God is not a vending machine

by Gavin  

God is not a vending machine

Christian-ese uses terms like this:


  • “May the Lord grant you grace to get through it…”
  • “Let’s pray that God would give you the power you need…”
  • “Let waves of God’s mercy envelop you…”
  • “Immerse yourself in God’s love…”
  • “We need a dose of God’s wisdom in this situation…”


Even some of the songs we sing feed into this…


  • “…Waves of mercy, waves of grace…”
  • “Flow like waters comes Your love…”
  • “…So let Your mercy rain, Let Your mercy rain on us…”
  • “…But Your grace found me when I wasn't breathing…”
  • “…It’s Your love that we adore, it’s like a sea without a shore, don’t be afraid, just set your sail and risk the ocean there’s only grace…” (that has to be my favourite from this list… dude, what are you saying…!!!???)


It’s like the mercy and grace and love and power and wisdom of God are commodities which are dispensed.  These benefits seem to flow to us as things disembodied from God, as if He dishes them out as and when there is need.  The levels of an essential benefit are lacking, so we pray and ask God to bestow more of what we need.  It’s like our receiving of the “every spiritual benefit in Christ” is nothing more than a divine dole, where believers come, ask, and receive – but something akin to a commodity.


Then we come to a verse like Psalm 57:3, and it just seems to reinforce that thinking…


He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Sela.  God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!” (Psalm 57:3, ESV)


Just ponder that last phrase a bit.


What does the psalmist mean when he writes, “God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!”  The context shows us that there was great need, and that God’s intervention was needed – that is clear.  It is 100% certain that this is about God’s actions, and working on behalf of a believer in crisis – we don’t quibble about that.


But at a quick glance this phraseology seems to feed the Vending Machine, does it not?  God, as a person, sends out love and faithfulness.  Even the Hebrew verb seems to add to that understanding, as שָׁלַח (šā·lǎḥ) means to send out, to dispatch, to send way or to set free.


But can I suggest that sometimes we miss something pretty fundamental?  God’s mercy, truth, faithfulness, love, steadfast love, compassion, power and wisdom are inherent parts of His nature.  They are what, in theological circles, we call the attributes of God.  They are intrinsically part and parcel of who God is, in His essential nature.


God’s attributes cannot be detached from who He is as a personal God. These aspects of His own divine nature are not disembodied packages which can be separated, boxed, duct taped, labelled and dispatched from God to people.


While the language may suggest a sending forth of an attribute, surely we should see that our experience and benefit of those attributes are to be found in God Himself.  Yes, to be sure, He radiates such benefits, and we enjoy and encounter and gain from that, but not in any way removed from Him.  As we know God, love God, trust God, fellowship with God, then we experience the radiation of His mercy and love and faithfulness more. 


Let’s not reduce our need, appreciation and appropriation of the glorious attributes of our God to nothing more than packets of commodities which we get.  Yes, they are sent out in a real sense, but they are sent out from Him as an expression of Himself. 


And so, instead of just desiring what the vending machine throws out, let’s be diligent to not forget the relationship from which those glorious benefits flow to us as believers.  Desire Him for who He intrinsically is.


Randburg Baptist Church Eldership statement on Freemasonry

by Gavin  

Randburg Baptist Church Eldership statement on Freemasonry


Following on from our 3rd quarter “Twisted Jesus” Bible Hour series, and in particular the treatment of the Freemasonry issue on Sunday 23rd September 2018, the elders were requested to provide some clarification on our standpoint by a number of people within our local church community.


This is the response that was drafted in late September 2018, and that was circulated to those concerned, largely via personal WhatsApp messages:

  1. This is not the first time Freemasonry has reared its head at Randburg Baptist Church, and our historical position remains unchanged – it is wrong, dangerous and an association which should be avoided by believers in Christ.
  2. We have indeed declined membership previously due to association with Freemasonry.  Joyously, we have also seen folk willingly break their association, and repent of that, and then become faithful members of the Randburg Baptist Church family.
  3. “Twisted Jesus” was designed to engage with a few errors which needed attention within the church, including Freemasonry. 
  4. "Twisted Jesus” was never designed to provide a detailed set of information on the historicity or beliefs of ANY of the errors we tackled.  We concede that much was unsaid in the module, but that fell within the brief of the series.  Our focus was to predominantly hone in on issues w.r.t. errant Christology and soteriology, because that is the first place a cult/religion/sect/philosophy will stand or fall.
  5. The elders remain steadfast in our conviction (based on reasonable research done) that the Freemason movement is fundamentally flawed on multiple issues of theology, and is antithetical to the gospel and orthodox Christianity. Not only that, Paul’s injunction in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 is crystal clear – professing believers cannot and must not associate with darkness, and the imperative is clear: “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them…”
  6. Notwithstanding all the “good” done by Freemasons in society, and equally notwithstanding that many are no doubt moral and ethical people, the unbiblical practices, unholy associations and false worship synonymous with Masonry have to force a conclusion that it is fundamentally anti-Christian.  We understand that many professing believers (and even clergy) form part of the movement, but how can light indeed dwell with darkness?  For how many might the devastating words of the Lord Jesus become a reality? ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23, ESV).  Mere profession of faith means nothing, and many so-called Christians will sadly face eternity in hell because they failed to rightfully submit to the Lordship of Christ.
  7. We have committed to carefully and prayerfully respond to the matters raised on the floor of “Twisted Jesus” in good time, and exercise due shepherding care for all the individuals affected (in various ways) by association of themselves and family members in Freemasonry.  
  8. Our commitment is first and foremost to God's glory, and to the holiness and purity of Christ's bride, the church which is called to be holy as He is holy.



