Sunday 29 January 2017
Philippians 3 NIV from Paul and Timothy to the saints in Christ at Philippi
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Last Sunday we looked at the awesome transformation that can take place when we submit our lives to God. We looked at Peter - humble fisherman who left all and followed Jesus as one of His disciples. He grew in faith whilst He was with Jesus, God even spoke through him and proclaimed ‘Jesus the Messiah, the Son of the Living God‘ Matthew 16;16,17. Yet, sadly, when the testing times came He failed miserably.
We looked at how Jesus, walking on the stormy sea, called Peter to come and walk with Him. This episode in Peters life is a beautifully simplified condensed version of the life of Peter in that when Jesus called him to leave his nets and follow Him - he did - paralleled with the fact that he left the boat and stepped out into the unknown deep - but then when he took his eyes off Jesus he began to sink.
This happened again, when, following the arrest of Jesus, Peter was seen by a young girl who pointed him out as having been one of the followers who walked with Jesus - the testing time again - what did Peter do? he denied even knowing Jesus. Mercifully Jesus didn’t give up on Peter and forgave Him for each denial and commissioned Peter to go and build His church.
Peter was so transformed by Jesus that he went on to become the inspiration of the new Christian Church when on the day of Pentecost, filled with the Spirit, he preached to the crowds and about three thousand were added to the church that day. Peter then went on to do the same things that Jesus did when together with John they met the lame man outside the Temple, laid hands on him, healed him, and together they danced into the Temple to the amazement of the crowds.
As I said last Sunday, Peter was just an ordinary guy like you and me- ok when the going was good but failed miserably when the going got difficult.
It’s so easy to pull yourself down because of the times you know that you’ve failed to live up to what should be expected of a Christian. What is so comforting for us to know today is that through it all - both the easy and the testing times, Jesus never gave up on Peter and through it all Peter’s life was transformed by His relationship with Jesus to become a Spirit filled ambassador for God.
Peter - the companion of Jesus, failed Him many times yet Jesus forgave him and commissioned him to be the rock on whom He would build His Church. A rock for the developing church then and who still inspires and encourages us today through his life as shared in the gospels and the two letters he wrote that became the gospels of Peter.
We then looked at the man Saul a devout Traditional Jew who was so passionate about the Jewish faith he was born into that he was willing to seek after, persecute and get rid of the new Christian Church that he saw as a threat to that faith. Jesus saw the potential in this strong giant of a man who was willing to go to any length to maintain the Jewish traditions he had been brought up in and Jesus met him head on as Saul journeyed to Damascus - and the change in Saul’s life began from that first encounter with Jesus.
As we know from the writings of Luke, Jesus sent Annanias to confirm what Jesus had said to had Saul and as the scales of doubt fell from Sauls eyes he began to see the truth that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah and his heart burned to know more.
We know from Paul’s letters that following his conversion he met with Peter and learned first hand from this disciple of Jesus what an impact Jesus had made on Peters life and what a difference Jesus was going to have on Paul.s life and ministry. So Saul became better known as Paul and went on to encourage the early Christians to remain faithful to their new found faith in Jesus the Messiah.
Paul - now a changed man, who had learned so much about Jesus from Peter, went on to become the inspiration and companion of Luke and Mark the two gospel writers who even though they had not been disciples of Jesus, wrote two of the most detailed accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus -
Through the meeting with one another and sharing their experiences, Luke was able to continue the story of what happened following the death and ressurection of Jesus when he learned from Peter about Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Then from Paul what really happened on the Damascus Road.
Paul life was so transformed by his encounter with Jesus that yet went on
Peter’s life was transformed by spending physical time with Jesus
Paul like Peter was transformed by his encounter with the risen Jesus on the Damascus Road. Following his life changing encounter with Jesus he went on to write 13 letters to the growing developing Church of Jesus, which as we read them, continue to inspire and teach us today. Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Philemon, Hebrews
The words that most reveal the intensity of Pauls desire to be changed - the words that became my inspiration years ago when I first knelt at the penitent form after God showed me that I didn’t really know Him as He wanted me to, the words that continue to inspire me today and I believe are a challenge for all of us are those found in Philippians 3;10; where Paul writes - I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
What Paul craves here, writing to the church at Philippi is not just to know about Him but to really know Him. I closed last week by saying that I believe that that’s what Jesus wants for us all, which is to really know Him - like Peter, Luke and Mark.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth he talks about this continuing transfomation; ‘And we, who with unveiled faces, all reflect the Lord’s Glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing Glory, which comes from the Lord who is Spirit 2 Corinthians 3;18
How does this transformation take place? Paul tells us in his letter to the church at Rome . ‘ be transformed by the renewing of your mind - then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will.’ Romans 12;2
The renewing of our mind - that’s being prepared to question our commitment and seek to know Him by reading His word and talking to Him in prayer. By doing the things that we as Christians are expected to do - and I’m not talking about just being obedient to a set of rules that say what we are not to do, but by paying more attention to what the same set of rules tell us about what we should be doing. As Jesus told the teacher of the Law when asked which is the greatest commandment He said; ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
The awesome truth is that Jesus wants you to really know Him and feel His presence in your life. As we seek to know Him, we realise that He will come and help us to be faithful in the way He wants us to conduct our Christian life.
We closed last weeks meeting by singing Graham Kendricks song - based on Pauls letter to the Philippians ‘ Knowing You Jesus
The early church grew rapidly once people began to see Jesus in His followers.
People liked what they saw and desired to come to know Him for themselves. No great revival meeting, no long sermons, simply by being with people who know Jesus making Him known to others. That’s why Paul could write ‘ His divine power has given us everything we need for life and Godliness - through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own Glory and goodness.
Really Knowing Him matters -and will make a big difference between the church that fails through self effort and the victorious church that realises the impact of His Divine Power. Knowing Him makes a big difference in our lives and will impact the people around us to want to know Him too.
The New testament is full of people who’s lives had been transformed by their encounter with Jesus. The Church today has been, and still is, impacted by men and women who having encountered Jesus have been transformed and influenced people today to become believers.
The pawnbroker William Booth who started the Salvation Army that brought the gospel to the poor and the needy simply by doing what Jesus did in taking the church out onto the streets.
Jackie Pullinger who swopped her upper class home in England for the ghettos of drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes in Hong King and became the inspirer of hundreds to change their lives and find fulfillment in God.
Lee Strobel who we looked at last week, a one time journalist and athiest who, following the conversion of his wife, began investigating the Biblical claims about Christ in a quest to write a book that ‘The case against Christ’ that denied the existence of Jesus but to whom who, God revealed Himself through the testimonies of the people he spoke to. The result was a book that did the opposite to what he had set out to do and was entitled ‘The Case for Christ‘, proving the existence of God.
Just as God transformed the lives of those He called in Bible days, so too God still calls men and women today to come and ‘know Him’ so that they could go out into the world and make Him known to others. You and me, this morning, those who read my sermons on the internet, God wants us to really know Him so that He can change us -our attitudes, our responses, our desires our goals to become more like Jesus.
A lovely song that we sing, written by blind pianist and evangelist Marilyn Baker says this; Jesus, You are changing me by You’re Spirit, You’re making me like You Jesus, You’re transforming me that Your loveliness may be seen in all I do
Transformed - changed, by the renewing of our mind is to be like Jesus. Marilyns song goes on; You are the potter, and I am the clay Help me to be willing, to let You have You’re way Jesus, You are changing me As I let You reign supreme within my heart
In the second chapter of Pauls letter to the Philippians v 5 as laid out in the NIV it says ‘your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ‘ and goes on to say that the attitude is one of servant hood. The same verse in the Authorised King James version it read like this “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”
Transformed by having the mindset of Christ in you. In you daily decisions - whatever you do.
Today young Christians often wear an arm band that contains four letter WWJD
What Would Jesus Do - when we consider that - it should help us make the right decisions in the way we respond and act towards others. Jesus lived in obedience to the will of God. In the same way we today are commanded by Jesus to live in obedience. ‘Love Me and Obey Me and I and the Father will come and make our home within you’ That brings transformation from within.
The song we are going to sing in the closing moments of the meeting acknowledge that only as we truly know Him can we ever hope to make Him truly know to others. A song that remind us of Paul’s cry to God in Philippians 3.
Lord, I pray that I may know Thee, Risen One, enthroned on high;
Empty hands I'm stretching to Thee, show Thyself to me, I cry.
All that once I thought most worthy, all of which I once did boast,
In Thy light seems poor and passing, 'tis Thyself I covet most.
Only as I truly know Thee can I make Thee truly known;
Only bring the power to others which in my own life is shown.
Show thyself to me, that I may reveal Thy beauty.
Give Thyself to me, that I may show forth Thy power
Show Thy power in me, that I may be used for others
Sunday 22 January 2017
Last week we read the account of Peter being called by Jesus to step out of the boat and walk on water - he did and then fear set in and he panicked and started to sink until Jesus reached out His hand and helped him up. We then looked at the way in which Peters, when Jesus was arrested even denied knowing Jesus.
The great thing is that even then, Jesus forgave him and commissioned him to build His church. Peter was just an ordinary guy - ok when the going was good but sometimes failed when the going got difficult. What is so comforting for us to know today is that through it all Peter’s life was transformed by His relationship with Jesus to become the Spirit filled ambassador for God, Peter - Companion of Jesus, became an Evangelist, church planter and encourager and who still inspires and encourages us today through reading about the sermon he did on the day of Pentecost and how, filled with the Holy Spirit he went on to build Gods church - We can read how powerful he became through the letters he wrote.
His life was transformed by His encounter with Jesus
Today I want us to look at another man who although He didn’t experience the same privalage as Peter in actually living with Jesus, nevertheless was equally transformed by his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road - That man was Saul who, on his way to get rid of the early Christians - was stopped in his tracks by Jesus. Saul who became known as Paul and whose life also was so wonderfully transformed by His encounter with Jesus that he went on to encourage the early Christians to remain faithful to their new found faith in Jesus the Messiah.
Paul - now a changed man went on to become the inspiration and companion of Luke and Mark who went on to write the two gospels named after them. Amazingly these two gospel writers had not been disciples of Jesus, only Matthew and John were. Yet Luke, and Mark wrote two of the most detailed accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus and as you read in the prologue of Luke‘s gospel written to his friend Theophilus he explains why ; ’Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word. I have therefore carefully investigated everything from the beginning and write an orderly account for you so that you may know the certainty of the things that you have been taught.
In other words, Luke has checked through with great detail the things they know about Jesus from those who had been with Him to confirm them to his friend.
He then goes further when he transcribes the events following the ministry of Jesus in the Acts of the Apostles sharing the spectacular birth and empowering of the church at Pentecost when God poured His Spirit into the believers. As I said, Luke was a companion of Paul and so he could write with authority about the conversion and ministry of Paul of which he was a part.
Turn to your Bibles and read Lukes account. Acts 9; 1-22 . Paul like Peter was transformed by his encounter with Jesus. Peter by spending physical time with Jesus and Paul by meeting Jesus on the Damascus Road and being filled with His Spirit.
Now look at what Paul writes about his own conversion experience as told to the church in Galatia
Galatians 1; 11-24 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before
I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.
In verse eleven, Paul expresses the uniqueness of the gospel he now preaches which is different from the doctrines of Judaism of which he was a strong advocate before his conversion. A gospel not made up or taught by man but a gospel received by revelation from Jesus Christ.
He acknowledges that God called him apart from the traditions he had learned from birth and by His Grace ‘Gods Riches At Christ’s Expense‘. A Gospel that was birthed in him when he met Jesus. He wasn’t looking for Jesus - far from it - he was out to get rid of His Church and followers -
It reminded me of the awesome way in which God intervened in the life of a modern day Paul, Lee Strobel a one time journalist and athiest who, following the conversion of his wife, began investigating the Biblical claims about Christ. Prompted by the results of his investigation, he himself became a Christian.
He had set out and interviewed many theologians and well known Christian teachers and instead of proving that God didn’t exist, God revealed Himself to him through the testimonies of the people he spoke to. The result was a book that did the opposite to what he had set out to do and instead, proved the existence of God.
Back to Paul, Unlike Lee Strobel, Paul thought he knew God and what God wanted from his life - but God intervened and revealed Himself to Saul in Christ. Set apart from birth by God and called by His grace - revealed His Son Jesus - and note this - IN ME so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, the non-Jews.
Paul stresses that he had not been shown this by any mortal man but by God Himself in Christ Jesus. It was three years later that he went to Jerusalem to get together with Peter and stayed with him a couple of weeks. He also saw James the brother of Jesus and I guess together shared, Peter and James would confirm to Paul the things that they had learned from Jesus especially Peter who had been told by God that Jesus was indeed the son of the living God.
When you think of the impact that Peter who shared the physical ministry of Jesus and the impact that Paul, who shared the spiritual presence of Jesus had on the early church - it should encourage us all to realise that God is still calling people from all walks of life to become His followers and commit their lives to be His disciples.
The verse that stands out to me and I believe can impact our own lives and church is verse 15 God set me apart from birth ( born a Jew) and called me by His Grace and Revealed His Son Jesus so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles’
God is still in the business of calling people like you and me, setting us apart from our natural birth instincts and way of life which by nature is a selfish way of life - by offering us New Birth - Born again - a fresh start -
New birth with Spiritual not worldly aims - all through the precious sacrificial love of Jesus who has paid the price for our sins and opened the way for us to get to know Him personally so that we can then go on and make Him known to our friends, neighbours, work colleagues and family.
Peter put it so simply when he wrote in 1 Peter 2; 9 You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, belonging to God that you may declare the praises of |Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you Have received mercy.
I believe that the life of Peter and the lives of the other disciples were impacted by the fact that they lived and shared the ministry of Jesus first hand and that the life and words of Peter still speak volumes to all of us today.
I also believe that the life of Paul - who hadn’t been with the disciples - was transformed by the fact that he encountered the living Christ on the Damascus Road and was impacted by the Spirit of Christ coming to live in Him enabling him to influence the lives of others like Luke and Mark who -together also speak into our lives today.
We sang the song at the beginning of our meeting - ‘I serve a Risen Saviour - He’s in the world today and I know that because He lives within my heart’
I hope you believe that, for I believe that God is still calling people today to accept the message of Jesus and accept Him as their personal Saviour - to live their lives in obedience to His word and love Him and one another so that they can, like Paul, like Peter, Luke, John and Mark - influence others to want to know Him.
I believe that God wants us all to really know Him - like Paul, who had only seen Jesus that once writes in his letter to the Philippians 3;10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
We can find out about Jesus from taking time to read His word - in our own daily devotions and at the Bible Fellowship. That’s a start - but what Paul craves here is not just to know about Him but to really know Him. That was my prayer when I saw something of the awesome truth of Jesus when David Murden laid hands on me and prayed for healing.
That’s the song Anna sings to the children in ‘The King and I’ ‘Getting to know you, getting to know all about you’ and she did and they liked her and she liked them.
As you know, I was brought up in the Salvation Army from the age of seven, got saved, grew up in all the different sections, band, songsters - even became bandmaster. I thought I knew Jesus but when I was taken into hospital for a serious kidney operation and it didn‘t work, I started to doubt. I was due to go down for a second operation to try and get my kidney to function. There I was, in the hospital bed, a pump at my side acting as a kidney - all ready in the white gown ready to go down the following morning for the operation.
Beryl came and asked me if I’d prayed about it. I can’t believe the response I gave her ‘ Pray? whats the point, there’s no one listening‘. That moment I realised I didn’t really know God.
That same night David Murden, our new officers came and asked me if he could lay hands on me and pray for Gods healing. In desperation I said ‘yes‘. The following morning I awoke early to an uneery silence in the room - I asked the nurse why the pump had been turned off and she told me that unexpectedly my kidneys had started to function during the night and I now didn’t need to go down for the operation.
I was shocked, amazed and ashamed of myself for doubting God. Two weeks later, I was at home re-cooperating and as soon as I was able to go out, came to the Corps and knelt here at the penitent form seeking Gods forgiveness and crying out ‘I want to know You Lord, Know You like David Murden’ and God answered my prayer - it was amazing.
I knelt here and I believe the power of the Holy Spirit came into me and over the years since then I have been privileged to see the power of God flow through me and know the presence of God with me when I have had to go through some very difficult times in my life.
Don’t get me wrong - I’m not saying I’m perfect. Like Paul says, I’m in no way perfect - but I press on to hopefully take hold of that for which Jesus took a hold of me - eternity with Him.
What about you this morning - What is your relationship with Jesus like?
Do you feel that you really know Him
Do you experience His presence in your daily life
The awesome truth is that He wants you to really know Him and feel His presence in your life.
We are going to sing one of Graham Kendricks songs based around these words of Peter - Knowing You Jesus
All I once held dear built my life upon.
All this world reveres and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss -
Spent and worthless now compared to this
Knowing You, Jesus, Knowing You
There is no greater thing - You’re my all, You’re the best
You’re my Joy, my Righteousness
And I love You Lord
Now my hearts desire is to know You more
To be found in You and known as You’re
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All surpassing gift of Righteousnes
Knowing You, Jesus, Knowing You
There is no greater thing - You’re my all, You’re the best
You’re my Joy, my Righteousness
And I love You Lord
Sunday 15 January 2017 Mattthew 14;22-32
Last week we read the stirring commands of God given to His chosen people tin the book of Leviticus 26:1-13 Don’t make idols, Honour the Sabbath, Obey my commands and I will look after you. In fact; I will put my dwelling place among you, - I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
That was Gods promise way back then in the Old Testament and is repeated in the New Testament in John 14; 23 where Jesus gives that same promise when He shares with His disciples before going to the cross. He tells them that ‘ if anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him - he who does not love Me will not obey My teachings. These words you hear are not My own - they belong to the Father who sent Me’.
Psalm 37;4 says, ‘Delight yourselves in Me, and I will give you the desires of your heart.
On the first Sunday of this New year, we read from Isaiah 43 "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it - When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
Our God promises that whatever we go through, whatever we are called to face this year - that if we love Him and live in obedience to Him, as always, He will be with us.
Last week I drew your attention to the beautiful words that used to be on the wall facing us every time we met together ‘Worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness’
I said then, it’s not just about what we do here each Sunday by coming to Worship Him, it’s more about what we do when we leave and go back into the world - it’s about how we live our lives - what priorities we make - the idols that we make however unintentionally - the things we put before the things of God.
The times when we allow the attractions of this world to detract us from what we know we should really be doing. The excuses we make for not going to church, Bible study. Put God first and He will not let us down - He is there for us 24/7 if only Gods people were as faithful as that.
Over the last few weeks we have also been encouraged by the life of Peter - the humble fisherman called by Jesus to leave his nets and follow Him. We looked at how Peter learned to love and obey the Lord in the three years they were together. Jesus was his inspiration - his mentor, his guide. He spent time with Jesus - the Word made flesh - Jesus who showed us what God was really like and challenged us to follow in His footsteps.
We looked the humanness and frailty of Peter who when the real testing time came denied even knowing Jesus. Having spent three years with Jesus - having even been the mouthpiece of God in stating that ‘Jesus as the Son of God’ even after all that - when the testing time came - when he felt threatened by the authorities in the world the said that he didn’t even know the man Jesus. Who would have thought that Peter - a man who walked so close to Jesus - would deny even knowing Him. Peter did.
I believe that God allowed this to happen to teach us today the need for us to stay faithful and as we sang last week ‘stand up for Jesus’ even when times are difficult.
We then went on to read the first of the many stirring letters that Peter, the disciple of Jesus wrote to encourage the members of the early Christian Church. Addressed to ’Gods elect’ and as such, ‘strangers in the World’ a scattered people throughout the wider region but who have been chosen by God the Father to live in obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkled by His Blood. Chosen by God to live in obedience to Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1;3
He talks about New birth into a living hope now - and an inheritance to come that is worth more than Gold - blessings that overshadow all that we are called to go through that will prove the genuiness of our faith. WOW!
These inspiring letters of Peter really do show us how much his life had been transformed from being a humble fisherman through to being a disciple who failed Jesus when his time of testing came. Jesus forgave him three times and in reinstating him appointed him to go build His church. There’s hope for us all yet .
I believe that we need to be reminded of our calling and the way in which God promised that if we stay close to Him - He will see us through the most difficult demanding times of our lives - He will never leave us or forsake us - even when things happen to us in our lives that we can’t understand, things that try our faith, the times God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers in the way we would have liked like in the loss of a loved one. The times I’ve cried out to God ‘Why Lord did You let this happen - why Lord?
This morning I want us to look at one of the times in the life of Peter that God made Peter aware of his own frailty and how through it, show him that through even the most difficult times of his life,, if he placed his faith and trust completely in Jesus - He would see him through and come out the stronger. This incident happened following the miraculous feeding of the five thousand when Jesus fed them with just two fishes and five small loaves.
Who would have thought that after seeing Jesus perform the miraculous feeding of the five thousand and even having 12 baskets of left overs, that Peter would doubt Jesus.
That’s what happened to Peter. There he was, in the same boat as the rest of the disciples, sailing to their next appointment. They’d had a great day, only that evening Jesus performed a most marvellous miracle in feeding over five thousand hungry people. Look at verse 21 and you will see that the five thousand only counted the men and not the women and children. The disciples had seen Jesus take just five loaves and two fishes, break them into pieces and distribute them to the hungry crowd.
I was amazed and shocked to read how today - a recognised leader in the Episcopalian church Rev John Shelby Sponge doesn’t believe this could have happened. But then neither does he believe in the miracles, the death of Jesus, the resurrection etc - what Bible is he reading|?
It reminds me of the days when our three children were young and we couldn’t afford to buy five fish butties from the fish shop to feed us all - instead, Beryl and I would buy two fish, break them up and fill five teacakes to feed the children and ourselves.
I was also reminded of the time when, on another occasion around the same time, that one morning, Beryl and I realised we didn’t have enough food to feed the family and didn’t have any money left. We prayed about it and shortly after, the gas man came, emptied our gas meter and left us with 12/6 which at that time, fed the family for a few days. God is awesome. He provided.
Back to Peter and the disciples, even though they had been there when Jesus did this awesome miracle now find themselves in a boat being tossed about in a fearsome rough storm that seemed to be getting stronger every minute. Jesus is not with them - physically on this occasion - He is up the mountainside praying for strength to continue in His ministry. He had sent them on ahead to their next appointment.
They were alone and the going was hard and getting perilously worse as the boat was being buffeted by the strong wind and they were afraid. It was then that they saw this image walking towards them. There they were, out in the middle of the wildest sea, no wonder they thought it was a ghost, no wonder they were terrified. Jesus on seeing their fear said ‘ Take courage, it’s Me, don’t be afraid to which Peter replied ‘Lord if it is You, tell me to come to You on the water’ Come on ‘ said Jesus.
You would have thought that by now, after seeing the miraculous, the feeding of the multitudes, the giving of sight to the blind, making the deaf hear, the lame walk etc that Peter would trust |Jesus without question.
It seems he did at first as he stepped over the side of the boat - this is not a calm water - instead this was a fierce raging stormy sea that threatened to overturn the boat. - but Peter just looked into the eyes of Jesus and got out and walked towards His Saviour.
I guess that whilst he kept his eyes on Jesus he was allright, but as soon as he realised what he was doing, he panicked and started to sink.
