the gaze of man but instead carry out your promises before the gaze of God alone.
"When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands?" (Ecclesiastes 5v4-6)
Q9 What is the work of creation?
The work of creation is, God’ s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good. (Gen. 1, Heb. 11:3)
Year 3 Day 125
Read - Ezekiel 14:1-5
Message - Alan Burke
The elders of Isreal came to Ezekiel we are told right at the beginning, now this isn’t the same group as ch 8:1 where it had been the elders of Judah. This is significant for the elders in ch 8 are the civic leaders and here in 14 it is the religious leadership. That may seem neither hear nor there but as we look closer here in the passage it matters a great deal. Remember though what was going on back in Jerusalem, there was flagrant idolatry, whereas it wasn’t quite as bad among the exiled community, they were living in a land surrounded by idols but they kept up the appearance of piety, of sincere religious beliefs, of concern, of a desire to seek God’s will and purpose in the midst of the exile, initially it looked like they are waiting on the Lord, yet the reality couldn’t have been anything more different.
These elders had likely come presuming that they would receive some kind of encouraging word from the Lord, they were likely coming to be told something nice, something more positive from Ezekiel, after all they are showing up, sure their outward piety counts does it not. The issue is two fold, idols in their hearts and stumbling blocks before their faces. Things were evidently rotten to the core in Jerusalem, and while it may not have been just as evident among the exiles in Babylon the hearts of the people were not God’s, and the Lord says ‘should I let them inquire me at all’? (3).
The Lord had called His people to Love Him, their God with all their hearts and with all their soul and with all their strength. (Deut 6:5), but they didn’t, and now they were coming to the Lord to inquire of him, they were coming to God on their terms, when they fancied it, God was their back up, their fall back, he was where they went to really so that it looked good. These people, these elders, were wanting God on their terms, when it suited them, they looked religious, they looked pious, they looked the part but here we are confronted with how none of us know the heart, God saw their hearts. They were not giving the Lord the rightful place in their hearts, it was at best half hearted piety but it was really just a show, yet they still considered themselves ‘God’s people’ it was cultural observance but that was it, these elders looked pious but they were just like those back in Israel.
Appearances were deceptive when it came to these elders, I wonder is it the case for us, because it is very easy to get in a rut, we may not be like these elders have idols in our hearts, stumbling blocks before us, but you know life gets in the way and before we tell it we are just going through the motions. If you have repented and believed then salvation is secure but we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, ( Phil 2:12). Don’t be content with a mediocre relationship with the Lord, and remember that our relationship with the Lord isn’t going to be going well when we don’t make a priority of prayer, reading God’s word and worship on the Lord’s day, it’s not going to be in a good place unless we make it a priority.
Q8 How doth God execute his decrees?
God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.
Year 3 Day 123
Read - Acts 17v16-34
Message - Scott Woodburn
“First posted Year 2 Day 50 - 11th May”
The culture and heritage of the ancient Greeks is revered to this day and yet when Paul walked through Athens "his spirit was provoked within him". What caused such anguish? Everywhere Paul went he was surrounded by idols. The Greeks honoured a wide range of false gods and archaeology has shown that the Athenian marketplace was littered with statues to Themis the god of justice, Eueteria the god of prosperity, Apollo the god of music, Hekate the goddess of magic, Hermes the messenger of the gods, Zeus the god of the sky and Athena the goddess of wisdom. No wonder Paul's spirit was so grieved!
Humans are so inventive when it comes to idol worship. We imagine gods in our own image and pour out our love and attention upon them. Yet the one true God is clear, He does not tolerate rivals. In His moral law written on tablets of stone He says "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments." (Exodus 20v3-6)
Idolatry is a grave sin and the idolator walks a path that leads to hell. Paul knew the danger that the Athenians were in and so he began to reason in the synagogues and the marketplace (v17). Soon Paul's message began to filter throughout the city and he was approached by Epicureans and Stoics who wished to converse. The Epicureans saw nothing to fear in the gods while the Stoics were pantheists - god in all things. Some thought Paul was a babbler (v18) while others thought he was preaching foreign gods. Regardless they took him to the Areopagus to present his "new" teaching. At that place there were people who spent their lives telling and hearing new things (v21).
We can often scoff at the ancient world. They thought themselves so enlightened and yet they seem so primitive to us. Really though, not much has changed. Humanity is still obsessed with the "new". Humanity still excels at building false idols. Humanity still pretends to be wise in the midst of foolishness.