Welcome to Philippi - some thoughts as we start our new sermon series

by Gavin  

Welcome to Philippi - some thoughts as we start our new sermon series

Welcome to the church of Christ, here in Philippi.  Here we all are, sitting in the spacious and Roman-styled home of Lydia, a local businesswoman.  We’re tried a few other venues, but for this meeting, Lydia’s home certainly has the most space, and in fact the church actually started off in her house anyway!  The date today is between 60 and 62 AD.  The windows are open and a refreshing breeze from the Gangites River is blowing in…


Let me introduce you to a few folk…


Old grandfather Geriatrix, all of 110 ten years old, sits there in his own world in the corner.  Maybe he is thinking about the events that happened just over 100 years ago when he was 10 years old.  He remembers the stories that his own great-grandfather (Ancientix) told him about what it was like in Krenides, the town of “Little Fountains.”  Ancientix used to play in those numerous springs while his father worked in the nearby goldmine.  But that gold changed his life forever as Philip II of Macedon (the father of Alexander), attracted by the age-old lure of that precious metal, swept down and conquered the region in the 4th century BC.   Krenides was renamed Philippi then (and who says that only South African politicians have the monopoly on name changes! O yes, those were great stories… 


Geriatrix thinks of his own story too, with Antony and Octavian defeating the forces of Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC – just 100 years ago.  O, he can remember it so clearly…  Philippi becoming a Roman colony, and so many of those war veterans settling in the area.  Yes, life changed radically for them.  Geriatrix had to learn Latin – that horrid language.  That’s all that they were allowed to speak.  And he wasn’t even aspiring to become an attorney! Oh well – Est quod est! Roman law was introduced, and things were very different.  But it wasn’t all bad!  Roman customs were introduced, and the city government became was modeled on those great Italian cities.  The changes in kitchen design only came later, but sadly pizza never really took off!


But who else is in the room as we gather?


Yes, of course, Lydia (the ever gracious hostess) and her family.  Who can forget Lydia, the first convert under Paul?  She continued in the fabric business, still specializing in expensive purple-dyed goods. 


“Hang on a sec – what’s that you asked? O, the disruption outside?  We’re used to that by now – sadly!  That’s just two of our ladies arguing outside on the roof.  Euodia and Synthche.  They were also some of the first converts, but they don’t see eye to eye on some church issues.”


In the other corner, sitting with his family, is the man from Correctional Services, Fearful Frederix.  Remember his story?  Paul had cast that demon out of the girl who worked as a fortune-teller, and her masters were furious.  They had Paul and Silas beaten and imprisoned.  But then that earthquake struck, and God miraculously caused their release.  Old Fearful Frederix was so unnerved that night that he was about to kill himself, but Paul stopped him, and he believed on Christ and was saved.  The first nocturnal baptism happened that night as he and his family were baptized!


Ah, but I ramble… Allow me to give you some detail on our church…


All of these events happened during Paul’s second Missionary Journey.  But Paul had a pastor’s heart for our church, and he visited again – at the beginning and end of his 3rd Missionary Journey (we read about that in 2 Corinthians 8 : 1-5 and Acts 20 : 6). 


As a local church we had developed a heart for believers in crisis, and helped where we could.  We previously helped Paul with some stuff when he was serving the Lord in Thessalonica. We also contributed abundantly for the needy in Jerusalem because we cared for the broader church.


But then Paul got imprisoned in Rome 4-5 years after he last visited us.  We were compelled to try and help him.  But we needed a courier, and DHL just were not operational yet… so along with the gift we sent Epaphroditus, one of our members here.  The problem was that Epaphroditus suffered a near-fatal illness en route to Rome (or was it just after he got there – that part is unclear?). 