Amazingly, that’s what the devil does with us all, the bolder we get, the more trusting in Jesus we become, the more the devil tries to make us aware of our weaknesses. He tries to stop us looking to Jesus by making us aware of our doubts . He tries to stop us taking our eyes off Jesus at the very time we need to realise that Jesus is there for us and He will see us through.
Over the last 22 years I’ve faced many times that have challenged my faith. The terrible time when my mother battled against Alzheimers only to find that 14 years ago Beryl became victim to Alzheimers. Having to help my son when his business collapsed and then they lost their long awaited baby.
Then thinking things couldn’t get any worse four years ago having to stand by as they turned the life support machine off and watch my son Kevin die - then two years ago loosing my wife Beryl - there have been lots of times when I have cried out, and still do, Why Lord?
Thank God that through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus more and realise that He is there for me - and wants me to be there for Him. Thank God for the stirring testimony of Peter who having gone through this testing time found that as he kept his eyes fixed on Jesus - He would see Him through. When we go through times that test of our faith we need to keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus.
As Peter says, ‘We have been chosen by God, transformed by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and having been born again, we have this living hope of eternal life with the Father, an inheritance that can never perish, spoil of fade. It’s ours - no one can take it away. One day we will be with our loved ones - around the throne of God.
With this hope how can we do anything other than rejoice? Even though for a little while we may have to suffer all kinds of trials. These have come. So that your faith, of greater worth than gold may be proved genuine and result in praise, glory and honour when Christ is revealed.
I believe that just as Jesus let Peter experience what happens when we take our eyes off Him, He also allowed Peter to see what can be accomplished when we place our complete trust in our Lord.
Maybe you feel a bit like that this morning - there are things in your life that cause you to take you eyes off Jesus and bring doubts and uncertainties into your thinking that hinder your walk of faith - just take heart from what happened to Peter when he looked back to Jesus and was lifted out of his fears and enabled him to walk on water.
Whilst Jesus was physically there with the disciples, their faith was strong, but as soon as they felt they were ‘on their own’ when Jesus seemed far away, then fear sets in. They had to learn the truth that when you decide to walk in the ways of Jesus that He never leaves you and will drew alongside you in whatever situation you find yourself.
If your feeling ‘got at’ that things are ‘getting you down’ that the storms of life are pressing in ‘take courage’ the devil only disturbs those who he sees are a threat to him. Jesus cares - ‘Lo I am with you always’ Jesus reached out His hand to Peter and together they climbed into the boat and the calm came. The result for all of those in the boat was to worship Him.
As we progress with the Lord in His service, as we get bolder, the devil uses any situation that we find ourselves in as a time to try destroy our faith. When we go through the difficult times in our lives he will prompt the question ‘Where is your God now’ that’s what the enemies of the psalmist David cried when he found himself in difficulties ‘Where’s your God now’ they cried hoping that when he looked at the dangers around he would begin to doubt God.
Testing times will come and as our faith is testing, our response will reveal the extent of our spiritual growth. To keep our heads above water this year, we will need to persevere in the faith with a determination to fix our eyes upon Jesus whatever and realise that ‘Nothing can ever separate us from Gods love’ to know that with Him , ‘all things are possible to them that believe’.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon said this ‘ Your faith never looks so grand in summer weather as it does in winter. Love is too often like a glow-worm showing but little light except it be in the midst of surrounding darkness’. Hope itself is like a star - not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, but discovered in the night of adversity. Afflictions are so often the black foils in which God sets the jewels of His children’s to make them shine the better’.
The depth of our faith is revealed when it is tested - real growth in grace is so often the result of sanctified trials. That’s what this song written by two previous Generals, Majors John Gowans and John Larsson which says with real determination. .
If crosses come, if it should cost me dearly
To be the servant of my servant Lord
If darkness falls around the path of duty
And men despise the Saviour I’ve adored
I’ll not turn back, whatever it may cost
I’m called to live, to love and serve the lost
I pray that as we sing it, it will be a sign of our determination that whatever we are called to face this year, we will keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the author and finisher
of our faith’ and weather the storms together.
Sunday 9 January 2017 Commitment Sunday
Last week we talked about the privilage Christians today share in knowing that God loves us and His desire is that we live in obedience to Him, that we know and trust His word. We were reminded of the promise Jesus gave that if we love and obey Him the Spirit of God would come and make His home with us.
We read from the prophet Isaiah through whom God spoke and told them - and us to-
1 Forget the former things Put 2016 behind us - don‘t dwell on the past - victories or defeats for see I am doing a new thing - don‘t you see it - I‘m making a way through the desert.
2 Catch the vision of all that He has in store for His people Ezekiel 37
The vision of the valley of dry bones - with the question Ezekiel made - can these bones live? To which God responded by breathing New Life into them - they old had gone and they were born again.
In Isaiah we read that the people were called the chosen ones - we then read Peter 1 written to the new church - the born again believers where he called them as a chosen people - a Royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that we might declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into the glorious light.
On Wednesday at our bible fellowship we watched the testimony of Helen Shapiro. She was born a Jew but told us how in a wonderful way she came to know about Jesus and accepted Him as her Lord and Saviour - Messiah. She is now a witness for Jesus - called like us all to declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His glorious light. Once we were not a people but now - Praise God - we are the children of God, adopted into His family - witnesses for Jesus.
Helen, like the early day New Christian converts was brought up in a rather strict and difficult religious envoironment that demanded they follow many rules and regulations to stay true to their faith. The ten commandments were over shadowed by over 600 other laws they were bound to follow. No wonder Jesus when asked by the Jewish leader Nicodemus which was the most important command answered simply to love God and one another - do that and all the other commandments will be automatic.
This was what Helen learned when she accepted Jesus as her Saviour and made her Gods spokesman in the world today.
Accepting Jesus as his Lord and master was what brought about the awesome change in Peters life. As I said, last week when we read the first chapter of the first letter that Peter wrote to inspire and encourage the early Christians - a letter obviously written by a man on whom Jesus had made a great and lasting impression. The bubbling enthusiasm of a man who’s life had been dramatically changed. A humble fisherman who was called by Jesus to become one of His greatest witnesses. A man on whom Jesus said ‘I will build my church’. A man who had obviously been born again.
I believe that this year in the Christian Church will be a very revealing one as far as finding out who in the church is standing true to the teachings of Jesus in respect of acknowledging Him as Lord of our lives and living in obedience to Him.
When we had autograph books one of the most well used words friends would put in there was from Proverbs 3;6 ‘In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths’.
Just as the early Christians in the days of Peter were facing difficult times ahead and needed a message of hope and inspiration - I believe that we too today need that same inspiration to help us in our commitment to God.
This morning I want us to take a look at what it says in Leviticus 26:1-13 and look at how man today reacts in relation to what it says there. “‘Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the Lord your God. “‘Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the Lord.
3 “‘If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land. “‘I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove wild beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country. You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you. Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.
9 “‘I will look on you with favour and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you. You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new.
I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high
WOW! That’s what God promised and that’s what He did when His people obeyed Him.
As Gods chosen people - we are called to live in obedience to Him and stay strong in our commitment to love and serve Him and our fellow men in an attempt to bring the lost to Christ.
Remember the commandment ‘love the Lord your God and Him only shalt thou
Serve - this was the reply Jesus gave when the devil tempted Him in the wilderness.
It was also His reply when a teacher of the Law asked Jesus which was the most important of the commandments. Mark 12; 30
In Leviticus God instructs His people to honour Him, by making Him Lord of their lives - putting Him first above all else "`Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the LORD your God.
At first glance, that would seem to be an easy one as far as we today are involved.
We wouldn’t do that - would we? - Maybe we don’t mean to, but sadly when it comes to doing something we really enjoy and going to a prayer meeting or Bible class, sadly many times, God doesn’t stand a chance. False idols don’t have to be made of stone - they can so often be selfish desires. ‘I am the Lord your God - put me first in your life.
`Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the LORD. Sabbath whatever you understand it to be - is the day set apart to worship God and put Him first. I firmly believe that the world was a better place when the Lords day, coming together as families to worship God on Sunday, was observed. But times have changed - don’t we know it! Church is losing out to the world.
On the basis that we get the first part right, God then presents His people with a bargain that only the most foolish could refuse. The basis of this bargain is again rooted in the Ten Commandments. 'Love and worship Me., be obedient to Me, love me and serve one another. 'Don't make idols for yourselves, and don't worship idols, for I AM the Lord your God. 'Put Me first in your life' as Psalm 37;4 says, ‘Delight yourselves in Me, and I will give you the desires of your heart.’Honour Me, and I’ll take care of you !'
As Jesus said, ‘get your priorities right, put me first in your life, 'seek Ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all the things that you spent half your life worrying about, food, clothes etc. will be provided for you. This is not a prosperity gospel as some churches preach - this is God making sure that your ‘needs’ are supplied.- ‘not our selfish wants’.
And there’s more! If you will obey me, and keep My commands said God, then;
1 ‘I will take care of you’. God says; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths
2 ‘I will put My dwelling amongst you’. Jesus said ‘Love me and obey me, I and my Father will come and make our home within you
3 ‘I will walk amongst you and be your God’, and you will be My people.
All He wants is our obedience and He starts by reminding us of Gods commands.
The greatest commandment is that you 'love God and one another' said Jesus. Not just tolerate someone, but really love them, for His sake. 'Do that', said Jesus, 'and the world will know that you are My disciples', and all the commands, the rules, the disciplines will become automatic in your life.
What more could we ask of God than that ? 'If you obey me and keep My commandments, I will take care of you, and more than that 'I will put my dwelling amongst you and live amongst you. - and there’s more I will be your God, and you will be My people'. 'If you will, I will says God' It’s You and I together.
In 2 Chronicles 7;14 when Solomon had finished the Temple of the Lord, the Lord appeared to him at night and said this ' If My people who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land'.
Love Me and Obey Me - that’s all God demands. As the text that used to grace our front wall said ‘Worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness’ That simply means that the best way to worship God is not just in our praise on Sundays but in the way we live our lives during the week. Living in complete obedience to His will and when we do - WOW! Just look at His promises to us.
1 I will take care of you.
2 I will put My dwelling amongst you.
3 I will walk amongst you and be your God, and you will be My people.
Wow! what a difference it would make in our lives - if we committed our lives to living in complete obedience to the will of God. He will take care of us What a difference that would make to our church - God living amongst us. God walking with me today - tomorrow - every day. God - Almighty God, Creator, Deliverer, Redeemer, Healer, Provider, Shepherd, Guide, Friend, faithfully walking by my side. God our Father who delights to walk with His children - you and I..
Remember the impact that Jesus had on those two disciples walking to Emmaus as He drew along side them and walked with them. We are told how, as they talked, their hearts warmed to this man. He fanned the flame that burned in their hearts for Jesus until it burned so deep within them that they realised that it was Jesus who walked with them. All He did was open the scriptures to them and in them revealed the truth.
Isaiah 40; 31 says this - They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Here we have the If you will I will principle again, If you will - Make the Lord your delight, trust Him, wait upon Him and the promise is You will fly like the majestic eagle, run like Roger Bannister, Walk like a true disciple should..
Last week we sang the song ’It’s time to fly, it’s time to spread our wings and catch the wind of the Spirit that’s blowing through our lives and it’s time to soar, higher than we’ve been before, the wind of the Spirit is blowing through our land.
Ornitholigists say that birds have three methods of flight
The first is Flapping - keeping their wings in constant motion to counteract gravity. Hummingbirds flap their wings up to 70 times per second. Flapping keeps you in the air, but it hard work and you can’t keep it up for long. Flapping is an awkward clumsy business. I know, I spend a lot of time flapping around its gets you from here to there, but its very exhausting.
The second is gliding - here the bird builds up enough speed, then coasts downwards for a while. A lot more graceful than flapping, but unfortunately it doesn’t get you very far - gliding is great for a while but it doesn’t last.
Then there is the third - soaring. Only a few birds are able to do this - the eagle is one of them - to soar - one has to keep calm, stretch the wings and catch the warm air that go straight up from the earths surface into the heights - and without moving a feather, the eagle can rise to great heights.
Isaiah says that those who wait upon the Lord will soar like the eagle. I think the reality many times is that - Yes! somedays, we do soar like the eagle and somedays we just plod on as we walk - but the great promise is that we don’t walk alone - He walks with us. I will put my dwelling-place among you, I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people
What’s your walk been like this week? How do you want your walk to be this year?
Many start the New Year with resolutions like - I’m gonna watch my weight this year, I’m gonna get more sleep this year -How about deciding that your gonna walk with God in obedience to Him this year
God has a purpose and a plan for each one of us - some days we will fly like the eagle, some we will run like the deer, most days we will simply walk, a steady plod through life. - all of them in obedience to His commands and will for our lives. God wants walk with us - in this life - and on into eternity.
He has promised to be with us - how about doing the same to Him - promise to stay close to Him and stand for Him whatever the cost.
Sunday New Years Day 2017
During Advent last year we lit the four candles - Hope, Peace, Joy and Love and on Christmas Day, we lit the candle of Light - Jesus the Light of the world.
The Living Hope that is found in Jesus who wants us to feel the Joy that comes when mankind live in Peace with one another and shares the genuine Love that Jesus brings into our lives. The birth of Jesus the Saviour of the World, the long awaited Messiah was Gods revelation that brought Light into the darkness of a world that had drifted away from the heart of God.
Way back in the days that are recorded in Exodus, God had delivered His people from bondage and set them on a path that would lead to the promised land - In the first meeting of the New Year - last year, we read from Isaiah 43
This is what the LORD says - he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
This was Gods word to His liberated people - Referred to in verse one as -‘His chosen people’ Isaiah 43:1 But now, this is what the LORD says - he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
Wow! What an honour - Set Free by their creator, God who declares that they are His people. The promise is that; When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
He did exactly that - He made a way through every formidable obstacle. He parted the Red Sea so that they could safely pass through. He promised that when they faced the very fires of destruction He would lead them safely through - why? For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour;
And what did God require His people to do in response ? Nothing more than they put the past behind them, acknowledge that He is God and know down deep in their hearts just what He had done and how much He valued and loved them.
10; "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no saviour.
Look at those last words - ‘Apart from Me there is no Saviour’ WOW! that’s awesome.
Sadly over the years Gods people again wandered away from Him and chose to go their own way. As we shared over Christmas God didn’t let them go - He provided a way out - a way forward by promising that the very Saviour He had refered to then would come into the world. God in flesh - Immanuel would come to give mankind another chance- as He said, ‘apart from Me there is no Saviour’.
These were a chosen people and God - and as I said earlier the Saviour of the world would be the Living Hope who desired mankind to live in Peace with one another and so experience the Joy that only genuine Love can bring. The birth of Jesus the Saviour of the World, the long awaited Messiah was Gods revelation that brought Light into the darkness of a world that had drifted away from the heart of God.
Over Christmas we read how the Saviour came and was born into our world and who right from the beginning, set the standards for us to live by. The simple humility of being born in a borrowed stable, the compassionate life He lived putting others first, seeking to help the weak, the lost the neglected and rejected of mankind. Living a simplistic lifestyle showing man his need to be dependant on God. Praying before He started the day, relying not on possessions, even borrowing a donkey to ride into Jerusalem, sacrificing His life at the tender age of 30 and being buried in a borrowed tomb. During His life gathering disciples to share His message and then sending them out to share that message with mankind.
Because of that, we have the lovely powerful Gospels of His followers and the letters of those who came afterwards like Paul.
In 1 Peter 1 we read such a letter from Peter - the one who even though he denied Jesus - was forgiven and reinstated to become one of His faithful witnesses and Apostle who in spreading the world started many churches.
This letter was written to the early Christians that he refers to as ’Gods elect’ and as such, ‘strangers in the World’ a scattered people throughout the wider region but who have been chosen by God the Father to live in obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkled by His Blood. Chosen by God to live in obedience to Jesus Christ.
Before He left them and went to the cross, Jesus had told His disciples - Peter included - that if they loved Him then they would live in obedience to His commands and that He in turn - would ask the Father, and He would give them another Councellor to be with them for ever - the Spirit of Truth’ John 14; 15-16 . Again in v23 Jesus repeated that ’if anyone loves Me, he will obey My teachings. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him. WOW!
God’s elect, chosen by Him to live in obedience to Jesus Christ.
That’s what God wants of you and me here this morning to commit ourselves to live in obedience to the teachings and the example of Jesus in the way we live our lives.
Obedience - not easy - but the more we aim to do that - the easier it becomes. The very nature of Jesus takes over our lives and like new born babies, we learn to be obedient to our Father God. I love that the truth that says we can be Born again. Forget the former things, stop dwelling in the past for - God says - see I am doing a new thing’.
Jesus’s aim in life was that all men was to become the Saviour of all - that’s what He meant when He declared that His will was that ‘all men might be saved’. When that happens, we acknowledge the privilage of being Gods chosen people - Gods elect.
Interestingly the people referred to as - Gods elect in our bible reading- scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bythinia is the same list as those who were gathered on the day of Pentecost when God poured His powerful enabling Holy Spirit on His people.
The greeting was ‘Grace and Peace be yours in abundance’.
Lets look at what Peter says; 1 Peter 1;3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
This was written to the church at the culmination of all that Christmas, Christ’s birth had achieved - the example of His life and the awesome example of Jesus in showing His great love for us all in dying on the cross as an atonement for our sins and in showing what happens to those who faithfully live their lives in obedience to Him -
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and there’s more
4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
WOW! An inheritance that can never get any less, kept in the bank of Heaven for those who remain faithful and as a result are surrounded and protected by God Himself until Jesus comes again.
No wonder Peter says that 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
For many of us, the last few years have been difficult but thank God we have been strengthened and upheld by the faith that we have in God - a faith that is priceless - a faith that has kept us going, knowing that when He comes again - all will be well. Some of us have had to experience the unbearable grief at the loss of our dear ones but one day - Thank God - when Jesus is revealed at the end of time, all will be well again.
As His dear children, we are called to live lives that are pleasing to God in obedience to the call of Jesus - lives that as Peter says, reveal that 8 Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
WOW! You are receiving the end result of your faith - the Salvation of your soul.
Isaiah 43; 18-19 'This is what the LORD says' - He who has been faithful in the last year and proved His presence in so many ways, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. Let's move on and claim the land for God! See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
We, the people He formed for Himself, that we might proclaim His praises, not by our lips alone, but in our very lives,. That our actions, our responses and our attitudes to each other and the world out there, will bring great Glory to God. That’s what God wants - Is that your desire for 2017 - a new year before us - How different to last year will it be. What lessons have you learned thus far - what are your priorities for this year? How will they affect your faith, your church, your commitment to God.
Gods word declares that You are My witnesses, that I Am God' Isaiah 43; 12
Peter puts it more personally 'You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you might declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His most glorious light' 1 Peter 2; 9
Let's look forward to 2017 with the determination to seek His will, be obedient to it and commited to see that His will be done. A song that I love to sing at the New Year is the song by the Christensons called ‘It’s time to fly’
It reminds me of the awesome transformation - the new creature that comes when the caterpillar, that has struggled all it’s life with the limitations of being a crawling creature who becomes the beautiful butterfly that soars in the air with a freedom that it could only ever have dreamed of before.
I use this illustration at funerals to signify the transformation for death unto new life in Christ. Today I use it as an illustration of what happens when we put our old way of life behind us, accept Jesus as our Saviour and become obedient to the will of our Father. ‘It’s time to fly, time tp spread our wings and catch the wind of the Spirit that’s blowing through our lives - it’s time to soar, higher than we’ve been before - the wind of the Spirit is blowing in our lives.
Forgetting the past doesn’t mean that we have to forget the beautiful things that have been a part of our lives - it’s about putting behind us the failures, the disapointments, the rebelliousness of our nature and being prepared to move forward and experience the ‘New things that God wants to bring into our lives’. Lets give ourselves over to the will of God and look forward to a new year of commitment to Him
Christmas Day 2016
Four weeks ago we lit our first advent candle Hope Hope for the world we live in today. When the prophesies concerning the coming Messiah were made, the world had gone sop far away from how God intended it and wanted it to be. Many people were harassed, oppressed, without hope - today, sadly there are many in the world who feel exactly the same - Jesus came to make their hope a reality.
The second Sunday in Advent we lit our second candle - the candle of Peace - the Peace that only a saviour, Jesus could bring. O how the World still needs that Peace.
Two weeks ago we lit our third candle of Joy - the joy that comes from knowing that Jesus came, lived and died for us to bring hope and Peace to our lives - that gives us great Joy - a Joy that is above mere happiness - a deep seated heart felt JOY of knowing that whatever - Jesus loves us and cares about us enough to give His life to save us.
We talked about the peace that comes by realising the awesome truth that God, in Christ Jesus, presences Himself with those whom love Him. We looked at how the baby John leapt inside his mothers womb when Mary came to visit Elizabeth- there He was - Jesus the Saviour of the world and John could sense His presence even then and we are told that he leapt for JOY.
Last Sunday we lit the candle Love - God so Loved the world that He gave us Jesus.
Love, the greatest gift of all. Love that fills our hearts. The love that Jesus said we should have for God and one another. The Love that we share at Christmas.
Today we light the centre candle - Jesus, the light of the World, Jesus is here. The Light has come to invade mans darkness and make Hope, Peace, Joy and Love a reality. Today we celebrate His birthday - the light has come- The awesome truth as told by Jesus is that YOU and I are the Light of the World
Jesus, the Saviour of the World ‘Immanuel’ God with us. Right from birth, He showed the world the love of God. Jesus our Lord and Saviour enters our world as a tiny baby destined to grow to show us what the Father God is really like.
Bible reading Luke 2 8 The shepherds came to worship Him - Today we celebrate His birth - the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ - WOW
Bible Matthew 2; 9 We read about the Wise men, the Magi, the three Kings ....... the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. They brought their gifts to Jesus
Christmas gifts choosing the right gifts for your family or friends gets harder every year doesn’t it? The wise men didn’t seem to have a problem - they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh
Gold We often give money as a present when we can't think of what to buy.
I used to get a new penny in my Christmas stocking and that was special to me.
Gold in the Bible was not so much a sign of wealth, but of worth. Gold in the bible was a precious metal that was used to cover the Ark of the Covenant encasing the promises of God, Even today, Gold is used today as a sign of a binding agreement when couples exchange gold rings at weddings. As a sign of a binding promise It signifies the fulfilment of Gods promise to send a Saviour Jesus
Frankincense Perfume - now there’s an easy one. As a young lad at home with my mum and dad I used to save up every Christmas and when I’d enough money would nip across the road to Spiveys and buy my mum a little bottle of perfume called ‘Evening in Paris‘. As a young teenager my favourite was Jovan Musk and later, for Beryl I used Aramis I’m not saying I smelled in those days but you could certainly tell when I walked in - Aramis - WOW!
This reminds me of the story I love to tell of a young lad called Teddy Stallard and his teacher Miss Thompson.
It was Miss Thompsons first day as teacher of the school. She introduced herself and toold the pupils that she would have no favourites and that she loved them all the same. She said it, but it wasn’t exactly true, teachers do have favourites
One lad, she didn’t like. He smelled, he slouched, he mumbled - but was very attentive
In his first grade report she wrote ; Teddy is a good boy who shows promise but has a poor home situation. Second grade; He is a good boy but too serious his mother is terminally ill, his father shows no interest. Third grade; Teddy is a troubled child his mother died this year he is becoming detatched from reality. Fourth grade; Teddy really needs help . She had the records but unfortunately did nothing about it.
