Put Him to the Test – 1 of 3

Part 1 – the Challenge 

God challenged the Israelites, recently returned from exile, who had taken to building their own wealth rather than rebuilding the Temple:

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. (Malachi 3:8-10).

He tells them to put Him to the test, but notice the conditional “if” in the text: FIRST, the Israelites were commanded to bring in God’s due; THEN, God promises to open the windows of heaven.

The tithe (10% of their earnings, crops, etc) required of the Law went to Temple upkeep, and the priests who served within it.

The people were also required to offer sacrifices as worship and to atone for their sins. But, even in the Old Testament, God shows that He was looking at the heart’s motives, not the sacrifices:

Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:4-7).

Again, God is demanding of the people so you might be asking: “I thought we were looking at the testing of God?”

Read how God continues in Isaiah 58:8:

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

God has given another conditional promise. In both Isaiah 58 and Malachi 3, God requires the people to challenge Him, not by words, but by their deeds – by an act of FAITH.

You may doubt in your heart whether God will follow through with His promises, but don’t be afraid to challenge Him on them. Step out in faith, be obedient, and see if God will not fulfil His promises.

The One who calls us is faithful! Test Him and see . . .

 

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You have Stolen My Heart

Have you met those Christians who are just SO IN LOVE with Jesus? I’m sure you have. Do you look at them with their noses in the Bible or their hands raised during worship times and wonder what they have that you don’t? Do you ask: “how do I get there?”

I used to.

And it led me to pray about it. Never underestimate the power of prayer. You see, God WANTS to be pursued. He wants to be sought after. He wants us to turn hungry eyes on to Him.

When you turn to God in prayer and start asking for a deeper love for Christ, greater understanding of His forgiveness and grace, and a passion for His Word, you can be sure that He will answer. In the meantime, show your desire for Him.

Open your Bible faithfully and trust His Spirit to bring the words to life. As you read of God’s character (and the contrast that man’s character makes with His) you cannot help but fall in love with Him. You will grow in awe and wonder of the Almighty.

If you find making time for consistent prayer hard, why not join your church’s weekly prayer meetings?

If you read the Bible with a sense that you are missing the point – that you aren’t going beyond the surface – then don’t allow discouragement prevent you from finding what you need to dig deeper. It may mean a trip to your local Christian bookstore (in Australia two big names are the WORD Bookstore and Koorong). Find a Bible Study book to work through. Go to your church library for resources or the local library (most have a Bible Dictionary or similar that you can use to gain an overview of the book in the Bible you wish to study).

If you find it difficult to break into spontaneous worship when preparing the evening meal, why not play your favourite worship CD?

If you find it too hard to fit Bible reading in to your afternoons after collecting the kids from school, why not play an audio Bible on your drive to work each day?

And never forget that it is a personal journey – God doesn’t want you to be where Mr Hands-Raised-Each-Week is. God has you on a unique journey. Don’t look at where others are in their faith. Fix your eyes on Christ and seek after more of Him.

Turn your eyes on to Christ and He will captivate your heart. He is worth our adoration and praise. If you look for Him you will find yourself falling ever more deeply in love with Him.

John 15:7-11
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

A Nile Baptism…

That is right. I got baptised again, this time at the Source of the Nile. God has been teaching me about the importance of physical symbols in our faith in recent times and this was a very significant one.

A bit of history:

I was blessed to be raised in a Christian family and have been a believer all my life. It is an incredible gift to have known the Lord throughout. Brought up in the Uniting Church meant that I had an infant baptism. Confirmation is the norm with adults and those who grow up within the church. When I was 11 I knew I needed to decide whether I believed in Christ, knowing His work in my life or simply because my parents told me He is here.

Having the Holy Spirit in me, seeing His works around me and with the authority of the Scripture I acknowledged God at 11 and desired to be confirmed. Sadly, I was told by the pastor to wait a couple of years until I was older before making the decision. I know it is important to weigh the cost of the cross but I feel it is dangerous to judge what is in another’s heart when it comes to their faith. And so I believe that my public confirmation occured when I was 11.

Then why the second baptism?:

Paul and the early church struggled against dualism (seperation of body and spirit; the belief that the body/ physical is evil and the spirit is good). I think that, whilst physical symbols such as baptism or wearing a cross are not necessary for salvation or to live a Christian life, they can be powerful declarations of our faith and are a form of glorifying God.

The last few years I have toyed with the idea of being baptised again but it never felt right. I did not want to be baptised because I felt it was expected of me. I know that some church communities have adult baptism and sometimes the fear of man crept in to my heart with the lie that they would think less of me if they knew that I had not been baptised when old enough to make that decision myself. But I did not want to give in to this fear of man and so I choose not to be baptised when others around me were. At other times I simply did not feel that it was the right season in what God was using me for or doing in me.

Today I felt a peace that it was the right TIME, with the right PEOPLE and in the right PLACE.

Whilst I have not known the people with me for a long time (only three weeks), I could not have wished for a more amazing group of people to witness the occasion. To the glory of God 5 of us were baptised: Eric, Josiah, Tom, Jerry and me.

The call to be Baptised:

Why should Christians be baptised? Why would one make the choice to be baptised? What is its purpose?

1) Christ led the way and was baptised: Mat 3:13-17 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

2) John the Baptist, who baptised Christ, declared that it was a physical symbol of being baptised by the Holy Spirit: John 1:32-33 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him. I would not have known Him, except that the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is He who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.’

3) Christ commands it: Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” John 3:5 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and of the Spirit”.

I don’t think that Christ means literally that you cannot enter heaven unless you are baptised in water because He also tells us that all you need is to accept Christ as Lord and Saviour, believing in His death and resurrection. But I do beleive that it honours and delights God when we confess Him as our Lord and Saviour by the public testimony of baptism.

I pray that my life and my actions will continue to proclaim my faith and give testimony to the Spirit within me.

Christ gave everything. He demands everything.

Choosing Christ costs eveything. He is worth the cost!