Today Christ is not a lifestyle choice or just another option among many so called gods. He is the way, the truth and the life. Many still reject Him and count Christianity as foolish "but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1v24)
If we would be truly wise then we cannot avoid Jesus. He is not like Zeus or the other gods of stone who cannot hear or speak. Jesus is wisdom. Jesus is the word. Jesus is Lord. "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power." (Hebrews 1v1-3) Listen to Him!
Q7 What are the decrees of God?
The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. (Eph. 1:4,11, Rom. 9:22–23)
Year 3 Day 122
Read - Ezekiel 13:17-23
Message - Alan Burke
The Lord in Ezekiel’s day was not only against the prophets, but also against the prophetesses. Now while I called them prophetesses the word is not used here in the passage, the reason is because they are anything but, they enslave people, they were gifted spiritual manipulators they were using sorcery and divination, they were doing what the Lord had forbidden (Lev 19:26, 31 and Deut. 18:10-14). They are not like the true prophetesses that the Lord used in the Old Testament, Miriam in Exodus, Deborah in Judges, Huldah in 2nd Kings, Noadiah in Nehemiah (Judg 4:4-5:31, 2 Kgs 22:14, Exod 15:20, Neh 6:14), they are rather false prophetesses and like the male prophets they were also condemned. From what we are told here they are more like witches than they were prophets, they were profaning the word of God and the name of God for a few handfuls of barley and scraps of bread, that was the price of their services. The result of what they did was that the righteous were disheartened and the wicked were encouraged to keep on sining. They like the fellas had caused sin to flourish, they were white washers.
God had sent His prophets for building up of God’s people, being those strengthen the righteous, to correct that which is wrong, to proclaim the truth, but instead here these who had claimed to have the word of the Lord were lying, they had disheartened, brought grief, they had not called the wicked to repentance, they as a result will know that he is the Lord in judgement. They were doing the opposite of what Ezekiel was called by God to do and the Lord would indeed make them know that he is the Lord but not by his grace or compassion but because of his judgement as he steps into save his people from such as these. For part of the problem of why the people would not believe Ezekiel, why they wouldn’t believe Jeremiah or many of the prophets was because of the lies of these false prophets.
Jesus warns us, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matt 7:15). How do we protect ourselves, well to start with the Bereans, in Acts 17 we are told even time Paul opened his mouth they examined the scriptures to see if what he said was true (Acts 17:11). Examine what you hear against the word of God, examine everything said by the word of God, do not trust a name just because it is a famous name, someone recently said to me that they only read the theology of dead guys, because their theology has been picked apart already and they can’t crash and burn.
There is another thing that we have to keep us from error, creeds and confession of the church. The bible is the word of God we must always remember that, the creeds, catechisms and confession of the church are merely what we believe it teaches, they are summaries of its teaching, summaries of doctrine, they are not infallible, they are not equal to scripture to God’s word in any way, and in using them we must always make sure that we allow scripture to speak, they are convenient summaries of the teaching of the bible and they help us to avoid such false teaching. If we knew the Apostles creed, the Nicene creed the Westminster Shorter Catechism we would have such a defence against error, but we must never be content just to believe the creeds, confessions, catechism, we make sure that we personally prove it is the teaching of the bible only then will our faith be acceptable and secure. We must never let tradition adopted by the church, how we feel, or the culture that surrounds us add or take away from the word of God.
Q6 How many persons are there in the Godhead?
There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. (1 John 5:7, Matt. 28:19)
Year 3 Day 121
Read - Acts 17v1-9
Message - Scott Woodburn
“First posted Year 2 Day 45 - 6th May”
I've thoroughly enjoyed preaching through Acts and writing these daily devotions. I certainly hope by this stage I've made some things quite clear. The church didn't begin at Pentecost, we shouldn't seek or look for another Pentecost, the church in the days after the Ascension was not a perfect place and the work and the office and the gifting of the Apostles has now ceased. As I reflect on these things I think another difference between then and now becomes clear in today's passage.
Firstly though, there is plenty that is familiar. Paul arrives in Thessalonica and preaches for three Sabbath days from the Scriptures (v1-2). His focus as usual was Christ and Paul did his best to show that Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead (v3a). Paul was confident in the Gospel and made it clear that Jesus was the Christ (v3b). As usual some came to believe (v4) and as usual some out of jealousy formed a mob and sought to cause trouble for the church (v5).
A Christian by the name of Jason and some others were dragged before the city authorities (v6). The charges? The usual story that these Christians had destroyed the peace and had placed Christ as king above Caesar (v8). The city officials were disturbed by this news but after Jason had paid money as security he was allowed to go free (v9). So far, so familiar. In the days after the Ascension the church saw great growth but also great persecution. Yet as I read the opening verse of this chapter I'm struck by how offensive the Gospel was in Thessalonica.