At Christmas the Kids brought presents for the teacher all wrapped in brightly coloured paper. Teddy’s was wrapped in brown paper and sellotape. Teddy’s present contained an old broken bracelet and a bottle of scent that was half empty. The other children laughed. Fortunately Miss Thompson was wise enough to show the present to the class. She put the bracelet on and a dab of the perfume behind her ear.
At the end of the day Teddy said to the teacher, ‘Miss, all day today, you smelled like my mother used to smell. That’s her bracelet your wearing, I’m glad you liked my presents. He left the classroom and she knelt down and cried asking God to forgive her and give her a heart of love and compassion.
The next day, the classroom felt differently. It was full of peace Shalom filled the place Love was in that place. She started to love the kids with the love of Jesus.
A few years later, she got a letter from Teddy. ‘ Dear Miss Thompson , I wanted you to be the first to know that I’m graduating high school. love Teddy Stallard
Four years later another letter ‘Dear Miss Thompson, I wanted you to be the first to know I’m now second in my class’ love Teddy Stallard
Another Four years later - ‘Dear Miss Thompson, as of today I am Theodore Stallard MD I wanted you to be the first to know. I’m getting married in July and I would really love it if you could come and sit where my mother would have sat. My daddy died last year and your my only family now. Miss Thompson went and she sat proudly in Teddy’s mums place. Today, Teddy Stallard is the only family that Miss Thompson has and they look after.
Miss Thompson turned from being just a teacher to one who lived her faith. She began to tend the sheep in her care and began to loved Teddy and treat him like all the other lads in her class.
I guess we all know people who need to feel the love of God in their lives. Spend time with Jesus and let the fragrance of Jesus mingle with the people you meet. Allow Jesus to live through you. Give life to the love of Jesus. BE Jesus to them - Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Wouldn’t it be great if they did? One of my favourite Bible readings is this - We are to God, the aroma of Christ - WOW! 2 Corinthians 15
If we love Him and desire to spend time in His presence, the aroma of Christ rubs off to those we meet. As a lad you could always tell if I had sat upstairs in the bus - that was full of smoke and it clung to your clothes. Spend time with Jesus and it will show as we give off a sweet scent rising to God and to those around., The aroma that identifies Gods people
Myrrh Was used as a sedative and purifying oil. Remember how Jesus was offered wine mixed with Myrrh to try and ease His pain as He hung on the cross. Myrrh to ease the pain of the suffering to come
The Wise men brought their gifts to Jesus in gratitude to God for the greatest gift of all - Gods gift to mankind, Jesus Himself. God so loved the world that he gave His only son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
What can I bring Him 'What can I give Him poor as I am, if I were a shepherd I would give a lamb, if I were a wise man, I would do my part. Yet what can I give Him, Give Him my heart. A man was listening to a sermon one day. The preacher said, 'If you have two houses, you should give one away' 'Amen' shouted the man enthusiastically. 'If you have two cars', continued the preacher 'you should give one away' Amen' shouted the man 'If you have two coats, you should give one away', finished the preacher.
This time there was no enthusiastic response from the man in the pew, only silence.
Why? because although he didn’t have two houses or two cars he did have two coats
God doesn't require us to give Him what we do not have, but what we have.
What gift will you lay at the feet of Jesus this Christmas. Give Him your heart?
Commit your life to the One who gave His life for you - you won’t regret it.
Short message at the Carol Service 18 December 2016
The Fourth Sunday in Advent 'Love'
Short message at the Carol Service
I can’t believe that we are only a week away from Christmas Day - I wonder how many of you are ready ? Four years ago was a very difficult time when my eldest son Kevin died the day before the Carol Service. I’ll never forget the way in which as people came into the morning service and I had to tell them the awful news - they practically all said ’there are no words adequate enough to’ I took that as a word from the Lord as to what I should share that evening.
God must have thought the exact thing when He looked at the way the world was turning out. The way in which His creation had turned their backs on Him and were going their own selfish godless way. They had His word but were disobedient to it.
We only have to look at the news in these days, every week we hear of the terrible things that are happening in our world today. The inhumanity of man who in his quest for dominance and power is prepared to kill his fellow men, women and children. God must be grieving in heaven for mans cruelty. That’s not the world He created, that’s a world gone mad and more open to the devil than it is to God.
As I said, the people in Bible days before Christ had the word of God but neglected top follow it. It would seem that Words were not enough - the written word had to become flesh - and so God decided to come into our world in His son Jesus to show us what He, Father God was really like to try turn the hearts of His creation, His children, back to the heart of God the Father. He came to show the what His word was trying to tell them. That God loves His creation and wants fallen man back into His fold and family.
Eliza Doolittle in the musical ‘My fair Lady’ was trying to learn from Proffesor Higgins but it all proved too much and so in desperation she cried out - ‘Word, Words. I’m sick of blooming words - show me! That’s what God did and that’s what Christmas is all about. Christmas is ‘all wrapped up in Jesus’
Christmas is all about love - Gods love for us in sending Jesus and our response can only be love for Him and one another - to live in peace and harmony with one another.
Even though as we know from our Bible that God planned ‘Christmas’ centuries before it actually happened - even then - it took everyone by surprise.
Even though God had told the world through the voices of the prophets - still the world wasn’t ready for the greatest event since creation- the time when God incarnate in Christ came to live in our world - the world He created but that had drifted away from Him causing Him to invade our world and draw alongside ordinary folk like you and me.
And here we are - two weeks away from a New Year and still the world rejects the truth of Jesus. Some Schools ban Nativity plays for fear of upsetting other religions - each year it gets increasingly difficult to buy real Nativity cards - lots of reindeers, Santas, etc but Jesus in a manger? Still there are folk who simply ‘Haven’t got it.
I love it when we come together like this morning for the Carol Service when we put Jesus Christ centre stage in our celebrations - after all - He’s the real reason for the season.
Thank the Lord that we can see through all the glitter, the glamour of the festivities, the party’s the presents and worship the truth - the coming of the long awaited Messiah. Its easy to be caught up in the festivities - and miss out on the real truth about Christmas. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of pushing Jesus further into the background of Christmas instead of placing Him centre stage in our celebrations.
Just as the Christmas presents are waiting to be unwrapped on Christmas day- this morning is the time we gather round the manger, and begin to unwrap the truth of the real Christmas Present - Jesus Immanuel - or should I say ’The real Christmas PRESENCE - Immanuel - God with us. Gods love all unwrapped for us to see.
Just as the word became flesh in Jesus, so the word, Jesus, needs to become flesh in us - we need to show the Love of God to our friends, family and the world at large. The world needs to see Christ in the hearts and lives of people like you and I.
At that first Nativity there was a ‘No vacancy’ sign on the inn - no room for Jesus. This Christmas, as always, there will be many people celebrating Christmas but who have no room for Jesus. God wants people to take the ‘no vacancy’ sign down and give Jesus ‘room’ in their lives and hearts.
Jesus came into our world to give man purpose and meaning - to offer forgiveness for his past and the promise of a new life now and to come. A life with direction, purpose - a life where we not only accept the truth about Jesus but where we live lives the Jesus way - loving and caring for others. Jesus said that if we live lives of love and obedience to the Father, then He would spiritually come and live within us motivating empowering and helping us to be like Him. That’s the real truth of Christmas -
God in Christ Jesus became like us. He entered our world in Jesus and through Jesus came to share our world, to live with us so that one day we could go and share His world and live forever with Him. Jesus came to show us what the Father was really like - Immanuel ‘God with us’
We need to share the good news with our friends, neighbours, relations, that Gods so loved His creation that He sent His Son into the world - that’s what Christmas is all about - the celebration of the birth of the Saviour of the world.
Jesus who is the Love of God made flesh came to show us that love is at the root of our Christian faith and life. Love is the greatest gift of all. If people would only stop living selfish live power hungry lives then the news on our Televisions tomorrow would be very different that today.
One of the good things we shared this year was the unselfish, loving way that the young lad Dylan with little thought for his own safety pushed his friend out of the way of an oncoming car and take the full brunt of it upon himself. Even in the ambulance of his way to hospital, after telling his mum how much he loved her, asked if his friend was OK. In recognition of his unselfish act he was awarded the Pride of Britain Award. I wrote on face book at the time and in commending his action said that it was just like Jesus - who said greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends - his mother was so pleased with the comment that she’s had it framed with a picture of Dylan.
Jesus did exactly that - He came into our world to show us, by example, how God wanted us to live in relationship with Him and one another - even to the extent of living that life and then laying it down to atone for mans sinful ways. That’s why He came - that’s what we celebrate today - the Love of God in Christ.
Sunday 11 December 2016
The third Sunday in Advent 'Joy'
Two weeks ago we started to celebrate Advent the beginning of adventure - we read the great prophesies that filled everyone with the spirit of expectation that brought hope
1st Candle Hope The prophesies that stirred hope in peoples hearts
Hope that made way for our second candle - No eye hath seen no ear hath heard, no mind conceived what God has in store for His people
2nd Candle Peace No Jesus - No Peace - Know Jesus - Know Peace
This week Joy
As Gabriel visits Zechariah and Elizabeth and also Mary bringing Joy to their hearts that would soon bring Joy to the world that the fulfilment of the promises of the OT are in sight
Today we look at the time when Zechariah and Elizabeth were approached by the angel
Luke 1; 5:In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly.
Notice how we are told that in Gods eyes they had all the qualities of people that He could use in unfolding awesomness of what He was about to unleash on the suffering world. They were both upright, of good standing - straight up - we would say today. They were obedient to Gods ways and therefore utterly blameless people. Just the kind of people God looks for to BE His people.
7: But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well on in years. And so we are told that; when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshippers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.
When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a JOY and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.
Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. That means that the wayward people who hear him preach will turn back in obedience to God and be filled with expectation of the imminent coming of the Messiah. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous -
to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
Zechariah - although he was a priest - found this astonishing news hard to believe and asked ‘How can I be sure of this?’ the reply was ‘I’m Gabriel and I have been sent to tell you this good news’ Because of his unbelief the angel struck him dumb until the baby was born and the day of the dedication came. Think of it ladies! Nine months unable to talk - how would YOU cope? Zechariah probably took in his stride as men can never get a word in edgeways anyway. ( only joking)
Six months later God sent Gabriel to Nazareth, to a young girl called Mary who was betrothed to a man called Joseph. "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you." . You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end."
"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God." In contrast to Zechariah, this young girl accepted and replied "I am the Lord's servant," "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. Unlike Zechariah Mary accepted the honour and obeyed God On Wednesday night we watched a modern re-telling of that.
What a contrast between Zechariah the Priest and Mary a simple commoner. One who should have believed without question - doubts - the other who is young and innocent in such matters, believes unconditionally. Obedience plays a great part in the Christmas Story - without the obedience of those called by God to play these most important parts in the first Nativity, Mary, the humble shepherds, the wise men, - one of the greatest events in the history of the world - would not have been able to happen. Even today, God uses those who are obedient to His will to fulfil His glorious work of redemption.
Lets continue to read what followed; Luke 1;39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me -
Holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with His arm
He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham
and his descendants for ever, even as he said to our fathers."
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
WOW! The meeting of the two mothers to be. Two mothers each bearing a baby who would change the course of history. John the herald of the Messiah and Jesus the Saviour of the world. Mary and Elizabeth would be full of Joy at the privilage that God had bestowed on them to be the mothers of John the Baptist and Jesus the saviour of the world.
Joy - one of the recurring emotions of the Christmas story.
Joyful obedience we see it in Mary and Joseph and eventually Zechariah and Elizabeth
Joy in the miraculous when Elizabeth was blessed with the birth of the baby that she and Zechariah had been praying for.
A joy that was mind blowing I love the way in which Luke tells us that it’s not just the two mothers that are filled with Joy - it’s also the unborn baby John who, when he realises he’s in the presence of the unborn Jesus - leaped for Joy in Elizabeths womb.
The coming together, the meeting of John with Jesus resulted in JOY.
Let’s be clear about what we mean by Joy - especially when some of us are finding life difficult - this is a JOY that is deeper than mere happiness a Joy that is the result of an inner feeling of exhultation that is felt deep within when we experience the awesomness of a precious, special happening. The Joy that was evidenced when the one who had been called to be the proclaimer of the Messiah - actually met with the one who was the Coming Messiah. The deep feeling expressed by the angels in Heaven when someone accepts Jesus as their Saviour.
Luke 15:10 Jesus said I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Psalm 68; 3 Let the righteous be joyful, let them exult before God, let them be jubilant before God.
Joy that comes through Obedience to Gods way
Joy is at the heart of Gods plan for human beings. Joy is at the very heart of God Himself. We will never understand the significance of Joy in human life until we understand its importance to God, I think that many of us underestimate Gods capacity for Joy. Joy, the inexpressible knowing that whatever we go through ‘Immanuel’ God is with us.
Martin Luther wrote Jesus came as a Joy Bringer. The joy we see in the happiest child is but a fraction of the joy that resides in the heart of God. The gospel is a joyful message about Christ our Saviour. Whoever preaches correctly preaches the gospel and nothing but Joy. How can our hearts have a greater Joy than knowing the Christ given to us to be our own? The angel doesn’t merely say ‘Christ was born’ but also indicates that His birth is for us by saying ‘your Saviour’ So the nature of the gospel isn’t just teaching the story and life of Christ but also personalising it and offering it to all who believe. No matter how badly it’s preached, my heart hears the gospel with Joy. It penetrates all the way through and sounds wonderful.
When teaching the need for obedience, Jesus said; 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.
The world needs to see a joyful church a joyful people
This is the day that the Lord has made let us be glad and rejoice in it Psalm 118; 2,4
Joy is the gigantic secret of the Christian wrote G K Chesterton
When we Joy in the Lord - the world will see the Joy of the Lord in us
Christmas is a time for Joy. The joy in a child’s face on Christmas morning.
The joy in our hearts as we celebrate the birth of Christ together with our family and friends. It’s a time of goodwill, of meeting up with old friends of renewing of old aqaintances by the sending of a Christmas card.
It’s a time to share with those who don’t have the same privilages as we do.
A time to open up our families to welcome those who would otherwise be alone
It’s a time to put past failing behind us, to rebuild broken bridges to herald a new dawn in our lives and get ready for a coming New Year filled with Hope, Peace, Joy and love. Christmas is a time for JOY when we decide to put Jesus first in our lives Others next and Yourself last. Christmas is a time for Joyful giving.
God gave us the Joy of Jesus - Lets decide this Christmas to give God the Joy of obedient hearts that have decided to live the way He wants us to - bring Joy to His heart
I pray that your hearts will be flooded with Joy as you celebrate Christmas. For some of us it is a difficult time - a deeply sad time - but thankfully JOY is not exclusive to happiness - JOY is knowing Christ ‘Immanuel’ God is with us to help us cope with our present sadness and bring a future hope of eternal bliss with those we miss.
Our last song says all that - melt the sadness and drive the clouds away -
Song Joyful, Joyful, we adore Thee
Sunday 4 December 2016
The second Sunday in Advent 'Peace'
As we know from our Bible that God planned ‘Christmas’ centuries before it actually happened - even then - as we said last week, when the time came, it took everyone by surprise. Even though God had told the world through the voices of the prophets - still the world wasn’t ready for the greatest event since creation- the time when God incarnate in Christ came to live in our world - the world He created but that had drifted so far away from Him causing Him to come to our world, in Christ Jesus and draw alongside ordinary folk like you and me.
And here we are - 2016 and still many in the world reject the truth of Jesus. Still nations war against one another in their fight for power. Still there are folk who simply ‘Haven’t got it. Its easy to be caught up in the festivities - and miss out on the real truth about Christmas. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of pushing Jesus further into the background of Christmas instead of placing Him centre stage in our celebrations.
Just as the Christmas presents wait to be unwrapped on Christmas day- so too we need to begin to unwrap the truth of the real Christmas Present - Jesus Immanuel - or should I say ’The real Christmas PRESENCE - Immanuel - God with us. Gods love?
As we sang last week, It’s all unwrapped up for us to see - in Jesus. Just as the word became flesh in Jesus, so the word, Jesus, needs to become flesh in us - we need to show the Love of God to our friends, family and the world at large. The world needs to see Christ in the hearts and lives of people like you and I.
At that first Nativity there was a ‘No vacancy’ sign on the inn - no room for Jesus.
This Christmas, as always, there will be many people celebrating Christmas but who have no room for Jesus. God wants people to take the ‘no vacancy’ sign down and give Jesus ‘room’ in their lives and hearts.
Jesus came into our to give man purpose and meaning - to offer forgiveness for past sins and promise of a new life now and to come. That’s the real truth of Christmas - God in Christ Jesus became like us. He entered our world in Jesus and through Jesus came to share our world, to live with us so that one day we could go and share His world and live forever with Him. The word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth. How can we resist such great love.
This Christmas, once again, we celebrate, first and foremost, His coming to earth.
The staggeringly Awesome fact that God became man in the baby Jesus and came to earth to let us see Him in all His glory. As Jesus said, No one has ever seen God, but if they have seen Jesus, they have seen the Father. And if we do what Jesus commissioned us to do, that the world that has never seen Jesus will see him in us. God incarnate in Jesus and Jesus incarnate in you and me, Wow!
When you consider all the preperations that went in to that first Christmas - the lives that were invaded and turned around causing them to get ready. The angel appearing to Elizabeth and Zacharia telling them about their son John the Baptist. Mary and Joseph the unmarried couple who’s lives were really going to be brought into the spotlight.
Each and every character involved in the Christmas story had to be completely obedient to God Even down to the name of their babies. Read Isaiah 9
The name always a problem What to call the baby - usually you don’t know wether to choose a girls name or a boys - but these were boys and had a name already
When I was born the first child was nearly always named after the father. The second after some other member of the family. Family names were handed down. Thats what they expected to be done for Elizabeth and Zecharias son - but not so.
The Angel told him straight away, 'Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you are to call him John', which means 'Gods gift' or 'God is gracious'. Likewise the angel appeared to Mary, and told her 'You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus'.
Jesus is a Greek form of the name 'Joshua', meaning 'Saviour' Just as Joshua led his people into the promised land, so too Jesus would lead His people into the promised 'Eternal life'.
The people of the Bible took names very seriously and saw them as a great source of strength and power. Isaiah 9, lists the 'Royal' names by which Jesus would be called. 'For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace'
Lets look at those titles in more depth.
Wonderful Counsellor, meaning awesome, without comparison, excellent, miracle or wonder worker, and yet in all His greatness - someone you can talk to and you know will listen with understanding and concern and will always give the right advice. Today we have many people who claim to be counsellors. The ones we vote in to represent us in Parliament, the ones who give advice to people who have problems - this one will be really special - nopt just an ordinary counsellor but a wonderful - counselor who will know and understand your deepest need and be able to minister to you in that need. 'Come let us reason together ,said God, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow' Isaiah 1; 18.
Mighty God, none other than God Himself. There were lots of gods in those days but this one beats the lot - this one is the real one - the Mighty One of Israel .
Everlasting Father, Not just Father but everlasting Father timeless, father of all those who come to Him and are born again. A father who cares enough to be available 24 seven. Nt just for today but for all time. Father - This is a most powerful name - Father meaning that we are His Child. Everlasting Father that assures us of His love, His commitment, to us - a recognition that we are of the family of God.
Prince of Peace, He will govern with justice and peace. O How they needed Peace.
The people of Isaiah's day, were governed by the apostate King, Ahaz, who abandoned his religion - Judah was in darkness. The people needed to hear the message of hope, that the Messiah would come to lead His people out of darkness into light. That sadly wasnt to be for another 700 years. But when He did come - WOW!
Those were Old testament names given to Jesus but during His earthly ministry, in different settings, Jesus gave Himself additional names that pointed to special roles that He would fulfil. Some of these names refer back to Old Testament prophesies regarding the Messiah. Others were to simply help people to understand Him.
Jesus's emphasised His humanity with the name Son of Man, (John 6; 27). It can be found everywhere in the gospels, and only Jesus himself used it. Jesus said to Zacchaeus ' the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost'. Almighty God came wrapped in our humanity, to share our world, and in order to do that. He was willing to feel our pain, to share our grief. He wept, He laughed, He grew tired, became angry at man's foolishness, He knew what it was to be hungry and thirsty, Jesus was truly God, and truly man and as such shared our emotions.
When confronted by His accusers at His trial, the High priest asked Jesus if He was the Messiah, 'I am, He replied, and you will all see the Son of Man seated on the right of The Almighty and coming with the clouds of heaven'. Mark 14; 62. He was known as 'the Bread of Life' (John 6;35), which referred to His life giving role. Bread, the staff of life, man's staple diet.
After the miraculous feeding of the 5000, the crowds flocked to see Him demanding that He do more miracles if He expected them to believe that He was indeed the Messiah. 'Moses gave us bread from Heaven, how about giving us some of this bread? Jesus replied "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
"Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread." Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
John 10;11 Jesus said 'I am the Good Shepherd' The promised Shepherd of Israel, who would not only tend and lead His sheep, but also seek the lost sheep, and because He is 'The Way, The Truth and the Life' He will bring them home safely into the fold and back into His Fathers arms.
One of the most important names Jesus called Himself, was 'The Vine' the source of all life, and that we are 'The branches'. We cannot hope to be a good Christian if we neglect to stay firmly rooted in Him. We are completely dependant on Him for Spiritual life and growth.
Jesus is also Lord which in the Greek translations of the Old Testament is the word used to translate the special name of God - Yahweh. By the time of Jesus, Lord was well used as the name for God Himself. The disciples called Him Lord and worshipped Him as God . 'Jesus is Lord' is probably the first Christian creed for it sums up the whole of a Christian's faith.
'Light of the World' (John 8; 12), Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Light, the symbol of Spiritual truth. Jesus in the sermon on the mount said that 'we' are the light of the world, 'that' as Graham Kendrick puts it 'as we gaze on His Kingly brightness, so our faces display Your likeness, ever changing from Glory to Glory, mirrored here may our lives tell Your story, Shine on me. The first verse says 'Lord, the light of Your love is shining, in the midst of the darkness, shining., Jesus light of the World shine upon us!
This last name is amazing when you consider that Jesus even told His followers that they were the light of the World. To be like Jesus? WOW! Sometimes I feel that we are a poor reflection of what God wants to show to the World, that our little light burns dimly. One consolation is that scripture tells us that 'He will nor quench the dimly burning flame'. Our prayer should be, fan me into flame 'O Lord' that I might shine for You.
What's in a name? Everything if it happens to be Jesus, Jesus the Messiah, our Lord.
In His name, is power, Peter and John realised that when they met the lame man at the gate Beautiful, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth - rise up and walk’ and we are told never to take the name of the Lord in vain, but to honour Him in all that we do.
I pray that this Christmas He may be all these to us, and that we will honour the glorious name that we have embraced, that of Christian, a follower of Christ Jesus, realising that in embracing the faith, we have been adopted into His family, and as a glorious consequence be given the honour of being called by His name, Christian.
One of the most awesome names can be found in Isaiah 7;14 and Matthew 1; 23, where Jesus is called Immanuel, which means 'God with us'. All the way through His word, God reminds His people that if they are obedient to Him, then He will be with them.
Moses was told not to be afraid to face Pharaoh, because 'I Am' will be with you, God through Isaiah told His people to 'Fear not, for I am with you, When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, when you walk through deep waters it will not consume you, for I will be with you'
Jesus told His disciples this 'if anyone loves Me and will obey My teaching, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him', Wow! God himself the Everlasting Father will make His home in you and me.
