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Sunday morning 7 August 2016
Three weeks ago we read Paul’s letter to the Church at Thessalonica written to a young church that Paul saw as being a ‘model’ church - one that would set the standard for the church for years to come.
Over the last few weeks we have been asking God how we should be and act as members of His body - the living body of Christ in the world today - His church to become the ‘model church‘ of our day..
I felt that God led me to look at some of Paul’s other letters to the new believers at the beginning of the Christian Church - starting with his letter to the Ephesians who he e
ncouraged to be imitators of Christ and Find out what pleases the Lord, and do it!
'Be very careful, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every
opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.
Paul encouraged the Christians to model their church and their lives on Jesus who set the example by living the faith. As we read Paul’s letters we saw how they were full of instructions that re-iterated what Jesus had been saying all the way through His earthly ministry.
We read how Paul never detracted from his main themes and wrote the same message to all the churches. If Paul had have had access to a computer and printer, I think he would have sent the same letter to all the churches, not just as a circular to be passed around, but as a personally printed and distributed set of standards by which to build Gods church.
Colossians 1; talks about Jesus as being the image of the invisible God when he wrote, v19 God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him which is another way of saying what Jesus told His disciples ‘If you’ve seen Me you have seen the Father’
I said last week that just as Gods pattern for His church His people, is to be like Jesus who was filled with God - In Christ all the fulness of God lived so too, we, His disciples are called to have the fullness of Christ dwell in us. That was what Jesus promised, If you love me and obey Me - I will ask the Father to fill you with the Holy Spirit John 14;15 and in verse 23 Jesus adds If you love me and obey Me and the Father will come and make our abode in you‘. WOW!. Same conditions ‘Love Him and live in obedience to Him’ and you will be filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus and God the Father. WOW!
Last week and on Wednesday night we looked at some of the qualities that were evident in Jesus Himself, qualities that we need to embrace in our own lives.
Colossians 3; 12-17
12 Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
We looked at the gospels where we are told Jesus showed compassion Matthew 9;36
Jesus Himself said ‘I am gentle and humble in heart. Matthew 11;29
13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another - forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Jesus on the cross gave the ultimate example of forgiveness when He asked His father to forgive them for they know not what they do’.
14 Over all these virtues put on Love which binds them all together in perfect unity - Jesus said ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ John 15;12
15 Let the Peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace - and be thankful.
Jesus told His disciples; ‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you - do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’. John 14; 27
16 Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom
The need is for all Christians to read their bible and live by it’s advice.
When we met on Wednesday night at our Bible Fellowship we explored these words in more depth and saw how much God the father loves us - His children and wants us to receive forgiveness for our past , strength for the present and hope for a future with Him and the faithful who have gone on before us.
As I said last week - Paul’s letters are meant to be acted upon so that Gods church would grow strong and able to stand against the wiles of the devil who had infiltrated the world. We today would do well to heed what Paul says - after all Paul is only repeating what Jesus has already said we should do and be. Paul here emphasises the need for us all to heed the words of Jesus and experience the living Christ within - which is the joy of all believers to experience.
This week we are going to look at another great apostles writing - who better that the disciple that Jesus chose to ’build His Church’ and that was Peter.
Read 1 Peter 1; 1,2
Written to God’s elect - His chosen people - chosen to do what? To be obedient to Christ - there we have it again - the words of Jesus ‘if you love Me and are obedient to Me’ then we will come and make our home within you.
Chosen and forgiven - through the sacrificial love of God - sprinkled by the Blood of Jesus - Grace and peace be yours in abundance. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expence’
Read 1 Peter 2; 4-13
4 ‘As you come to Him’ as you seek Him with all your heart and desire to be in the presence of the living Stone - the Rock on which we desire to build our lives - you like living stones - are being built into a spiritual house
Whilst man builds Temples, Churches of bricks and mortar - the real Temples God builds are not mere stone but made out of ‘living Stones’ - you and I - we become the living Church - His church is made up of living bodies - us.
Just as God chose Jesus to be the cornerstone of our faith, so too God chose you and me to be built into a ‘spiritual house’. Just as Jesus was precious to God, so too we are precious to Him. Just as God chose Jesus as high priest, so too we are privileged to become members of His Royal Priesthood, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
To be obedient, Christ is the Rock on which we boldly stand. To the disobedient that very Rock becomes a stumbling block over which men stumble. ‘But You’ - verse 9 - ‘You are a chosen people‘.
I think I’ve told you before how when we had our conservatory built at the back of our house, the master builder, an old guy from Clayton who obviously loved his work, he didn’t just order stones to be delivered to our house, he went personally to the stone quarry to hand pick the stones that he wanted to use to build with. He carefully chose the stones that he knew would fit in to the rest of the building.
To think then, that God personally chooses those He wants to become part of His Kingdom buildings is an awesome thought.
When you and I make important decisions in our own lives, such as a new home, we chose them for one of two reasons.
1 Their present appeal or
2 Their potential, what they can become in our hands.
The couple who purchased the house next door to me, bought it last November and said they would be moving in, following some improvements, in February this year. They still haven’t moved in - they’re transforming the place both inside and outside - it’s not the same house they purchased.
I believe that when God chooses who He wants to become living stones in His New Kingdom -He sees our potential - what we can become when He starts to work on us.
Thank God He takes us with our faults and failings, with all our sin and doubts and seeing what we can become when I place my life in His hands - begins the transforming work of Grace in my life.
One of my favourite musicals is Calamity Jane - in the film, Calamity’s friends enter her dusty, untidy, uncared for house and sets too to get rid of all the dirt and filth by washing it clean. She puts new curtains up and in no time at all, you can see that the house has become a home that is under new occupancy and has been transformed by the new occupant.
That’s what God does in the lives of His chosen people - people who become living stones that He can use to build His living Church.
Chosen - what a privilage - chosen by God, who sees the potential in all of us.
Chosen for what? Ephesians 1; 4 He chose us to be holy and blameless in His sight No matter how others see us - God knows that He has forgiven us and so IN HIS SIGHT we are blameless. WOW! Isaiah 43; Fear not, for I have redeemed you , I have called you by name - you’re precious to Me, You are Mine’.
Chosen not for what we have done or what kind of person we are but Chosen for what He can make us - just like the people who bought the house next door to me.
Gods intention for His chosen people is that they become an integral and vital part of His living Temple - the place where He takes up residence.
I can’t get over the wonder of it all - that Almighty God chooses to do that for you and me. And there’s more. As His chosen we become members of a holy Priesthood.
The functions of a priest are these;
1 to reflect the holiness of God and the high priest, Jesus Himself
2 to offer spiritual sacrifices that are pleasing to God
3 to intercede in prayer on behalf of our fellow men
4 to represent God to man
That’s where many of the priests and holy men in the Bible fell down - that’s why God said ‘ Woe to the shepherds of Israel’ why? Because they were not looking after the sheep and witholding the truth from them.
Gods chosen ones are to be different; To give their lives as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, pleasing God ( find out what pleases God) They are to be a praying people, Gods ambassadors, Representatives through whom God can speak to others. A people belonging to God.
Peter parralels that by emphasising the fact that although we live in this world, that this world is not our final home, we are in fact referred to as ‘aliens’, strangers in this world and He urges us to live such good lives that everyone will be able to see the beauty of Jesus in our lives and want to know Him for themselves.
Called out of darkness into light so that we might declare the praises of Him who called us out of that darkness into His most glorious light. Given new identities - from no-bodies to somebody all through the merciful love of our Father God.
Give thanks with a grateful heart - let the poor say I am rich let the weak say I am strong because of what the Lord has done for me.
The first time I realised the importance of those words - even though I had sung it many times before - the first time they began to really mean something tom me was when I saw the programme about the life of Jackie Pullinger - a woman chosen and called by God to take the light she had received into the dark walled city of Kowloon in China. A hell on earth for thousands of no hopers. A community riddled with drugs, prostitution, open sewers, Triad gangs who terrorised the inhabitants.
There where God had placed her she began a ministry of love with those forgotten people. She brought light of the Glory of God into the darkness of their world. She showed the mighty transforming power of a God who cared because He loved the people. She was an alien in a foreign land who shone for Christ. She prayed them off drugs, showed them that God cared and as a result of what they saw in her life, their lives were transformed too and they themselves became living stones .
The film showed a typical prayer meeting where people who’s lives had been transformed, stood with faces beaming - outstretched arms reaching out to praise God. They knew the privilage of being chosen, called, redeemed, liberated, of being loved by God, precious to Him and it showed in their worship as they sang the song.
Give thanks with a grateful heart - let the poor say I am rich let the weak say I am strong because of what the Lord has done for me.
We are a privileged people - to be loved with such intensity by God that He could send His son to die on a wooden cross to pay the price of our sins and make it possible for us to receive forgiveness from God simply by accepting the invitation of Jesus to repent and claim that freedom. I hope we realise this and our desire is to live the life that God wants us to.
In closing we are going to sing a hymn chosen by Thelma - Dear Lord and Father of mankind forgive our foolish ways’ sing it - mean it
Sunday 31 July 2016
Last Sunday Ephesians chapter 5; 15 21 'Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Find out what pleases the Lord, and do it!
Well did you do that?
Has it been your aim this week to find out what pleases the Lord and done it?
If not, Why not? Surely that’s the point of the message that I believe God chose for us to look at last week.
The opening words 'Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. could well be a picture of the world we live in today with terrible things that are happenning all over the world and some close to home.
Last week we read about the terrible murder of a priest following morning worship by misguided Islamic extremists. In our own city we have seen the shocking way a Muslim convert to Christianity has been hounded out of his home following persecution of his family and destruction of his possessions.
We have seen the breakdown of Christian teaching in schools all across the land, the cross being taken off school uniforms in Huddersfield. It certainly is a time for Christians to stand firm for what they believe and practice what they preach by living the life as shown in the example Jesus set us all.
'Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is
As we read Ephesians 5 last week we were encouraged to be imitators of Christ. This would seem to be the central theme of Paul’s teachings throughout the whole of his ministry throughout those many different areas he felt called to take the truth. That was Pauls recomendation to all the new Christians - to put their past behind them, learn how to become like Jesus - and be born again.
Paul writes the same message to all the churches. Colossians 1; talking about Jesus says this v15 ‘He ( Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, for by Him all things were created. v18 He is the head of the body of the church. v19 God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, by making peace through His blood shed on the cross’. As Jesus said to His disciples ‘If you’ve seen Me you have seen the Father’
Gods master plan - Gods new covenant is for His followers, His people, His church to be like Jesus who in turn is like God. In Christ all the fulness of God lived and in the same way, you and I, His people are called to have the fullness of Christ dwell in them. That’s you and me.
Paul to the Colossians sets out once again, as he did to the Ephesians, the qualities of Jesus that we need to embrace in our own lives.
Colossians 3; 12-17
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 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. 17 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.
Notice how once again he sets us singing with joy in our hearts. - lets look at those qualities.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved
the same greeting that Peter gave in 1 Peter 2;9 ‘You are a chosen people, a Royal priesthood, a Holy nation belonging to God - loved by Him
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
Wow! What a greeting - although he is writing collectively to the church body he is greeting each member as an individual recipient of Gods Grace and gives this instruction;
1 Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
2 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another - forgive as the Lord forgave you.
3 Over all these virtues put on Love which binds them all together in perfect unity.
4 Let the Peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace - and be thankful.
5 Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom
Not only is this music to Gods ears but it’s a music we can all enjoy as verse 16 goes onto say - Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Whatever you do, wether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
1 Clothe yourselves with compassion and kindness - that’s a sincere heart felt concern that can only be helped by showing kindness and love. Matthew 9; 36 tells us that When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. His response was to help them and call His disciples to help when He said ’The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few, ask the Lord of the harvest therefore to send out workers into His harvest field’. Jesus our example
Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, and then he adds humility, gentleness and patience. Matthew 11;29 Jesus said Take My yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart. Jesus our example Be like Jesus
2 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another - forgive as the Lord forgave you.
The Lords prayer says that ‘ forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’ Jesus on the cross gave the ultimate example of forgiveness when He asked His father to forgive them for they know not what they do’.sadly many today hold grievances against others -The command is to ‘forgive as the Lord forgave you’.
3 Over all these virtues put on Love which binds them all together in perfect unity.
That’s the key to it all - Love Jesus said ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ John 15;12
Do that and you will experience the Peace that only God can give.
4 Let the Peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace - and be thankful. When Jesus told His disciples that He was leaving them to go back to the Father, a gentle way of telling them about His departure on Calvary - He comforted them and promised that if they continued to love and obey Him He would come and live inside them by the power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen them from within and help them in all that they had to do in spreading the good news about forgiveness and salvation for all men. He then said ‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you - do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’. John 14; 27
26; The Holy Spirit will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you - that brings us to the last point - the reminder to;
5 Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom
The need for all Christians to read their bible and live by it’s advice.
Only you and God know how much time you give to reading Gods word with the intention of living in obedience to it.
Prayer and Bible reading are the two most important promises we make as Christians - ‘I promise to pray and to read my Bible’. That’s not just to pray when we need to because we’re having a difficult time. As to reading our bibles, many Christians only look at it when they meet together on a Sunday.
Strange how some folk find it easy to find the sports page, or the list of TV programmes in the daily newspaper yet find it difficult to find the books of the bible. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising the way in which many find it difficult to remember where certain books of the bible are, we all - especially when we get older have trouble finding some of the chapters - it’s not easy. But what I am saying is that we need to give more time to read Gods word and get familiar with it in our own private devotions and also to consider the value of Bible Study on Wednesday nights.
In chapter 4 Paul gives further instructions
1 Devote yourselves to prayer - being both watchful and thankful.
Good advice for us all; If Jesus found the need to pray - then I would suggest we do even more.
Paul asks that they also pray for him and his team. Pray for the leaders - that God may open doors for them to proclaim the message. Paul needed their prayers especially then as he was under house arrest and could only share the message with those who came to visit him. Paul needed their prayers - God knows that in these days I certainly need them too.
3 Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders, make the most of every opportunity - times running out
4 Let your conversation be always full of Grace - seasoned with salt so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Jesus said ‘you are the salt of the earthy - salt sharpens the taste buds and improves taste. Not only are you the salt of the earth but you are also the light of the world.By living the truth - living out the qualiities that we have been reading about you can help bring others into the truth because they can see how it works in your life.
As Iv’e said so many times before, A picture speaks more than a thousand words.
Paul’s wrote his letters to encourage the church to adopt the principles of Christ which would give them the right basis on which to build Gods churches. The pattern for true Christianity - the model for Church.
His letters are meant to be acted upon so that Gods church would grow strong and able to stand against the wiles of the devil who had infiltrated the world.
We today would do well to heed what Paul says - after all Paul is only repeating what Jesus has already said we should do and be. Paul here emphasises the need for us all to heed the words of Jesus and experience the living Christ within - which is the joy of all believers to experience.
Jesus said that if His people lived in obedience to His word then He and the Father, that’s the Holy Spirit of God would come and take up residence in out hearts. - WOW.
What’s your response to that?
We closed with the song 527 ‘The Saviour of men’ written by Gen Albert Osborn which surely must have been inspired by Paul’s letter to the Colossians which we have just shared.
Sunday 24 July 2016
On Saturday night -before I started to prepare this mornings message I did what I always do and that was, asked the Lord what He wanted me to share with you and very clearly, the words came Ephesians 5. I got my bible and read what Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus and knew that this was definitely what we had to look at this morning. It followed so beautifully what we have been sharing over the last few weeks. I couldn’t help but also preceed what I felt God wanted me to share by reading what Paul said in the last few verses of Ephesians 4; 22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Those final words were so powerfull and meaningful -
Last week we looked at how Paul called the church at Thessalonica ‘a model church’ because their aim as a church was to live a life that would be an example to the people around to encourage them to want to know Christ for themselves.
They were a model church because they tried to live their lives like Jesus did - with love for God and one another. Lives filled with Compassion for others - a caring attitudes, their work was to seek to know God themselves and bring others into faith - they accomplished this by being imitators of Jesus.
If only the church today would embrace the ministry model of Jesus. God has made it possible for His followers to be able to communicate and demonstrate the presence of the Kingdom of God in the power and presence of the Spirit of Jesus.
That’s when people will come seeking to hear, see, and experience the power of Jesus for themselves. When the church wholeheartedly lives out the ministry model of Jesus, it will be able to stop relying on gimmicks to increase it’s numbers.
The Challenge in these days is for Christians to stand up for Jesus and spread the good news to those who, like in Jesus day, are part of the worlds crowds who live day to day without real purpose, hope or meaning. Christians today are called to step out from the crowd and stand for Christ. Let people SEE that the difference Jesus has made in their lives He can make in their lives too.
It’s easy to put a uniform on to give others the impression that you are what your dress says - we can even fool ourselves into believing its true - but when the uniform comes off - what are we really like? WWJD arm band - a cross around your neck - a car sticker, a fish or even a dove, it’s another thing to actually live your life by the statement you are trying to make.
This week we look at Pauls letter to the church at Ephesus Ephesians 4: 22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
When football team buys a good player, that player has to then wear the strip of his new team. What Paul is saying is this; You can’t sign up for God and still wear the old clothes. And neither can you wear the new clothes are still play for the old team!
It’s easier to look like a Christian today than it is to be one
To be like Jesus is to put off the old way of life, make a clean break with our past with all its faults and wrong turns and put on Jesus Christ. The promise is there for those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour that He will fill us with His Spirit -make us like Him so that then we can go into the world and make disciples by letting them see the difference Jesus makes when we accept Him as Lord of our lives
Only as I truly know Thee, can I make Thee truly known
Only bring the truth to others that in my own life is shown
Lets look at what I believe God wants us to emphasise this morning from chapter 5 where Paul goes even further when he says;
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person - such a man is an idolater - has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Let no-one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.
This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When I was a lad, I enjoyed listening to the radio. You had no choice really, TVs’ were not around then. Billy Cotton and his band show always started with a cry of ‘Wakey, Wakey’ thats exactly what Paul is saying here. "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Another of my favourite radio programmes was 'Variety Bandbox' a show with singers like Donald Peers, comedians like Albert Modley, and Norman Evans. There was even a ventriloquist would you believe, called Peter Brough with his doll, Archie Andrews, and a memory man called Leslie Welch.
One of my favourite acts were the 'impressionists. Stars like Peter Sellers, and 'the voice of them all', Peter Cavenah. These men could make you believe that you were actually hearing the stars that they were really there. Save the BBC a lot of money.
Paul says to the Ephesian church, if you really want to please God, then 'be imitators of Him, - obviously he ‘s not talking about voice imitating - he’s talking about imitating the qualities of God. 1 John 4;8 tells us that God is Love ; Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
To be an imitator of God we need to live a life of love'. For God is love, He loves us, and showed the extent of that love when He gave His only son Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for sin. My sin, and your sin. Jesus Christ, showed His great love for you and I by laying down His life His life, so that you and I could receive forgiveness, and live. 'Be imitators of God, Don’t use the excuse but no-ones seen God - God was manifest, seen, in the life of Jesus. He came to show us what God was really like - just be like Jesus’
That’s why Paul goes onto say ‘ Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God'.
They say that 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'. It would seem that in God's eyes, thats true, if you seek to 'be like Him'. As a youngster I was told that ‘flattery will get you no where’ and we all know what a load of rubbish that is.
One of the trouble today is that so often in this world, man follows the wrong role models. The people that he tries to emulate, the ones that he tries to copy, are so often the people whom he sees as being successful. Depending on his or her interest in life, they tend to model their lives on all kinds of people. The movie star, the pop idol, the sportsmen and women, and the politicians. Their greatest aim is to 'be up there' with the stars, which often ends in disappointment.
The Christians role model should be our Father God. Paul writes a very positive letter to the Ephesians, full of encouragement and good advice. We would do well to heed some of it.
I guess that all of what Paul is saying them is summed up in this one verse, 'Be imitators of God'. He gave us the greatest role model one could possibly have, and that is His son Jesus. To be like Jesus, this hope possesses me. In every thought and deed, this is my aim.
Don't copy the behaviour of this world, with it's sin and selfish desires. Sexual immorality, impurity, obscenity or even course joking which is improper for God's 'holy' people, and out of place. There is no place in the Kingdom of God for anyone who 'imitates' the world.
Don't be deceived by what you see and hear going on out there, and don't become a part of it, instead, set your eyes on Jesus. God's wrath will come upon those who are foolish enough to fall temptation to the world with it's foolishness and greed.