It seems that no one is on the fence. Many believe, many do not. Many rejoice at the Gospel, many despise it. Many proclaim "Jesus is Lord", many shout “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also" (v6). When I consider Northern Ireland I fear the church has lost its wonder at the Gospel and society at large sees the message as irrelevant. I pray that both statistics will change.
Paul once wrote "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1v18) There is nothing tame or mundane about the Gospel. It looks the sinner in the eye and declares "You must be born again!". It once caused cities and synagogues to be stirred and disturbed and troubled. Today? Perhaps the church thinks the Gospel has lost its sparkle and the world merely shrugs with a disinterested yawn.
We cannot go back in time to the years immediately after the Ascension but the Lord has not changed. Let us join in prayer and ask that our generation will live to see the day that we remember the Gospel isn't a dusty relic but instead the Word of life to all who will believe. I've never been to Thessalonica, it's probably very different to the place I call home. Yet may Ballynahinch and Down and beyond be turned upside-down by the Gospel once more.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'"(Romans 1v16-17)
Q5 Are there more Gods than one?
There is but One only, the living and true God. (Deut. 6:4, Jer. 10:10)
Year 3 Day 120
Read - Ezekiel 13:8-16
Message - Alan Burke
There were false prophets in Ezekiel’s day, there are false prophets today, and just as the false prophets in Ezekiel’s day all who claim to be prophets today are ‘prophesying out of their own imagination’ (2). The Lord God almighty has spoken finally through his Son (Heb 1:1-2), He is the fulfilment of God’s revelation so we don’t need anything more. In Ezekiel’s day The judgement that came from the Lord God on these false prophets is truly terrifying and should be a warning for all who claim in anyway to speak for the Lord today. Ezekiel is to speak woe on them, they are lost in their own imagination, fools, they are jackals, they are pretend prophets, and although they claimed to hear the word of the Lord the Lord now speaks to them through the true Prophet Ezekiel and because of their false words and lying visions He, that is the Lord was against them. His hand, the hand of the Lord would be against them.
The Lord’s hand is against them and the judgement is on them, they are told that they would not belong to the council of God’s people, or be listed in the record of the house of Israel. The long and short of this is that these false prophets would be cut off from the people of God, there would be no record of them, they would not be part of the people of God. This was total exclusion from the people, from God’s plans and purposes, this was a judgment upon them and though it they would know that the Lord is indeed Lord! This is a truly frightful judgement against these false prophets.
These prophets had given the people false hope, they had said peace when it wasn’t to be, they had lied, but the lies wouldn’t protect them, just as the walls would collapse the lies would collapse with the slightest touch, it looked great but it was a nonsense. In effect they had built their house on the sand (Mt 7:24-29), rather than the rock. These prophets had put a veneer on things, whitewashed, they had told them what they wanted to hear. For these prophets they would experience the wrath of God, the Lord would send his wrath against them (v15), the whitewashed all would disintegrated, those who lied and said peace when there was no peace would face the judgement of a holy God. They sugarcoated it, instead of revealing the problem, alerting the people to the issue of their sin they instead told them what they wanted them to hear, they just painted over the cracks. Sadly there are many today who may not have the title of prophet but are more than happy never to address the issue of sin, the need for repentance and belief, to turn to Jesus Christ, instead they send people to hell happy, God calls us to faith and repentance, we should not ignore our sin, we must repent and believe, be a good person, try your hardest wont cut it, only faith in Jesus Christ who died to address that sin will.
Also this acts as a warning for everyone today who speaks on the Lord’s behalf, teachers, preachers, then their task is not to prophecy, to give you new words but to teach, preach and proclaim what God has already said. It may be prophetic in the sense it points you to God, the way of God but there will be no new words. We are not to add or takeaway from it, this is why scripture warns not many of you should be teachers my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1). For anyone who claims to have new visions then, new words, then the warning on these false prophets should make them pay attention. Jesus is God’s final and best word as Hebrews reminded us, the place that God speaks from His is word, read and preached, it is His complete revelation. Charles Spurgeon said “God does not give a fresh revelation, but he rivets the old one. When it has been forgotten, and laid in the dusty chamber of our memory, he fetches it out and cleans the picture, but does not paint a new one.”
Q4 What is God?
God is a Spirit, (John 4:24) infinite, (Job 11:7–9) eternal, (Ps. 90:2) and unchangeable, (James 1:17) in his being, (Exod. 3:14)wisdom, (Ps. 147:5) power, (Rev. 4:8) holiness, (Rev. 15:4) justice, goodness, and truth. (Exod. 34:6–7)