Can we begin to understand what Jesus is saying here?
God Himself wants to live in our lives, He wants to reign in and through His obedient people. He wants to be the Prince of Peace and bring His peace into our lives.
Our second candle reminds us that Christmas is a time of Peace. Peace in our hearts our home, our fellowship. O how the world needs the gift of Peace. While we celebrate Christmas - all over the world there are people on their guard against the enemy - wars all over the world. People in fear for their lives, homes where fear reigns, children living in abusive homes. Christians in Muslim countries fearing for their lives. O how we need Peace.
Song 615, written by John Oxenham says this;
Mid all the traffic of the ways,
Turmoil's without, within
Make in my heart a quiet place,
And come and dwell therein. bring Your Peace
A little shrine of quietness
All sacred to Thyself
Where Thou shalt all my soul possess
And I might find myself. thats Peace
A little place of mystic grace
Of self and sin swept bare
Where I may look into Thy face
And talk with Thee in prayer that brings peace
Come occupy my silent place
And make Thy dwelling there
More grace is wrought in quietness
Than any is aware (Be still and know that I am God)
Peace - Be still
And so in our lead up to Christmas we have lit our first two candles - Hope and Peace
Jesus the hope bringer Jesus the peacemaker we look forward to the third and fourth candles - Jesus the Joy bringer and Jesus the Light bearer
Sunday 27 November 2016
First Sunday in Advent 'Hope'
Isaiah 9:1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan - The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ....on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
God told Isaiah 'Comfort My people', Isaiah 40;1 and as we said on Wednesday at the Bible Fellowship, they needed it and still today - we need it. Comfort for the now - and the comfort of knowing that now and always for the future days - God is with us. This was and still a message of hope for a people who may be feeling desperate for good news. no more gloom for those who were in distress.
Today Isaiah 9 will be read in churches up and down the country in preparation for the first coming of our Saviour Jesus. Advent is also a time when, churches this morning will read this same promise of God in preparation for the second coming of Jesus.
Just as the people in Isaiah’s day lived in battle torn lands so too today, the world is torn with conflict, oppression and wars - a time ripe for Jesus to come again. Isaiah talks about the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, Many today, especially in the Christian world are suffering persecution and death as they hold on to their faith in Jesus.
Today we live in a world that has many parralels - today is not unlike the world of Isaiahs day. We see times of unrest, of uncertainty, many who live in fear for today and see little or no hope for tomorrow. Many live with uncertainty, unemployment, financial hardships, . We live in a world where frightened persecuted people have to leave their homes and seek refuge in foreign lands.
People today, like in Isaiah’s day, need that glimmer of hope, that shred of light that promises a different future. They needed a Saviour to lead them out of despair into hope. Isaiah’s hope was in a promised Saviour. The same hope as today.
People need hope - direction - a way out - you and I know that they need Jesus. As I shared last week, I wouldn’t have been able to cope, the death of my wife and son,, especially over the events of the last few years without my faith - without Jesus. I know that that’s the same for many of you here this morning. You wouldn‘t cope- without Jesus.
That was what was needed in Isaiah’s day - and so Isaiah speaks of victorious times to come. They wanted Peace - stability - they wanted a champion to come and lead them to victory - they needed a Messiah. This is not the champion warrior they had expected- Isaiah tells them of a man, a Saviour, who is coming to ' tend His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; and gently lead those that have young.
Isaiah tells where the ministry of the Messiah will take place, in Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan - and in Micah chapter 5, God even tells His people where the Messiah would be born "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
Incredible isn't it and yet even though God prepared His people with the news of the coming of Jesus, they were still taken by surprise! One can hardly blame them. How can Ordinary man begin to understand the unbelievable, the extraordinary, unless he has been drawn in to share the 'secrets of the Almighty' ? Everyone loves to be in on the secret. Last week, Ruth's grandson Finlay wanted me to do one of my conjuring tricks, - I did - and guess what, just like everyone else does, he begged me ‘ tell me how you did it’ Come on, tells me how you did it, I won’t tell anybody else’ As if!
The thing was that God did tell people and although Gods plan was made years ago,
He gave little clues, little insights into what He was doing so that when it did happen, the penny would begin to drop, folk would read the signs and realise the truth.
The glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
I know many enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles. Imagine having to do it without the picture on the box lid - we wouldn’t know where to start. That’s why God gave mankind the picture on the box, the prophesies of Isaiah and all the other prophets, and as man started to fit the framework pieces of the Jigsaw together - the mystery would begin to take shape.
Isaiah, heralded the start of the greatest adventure story of all time. An adventure that would captures the spirit if the people and draw them in to share the adventure.
This is the first Sunday in Advent - the beginning of a most wonderful and exciting adventure. I like adventures. The word Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus which means "arrival." Its the overture to one of the greatest adventure of all time - the coming of Immanuel - God amongst us, to share our humanity and prepare us to share His divinity.
Almost everyone loves Christmas - the trimmings, the tree, the parties, the presents, the cards from family and friends that you probably haven’t seen for a long time - The kids love sending letters to Santa, the excitement of Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning. That’s great - I love it all too
In its truest sense it brings greater excitement as Gods people anticipate the coming of Jesus, the Light and Saviour of the world who liberate His people from the shackles of sin, bringing freedom and New Life to all who accept Him as their Saviour.
You - probably like me - love to go to the theatre to watch you favourite musical. There you are, you’ve got there well on time, the cars parked, you’ve got your sweets and programme, you’ve found your seats you’ve tucked your coat under the seat and as you settle back in your seats , there’s a sense of expectancy as one by one, the instruments in the orchestra start to tune up and then they strike up with the Overture.
It’s then that we start to feel the excitement knowing that as the familiar tunes start to play - we are in for a good time. We hum along - some around us dare to sing as we all wait for that tell tale bob of the curtain that tells us that the show is about to start.
That’s what Advent is, the overture - to God’s greatest production that as each day comes our expectations are raised and we long for the curtain to rise on what promises to be a most spectacular occasion. Advent is designed to bring a sense of expectancy that ‘something goods about to happen’ as we prepare to celebrate His coming.
It’s also a reminder that just as He came over 2000 years ago, He is coming again and as well as celebrating that first coming - we anticipate His second coming- a stark reminder that just as the first participants of that First Christmas were encouraged to get ready for His coming - today, we need to spend our time not just getting ready to celebrate the birthday of our Saviour - but also make sure that we are ready for His return - the second coming.
In the cinema’s we’ve had Shrek and then Shrek 2 and Shrek 3. Just as Michael J Fox went ‘Back to the future’ three times, Advent takes us ‘back to anticipate the future’ as the Christmas Story reminds us not just of the past but an age to come.
Lighting this first candle marks the beginning of another Christmas. The hectic preparations, the cards, the presents, the food, trimming up, the carol service - we get so caught up in the rush, even though we have known for a while that Christmas was round the corner - we still get caught out and if we are not careful, the reason for the season gets lost in all the frantic rush. I hope that this year its more than that - and that our hearts are stirred to look at the Awesomeness of what really happened when God decided that the only way that Mankind would listen and take notice of Him would be if He Himself came in flesh and became one of us.
Advent and Christmas, if we are not careful, could be just like a re-run of an old movie like the BBC tend to do every year - where having celebrated it many times, we just get caught up in the fast moving festivities - buying and sending cards, choosing presents, buying too much food.
As one of the carols I introduced a few years ago says;
The streets are full of people hurrying along - Buying things and making plans
It’s such a crazy season - such a busy time it’s so easy to forget how it began
You’ve chosen all the presents written all the cards
hung the lights around the Christmas tree.
But with all the celebrating it’s easy to lose sight
Of the star that’s shining down for you and me
One look at the way the world is treating Christmas in these days and one could be forgiven for thinking that the world is starting to cut Christmas out of the calendar in the same way it did Pentecost.
Sadly we live in an age where the true meaning of the Christian festivals that we used to celebrate have been stolen form us and replaced with worldly and commercially profitable festivities. The Bunny Rabbit and Easter egg has replaced Easter, Spring bank has replaced Pentecost, Father Christmas has taken over Christmas - even all saints day has been captured by Halloween. I couldn’t believe how much evil looking merchandise was on sale in the supermarkets at Halloween.
The media not wanting to upset people of other faiths, ignore, camoflages and plays down the true meaning of Christmas. There is a group who don’t want people to say Happy, or Merry Christmas. Nativity cards are even harder to find this year.
Wouldn’t it be great if this year people decided to stop and think it through as to why and what we are celebrating. It doesn’t have to mean that we don’t do all the usual things like we have always done - it mean that we will give the Holy Spirit time to help us appreciate what GOD did in sending Jesus and the reason why Jesus is coming again.
I believe that it’s up to us - His church, the living body of Christ in the world today to stand up and profess our faith to our friends, neighbours and colleagues.
When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Philippi from the confines of his prison cell, he said this;.
Chapter 3; 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.
20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
We then looked at what Paul continues to say in Chapter 4;
Therefore my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, that is how you should Stand firm in the Lord dear friends
As the last verse of the carol I mentioned earlier says;
So keep your heart in heaven though your feet are on the earth
And hear the greatest story ever told
It’s all about a baby from a cradle to a cross
It’s the story of the Saviour of the World
To give love is the greatest gift of all
To bring hope is the reason and the rhyme
To find Joy and Peace is the wonder of it all
To give Love is the Christ in Christmas time
I pray that we will all see it in a new light, that the age old truth will dawn afresh and vibrantly new as we ask God to let the light of the truth dawn in our hearts.
The candle we lit this morning is the candle of Hope. What are your hopes and dreams this year - better health, more togetherness - that these seats get filled? What’s your hopes and dreams. What is it that will make those hopes a reality - it’s faith - faith is the main ingredient of hope - faith makes things happen - faith brings hopes into focus and turns them into realities.
I said earlier that Advent reminds us also that Jesus is coming back again. When He came the first time - many were just not ready - Jesus is coming again - are we ready? Think about your friends and family - are they ready for His return - is that something that we should be making them aware of?
The long awaited Messiah that Isaiah heralded would come to bring hope to an oppressed people. To show mankind a better way - the way of holiness. Forgiveness for the past and a bright hope for the future. Over the next few weeks we will remind ourselves how that was accomplished in the birth of Jesus, how the word made flesh, showed by example how God intended His creation to live in harmony with God and with one another.
Pauls letter to Timothy sets the scene of the last days when Christ returns. A world not unlike today;
Mark this, there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying the power- have nothing to do with them.
That’s a picture of the world we live in today and sadly in many cases a picture of the church - wealth and prosperity etc. Where do we stand? Do our lives speak volumes for God. Do we show God that we love Him and serve Him in the way in which we live our lives
We sang ’Come Thou long expected Jesus’ It’s not just a song about the coming babe at Christmas, I believe that it speaks of His coming again - this time to take His ransomed, saved, redeemed and obedient Church to live with Him in Glory forever. Are we that people - are we ready - are we the people He wants us to be - a people who live for God and one-another. Not a people who seek after wealth at any cost. A people who put pleasure before commitment to God.
I find it sad that we live in what is supposed to be a Christian country but very few have a real experience of Christ. When I think of the wisdom and scope of Gods plan in coming to live in our world in an effort to call the world back to the Fathers heart - I feel sad that the very people He commissioned to help Him in this have failed Him so much that the light of this world shines brighter than the true light of the World.
In the closing moments of this service close your eyes and ask yourself how you would feel if Jesus were to come back right now. Ask Jesus to impart His light into your heart to set your heart on fire with expectation that when He comes again - you don’t want to be left out. Think about all these empty seats and the people out there who live empty lives - the light of Christ could fill both. The light of the truth of Jesus could fill those empty lives with hope and these empty seats with people. We live in a dark world and it is our responsibility to bring the light back.
People out there - need to know that the is hope and that the answer to their problems won’t be found in anything or anyone else but Jesus. We need to put Christ back into Christmas. The greatest witness to the truth of Jesus is the way that we live our lives. You and I - His church should be a beacon light that lives the full gospel message. That people can see something of the beauty of Jesus in our lives.
The way in which we cope with life, even through times of adversity - because Jesus is real to us. It’s up to us to us who have received the light to take that light into the world we live. To live without Christ is to live without Hope. The world needs a sure and certain hope
I know that I wouldn’t be able to cope with what I have to do without the knowledge that Jesus is with me and will never leave me and that in Him I have the victory over what, to those without Christ, would be an impossible life. People need the Lord this Christmas - the good news is that He is available - and the Lord needs you and I to share that good news with them.
The hymn were going to sing in closing moments is the Graham Kendrick classic ‘the Message of Love’ which encourages us to take Hope and Peace out into the streets. To invade the rush in people lives with the Peace that only Christ can bring. Lets pray that the light of Hope and Peace flow from us out into the darkness of this world to put Christ back into Christmas.
Sunday 20 November 2016
Isaiah 43 But now, this is what the Lord says—He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
These are the comforting words of God to His chosen people - the Israelites, assuring them of His continual protection. If they place their trust and faith in Him, He will be their Saviour. They would need to hear that.
That same promise stands today for His chosen people - you and me - that whatever we go through in this life - God has promised to be with us and see us through. I cannot understand the mentality of many of the countless new age teachers who preach abundant wealth and prosperity for all.
This week has been a particularly difficult week for many of us and it’s at such times that the devil can prey upon our minds and bring all kinds of tangible reasons for doubt and uncertainty to enter our thinking.
I’ve not known a busier and more difficult week than the one I’ve just lived through. .
On Monday I had to visit the family of the sister of one of our members who’s funeral I needed to arrange for Thursday. Monday night I tried to get some of the thoughts down.
Tuesday all day was spent finding the three pieces of music they wanted to play and sing to at the funeral. Then typing and printing the hymn sheets frustrated by a printer that wouldn’t work needing me to hand feed separately forty outer pages followed by forty inner pages after which I started preparing the Friendship Club knowing that the following morning would be taken up taking my sister-in-Law to hospital for a two hour meeting.
Wednesday - hospital with my sister-in-law, lead the Friendship Club, then home to prepare the Bible Study for that evening. Before I set off for the Bible Fellowship I was told that the family wanted a picture of the deceased printing and framing to go on the coffin for the next day. Before the Bible Fellowship I also had to take my son to the Yorkshire Clinic
Thursday was the funeral at Nab Wood - followed by a buffet lunch at the hall thankfully prepared by two of our members. Then back home for a short rest.
Friday I started preparing the sermon and service for today until I received an urgent telephone call asking for help for one of our members whose car had broken down outside the home of our treasurer. They needed me to go jump lead the car and get him to a garage nearer his home in Yeadon - which I did.
WOW! what a week. Talk about feeling the waters up to here or that things were hotting up - this was that kind of week. Frustrating and hectic as it has been I want to tell you how without the knowledge that God was with me - I would not have survived through it all.
On Monday I met with such a loving group of people, Kevin, Sam and Julia that impressed and channelled my thoughts and helped me consolidate what I would say on Thursday. Knowing that I didn’t have to worry about what we were going to eat on Thursday because Jean had volunteered her help was also a great relieve.
God was with me all week - just like He said He would be.
On Wednesday at the Bible fellowship we shared together the words of Paul to the church at Philippi when he said that as followers of Jesus we will be called to take up our cross and follow Him, which means that we will be called to share the difficulties that come when we are prepared to put our own lives on a back burner and put others first - as Jesus did.
Paul wrote ‘ I want to know Christ and the power of His ressurection - of course I do - but that comes at a price - if we want to know Christ then we have to be prepared to take the difficult times along with the good - the fellowship of sharing in His suffering - becoming like Him in - not just in the awesomness of His power but also in the sacrificial death - knowing that through all that, we will somehow be able to attain the ressurection from the dead. Philippians 3;10
At that Bible Fellowship I was able to share some of the things that I had learned following a request of one of our fellowship to find the words of a song that her friend in Israel was interested in. It turned out to be a song written by William Booths daughter Catherine Booth-Clibborn, Who whilst evangelising in Switzerland was thrust into prison for defying the government orders by preaching to several hundred of her converts in an isolated clearing in the forest.
From that prison cell, while suffering a stench so nauseating that she had to press her face against the window bars to breathe, she wrote a beautiful poem, "Best Beloved of my Soul" that was put to music by one of her daughters.
Best Beloved of my soul, I am here alone with Thee
And my prison is a heaven since Thou sharest it with me.
All my life is at thy service, all my choice to share Thy cross
I am Thine to do or suffer. All things else I count but dross.
Wicked men may persecute - Banishing to solitude
They should know my joy is Jesus whom they never understood.
At His voice my gloom disperses. Heavenly sunshine takes its place.
Bars and bolts cannot withhold Him. Hide from me His lovely face.
Love almighty, changeless love, more than mother’s love is Thine
Can my heart be ever lonely - when Comforted by Love divine?
Calm amid the raging tempest We can well afford to wait.
Truth and justice soon shall triumph. Christ, His cause will vindicate.
Best Beloved of my soul I am here alone with Thee!
Wow! Like Paul - she was in prison for sharing the love of God in Christ -
And like Paul she was strengthened with the knowledge that Jesus was with her.
Best Beloved of my soul, I am here alone with Thee
And my prison is a heaven since Thou sharest it with me.
All my life is at thy service, all my choice to share Thy cross
As I researched this song I also came across a similar situation that in 1921 her son William Booth Clibborn found himself in a similar situation. He had just preached a successful tent revival in Lodi, California. Inspired by the results, it was suggested that the revival party continue meetings further south and set up a tent in Holtville. After acquiring the necessary permits and lighting, they began services. Sadly, heavy rains and low attendance literally quenched the fiery services. Unable to pay the light bill for the week of disappointing meetings, Booth-Clibborn and his comrades took temporary jobs as field hands, harvesting corn.
William, unused to such labour and forlorn by his failure, did little work. Finally, he sat down, crestfallen and dejected.
It was in this moment of self-pity, that the Lord began to deal with him. As heaven-sent words began to flow in his spirit, Bro. Booth-Clibborn began to sing the words to O Sole Mio - Down from His Glory
Down from His glory, ever living story,
My God and Saviour came, and Jesus was His name.
Born in a manger, to His own a stranger,
A Man of sorrows, tears and agony.
O how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all!
The great Creator became my Saviour,
And all God’s fulness dwelleth in Him.
The song tells of how Jesus left the splendour of Glory and became a man like us - spent His whole life sharing the truth of the gospel to others with a love and a passion that spoke volumes. - this song reminded William that whilst he was able to share the gospel, like Jesus did, it sometimes means that too, like Jesus we are called to share in the difficult times in order to take up our cross and follow Him.
The awesome truth about all this is that God has promised, way back in the Old Testament that we will not have to bear it alone that God will be with us every step of the way. Richard Wurmbrand experienced this in the cold isolation of his years in solitary confinement. Corrie Ten Boom and so many others.
This week has been a difficult one for many of you. But the great consolation is that we are not alone - God knows, God cares and He will see us through.
Psalm 46;1-5 God is our refuge and strength a very PRESENT help in times of trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
10; He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
When you feel that your world is collapsing round you - remember the words of Psalm 46; God is our refuge and strength a very PRESENT help in times of trouble. Therefore we will not fear - How? By ‘Being still, and knowing that He is God;
Isaiah 43; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
My prayer for each one of you is that when your’e going through a difficult time that you will be able to really feel and know within your heart, that God cares and is with you. That you will feel His presence - not just know it - but really feel it.
We sing don’t we
‘If all were easy, if all were bright, where would the cross be, where the fight.
‘tis in the hardship, God gives to you - Chances of proving that you are true.
Keep on believing, Jesus is near Keep on believing, there’s nothing to fear
Keep on believing, this is the way. Faith in the night as well as the day.
When I look back over my life - I can easily recall all the difficult times that I have been through. But what is great about it all - I can also see the way in which God has been with me and brought me through - and is still doing that.
Happily married and then struck down with a failing kidney that required an operation that the doctors admitted they hadn’t done for over thirty years. As you know, things didn’t go so well and I was due to go down a second time for corrective surgery. God sent two officer friends who prayed for me and I was miraculously healed and didn’t need the second operation.
I remember the time I was bandmaster and loving it - only to be stopped in my tracks and challenged to leave the band and sit it out in the congregation - I didn’t understand why until God pointed me to a verse of Scripture Jeremiah 29 where God told His people that He would take them out of the known with the promise that He would one day bring them back. I didn’t understand that this was what He was saying to me but I read His promise v11 for the plans I have for you. Plans top prosper you and give you hope for the future. Then you will call on Me in prayer - seeking me with all your heart and I will listen and bring you back’
That’s exactly what He did - He took me out of the familiarity of the Salvation Army and I started the New Life Fellowship. The fellowship grew as others who were dissilusioned with the fellowships they had grown up in found a safe haven to grow.
It was during this time that God revealed Himself and showed us how He wanted us to grow. It wasn’t long before God brought me back, a different person than the one who had left a couple of years before. He brought me and others back to Idle SA which by then was a very small fellowship. He had taken me out to open my eyes to all that He wanted to do in His church and then brought me back to put it all into play.
Shortly after that Betty Matear asked Beryl and I to become Divisional Envoys and take command at the Idle Corps. He also called Ray and Pamela Powell who came from the New Life Fellowship to Idle, to become Divisional Envoys as well.. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought this could or would happen. God had His hand in my life all through that time.
There were many hardships and difficulties to follow. My daughter was diagnosed diabetic at the age of 4. My recurring problem with stones, both in the kidney and in the Gall Bladder which was then removed.
My mother had Alzheimers and needed my dad, Beryl and I to care for her. It was then found that I had a deep cancer and the prognosis was not good.
My lovely wife Beryl developed Alzheimers, my son Kevin lost his business, then his baby died, and three years later he died too.. As if all that wasn’t enough, Beryl lost her fight for life and died two years ago.
Life couldn’t be any crueler - but I want to tell you that even through the pain - and it’s still there - I know that God has and still is seeing me through it all. The waters couldn’t have been deeper, the fire any hotter, but through it all - God has been my strength and my support.
Believe me, if your going through the mill now, what God said to Isaiah and to the Psalmist is still true - He will never leave you or forsake you because He loves us all.
Jason Crabb sings a very beautiful song written by his father and I want us to listen to it in the closing moments of this morning -
‘So many times I question the certain circumstances
And things I could not understand.
Many times in trials my weakness blurs my vision
And that's when my frustration gets so out of hand.
It's then I am reminded, I've never been forsaken.
I've never had to stand one test alone.
As I look at all the victories, the Spirit rises up in me.
And It's through the fire my weakness is made strong.
He never promised that the cross would not get heavy
And the hill would not be hard to climb.
He never offered a victory without fighting.
He said help would always come in time.
Just remember when you're standing in the valley of decision
And the advacery says give in, Just hold on.
Our Lord will show up
And He will take you through the fire again
If as he sings you feel the need to come and kneel at the feet of Jesus and ask Him to help you to feel the comfort of His love - why not do it
Sunday 6 November 2016
Matthew 9;35-38 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Last week we celebrated the harvest - Gods faithfulness to the promise He had made that whilst the earth remained, seedtime and harvest would not fail - we remembered the time when - not many years ago - we would come into the hall and see baskets of fruit, sheaves of corn around the altar - Gods faithfulness in providing for us all.