Last week we looked at Pauls letter to the church at Thessalonica where he said this;
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Acha.
Here we have it again, 'imitators of us and God, so that you yourselves become role models to each other, and especially to the unsaved. The world needs to 'see' the word of God. They need to 'see' that the gospel is for living. The greatest sermon ever, is the one that is lived. 'It's better felt than tel't'. The world is sick of blooming words, and cries out 'show me'. God did in Jesus and He wants to do that in your life and mine.
The first instruction was 'to imitate God', now in verses 9 and 10 we are told to go further than that, we are told to find out what pleases Him. You were once a part of that world, you were once living in darkness, but now you are 'light in the Lord'. You haven't just received the light, YOU ARE THE LIGHT. Therefore live as children of light, and find out what pleases the Lord.
Now we’re getting right to the point. The key to all this is to 'find out what pleases the Lord', and make it your aim in life.
Even writing to the church at Colosse, Paul says the same '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. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.
In the Old Testament, people mistakenly thought that to 'please the Lord' meant to offer sacrifices, burnt offering. To offer 'things' as a peace offering for there sins, when what God wanted was 'repentance, sincerity of heart, and a determination to 'be like Him'.
In Jeremiah 6; 20 Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me." Paul puts the record straight in Hebrews 13; 15-17, 'Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased'.
The fruit of lips that confess my name' I want you to LIVE it. By their fruits Ye shall know them, good fruit comes from trees that are firmly rooted in the vine.
Paul wrote 'May your roots go down deep into the soil of Gods marvellous love' and may you be able to know and understand how wide, how high, how deep His love really is.
What then pleases the Lord? Sincere Love for Him and for each other. To be like Him is to be like Jesus who gave His life to bring others into the truth, so that they would escape the wrath of God, receive forgiveness and exchange the life that the world offers for 'Kingdom life'.
Be loving, compassionate, understanding and patient with each other. Be prayerful always, hold each other in high esteem. Live at peace with each other. Live a life of Godliness and holiness, for as Paul says in a letter to Timothy, 'this is good, and pleases God our Saviour , who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. ( 1 Timothy 2; 1-4)
The church at Thessalonica seem to have got it right, 'We continually remember before our God and Father your 'work produced by faith' that's living to please God, bearing the 'fruit of the vine 'your labour prompted by love'.
Love should be the Christians motivation, the love of Jesus. And 'your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.' who, 'For the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross'.
Our aim should be ‘To be like Jesus, imitators of God.
And that final word from Paul to the Ephesians chapter 5; 15 21
'Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Find out what pleases the Lord, and do it!
Nothing gives greater pleasure to another that when we do something they really love
that’s seem to me to be good advice Find out what pleases the Lord, and do it!
Sunday 17 July 2016
Thessalonians 1;1-10 We looked at this briefly on Wednesday evening. It’s one of the many letter that Paul sent to the young newly birthed churches that he helped to nurture in the faith when he continued to move in the power of the Holy Spirit after being called by God spread the word.
Paul who had met Jesus on his journey to Damascus to get rid of the new Christian movement and put a halt to it’s spread. Paul who was called to forget the former things that he had been taught and had given his whole life to and start to learn the truth about Jesus as the Messiah and Risen Lord.
As we said last week Paul had a lot of re learning to do, in one of his letters he described it as being ‘transformed by the renewing of the mind’. To that end, God brought many people into his life to help him - people who themselves had experienced changed lives by the power of the Spirit.
We read last week how the apostle Peter was called to minister to Cornelius and share the truth with him. Even Peter had to learn from God that the gospel was for all men and not just the select few. Again as Peter spoke to the Centurian and his family and friends, the Holy Spirit fell on them as it did at Pentecost and baptised them all.
We saw how Peter was imprisoned by Herod but miraculously released by God as an answer to the praying church. God has called many people to work for Him, Paul, Peter, Luke, Barnabas, Timothy
God is in business to bring man back to Himself and to learn from Jesus - the Word made flesh - how He wanted mankind to respond to the truth and receive Salvation, and empowering to become a mighty Spirit led fellowship - in fact - the living body of Christ which is His Church.
And so we find the ministry being shared through the life and testimony of Paul and over the last few weeks we have seen how God sent him travelling around the country testifying to what God had done in his life and how God can transform their lives too.
That was, and still should be the mission of the church. A people gathered to meet together where the converted could share their stories with newcomers and as they grow spiritually be enabled to share the message with others - by living it out there in the world - in their own communities and attract others to come to church to find the Saviour for themselves. That’s church - the living body of Christ in the world today. Sadly that’s not the picture we see today as we see churches closing all round us in a world that rejects the very basic truths of the Christian faith.
Paul impacted many of the new Christian fellowships that were being planted and we can see how they blessed him in the many letter he sent to them after his departure.
He went to Athens Acts 17, Corinth ( Acts 18) Ephesus ( Acts 19) Jerusalem ( Acts 22) Rome ( Acts 27) Malta ( Acts 28) and so we have letters to the various churches - Romans- Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians Philipians, Colossians, and the fellowship that we are going to read about this morning, the Thessalonians, as well as many individual letters to friends.
Thessalonica was a busy seaport city important as a trade centre - lots of commuters and people passing through - an ideal place for at strong fellowship to share with the passing trade as well as establishing a strong body of local believers. It was the largest city on Macedonia. We can read of how Paul began his ministry there in Acts 17 and the church would be made up of Jews but also large Gentile following.
Paul had had to leave the fellowship rather abruptly and so the new converts were relatively new and with little support especially since there was a lot of active opposition - and so Paul wrote this letter to strengthen and encourage them to stand firm in the faith and not neglect their ministry. Lets read the opening of his letter;
1 Thessalonians 1-10 Paul, Silas and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.
2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
What really struck me as I read this letter was when Paul said this ‘you became a model to all the believers’ WOW!
That very statement inspired me to share a few thoughts about this on Wednesday night and which I am going to enlarge upon this morning. Here we have a strong Christian fellowship birthed amidst the most difficult surroundings and situation - yet one that Paul calls a model church.
When people are wanting to build new structures they often start with a model construction to give then an idea of whet the finished building will look like. If it’s a community thing that involves us all then often we are invited to view the model and give our approval or otherwise.
This church at Thessalonica was regarded by Paul, Silas and Timothy as being a model church - that why they open their letter by saying We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. You’ll find this same greeting in most of Paul’s letter to the early churches.
Ephesians 1; 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking God that He may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you might know Him better. That the eyes of your heart will be may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints and His incomparably great power for us who believe. Paul emphasises this prayer in v 14- 19
Philippians 1; 3 I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you I always pray with Joy because of your partnership in the gospel from day one , confident of this that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Colossians 1; 9 we have never stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding
O how we need to uphold one another in prayer. It’s been great to know that many of you have been praying for Thelma - in the same way as we did for Graham - Thankfully God is answering our prayers and we trust that it won’t be long before Thelma's felling well enough to come home.
Lets look at what Paul’s reason for prayer for the church at Thessalonica is based on.
3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Work produced by Faith Labour prompted by Love Endurance inspired by Hope.
Faith, Love, Hope - in 1 Corinthians 13;13 Paul again hones in on these three aspirations and concludes that important as they all are, the greatest of these is Love.
Work; When you look at churches today and look at how the majority of members spend their time and energy its in busying themselves - many times in activities designed to raise money for the church. What maybe began as a genuine means of raising money to help the poor and underprivileged has today become a laborious work that takes most a lot of time and energy and which the devil often uses to sidetrack people away from doing the things that really matter in getting to know God and His desires for our lives and the ministry of the church.
The ‘work’ that I believe the early church were mostly involved in was that which would help themselves to grow and encourage others to look at their own lives and attract them into fellowship. Work as a result of our Faith Labour that is prompted by Love and not finance. Endurance being commited to what we believe in - inspired by Hope.
Looking at those points the other way round, we as Gods church have been called to;
Live a life of FAITH that produces the desire to do good WORKS - LOVE with a passionate heart that will prompt us to look after one another and seek to minister to those in need - to LABOUR to the needs of others - to be inspired by the HOPE that will call us to ENDURE to the end.
4 To realise that we are loved and have been chosen to come to know Him and go and make Him known to others. What a privilige - what an honour - to be Chosen by God. One of my favourite readings is this one
1 Peter 2;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.
Colossians 3;12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience
Chosen because the gospel came to us not simply in words but also with power.
Jesus lived a life that should be an example to each one of us in how to live our lives. The Word became flesh and lived among us full of Grace and truth. Jesus the word - lived the word - he put flesh on the word of God and by example - in the sacrificial way He lived His own life, showed us how God wants us to live our lives. The power of God was seen in His life and in the lives of His followers - the same mighty power that I believe is available today.
The Thessalonian people would have been able to see the power of God at work through Paul, Silas and Timothy and inspired them to become imitators not just of their leaders but imitators of the Lord Jesus - inspite of the persecution and great suffering they were enduring because of their faith.
I think of the Christians all over the world who today as we share together are suffering because of their faith. They need our prayers and support.
And then we come to our inspirational line - you welcomed the message with Joy given by the Holy Spirit and became a model to all believers so that their faith became known to everyone - Paul didn’t need to say anything about it because it was so obvious that the Thessalonians had turned from their old wrong ways - their idol worship - and had decided to serve the living and true God until Jesus comes again.
If only churches today would turn their time and energy over to seeking to know God more by studying His word together. To seek to know His will for their church and to dedicate their time and energy to sharing the joy they have in Christ with their friends, colleagues, neighbours - the I believe that God church would grow.
If only todays churches would model themselves on the committed early fellowships that Paul, Timothy, Peter and so many others worked tirelessly to maintain then we would have a powerfully strong church that God would send people into to become a fellowship after Gods heart.
One of the striking truths of the early church of Acts is the way in which because God saw that His people were giving themselves to His work and growing to become a together people who love Him and one another then we are told that ‘Daily God added to the church those who were being saved‘.
Our last song says so much of what we as His Church need to regard as the most necessary qualities that we as His Church need to adopt.
To God be the glory, a Saviour is mine,
Whose power is almighty. whose grace is divine;
My heart he hath cleansed, he is dwelling within,
So wondrously saving from sinning and sin.
O wonder of wonders, to God be the praise,
I joy in his will, I delight in his ways!
And through every conflict, without and within,
He saves me and keeps me from sinning and sin.
No longer in bondage, my freedom I'll use
My Master to serve in the way he shall choose;
To work or to witness, to go or remain,
His smile of approval my infinite gain.
Earth's pleasures and treasures no longer allure,
My spirit aspires to the things which endure;
To walk with my Saviour in garments of white,
My highest ambition, my constant delight.
The world overcoming by limitless grace,
I worship the Lord in the light of his face;
So with him communing, like him I shall grow,
And life everlasting enjoy here below.
Charles Collier (1863-1935)
Lets sing this together and really grasp what we are singing so that we can be that model Church that Paul calls the Thessalonians. If we fall short than we know what to do about it.
Sunday 10 July 2016
Over the last few weeks, since Pentecost, we have been looking at the awesome way in which God birthed the Church through Peter and continued it’s growth and spread by bringing Saul from the opposition to become a great evangelist to his new found faith - Christianity.
On Wednesday night we looked at how God continued that growth and spread by bringing Cornelius, a gentile Centurian who to the Jews would be regarded as being unclean and therefore not worthy to be included in the new Christian Church and Peter together so that Peter could explain more about the Christian faith.
This would have been regarded as unthinkable - Jews and Gentiles meeting together to share their faith! But God had just given Peter a vision of a massive tablecloth covered in all kinds of animals, some clean and others regarded as unclean and ordered him to get up , kill and eat. Peter had been repulsed and said ‘surely not Lord - I’ve never eaten anything impure or unclean to which the voice replied ‘Don’t call anything impure that God has made clean’. This happened not once but three times so that Peter would surely get the message.
Peter and Cornelius meet, together with a full house and Peter shares the good news of the gospel about Jesus the Messiah, the risen Lord - he testified to the fact that he had seen the risen Lord. The result of this was exactly the same as happened after Peter preached at Pentecost - the whole house were filled with the Holy Spirit, baptised and accepted as Christian brothers. We looked also at the role that Angels played in all this - angels being Gods messengers.
Acts 11 tells us that when the other Christians heard about this that Peter was severely criticised and had to explain to them what had happened from the vision he had had to the way in which God through the ministry of angels had brought Cornelius and him toget5her - when they heard this, they had no further objections and even praised God who had granted even the Gentiles repentance unto new life. The church at Jerusalem then sent Barnabas, a good man, full of the Holy Spirit to help and support Peter.
This morning we come to Acts 12 where we read of the opposition and terrible things that Herod did in persecuting the Christians.
Read Acts 12 As a young lad - I loved this story - a great escape - it captured my imagination.
Herod, when he saw that the killing of James pleased the Jews, he was quick to exploit his actions by arresting Peter who he knew was a threat to the Jews as many were accepting the Christians - so he arrested Peter and put him under guard by four squads of four soldiers each intending to bring him to public trial and make a spectacle of him - just like they’d done with Jesus.
The awesome thing that God was now going to show the Christians was His great power and how that can be channeled through prayer. There is in power in prayer.
Peter was kept in prison - but the church - what do they do? They spent time earnestly praying to God for Peter.
I find it incredible that whilst the whole church prayed for Peter, when God answered their prayer, they failed to believe it. Makes you wonder how they prayed, and what they prayed for. Perhaps they prayed that God would somehow help Peter face up to the terrible things that would surely happen to him, the beatings, the torture. It would seem that when Peter turned up at their door, that was far greater than their expectations
Perhaps their prayer was that God would help him face up to the real threat of being put to death like James the brother of John - after all, Herod was a nasty piece of goods who was spurned on to do the most cruel things to gain the favour of the crowds. I wonder how many times we fail to pray for something that on the face of it, seems an impossible prayer and sadly wouldn’t expect God to answer it?
In James chapter 5;13 we are told that if you are in trouble - you should pray - and if anyone is sick, the prayer offered in faith will bring healing. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
We are told that Elijah, who was a man just like us, prayed earnestly that it wouldn’t rain for three and a half years - and it didn’t rain. Three years later he prayed that it would rain - and it chucked it down.
We sing - What a friend we have in Jesus all our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilage to carry, everything to God in prayer
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pains we bear.
All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer
We sing it - we know it’s true - if you are in trouble - pray!, it seems the most natural thing to do when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances. Unfortunately many leave prayer till the last resort as we try to find other ways to help us and because we fail to pray, find that the problems get worse.
The bible tells us that if there are those in our fellowship who are suffering ill health then call the elders of the church together and the prayer of faith will bring the answer. The first thing I do if I hear of anyone in difficulties as go to my room and kneel and pray for that one - and the response has been great as they have told me afterwards that they felt the answer to prayer.
Of course there are times when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want Him to - it’s at such times that we have to accept that He knows best, He knows the full picture. That’s up to God - but I still come to Him and pray for healing so that at least God knows the desire of my heart.
We are exhorted to pray in faith believing, Pray earnestly like Elijah did when he prayed for the impossible on mount Carmel and got more than I believe he asked for.
In his attempt to show the power of God against the false gods of those around him, he set up two altars, one to the true God and the other to their false gods and ordered that they be swathed in water - soaked - surrounded by a moat of water and then told them to pray to their god to consume the altars with blazing fire. Impossible!
Their imaginary gods couldn’t of course but Almighty God showed His awesome power by setting Elijahs altar ablaze.
So here we have Peter, in prison, heavily guarded and what do his friends do? They arrange a prayer meeting praying earnestly. What does God do - He amazes them by answering their prayers in a most spectacular, unexpected way.
An angel appears whilst Peter sleeps, slaps Peter on the side and wakens him up ‘Quick, get up, get dressed and follow me. To Peters amazement his chains fell off and the angel leads him out of the prison - passed the guards - Peter thought it was a dream - even the gates opened for them just like the stone was moved away from the tomb that held Jesus and Peter was free.
As soon as it dawned on Peter what was happening he realised it was the Lord who had sent an angel to rescue him. He went with haste to the house of Mary the mother of Mark and knocked on the door.
You can just imagine the comments made by those who were inside praying - this was so disruptive. I guess that the knocking would get more boisterous as Peter tried to gain their attention.
The servant girl, Rhoda saw that it was Peter and overjoyed, ran to tell the others ‘Peter’s at the door’ You can almost imagine their response - ‘Your’e out of your mind lass - that’s impossible, he’s in prison between four armed guards - let’s get back to prayer.
So persistent would be Peter knocking and the servant girl trying to get the attention of the Christian friends who thought it must at least be Peters angel as they’ve probably killed him by now. But Peter kept on knocking and when they eventually opened the door, they were astonished. 'Shh' said Peter and then started to tell them what had happened. ‘Go tell James’ ( Johns brother) and the other brothers and then he left them.
There is power in prayer - individually and especially the prayers of a believing faithful fellowship.
I remember when Beryl and I had decided that our family was big enough talking together one night and realising that the big pram was taking up so much space in the hallway and could be of use to some other young couple - we prayed about it and imagine our delight and surprise when the phone rang, it was the Murdens who had just been appointed to our Corps here at Idle.
When I told David why I had rung, he said ‘we have just been talking and praying with a young unmarried woman who appeared on our doorstep this evening and is in desperate need of a pram and clothing for her baby‘. It was amazing - in just a few minutes after deciding to get rid of the pram - we get this call. We felt so humbled and privileged that we became the answer to someone’s prayer, a prayer made in faith believing - one of the many that came from those two young lieutenants whilst they were at Idle.
I remember too the time when following a failed operation on my kidney it was decided that I needed another operation to try and get my kidneys to work. David and Dorothy visited me in hospital the night before I was due to go down for the operation and, laying hands on me, prayed for healing. I woke the next morning to find that the pump at the side of my bed that had been filtering my kidneys for the last three weeks had been turned off. I asked the nurse why and was told that unexpectedly my kidneys had started to work and I no longer needed the pump or the operation. I knew then that this was an answer to prayer and that God had healed me.
When I was well enough to go home, I went to the Army hall and knelt at the mercy seat asking God to let me Know Him like David and Dorothy did - I prayed this prayer for a whole week - every day kneeling at the mercy seat and on the last day, God filled me with His Holy Spirit and a new life began in me. I’d been born again.
Up to that point I thought I knew Jesus - wore the uniform, took part in the band and songsters, went to church at every opportunity - even three meetings and two open-airs every Sunday - I realised that I had simply been moving along with the crowds and God wanted me to really know Him. That day was the beginning of a whole new relationship with God. That day, He came in great power.
I remember us as a Corps praying for chairs and the very next day receiving a call from a man walking up Hollins Hill who said he felt the urge to give some money to the Salvation Army. I gave him my address and a few days later received a bankers order for the full amount to purchase the chairs - over £6 000.
I remember sometime in 1996 praying for Brian and Marie who were both desperately needing operations that had been scheduled nine months from then. We prayed and within three weeks they had had the operations. God answered prayer.
We prayed that Christopher wouldn’t have to have the operation to have a steel rod inserted down his spine - God answered that prayer. We prayed for baby Adams lungs to start working unaided and within two weeks he was home - healed.
The Awesome God who created us and the world. The Almighty God who parted the Red Sea and gave safe passage to freedom for the Israelites. The God who closed the lions mouth to protect Daniel, protected Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego from the blazing fiery furnace, set the sodden altar on fire for Elijah, brought the walls of Jericho down, walked on water, fed the five thousand with two fish and five loaves, healed the sick, raised the dead.
The same Mighty God who raised Jesus from the dead, started a church amidst great persecution, released Peter from prison. The same mighty God who says ‘ask and it will be given you’ seek and you shall find’ Knock and it will be opened unto you’.
Not to be content with just reading about answered prayers in the Bible - He’s the same Mighty God who provided the money for our chairs ( £6000), money to replace our roof, (£200.000) money to build the hall next door ( £160 000) - Amazing!
God also healed the crippled Christopher, healed the lungs of Adam, Healed my kidneys, took away my Cancer - our God is amazing.
Even over the last few weeks we have prayed individually and as a church for Graham, Julie, Luke and Megan we have witnessed how God answered our prayers and got the family home from France for Fathers day.
There is power in earnest prayer. I felt that when you gathered to pray for me and the family three days after my lovely wife Beryl died - without your prayers I would never have coped.
Sadly, because of the limitations people set in their minds regarding seemingly impossible situations they are called to face, they often fail to see what earnest believing prayer is able to achieve and so fail to pray.
