Hold the Front Page
“When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’”
John 11:43 (ESV)
It is doubtful that any newspaper editor has used the words ‘hold the front page’, but it makes for drama in films and television shows. But if there was ever a case for changing a headline at the last minute, the incident of raising Lazarus from the dead must be a leading contender.
However, one writer who undoubtedly witnessed the event failed to interview Lazarus to get an exclusive story on the experience. Many years later, of course, John did write about the episode, but the focus was, not surprisingly, on the One who performed the miracle (John 11). John didn’t record the thoughts of Lazarus after his resurrection, which surely would have made fascinating reading. Jesus, on the other hand, was the centre of attention. And this remarkable event allowed Him to explain something of His mission on earth. He told Martha “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25).
This incident allowed Jesus to point out to the assembled crowd that a resurrection to another life was possible – through Him. The raising of Lazarus was a remarkable physical miracle and Martha and her sister, Mary, would have been overjoyed to receive back their brother. But that’s not really the focus of this story. Jesus was using a physical circumstance to illustrate – for those with a mind to see it – a much more important element in His mission. That raising to physical life was simply a type of the resurrection to ‘spiritual’ life that is possible for those who do believe in Jesus Christ. The removing of the funeral cloths from Lazarus’ body can be compared with the taking away of the physical parts of this human life – to be replaced by a new man (or woman).
And those parallels are commonplace in Jesus’ work on earth. Our job is to look beyond the incredible physical miracles – the healings and so on – to the even more spectacular occurrences that are in store for those who believe in Jesus Christ. If He could perform the ‘physical’ miracles, we can have faith in the ‘spiritual’, too.
Now, those are stories for which it is worth holding the front page.
Father, it is inspiring to read of the events of Jesus’ life – but even more exciting to think of their ultimate fulfilment. Thank you for recording those incidents to give us hope. In His name, we give that thanks.
Study by Philip Stevens
Worldwide Church of God Great Baddow
United Reformed Church
CHELMSFORD CM2 7HH
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The Trump Effect
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
Romans 13:1-2 (NIV)
The recent election of Donald Trump as President of the USA has certainly caused a reaction, with demonstrations against him and his policies. Perhaps understandable in the United States, but why here in the UK and Europe?
I hope there were no Christians at the demonstrations, but I am sure that some were there, believing that was the right thing to do. What does the bible say about the attitude we should have, as Christians, to those in authority over us?
Scriptures make it pretty clear that we should respect those in authority over us at all levels. Romans 13:6-7 continues the thought from verses 1-2 quoted above with, “This is why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.”
So, while we may not always agree with what those in authority over us say and do, it is clear that we should always be willing to submit to those in authority over us and to properly respect the office they hold. Jude 9 (ISV) says “Even the archangel Michael, when he argued with the devil and fought over the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him. Instead, he said, ‘May the Lord rebuke you!’” We need to remember that no ruler in this world, now or in the past, good or bad, can hold their office unless God allows them to.
That does not mean God is endorsing a bad ruler, simply that at this time God is giving humanity freewill and we inevitably misuse it. So it’s disappointing to see demonstrations against the lawfully elected President of the United States, especially when Christians take sides for or against an individual or political party. When Christians get too closely involved in politics, either supporting or opposing a candidate, or party, or office, we can too easily forget where our real loyalties lie. Our ruler is Jesus Christ and our loyalty is to the Kingdom of God. Only where a ruler seeks to make us disregard God do we have permission to disobey and follow God (Acts 5:29 ).
We should not presume to know whether Donald Trump will make a good or bad President, because only time will tell. We should pray that God will give him, and all our leaders, the wisdom and understanding they need to do their job.
Gracious and loving Father, help us to remember that no individual, however powerful their role, can change the long term future that you have planned for humanity. Give our leaders wisdom, understanding and respect for Christians and Christianity, so that we may be free to worship you and live a Christian life. In Jesus name we pray.
Study by Keith Hartrick
Grace Communion – Leeds
Garden Village Welfare Association
LEEDS LS15 8LE
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Wanted: Christ and Us
“Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Isaiah 53:12 (NIV UK)
Yesterday, I saw a ‘Wanted’ poster for a 33-year-old man with long hair and a beard. The poster said he was wanted for leading an underground liberation movement. They listed a couple aliases—‘Prince of Peace’ ‘Son of God’ and ‘Messiah’—and warned that he’s still at large. See if you recognise him,
It’s Jesus. But you probably don’t think of him as someone who would end up on a ‘Wanted’ poster. But to many during his time on earth, that’s exactly who he was—an outlaw, someone shaking up the traditional norms. But to many more who saw him for who he really was, he was the answer to a prayer. To those who had studied the scriptures and searched the text for clues to the Messiah’s identity—Christ was the World’s Most Wanted Man.
But there’s another ‘Wanted’ poster that I wanted to share with you. See if you recognise this person; it’s me!