We talked about the way in which, just as trees and bushes can be identified by the fruit they bear , so too, it is important that we bear fruit in our lives worthy of those who have been joined to the vine - Jesus - people who call themselves Christian. The need to show the same fruit that Jesus did in His life and ministry - of love, compassion, patience, understanding, unselfishly thinking more highly of others.
When I read Matthew 9 - I see a God who cares, not just for you and me, but for the whole of humanity - through you and me.
I love the way in which Jesus, in His everyday life and mission was moved with compassion to minister to the needs of those around Him who He saw as ‘having lost direction in their lives, people without a real purpose, without hope - people He described as being like ‘sheep without a shepherd’ and His heart went out to them all.
His response to the needs of others was a ‘hands on approach’ to try and do something about their utter helplessness. Jesus sought to meet their immediate needs and, seeing the great multitudes of needy people, prayed to His Father for more helpers. Jesus not only taught the multitudes on the hillside but He sought to meet their needs - He fed them, healed them and even went on to die for them’.
Matthew recounts the many times, Jesus spent not just talking to the crowds, but ministering to them and meeting their needs. Jesus Himself mirrored the concern of His Father by becoming the Saviour of the world. ’God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’.
The key is LOVE - ‘God so loved’ and it’s that love that makes all the difference.
Jesus taught the depth of that love ‘Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends - and then told the crowds ‘ you are my friends - if you live in obedience to Me’. John 15;13
John 15; 9 As the father has loved Me - so have I loved you, remain in My love.
John 15;16 ‘I chose you and appointed you to bear much fruit - fruit that will last - this is My command ‘Love one another’.
Last week I watched the Pride of Britain awards ceremony and was moved by the sheer many stories of people who sought to meet the needs of others. One story really caught my attention - it was about a Bradford lad - as soon as they showed a picture of the Bradford and I could see a skateboard park behind him - I wondered if he was from Idle. - they didn’t say, but the following day I checked him out on the internet and found out that - yes! He was from Thorpe Edge and all the newspapers had the full story about him.
Daily Mirror Dylan Graves was walking home with pal James Yeadon when he was faced with a split-second life or death decision. A black Vauxhall Vectra, with no driver at the wheel, had mounted the pavement and was careering towards them, gathering speed all the time.
Without a thought for his own safety, the 12-year-old shoved his friend James out of the way and took the full force of the impact himself. He was dragged under the car, which police believe had a faulty or unsecured handbrake, and left trapped when it came to a halt after smashing into a fence.
He recalls: "The car was going quite fast and I had two seconds to react. I didn’t have time to think, I just pushed James out the way. He’s a lot smaller than me and he would have been killed if it had hit him. "I was dragged under. I said to James to get my mum, I thought I was going to die."
The terrifying incident happened a few hundred yards from Dylan’s home in Thorpe Edge Idle Bradford, , at around 5pm one afternoon in January this year.
Dylan’s mum Natasha, says: "James ran to my house shouting that Dylan had been run over. "At first I thought he might have been clipped or something but I went outside and I couldn’t see him.
All I could see was the car on the pavement against a fence. "Fortunately Dylan managed to keep his head up as he was dragged along, because he knew he would have been killed if it had touched the ground. He was trapped underneath in the foetal position stuck behind a wheel, it was absolutely horrendous."
Fearing the worst, Natasha, 37, held Dylan’s hand as he lay trapped under the car. She says: "Dylan is normally a typical young lad but he said ‘mum I love you’ three times while he was trapped. "He thought he was going to die, but he stayed calm and didn’t cry or moan."
The Manchester United fan suffered back injuries, broken ribs and a fractured pelvis, was off school for eight weeks and has had to give up football while he recovers.But his first thought in the ambulance was to ask after James.
WOW! I put a short appraisal about Dylan on the Idle Community face book site
I put; What an inspirational lad Dylan Graves is. He was awarded the Pride of Britain Award Child of Courage this week for saving his friend James Yeadon's life by pushing him out of the path of an oncoming runaway car and taking the full brunt of the force himself. He was dragged along under the car and seriously injured.
The words of Jesus came to my mind ''Greater love hath no man than this than a man lay down his life for the friends' That’s exactly what Dylan did - great- God bless Dylan and James Yeadon his friend.
Amazingly 187 people responded one of whom was Dylans mum.
I love the way in which Dylan looks out for his friend James who I understand was being targeted by bullies at the Immanuel School where they both go. I love the way in which Dylan - with no thought for his own safety - put his own life at risk, and suffered such terrible injuries - for the sake of his friend.
We hear so many stories about the youth of today - who, because of the misguided selfishness of the few - have got bad press and are looked down upon - thank God for the Dylans of this world who think of others before themselves.
That’s how we as Christians should be today. Taking our example from Jesus who, even though He was so busy with crowds flocking round Him, not just eager to hear His message but also to be ministered to in some way - People liked what they saw in Jesus and as a result responded to His love and compassion.
A couple of weeks ago we looked At the letter of Paul to the church at Philippi
Philippians 2; Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death –even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
That’s how others should see you and me - that’s God’s intention for His church - people who are members of the body of Christ - that’s why Paul wrote ‘make my joy complete’ by being like-minded - with one another but more importantly - like minded with Jesus Christ.
On Wednesday night at our Bible Fellowship we read Philippians 1; 27 Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. As Christians we are called to have the same mindset as Jesus. We are called to preach the word by example - in actions rather than just words.
Remember what Eliza Doolittle, in frustration said to Proffessor Higgins who was trying to teach her how to speak correctly - ‘Word’s Word’s I’m sick of blooming words, show me’. That’s what the world needs to see in you and me - a people who are motivated by the love of Jesus into action. A picture speaks more than a thousand words - that’s why ‘the Word - Jesus - became flesh and dwelt among us - full of Grace and Truth’.
In the portion of scripture that we read at the beginning, we saw Jesus - hard pressed by the demands of needy people who needed to hear the truth and see it lived out in the life of Jesus, - People came to Him firstly, because they had heard how He could help them, having done that, He then showed them how they could live better lives.
Fulfilled purposeful meaningful lives by repenting their past, accepting Jesus as their Saviour and looking forward to a life filled with His love.
Jesus was so popular that He felt the pressure and saw the need for more helpers to come alongside Him. That’s why He asked His disciples, the faithful 12, to pray and ask God to send more helpers - ‘the harvest is great but the labourers are few’.
I believe that every convert since that day is an answer to that prayer - we here this morning have been called to serve God and humanity by seeking to be Christlike in our response to the cries of the world and to show His love. That’s how the gospel works - put the past behind you, accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour and start to live in the way that Jesus lived, loving God and one another. Having done that, we are then commissioned to take that same love out into the world. We are called to love God with all our Hearts and spread that love to one another.
If only the world would respect Gods wishes and learn to love one another they would be able to live at peace with one another instead of fighting and killing.
As Paul said in our Bible reading Philippians 2; Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus
We then watched the video above of Signature Sound singing ‘I then shall live as one whose been forgiven’. A song that talks about living a life of love.
Love that is pure - love for God, love for one another, love for our families, work colleagues, neighbours - in fact love for the whole wide world. - That’s the love of God that needs to be seen in tou and me and in the church today. It’s not just about preaching, it’s more about living the message - letting people see what a blessing it is to know Jesus and how we can cope with all that life throws at us because we know that God is with us and loves us.
That’s why Paul wrote to the church at Philippi; Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Philippians 1; 27 Honour God, Love Him and one another - Live it. I really believe that when we - Love one another that the result will be that that love will win others for the Kingdom - it really will be a fact that Love Won another
Sunday 30 October 2016
We live in a fast food society - which because it is so easy to go to the supermarket we take the harvest for granted. When I was a lad, the table would be full of almost every kind of fruit that would be auctioned off on Monday night to fund the social work. With todays manufacturing and the’ sell by dates’ it wouldn’t last ‘til Monday.
It is hard to imagine a place where people live hand to mouth - dependant on the harvest. If the harvest fails, they suffer. In Bible days, they knew what is what like when the rains failed and the drought came, when the locusts ate all the food. They knew first hand the catastrophic effect of a failed harvest and so were grateful to God for His faithfulness. The harvest was one of their greatest festivals. The success of the harvest was measured by the results - the fruits.
Last week we read about the time that Jesus, seeing a great crowd who were obviously hungering after His teaching, went up the mountainside along with His disciples and taught what we today call ‘the Sermon on the Mount’.
We saw how Jesus taught His hearers what their attitude to life and one another should be like - the Beattitudes - I refered to them as the BE attitudes - the positive attitudes that we as His followers should have in our daily living and interaction with one another - more importantly in our attitudes and responses to those outside our fellowship.
I suggested that Jesus taught by example and showed us how God wants us to live in obedience to His word. If you read the rest of chapter five you will see how Jesus enlarged on simply following the ten commandments as the Pharisees taught and went a step further. For instance where the 10 Commandments say ‘thou shalt not murder’, Jesus went even deeper and said ‘anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement. Settle any differences you have with one another before you before you bring your gifts to the altar. Love your enemies and pray for them- Jesus said.
Give to the needy, don’t laud it about that you are doing - when you pray, don’t do it for show but go to your room and talk to God - then your father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray - don’t babble on - your Father knows what you need - Jesus then taught the Lords prayer.
Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth but in Heaven. Stop worrying about what your’e going to wear, eat or do tomorrow - Honour God and He will take care of you.
We then come to chapter seven - the latter part of His sermon where He tells us to stop judging others - look at the speck in your own eye - get yourselves right. Ask and you will receive, Seek and you will find, Knock and the door will be opened.
Finally Jesus talks about something that I believe He’s been reminding His church today - watch out for false prophets who come in sheeps clothing but inwardly are ferocious wolves’. By their fruit you will, recognise them.
We’ve been studying this for the better part of this year on Sunday mornings and in our Bible studies on Wednesday. The false teachings, the denial of Gods word by well known leaders and teachers in the church today. Whilst Jesus is talking about the false prophets I believe that what He is saying here in these final verses is something that we as His followers need to address in our own churches and lives. Jesus said 'By their fruits Ye shall know them'
Matthew 7; 16:By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.
When I was a lad, to come into the hall at harvest time was an awesome occasion - before you would be a table spread with all kinds of fruit and vegetables. Apples, Pears, Plums, Oranges, Pineapples, bananas, Kiwi fruits, Coconuts, all resplendent in their various colours and shapes. Large and small baskets of fruit and all around the table would be sheaves of corn.
Today we bring tins - Why? Because the fruit wouldn’t last - they spray so much on them to enable them to grow them in vast numbers - then we bring them home to our lovely warm central heated houses that after a day or two - they go brown. Even the bread you buy these days goes blue in no time.
The best place to see a vast array of fruit is as you walk into Morrisons and ALDI - there they are - just waiting to be picked up and bagged. Lots of different fruits, So many that you’re spoiled for choice. Apples of every variety, Cox’s, Royal Gala, Granny Smiths. God said didn’t He that while the earth remained the seedtime and harvest would continue.
I guess that if we looked at the numerous trees and bushes that all these different fruits came from, we might be hard pushed to tell the name. ' I wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference between an Apple tree and a pear tree - it’s the fruits they bear that give them away - you will know them by the fruit they bear. Jesus said - By their fruits you shall know them' said, this time talking about those who profess to know Him. You’ll know who are genuine in the way they live.
The world today is so used to 'cover up jobs' or veneers - not so in the Kingdom of God, God gave his all and expects nothing less in return. It’s the Christians responsibility to show true, genuine Christianity to a veneer world. Even the advertising world have cottoned on to the importance of worth, value, honesty and integrity - As evidenced in slogans like 'If it doesn't say Kellogg's on the outside, then it's not Kellogg's on the inside' It's so easy to look the part, even in these days, to appear 'clean, upright, righteous a good Christian, even holy, whilst inside, not being all that we appear to be.
You have heard me say many times, that we live in a 'veneer world' where all is not what it appears to be. Furniture that has a thin veneer of the real thing covering cheap chipboard. The reason being of course that the real thing costs too much.
'Veneer Christianity' is a phrase I coined a few years ago and I guess that for the Salvationist, it's easier than for most other Christians, because the uniform shouts out to others what we profess to be. The truth is that you can so often look the part but when the testing time comes - thats when the truth is brought out into the open.
It is so easy to fool the world, and eventually fool ourselves into believing that we are what we profess to be, but we can't fool God, He sees right through the veneer. He sees right to the heart of the matter.
Matthew 7; 16:By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. .
We all know the story of how on one occasion when Jesus was hungry, He saw in the distance what appeared to be a fig tree, a source of food. It looked good - it had all the promise of being a source of food for Him. The trouble was that as He got closer to the tree, He saw that the fig tree was barren, no fruit. Jesus was rightly disappointed, the fig tree gave all the right signals, but when the testing time came, it was exposed as a fraud. There is no room for pretence in the Kingdom of God. That’s why Jesus said Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them
The world needs to see Christ in you and me. How? By the way in which we live our lives. The fruit we bear. If we are truly rooted in Christ - it will show just like the fruit of an apple tree is evidenced in the apple. People we spend our lives with need to see the beauty of Jesus - the fruitfulness that comes from the living Christ within.
In Timothy we read that one of the saddest indictments of the Church in the latter days is that many so called professing Christians would have 'a form of godliness, whilst denying the power'. They look the part but fail to live up to it. God wants His people to be genuine through and through. I would guess that He is sick and tired of pretence.
In His day, Jesus encountered many pretenders - Pharisees who looked every bit the part in their fine regalia, yet were nothing more than hypocrites. Teachers who held back the truth in favour of popularity among the people. False shepherds who neither fed nor led their sheep into green pastures . If the church had remained true to the truth that Jesus taught and lived by His example - then people wouldn’t have the cock-eyed view they have of the church today. To BE like Jesus this should be our aim., To BE church - to Be what we profess to be.
On Wednesday night in our Bible Fellowship we have been looking at how the church today has in many ways, failed to live up to the demands of Jesus and how many Christians have failed to live the life that Jesus taught and therefore have failed to bear good fruit.
Sadly Church today often fails to preach and therefore live by the word of God - something I have been sharing this year. God is certainly trying to get through to His people the seriousness of not knowing and so not abiding by His word. A church that is conforming to the world when it should be conforming to the word. No wonder Jesus said, By their fruit you will recognise them. Matthew 7; 16: Just as a tree can be easily identified by the fruit it bears, so too should the Christian Church be able to be recognised by the fruit it bears.
John the Baptist, when preaching in the wilderness urged the people to 'Repent,' and then to 'bear fruit in keeping with repentance' (Matthew 3;8).
As Christians we are called to come to Him, be joined to the vine and bear the kind of fruits that shows that we are a repentant people that have been forgiven by God and want to live lives that honour Him. To BE like Jesus. To let the word, Jesus become flesh in us.
Ephesians 3; 19 May your roots go down deep into the soil of Gods marvellous love.
Rooted and established, in order that we might bear fruit that is worthy of Him.
Jesus said "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
God provides His word, the seed, and as the seed of His word takes root in our hearts, the power of that word should bear fruit in the lives of ordinary people like you and me. In order for the fruit of His word to flow out of us and spread throughout the world, God gives The Holy Spirit who lives within us, so that Gods word, bears fruit.
What then is the fruit of the Spirit? Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, Joy ,peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Galatians 5; 22
Notice, what he says, 'The fruit, not fruits, there is no 'pick any two of nine' here.
If the Spirit of God lives within you, then you grow into that kind of person. As the word of God takes root in our hearts, then the world will know that you are Christians by your love, by the way in which you reflect the Joy of knowing that God is with you and is able to bring His peace into your life, even when times are difficult. As born again Christians we re called to show patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentle in our dealings with others and full of self control.
We are told that a bad tree can’t bear good fruit. If we are impatient with our friends, unkind, unfaithful, harsh and let our impatience get out of hand, then we can’t be as good as we think or hope we are. The awful truth is that when we do that, then we come under the wrath of God. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. The truth is - A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
Jesus said; This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. . Stay rooted in Christ and let His love shine through you and people will see the beauty of Jesus in you and by fruit you bear they will recognise that Christ lives in you. -
What happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, Gal 5:22 Message
In closing we are going to sing about the faithfulness of God to us. We are going to bring our gifts to the altar - perhaps that’s a good opportunity to come and kneel here at the mercy seat and give you life to God or maybe re-dedicate your life to God. During the singing of the third verse do that and let God know the desire of your heart is to be rooted in Him so that you can bear good fruit that others will see and want for themselves.
Sunday 23 October 2016
Last week we ended our meeting by looking at Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi where he talks about being united not just together with one another but United with Christ - to the extent of having the same mindset as Jesus;
Philippians 2 ; 1-11 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, ( with Christ) having the same love (As Jesus) , being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. ( just like Jesus did)
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Paul wrote this way to all of the early churches; To the church at Rome he wrote; Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12;2
To the church at Corinth ‘we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
To the church at Ephesus “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Ephesians 4:23).
WOW! United with Christ. Comforted by His love, Sharing in the Spirit, Tender, Compassionate, Like-minded, ( not just with one another but like minded with Jesus) Having the same love( as Jesus) - without any selfish ambition or vanity ( like Jesus)- rather unselfishly humbly valuing one another. In other words in your relationship with one another do we act like Christ ?
Do we have the same mindset as Jesus who put others first and Himself last - even making Himself to be nothing. Jesus was in very nature, God yet He became a man like you and me - served humanity, and even died for our sins.
We looked at this in more detail on Wednesday night at our Bible Fellowship and watched a short video where Joni Erricson shared her thoughts on this. That’s how we - as His disciples should be - yet how often do we fall far short of being anything like that.
Jesus was all that; He became our example - our pattern to be followed and as a result God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
What a different world this would be if all those who called themselves Christian would hearken to what He not only taught but respond to the way in which Jesus lived His life as our example. This would be a peaceful, loving, caring, compassionate world where everyone shared what they had, a world without poverty, intolerance, injustice, a world without war, a world without displaced and trafficked people. - Heaven in fact.
As I thought about this last night I thought about the well known sermon that Jesus Himself gave on the mount where He shared what He considered to be the vital positive attitudes that we as Christians should have. We call it the sermon on the mount.
Matthew 5; 1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.
His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
He then outlines the ATTITUDES that we as Christians should have
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
He then offers HOPE for those who suffer because they love and serve Him
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Jesus then gives warnings to make sure we hold firm to the qualities He expects of us as His followers and disciples;
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
He then clarifies His position with regards to the Law and challenges the Teachers and Pharisees Jesus adds; Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
As I read these again I could see how what Jesus said was a reflection of how He lived His life among men. Jesus didn’t just teach it - He lived it. He became our example of how God wants us to live our lives in this world and in our relationships with one another.
This was not just a message to the crowds but also to His disciples. This sermon speaks to all levels of society, the haves and the have not’s, the powerful and the weak, both challenging to the proud and encouraging to the meek. Jesus reminds us that the way of Holiness is paved with humility and selfless love - as seen in the life and ministry of Jesus Himself.
It offers a word of challenge to us all that whilst the way of the cross is both sacrificial and humbling, it also brings encouragement to those who as yet have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
It’s a sermon of hope and encouragement for the downtrodden, the oppressed, the meek, the sad, the hungry and those yearning for a better more fulfilling lifestyle. It brought hope to those who for too long had been prisoners to the strict regime of the Law which brought condemnation without hope as they tried to reach for unattainable perfection. Goals that instead of being and incentive were instead deflationary. What Jesus was saying here was revolutionary, a rallying call to the ordinary man.
Jesus contrasts Kingdom values that even though we can share them now are also eternal against worldly values that are temporal. It contrasts the superficial faith of the Pharisee with the real faith of Christ’s followers.
What did Paul say ? -
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
“But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
“Be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Ephesians 4:23).
What Paul is saying here is “Let the mind that is in Christ—the very mindset of Jesus—be your mindset too. Jesus made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).
I love the way in which when Peter and John faced the Priests and captains of the Temple guard who had taken them prisoners following their healing of the lame man just outside the Temple. They had been warned that they had to stop preaching about the resurrected Jesus or else they would be back in jail. Obviously they couldn’t stop for as a result of their preaching, the number of believers had increased to a mammoth 5000 new converts.
They had Peter and John brought before them again and asked them by what name or power did they heal the lame man which gave them another opportunity to preach the truth and closed with the challenging words that ‘Salvation is found only in Jesus’ Luke the tells us that their response was this ‘ When they saw the courage of Peter and John they realised that as unschooled, ordinary men what they were saying was astonishing and they took note ‘that they had been with Jesus’. Acts 4;13
The mindset of Jesus was now the mindset of the disciples. I maintain that if only we as Gods people would spend more time seeking His presence in our own devotions and lives then we would acquire that same mindset and have the same attitude of Christ who came to serve both God and people.
The ’Be’ attitudes of Christ would be our mindset and become second nature to us - the result? People would be able to see and be attracted to the Christ within us.
Having the same attitudes as those outlined in the sermon on the mount and more importantly as lived out in the life of Jesus and His followers - we would be able to share the love of Jesus with our family, friends, neighbours and colleagues.
Spending time with Jesus must surely show in our lives and our attitudes
I wonder if people out their in the world today cans see Christ in us?
They couldn’t stop Peter and John sharing the message
Wouldn’t it be great if people could see Christ in us?
In the same way that successful building conversions encourage others to employ the same builders so too - changed lives will attract others.
How effective is our testimony, our witness?
God calls us to live uncompromising lifestyles in a world that encourages compromise.
Does your lifestyle and attitudes mirror those of Jesus? How can I mirror Jesus?
The song the African Children’s choir song, ‘Love can change the world‘, says it all;
God changes; Caterpillars into Butterflies, Sand into Pearls, Coal into diamonds
He’s working on you and me too
What do people see when they look at you and me?
Do they know as much about our Christian faith as they do other areas of our lives?
Do we put God first in our lives determined to spend more time with Jesus?
How real is Jesus you?
How much time do you spend, getting to know Him’?
In closing we sang; Lord I pray that I may know Thee where the last verse says
‘Only as I truly know You can I make Thee truly known’
Sunday 16 October 2016Isaiah 9;6,7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Luke 1;26-33 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
No it’s not Christmas - I thought it would be good to look at the life and ministry of Jesus our Lord and Saviour. It was sparked off this week by a face book from Sandi Baker - some of you will know Sandi - before she married she was Sandra Bellshawe who is now living in Scotland but who was born here in Idle. Her parents were Scottish, her father was Sergeant Major here in the early 50’s and her mother was the Home League Secretary. This is what she put.
The greatest man in history is Jesus
He had no servants yet they called Him Master
He had no degree yet they called Him teacher
He had no medicines yet they called Him healer
He had no army yet kings feared Him
He won no military battles, yet He conquered the World
He committed no crime yet they crucified Him
He was buried in a tomb, yet lives today
She got quite a few surprising replies - some folk liked what she put whilst a few others questioned wether Jesus really lived I replied
The greatest man in history is Jesus
Not just the greatest man in history - He's the greatest man ever and forever.
He had no servants yet they called Him Master
He is the Master who by example. showed us how to serve.
He had no degree yet they called Him teacher
As the ultimate authority He taught from life's experience.
He had no medicines yet they called Him healer
He healed by the power of the Spirit.
He had no army yet kings feared Him
He didn't need a physical army to fight against spiritual wickedness
He won no military battles, yet He conquered the World
He conquered the world armed simply with Love .
He committed no crime yet they crucified Him
He did no wrong, but in love took our sins to the cross and paid the price as the sacrificial lamb.