Perhaps that’s why with and underestimation of the power of prayer, folk leave prayer to a last resort. I believe that we need to realise the Awesomness, the greatness of the one we are asking. We need to realise that it is Almighty God we are calling on.
When we come to accept that He is here, with us, and wants us to know Him and love Him - when we have asked in faith believing and seen the mighty powerful answers to our prayers be prepared to thank Him by living your lives in obedience to Him and tell, others about His greatness - using your answers to prayer as an encouragement to others.
My daily prayer is one of gratitude to God who has had so much patience with me for years and the desire to want to let people see the wonder of God in my life. Daily I pray, thank You Lord for your patience, your persistence, help me to know You more each day, grow closer to You. Help me to trust You, be earnest in my prayer life and to have the faith to believe in Your unlimited great power - may I never underestimate Your greatness.
We are going to close by looking at a prayer made for the Hebrew church
The writer to the Hebrews 10:19 (not sure if that was Paul it could have been either Appolos or Barnabas, Pauls friend and associates.) This is the prayer;
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith,
The psalmist David approached God with the prayer ‘Search me O God and Know
my heart’ Psalm 139;23 - and that’s after 23 verses earlier, him starting his prayer
with the statement ‘ O Lord You have searched me and know me’ he knows that
the heart, that inner source of life, needs to be sincere. having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Washed clean, knowing that we have been forgiven and hav let go the guilty conscience that the devil so often tries to remind us of. And so keeping us from knowing closeness with God.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. We need to determindly move forward in the strength of the Lord. And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Value one another, Encouraging one another to reach higher.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, When I
think of the ones who used to worship with us on a regular weekly basis
and the fact that they don’t any more, it grieves me -it should concern us all.
Its usually the younger ones who have not yet grounded themselves in the faith
and are easily led away to other interests. That’s one of the reasons many
churches are closing today.
The warning is to each one of the church - don’t give up meeting together but
rather as this last part of the prayer says ; let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
There we have it again, encourage one another that was one of the gifts we looked at last week - encouragement - when we do that we show our concern, our love for one another and most importantly our love for God and His Kingdom.
The prayer for the Jewish, Hebrew converts to the Christian faith is my prayer for this fellowship - and as we have just read, God answers believing prayer especially when it is in line with His desire for His church.
Sunday 3 July 2016
Last Sunday we looked at the transformation in Saul following his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road.
On Wednesday at our Bible Fellowship we followed that through by looking at the way God used the followers of Jesus to help Saul start his journey to get to know Jesus and the reason why He came to earth which was to reveal the truth about God and God’s desire that His creation come back into fellowship with Him by Jesus dying on the cross to purchase our salvation.
We looked at the way in which over a period of years, God slowly helped Paul to let go of the past and move on into the future. In the past Paul who was then known as Saul was passionate about his faith and understanding of God and thought he was doing what God would want him to do in getting rid of the new Christian Church that had sprung up following the ministry of Jesus who he misguidedly thought was a false prophet. We red how God brought Ananias into his life just days after the Damascus Road encounter,
Following our own conversion, getting to know Jesus can so often be a long and slow process as we have a lot of our past to let go of so that we can embrace the truth.
Paul writing to his friend Timothy said this; 1 Timothy 1;12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
WOW! Paul realised the privilage of being called into the service of the Lord. Considering who he was and what he did, Paul is so thankful to God for leading him into the truth and shown his mercy. He now knows that he acted in ignorance - didn’t know any better - Yes he believed in God and was passionate in what he did, but what he knew then he now knows was a pack of lies - he’d been mislead.
In v15 he goes on to say ; Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
Wow - here we have the passionate heart felt joy of a man who knew his calling - that others would be able to see the patience of Almighty God and through his life enable Paul to win others for God.
Paul was more than a mere man of words, He knew that the truth had to be lived out in his life and seen by those who as yet don’t know Him. That’s why he wrote to the church at Corinth 1 Corinthians 2; 1 When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
Paul was now a changed man who realised his dependance on God and that his salvation was through the precious blood of Jesus. Paul went on to become a great advocate for God who’s life and testimony impacted all who came to know him and who wrote more than half of the New Testament. Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Philemon through to Hebrews, - 14 letters in all.
The awesome truth is that God loves you and me in the same way He loved Paul and calls us into a relationship with Him so that we can come to really know Him and in so doing invite the Spirit to come and live in us and through us so that we become channels of God love and merciful truth to everyone we met.
Lets read one of Pauls letters of advice to the early church at Rome.
Romans 12; 1-21. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. 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.
Humble service in the body of Christ 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love in action 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.
The don’ts Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
The Do’s If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Good advice - WOW! If only all churches were like that, they would be packed - people would be clamouring to get in.
Lets explore those things in more detail;
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.
Worship is not all about what we do when we meet together, singing, praying - it’s more about what we do when we are not together - how we live our lives - this reveals our true and proper worth ship of God. Of course it’s important and valuable for us all to meet together to sing His praise and talk to Him as a group - but we better reveal the depth of our love for Him in the way in which we live our lives in accordance to His will.
2 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.
It’s important that we don’t live our lives imitating the worlds values and aims but that our lifestyle, the way in which we live follow the pattern of Gods word and will for our lives. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour then we need, like Paul, to start to learn how God wants us to live our lives. We come under a new authority and need to discipline ourselves get to know Him by reading His word and spending time in prayer. Not our ‘spare time’ - but valuable planned purposeful time - time set apart to really get to know Him and His will for our lives.
This is where many new Christians fail - God doesn’t transform our mind and thinking - He desires that we seek to get to know Him by our own determination and desire. It calls for self-motivation and a desire to want to grow in Him.
To be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
3 We are called to be honest with ourselves and not think too highly of ourselves - to realise that it is because God loves us that He offers us this chance to come back into right relationship with Him and to grow. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
4 Find out what you are good at and apply it to His service. Just as our own physical bodies are made up of different functioning parts - realise too that the living Body of Christ which is His church also needs many different active parts to help it
Function as a real body. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
Paul then outlines the different functions of the Body the Church
If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
If you feel gifted in the prophetic ministry then don’t hold back - be bold, be brave and share what God tell you.
If your particular gift is in serving, then serve; that’s just as important as teaching, but if that’s your gift - teach. Remember Stephen was chosen by the church to serve even though he was gifted in many other ways, he was an orator and a healer.
Every church needs its encouragers, those who are able to be givers, those equipped to be leaders. The good hearted ones who know how to show Mercy.
We then come to the most important quality - the thing that binds the gifts together and brings out the best in everyone. LOVE
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be devoted to one another in love. Wow devotion that’s an uncompromising love
Honour one another above yourselves. Think more highly of your brother
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.
Paul knew what he was talking about here when you consider all he had done and the zealousness in the way in which he had done it in getting rid of the Christians before he came to know the truth in Jesus. His spiritual fervour had now been re-directed in the proper channels as he gave his life to doing Gods will and serving Him.
We then get to the attitudes of a transformed mind
Be joyful in hope, the beauty of life with Christ now and the hope of living with Him in Glory
Be patient in affliction, Paul would face many trials - but through them he would learn to exercise patience
Be faithful in prayer. The need for us to be in constant touch with the Lord who through the power of prayer is able to help and sustain us through the most difficult areas of our lives.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Be generous in sharing what God has made available to you both in tangible resourses and in things of the heart
Practise hospitality. I love this one - to have and open house is something my mother taught us - even our friends were jealous in the way in which they knew they were always welcome at the Cowgills when their own homes were restricted to very few of their friends.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Not so easy this, so often they put our backs up - but as Paul points out - do this and our oppressors will be shocked - heaping burning coals on their heads are how he describes it.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; Easy and so rewarding
mourn with those who mourn. Share their grief and it will help soften their load
Lastly we have what in reality sums up all the other qualities
Live in harmony with one another. Harmony - a beautiful togetherness
The opposite of disharmony which- if you watch some of the singers on the Voice you’ll know can be unpleasant and gives you earache.
I have no problem with all, but one, of these - ‘Patient in affliction’ - I struggle with that. The last 3 years, loosing Victoria, then Kevin, then Beryl - I find it hard - but then, that’s where your giftedness comes in. Sharing my grief, encouraging me - that’s what Paul is talking about here. Togetherness - Oneness - that’s Church - a body who cares for one another.
Paul was certainly a changed man following his encounter with Jesus. He was going in the wrong direction but God brought him into the path of the Lord and changed his direction. But he needed the help and love of the body - the church - his friends.
From persecutor of the Christian Church to advocate and evangelist al through the mercy and love of God. I said on Wednesday night that I believe that Gods desire is to call all men back not right relationship with Him through the sacrificial love of Jesus. Jesus who Himself put flesh on the word by living it.
I trust that we are here this morning because we want to be not because we feel duty bound to be here. We are here because we want to know God as a living reality in our own lifes. We are here because we want to know the truth and begin to grow in it.
We are here because we love and value one another.
I pray that we are here because we want to be changed - transformed by the renewing of our minds. I pray that the qualities that we have read about that Paul expressed to the Church at Rome are qualities that we desire for ourselves and our fellowship here at Idle. If that is so then I know that God will honour our desire and bless us and this fellowship.
There are too many churches in these days who are merely going along with the crowds, pondering to human thinking and neglecting to seek Gods plan and purpose - that’s why we see them closing down all around us. We are told that we are a vastly growing nation yet we see churches closing all around us.
The Christian ethos in our schools are being displaced by human ideals. Only This week I read about a church School in Huddersfield that has removed the cross from its school uniform as some find it offensive and the headmaster says they need a more acceptable approach and so the cross has been replaced with three branches of tree that reflect the diversity and many branches of peoples faith.
There is a great need for those of us who still go to and value the church today to stand up for our faith and I believe that one of the best ways is to make the qualities of the Kingdom of God the things that we hold dear to and live the life that will show others the beauty of the Christian Faith and encourage them to come and join us.
I believe that today, the Christian Church is fastly loosing it’s way and failing to share the truth and beauty of the Gospel with others. We need to get back to the Bible. Jesus is coming again - this time to take the faithful to inherit New Kingdom Life - I want to be one of them.
An expression used a lot when someone wants to make sure we understand what is required of us is ‘Get the picture?’
I wonder - Have you caught the vision of what God wants to do in your life and in the life of this fellowship?
We are living in the last days - Jesus is coming again - one day to take the faithful to be with Him in Glory - we need to be on our toes and ready
Our last song makes a bold statement - one I hope that we all share
Song We have caught the vision splendid
Sunday 26 June 2016 Acts 7; 59 Acts 8; 1-3 Acts 9; 1-22
WOW! last few weeks we have talked about being transformed by God - changed from who and what we were, to who and what God desires us to be.
This account of how Jesus called out Saul from the enemy camp to become a follower and evangelist himself is one of the greatest accounts of a transformed life by the power of Almighty God. The amazing thing is that Saul wasn’t looking to become a Christian - anything but - God chose him because He could see the potential in him - God saw in Saul a man who would devote his entire life to that which he believed in.
He was a God fearing, God loving man who for years fought to uphold the faith he had been born into. We know this from his letter to the church at Philippi after his conversion when he wrote about his life before he met Jesus on the Damascus Road..
Philippians 3; A Hebrew from the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised at eight days. He grew up to become a zealous Pharisee who upheld the law so much so that he saw the only way of keeping the purity of his faith was by persecuting the Christians, going after them with a zealous appetite to rid them from the face of the earth. Legalistic? He saw himself as righteously faultless.
He saw the new Christian movement ’the church on the way’ as a threat to the purity of the Jewish faith that he held dear to and would stop at nothing to eradicate this new ’cult following’ by getting rid of the followers who called themselves after their leader - Christ. That’s why he stood in approval and watched as they stoned Stephen to death.
No wonder he stood and delighted to watch Stephen die. Stephen, a man of deep faith, a miracle worker who worked tirelessly to minister in the name of Jesus to the world around him and who wasn’t afraid to stand up to the authorities, the leaders in the church of his day and accuse them of getting rid of the promised Messiah. Stephen who stood defiantly and exposed the hypocrisy of the misguided ministers of the Jewish faith. No wonder the priests, the religious leaders of the day and Saul want rid of him. O how we could do with people of that quality who are brave enough to stand up against the false prophets of today - even - dare I say - the misguided leaders in the well established recognised churches of today.
On the day they stoned Stephen, Acts 8; 1-3 tells us that great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison
So intent was Saul to get rid of this new and growing faith that chapter 9 tells us that;
Saul, still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
He was certainly on a mission - a zealous man of God - so he thought - doing what he thought God would want him to do - get rid of the Christians. Just think about it - if you could choose a man to continue to spread the good news of Jesus with a determined fearless and zealous attitude - Saul would be an excellent choice - convert his thinking to your way and you would have a strong minded man who would do all he could to instead of eradicate the Christians, do all in his power to win others for Christ.
No wonder God had His eye on Saul. And so we read in v 3 As Saul neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you,- Lord?” Saul asked. The very way in which Saul heard the voice from nowhere would to a Rabbi be indicative of a voice from God and suggest that he was in the presence of deity. Imagine the impact on Saul when the voice said “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting - now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Jesus - the one they had crucified, the one His followers had said was alive - the one Saul was so energetically trying to get rid of - Imagine how Saul would feel now!
The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone
WOW! Talk about divine intervention - Saul wasn’t going to an evangelistic meeting to hear about Jesus he was on his way to get rid of His followers.
Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
Saul had a lot to new things to learn about - that’s why later writing to the church at Rome he wrote ‘Don’t conform any longer 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 2; 2 WOW! Good advice for today too.
Saul was put into complete reliance of God who directed him to go and talk with those who knew Jesus and learn from them the truth about Jesus. 10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered 11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
Annanias was afraid “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
Here we have Gods reassurance
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
How awesome is the obedience of Annanias 17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Mission accomplished - To further the growth o and spread of the Christian faith God has taken one of the enemies strongest men and placed him centre stage to become a strong exponanet of the new Christian Fellowship.
Saul is now a different person - a new man - a Christian, a transformed man and later starts to use his other name Paul - you could say that that became his ‘Christian name’ That used to happen in England, about the time of the reformation, when a person was confirmed in the Christian faith they took on a new name - a Christian name.
Isaiah 62:2, "...and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name." "Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah..." From forsake to being the pleasure of the Lord
I love the way Jesus told Ananias that Saul was ’His chosen instrument to carry the name of Jesus to the Gentiles and their kings and also the people of Israel’.
Chosen by God. I believe that that’s why we are here this morning because God has chosen to reveal His truth to each one of us. God has chosen you and me to come to know Him and then go and make Him known to our friends, relations, neighbours, the people where we live and have our being.
Think of it - ‘chosen by God’ what a privilage
Having been chosen then we have to get to know Him, be brought into the truth, for our blinded eyes to be opened so that we can see something of the future He has called us to.
Paul writing to the church at Ephesus said this; Ephesians 1
Chosen Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
Adopted 5 In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.
You and me 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Pauls prayer for us to get to Know Him 15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
For our blinded eyes to see 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
Jesus the name high over all That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Chosen like Saul. Eyes opened to the truth like Sauls Growth through learning.
That’s the path that God has made available for us. The path He wants us to move in.
We might not see ourselves as strong and powerful as Paul but we have still been chosen by God to become His followers, His church, the living body of Christ in the world today.
Chosen to step aside from the thinking of the world to learn from Jesus how God wants His people to grow and mature as His people, His Kingdom people.
Chosen by God to come to know Him so that we can go and make Him known to others. That’s how much God loves you and me - that’s why He never gives up on us - that’s why Jesus came to bring His creation back into right relationship with God our creator.
I pray that we will realise the privilage that is ours in being chosen by God, called by Him to help establish and build His Church to one day become the Kingdom of Heaven - Gods desire to see a people governed by love, living in peace under the Kingship of our Lord.
Pauls prayer in Philippians 3; 10 says it all ‘I want to know Christ and the power of His ressurection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering - becoming like Him in His death and so somehow to attain the ressurection from the dead.
I want to know Christ - that was his passion - what he had before was nothing compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord. What he claimed to have before was righteousness through keeping the law - what he wanted now was the righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
What a transformation! Paul was now a changed man who realised his dependance on God and that his salvation was through the precious blood of Jesus. Paul went on to become a great advocate for God who’s life and testimony impacted all who came to know him and who wrote more than half -14 books - of the New Testament.
The awesome truth is that God loves you and me in the same way He loved Paul and calls us into a relationship with Him so that we can come to really know Him and not only make Him known to others but also to keep the purity of the faith in what is fast becoming a misguided church.
We can make no better prayer than ‘How can I better serve Thee Lord?
Sunday 19 June 2016 Fathers day
John 14; 1-24 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me.
In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.
You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered,
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him."
Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus answered: "Don't you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father'?
Anyone who has seen me has seen my dad!
I’ve told you many times before about the time that Betty and John Matear were going to leave the Division and go to Territorial Headquarters, we all wondered who would come in their place. We had grown to know and love them both. They were good for this Division, and had served God well.
Tony went to Balvonie, on a Salvation Army teacher training course. Whilst he was there, he met up with a young man called Duncan Parker. It turned out that this young man was the son of the new officers that were to take Betty and John’s place at DHQ.
When I told Tony that the Parker were coming to replace the Matears Tony said, 'Well if they are anything like their son, they will be great'. Tony had liked what he saw in their son, Duncan had made a good impression on Tony, and if the qualities that he saw in the lad were in fact reflections of the Father, then all would be well. 'If their son is anything to go by, they will be good for the division'.
What did Jesus say to Philip when Philip ask Him to show them the Father? ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ said Jesus. Wouldn’t it be great if people meeting with us could say that they see something of the Father in each one of his children, in me and in you.
The awesome truth - from Gods word - is that God is our Father. WOW! Not our earthly father obviously but our Heavenly Father. The Apostle John tells us that to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12 That’s the awesome result of being born again of the Spirit by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour and becoming one of His disciples.
God confirms the awesome truth so many times in His word that - again John, the disciple whom Jesus loved - tells us again in his second epistle See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3;1
Jesus Himself when teaching His disciples to pray told them to start their prayer with the address Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.
Paul writing to the Church at Rome said this; For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His Glory. Romans 8;14-19
God is our Father - we are His sons and daughters - and as such we are encouraged to become like Him - in our actions, our attitudes, our responses - in our devotion to God and His ways. God through the power of His Holy Spirit is in the business of transforming us from what we were to what He wants us to become.
Last Sunday we talked about the wonderful way in which God desires to change those who come to Him - to take the old self and make us into a New creation through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit - made possible through the sacrificial love of Jesus through the . We looked at the potential that is within every born again believers grasp to become Christ like, and live a victorious life amidst the problems and difficulties that we face every day.
When Jesus shared the story of the prodigal son He showed the unfailing love of a Father who never gives up on His children - even when they go astray.
The prodigal son was lured into claiming his inheritance and wasting it all on transient ‘worldly’ pleasures. A bit like the story we enjoyed as children of Pinocchio who left his creator Gepetto and went in search of his fortune.
When it all went wrong and all their money, friends and lifestyle gone, both realised the foolishness of their actions and yearned to go home, back to the father and when they did both found a forgiving welcoming father ready to forgive and ready to welcome them back into the fold and family.
Pinocchio found that Geppetto had gone looking for him and when they were eventually re-united Pinocchio is a different person, he has learned his lesson. His life changed, he wakens one morning to find that he has been transformed in the very person his creator had wanted and intended him to be all along - a real little boy. Pinocchio looks in the mirror and sees this handsome young lad with blue eyes and brown hair. Geppetto hugged him happily. 'Daddy, I'm alive, he cried out in delight! 'This calls for a celebration, said Geppetto, and they had a party. "Where's the old wooden Pinocchio?" all the neighbours asked. "There!" said Geppetto, pointing at his new son. "When bad boys become good, their looks change along with their lives!"
The Prodigal on the other hand found that his father, seeing him returning, runs to meet him, throws his arms around him kissing him calls to his servants to put the best robe on him, the finest sandals, a ring on his finger and the fatted calf for the biggest celebration one could ever attend. ‘Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.
Both were changed - Transformed by the love of the father into the people that The father wanted them to be in the first place.
Paul writing to the Hebrew church put it this way ' The Son is the radiance of God's Glory, the exact representation of His being'. And so Jesus rightly said to Philip, 'He who hath seen me, hath seen the Father'. The Father was seen in the son.