Paul decided to send Epaphroditus back to us.  And he’s just got back!  And Paul sent a letter with him as well.  That’s why we’re all here tonight, crowded in Lydia’s house like sardines.  We can’t wait to hear what Paul has written to us…

Where is God?

by Gavin  

Where is God?


Another event-filled week in South Africa passes.  Violent N3 protests in KZN, sentencing and appeal in a racism case, petrol-bombing of a mining bus with tragic deaths, the demise of an admired liberation figure and a life lauded, a high profile court case on fraud and corruption with the prospect of a postponement and more appeals… God is thrown into the conversational mix by many, and we’ve seen church leaders appeal to Him for their particular flavour of preferred human justice. 


So where is God, and His justice in all these events?  How should we regard the workings of God when, as Job legitimately asked, “Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?” (Job 21:7, ESV).  How do we answer such a probing question, fuelled by the real events that one sees around us where justice is often seen to not prevail?


The Christian’s confidence lies in the long-term view!


Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” (Proverbs 24:19–20, ESV)


As Dr D.A. Carson writes on this text:


“The believer must take the long view. If we judge everything by who wins and who loses in the short span of our own lives, we will often be frustrated. But  God the Judge has the last word.”


So look long!  There will be a full and final reckoning before the judgement seat of the One who is infinitely just.


A PSALM OF ASAPH. Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73, ESV)


Curse of the crown

by Gavin  

Curse of the crown


There are rich ironies embedded in the build-up to the cross.


Mark as he writes shows us the mocking of Jesus Christ all over the place!  Pilate, Chief Priests, Herod, Herod’s soldiers, Romans soldiers, and the people passing by at Golgotha where Jesus was crucified all revile Him. The whole spectrum of society mocked him as king… from the lowest to the highest, from the most powerful to the least, from the pagan foreign rulers to the ultra-religious Jews.


But you know the irony in all this?  What is the irony in the mocking and taunting and laughing at Jesus when they pour scorn on Him as King?  What have they missed as they laugh and joke??


Do not miss this… this is the crucial part of this whole story. Jesus was the King.  He is the King.  He will forever be the King. They mock Jesus as King but fail to see the majesty of Jesus as real King!


Part of that multi-phasic taunting was the mocking of Jesus as king by the Roman soldiers…


And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him.” (Mark 15:16–17, ESV)


The military force was overkill here.  The whole battalion – the local cohort – would have been 600 men, and it is they who gather here.  Pretty much all the off-duty soldiers gathered together to have some fun with this Jewish prisoner, who was known to be the supposed King of the Jews.

Their strategy was simple – if He was supposed to be king, then they’d treat Him as a king.  So they find a purple cloak – a symbol of royalty – and they put it on Jesus.  Then they find thorns, twist those twigs into a rough circle, and create a crown, and force it down on the head of Jesus.


And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him.” (Mark 15:18–19, ESV)


The whole thing is an act, a show, a time of sport for them, some fun Friday morning entertainment.

They get their few minutes of fun, at Jesus’ expense, by pretending He was a king, and pretending to honour Him and revere Him.


And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.” (Mark 15:20, ESV)


They had no clue. For these pagan soldiers it was just a game, but their sadistic actions actually pointed to Christ as the sin-bearer, as the atoning sacrifice, the One through whom sin would be defeated.  The missed the true majesty of Christ even in their fake homage.  That mocking carried on right through to the cross.


But now, think about this… the crown of thorns was done primarily as an act of fake homage to the real King whom they did not see or acknowledge as King.  But is there a deeper level of significance here?  Track with me…


What was one of the signs of the Fall? 


And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.” (Genesis 3:17–18, ESV)


Thorns!  Thorns entered a good world because of sin.  Thorns and thistles are a marker of a sin-affected, sin-corrupted world that is longing for the final redemption.  In Eden, before Adam and Eve sinned, there were no thorns.  In the New Heaven and New Earth, with the effects of the Fall reversed, there will be no thorns.


So, we see Jesus Christ wearing a mock crown, designed to humiliate Him, but made out of plant material that was a result of, and in fact a sign of, mankind’s sin.  We see the Son of God going to the cross to deal with man’s sin wearing a crown made of one of the very signs that points to that sin.  Christ headed for the cross to defeat sin and overcome sin and atone for sin while wearing a deeply painful reminder of that sin.  Without even knowing the depths of what they were doing, these Roman soldiers thrust a sign of God’s curse on humanity onto the head of the Saviour who was about to suffer and die to redeem humanity.    In a very real and graphic way, the Sacrificial Lamb bore the sign of the curse even as He was led to be crucified on the cross,


The ironies are rich!


How does that enrich our reading of Galatians 3:13 as we approach Easter this year?


Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—” (Galatians 3:13, ESV)



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