He was buried in a tomb, yet lives today
The tomb couldn't hold Him and neither could death and He rose again and lives in the heart of those who love and live for Him today.
As we read, the prophet Isaiah wrote Jesus centuries before He was born
9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Lets look at it in a little more detail
Jesus - more than just a man - God incarnate in fact - the word that became flesh.
As I see it, because Mankind went far away from Gods intentions and became self sufficient, following his own ideas about God - even making idols to worship, the Word - God word had to become flesh. God knew that a picture speaks more than a thousand words. Jesus was born - lived and died showing Gods intentions for mankind in the way in which He lived His life.
Confirmed by John; John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Declared by Jesus Himself John 10:28-30 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” if you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father
Paul writing to the church in Colosse wrote this ‘For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily‘, Colossians 2:9
He had no servants yet they called Him Master He is the Master who by example, became servant in order to show us by example how to serve Him and one another. At the last Supper He even washed His disciples feet - that’s why Paul writing to the church at Philippi wrote this;
Philippians 2 ; 1-4 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
He had no degree yet they called Him teacher Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council clarified this when he sought Jesus one night. John 3;2 ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God for no-one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with Him’ It was then that Jesus told him that no one could see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again and taught him what this meant about being born again of the Spirit.
Nicodemus could get his head round that and questioned what Jesus meant. Jesus said ‘you are Israel’s teacher and you don’t understand - wow I have spoken of earthy things and you don’t believe , how then can you believe when I tell you of heavenly things?’
Jesus then gave the most well known portion of scripture when He said ’God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life- for God didn’t send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him - how? By simply believing in Him.
As the ultimate authority He taught from life's experience. He lived it and showed us by example how to live.
He was the great healer - all He had to do was say the word and they were healed, lay hands on them and they were healed, all people had to do was reach out to Him and believe - for as Jesus said ‘by your faith you are healed’. Only Believe
He had no army yet kings feared Him King Herod at His birth for instance
He didn't need a physical army to fight against spiritual wickedness
thankfully He’s got an army today - the Salvation Army who fight injustice and ignorance armed with nothing but love. He has people today who are Saved to Serve in the Salvation Army .
He committed no crime yet they crucified Him He personally did no wrong, instead it was our sins that He took to the cross as the sacrificial lamb. That’s the only way the people in His day could accept that they had been forgiven of their sins by taking a sacrificial lamb to the high priest - once and for all, Jesus became the sacrificial lamb who died in our place to make atonement for our sins.
Yet as Isaiah tells us ‘He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth’ Isaiah 53
He was buried in a tomb but the tomb couldn't hold Him and neither could death and He rose again and lives in the heart of those who love and live for Him today.
John 20:26-29 Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The awesome truth is that Jesus is coming again
Revelation 1:5-8 And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Until then - Jesus delights to manifest Himself through the lives of people like you and me. We are called to be united with Christ in both word and action
In view of all this, in closing lets look at the rest of what Paul wrote to the church at Philippi
Philippians 2 ; 1-11 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth
and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
United with Christ - wow we sing don’t we, My soul is now united with Christ the living vine.
Comforted by His love, sharing in the Spirit, tender, compassionate, like-minded, having the same love - without any selfish ambition or vanity - rather unselfishly humbly valuing one another. In other words in your relationship with one another do we act like Christ - do we have the same mindset as Jesus who put others first and Himself last - even making Himself to be nothing. He was in very nature, God yet He became a man like you and me - served humanity, and even died for their sins.
That’s how we - as His disciples should be - yet how often do we fall far short of being anything like that. Jesus was all that; He became our example - our pattern to be followed and as a result God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
What a different world this would be if all those who called themselves Christian would hearken to what He not only taught but respond to the way in which Jesus lived His life as our example.
This would be a peaceful, loving, caring, compassionate world where everyone shared what they had, a world without poverty, intolerance, injustice, a world without war, a world without displaced and trafficked people. - that would be Heaven.
Thankfully as we said earlier He is coming again - lets look at those verses again and look forward to the time when we shall see Him face to face.
Revelation 1:5-8 And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Sunday 9 October 2016 Acts 2 42-47
Last week was our 132nd Anniversary of this Corps - we looked at how it started in October 1884 through the devotion of just two women Cpt Annie Fleet and Lieut Jenny Street who were appointed to start a Corps from scratch in the Old Green Mill which stood behind Briggs shop on the Green and later became the Idle Picture house.
What I find is so amazing is how from nothing, this Church grew so quickly that they outgrew the premises and sought to build this hall where we worship today. The same miraculous growth that William Booth experienced when he started the Salvation Army just nine years before in 1965. When the Army came to Bradford in 1878 they had 127 full time ministers and 87 churches. It’s growth was phenominal - like the growth of the early Church .
God saw that His creation was heading in the wrong direction. Man had replaced purity and love with ritual and splendour where he revelled in displaying the outward appearance of a people who professed to love and serve God whilst hiding behind the mere observance of ritual. God, through the prophets tried to reason with man and get him back to true worship and not place so much stress on the ritual. Worship - is to truly love God and share His love by being obedient to Him in the way we interact with others.
On Wednesday night at our Bible fellowship we read Isaiah 58 where God cries out to man to stop pretending and get real. Gods people were complaining God isn’t listening to them - we pray and you don’t answer. God gets straight to the point and centres on their hypocritical ritual of fasting - v 6 ’ Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen, that you loose the chains of injustice, untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, to share your food with the hungry, to provide the poor wanderer with shelter, to clothe the naked, to not turn away from your own flesh and blood - do that and your light will shine forth like the dawn, your healing will quickly appear, your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard - then you will call on Me and I’ll be there - do that and the Lord will guide you always, satisfy your needs, WOW!
v13 If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing what you please on My Holy day - if you call the Sabbath a delight and honour it by not going your own way and doing what you please or speaking Idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob - the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Sadly they didn’t listen and continued in their old ways. Is it any wonder that God decided to send Jesus to show man what He was really like and how He wanted man to live in obedience to His word and in high regard to each other. To Love God with all your heart and love one another - that, Jesus said, is the greatest commandment.
And so Jesus came - showed the world by example how God wanted His people to live - against the displeasure of those who wanted to hold on to their old ideas of what God wanted. Jesus showed them by living in obedience to God. He set the presidence that we have seen displayed in the early days of the Salvation Army that started with the vision of one man William Booth and the church here at Idle that started with just two young women.
Jesus, filled with the Spirit of God gathered twelve followers that during His three years ministry grew to 120 and more. Jesus went the full hog and gave His very life for the sake of His people by dying in their place as an atonement for their sins - and then following His death and ressurection He filled His followers with the Holy Spirit, empowering and enabling them to carry on doing what He started - Amazingly as the humble Fisherman Peter was given the power to speak with authority and boldness, 3000 were converted and the true church began to grow at a phenominal rate.
Just look at the first lines of Acts ch 6 -1 -7 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing - What a great opening line - this is not mere ‘joiner’s but ‘believers’ people who were hungry for the truth - people who couldn’t get enough of meeting together, encouraging one another as they shared their own particular testimonies of what a difference Jesus was making in their lives. An excited eager people who were committing and dedicated to their new found Saviour. To live the life and BE CHURCH - the living body of Christ in the world today.
Eventually, the twelve disciples were beginning to find themselves hard pressed to keep up with the demands of doing what we had read earlier from Isaiah that of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and tending to the downcast and downtrodden thus sharing the living word and building the fellowship spiritually - they needed to seek help. Jesus knew the feeling
Matthew 9; Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field." They did and God answered their prayer
Acts 6; tells us that the number of disciples was increasing and the Apostles didn’t want to neglect the work God had called them to do and yet knew that they also needed to make people aware of Gods Word and how He wanted them to know Him and so they called the growing number of believers together and said "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables
What they were saying was 'We can't get on with what we are supposed to be doing for doing all the other things that need to be done' . 'Lets choose seven men from among you and turn the responsibility over to them, then we will be able to get on with prayer and ministry of the word.
And so they called the leaders together and said Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." This proposal pleased the whole group.
Wow - if we saw an advert like that in the T&A calling for manual workers to get on with the task of meeting the physical, day to day needs of the outcasts and needy of our town - we would be surprised to see the qualifications needed were that the applicant was ’Full of the Spirit and wisdom .
V5 They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
The seven were chosen from among the congregation, and were only too willing to take the responsibility of what many would say were 'menial tasks' and see them as real opportunities to serve the fellowship and further the cause. They were chosen, accepted, commissioned and as they got on with their appointed task, the church grew rapidly. v 7 So the word of God spread, the numbers of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
I can fully understand the plight of the Apostles in the early church who were getting bogged down with the administration and other tasks that could be done just as well by other members of the fellowship. Far from being mundane ordinary jobs that anybody could do, the tasks that needed doing needed quality men and women. The work was seen as an extension of the Christian programme of the fellowship. Servant of all.
We’ve done the same here at Idle - we are privileged to have people without whom this fellowship would be the poorer. Ruth making sure the halls clean, Frank seeing to the safety and upkeep of Gods house, Brian doing the books, Brian and Shirley the CARE group and the public House ministry. Jane who along with Catherine looks after the food for the Family Film Night. Frank and Jean taking care of the trafficked and transporting them to safe homes. Barbara, Shiela and all the others who take care of the Coffee Mornings. Just a few of us, but plenty of work for us all.
Over qualified for the job in hand ? Maybe but then so was Jesus - Jesus was God, yet He humbled Himself and became a servant. His job description can be found in the first sermon He preached.
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." Jesus did all that in both word and deed. and actually wearied Himself doing it.
You only have to look at a typical day in the life of Jesus as seen in Matthew 9; 18 On His way to see to Jairus’s daughter who had died , a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. After He had raised Jairus’s daughter, , two blind men then a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. Jesus was an extremely busy man - often tired, He stayed up late into the early morning, He spent Himself in three short years doing the will of His Father.
He went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. That’s why He said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. No wonder He desperately implored them to ‘Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
The work He appointed them to do had to be rationed and finely trimmed to make the work loads manageable.
Preach that `The kingdom of heaven is near.'
Heal the sick,
Raise the dead,
Cleanse those who have leprosy,
Drive out demons.
I wonder - How does the command of Jesus to His Church then compare with what the churches do today?
Preach the word - ‘tell others about this new life’ was the instruction the angel to Peter and John on their release from jail even though the authorities commanded them not to even mention the name of Jesus. Sadly today there are many false teachers in the church who change what Gods word actually says to fit there own ideas. Some have practically re-written the Bible.
Heal the sick? When the SA first came to Bradford in 1884 , Captain James Dowdle was said to be embarrassed at the number of healings that took place in their meetings.
One, a lame girl, was healed and when the news got to her father, he said ‘Walking and cured in the Salvation Army is she? I’ll cure her of this blasphemous nonsense’ and he rushed to the meeting brandishing a stick ready to thrash her . On seeing his daughter, who had limped in pain and distortion for years, now straight and joyous, her crutches carried by a woman behind her - the stick fell from his hands and all he could do was marvel.
Thankfully, here at Idle, we have seen the mighty healing power of God in our
own fellowship - not just once, but many times.
Raise the dead? it takes us all our time to wake up the sleepers never mind raise the dead
Cleanse the leper - that’s the outcasts of society who were so highly contagious that the only way they thought they could keep the fellowship clean was to avoid any contact with them. Jesus’s solution was not shun them but ‘Go find them and make them clean’.
Drive out demons - get rid of any evil influence by driving them out in the name of Jesus. We’ve seen recentl;y the way in which satan is very much alive and kicking not just out there in the world but tragically in the ministry of many so called evangelists and healers in the church.
Jesus's ministry was lived out there amongst sinners. In the real world with all it's problems and difficulties. Amongst people who were caught up in illness, the fear of redundancy, grief, confusion. Out there in an adulterous, promiscuous, evil and greedy World, that’s where the real job of lifesaving, life-giving Salvation is done. Out there the battle is tough but the victories can be great.
Jesus went outside where the people were. In the highways and the byways, in the market place, the inn, the home.
In just three years, Jesus called men into the new community of believers. Taught them new lifestyles, equipped them for service, empowered them for mission ... and then sent them back into the world from which they came. 'Go ye into all the world and 'preach the good news, the gospel'.
Commissioner Elijah Cadman who had been going up chimneys from the age of 5 - was converted as a young teenager, joined Booths Army and at one officers meeting said this; ‘Go to the peoples homes, follow them at their play; be after them in their sins, in the public houses, anywhere. They are yours to win, to guard, to guide in the right path. Go where you are needed, not merely where you’re wanted. I’ve knocked on doors and known I wasn’t wanted and been told to go away, I didn’t mind rebuffs, and had success simply because I stuck to the thing I wanted to get. The Army is after souls. Be bold for souls and you will catch souls.
What does all this mean for us today ? I believe that Gods church needs to be true to what God desired it to be - the Living active powerful body of Christ in the world today through whom He can minister to the needs of His creation and bring the heart of man back to the heart of a loving God.
That involves both a ministering church and a serving Church that preaches the biblical truth and seeks to show the love of God in action by helping those in need in practical ways. A body of believers who earnestly desire to know God through His word and prayer and find their delight in actually putting into practice what God shows them by sharing His love and concern with others.
I believe that God delights in showing His great power through those who seek to be vehicles of His healing.
I believe that when His church seek to do this, then God will grow that church both spiritually and physically - God added daily those who were being saved.
Sadly today in the world many are being deceived by those in authority - in politics and in the church, false teachers, hypocrital preachers, the rapid growth of the prosperity churches. The powers of evil are working hard and doing their best to cripple the church.
Maybe that’s one of the messages we can get out of the story of how Peter and John after being filled with the Holy Spirit were on their way to the prayer meeting one day when they met the cripple outside the Temple. Through their ministry, the power of God healed the cripple and he went into the church dancing and praising God.
I believe that today God wants to heal the crippled church and put it back on it’s feet to be and do what He intended it to be and do all along. Bringing His people to their knees in repentance and then bringing them to their feet by filling them with His Holy Spirit and empowering them to boldly stand for Him against the evils of this world.
The two S’s on our uniform stand for ’Saved to Serve’ and I believe that God has a task for each of us to do. How about asking Him what that is and getting on and doing it!
During the meeting we sang songs such as ‘I Serve a Risen Saviour’. ‘The Saviour of men came to seek and to save’ and ‘I want to serve the purpose of God in my generation’. We closed with the Song ‘How can I better Serve Thee Lord’
Sunday 2 October 2016
1 Corinthians 3; 10-17 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
Tuesday this week marked the 132nd Anniversary of our Corps here at Idle.
1865 William Booth founded The Christian Mission (151st)
1878 Changed name to The Salvation Army and opened in Bradford By then It had 81 Outposts - 127 full time evangelists, Brass bands
1883 Shipley Corps march on to Idle green for an open-air
1884 Opened fire in Idle in Idle Old Green Mill October 28 (132nd) the same year that Thorpe School was built and Local Anasthetics were introduced (Sept)
1890 April Foundations laid for the hall in Walter Street ( 126th) The Midland ( Forster Square) Station openned in March
1893 Hall opened Commander George and Tryphena Parkinson ( 123rd)
Can you imagine what it must have been like for two young women to come to a remote village like Idle to start a Salvation Army church? The Army was being attacked all over the country even by the recognised established Christian Churches as well as the unruly mobs of Idle
The War Cry of 4 October 1884 reported ‘Grand opening of Idle here on Saturday. Tremendous ‘Go’ in the open-air. Being Idle Feast, good marches on Sunday - thousands in the streets.’
Only the year before a contingent from Shipley that had opened that year came and had an open-air on the green and their procession was attacked by a mob who drove their horse and carriage into them.
A year later the Army opened fire in Idle at the Old Green Mill behind Briggs shop and Captain Annie Fleet and Lieutenant Jennie Street -the appointed officers wrote this report for the War Cry; We are thankful for what our eyes have seen and ears have heard since we came and opened the Corps here. God has indeed owned and blessed our labours since the opening which was a grand time. We have real good marches round the town and form big rings in the busy streets, and when the people come round eager to hear the story of the Cross, we are just as eager to tell them. Sunday was a blessed day. At the close of the first meeting three old women who had lived nearly seventy years in sin, came to Jesus.
WOW! There was a great moving of the Holy Spirit in those early days where hundreds soon came to accept the Lord as their Saviour.
In the book Idlethorpe, Wright Watson wrote this; There were some stirring times in the early career of the Salvation Army in Idle and not all stirring in a pleasing way, for the Army - it must be confessed - was generally looked down upon by the organised churches, as innovations in religion usually are. - I shall never forget a torch-light procession which the early Salvationists organised to precede one of their early meetings in the Old Green Mill.
Crowds of people were drawn to the streets to see the much talked about procession, and the young and thoughtless element looked upon the affair a huge joke, whilst the older folk, were generally speaking, either amused or cynical. Very few were really sympathetic.
The procession was a quite striking display, for many converts had already been won through the untiring zeal and devotion of the first two officers, Cpt Annie Fleet and lieu Jenny Street. The procession, which was a long one, started from the mill and returned to it after parading the main streets. I stood at the top of New Street to watch it pass round the corner and on to the Green. At the head of the procession rode on horse back, a leading coal-merchant and the leading butcher of Idle, two of their new converts. Near the end of the procession was a wagon load of women too old or too weak to march. The ground was thick with snow and the hooligan element in the crowd took advantage and made snowballs with which they pelted the cowering women and knocking the menn in the procession.
The heroic procession went on back to the mill to the applause of a packed house interspersed with shouts of ‘Hallelujah and Praise the Lord from people who realised something of the blessedness of those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.
The stay of the first Captain and Lieutenant in Idle was all too short, ( one year) but still long enough for them to win the esteem of all classes of the community and the Church. The Salvationists carried out their good work in the Old Green Mill before the moved to their newly erected Citadel in Walter Street in 1893.
Amazing when you think of the hardships and harrowing opposition they encountered in the early days - yet the Idle SalvationArmy grew rapidly and soon needed a new larger premises where to meet together on Sunday.
It made me think of the early church in the New Testament. A small band of followers who would have felt helpless when Jesus was left them to go to the cross but whom God had called together and then empowered them by the indwelling Holy Spirit to continue the work that Jesus had begun in reconciling the world back to the heart of the Father.
It started out with just 12 disciples dedicated to Jesus - one of whom was Peter, a humble fisherman who on the day of Pentecost preached a dynamic sermon condemning the religious of his time as being out of touch with God in denying Jesus as Messiah. After his bold sermon - the Holy Spirit fell in great power and three thousand of them were converted and filled with the Holy Spirit. Three thousand !” WOW! What started out three years ago as 12 disciples became 120 and now - Just 50 days after the sacrifice of Jesus, three thousand new converts are made. No wonder William Booth wrote ‘Send the fire’ We then sang the song ‘Send the fire’
Following Pentecost, What did they do next? Acts 2; 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. devoted - that’s commitment with a passion - they devoted themselves to learn more about the truth of God from men and women who had been with Jesus.
The result? Acts 2;43 Everyone was filled with awe - my favourite word that says it all - a jaw dropping AWE - at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostle.
They began meeting together in their homes - house fellowships - where they could meet - share their experiences - explore their new established fellowships and grow together.
They were now a hungry people who found their joy in getting to know Gods will for their lives and the world in which they lived. As they did this they became a people empowered by the Spirit - who brought the Word of God to life in their own lives - just like Jesus did. They became living examples of what it means to be a Christian and as a result, were attractive to their neighbours.
The practical expression of their new lives was that 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. So much so that 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. No need for charity shops then - they saw the needs of others themselves and were prepared to raise funds by selling what was probably surplus to requirements to help others. They couldn’t get enough of their new found fellowships
And what did God do - Pleased with their new found direction and commitment, He added to their church daily, those who were being saved. No concerts, no sales to get them in - just a people being filled with the Spirit and who’s lives spoke volumes to the watching world. No big churches - just their homes - the organised churches of their time were one of the biggest part of their problem.
What had started out as Temples for the faithful to meet in had degenerated into the market place of the deceived where grandeur and ritual had taken over. You only have to look at the plea’s of God through the prophets like Isaiah in the Old Testament to see the depth of hypocrisy that organised religion had grown into. Just read Isaiah 58 and you‘ll get the picture.
That’s why Jesus came to let people see the WORD in action. That’s why through the new prophets like Peter and Paul we are told that God doesn’t live in houses made by man but in the heart of the believer. We are being built into a dwelling place for God. The new believers were being built into the Temple of the living God.
WOW! Sadly over the years since then, man has gone back to build the most ornate ‘Museums’ called cathedrals - originally built to honour God and show His worth - but sadly man has degenerated back into powerless empty beings. Where Jesus condemned the people of making His Fathers house a den of thieves - so too I believe today, God could say that about man himself who might try and look the part but his emptiness shows and whos lifestyle and misplaced energies is anything but how God wants His people to be.
I believe that God wants His church back - and by church I mean His people - the temples of the Living God. We are here this morning not just to celebrate the Anniversary of the Salvation Army Church or movement but to celebrate the truth that WE - Gods people - are the living Body of Christ - the Temple the church in whom He resides and through whom He will grow His church. I want us to be able to celebrate Christ the risen, living indwelling Christ who empowers and enables His people to Be like Him.
This building isn’t church - it’s simply a large hall that we are privileged to come together to meet with Him and one another. You and I are Church. We may come together to Worship Him together and grow together through our encouraging testimonies but real worship starts when we leave here. We worship Him by the way in which we live our lives. We worship Him by our actions in the world - our reaction and response to the needs of others and our interaction as we bring credibility and truth in the way in which we live with our families, friends and neighbours.
I love the things that God has been showing us and that we have been sharing from His word over the last few months both Sunday and in our Bible Fellowships on Wednesday. The letters of the early church that was finding it’s feet and establishing the guideposts to Christian living. The way the early church stood up against the heretical false teachers of their day who were hell bent on bringing them down to their level and denying the Lordship of Christ.
Jesus is our Saviour - He promised to come and live within us by the power of the Holy Spirit - as we have read, His plan and purpose was that we should be temples of the Living God - a spiritual house indwelt by Him.
One of my favourite Bible readings talks about Jesus being the foundation stone on whom this temple - you and I - are being built. 1 Peter 2;5 As you come to Him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and,“A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
And here is my favourite part
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
I believe that God is showing us how He wants us to be and grow in the days - doing our best to help those who don’t yet know the truth about Christ by being living examples.
I believe that God loves us so much that He doesn’t want us to miss out on our inheritance of the Kingdom and wants us to go back to the seek Him with all our hearts - to commit our lives to Him - to serve Him like those early Christians and I believe with the enthusiasm of those young women who came to Idle 132 years ago to spread the beauty of Gods word with the people of Idle.
The early Christians did that and their growth was phenomenal - from 12 to 120, from 3000 to 5000 and on and on until it had spread to the whole world.
The early Salvationists did it, from William and Catherine Booth - to the Christian Mission - to the hundreds who formed the Salvation Army that spread throughout the whole of Britain and out to the whole world so that 150 years after it’s inception, London was swarming with thousands representing the millions throughout the world of people who wanted to fight against sin and spread the gospel in an active living practical way throughout the whole world.
God did it through those two vulnerable young women who came to Idle to start the Salvation Army here amidst the fiercest of opposition and yet empowered and motivated by the Holy Spirit they grew a church from nothing to one that needed to build a new premises that would hold 600.