As children of God, the more time we spend in the presence of our Father, the more like Him we will become. His ways will become our ways. We will learn how to please Him, how to stay in His favour. We will get to know Him, respect Him, love Him.
If Jesus needed to spend much time in secret with His Father, then so do we. So often the world in its desperation to see light in the darkness cries out 'where is your God, 'Show us the Father' What are we doing about it ?
It is not enough to tell people about the Father, we need to 'Show them, the father'. They need to see Jesus in us, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Eliza Doolitle in 'My Fair Lady' cried out in desperation 'Words, words, I'm sick of blooming words, Show Me' God put 'the word' into flesh in Jesus, and God by the power of the Holy Spirit has made it possible for Jesus to be made flesh in you and me. That's awesome!
The world needs to see the difference People today are crying out for the truth, they are sick of words, they need to see the difference that Jesus Christ makes in the lives of people like you and me. they need to see the father love of God in action.
Our prayer should be, 'Live and reign in me Lord, that the world may see You in all Your Glory and acknowledge You as Lord'
Tony Campola says this 'The greatest cause of atheism today is Christians. Christians who affirm the Lordship of Jesus with their minds and lips on Sunday and then go out and deny Him with their lives on Monday. That is what an unbelieving World finds totally unbelievable'
Our Father wants His creation back. God has called us into partnership with Himself. We are in the 'reconciliation' business. How on earth can we reconcile someone back to the heart of the father unless they see a difference in us?
Paul told the Church at Corinth 'If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5; 17
Its so easy to sing ‘I am a new creation’ and when we come to Christ, we really are - but that’s only the beginning - God has a lot of work to do if your anything like me. Paul to the Corinthians said ‘When a person becomes a Christian, he’s not the same anymore, a new life has begun’.
The trouble today is that many think that that single decision they made to ask Jesus Christ into their lives is all there is to it. It starts there and sadly so often it stays there! The old has not gone and the new is finding it hard to take over.
Looking back over your life since that first day that you asked Jesus into your heart - ask yourself - what’s happenned -have I grown, Have I been transformed from what I was then to become a new creation or just a reworking of the old. Are people able to see something of the beauty of Jesus in your life? If anyone is truly ‘in Christ Jesus’ and Christ lives in them, then ‘Yes’, they are ‘a new creation’, but so often we hang onto the old, the familiar, the known and by simply not letting go - we stop the transformation before it starts.
The trouble is that so often it takes a drastic change in our lives - illness or other problems before we wake up to appreciate what we have and determine to give more of ourselves to show our appreciation.
We have been thinking of and praying for Graham and his family over the last fortnight and the terrible situation they have been in over Grahams illness and hospitalisation. They’ve all been on our hearts. It was good to see Grahams emails recently saying how privileged he feels to have a lovely wife and family who have been so supportive and loving. What they have been through will have made a dramatic change in Graham and indeed in the whole family. Graham even wrote a poem about how he feels;
I've been blessed with a beautiful life,
Fantastic kids and a gorgeous wife,
But in these difficult, past few days,
I've felt special in some different ways.
Friends and family taking time,
To send a message, drop a line,
All so supportive, honest and true...
Just want to say a big 'THANK YOU!'
Amazing how changes in our life can open the eyes of our heart to see things in a new way - bringing the true feelings of our heart to the surface.
I remember the time when I realised the truth that I didn’t really know or appreciate that Jesus really loved me - I had been saved from the age of 12 - thought I knew Him - played in the band, did all the things that Salvation Army Soldiers are supposed to do - never realising that I was playing at it, I was more a veneer Christian than the real thing.
It wasn’t until, like Graham, I was in hospital, that Jesus showed me that I didn’t really know Him, that I had deceived myself into thinking that doing things in His service was all that was needed. I was going through the motions. I looked like a Christian, even thought I was a Christian, sadly, as well as fooling others, I was fooling myself. The revelation of that truth led to an eventual transformation that was awesome
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
I had looked the part but in reality when people looked at me then - I believe all they saw was Billy Cowgill - it took a drastic change in my life for me to realise that. Praise God He changed all that when I came to really know Him and desired to make Him known to others. My new desire was that people will be able to see something of the beauty and wonder of my Father in me.
We all have a responsibility to God, to let the world see the glory of the Father, that was in His Son Jesus, reflected in our lives. I pray that we may grasp that responsibility with both hands and heart, as true Sons of the Father and make sure that we take time to get to know Jesus, to let Him change us, transform us into the kind of attractive people He wants us to be..
Graham Kendrick in the song 'Shine Jesus Shine' writes '
As we gaze on Your 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. Shine on me'.
‘A picture speaks more than a thousand words’. Jesus, ‘the word made flesh’, gives us a perfect picture of what God is really like. Jesus, the man, spent time with the father and it showed. Moses spent time with God and it showed. Stephen spent time with God and it showed. Peter and John spent time with Jesus and it showed - and it was obvious to others.
Jesus said ‘I and the Father Are one’ If you’ve seen Me, then you’ve seen my Father. Do your friends and colleagues see the Father in you. In the way you act, respond’ Could they say to others, ‘If you want to see a real Christian - meet my friend’.
The awesome truth is that that’s what God wants to do in your life and can make the possibility a reality?
Sunday 12 June 2016 Read Acts 5; 12-17
WOW following the healing of the lame man outside the Temple who ran into the Temple praising God and the subsequent arrest of Peter and John by the priests we read that The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade
Last week we read how because the priests could not deny that the lame man had been healed because they could see for their own eyes and so they let the apostles go with the warning not to continue speaking about Jesus. What did they do? They went back to their friends and held a prayer meeting asking for more boldness to continue doing the very thing they had been warned not to do.
God answered their prayer and the building where they met shook - we said then, how today the church of God needs a good shaking to get it back to it’s roots and start BEING Church instead of what many have become - mere social clubs.
What does the next verse tell us? 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.
Why? What’s happened. Well chapter 4 tells us what happened following the prayer meeting 32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Great - a together caring fellowship - no wonder people were attracted to what they saw and wanted to be a part of it all. A church with a purpose to accept that Jesus Christ was indeed the promised Messiah and that He wanted nothing more than a people to confess their sins, receive forgiveness and start again to live a life under the authority of God who wanted nothing more than mankind to love and obey Him and to love one another.
That’s great but why then do we read that inspite of all this, the togetherness, the sharing, the healings do we read that 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.
Somehow fear was holding them back - what fear? The wrath of a Holy God who will not tolerate a persistently deceitful heart. Acts 5 1-11 reveals why.
Two of the new followers, Annanias and Saphira thought they could deceive the Holy Spirit when they tried to make it look as if they had sold some property and given the full proceeds to the Fellowship. It wasn’t that they had only given part of the proceeds - that would not have been a problem - it was the fact that they lied and said that they had given the whole proceeds.
Peter found out and confronted them by saying ‘What made you think of doing such a thing? You’ve not lied to men but to God. The result was that Ananias fell dead at the Apostles feet and Great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Three hours later his wife came in and when she was asked if they had given the whole of the proceeds she too lied and say ‘Yes’ - she too fell down dead
That’s why no one else dared join them. As v11 great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. It’s not about money - it’s about honesty and truth. Just as God set the pattern for the beginnings of His new Church as a group of repentant, forgiven and together people dedicated to living under the authority of His word - I believe that God wanted to make certain that His new Church was founded on truth and honesty. There was no place for deceit and pretence - this was to be a pure, trustworthy and holy church.
This was the birth of the Church and it had to be right - right from the beginning.
The fear was in the fact that people saw the consequence of not being all that the new Christians should be. A kind of dressing up for the part whilst not being completely honest and fully desiring to be like God wants us to be. This was a drastic act of God to cleanse the church of pretence and deciet so that it had a right foundation on which to build. Start off on the wrong foot and it will continue in that same way.
Forgive me if I once again liken this dangers of being a veneer Christian.
Real genuine Teak table - kids scribbling - sandpaper it off, teak oil it as good as new.
A Veneer table consists of a cheap ( chip) board covered with a thin layer of the genuine teak which on the outside looks like the genuine article but scratch the surface and it reveals a different story.
Many times today, in the world it’s difficult to get to the truth as in order to get their own way and encourage people like you and me to join them, people will tell lies.
We have it in the run up to the referendum on wether we should stay in or opt out of the European Union. Both sides confusing people with cover up lies - so much so that people are confused and don’t know which way to vote.
Today in many churches the true word of God is being compromised and re-packaged to make it more attractive to the unbeliever. The truth about God and the Christian life is being distorted and instead of a true church we have a veneer church but if the truth be known and the hypocrisy exposed it’s not difficult to see that it’s not what it appears to be.
Thankfully Luke then goes on the say that even though 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.
It sounds like a little contradiction but what I think it’s really saying is that even though the fear of not being completely honest with God and the fellowship was a mighty deterent it made people consider the foolishness of being deceitful and more determined to be upfront with God and the Fellowship and in that positive way more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.
We need to make sure that we today are not living a veneer Christian life - and the danger is that people can even deceive themselves that they are living a truly Christian life. We need to make sure that our commitment is firstly to God and not things of the world. That our desire is to live lives that please Him and not just ourselves. The Bible tells us that you can’t serve God and mammon.
Thankfully Luke goes on to tell us what God was able to do through the purified Church when they continued to perform many miraculous signs and wonders among the people - 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
We can see how successful they were in becoming vehicles of Gods power.
On Wednesday night we read how Gods word tells us that as His followers - if we are genuinely seeking to be His Church today then as His followers, we are privileged to be able to continue the work that Jesus began and as the Apostles continued to do.
I said then that Transformation is the key. The disciples were transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit from being mere humble fishermen to strong men of faith who were bold in sharing the truth.
We read of the mighty transformation of Saul who Jesus approached on the Damascus Road when Saul was on his way to persecute the new Christians and try to get rid of the new Church of Jesus Christ- to become Paul the evangelist.
We read Pauls letter to the church at Rome where he said; Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship. 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
He then goes into great detail about how a transformed person should live their lives.
Writing to the church at Corinth he says this; 2 Cor 3;18 we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
In one of Peters letters he wrote this; From Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1; His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
This was how the early church started - how it was born of the Spirit and in genuinely devoting their lives to God, the Church grew rapidly.
They were a people who were being transformed by the renewing of their minds - Bible Study is not a bad start. Sharing fellowship and sharing their testimonies - building each other up with the powerful, positive testimonies that they would have of their new way of living - their right allegiances, their commitment to the ways of God who could be seen in their lives.
This was an active Fellowship committed both to God and one another who’s actions and lifestyle were attracting the attention of those around them and through whom the church began to grow. We could learn much from them today. No wonder we read that 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. No wonder they arrested the apostles again and put them in a public jail
But there is no stopping their zeal and no way they can stop God from miraculously opening the jail and setting them free.
Verse 25 tells us that someone came and told them that the men they put in jail are standing in the Temple Courts teaching the people. At that the captain went and brought the apostles to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest who reminded them that they had given them strict orders not to teach in the name of Jesus. They accused them saying ‘You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood’
Peter and John replied ‘We must obey God rather than men’. God raised Jesus from the dead - whom you crucified - the one who God gave authority to forgive Israel of their sins and we are witnesses of thses things and so is the Holy Sopirit whom God has given to those who obey Him’.
No wonder the priest wanted them dead - but then a Pharisee called Gamiliel a teacher of the Law stood up and reminded the court that a few years ago a man called Theudas had gathered a following of 400 which came to nothing, Similarily as man called Judas did the same and nothing came of him either so = leave these men alone, let them go for if their purpose or activity is of human origin it will fail. But if is is from God you will not be able to stop these men and be fighting against God.
That’s what they did after flogging Peter and John, they let them go - again ordering them not to speak in the name of Jesus.
41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
There is a great need for Gods people to be open and honest in their commitment to God and the fellowship. That way they and the church will grow and through them. God will build HIS Church.
Consecration, Dedication easy words to say but not so easy to live out in our Christian Lives yet so vital to show our true Commitment to God.
Just as at the birth of the Christian Church God had to remove the pretenders from His church - so too today we need to make sure that we are not divided in our allegiance to God, that we are not giving our time to build our idea of Church but dedicated to give Him the best there is of selve to the furtherance of His Kingdom.
Our prayer should be ‘Lord I want You to build Your Church and if I’m getting it wrong, Lord show me and give me the grace and strength to change my ways and start to do it Your way.
The song we are going to close with is a song of commitment - take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee.
Sunday 5 June 2016
A couple of weeks ago we looked at the awesome response to the baptism in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The response of Peter when he stood up and boldly told the crowds that what they were witnessing was the fulfilment of the promise God made through the prophet Joel when he said ’"`In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. :Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'
When the crowds witnessed this awesome fulfilment, 3000 responded and accepted the truth about Jesus.
The disciples had received from God, the same Spirit that came upon Jesus before He began His earthly ministry - in fact - the same mighty power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. They now had that something extra special that empowered and enabled them to continue the work that Jesus began and committed His Church to do.
We read how the disciples and the new followers couldn’t get enough of meeting together and every day they met to share the good news, listen to the testimonies of those who had been with Jesus for the last three years and be encouraged to get to know Him for themselves.
We read the awesome account of what happened when Peter and John were going to the Temple for the daily prayer meeting - how they met the lame man and through their faith, God healed him. Then how the onlookers were astonished and Peter asked them ‘Why stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we have made this man walk? He then boldly reminded them, just like he did when he spoke to them following the baptism in the Holy Spirit them that it is by faith in the name of Jesus - the Messiah - whom they crucified, but who God rose from the dead, that this man now walks.
Peter again uses the occasion to warn then to ‘repent and turn to God that their sins will be forgiven and refreshing come to once again enliven and empower Gods people. He warns them with great power that if they don’t listen, respond and change their ways then God will cut them off. That’s why God sent Jesus to bring in the new covenant and restore His people back to the heart of the Father - God.
Wow! This would come as a great rebuff to the leaders of the ‘Church’ in their day The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
On Wednesday night at our Bible Fellowship, we continued to look at what happened to Peter and John after their arrest and having to spend the night in jail until the next morning.
7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is "`the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
The Holy Spirit had certainly transformed these ordinary men, fishermen in the main, and gave them a boldness to bring the truth of Gods words to the people and to the Leaders and the Priests.
Verse 13 says it all ‘When they saw the courage of Peter and John they realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men and they were astonished and took note that they had been with Jesus.‘
There was nothing the court could say except acknowledge that, 'Everybody in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it!'
They decided to warn Peter and John not to speak to anyone else in the name of Jesus, and if they agreed, they would let them go. They mistakenly thought that their threats would frighten them into agreeing not to mention the name of Jesus again.
A few weeks earlier, and perhaps Peter and John would have thought themselves very lucky to get off with a warning. But now, they had been empowered by the Holy Spirit, now they had a boldness and a conviction that they didn't have then. '
Their response? 'Do you really think that it is right for us to obey you rather than God?, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.
Public opinion was in their favour, as people praised God for what had happened.
And so, on their release, Peter and John went back to the fellowship, and held a prayer meeting, and as they addressed 'Almighty God' they prayed for more boldness to preach the word of God. 'Stretch out Your hand Lord to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Your Holy Servant Jesus. After they had prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the word of God boldly.
Wow! God answered their prayer! After the prayer meeting, the whole building was shaken.
I wonder what God feels like, when He looks at His church today ?
The apostles Peter and John had spent just three years with Jesus. They saw His devotion to them, His patience and His love. They shared His disappointments, His rejection, His pain. They worked with Him, lived with Him, saw Him die on the cross and saw Him risen from the dead, and in those three years, they were slowly transformed, 'by the renewing of their minds' from 'ordinary unschooled men' into the most eloquent of preachers and communicators of the Word..
From mere observers, onlookers like Zacchaeus, to participants in the 'Divine Nature' of Almighty God. From men and women who's 'seeing' led to believing, but then, who's belief in the Lord Jesus Christ led to seeing. In other words they became a believing people whose spiritual eyes were opened.
You can't read Acts without marvelling at the power unleashed on the church. Peter and John, who only a week or so earlier were witnesses of the miracle of Jesus in the great catch of fish, now find themselves performing miracles as the lame man danced into the Temple that he had sat outside for nearly 40 years.
It is impossible to read the Acts of the Apostles and not be 'awed' by the sheer energy with which the church grew, by the power of Holy Spirit. From that first day of Pentecost when Peter preached to the crowds, and 3 000 people put their faith and trust in the man whom only weeks earlier they had crucified as a blasphemer - to the miraculous healing of the lame man when another 2000 were converted.
As you read the accounts of the miracles and the growth, you become aware that the master plan of God is being put into operation, and being fulfilled in the lives of ordinary men and women just like you and me.
That man who had been a cripple for 40 years, spending every day, on the very doorstep of the Temple begging for help, is now introduced to Jesus by those two disciples, and is healed and dances his way into the church.
Reminds me of the fact that the chosen people of God wandered through the wilderness of life for 40 years, before entering the promised land, reminds me too, that there are those people out there in the world, who are dying in their sin, destined to go to hell. People who need introducing to Jesus, our friends, our neighbours, maybe even members of our own families, who we have passed to come to church this morning. People who need the Lord. And you know what? The Lord needs us to tell them about Him.
It's so easy to come to the Army week by week and ignore the cry of a crippled world.
Just like the cripple, the people we work with, neighbours, members of our family, who crave our friendship, our companionship, our love, and we are ready to give them that. But what they really need above everything else, is Jesus, how ready are we then, to introduce them to our Saviour?
I ended last week by saying that I believe that what God is saying to us and His church is this ‘It’s time to get your Acts 2gether.
The new Church in Acts met together every day to share their experiences of God, to pray and get to know Him through His word. Today many churches are too busy doing other things and neglect the real true essence of what Church should be - a together people who spend more time in prayer, Studying the word together and sharing their experiences of God with one another.
We have time for the CARE Club, the friendship Club, Parent and toddlers, Film nights, Coffee mornings and all the time it takes to prepare for it. What about giving a bit more thought to spending time together around His word, getting to know Him and His plan and purpose for our lives and the life of this fellowship.
Last week I shared some thoughts from one of Beryls sermons that I had found whilst looking for something else. I also found a sermon that I gave exactly 20 years ago to this Sunday. The 2nd of June 1996. Beryl and I had been the officers of this Corps for just 13 months during which time we experienced phenomenal growth as we sought Gods purpose .
I have printed the sermon out, just as it was given those 20 years ago - I invite you to read it and considering the growth that came in such a short space of time and how that growth continues for the next ten or more years.
My closing words this morning are the same as I used then, ‘If we are obedient to Him - He will build His church. This Corps is going places under Gods direction. There is a place for you here as God builds us together. Have you caught the vision of what God is doing here? I pray that we will all look forward to all that God is going to accomplish here in this Corps at Idle both in His church and you and me‘.
I believe that the key words to our reading this morning is this ‘Acts 4;13 ‘When they saw the courage of Peter and John they realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men and they were astonished and took note that they had been with Jesus.
And; v31 After they had prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the word of God boldly.
O how Gods people today need a fresh touch of the Holy Spirit from the Lord
Let me finish by singing a song that is in effect a prayer that echoes the prayer of the Apostles - ‘touch your people once again’ as I sing it, take it personally make it your own - then as we pray, respond in the way that you feel God wants you to.
The words to the song are these;
We need wisdom we need power
And true love for each other
We have had so many big but empty words
So we come before Your face
Asking for Your grace
Bring Your people to a state of kingdom life
Restore Your church again
( Chorus: )
Touch Your people once again
With Your precious holy hand, we pray
Let Your kingdom shine upon this earth
Through a living glorious church
Not for temporary deeds
But to restore authority and power
Let a mighty rushing wind blow in
Touch your people once again
Lord You see Your tired servants
And the broken wounded soldiers
Oh how much we need Your precious healing hand
We need the power of the cross
As the only source for us
When we stand up facing final battle cry
Restore your church again
Sunday 29 May 2016 Acts 3; 1-10
We have just read the awesome account of what happened when Peter and John were going to the Temple for the daily prayer meeting - how they met the lame man and through their faith, God healed him.
Continuing from v 11 we are told that the onlookers were astonished and Peter asked them ‘Why? Why stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we have made this man walk? He then reminds, just like he did when he spoke to them following the baptism in the Holy Spirit that it is by faith in the name of Jesus - the Messiah - whom they crucified, but who God rose from the dead, that this man now walks.