Not a bad looking guy. But what am I ‘Wanted’ for? And who ‘Wants’ me? It turns out, to our Triune God, we’re all on his most ‘Wanted’ list. I don’t mean that God is some kind of old Western Sheriff in the sky. Instead, his love is what is behind his wanted posters. Our Lord of Grace loves us and wants us so much that he has sent out notices in the scriptures. His purpose to bring many sons and daughters to glory led the Father to send the Son to come after us in time and space, in flesh and blood. Far beyond what any bounty hunter has ever done, he joined himself to us, becoming one of us, fully human. And because his desire for our good is so great, he has broken the chains of pride, distrust and death to bring us back into communion with him.
As strange as it may sound, remember that you are ‘Wanted’—by a loving God who will, is, and has done everything to bring us into right relationship with him through our saviour Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And that’s a ‘Wanted’ list I don’t mind saying that I’m on.
Heavenly Father, can you really want me? I fall down—sin—all the time, I fail at virtually every good thing I set out to do. But you do want me. And not just me, because you love all of your creation. As the hymn says, “Take away our bent to sinning”, and help us all to understand that, really, you do ‘want’ us. That by itself helps us to keep going. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Study by Joseph Tkach
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Let Your Father Love You!
“…he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
Luke 15:20 (NIV UK)
For many years I have had a great passion for the parable of the Prodigal Son. This story has drawn me back time after time, and each time I return I learn something new about our Father’s love. You’ll find it in Luke 15:11-31.
I’d like to focus briefly on this homecoming, this reunion of father and son. The prodigal arrives home tired, weary, starving, clothed in rags and smelling of pigs. But as you read about his return you will realise that there are no slaps here, no words like, “I told you so! Look at you, you’re a disgrace!” This reunion is filled with mercy, love, and tenderness; with hugs, kisses, compassion, tears, joy, and peace.
The Greek word translated “kissed him” is “Kataphilio”—it means he kissed him often, he kissed him much. This father’s love is bigger than his son’s rejection, bigger than his faults and failings, bigger than the rags, sin and pig smell. This is a love that nothing can separate us from. Here, Jesus paints a picture of our heavenly Father—a waiting Father, an anxious Father and above all, a Father who will humble himself by running to us, as we limp in his direction.
Notice, he doesn’t tell his servants to “Take this boy and get him cleaned up!” No! He is accepted just as he is, warts and all. Then surprise, surprise! His father calls for the best robe, and the Greek is “Protos” which means the first in value, the chief robe. This is undoubtedly the father’s garment, one he would wear on great festival occasions (notice Isaiah 61:10 in this context). This robe covers the prodigal’s rags and his disgrace. Then there’s the ring, most certainly the family signet which was used to seal and sign important documents—a bit like giving him his credit card in today’s society. And the sandals declare that this boy is not a slave but a son, as only slaves were barefoot. The Father doesn’t want slaves, he wants children.
Then the father says, “Let’s party; my son was dead and is alive again!” This is a love that won’t turn away the ragged, the weary, the tired and the smelly. This is a love that could never be paid for—because the debt has already been paid in full! The chorus of a Diana Ross song sums it up—“There ain’t no mountain high enough, there ain’t no river wide enough, there ain’t no valley low enough to keep me from you!” Thank you Father!
Our tender Father, please help us to let you love us, help us realise that you want to do this every moment of every day. Help us to understand that we could never pay for your amazing grace and overwhelming love; but that we just accept it.
Study by Cliff Neill
Grace Communion Church Luton
Farley Hill Methodist Church
North Drift Way
LUTON LU1 5JE
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I See the Stars
“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”
Psalm 147:4 (NIV)
Perhaps you were waiting since Monday of this week to hear NASA’s scheduled Wednesday news release about activity outside of our solar system.
The news was about the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting Trappist-1, a star which is about 39 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Aquarius. Nowadays we hear more often than in the past about newly discovered stars, planets and galaxies. As our technology improves, the likelihood of more discoveries is high.
Eventually the scientific world gets around to giving new stars and constellations a name, but someone named them before. In fact, for God this was not a matter of discovery. He had arranged the whole system before we existed, and to each star he gave a name. This is what the above Psalm tells us. To name someone or something shows a personal involvement and interest. God is involved in and is interested in his incredible universe, or, as we think of it now, multiverse.
A few days ago, I was with a group of Christians from our church in the beautiful island of Cyprus, and we went down to the beach one starry night. What an incredible sight we saw! The dark sky was lit up in splendid form by myriads of stars. We enjoyed naming the individual stars and planets and constellations as much as we could, but I suspect God has names for them that are not based on mythologies or on which human observed them first.
We sang a song of praise in wonderment. How great thou art. Maybe you know it. One line begins I see the stars. God sees them too, and he has a name for each of them.
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, and see your power displayed through the multiverse, I see the stars and know how you have named them, and thank you, Father, that in all your majesty, you see me and call me by my name, and that your love for me is constant and everlasting. In Jesus’ name.
Study by James Henderson
About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland.
You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations in the UK and Ireland. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.gracecom.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.
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