You and I are here this morning because of the faithfulness of those who have gone before us to build His church here at Idle. O that we might all hear Gods rallying call to stand up for Jesus and go in His strength - with the sword of the Spirit - His word - into the world that we live.
If that’s your desire then lets all say a loud AMEN and mean every word of the song we are going to sing in closing. ‘I’ll go in the strength of the Lord‘.
Sunday Morning 25 September 2016
Colossians 2 Living Bible The Living Bible was the translation that attracted me when I came to really know Christ in a wonderful meaningful way after I was healed of my malformed kidney in 1970’s. Up to then I used - on occasions the RSV and must admit, I only used it in church. As many of you know I was in hospital following an operation on my kidney - it had not been successful and my kidney s refused to work and so I put on a machine that stook permanently at my bedside acting as my kidney.
I was due to go down to the theatre for another operation to try rectify the problem. The evening before the operation my wife Beryl had said ‘have you prayed about it?’ to which I replied - ‘I‘ve prayed till I‘m sick of praying - no ones listening to me‘. Up till then I thought I was a good Christian playing my part in church - little did I realise that God had His heart set on bringing me into truth and making me see that I might have looked the part on the outside - Uniform and all that - He could see into my heart. I wasn’t a bad lad - but I wasn’t what I proffessed to be.
That evening, Lieut David and Dorothy Murden - new officers to our Corps ( ministers to our church) they came to see me - saw what state I was in and asked if they could lay hands on me and pray for healing - which they did and then went home.
The next morning I awoke to an eerie silence - the noisy pump at the side of my bed had been switched off - I asked the nurses what was going on and they said that to their surprise my kidneys had started to function during the night and I didn’t need to go down for an operation that morning. I was ashamed of myself and cried out to God ‘ Lord forgive me - I realise now that I don’t really know You like You want me to and I want to know you like they know you’ meaning David and Dorothy.
When I was well enough to go home I went to the Army mercy seat every night and after about a week of my persistant prayers, God came to me in a wonderful way - the room lit up and I danced all the way home. It followed that I wanted to get to know God as He wanted me to know Him and I started to read my bible.
The Living Bible was my introduction to my new found living faith and it inspired me with it’s simplicity and excited me in bringing the awesome claims of Gods almighty word into my everyday lifestyle.
To this day, when I quote scripture it’s usually from my remembrance of what I’d read in the Living Bible which is a paraphrase of the Old and New Testaments. Its purpose is to say as exactly as possible what the writers of the Scriptures meant, and to say it simply, expanding where necessary for a clear understanding by the modern reader. It started out as ‘The Living Letters’ written by Kenneth Taylor in 1960’s who explained his reason for creating it.
Kenneth Taylor writes; ‘The children were one of the chief inspirations for producing the Living Bible. Our family devotions were tough going because of the difficulty we had understanding the King James Version, which we were then using, or the Revised Standard Version, which we used later. All too often I would ask questions to be sure the children understood, and they would shrug their shoulders—they didn't know what the passage was talking about. So I would explain it. I would paraphrase it for them and give them the thought. It suddenly occurred to me one afternoon that I should write out the reading for that evening thought by thought, rather than doing it on the spot during our devotional time. So I did, and read the chapter to the family that evening with exciting results—they knew the answers to all the questions I asked!’
In 1962 Billy Graham received a copy of Living Letters – the first portion of what later became The Living Bible – while recuperating in a hospital in Hawaii. He was impressed with its easy readability, and he asked for permission to print 50,000 paperback copies of Living Letters for use in his evangelistic crusades. Over the next year he distributed 600,000 copies of Living Letters.
It worked so well that it developed into what we now know as The Life Application Bible in around 1971. As the title suggests - the reader is encouraged to apply Bible teachings to his life - read it then live it.
We’re going to read Colossians 2 from the Living Bible, a letter Paul wrote this when he was under house arrest in Rome for two years - around AD 60. Paul had spent three years at Ephesus and it was there that a man called Epaphras was converted who, as a result of his conversion, took the gospel to Colosse. Unfortunately the church at Colosse was then attacked by heretics and this led Epaphras to seek Paul in Rome and tell him about this.
The heretical teaching by false teachers laid emphasis on outward show, ceremonial activities, Angel Worship, the down playing of Christ and reliance on human wisdom and tradition. Paul wrote his letter to the church fellowships at Colosse to refute the heretical lies and false teaching that was attacking the Christian fellowships there.
The theme of Colossians is the complete adequacy of Christ in contrast to the empty human philosophy of the heretics. Looking at many of today’s heretical church views and infiltration by false teachers, it’s a letter that needs to be addressed by those who faithfully desire to see the teachings of Jesus be applied and lived through in our own daily lives.
This is what Paul wrote as paraphrased in the Living Bible. Colossians 2 I wish you could know how much I have struggled in prayer for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for my many other friends who have never known me personally. This is what I have asked of God for you: that you will be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love, and that you will have the rich experience of knowing Christ with real certainty and clear understanding. For God’s secret plan, now at last made known, is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the mighty, untapped treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
I am saying this because I am afraid that someone may fool you with smooth talk. For though I am far away from you my heart is with you, happy because you are getting along so well, happy because of your strong faith in Christ. And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all he has done.
Don’t let others spoil your faith and joy with their philosophies, their wrong and shallow answers built on men’s thoughts and ideas, instead of on what Christ has said. For in Christ there is all of God in a human body; so you have everything when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ. He is the highest Ruler, with authority over every other power.
V1 I wish you could know how much I have struggled in prayer for you We can see this when we look at Pauls very first words at the beginning of his letter, back in chapter 1. He starts by saying how he gives thanks for the church having been told by Epaphras of their strong faith in Jesus and the love that as a fellowship they share - the love that was a product of the hope in their hearts regarding their future in heaven.
V9 for this reason since the day we heard about you we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that you may live lives worthy of the Lord and will please Him in every way - bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God.
No wonder Paul says he has struggled in prayer on their behalf. His prayer as outlined in v2 is this that you will be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love, and that you will have the rich experience of knowing Christ with real certainty and clear understanding. For God’s secret plan, now at last made known, is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the mighty, untapped treasures of wisdom and knowledge
About 20 years ago there was a real craze in this country regarding a book that as you read it was supposed to give you clues to find some hidden treasure. All you had to do was decipher the clues that were supposed to lead you to that hidden treasure. Apparently hundreds bought the book. I bet they read it diligently word for word in the hopes that they would find hidden treasure. I don’t know if anyone actually found the treasure but one thing for certain, the author and publishers made a mint
Give a man a bible, tell him that by reading it he will find hidden treasure that will give him an abundant life and what does he do - picks at it and is more content to let others who ’have more time than him’ study it and tell him what he wants to hear.
Paul talks about togetherness as a fellowship where love is shared and they can grow together in their search for truth through His word and that through their commitmnet for each other and the word they will have the rich experience of knowing Christ with real certainty and clear understanding. For God’s secret plan, now at last made known, is Christ himself. In Him lie hidden all the mighty, untapped treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Paul goes on v 4 I am saying this because I am afraid that someone may fool you with smooth talk. Or as the NIV puts it with fine sounding arguments That’s what is happening in the world today - and sadly - in the church from people who were previously well respected teachers but who have replaced the truth with ‘fine sounding arguments to make them more acceptable by the unchurched.
Who would have thought that when Paul in his second letter to Timothy (ch 3) talks about the last days and people being lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud - that he would be talking about many of todays false teachers who twist what the bible says about prosperity for their own gain and boast about their private jets and mansions. - having a form of Godliness but denying the power - have nothing to do with them.
In the same way that Paul is really concerned about the church and the Christians who are either neglecting their calling or listening and accepting the teachings of the false prophets - I too believe that God in these days is as concerned about His Church today and the dangers that are prevalent in it. Paul says; Don’t let others spoil your faith and joy with their philosophies, their wrong and shallow answers built on men’s thoughts and ideas, instead of on what Christ has said.
Wow! I love these next verses For in Christ there is all of God in a human body; so you have everything when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ. He is the highest Ruler, with authority over every other power.
As we read the other week, John wrote that The Word became flesh in Christ - I love that. Here Paul goes even further in Christ there is all of God in a human body - so you have everything when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ. He is the highest Ruler, with authority over every other power.
John told us that when Jesus was saying goodbye to His disciples He told them that if they loved Him and were obedient to Him, then ‘I and the Father will come and make our home within you’ That’s wholeness, completenesss in Christ - you Have everything you will ever need when you have Christ.
Hidden Treasure? Today many are more interested in making money than they are in seeking to know God through His word and giving more of their time into His service. Bible study for the Christian is vital to him getting to know the will of God and the way that we should live in obedience to Him.
Bible study, sadly even some who profess to be ’Christian’ it’s often more like a trip to McDonalds for a quick and convenient snack rather than a night out for a proper meal. Ask yourself, when was the last time you made a meal of reading the bible.
The bible is so often treated more like a book about a bye-gone age - another race of people instead of being a relevant - faith increasing book that inspires them to seek more of Gods greatness and power. Yet the Bible is Gods inspirational truth for today that reveals how He delights to intervene in our everyday lives with His graciousness and even His awesome supernatural power.
When I spoke at the Church in Shipley last week - I gave my testimony of Gods miraculous intervention in my life, the many miracles that I experienced and the way in which I believed God was showing His great powers to me and through me.
What I said inspired them to come to me afterwards and with faces beaming said they were hungry for more. Two days later I got an invitation to go back next Saturday to share with another group - unfortunately it was too short a notice and so they have booked me in for sometime next Easter.
You can’t Read Gods word and not Live it - it’s got to show in your life. The Bible is more than a theological treatice - it’s a guide to dynamic encounters with a God who works wonders. The Bible is Gods voice that as Christians we need to respond to with life-changing faith. That’s why there is a real need for Christians today to get back to reading the Bible in their own private devotions - and together.
Jack Deere, in his book ‘Surpriswed by the voice of God’ says this . ‘Most of my life, I’ve read the bible more like a Pharisee than a New testament Christian. Most of my life Ive made the mistake of believing God for too little. For the rest of my life, if I have to make a mistake, it will be in believing God for too much. Having said that, how can you believe in an Omnipresent God (He’s everywhere) an Omniscient God ( He’s all knowing), an Omnipotent God ( having unlimited power) God for too much - especially when God says ‘Everything is possible for him who believes’ Mark 9;23
Just as the Word, became flesh in Christ so too the Word needs to ‘live in us’ until we actually live it - and that won’t happen if we neglect to spend time reading it. The Bible is not just a book to be read, it’s there to be applied to our lives.
Sadly I believe that many today fail to see the Bible as a book of vibrant reality and have fallen asleep to the truth of the Word, failing to realise the full and awesome potential of all that the word of God has to tell us. When Paul preached his departing sermon, one man in the congregation, Euticus, sitting high on a window ledge, fell asleep - in fact he fell into such a deep sleep that he actually fell out of the window, three storeys to his death. Whilst others in the congregation were wide awake to the gospel, Euticus represented those in church who have fallen asleep to the truth of Gods word.
Maybe it’s because folk read the Bible in the puny light of their own experience and limit the greatness of God by their own shallow thinking. They limit the power of God by the limitations of their own understanding - their God is too small. Certainly that true in the world today where men try to change the gospel to fit the limitations of their understanding - they water it down to make it more believeable and acceptable. The Bible is not just a guidebook to Heaven it’s a textbook for heavenly living here on earth.
Thankfully God doesn’t give up on His church and just like Paul ran down three flights of stairs to breath new life into Euticus, God I believe wants to breath new life into His church today.
Last week we read about the vision God gave to Ezekiel about the life giving streams of living water that flow from the throne of God sustaining life to all that lay in it’s path, so too as in another of Ezekiels visions, we see God breathing new life into his valley of dry bones - His dead church- The word of God is dynamite, that reveals ‘the mighty untapped treasures of wisdom and knowledge’
Whilst man is good at harnessing the natural elements of Gods creation, Gas, Nuclear energy, Solar power he is not so good at harnessing the ‘supernatural things of God’ that bring healing, new life, even eternal life. The power of the Holy Spirit.
That’s what Paul was stressing and encouraging those in the church at Colosse who are faithful and seeking to know the will of God for their own lives - he says this; For though I am far away from you my heart is with you, happy because you are getting along so well, happy because of your strong faith in Christ.
God is with us and for us - He loves you and me and wants to play an integral part in our everyday lives. He wants us Know Him - Trust Him and Grow in Him by our commitment to His word. He wants us to know His presence and help in our everyday lives. And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him.
As we read last week that the streams of living water, the Holy Spirit flows from the throne of God giving live and growth - enabling us to bear fruit - so Paul adds; Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all he has done. You have everything when you have Christ
In these last days we need to not only read Gods word but - live it and let others see the beauty of Jesus in our lives.
Sunday Morning 18 September 2016
Ezekiel 47 The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side.
As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?”
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh.
Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea. But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt.
Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”
Over the last few weeks since my sister-in-law Thelma came out of hospital we have been having lots of picnics together with her sister Christine. Usually on the side of a lake or river. Manningham Park lake, Yeadon Dam, Otley Riverside, and on Friday we were setting off to Otley again when I phoned Rachel to see if she and her son Kaden wanted to join us. Rachel explained that Kaden had a swimming lesson at 4pm so they would not be able to travel so far and get back in time - somewhere closer then we’d have come
So we decided to change course and head for St Ives - and they agreed to meet us there. When we arrived at St Ives, we had a picnic in the recreation ground and watched Kaden climb the steps of the big slide and then throw himself down the slide - not just once but over 15 times.
After the picnic Rachel asked if we had seen the ’duck pond’ and showed us where it was. It’s called Cooper Pond - a great big lake with what seemed like hundreds of ducks and swans - it was lovely. The sun shone on the lake and after planting Thelma and Christine in chairs at the side of the lake, Kaden and me and Rachel walked the whole way round the lake - beautiful. As I said earlier, we seem to have spent a lot of time around the waters edge over the last few weeks.
Here in Ezekiel we have a great picture of a river that flowed from it’s source - a stream that flowed from the Temple that flowed at the right hand side of the altar.
The man took Ezekiel 1.500 feet along the stream and told him to cross it - it was just ankle deep. Another 1,500 feet and the water had become knee deep. 1500 feet later it was waist deep and then eventually deep enough to swim in. If Frank were here, he’d probably agree that he would have paddled across it, but as it got deeper - up to his waist and then deep enough to swim in - I think he would step away and refuse to go deeper.
I remember too well, when I was a lad and had just left Idle Church school to go to Thorpe - there was one lesson that terrified me - Swimming. I remember the first time - we set off walking in pairs to catch a trolley to the baths at Wapping Road. I was terrified and used to pray the bus would be late or even break down. The bus came - we all piled in - most of the other kids were excited and couldn’t wait to get there. A few of us - me especially would have swapped our place with anyone - I hated it - I couldn’t swim and, like Frank, was terrified of the water.
It didn’t matter that I could see all the other lads laughing and seemingly floating on the water - even the biggest fattest lad didn’t sink but that didn’t fill me with confidence. When I got in, skinny me, I thought I was going to sink to the bottom of the deep end ( just 3 ft). My mother could spell Verucca without needing a dictionary. I hated swimming and got to love my verucca because it kept me from swimming.
I passed a scholarship to go to the College of Art and left Thorpe after being their for just one year. It was during my last few weeks at Thorpe that I was accidently tipped in to the pool and found that I could float and started to gain confidence - too late.
In 1996 I took my family to Canvey Island - Cath, Tony and Joshua went with us. It was there that , for the first time, Joshua went into the sea. He saw the sea beyond the sands and started to run towards it. At first the sand was firm but as he got nearer the water it got softer and his little feet started to sink into the sand and he didn’t like it. He stopped at the waters edge. Beryl and I took hold of his hands and stepped nearer the waters edge. Gradually he gained more confidence and walked in until the watre was around his ankles. Then as he stepped further it started to reach his knees. He wasn’t too sure about that and so we started to walk sideways along the waters edge - eventually he raised his arms towards us asking to be carried.
My son Steven picked him up and walked into the sea until Steven was waist deep - Joshua clung on tighter and although he seemed to enjoy it - didn’t get himself wet and Steven carried him in his arms.
In the book of Ezekiel we read of the many visions that God gave him regarding his people and their need to return to the Lord. The valley of dry bones, the wheel, and this one about the stream that flows from the throne of God reaching out, moving ever forward - replenishing, feeding everything that stood in its path.
As he watched, gradually a picture emerged of future days, better times to come, when God would bring His people out of exile, build a new Temple where proper ‘spiritual’ worship would be offered to Almighty God. The Temple would be the living temple -Christ - who would give His life as an atonement for the sins of the world and give new life - abundant life - life in all it’s fulness to those who chose to put their faith in Him.
This was a vision of hope in a time of great despair - of mercy for the penitent. God revealed His plans to Ezekiel in order that he could go back to his people and warn them to repent. For too long, His people had been paddling in the dirty, stagnant streams of mans traditions and needed to get out of those muddy waters and step into the crystal clear waters that flowed form the throne of God. Even though a few had been paddling it was now time to get in the swim of things and go deeper into the things of God.
In Chapter 47 we see the river of healing that flows from Gods throne into which Ezekiel was told to step - he did - and the water came up to his ankles - he went further until it came up to his knees, then his waist. There he stopped because in order to go further he would have to swim - maybe he wasn’t ready for that yet.
This was the cleansing river that flows from the throne of God. The life giving waters that bring nourishment and sustenance to all that lies in it’s path. The stream that flows from the Throne of Almighty God that becomes a life sustaining river. A river, along who’s banks, all kinds of fruit trees grow with leaves that never turn brown or fall off because they are firmly rooted in the life giving waters.
That’s a beautiful picture of the healing stream that flows from the Throne of God, bringing new life and sustaining that life as long as it’s roots delve deep.
I wonder where you feel you are in relation to this reading. Which part of the river do you think your at? I believe that God has great things in store for this Corps, you and I and when the time is ripe, when He knows we are ready, to those who are seeking to move forward will take us deeper. You might be paddling now but if your desire is to know Him more and take up the challenge to move on - He will take you deeper into the river of life until we are not just paddling, not even knee deep but fully immersed in the river of life - in the swim. The great thing is that if that frightens you - like all good Fathers, He is there to take you by the hand and hold you firm.
When I asked God what scripture He wanted us to share this morning I was prompted to read John 7 - I looked at it and thought ‘what can I make of this - what is there to share here that we hav’nt been doing for the last few weeks.’ I put it to the back of my mind thinking it was my own thoughts.
I started to look back over sermons I had preached years ago - it was then that I stumbled upon Ezekiel 47. I also checked Ezekiel 47 out on the internet to see if I could get any fresh thoughts to share. I found a site, scanned through it - and imagine my shock when it suggested I look at a New Testament reading - it was John 7 - I just sat there amazed - God doesn’t give up.
John 7 tells us of the time Jesus was at the feast of the tabernacles - He was being got at and accused of being a deceiver, of being demon possessed - but then He started to teach in the Temple Courts and they were amazed at His teaching. On the last day of the great feast, Jesus stood and said ‘whoever believes in Me, as the scripture has said, Streams of living water will flow from within him’ by this He meant the Spirit’. v 38
On Wednesday night we looked at how Jesus had talked about this to the Samaritan woman - ‘the water I give will become a perpetual spring’ The river of life that flows from God is the Holy Spirit and God wants us to be fully immersed in the Life giving waters of the Holy Spirit - the life giving Spirit who waters produce fruits that become evidences of His indwelling and enable us to witness to His love for all mankind.
It’s so easy as Gods people to get waterlogged in the rivers of this world. We often complain that we are up to our necks in trouble, or slowly drowning in the storms of life - we need to remember that God promised that even at such times - if we place our trust in Him we will not be drowned - when you walk through the waters I will be with you - even when you walk through the fire you will not be burned. The great thing is that those are the waters and fire of the world, the devil. God has provided Living water - and the fire of His Holy Spirit to keep us safe and fill us with Himself.
In The first book of the Bible, Genesis we are told in Ch2;10 that the life giving river that watered the Garden of Eden flowed out from there.
In the last book of the Bible - Johns Revelation - chapter 22 verse one we read again of that great river of life flowing from the throne of God down the middle of the street of the Holy City and on each side of the river stands the tree of life - yielding fruit.
From the beginning of time, through to the end of time - when the ransomed, the redeemed will see God face to face in all His Glory and begin to serve Him forever, the life giving waters continue to flow and I believe that God wants to take us, His people, deeper into the water of life - the Holy Spirit
The cleansing waters that can gently wash away wrong attitudes, wrong feelings, doubts, those things about ourselves that we are uncomfortable with. God wants to completely cleans us , cover us with the warm bath towel of His love and make us feel clean and warm in His loving arms - ready for all that He has in store for us - and as we are filled with the life giving water of the Spirit we will start to bear fruit.
To move on with Jesus is to boldly step into the waters and determine to keep going deeper until we are exercising complete trust in Him. When I was at the Wapping baths - pretending to swim - hopping on one foot, I wasn’t just fooling those around me - I was fooling myself - the trouble is that we can also do that in our Christian life. It wasn’t until I was pushed in that I realised that ‘Yes’ the water does hold you up and if you stop struggling you won’t sink.
Where are you today - paddling, knee deep, up to your waist or in the swim or even just toe dipping. Its maybe time for you to take the plunge and get in there
Psalm 1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law, he meditates say and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yield it’s fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever it does prospers. Its time to stop just paddling and get in the swim.
Sunday Morning 11 September 2016
Last week we continued looking at the message of John. It was great to hear from Monica a couple of weeks ago when she shared that they had had the same bible reading at her church the previous Sunday Morning and that the sermon was about forgiveness exactly the same as us here at Idle. Confirmation that we are open to all that God wants to share with His people in these last days.
It has happened so many times - Confirmation from Brian and Jenny on many of the times they have come and shared with us like this Sunday morning - the bible readings, the message I’ve shared on those mornings, they have come to me afterwards and said that they were drawn to read the same scriptures or to look at the same songs that we were sharing together.
I really believe that God is trying to get through to this age in these last days to bring His people back into a solid and real relationship with Him. Just as He did when He brought the Children of Israel out of bondage and set then free to travel through the wilderness to freedom. Sadly, over the years, they too drifted away from God and went back to their old ways.
God in these days, the last days is gathering His children, the Redeemed, Ransomed, Born Again children of God to reaffirm their commitment to Him and His word. As I said last week we - His people - need to learn to live our lives under the direction of our heavenly Father - we need to leave the past and move on.
What started out as a promising walk with God, over the years, developed into them walking their own ways - that’s one of the reasons I believe that God sent Jesus to earth to bring mankind back to it’s senses and show them by example how to live a life that would please Him and redirect them on to the path of righteousness again.
At our Bible fellowship on Wednesday night I said that sadly I believe that many of Gods people today have been drawn back in to a fruitless, aimless life. People who having started life as new Christians are soon knocked back to their old lifestyles again. Even Churches are beginning to loose the plot and make their own rules up just like the Israelites. I believe that the church - God’s people needs to get back to living the truth as seen in the life of Jesus - to get back on track and reclaim the Kingdom Values that are being eroded today.
That’s why I believe that last week I was drawn to look at 1 John 1 - and that this morning we need to look deeper into what John is saying here.
1 John 1; 1-4 and 1 John 3; 1-3
John was the younger brother of James and the son of Zebedee (Mark 10:35; Luke 5:10).