Peter uses the occasion to warn them v 19 to ‘repent and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. He warns them with great power that if they don’t listen, respond and change their ways then God will cut them off. That’s why God sent Jesus to bring in the new covenant and restore His people back to the heart of the Father - God.
Wow! This would come as a great rebuff to the leaders of the ‘Church’ in their day and in the following chapter, Acts 4: 1 -12, we’re going to read the reaction of the Priests - the leaders of Gods people
Acts 4: 1 -12, . The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
WOW first 12, then 3000 and now another 2000 - that’s growth - Amazing!
5 The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family.
Annas and Caiaphas were the ones who sent Jesus to Pilate - in fact Caiaphas had prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. (John 11; 49)
7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is "`the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
The church had now been born. These were a people who lives had been transformed. A liberated, bold, excited people, full of expectation and wonder as to what God was going to do next. This was now a church with a mission, a church with a vision from the Almighty. A church where things happened so fast, that everyone was filled with Awe as they saw the power of God in action right before their very eyes. .
From day one - the day of Pentecost - when we are told Peter stood up with the first eleven. That’s eleven men plus a substitute (Mathias) A group of men who showed real commitment to work together as a team to win the world for Jesus -
Many will gather at Wembley this weekend to see the play off for the World cup. I’m not an expert of football but I guess that the most important qualities the successful team will have is committed players who will work together under the leadership of a good manager.
When Jesus called His team together - He chose twelve good men - They were a mostly crew - possibly very independant people used to looking after themselves, but Jesus - saw their potential and knew that under the right management and with the best training available - they could be transformed into the best team that one day would begin to win the world back to the Fathers heart.
That’s what it took - twelve good men who under His discipline could be transformed into a winning team. One man (Judas) had to leave the team but as soon as the substitute was called in to play, they were off. The whole match took on a new life and the supporters went wild as they rallied to join forces with the team.
On the day of Pentecost, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and under the watchful eyes of representatives of virtually the whole nation - started to win the hearts and minds of the spectators who wanted to come on board themselves and support the team they knew were going to win. That’s the secret and success of a winning team.
Men who are willing to give their own personal best.
Men who are not in it for self glory but are prepared to pass the ball when it’s right to make it possible for another of their team to score the goal.
With that kind of sacrificial commitment - there is every chance that they will win through to the next level.
We might not know the outcome of the World Cup - but what we do know is that the early disciples of Jesus - became Gods number one team who had more than just the World Cup in view - they were on fire for God and there was no going back.
As I read of the exploits of those early Christians it excites me . What happened then , was dynamic and so spectacular, that there is a danger that we relegate what happened, to the history books, and to forget that what we are reading, is dynamite!
Earlier we read what happened when Peter and John went to the Temple for the prayer meeting. The day was no different to any other day - they had been going to the Temple for prayers every day - what was different was what had happenned to the men themselves.
Yesterday they were in hiding for fear of a backlash through the cruxcifixion of their leader Jesus. Today they were changed men - today they went to Church with a new spring in their steps as they had been filled with the Spirit
The scene was much the same as any other day - the cripple who had begged there for years still stretched his arms out for money to help him live day to day - Any other day and perhaps Peter and John would have thrown him a few coins - but not today!
Today, Peter and John were going to introduce the cripple to the power of Jesus for complete healing. "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong.
He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. WOW!
Every time Pentecost comes around, what I read does two things. On the one hand, it lifts and excites me to know that our great and awesome God is the same today as yesterday and that His promise still stands if only we would believe’
But on the other hand it depresses me to see a church today that resembles the cripple more than it does the power available for those who’s faith is firmly anchored in Jesus.
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit brought the power that first transforms individual lives - secondly energises and transforms churches to make the word live- and thirdly to transform the Kingdom of this world into Gods Kingdom. God the holy Spirit entered our world like a pebble dropped in the sea creating ever widening circles of Hope where once there was only despair.
As I’ve said, so many times before, the holy Spirit came and made the Ready and Willing - Able
The disciples were fired up - filled from within with the same Spirit that rested on |Jesus before He began His earthly ministry. The Holy Spirit of God who’s presence generated boldness and vigour - a boldness to move forward filled with a power that I’m sure amazed the Apostles as much as the watching world.
The power of God that empowered and equipped the ordinary, working man, the fisherman, the office worker, the tax collector, to show His power to a watching world.
Take a look around! whats happened to His Church? Whats happened to His people?
I remember kneeling here as a young boy of perhaps nine when an evangelist called John Jackson came to lead a children’s meeting. I gave myself to Jesus then. I had all the energy and drive but lacked the ability and know how to channel that energy. Thankfully there were those who would help me.
I also remember how much later, as a young married man with a family, I found myself in hospital with a diseased kidney. I had been born with an undetected deformity that meant that after 30 years of struggling to work properly, my kidneys were enlarged and on the verge of packing up - I would have to have an operation so that the doctors could try and re-plumb my kidneys. I remember having to sign an consent form that allowed the doctors to remove the kidney if they thought they needed to.
I had the operation and when I go back to the ward woke up attached to a pumping machine that acted like an artificial kidney. I was told that as soon as my kidney had healed the machine would be removed. I was allowed just a dessert spoonful of water every hour - and when you can’t have it - you want it.
I was like that for four weeks and then told that I would have to go down for another operation as the kidney wasn’t working and if they continued as they were, there was a danger that it would pack up.
The operation garment was placed at the side of the bed and preparations made for me to be first down the next morning. Beryl said ‘pray about it’ I said that I was sick of praying about it ‘there’s no one there - it’s like praying to a blank wall’. It was then that I realised how low I had gone. I thought I knew God, but I didn’t, I had simply been going along with the crowd at the Army - I had what I now know was a second hand religion - I had not really sought Jesus for myself. I was like the disciples before Pentecost.
That day, two new officers to Idle SA, Lieut David and Dorothy Murden came to see me - they asked if I would like them to minister the laying on of hands. I said ‘anything that will get me out of this mess’ so they did. They layed hands on me and prayed - the next morning I woke up to find an eery silence - I had never realised how noisy the pump had been. The operations gown had been taken away.
‘You don’t need to go down’ the nurse said, the kidney has started to work on its own so we’ve taken the pump away. You’re on the mend’ I cried out to God ‘I’m sorry Lord - I want to know You like they do - I want to know all about You - I didn’t know it then, but this was the prayer of Paul Phillipians 3 ‘I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection’
I came home shortly afterwards and about three months later, when I was well enough to get out, I came to the hall and knelt here at the penitent form to claim His forgiveness and consecrate myself, to give Him first place in my life. This time, when I rose from that place I found had all the energy and the zeal to move forward under the direction of God to learn new things.
He opened my eyes to capture visions. He opened my ears to hear His voice
He opened my heart to respond to His.
I started to read my Bible and it wasn’t the same - it became real - Awesome and relevant to my life and situation. I had already spent weeks repenting of my pathetic Christian life style and now - as I rose from the Mercy seat, I knew that something great had happened in my life. I knew then that God had poured His Spirit into me.
I was bubbling and bursting, I wanted to tell everyone what God had done in my life in the hopes that in sharing my testimony it would help others to see that there was more to being a Christian than going to every meeting, playing in the band, singing in the songsters - that Jesus was real and wanted to be an active part of my life by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thats what the Power of the Spirit does. Thats what God wants to do to His people - His Church ‘Why is it that with such power available, our churches are full of spiritual cripples? people unable to walk in the spirit, and who are content to sit and watch their world go by, accepting second best, when there is power available to stand them firm on their feet, and to move boldly forward ?
Why is it that there are so many struggling churches, who seem unable to stand on their own two feet, and who are powerless to minister to a dying world ? like the lame man
Could it be that the reason the church today fails to minister to the lame world is because the church has become the lame man.? Instead of working together as a victorious together team - it’s as if we’ve been injured by the opposition and carried off in a stretcher relegated to the sides of the pitch.
I say it every year - The Church needs to get it’s Act 2gether The Spirit was given to empower Jesus’s followers to live their lives in His power .
When Peter and John confronted the lame man - they didn’t do what the church would do today and offer the man money to help him cope - they didn’t put elastoplasts on the wounds they got right to the cause of his trouble and showed the divine power of an Almighty God. It’s easier and less faith demanding to minister in the practical and neglect the supernatural. The church seems to be busier in the practical than it is the spiritual. Jesus washed the disciples feet to show servant hood but He was also in the business of washing men’s sin away by cleansing their hearts through the Divine world of God.
The lame man in our bible reading wasn’t even asking to be healed - why should he, he had no expectations of the seemingly impossible - it was Peter and John, who offered him healing. I wonder what they would have done if they had been flushed? Without their own resources they had nothing else but to recourse to God.
They were bold in their faith - they shared their own weakness - exposed their inadequacy but showed their faith in an awesome God ‘we can’t help you financially but we know someone who can heal you - in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Rise up and walk’ Not only did he walk, he leaped with joy
I believe that God is telling us something that we ignore at our cost - I believe that God has a work to do here at Idle and that we need to listen carefully to what He is saying to us in these days. Why do I believe this? Because even as I read about it again today God fires up my heart.
The God we serve - is a God of power who wants to equip and enable His body to move in the power of the Spirit to win the lost. That’s the mission of the Church and that’s why God gives His Spirit today - to raise the crippled church to its feet and let the watching world see the victories there are to be won in Jesus.
God wants to be glorified in His Church in you and me. God gave the Holy Spirit to set us on fire for Him. Our calling is first to know Him and then go and make Him known to others. This last verse 13 says it all ‘When they saw the courage of Peter and John they realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men and they were astonished and took note that they had been with Jesus.‘
Its about time that Gods people began to rise up and recognise the power and authority there is in the Name of Jesus. Power, not only to preach a life -changing Gospel - but to live a life changing Gospel.
When we get our Acts2-gether then others will be able to see the passion and the power of God in the church, what they see and hear will be enough and then God, just as He did at Pentecost, will steer people to our churches. ‘Daily God added to the Church, those who were being saved.
Sunday 22 May 2016
Last week was Pentecost the day when Jesus had said the disciples would receive power to become His witnesses. Over the years that followed it was a time when the whole of Christendom celebrated the birthday of the Church. Sadly today, that doesn’t happen in many places. For some reason over the last few years the truth of Pentecost has been lost - even ‘Whit Sunday’ as we used to call is no longer celebrated and instead in 1978 it was changed to become a bank holiday 31 May. ‘Whit Sunday’ being a shortened ‘White Sunday’ Interestingly ten countries in the EU celebrate Whit Monday with a holiday but not the UK.
When most of us were younger, Whitsuntide was a great time of celebrating the birth of the church. It was a time for new clothes, Whit Monday open airs where thousands in Idle met together on the green in a united act of worship. We then went on a joy ride in our individual horse and carts bedecked with forms and filled with excited children. After a short ride around it was back to the hall for long buns and games.
Sadly that’s all gone and all we are left with is Christmas and Easter - I wonder how long they will go on being celebrated?
Pentecost, the fulfilment of Gods promise of the Holy Spirit 50 days after the Passover the time when we remembered the sacrificial love of God at Easter.
The disciples met together in obedience to God and were baptised with the Holy Spirit. Peter was gifted with great boldness as he challenged the crowds that gathered and told them straight that what they were experiencing was what the prophet Joel had prophesied centuries ago - the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower and equip Gods people to spread the truth about God throughout the world.
He didn’t pull any punches and after reminding them what their own scriptures said accused them of killing the very Messiah that God had sent as a messenger of that truth.
Lets read what happened next;
Acts 2; 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
The first step was to accept what Peter said, Repent and be baptised every one of you for the forgiveness of sins - in the name and through the blood of Jesus Christ.
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Three thousand !” WOW! What started out three years ago as 12 disciples became 120 and now - 50 days after the sacrifice of Jesus, three thousand new converts are made.
What did they do next? 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. They were hungry for more - they devoted themselves - WOW there’s a word that you don’t here much today - 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. They fellowshipped together - they couldn’t get enough of one another of being together to experience the presence of Jesus themselves and to prayer.
And the result? 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 apostles. 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.
And look at this - not just a Sunday meet, they couldn’t get enough of their new found fellowships 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
WOW! They were popular - people liked what they saw - the results that come about when lives are changed and people loose their selfishness as their hearts are opened towards one another - togetherness and are given a new direction and purpose in life. They were enjoying the favour of all the people. What people were seeing were the actual fruits of the Spirit filled lives of their transformed neighbours and colleagues.
The result? And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
What an amazing transformation - what an awesome time - is it any wonder that the devil in this world doesn’t want Gods people to celebrate this.
So often when many people think about Pentecost they highlight the outward signs of speaking in tongues, even falling over and what many would say are the embarrassing uncomfortable often uncontrollable signs that we hear about and see about when we hear about Toronto and other places.
I know many Christians who are put off from seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit by what so often clouds the truth of what the baptism of the Holy Spirit is really is all about which is the empowering and enabling of the church to become the people that God wants them to be. The spiritual baptism that births the life of Jesus in the believers heart and helps us continue the work that Jesus began and that is to reconcile creation back to the heart of God.
The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth and sets us free from the limitations of self to enable us to become like Jesus. No wonder the devil is worried about this and blinds people hearts and minds to the awesome truth. The reason why the hitherto unbelieving crowds turned their ears and attention to the disciples is because they had been transformed by the power of the infilling Holy Spirit who had brought them to life so that the presence of Almighty God could be seen in and through their every action. They were now real, Spirit filled Christians and it could be felt by the onlookers.
The Holy Spirit that had so filled Jesus was now within each one of them empowering and equipping them to be real witnesses to all they had seen and known through spending precious time with Jesus.
This was the birthday of the Church - the dawning of the New Covenant - as Paul reminded the church at Corinth when quoting from Isaiah 64;4 No eye hath seen. No ear hath heard, no mind hath conceived what God has prepared for those who live Him - but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit of God - we have the mind of Christ. WOW! that’s the privilage of all believers you and me - if we truly believe and desire to embrace the full package.
There are many folk who are naturally afraid of what they are led to believe is means to be ‘baptised in the Spirit’ and are put off by what they see and hear in the media.
This week I started to look through a box that I have that contains a few of Beryls notes that she shared when she led the Home League and some of the meetings.
As some of you know, when I first met Beryl she was very shy - even had a twitch of the shoulder when anxious or nervous about anything. When we became officers she gained a little more confidence and was not afraid to share some of her feeling through her talks. In one set of notes, following her reading from Romans 8; about life in the Spirit she talks about a time when we went to Scarborough to see my brother Sam. On the Sunday we went to Sam’s church - a very lively Elim Pentecostal church - this is what Beryl wrote;
The church was full of people dancing and praising God. I was very apprehensive and glad that we had had to sit near the back so I wasn’t right in the middle of it all.
Well, we had a lovely time singing choruses, some we knew, but the others were on a big screen for everyone to see so that we were able to join in with them all.
There were four people dancing for joy and one older man who was trying to. I thought to myself ‘ if I was the type of person to dance, that would be how I would do it - all out of rhythm and a bit clumsy looking - but it didn’t matter to him because he wasn’t thinking about how he should move - he was just praising God. Usually if I go to a meeting like that I try not to see the ones who are dancing because I get a bit upset about it. Probably because I would really like to be free, like them, to worship but something seems to hold me back.
After singing for a while we had a message from Gods word and then we started singing again. One of the choruses was ‘Let me have my way among you - do not strive - do not strive’. I’ll let You have Your way among us, I’ll not strive, I’ll not strive’. I found it very hard to sing that verse. ‘Will I really let God have His way in my life or do I always strive against His will and want things my way?
When we had finished singing - a man ion the middle of the hall suddenly jumped up out of his seat and went to the microphone and I wondered what on earth he was doing. Then he said ‘God has a message for someone here today - He is saying you - Don’t hold back from doing My will - let Me have My way’. God knows that someone here is having a struggle and is scared to let go of their own feelings and let God have His way - but God is saying - put your trust in Him and He will take care of you and everything will work out alright.
I have often heard people say that God has spoken to them and I’ve wondered just how they could hear His voice and know He was speaking to them. Well - I know at that meeting in Scarborough God had spoken to me - He was telling me not to be afraid of opening up myself to His will and of course reassuring me that if I did, I have a promise in His word that everything works for good to them that trust Him -
Beryl then encourages the folk to listen to a tape of Marilyn Baker singing ‘Jesus -You are changing me, by Your Spirit, You’re making me like You. Following that she went on to say I’ve always been frightened that if I gave myself completely to God He would change me into something I didn’t want to be, but I don’t think God works like that. I’m not suddenly going to start jumping around and dancing in the aisles. But God can and is changing my attitude to those who do feel free enough to worship Him in that way He can help to love and understand others who I would have stayed away from before. He can help me -in other ways - to reflect the loveliness of Jesus in my life.‘You Lord are the potter, I am the clay - help me to be willing - to let You have Your way. Jesus you are changing me as I let You reign supreme within my heart.
As I said before - the baptism in the Holy Spirit is more than liberating people to be free in worship it’s more about setting people free to give access to God to work through them to bring others into fellowship with Him by attracting them to see Him at work in our lives. Beryl was quiet but I have no doubt that Jesus changed her as He filled her with His Spirit and gave her the ability to speak volumes through her life, her look, her gentleness, her love. She didn’t need to physically dance about - her spirit danced within her.
The Church that God birthed in the hearts of those who met at Pentecost was a church, I believe, made up of a mixed group of people some quiet, some outspoken yet who loved God and one another - with the Spirits help they matured into a together people through whom God could work to encourage others to get on board.
A people who, empowered by the Spirit - brought the Word to life - just like Jesus did. They became living examples of what it means to be a Christian. The Gift of the Spirit within them grew and matured and was evidenced by the fruit they bore - Paul calls it the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
There may be many different facets of the Gift of the Spirit but there is only one fruit and that fruit contains all of the attributes Paul lists in Galatians - I don’t believe you can have one without the other - they come as a complete package. This I believe is the beautiful reason for the Holy Spirit baptism. The qualities of the indwelling Christ being brought to the surface that bring meaning and purpose to church
The qualities of the Fruit -are headed by the key LOVE that binds them all together.
In another of Beryl’s sermons she reads the story of the barren fig tree,. The time when Jesus, needing fruit sees the fig tree in the distance but as He gets nearer He finds that it is fruitless and therefore of no use to Him and He curses it. She says; from a distance it appeared to be good healthy tree and it was only on close examination of it that it was found to be useless. I wonder how many times God has been disappointed with us just as Christ was with the fig tree. If God, in His wonderful plan, has a job for us to do then when the time comes He finds that we don’t possess any of the fruits of the Spirit that we are as useless to Him as the tree was. Beryl wasn’t a dancing, falling about - expressive person - she was quiet and loving and as such I believe, perfectly filled with the Spirit in her quietness.
Over the next few weeks I want us to look at the growth and development of the early Spirit filled Church that spread like wild fire through the obvious indwelling Spirit of God and to which He daily added, those who were being saved. The fruit bearing Church of the New Covenant, and I pray that God will fill us with the desire to be like them, Gifted by the Holy Spirit and bearers of the fruit of the Spirit.
The world today needs to see an active Church of truly dedicated followers who have been filled and motivated by the Holy Spirit - people who live the word and who by their example and testimony, the world can see the beauty of a Kingdom people who live in Love and harmony with others which is expressed in real Joy that comes from knowing the inner Peace that only God can give. A persevering people who can face whatever life throws at them, kind, good, gentle, self-controlled people who live by faith and not by sight.
The Church today needs a Spirit filled God empowered people that are enabled and equipped to live the truth and share it with others.
Sunday 15 May 2016 Pentecost Acts 2
Wow! Whats happening? Only seven weeks ago they were in hiding cowering in fear that the authorities would get them. Jesus had gone - left them - then three days later they hear the startling news that He is alive - He is risen from the dead - He appears to them, they get heartened - He starts to unwrap the mysterious promises that He made earlier that He has to go but will not leave them - but will come to take up residence in their hearts.
Then the ascension when He rides the cloud back to Heaven with the command to Go into all the world and preach the good news - what? How? When? and then the command to go and wait in Jerusalem until the promised Holy Spirit is given.
In other words, wait at the ready - receive the empowering that will equip and engage them in the mission to ‘Go and tell’ everyone the good news. They go - they wait - they pray - they talk - they grow together and seek to reach out to God for the promise.
The day comes - but they don’t know it - apart from the fact that this is the day they celebrate Pentecost- the giving of the word of God from Mount Sinai - it’s just like any other morning- They can’t possibly know that ‘this is the day - this is the day that the Lord has made’ the day when the promised gift will be given - the gift that will bring to life the WORD of God in their hearts to help them to LIVE the WORD just like Jesus did. Wow! are they in for a shock.
The important thing was that they were now ready - waiting, expectant and together - they were united in purpose and desire. Then Whoosh! Suddenly it came
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit
God reached out of Heaven and touching His church released the power of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of the waiting disciples. Boy did it feel great - and now they were ready to go - no stopping them - the days of waiting are now over - the day of the Spirit is here.
God, as revealed in His son Jesus, is now manifest in man by the power of the Holy Spirit.
God is in effect reaching down from Heaven, like He did when Jesus was baptised and began His ministry her on earth. This time, instead of ’This is My beloved Son’ listen to Him- this time God is saying to the watching world - ‘these are my beloved sons in whom I am well pleased’ - listen to them.
He then sends them out in the power of the Spirit - anointed and ready for anything.
All through History God has been reaching down to mankind - They experienced it in William Booths Day. The same empowering that Smith Wigglesworth had, when the power of God was seen in the church with signs following - healings and miracles.
I believe that today, God is longing to reach down to His people again to provide the imputus, the power, the enabling and empowering that will get the top spinning again.
Sadly, today in many churches man is too preoccupied with his own struggling activities content to muddle on in his own strength, building self made churches that instead of transforming peoples lives by getting them saved, spends most of its time organising activities that do no more than tire the workers out. Sticking plasters on peoples wounds instead of healing their diseases at source.
The disciples at Pentecost recieved from God, the same Spirit that came upon Jesus before He began His earthly ministry - in fact - the same mighty power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
The early church now had that something extra special that empowered and enabled them to continue the work that Jesus began and commited His Church to do.
The great Wesleyan revival in the 18th century saw the same thing happen as the Holy Spirit took hold of groups of people from ineffectual churches that for some reason had lost the plot, and set these people on fire. The same thing happened in Wales with Owen Roberts and the Welsh revival
There was the revivalist movement in the 19th century when men like Dwight
L Moody were blessed with the same outpouring of the Spirit as on the day of Pentecost.
Our own Samuel Logan Brengle was baptised with the Holy Spirit walking across Ealing common. When the Salvation Army opened fire in Bradford, hundreds felt the outpouring of Gods Holy Spirit as they worshipped in Pullans Theatre.
Smith Wigglesworth the great Pentecostal preacher and healer experienced the mighty moving of the Holy Spirit in the early days of the Salvation Army in Bradford and joined them because of the great power that was manifest in their meetings. And the result of the outpouring was no different than that on the day of Pentecost - ‘We used to pray for 50 or a hundred souls every week and get them’ he exclaimed
There were mighty happennings in Bradford when the Salvation Army oppened fire with Elijah Cadman. The power of God fell on the waiting hosts and the evidence of that was seen and experienced by everyone. People were laid out under the Spirits power, healings took place and great awe was upon the people of Bradford.
Two young women, Annie Fleet and Jennie Street came to Idle started worshipping in the Old Green Mill and within a few years they had enough converts to raise money to build a new purpose built Citadel - this hall. That’s the power and work of the Spirit.
I wonder what God sees today when He looks down on us here at Idle. Does He see a group of 'Idle engines', basking in there 'former glory', telling of exciting days in the past, yet lacking the power to move on. Old men dreaming dreams instead of catching visions.
'We want another Pentecost’ William Booth urged his Army to sing ‘Send the Fire' and God did, and the fire spread throughout the length and breadth of this country and then over seas to other lands as God empowered His Army to ‘go and make disciples’. Perhaps we should be singing with real conviction and fervour 'Look down and see Thy waiting Host, send us the promised Holy Ghost, we want another Pentecost, send the fire, and send it today'. Is that your prayer? I hope so.
The awesomeness of what we have just read can seem so out of our reach, that we never really pray the prayer or sing the song expecting it to happen - certainly not in the big way it did on the day of Pentecost.
The day that the fearful, cowering, disciples were fired up by the Spirit to expect even greater things. Once empowered and equipped by God, there was no stopping them. All the Fire brigades in the world, would not be able to put out this fire.
Peter was known for his impetuosity, always quick to jump in feet first, speaking before he got his brain into gear, misunderstanding Jesus, failing Him when He needed someone to speak up for Him, yet today, he stands up with the eleven and preaches the sermon of a lifetime that touched the hearts of his hearers and resulted in 3 000 converts. WOW! Whats happened to Peter.
Peter had experienced the mighty power of God in a most unbelievable way when, before the fear of what he was doing took the better of him, he took that bold step of faith and actually walked on water. Peter had failed Jesus when he denied Him - he wasn’t going to fail Him again, not after Jesus had forgiven him, not after Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to Peter, not after being instructed by Jesus to ‘wait in Jerusalem until the power of the Spirit came upon them’
Peter was eager to do as Jesus said - and so he and the others had waited - until the time was ripe- and as they waited, they prayed.
This was the day, and here they were all assembled in one place, and in singleness of spirit. They waited and they waited until that moment when ‘Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them’.
It’s no mere chance that the Salvation Army symbol bears the words ‘Blood and Fire’
The blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin and the Fire of the Holy Spirit who enables and empowers His people to Be Church 0 the living body of Christ in the world today.
Two vital elements of our Christian faith. Cleansing and infilling.
The order of God - Easter Salvation through the blood of Jesus
Pentecost Empowering by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
The two together are vital for Gods people to become the people of God through whom He can manifest His truth and love to the waiting world. No wonder Jesus told Nicodeamus that he needed to be born again of the Spirit. John 3. No wonder Jesus told His disciples that John Baptised with water but that He would baptise them with the Holy Spirit. John 1;5
No wonder Paul asked the the twelve Christians he met at Ephesus if they had received the Spirit since they became believers. ‘No’ they said, ‘we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit - we received John’s baptism. Paul said ‘that was a baptism of repentance’ Paul then laid hands on them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues and prophesied.
The two are indispensable and so intrinsically entwined. Like the song ‘Love and Marriage‘, ‘they go together like a horse and carriage’ and ‘you can’t have one without the other‘. You can’t be filled with the Spirit until you’ve repented your sins and accepted Jesus Christ as your Saviour.
When you sang ‘we want another Pentecost’ what did you mean? Did you mean you wanted to see the power of the Spirit in others - but not me Lord! not me!
Are you willing to set aside your fears and embarrassment in order to share the good news with a dying world. Are you willing to ‘risk’ sharing your faith with friends and relatives, neighbours, work colleagues and the non-Christians in your own family?
Thats what the Spirit empowers His Church, you and me to do. Peter was given a boldness that was new to him. This time when he spoke, people listened and responded, this time he spoke with the voice of authority as the Holy Spirit spoke through him.
I believe that today - God wants His church , His people to experience the power of the Holy Spirit to transform our lives and give us the boldness that will enable us to move forward as His body, the Church and win others for the Kingdom.
If we want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat. If you want another Pentecost - get out of the comfort of your little boat and claim it
A modern Bible teacher Craig Groeschell starts one of his Bible teaching sessions by asking the question ‘Have you ever walked into a church and felt that there was something special about it you could almost feel it in the air - there was a ‘holy atmosphere - a sense of the presence of God - you knew as you walked in that this church had ‘it’ whatever ‘it’ is.
He asks the question does your church have ‘it’ has it ever had ‘it’ has it lost ‘it’ do you want ‘it’ back?
He gives his testimony of how he went to a Bill Hybels meeting and felt ‘it’ he knew that he didn’t have ‘it’ and neither did his church. He wanted ‘it’ and sought whatever it was from God and as he prayed. God graciously gave ‘it’ to him and his life changed.
He left the Methodist Church and started a small fellowship in his garage. There were just 40 of them. They were exciting days - he knew that he had ‘it’ and that as his church grew, others would feel that ‘it’.
Over the next couple of years the fellowship grew rapidly which meant that he was spending more time keeping the wheels of the organisation turning and the initial sense of outward mission became a more inward battle - he began to realise that he had lost ‘it’ and wanted it back. For the next year he started to get back to the bible, to prayer and fasting until suddenly ‘it’ came back.
Today his church has become a gigantic church that has thousands of members and more importantly the church has that special ‘it’. He realised that like many of the great revival churches all down through history - as the ‘church’ gets bigger it becomes an organisation rather than an growing living organism.
Blood and Fire? The Blood signifies the need for Conversion,of seeking forgiveness and desiring to become a disciple of Jesus learning day by day how to live the Jesus life.
The Fire of the Holy Spirit is given to empower, equip and enable us to not only live the life that Jesus wants us to but to do the things that Jesus did. The inner presence of the Holy spirit makes it possible for us to continue the work that Jesus began which was to proclaim and live the gospel message encouraging others to come to Christ and start the chain of events happen in their lives. We are called to be disciples in order to make disciples. Not in our own strength but empowered from within by God Himself.
William Booth wrote 'We want another Pentecost send the Fire'. Perhaps we should be singing with real conviction and fervour 'Look down and see Thy waiting Host, send us the promised Holy Ghost, we want another Pentecost, send the fire, and send it today'. Is that your prayer? I hope so.
We sing a chorus ; For I am building a people of power that will move through this land by My Spirit Our response should be; Build Your church Lord, make us strong Lord, join our hearts through Your Son.
The trouble today is that many churches; Instead of saying ‘Build YOUR Church’ Lord - they’re are building it for Him. Instead of building HIS Church - we’re building OUR Church
Instead of seeking HIS WILL and purpose - we implore Him to bless OUR programme and efforts Instead of doing it HIS way, we’re doing it OUR way
The disciples had been broken, made painfully aware of their unfaithfulness, their doubting, their weakness. Now in complete obedience to His comands, they were ready to be moulded and filled with the awesome presence of the Holy Spirit, and 'Wham' He came in great power, turning their lives upside down. He set them on Fire.
Once the Spirit had been received by the disciples, the church began to grow rapidly, as the Holy Spirit started His work through them. Peter straight away preached a hell fire sermon, pulling no punches, and the result was that thousands gave their lives to Jesus that day! WOW!
As the spirit breathes new life into the dry bones of Gods church, ( Ezekiel) the result is that His together people, (bone to bone) are enabled to move forward in great power to win the world for Jesus.
That's the church God wants, and that's why He gives us His Spirit.
I remember years ago when the family were small, taking them to the Railway museum at Yor and seeing all those ‘Idle engines’ that once showed great power as they travelled across the land - today they just stand Idle, powerless. Today they are museum relics of better days. Sadly that could also be said of many of todays churches that have become museums to a time of former Glory
It doesn’t have to be - Idle Engines can be given a new lease of life as - filled with Holy Fire - they are raring to move - this time - in the power of the Spirit to new spheres of adventure.
I believe that God is just waiting to fire us up. Mobilising a mighty Army that will move through this land by His Spirit.
Sunday 8 May 2016
Sorry that over the last two weeks I have been unable to be at the meetings due to a severe illness that necessitated 4 lots of Penicillin and Steroids. I am near completion of the final lot of Mediation and have started to feel a lot better. Thank you for your prayers.
Last Sunday was my first day back and so here is my sermon - God bless you all.
Last time we met ( three weeks ago) we followed the disciples as in obedience to Jesus they went back to Jerusalem to wait for the promised Holy Spirit. I said then in the book of Acts, Luke writes a thrilling account of the disciples activities following his writing of his first Epistle - Luke.
The Acts of the Apostles is a great book that shows us how God brought the disciples together to become the restored living body of Christ that would continue His ministry in the world. That’s the true meaning of the word Church and what the church should be - the Body of Christ - and to make that possible, the Disciples needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit just like Jesus was and experience the empowerment as He equipped them to establish and build His Church.
They had a long wait ahead, Pentecost was almost 50 days away. That’s 7 weeks from the Passover celebrations and death of Jesus.
I think it is very significant to know that the dates God used to initiate the Coming of Jesus and the empowering of the Holy Spirit mirror the events in the Jewish calendar and emphasise the importance of the New Covenant set up by God for His people.
The Passover celebrated the setting free of the chosen people who were captives to the Pharoah in Egypt and providing an escape route led by Moses to the Promised land.
At Pentecost, which in Jewish terms is called the Shavuot celebrates the time during their escape they were given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving God. The word Shavuot means weeks, and the festival of Shavuot marks the completion of the seven-week counting period between Passover and Shavuot.
In the Christian calendar the Passover celebrates the setting free of Gods people from the slavery of sin through the death of Jesus on the cross to freedom In Christ and opens a pathway to the promised land.
Pentecost marks the giving of the Holy Spirit who leads into all truth and empowers the Christian to make the word live in obedience to the will and purpose of God to build His church.
Jewish Passover Gods sets His people free from slavery
Christian Passover God sets us free from sin by the blood of Jesus
Jewish Pentecost God gives Torah - ( first five books of the Christian OT)
Christian Pentecost God gives the empowering to enable His people to LIVE the word and move on build His church.
Just as Easter, is the Christians Passover, the time when Jesus made an atonement for our sins by becoming the sacrificial Lamb and dying on the cross, a once and for-all sacrifice for those who believe and accept Him as their Saviour and Lord.
Whitsuntide is our Pentecost, a time when instead of the Law being given from on high, in clouds of billowing smoke, as on Mount Sinai, the Holy Spirit is given in tongues of fire, to empower and equip the church to become living witnesses of the risen living Lord, and to let the first fruits of the harvest be seen in their lives, as evidenced when 3000 new converts were made in just one day!
There’s a lot at stake here - this is Gods New Way - His covenant. Because of His peoples mismanagement of the Old Covenant and failure to live the word, God in Christ made the Word become flesh - He lived it and by example showed us the way to live by the word. He then not only gave man instructions how to live tin obedience to His word but He sent His Holy Spirit into man just like He did into Christ - to enable man to live as Christ did - to become like Christ to spread the truth and build His Kingdom.
As I said three weeks ago, when I read Acts- I get excited with them at what God was doing and going to do through those early converts who had not only encountered the awesome truth in the life and example of Jesus - but were going to know deep within that the risen Lord would come and take residence in their hearts, in their thoughts, their actions and their living. This was to be revival at it’s best. And God has been doing it ever since.
This morning we are celebrating Ascension Day, the day 40 days after the ressurection of Jesus, that He ascended into Heaven. We can read about that in the last chapter of Luke and the first Chapter of Acts. The actual day that the church celebrates this was last Thursday, 5 May, although it has become practice in many churches to celebrate Ascension Day today.
Lets remind ourselves of what happened on this day - just ten days before Pentecost the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - that we will be celebrating next Sunday.
Acts 1 ; 1-14 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Jesus sent them back home - Don’t leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
The last time we met we looked at the how the disciples would spend their time between the death and resurrection Jesus the promised Pentecost.
This was their waiting time and as well as spending time sharing their experiences of Jesus and reminising over the last three years - building their confidence and encouraging one another - they would spend time talking to their Lord in prayer.
Their prayer time would be a time of preparing them for greater things so that they could become like Jesus and continue the work that He began. They were to become vehicles through whom Jesus could work to reconcile fallen man back to God.
God knew what a difficult time the disciples would face in the coming weeks and months and wanted to prepare them for what He had in store for them - the empowering of the same Holy Spirit that empowered and enabled Jesus to do what He did to build His Kingdom. Prayer and togetherness are the vital links - that put that spark of life into our ministry.
Waiting on God is the vehicle through which He can empower us for what lies ahead.
Martin Luther said ‘I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer - in other words ‘Lord, I haven’t time NOT to pray’ Ken used to tell us that he usually awoke around four in the morning and spent the time praying. It showed in his serenity, his genuine concern and his love.
Prayer is Gods secret weapon. Its a missile that can be directed anywhere and always hits its target. Satan has no anti- missiles. Ronald Dunn in his book ‘Don’t just stand there, pray something’ says this;
‘The unbeliever has many defences against our evangelistic prayers......
He can refuse to come to church.
You can knock on his door and he can refuse to let you in.
Hand him a tract and he can tear it up.
Go on TV and he can switch it off.
Call him on the phone and he can hang up.
....But what he can’t do is prevent the Lord Jesus from knocking at his hearts door in response to our prayers. People we can’t reach any other way can be reached by the way of the throne of prayer.
And so they prayed in preperation for the day that was to come - when they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit to be and do all that God had in store for them to do as His chosen disciples.
What does that mean to Gods people today - His church - you and me?
What in the world should the church be doing in these days. I believe that Luke gives us the answer and makes it so clear as to what God wants us to do. I believe that our Bible reading this morning sets forth Gods commission for His people to continue the work that Jesus began which is to live the word and in so doing let people know what real life is all about - to share the living presence of Almighty God with those around us and in so doing attract them to leave let go the foolish lifestyles of people without purpose in life and show them a new and living way - Gods way.
Acts 1;8 Jesus says it all - You will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth . Witnesses - people of God who share what they know and have received from God
In his former book, Luke's tells us all about what Jesus did and to taught to and through His chosen disciples. Now he brings us to look at our own commitment to Jesus and the way forward for us and the church.
Luke emphasises the fact that all the glorious things that were prophesied and promised by God throughout the history of the world up to that time had been realised and evidenced through the life of Jesus the promised Messiah and that there was more to come. The fact that Jesus died for our sins, rose again and was seen by hundreds alive and well is all the proof needed to let mankind know that God love His people and wants us to love and live in obedience to Him.
We as Gods people, along with the disciples, are given the command to wait for the promised Holy Spirit who will empower and equip each one of us to be His witnesses, where we are and to the ends of the earth.
Because the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances point steadily in only one direction - that Jesus is alive! We can boldly invite unbelievers to hear our witness and consider the evidence.
Luke's review climaxes with Jesus' command to wait for the Holy Spirit's coming when His witnesses will be born again by the power of the Holy Spirit and that God will supply the church with everything we need to fulfilling its missionary command.
Not surprisingly do we find that the disciples seen more concerned about the date of Christs return at the end of time than they do in getting on with the job He’s commanded them to do and is ready to equip them to do. No wonder Jesus sweeps their concern aside and tells them that that’s God concern - just get on with the work He is calling you to do.
8 - you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The prophet Joel who first voiced this promise tells us that the promise is for all Gods people - no just a select few - On the day of Pentecost we are told that there were 3000 people gathered there and - all received the Holy Spirit.
What does that mean for you and me? I believe that if you have repented of your sins and received the Lord Jesus as your Saviour and acknowledge Him as Lord of your life - then you are commanded and commissioned to be His witnesses and as such the promised empowering of the Holy Spirit is for you.
WOW! What a privilage and what a responsibility.
After Jesus had given the command, He is taken up from the earth, and a cloud so envelopes him that the disciples can no longer see him. The disciples stand in awe,
Suddenly two angels appear-- and ask the Disciples - ‘why stand here looking into the sky - this same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven will come back in the way you have seen Him go into Heaven’.
In good old Yorkshire terms they would simply say ’stop gawping up in the sky, get your head out of the clouds - get your feet planted firmly on the ground and get on with the job you’ve been called to do’
In other words, He’s coming back one day for His church and that will include you and the ones that you have witnessed to - and He will take us all back to His place to live with Him in a world of perfect bliss - Heaven
The Great Commission is the main task the Lord left his church to do.
To get right with God and share the good news to others.
Looking at the empty seats around us I don’t think that we are doing a particularly good job - do you?
It’s not easy - but then He never said it would be - that’s why He longs to give His followers the Holy Spirit to empower and equip them for ministry.
Lets prepare ourselves like the disciples did - over the next seven days by seeking God in prayer in preperation for next Sunday - the day of Pentecost when the empowering of the Holy Spirit is freely given to all who earnestly seek the blessing - and don’t forget it’s not an option for the church - but a command and a commission set by God for His people - that’s you and me.
In 1994 I led a worship musical at Holy Trinity Church in Idle called Alleluia, the music of Bill and Gloria Gaither. The Finale included many of the songs we had sung that night starting with Something Beautiful - that even through all the difficulties and uphill struggles, God had made such a difference in our lives - so much that we needed to ‘Praise the Lord’ and more than that ‘Get all excited and go tell someone else that Jesus Christ is still the King of Kings and to make Him King of their lives - Our testimony was that ‘ Because He lives’ - we can face the future whatever that brings.
We are going to enjoy that finale her at the end of a meeting that has called us to remember the call and commands of Jesus to the faithful disciples who have come to know Him to Go and tell others.