John and James were first cousins to Jesus as their mother Salome was the sister of Jesus’s mother Mary (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40). John the fisherman who left his past behind and moved on to become an Apostle - a man who walked with Jesus - talked with Jesus and learned from Jesus how to live the good life - to put off the old self and be clothed in the newness of life - born again of the Spirit
He and another disciple, Peter were especially close to Jesus - they were with Christ on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:27-36). They (along with Andrew) were with Him for the healing of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37). They were also the inner circle of prayer warriors in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37).
The gospel of John and the letters were written long after the death and ressurection of Jesus, long after the other gospels were written- estimates say well over 50 years after and so in many ways Johns writings add emphasis and confirmation to the readers that what has been written about Jesus are true eyewitness accounts.
Last week we read chapters 1 and 2 and looked at the way in which John - walked in the light of God and how he stresses the fact that if we walk in the light as He is in the light we will enjoy fellowship with Him and one another and the blood of Jesus Chris, His Son will purify us from ALL sin.
We looked at how John talks about the many claims people in the world and many Christians make about their walk - even their sinfulness and lack love for one another their disobedience to the basic commands of Jesus - their ‘veneer’ Christian world and the need to get back on track.
The challenge at the end of the meeting was to take a serious honest look at our own lives and seek forgiveness for any sinfulness, lack of love or disobedience and seek Gods ways for our lives, get back on track and stand firm to what we believe and have committed ourselves to in the increasingly Godless and selfish world that we live in. To put the past behind us and step forward into the future firm in our commitment to God.
In this first letter of John, he stresses the beautiful fact that God loves us so much - ch3 How great is the love the Father has lavished - I like that word - upon us that we should be called Children of God - and that’s what we are - and furthermore v 2 when He appears, we shall be like Him and see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope purifies himself - in other words makes it his objective in life to seek to know Him more and more, to be obedient to Him and to stay clear of the sins of the world.
V 7 Don’t let anyone lead you astray - Jesus came to destroy the devils work - as born again children of God - live as children of light and as v 11 onwards says, live a life of love for God and one another.
C4;7 Dear friends let us love one another for this genuine love comes from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. V 16 God is love whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him. V19 We love because He first loved us.
Ch 5 3 this is love for God; to obey His commands
Johns concluding remarks stresses the need to stay close to God and in obedience to His will stay clean
Johns message is so clear and so definite. Live up to what you claim to be - Gods children.
Live in obedience to the word and seek to know Him better as the days go by. Grow in Him - and the secret of how to achieve all this is to stay close to Him - as we said last week make your daily walk with Him as your companion. - only as we truly know Him can we make Him truly known.
The word became flesh in Jesus and the Word, Jesus, needs to become flesh in us His 20th century disciples.
Jesus was passionate about spreading the truth through people like you and me - answers to the prayer for more workers in the vineyard - People need the Lord and we are here as living testimony to His word.
The whole of Johns Gospel and letters stress the truth that John could write the things he did because he had been with Jesus
We can tell people but as the old Yorkshire saying goes ’It’s better felt than telt’ If people can see something of the truth as lived out in our daily lives that will speak more than a thousand words. As Eliza Doolittle said in desperation to Proffessor Higgins because she couldn’t understand what he was on about ‘Words, Words I’m sick of blooming words, show me’ That’s what God did in Christ and what God wants to continue doing in you and me.
This comes over very forcibly in Johns letters. After declaring that He is a witness to what he has seen, touched and been with he says this to his hearers.
Gospel John 1;14 The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His Glory, the Glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of Grace and truth’ That was Jesus
1 John 1; We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard
2 John;12 I have much to write to you but I don’t want to use paper and ink - instead I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face so that our Joy may be complete.
3 John 13 I have much to write to you but I don’t want to do so with pen and ink - I hope to see you soon and we will talk face to face.
WOW That’s what God did in Christ - what God in Christ was saying is ‘you have my written word but that’s not been enough - so here is Jesus who you can talk with face to face’ I believe that that’s why God gave us the power of prayer where we can talk to Him and learn from Him.
Walking with Jesus I through our daily live will surely show in our actions, our responses to others and our attitudes. It will also be seen in the way in which we live our lives in obedience to His word - the living word Jesus.
If you spend time in the Sun it will show - you can’t avoid id - you might put sun cream on but it will eventually show in a tan. In the same way you can’t spent time in the presence of the SON and it not show.
John couldn’t, non of the disciples could. Those who experienced the presence of God and His power through Jesus could contain it themselves, they had to share the light they had received with others.
The woman at the well went back to her families and said she had met with Jesus and how He had made a great impression on her life - they would be able to see the joy in her face. The disciples on the Emmaus road couldn’t contain their joy - ‘didn’t our hearts burn within us as we talked to Him on the way’.
John witnesses to what He has seen and heard and preferred to be able to share the good news face to face - words were inadequate.
John was a faithful witness to all that God had revealed to him in Christ Jesus and I believe that today God is calling forth His witnesses among His people to stand up for Him and in declaring the truth, put down the false teachers and heretical preachers in these last days.
God needs people who will declare what they have seen and heard in their own lives to kill the heresies and lies that are being put forward by teachers and theologians today.
I remember when I was called as a witness when I say an unattended lorry slide backwards into the front of Kayes confectioners shop in the high street.
I was on my way home from the band practice and as I went around the corner into High Street I witnessed what happened. When my turn came to give witness I said what I had seen and then added, the man must have been in the fish shop and left the van forgetting to apply his brakes’. The clerk of the court stopped me and said ’ could you please confine your remarks to what you actually saw and not what you think happened’.
In other words ‘ a witness to what I had seen and heard’ not my own impression of what I thought had happened.
Our lives should be a living example of what God has done in us and what He can do in others. Stuart Hamblyn wrote the song ‘It is no secret what God can do, what He’s done for others He can do for you’.
On Wednesday Bethany is coming to our friendship club to tell us of her two years at Bible college in Hungary and the way in which God has become so much closer and real to her.
There are so many people who today share the truth of transformed lives in their testimonies that can also be seen more forcibly in the lives they live today. Nicky Cruz, Lee Strobel, Nick Vujicic, The Angus Buchan people who’s lives are a living testimony to the wonder of God.
We have seen Gods power in our fellowship over these last 20 or so years - mighty answers to prayer where God has shown His mighty power in Awesome ways.
Only this week, on Tuesday in my daily prayer I asked God to help Joshua find a job doing what he is best at, helping young children as a support teacher. The very next day Joshua phoned me up to ask if I would like to meet him in Skipton for lunch at Morrisons. He had received a telephone call late Tuesday morning from the agency to ask him to work two days a week, Thursday and Friday in a primary school in Skipton. Amazing answer to prayer. But then, I’m not surprised when I think of the prayers God has answered for me in the past years.
God is speaking to His people in these days to re affirm their commitment to Him and when we do He will show His power through His faithful witnesses.
I love the story told about Smith Wigglesworth who had a mission in Manningham. He was reading the bible where it tells the story of the meal that was prepared and no one turned up so the man of the house said go out into the highways and byeways and invite people to come and share the meal. He was inspired to do the same at his little mission.
He advertised the free lunch and when the day came, as he was on his way from home to the church in Bowland Street he was amazed to see crowds of people lined up queuing to get in.
After the meal he stood on the platform and invited the crowds to listen to the testimonies of those who had been healed in his church and after the testimonies announced that next week their would be another testimony meeting but on that occasion the testimonies would be given by some of them who following his pray to close the evening would be healed in a marvellous way. The word became flesh in Smith Wigglesworth as many were healed and indeed testified to it the next week. One was a little lad in calipers who was passed over the heads of the crowds to the front - prayed for and miraculously healed.
Just like Christopher was, here at Idle. Like Adam, Like so many, me included - God has shown His Glory here and I believe wants us to witness to what we have seen and heard and will continue to see and hear if we stay true to Him.
As Children of God we have been called and commissioned to go and tell - to live and show - to be His faithful witnesses.
Let me ask you question - how have you witnessed for God this week - has your life been a living witness to all that God is and means to you. Does your life tell for Him?
There has never been a more demanding time for Gods people to stand firm to the truth.
Its up to you and me to share our testimonies in more than words - in action - by the way in which we live our lives - People need to see Jesus in us - People need the Lord.
Sunday Morning 4 September 2016
Last week we looked at Paul’s letter to the Colossians ch 3 where he talked about how as Christians we need to make sure we put the past behind us and live the life of those who know they have been forgiven. To set our hearts on things above in Christs realm not on earthly things. ‘For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God’ in other words as repentant people we have put to death the old self and have been born again - a new creation - this time under the Lordship of Christ.
We said how easy it is to let doubts abut our forgiveness creep in and stifle the new life that Christ has made available for us. We watched the Gaither band and Signature Sound sing the lovely song ‘I then shall live as one who’s been forgiven’.
It was great to hear from Monica on Wednesday night when she shared that they had had the same bible reading at her church last Sunday Morning and the sermon was about forgiveness exactly the same as us here at Idle. Confirmation that we are open to all that God wants to share with His people in these last days.
As Forgiven, Ransomed, Born Again children of God we need to learn to live our lives under the direction of our heavenly Father - we need to leave the past and move on.
That’s what the children of Israel needed to do after being rescued from the tyranny of bondage under the Egyptians and move on to claim the promised land. Sadly as we know, in their journeying, even though God provided for them, fed them by day, guarded them by night, they soon lost the plot, got disheartened and self took over. What started out as a promising walk with God, over the years, developed into them walking their own ways - that’s one of the reasons I believe that God sent Jesus to earth to bring mankind back to it’s senses and show them by example how to live a life that would please Him and redirect them on to the path of righteousness again.
Sadly I believe that many of Gods people today have been drawn in to this kind of fruitless, aimless life. People who having started life as new Christians are soon knocked back to their old lifestyles again. Veneer Christians I call them who from the outside look the part but when you scratch the surface you see a very different person.
Even Churches are beginning to loose the plot and make their own rules up just like the Israelites. Only this week I learned about an impending split in the Church of England brought about by the new age thinkers who want to change the bible to fit their own lifestyles and by so doing, reject Biblical truths.
The case in point is where a priest has married his gay lover - which is against what the Bible teaches and the standards of the CofE. He then called on 11 other priests who like him have married their gay partners, to stand up against synod and try to change their laws or bring about a split in the CofE. Is it any surprise that the Christian church is in decline in this so called ‘Christian Country’.
The church - it’s people needs to get back to living the truth as seen in the life of Jesus - top get back on track and reclaim the Kingdom Values that are being eroded today.
That’s why I believe I was drawn to look at 1 John 1 - the recommendations from John, the first cousin of Jesus - ‘the disciple that Jesus loved’ (John 13;23) John the fisherman who left his past behind and moved on to become an Apostle - a man who walked with Jesus - talked with Jesus and learned from Jesus how to live the good life - to put off the old self and be clothed in the newness of life - born again of the Spirit.
This letter was written to believers everywhere and the first verse assures us that it is written by a man who has seen for himself - ‘The Word Jesus who became flesh among us’.
1 John 1;1 That which was from the beginning, Jesus which we have heard, Jesus which we have seen with our eyes, Jesus which we have looked at and our hands have touched - Jesus—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. Jesus It couldn’t be more plain that Jesus IS the word of life.
2 The life appeared; Jesus we have seen it Jesus and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life Jesus, which was with the Father and has appeared to us Jesus.
3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, Jesus so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our ( your) joy complete.
John then goes on to declare that the message he wants to pass on to other believers, you and me, which is the celebration of Completeness, Wholeness in Christ.
5 This is the message we have heard from Him Jesus and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him Jesus and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
The next few verses as seen in the NIV have been headed Walking in the Light
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
This is John talking to the believers, those who profess to being forgiven and rebirthed - yet John adds a few important points for Christians to consider.
5 God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. Therefore - If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.
This is where John puts a bold challenge to us as professing Christians.
The bold fact that (a) God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
And the bold challenge (b) If we claim to have fellowship with him Jesus and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.
Like I said last week, if we believe we have been forgiven - we need to let that fact be seen in the way we live our lives. Not walking round downcast but living the upright, bold life that declares to others that as verse 7 says; if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. As Christians we need to walk in a way that will encourage others to walk with us. If we claim it - we need to live up to that claim.
Its not easy, many times, we have the same difficulties, ill health, financial problems, just like our neighbours - the challenge comes when they can see that although we have the same problems as them that we have a strength and a resolve that they don’t seem to have - that’s the time that we can share with them that we walk that way because Jesus walks with us and helps us, sustains us in such times and gives us the victory over those things that pull them down.
There are many things in life that cause us to question or even doubt. One of the hardest is when a loved one dies - we question where is God in all this - why did He allow this to happen? When the great Martin Luther lost his son, his wife Katy shouted at him ‘ Where was God when our son died?‘ to which Martin Luther replied, ’the same place He was when His own son Jesus died, He was there - watching and weeping’
When you walk through the valley I will be with you promised the Lord.
When the waters up to here or the going gets hot - never fear for I am with you I will see you through because you are precious to Me and I love you. Isaiah 43
Of course I believe that God can get us out of deep water, bring healing etc but I also I
believe that Gods sometimes allows us to face such problems as those around us so that they can identify with us and we can introduce them to the Saviour who will see them through too if only they will place their trust in Him.
If we know that God is the light of the world - we need to start walking in that light.
Similarly about conversion and forgiveness. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
Thankfully chapter two goes on to clarify the fact that we are only human and the tempter doesn’t give in easily regarding you and me. That’s why John writes;
Chapter 2; 1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
God is prepared to forgive us when we fall to the tempters whiles. He forgives and forgives again and again our every sin. That doesn’t mean of course that we can go on and on sinning because we know that He will forgive us.
The Psalmist David knew that, that’s why he wrote Psalm 139; 23‘Search me of God, know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See it there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting’.
God knows what we’re really like - He sees our intentions, He sees straight through to the heart and knows if our repentance is sincere - that way He will always forgive. If we repent in word only then He knows and will treat us accordingly.
If we sin and repent then we have Jesus as our atoning sacrifice who paid the price for my sins and the sins of the whole world. All we need to do is say we are sorry and mean it. That way - we will be forgiven.
John then goes on to explain that the only way we can possibly say we know Christ will be seen in our obedience to His commands.
3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.
Simply put, if we claim to know Him yet fail to live up to His commands - we are lying but if we do live in obedience to His word, then God’s love is made complete in us. If we claim to love in Him - then it must be seen in the way in which we live in obedience to Him and walk as Jesus did.
John uses the statement that if we Claim to know Him then it should be obvious in the way we live our lives.
Chapter 1; 6 I we claim to have fellowship with Him we must walk in His light
8 We decieve ourselves If we claim to be without sin, but if we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us.
9 We lie If we claim to have not sinned - and His Word has no place in our lives.
Chapter 2; 4 We lie If we claim to know Him but are disobedient to His commands
We then come to what seems to be a contradiction.
7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.
8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
The original command to love was given in the ten commandments
The new command to love was emphasised by Jesus when He answered Nicodemus about the greatest commandment when Jesus said it was to love the Lord your God with all your heart mind and soul and love your neighbour too.
Matthew 5; 17 Jesus said, ‘don’t think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. V 38
1 John 2 ;9 talks about the foolishness of making unfounded claims. The claims we make should be seen clearly in the way in which we live our lives in the world today.
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
Walk in the light of the truth of the gospel and aim to live it
Walk in the light of the love of God as seen in the life of Christ Jesus.
The way we live will bring credence to our claims to have been forgiven and are now children of God.
St Francis of Assisi once said ‘ We should preach the gospel all day long - and if necessary, use words’.
What we do and what we are , is more important that what we say. God showed us that when ‘the Word became flesh’ in Christ. Jesus put flesh on the Good News by living it.
Verse 12 of 1 John says this - I write to you because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name. As forgiven born again children of God - we are called to live up to the claims we make and let the light and love of God be seen in our daily living.
We sang earlier ‘Only as I truly know Thee can I make Thee truly known’
In Closing we are going to sing a song that talks about the qualities of those who decide to walk with God. Verse 2 and 3 say this;
He walks with God , who, as he onward moves
Follows the footsteps of the Lord he loves
And keeping Him forever in his view
His saviour sees and his example too.
He walks with God who turns his face to Heaven
And keeps the blessed commands by Jesus given
His life upright, his end untroubled peace
Who God will crown when all his labours cease.
Lets pray this together and determine in our own lives to walk daily with our Lord in obedience to His word - to love God and one another.
Sunday Morning 28 August 2016
Colossians 3;1-15 Living as Those Made Alive in Christ
We read this same passage of scripture a few weeks ago - this morning I want us to look at a few of the things that Paul is saying here about the new life in Christ that those who have been born again of the Spirit ( two weeks ago) and desire to experience the indwelling presence of God in their lives.
Last Sunday we explored the great privilage that Christians have of experiencing and living in the presence of Almighty God.
We read the plea of Moses for God to teach him His ways so that he would be able to get to really know God and make Him known to the people around him.
Exodus 33; 14-21 Moses cried out to God ‘You have been telling me ‘lead these people’ but You have not told me who you will send with me - if You are pleased with me, teach me your ways so that I may know You and continue to find favour with You’. Remember that this nation is Your people’.
I said how that is my prayer every morning - Lord teach me Your ways. Show me how to communicate Your will for our fellowship here at Idle - so that we may all grow more like You and become examples to the community we live in - Lord help me to know Your presence and may those who I meet today see You in me. I then pray for each of you by name.
The Lords reply to Moses was ‘My presence will go with you and I will give you rest’.
Moses knew that ‘if God’s presence is not with us how will the people be able to distinguish us from other people’ God replied by saying He would do what was asked because He was pleased with him. WOW how much we should seek to know the presence of God in our daily living and how wonderful it would be if His love would shine from us.
God has been telling us that for a long time - be obedient to Me and My presence will go with you. Jesus said ‘Love Me and Obey Me and I and the Father will make our home in you’. God wants to become flesh in us - to let His beauty be seen in our lives.
We looked at how Moses then cries out to God ’show me Your Glory’ and that’s after all that had happened to Moses over the last few years. He’d certainly seen the Glory of God time and time again.
I ended by saying that I believe that we too here at Idle have seen the Glory of God manifest many times in the healings, the provision of money to build His Church. We have seen the Glory of God in so many different and amazing ways - what more could God do to convince us that in the same way that He presenced Himself in human form in Christ Jesus, He also wants to presence Himself in human form again, this time in you and me.
God want us to realise His inner presence - alive within us and open to His leading, His prompting, His voice and I believe, wants us to start to live the life that will reflect His beauty and Glory to the world around us, our friends, neighbours, family.
God in Christ Jesus promised us that we could experience His presence, the presence of the Holy Spirit and all through scripture reminds us that He would never leave us nor forsake us - He is always there for us.
What is it that holds so many Christians back from showing the presence of Almighty God in their lives. As living as Those Made Alive in Christ as our bible reading suggests? Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. What is it that prevents so many Christians in these days to live like that ?
On Friday at our Gaither evening we enjoyed and sang along with many of the older traditional faith filled hymns like Great is Thy Faithfulness, Pass me not O loving Saviour and at the end, the Gaither band and Signature Sound joined together to sing one of Gloria Gaithers songs, written to the tune of Finlandia, ‘ I then shall live’.
I thought as they sang the song that that’s probably why so many Christians today fail to reach the goal that God wants for them - to live in the presence of God and reflect His glory on our faces and in our lives. Watch and listen - take careful note of the words.
I then shall live as one who's been forgiven.
I'll walk with joy to know my debts are paid.
I know my name is clear before my Father;
I am His child and I am not afraid.
So, greatly pardoned, I'll forgive my brother;
The law of love I gladly will obey.
I then shall live as one who's learned compassion.
I've been so loved, that I'll risk loving too.
I know how fear builds walls instead of bridges;
I'll dare to see another's point of view.
And when relationships demand commitment,
Then I'll be there to care and follow through.
Your Kingdom come around and through and in me;
Your power and glory, let them shine through me.
Your Hallowed Name, O may I bear with honour,
And may Your living Kingdom come in me.
The Bread of Life, O may I share with honour,
And may You feed a hungry world through me.
Amen, Amen, Amen
It starts by encouraging us to live in the knowledge that, if we truly repented all our sins and past to God then we are a forgiven people
I then shall live as one who's been forgiven.
When we love like that, it’s got to show in our lives, our attitudes, our responses to others, our countenance - its got to show on our faces and in our actions.
I’ve said so many times that it’s sad when you see folk going to church with the same expression that they have when they’re going to the dentist - and what’s worse is, when they’re going home from church and their faces look as if they have been to the dentist.
When we have been forgiven our past sins, that should give us an expression of freedom, relief, thankfulness even joy
I'll walk with joy to know my debts are paid. To know my name is clear before my Father;
Maybe that’s where the problem starts - as the evil one in an attempt to hold us back will keep reminding us of our sins and even try to tempt us back into our old ways -
What did the song say? I am His child and I am not afraid.
We need to remember that - when God forgives - He puts it behind us - even casts it from His mind - what holds many back is that they don’t feel forgiven and it shows on their faces.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: Whatever sinful things you did in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
The acceptance of forgiveness sometimes takes a while but as we trust in Gods love and forgiveness we are being renewed in the knowledge and image of God
Many times people find it difficult to feel forgiven because they find it difficult to forgive others around them. Forgiveness isn’t easy for us. That’s why in the Lord’s prayer we are encouraged to say ‘Father forgive us our sins as we forgive our brother’.
That’s what the song means when it says ‘So, greatly pardoned, I'll forgive my brother; The law of love I gladly will obey.’
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
As the song said;
I then shall live as one who's learned compassion
God taught me this lesson though looking after Beryl in her last years. The love we shared was and still is, precious to me. We became one in Spirit. I was blessed that I could look after her every need right up to the last. She could do nothing for herself. I guess that in these days, many of you will know what is meant by this - this is love in action. We need to care about and for those who are a part of our lives and our church - really care and show it by our actions. I other words, over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
The kind of Love that should motivate everything we do and are. Love that helps us live as people who have been forgiven - a love that Comes from God and can be seen on our faces.
How can the wonder of being a forgiven child of God, born again and indwelt by the very Spirit of God - how can that be hidden. Moses had to cover His face because the Glory of the Lord shone from it - How can someone so loved, so forgiven walk around with a forlorn, disgruntled face?
It so often true that our responses to life, our attitudes towards others so often can be seen in our faces - you can’t hide what’s in your heart. So often the things that trouble us, the insecurity, the doubts, the failings - are because we can’t believe that God can be so loving as to forgive and put behind us our sinful past. Gods people need to start to live as people who know they have been forgiven to live in the victory of the new life that God has made available for them and let it be reflected in the life they live.
The last verse said Your Kingdom come around and through and in me;
Wow what a prayer - that’s what I believe God wants for you and me this morning - that the beauty of Jesus, the wonder of His Kingdom, that it may not just be our experience but the Beginnings of His Kingdom to shine through our very being, our daily living -through our very lives and deep within our hearts.
Your power and glory, let them shine through me.
To become vehicles Gods awesomeness so that the very great power of God flows through us out into the world in which we live - to make a difference in the lives of those we love and serve - to let the Glory of God shine through us - WOW! What a privilage is ours and what a responsibility.
Colossians 1;15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Commanding Officers (Ministers)
Tel: 01274 611709
Bradford Idle Corps