In the choir you will see familiar faces - all with a different story to tell - Some, like Nellie Oates, my Kevin, David Barratt who have gone on to live with Him in Glory and - others who have gone other ways. There are also those who are still with us.
I love it when we see Laura getting excited - sing along and feel the experience for yourselves.
It starts with He’s made Something Beautiful, of my life so Lets just Praise the Lord
And get all Excited and go tell everyone that He is King of Kings and that Because He lives - I can face the future whatever that may bring.
Sunday 17 April 2016 Waiting on the Lord
The disciples are now in virtual hiding for fear of what might happen to them when the authorities find out that they have been with Jesus. We have read various accounts of how the risen Lord appeared to them on numerous occasions with the greeting ’Peace’ to calm them and to give them new hope.
We have read the different accounts of His appearing from the gospels - all told from the writers own viewpoint - On Wednesday night we read from Acts, Luke’s letter to his friend Theophilus where he continues the story from where he left off in his gospel.
The Acts of the Apostles is a great book that shows us how God brought the disciples together to become the restored living body of Christ that would continue His ministry in the world. That’s the true meaning of the word Church and what the church should be - the Body of Christ - To make that possible, the Disciples would be filled with the Holy Spirit just like Jesus was and empowered and equipped to establish and build His Church.
The first 12 chapters of Acts show how Peter, upon whom Jesus had said ‘He would build His church’ became a transformed power house of an evangelist who would challenge his hearers to see the foolishness of their ways, seek repentance of their sins receive forgiveness and prepare them receive the Holy Spirit for themselves. WOW! It doesn’t get anymore exciting that this does it?
Thats the intention and what turned out to be the reality - but for now its waiting time.
Jesus had told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the promise of the Father had come - they wouldn’t realise what that meant, but still, they were obedient and waited. We’re going to read that command and look at the way in which the disciples responded to His command.
Acts 1:1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command:
"Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit."
So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
8 ( But) you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city.
When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
WOW! What did Jesus say "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit."
I hate waiting - especially when someone has told you that something great is just around the corner. I guess if were honest, most of us are like that - like kids at Christmas - we can’t wait
I hate waiting at the best of times - Why wait? we live in a world that says that you don’t have to wait - you can have it now - today. We have instant Coffee - instant meals microwaves that enable you to prepare a dinner in minutes. CD’s that enable you to get straight to the song you want without the need to play all those leading up to it.
Unlike the old videos where you have to trawl through the whole video on fast forward we now have DVD’s where we can go straight to the part we want. We live in a ‘ I want it and I want it now - society.
I remember when the first credit cards came out - it was Access and their slogan was ‘Why wait until tomorrow for something you can have today’ - ‘Access takes the waiting out of wanting’. Today we have the adverts that say Take it home today it and don’t pay a penny until Next year.
As children we don’t like being told to wait and as we grow up, that impatience gets stronger. We don’t like waiting for the bus, waiting for the kettle to boil or the wife to get ready to go out - waiting is not something that comes easily. We want it NOW! Yet the Scriptures tell us that waiting can be beneficial - in fact the waiting time is important.
Isaiah 40; they that wait upon the LORD will renew their strength
Isaiah 30:18 .... the LORD longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. Blessed are all who wait for Him!
Isaiah 64:4 Since ancient times no-one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.
Acts 1:4 ,5 While Jesus was eating with them, He gave them this command:
"Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit."
Waiting might be a pain but it can be profitable - waiting on God is vital in order to claim the promises He has made available for us to share.
In a couple of weeks time we will be celebrating the fruits of that waiting time that the disciples ‘endured’. Pentecost, the time that the church, the body of Christ received the Holy Spirit and went public - out onto the streets - not cooped up in dead lifeless ineffective synagogues but out on the streets where Jesus had taken His message..
This would be the birthday of the real Church - the church down our street - the time when Gods people realised their foolishness in rejecting, even trying to kill, the message and returned to God, experienced forgiveness and the awesomness of His indwelling Spirit as they began to see the very power of God flow through them -
Peter and the lame man -imagine how they felt when they became channels of Gods power - right their outside the doors of the church. Those early converts had not only encountered the awesome truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - but were going to know deep within by that Jesus the risen Lord had come to take residence in their hearts and therefore integral in their thoughts, their actions, their living. This was revival at it’s best.
When I read Acts- I get excited with them at what God did then and as we are told in Joel 2:28 is still doing today.
I have books and DVD’s of the mighty moving of Gods Holy Spirit in the early Salvation Army in the late 1880‘s, the Welsh revival of 1904 led by Evan Roberts, The Pentecostal movement with Smith Wigglesworth, the Charismatic Movement of the 1970’s with Michael Harper - God continues to revive His flagging wayward church with fresh injections of the Holy Spirit.
O how we yearn for the fire of the Holy Spirit to once again set His church ablaze so that the world will see the awesome power of God in us drawing mankind to the feet of Jesus.
The secret, as Evan Roberts found out, is in the waiting - I believe that revival will come again when Gods people humble themselves before Him and are prepared to wait for His blessing.
I believe that revival will come to the church when Gods people give themselves in total commitment to His service and are prepared to wait for His anointing, His enabling and His empowering.
I believe that revival will come when Gods people and fellowships cry ‘break me, melt me, mould me and fill me’ Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me’.
Jesus said ‘Wait’ stay just where you are - don’t move out of Jerusalem until you receive the gift My Father promised. The promise? Joel 2:28 I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.
Jesus said ‘Wait’ stay just where you are then - Wow! you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Empowered - equipped - enabled to be Witnesses to what they had not only seen with their own eyes but been a part of - The humble fishermen, despised Tax collector were to be transformed into fishers of men just like Jesus said they would - but not until they had been filled with the Holy Spirit - just like Jesus. They would be equipped and enabled to do the same things that Jesus had done - Empowered by the Holy Spirit from within.
After Jesus had said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
Stop staring up the steps and get back to Jerusalem - wait there and when the time is ripe, I will empower you to step up the stairs!
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
That’s the secret - wait but don’t waste your time doing nothing - use that waiting time to pray - seek His will and purpose for your life and ask Him to come and equip you to do what He desires of you in His Kingdom building work.
I can’t count how many times I have heard people make an excuse for their inactivity by saying ‘I’m waiting until the Lord makes it clear what He wants of my life’. Years later they’re still waiting. The disciples didn’t just wait - they waited on the Lord in prayer - they sought His presence every day - they kept in touch with the Almighty until the blessing came from Heaven and then they were off! There was no stopping them.
The prayer of Evan Roberts whom God used to bring about the great Spiritual awakening in Wales in 1904 - his prayer was ‘Lord shake your church’ O how we need a good shaking some times - and that’s what God did - He shook it to the Core
In a couple of weeks we will read how as they prayed and the holy Spirit came, the whole building where they met shook. I believe that there is also a great need for a spiritual shake up that will bring the church back to its senses that will restore vision and renew our mission
If we are obedient to Him - He will not only
Shake this Church to the core, but
Shake this Corps to become His Church
Isaiah 40: 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
31:but those who hope in the LORD ( those who wait in hope ) 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. Lord teach us to wait on You in prayer until revival comes.
I believe that as we have read, the key to our waiting is prayer - that’s what the disciples did.
Some find prayer difficult - many people today only pray when they are in difficulty - many don’t even pray. I don’t mean a quick prayer when we feel helpless or in difficulties - I mean purposeful, intended prayers where we go somewhere where we can be quiet - away from the noises of the world and spend quality time talking to God.
Jesus had shown by example how important prayer is. When his disciples saw how He prayed they asked Him to show them how to pray and He taught them what today we call the Lords prayer. In those days prayers would have been spoken mainly by the priest in the synagogue or as a written prayer in a box worn on their arms.
Jesus taught them how to pray - He showed them by example the power of fervent prayer.
Matthew tells us also that Jesus went further and told them how not to pray -
Matthew 6:5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. All Show But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. WOW! That was new
7:And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. No need to dress it up - Get to the point Prayer should start with an unhurried acknowledgement of who God is - and as we do that, we too elevate out own expectations of a mighty God to who nothing is impossible.
Let’s be honest, What’s you prayer life like? Is it just a matter of ‘I pray when I feel I need to’ or it’s become and important disciplined part of your life. - I hope so.
Prayer is the Christians vital breath - it’s the churches lifeline to God and to growth.
Sermon 10 April 2016
I love the way John tells of how on the day of the Resurrection Jesus appeared to His disciples.
John 20:19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
I would think that following the traumatic events that took Jesus to the cross, the disciples would find sSermonolace and comfort in being together. They were afraid, that’s why Jesus’ first words were ‘Shalom’ - Peace. They were deflated and that’s why He then went on to breath new life into them. The holy breath of God. Rauch HaKodesh ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ He said
We sing don’t we, ‘Breath on me breath of God fill me with life anew’ that’s exactly what Jesus did. He came to them, like a breath of fresh air and breathed His Spirit into them to bring them new life - a God breathed empowered new life
In the same way that God breathed new life into the valley of dry bones, so too Jesus breathed new life into His friends.
They had been told by the women who had gone to the tomb that Jesus was alive - but it’s one thing being told - it’s another believing it to be true. That’s why you can understand how they would feel at seeing Jesus again. Their Joy would be real, but tinged with guilt when they remembered how, when the going got tough, they were quick to run away. O how they needed to see and hear Jesus who came with words of comfort. Peace. - His peace
He knew their failings, He knew that after being at rock bottom in their lives, they needed a boost - a leg up - they needed more than encouragement - they needed to know that they had been forgiven, accepted, reinstated - they needed to feel that in spite of all they had done - or not done- that Jesus still loved them.
On Wednesday night we read about this appearance and how a week later Jesus appeared to them again because Thomas had not been there that first time. The other disciples would have been full of it since seeing Jesus and so, that week, they would have been telling Thomas all about it with great enthusiasm - they were probably shocked when he said I wont believe it until I can put my finger into the wounds on His hands - in other words, -‘I’ll believe it when I see it for myself’.
It’s true isn’t it that being told about something is not the same as actually experiencing it yourself. To Thomas ‘seeing was believing’ and I believe that this happened to press home the truth to His disciples then and today, that many of our friends and colleagues will say that they would only believe that God exists if they could see evidence to back it up.
In the first of the new six-part series, about the work of the Salvation Army, Paul O Grady was asked wether he believes in God and admitted that he just doesn't know, His response was "Do I believe in God? Oh dear, I don't know. Some people believe blindly, I can't you see, I have to know. I don't know, I really can't answer that question. I'd like to say I believe in God‘. Paul’s a doubting Thomas - like so many others. To him, like Thomas. ‘Seeing is believing’. As for his comment that ‘some people believing blindly’ that’s not my experience the more we earnestly seek after the truth - the more He opens our eyes’. Believing is seeing.
Jesus said to Thomas ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Here Jesus emphasises the need for His followers, those who come to learn of Him down through the ages - me and you today - need to have and exercise faith - faith that doesn’t demand proof - faith that believes even in the difficult times of life.
The truth is that ‘believing is seeing’ for as we exercise faith - our spiritual eyes are opened to see Him in all His Glory.
That’s why He came to them - Following His resurrection,
He had sought out Mary in the garden near the tomb.
He sought the disciples where they were.
He met them in their hiding place, the upper room behind locked the doors -
He met two of them getting away from it all on the road to Emmaus
He wanted His friends to know that He was OK, that He still loved them even though they had deserted Him, and even denied knowing Him.
He wanted to let them in on the secrets of the Kingdom - His Kingdom - the Kingdom that will last forever.
He wanted them to pick up the pieces where they had left off and be ready to move forward.
The great truth is that even though they were running away, He went looking for them.
This morning we concentrate our thoughts on Peter. Wow - how must he have felt after letting Jesus down big time? Jesus had told him that when Jesus had been arrested, Peter would deny Jesus three times and as a reminder of each betrayal, a cock would crow. Just like the two on the road to Emmaus, Peter and his friends went back to their familiar jobs of fishing. It happened this way
Read John 21; 1-14
Of all the exciting accounts of the appearance of Jesus following His resurrection, this is my personal favourite. I love the way in which God, when inspiring John to recall these events, emphasises the calling and commissioning of the disciples by Jesus by mirroring the very first calling of the disciples of Jesus -recorded in Luke 5;4
When Jesus had finished speaking, He said to Simon Peter, " Put out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." Simon's answer was, "Master, we have worked hard all night, and we haven't caught anything. But, because You say so, we'll have another go When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this his response was to fall on his knees, and acknowledge his lack of faith, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man". For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish and so were James and John sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Don't be afraid, said Jesus, for from now on, You will be fishers of men" - so they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him. Wow! and this happened three years ago. Now Jesus was no longer with them - and with Him would go their dreams, their aspirations their hopes.
Amazing then , how three years later John relates an almost repeat performance - a replay of that first encounter with Jesus when He called them to come and follow Him and He would make them fishers of men - and that’s before ‘Catch up TV’
"Come on, said Peter, I'm going fishing " hang on said the others, "we're coming with you". So they went out in the boat, worked hard all night, and caught nothing! Exactly like before.
Then the stranger on the shore appeared, and as if to rub it in a little more, He asked them if they had caught any fish. It doesn't take much of an imagination, does it, to see what the real response of those hard worked fishermen was, tired as they were, and so fed up with failure. What would make matters worse was when this guy on the shore, whom they thought was a complete stranger, tells them to "cast your net's on the right side of the boat, and you will find some fish" I can just hear them saying ' Just who does he think he is, telling us, fishermen from birth, how to catch fish ?'
They could have ignored Him, but thankfully, they did it His way, and Wow!, what a catch! their nets were so full of fish, that they were unable to haul them in. It's as if Jesus is saying to His friends, come on lads, let's start all over again! Let's go right back to the beginning, when I first called you to be My disciples, only this time, you have the experience of hindsight.
This time, you have the experience of having lived with Me for three years. I said then, that in the same way as you are fishermen now, one day you will be fishers 'of' men. Jesus then invites then ashore to share a meal with Him
To the disciples on the way to Emmaus it was in the familiar breaking of the bread which reminded them of the last supper that their eyes were opened to see who the stranger was. In the same way, it was in the repeat of the first calling that they realised who the stranger on the shore was.
How do you think Peter felt - he thought he had blown it big time. He’d claimed to be Jesus’s most loyal follower. He said that he would follow Him even to death. But when Jesus needed him most, in an attempt to save his own life, he denied even knowing Jesus. Peter rejected his best friend -
Today, Peter’s greatest fear would probably be - would Jesus reject him? After all said and done - he deserved it!
Peter the strong, Peter the defensive - Who would believe that he would be the one who would ever deny Jesus. Looking deep into the eyes of his friend and Saviour - he had denied even knowing Him - not once, not twice - but three times..
Peters story is awesome news for those of us who feel like we have screwed things up - many times - He is proof that failure is not the end when it comes to God. That just as we screw it up big time, Jesus is ready to forgive big time.
The world pulls failures down, but not Jesus, He knows our difficulties, our problems and our weakness and instead of condemnation, He encourages the weak, lifts the fallen, loves the unloved, and in the case of Peter, forgives the penitent, Jesus sees right in to the intentions of our hearts and past the foolish actions. That;s not saying He condones what we do but that He loves us and doesn’t give up on us. I don’t believe that our God who demands we forgive one another 70x7 isn’t going to do the same for us.
That's why I love the story of the catch of fish, and although all the other gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke are quick to tell us how Peter denied knowing Jesus, only John the disciple Jesus loved, the disciple Jesus trusted to take care of His mother - John with real insider knowledge and a deep, love for Jesus completes the story by showing us how Jesus forgave Peter three times, once for each denial, and then reinstates Peter.
As so we are told that as Jesus cooked the fish and gave it to His disciples, He looked at Peter and asked 'him three times ' Simon Peter, do you love me? each time Peter replied, 'You know I do, Lord'
I guess that each time Jesus asked 'do you love me' Peter grimaced and felt ashamed
But each denial, needed repentance and forgiveness to make Peter feel clean and good about himself again.
The truth here, for each one of us this morning, is this, that if you feel that you seem to be always letting Jesus down, maybe by the way that you live your life, He is willing to forgive you .
If you feel that, neglected Him by not giving Him enough time, you know, that quick prayer at the end of the day, or maybe being half hearted - You know that because He loves you, He will forgive and help you start again. Perhaps we even take that for granted and use it to excuse the way we feel or act at the moment
It might be that you feel that you’ve totally rejected Jesus, there is always forgiveness available for those if you are truly sorry. I want to encourage you by reminding you what Jesus said 'I will never leave you or forsake you' that surely demands the same loyalty from us, doesn't it?
I want to remind you that no-matter what, Jesus loves you, and gave His life for you even though at times, you've fail Him. Jesus is much kinder to us, than we are to ourselves, and to each other.
If this morning, you are feeling unworthy, inadequate, a failure, take heart, Jesus loves you so much, that He died to forgive you - We use the phrase so glibly when we want to show how much we want something ‘I’d die for that’ Jesus didn’t say it - He DID IT He died for me and you and because He loves us, He reaches out with arms of love and forgiveness to welcome you back into His arms.
The world is quick to pull us down by identifying our failures, the world has little sympathy. But Jesus wants to lift you up by encouraging you and boosting your confidence in Him. Jesus not only forgave Peter, but He gave him a commission, to look after, to take care of and feed His church. Even though Peter had failed Jesus when the pressure was on, Jesus knew that somewhere deep down in Peters heart, Peter still loved Him and wanted to serve Him with his whole life. Jesus knew that and gave Peter another chance.
Jesus knows our weakness, He knows that at times, we are ashamed of some of the things that we do. He knows that even though many times, our actions are not indicative of our true feelings.
He knows that when by our foolishness, our 'giving in to temptation' we seem to deny all that we profess to be, that in our heart of hearts, their is remorse, a wishing that we hadn't done it, said it, thought it, and is always ready to forgive. Why? Because He loves us.
Just as Jesus wanted Peter to really know His forgiveness, I believe, this morning that Jesus wants you to 'really know' what forgiveness feels like. There is Joy in heaven over one sinner that repents.
We’ve all been there - made mistakes and still do - but thanks be to God, through the love of Jesus we can be forgiven and have a sure future in this life and in the life to come
Jesus not only forgave Peter but He reinstated him and commissioned him to Tend the lambs and feed my sheep. Maybe today Jesus wants to forgive and re-instate someone here this morning
Jesus offers forgiveness.
Sunday 3 April 2016
2 Cor 6;16 For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
Joshua 22:5 But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: (Deut 12;12) to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul."
Genesis 5:24 Enoch walked with God. Genesis 6:9 Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.
We read Luke 24;13-33 and then played the song ‘When you walk through a storm’
It might surprise some of you to know that even though it’s sung in many football stadiums, especially Liverpool, who have the title above their entrance that It’s not a football song but a song from Carousel
On Wednesday night at our Bible fellowship we read the last chapter of Matthew where he recalls the last words spoken to the disciples before Jesus sent them out on their mission to tell the world.
Matthew 28; 19-20 Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus knew that they would face many difficulties as they tried to share the good news and so I would think that the song ‘when you walk through a storm could well be their song too;
When you walk through a storm keep your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At he end of the storm is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain,
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone.
For as Jesus said; I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
There were many appearances of Jesus following the resurrection. We read last week how Mary Magdalene saw Him but didn’t recognise Him at first. Jesus appeared that same evening to the disciples who had gone back to Jerusalem and were sharing a meal together.
The story that we have just read of the two travellers on the road to Emmaus is another example of how, without even realising it at the time, these two people encountered Jesus as they simply walked and talked along their journey.
They had been in Jerusalem for the Passover, probably been amongst the crowds that greeted Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem a week earlier, followed the footsteps of Jesus as He went through the traumatic week before His arrest, heard the crowds cry ‘crucify Him’ and then saw Him die on the cross. One thing is for sure, they not only knew about Jesus, they were in the inner sanctum of His friends.
We always assume that the two were both men and in fact we are told that one of them was called Cleopas. Some believe that it could have been Cleopas’s wife Mary who stood with Mary the mother of Jesus at the cross. John 19;25
I read with great interest the testimony of a converted Jew called Lenny Hoy who obviously find the New testament a most exhilarating book and is passionate about Yeshua - his newly found Messiah, Jesus the Son of God.
He says this about reading about the Emmaus road experience.
‘ I have a deep passion for this passage. With it God opened my unbelieving eyes and my cold and cynical heart to the beauty and power of His Word. I won’t go into the particulars of that transformative morning but I would like to add this perhaps subjective response of the passage.
Years ago, when I recovered my senses after reading and re-reading this passage in unexpected and unstoppable tears, one of the thoughts I could not shake was that there was a reason why one disciple has no name: the blank space left room into which God poured my heart. For even now, I cannot read this passage and not again walk that very road with Cleopas and our risen Lord.
Don’t take this too seriously, my perhaps too-subjective reaction to the story, but even the passage of over forty years does not dull to joy I take in rereading it yet again. That Saturday morning as I read this passage God let me walk in another man’s shoes. It remains a gift I treasure beyond measure.
In other words, he himself put himself in the shoes of the unnamed disciple of Jesus.
No matter who the other unnamed follower was, They were both obviously supporters of Jesus who had walked with Him, now, dismayed, disillusioned, probably feeling let down, they were walking away from the situation and getting back to their old way of life, getting back to the familiar, just like Peter, James and John who went fishing.
Their dreams had been ‘tossed and blown’. ‘We’d hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel’ Walk on, walk on - they were certainly doing that - but away from it all - They had walked with Jesus ‘with hope in your heart’ they’d thought that Jesus was the one and that from then on ‘they’d never walk alone’.
I guess if we were honest we’ve all been there - as soon as things start to go wrong in our daily walk with the Lord, doubts and uncertainties start to creep in - the ‘why is this happening and to me - what have I done!’ we get down hearted and some walk away. Perhaps that’s what they were doing - getting away from it all -
As they walked to Emmaus, they reasoned through the events of the last few days together. Why? Why? Why’ A stranger joins them, it was Jesus, but His identity was kept from them, for the moment anyway. He asked them what they were talking about
I guess they were amazed that this stranger hadn’t heard what must by now be rumours that were spreading throughout the region about the last few days events. ‘Haven’t you heard?’ we’re talking about ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet who the Chief priests and rulers silenced, by putting Him to death’. ‘We’d hoped that He was the Messiah, the one who would redeem Israel. - What’s more, its now the third day since all this took place - and they can’t even find His body’.
They knew the prophesies concerning the Messiah, they knew that Jesus himself had said that He would rise on the third day ‘Some of our women folk said they had seen an angel who said that He was alive - but when our companions went to the tomb, Peter and John, He wasn’t there’.
Jesus then began to remind them from scripture of all the prophesies about Himself. He called them ‘slow of heart’ to believe. They knew the teachings of Jesus, they knew what He had said to them before He died, but it failed to register in their hearts.
The jigsaw puzzle of the last few weeks began to take shape and the true picture of what really happened began to dawn. Jesus had shown them what he completed picture would look like - He’s shown them the box lid - all they needed to do was join the pieces of the jigsaw together to see the bigger picture.
When you start to do a jigsaw puzzle, what do you do? you start by getting the straight edges together and they form the framework that enables you to put the whole picture together. It’s hard at first, but it gets easier as the picture begins to take shape.
That’s why, beginning with Moses and ALL the prophets, Jesus started creating the framework that would make way for the completed picture, Jesus, to be revealed
What excites me about our bible reading this morning is this - that even though on the surface, these two disciples were having a tough time - their little world had collapsed around them - their hopes and dreams dashed - what is great is that Jesus was there with them all the time. He walked alongside them until they came into truth.
That’s what Jesus had promised the disciples - Matt 28;20 I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” That’s what God said through the Prophet Isaiah ‘Fear not when you walk through the waters I will be with you - when you walk through the fire -I will be with you’. In the down times of life - He is still there. We sing don‘t we ‘‘Standing somewhere in the shadows you will find Him - and you’ll know Him by the nail prints in His hands’.
As they walked - He drew near- as they talked with Him, their hearts began to warm - beat faster- as gradually He revealed Himself to them.
Just as His word says; God is our refuge and strength a very present help in times of trouble - even though your world collapses all round you - take heart - He is with us and will never leave us or forsake us.
Many of us, as we look back we can see the way in which much if not all of our lives, Jesus has been there, influencing our decisions to bring us to a point of recognising Him as Lord. He has been with us for much of our journeying through life without us even realising it.
For the moment, the ‘eyes’ of these two were kept from ‘seeing’ Jesus. He wanted them to know His word. He wanted their expectations to be fired up. He wanted them to hunger after more. He wanted them to realise for themselves the truth. No forced conversion. After bringing revealing the truth to them, He wanted them to come into a free acceptance of Salvation. Having worked on them, the time came when He was going to ‘open their eyes’ and let them see Him in all His glory. It was when He sat at the table with them, took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. At that point, their eyes were opened, they recognised Him and whoosh!
He disappeared from their sight. It was then that they shared how they had felt even as they journeyed with Him ‘Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked to us on the way’ Wow! His ministry had started to work on them right from the first moment they encountered Him.
WOW! They had been with Jesus. They testified, that as He talked with them, as He had made known to them the scriptures, their hearts had been on fire. They rushed back to Jerusalem, joined the other disciples and confirmed that Yes it was true The Lord has arisen’. It was at this time that Jesus then appeared to the other disciples.
There may be those here this morning who perhaps feel that the reality of Jesus is that He seems far away. Don’t you believe it. That’s what the devil wants you to believe, and perhaps your disillusionment is part of the problem.
I can testify that there have been times in my life when I cried out to God ‘Where are you Lord’ ‘I’m hurting . Looking back, in hindsight, I can see that He was always there, that He saw me through. Over the last few years there isn’t a day goes by that I don’t cry out to God ‘Why Lord’ Thankfully, because I know deep down that He loves me - in my despair I cry out to God, Lord I know You’re there, I can’t cope, I need You. And He responds.
The Christian walk is about knowing His presence with us every step of the way.
When we realise that, then He comes to live within us and through us, draws alongside others, our friends, our work colleagues, our family, our neighbours, and through us, making Himself known.
What did we all sing in the first song this morning? You ask me how I know He lives - He lives within MY Heart. Believe it! What a privilege that is. As John Ortberg states ‘God is closer than you think’
This morning Jesus wants you to know Him in your heart so that He can strengthen and help you face up to whatever the world throws at you. He wants you to know His presence. He wants your heart to burn within you with that holy fire of knowing His presence .
Jesus wants you to Believe in your heart, so that He can begin to open the eyes of your heart to see Him in all His Glory. Jesus wants to walk with you and live through you
Easter Sunday 2016 John 20 1-18
What a week His disciples had shared together;
Good Friday The shock and disbelief of His betrayal by Judas and arrest
The fear that they too would be arrested
The pain of separation and the feelings of failure, of letting Him down.
The shame of Peters denial
The terror of His mock trial, the flogging, the cruel crown of thorns
The feeling of utter helplessness as they watched Jesus was forced to carry His to the cross to Calvary
And Jesus? The sadness of the Last Supper
The fear as He cried out ’If there is any other way Father’
The pain as they nailed Him to the cross
The hurt caused by the way in which His own disciples let Him down Judas’s betrayal, the lack of response from His disciples when He asked them to stay awake while He went to pray and the denial of Peter who said he didn’t even know Jesus.
He would feel utterly deserted - alone - seperated by the sin He bore on the cross as He cried out My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?
No one could be expected to have to go through the whole spectrum of intense emotions in so short a time. It was as if a whole lifetimes experiences were all being felt in one week.
Perhaps you have shared some of those emotions as we have journeyed with them this week. We know how easy it is to sing our praises together when all is going well for us but what a contrast in our experience when the difficult times come, when things are not going so well, where are we then? . It's easy to sing alleluia when everythings going our way, but not so easy when we are called to carry our cross, whatever form that might take.
I thought I’d had a bad week, the preparations for four meetings as well as a meal on Good Friday. The sadness of leading a Fellowship meeting on what was my 53rd wedding Anniversary on Wednesday and then today’s meeting which would have been Beryl’s birthday - add to all that the problem of being without a car when I most needed it. - Yet - painful and difficult as it has been, nothing compared to the week Jesus experienced.
Good Friday was special as 24 of us gathered for worship around the cross in the morning, 31 shared lunch and 13 of us then went up to Otley where we gathered to sing and pray. It was good to have the Ukrainian family with us.
In the evening some of us came to the hall and shared as the Gaither’s sang that lovely Hymn ’when I survey the wondrous cross’.
On Friday we tried to put ourselves in the place of those around the cross and how they would be feeling at that terrible time. We tried to imagine what the disciples would have felt as they witnessed the crucifixion of their beloved friend Jesus - how Peter would feel having denied knowing Jesus, and Mary watching her son die. Today we share different emotions.
Today I want you to try to imagine the feelings of those who loved Jesus - how they would feel when they went to the tomb. Imagine how Mary Magdalene would feel when she went to the tomb of Jesus that morning. She and the others had watched Him die, they had heard the centurion pronounce Him to dead as he pierced a sword into His side. They’d probably watched as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had taken His body away. Her precious Saviour was dead all right.
Mary couldn't wait to go to the tomb - there would be an eagerness and a spring in her steps as she made her way there. It was early morning, still dark - but in the darkness, she could see that the stone had been removed from the entrance. She ran to Peter and John and cried 'They have taken my Lord away and we don't know where they have put Him' Imagine how she felt fear, bewilderment, shock.
Peter and John ran to see for themselves. Peter didn't go in, but peered in and saw the strips of linen that had been wrapped round Jesus all neatly rolled up. Imagine how He would feel. What a shock. Mary saw the stone had been rolled away, and probably thought someone had stolen the body. Peter saw the discarded clothes, and probably thought the same, but then we read how John, 'seeing - exactly what they had seen, the empty tomb, John went inside and his reaction was that he ‘saw and believed‘.
Probably the words of Jesus at the last supper were beginning to click into place in Johns mind when Jesus told them 'I will be with you a little longer, then you will look for me. I am going away, but I will come back to you. I am telling you this now, before it happens, so that when it does, you will believe'.
Mary, Peter and John would all have their own private feelings as they approached the tomb. Mary, so full of gratitude for what Jesus had done in her life. Jesus had given her a fresh start, a new life. He had set her free from the demons that possessed her, He had delivered her and given her healing. Where everybody else had seen only the bad in her, and hated her, Jesus had shown her love. In return, she stayed with Him at the cross 'til the bitter end.
How do you approach the empty tomb this morning?
Grateful ? Perhaps like Mary Magdalene you too come with a sense of Gratitude for all that Jesus has and is doing in your life. You want to rejoice in the victory over sin and death that Jesus made possible.
Guilty ? Peter, on the other hand, realising that Jesus wasn't there, that He had risen just like He said He would, probably felt a deep sense of guilt. He would be ashamed of himself, after all he had let Jesus down. He probably hadn't mean to, but just when Jesus needed him the most, he denied even knowing Him.
I guess there are times when we feel like that - for the times when we have not so much as denied even knowng Him like Peter, but let Him down in other ways - not spoken in His defence, not been obedient when w should have in showing love and concern for others . Perhaps let Him down by the way in which you have chosen to live your life. Maybe by holding back from making a fuller commitment to Him. Your heart is telling you to do one thing, whilst your mind is putting all kinds of excuses why you shouldn't.
In the same way as we approached the cross on Good Friday, and were challenged by that experience, how we approach the empty tomb this morning, could change our lives. It certainly changed Peters! Instead of rejecting Peter, Jesus would go on to show him the greatness of His forgiving love. Jesus would show Peter that the message of the cross, was about forgiveness and reconciliation, about new starts, fresh beginnings, the joy of new life now ,and the sure hope of eternal life to come. Jesus forgave Peter, and not only re-instated him, but re-named him the rock 'on which I will build my church'. The events of this Easter week and especially the resurrection made a great and lasting impression on Peter. Listen to these openning lines of his first letter to the church some time later;
1 Peter 1; 1-5 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 - 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.
New Birth! Wow! Peter experienced that when Jesus forgave him his denials. A new and Living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead An inheritance that time and circumstance cannot change - a living hope that will last forever kept in Heaven for all those who through faith in Him accept Him and His cause. Salvation and restoration when He comes again.
This was a letter to the scattered Christians, chosen by God according to His foreknowledge. The plan of redemption that was made before time began. A letter that reveals Gods escape route for mankind. Firstly from sin which brings death, made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus who died for our sins. Secondly the gift of new life now that continues on into eternity made possible by the resurrection from the dead, when Christ rose from the tomb.
Jesus didn't fake death - He was dead. Mary His mother, Mary Magdalene, the disciples, the soldiers, the guards, the Chief priests, the crowds, all were eyewitnesses to the death on that cross of Jesus. They took Him down, they carried Him away to the tomb. They laid Him in the tomb and then they sealed the entrance with a bolder. There, that's Him finished they thought! After all everyone knows that in this world, no one gets out alive! Physically anyway.
On the third day, exactly as planned, something wonderful happened, something so powerful, so awesome that only God could possibly do. God breathed new life into the dead Jesus, He rolled away the stone and the resurrected Christ walked out of death into life, eternal life. O yes, He had done it before with Lazarus, He'd given them a foretaste of what would happen to himself. He'd even told them at the last supper they shared that this is what would happen, but they hadn't understood, who can blame them?
He'd said that He was going to leave them and prepare them for a place in His fathers house. He'd said that one day He would come back for them so that they could live with Him. He'd told them that He was the way, the truth and the life, and that He was the only way to His Father, but they hadn't understood. Who can blame them?
Unlike you and me, they didn't have the full story, theirs was only a partial picture, they were looking through a glass darkly. But we have the whole story, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we have the testimony of faithful eyewitnesses, and more than that, we have the witness in ourselves. What then is our response to this day.
To carry on living as if nothing had happened? How can the world ignore that kind of love?
What should my response be? To live in the victory of the Risen Christ
Palm Sunday 2016 Matthew 21; 1-11
On Palm Sunday there were two main groups spectators and the participants. The Spectators who waved a palm branch - The crowds - those who show the majority viewpoint - those who are content to watch from the sidelines - have great pulling power - although they don’t want to get involved too much because it costs to get involved yet they are ones that usually have the most to say
Then there are the participants , the key players, those who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and get on with the job in hand. - those who have counted the cost and are prepared to pay the price whatever - the disciples, Jesus’s faithful band knew that they would have to carry a cross '
I say it every year and I say it again - Its easiest thing in the world to wave a palm branch - Its not so easy to carry your cross. For often whilst you might wave your palm branches with the crowds, you often have to carry your cross alone.
Jesus knew what lay ahead - this was the reason why He came - He probably would have enjoyed the journey up till now - the good times with His friends, the shared experiences - the joy of the miracles and being able to bring comfort and healing to the downcast - but now - He faces the ultimate challenge - the testing of His commitment - the real reason why He came - cross.
Imagine how He felt when He gathered His friends together and in effect said - ‘Well, this is it lads its time to go to Jerusalem - the capital - the most dangerous place - right into the hands of the power mongers - and you know - everything you’ve ever read from scripture about Me will begin to take place’.
Gone the acclaim, the popularity now He would be the ‘Despised, rejected, a man of sorrows, grief stricken - not a pretty picture. Turned in to the Gentiles who will mock Me, insult Me, spit on Me, flog Me and kill Me. Imagine what feelings of disbelief and terror would be in the minds of His disciples. Even the good news, the unbelivable that on the third day he will rise again, would ‘nt bring the comfort that they would need. They just didn’t understand - He told them but they just didn’t understand.
It was like that a few weeks earlier when Mary and Martha had called for Jesus because Lazarus had died. They would’nt believe Him that Lazarus was only asleep - that He would rise again as a sign of the new life that is available to those who are willing to die to the old way of life and be born again to the new." The disciples didn’t understand - the meaning was hidden from them, they did not know what he was talking about.
Imagine how they would feel - do we have to go? can’t we just get on with life as it is and wait till the climate changes and more people are on our side?
The truth was that they had to go - there was no turning back. Have you ever had to get ready to go somewhere that you really didn't want to go? That first day at a new job, the dentists, perhaps the hospital, or even a funeral.
I guess that this was one of those days for Jesus. Up till now, His life and ministry although sometimes hard, had been very rewarding, challenging, with evidences of Gods great power. There had been lots of mountain top experiences - the next leg on the journey would be the most difficult.
He knew that in a few days time, He would be hounded like a common criminal, betrayed by one of His own disciples Judas, let down by the other disciples who had become His friends, and even the unthinkable, denied by Peter.
But He had to go - Jesus knew that this was a journey of no return, Jesus knew that it was the only way that people like you and I could have our sins forgiven and be assured of the resurrection to new life - eternal life - He had to pay the price for our sins on the cross and go to His death.
The disciples didn’t understand - but Jesus did. He knew that He was going to His death. He knew that He would be deserted - alone.
He knew that there was no going back I'll not turn back, whatever it may cost, I'm called to die, to love and save the lost, This was the final step on a journey that would lead to the cross - this would be a terribly difficult, traumatic time - a time of testing that Jesus the man would dearly love to avoid, but He knew that He had to go through the wilderness of life to gain the victory over sin and before He could experience of the resurrection.
For the Joy that was set before Him He endured the cross and all that that meant.
Centuries earlier, the Children of Israel had been liberated from slavery and bondage under the Egyptians. Moses came along, told them of Gods plan to set the captives free and set them on course to the promised land. Everything was great - every obstacle that man put in their path was overcome.
They walked through the Red Sea. God fed them from manna in the desert, water from the rock - it was awesome -everything seemed to be going great apart until the grumblers among them, started to moan and groan at every obstacle, and wanted to go back - what they had experienced before, that which they were slaves to was seen as better than starvation in the desert. Even though every time, God came up trumps for them, they soon got disheartened when things didn’t appear to go right for them.
As they journeyed, they came to rest in a place called Marah - the trouble was that the waters of Marah were bitter and they didn’t like it there - once again, those who only wanted the easy life had had enough and were ready to go back into the wilderness- In effect they were saying I’ll turn back - Iv’e had enough. Iv’e had enough of the difficult, the dark times - doors opening and then closing - the mountain tops and then the valleys - I’ve had enough - I’m going back. What they didn’t realise was that they were only seven miles away from the lush land of Elim - they had to go through Marah to get to Elim.
Over the last couple of years, many of us have had a rough time - wev’e experienced the highs, we’ve been in the valleys - we’ve tasted the bitter waters of Marah. The bitter times - the difficult times that so often blurr the joys of the victories that we have shared, the obstacles we have overcome.
There have been problems with health that have stopped us giving 100% . The going has been tough. We have to be prepared to face the truth that when the devil sees Gods people moving on - he will do everything he can to disrupt it. The sad thing is that he so often uses those you least expect - the Judas factor. Sadly the 'Crowd' mentality of Palm Sunday is not exclusive to the world.
It happens in all churches the sad thing is that thats the time when those who only want an easy smooth and pleasant path want to give up and move on to pastures new. ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’. - If only they could capture the vision of what God is going to do right where they are if only they were willing to go His way.
Jesus knew that in a couple of weeks - the ultimate victory was in sight - that He would rise again from the ashes of pain and despair. Elim was in sight and we are told that because He knew that - He was able to endure the difficulties of the present.
I believe that for those willing to stick it out and fight it through, that Elim is in sight for this fellowship , All that is needed is for Gods people to stick together and trust God for all that I believe He has in mind for this fellowship in the coming months and years.
His plans for us haven’t changed - all we need to do is retune to His frequency, stop listenning to the conflicting voices of the world and those who would try to disrupt our vision - normal service needs to be resumed - and I believe when it does, the picture will be even better.
Jesus set His face towards Jerusalem, knowing the battle that was before Him. There was no going back.
History tells us that when the Romans were set to conquer a new country they would land on the shores of the unknown unchartered territory that they wanted to claim and what did they do? They set fire to their boats - the very boats that had brought them to where they were. The boats that if they needed to and the battle got hot, there would have been a way back. They burned their boats now there was only one way and that was forward. There was no way back if their mission FAILED - they HAD to win.
Bill Wilson, the American who saw the plight of the young people in down town Brooklyn and built an empire of volunteers willing to give up a few years of their lives to minister to them - asked some of his young workers who were training for a place in his youth team that ‘ if the going gets tough and things didn’t work out - what will you do?’ most of them gave the same answer that there would ‘always be a job waiting back home’ They had kept their options open.
I watched this on TV and as Bill Wilson heard them say this, tears filled his eyes for he knew that unless they changed their way of thinking and put the security of the past behind them and were willing to reach out into the unknown, putting everything they had into the work that God had called them to do - they would only give second best and be more likely to quit at the first hurdle.
After all, they still had the security of the known the familiar. With that in mind, they would never be prepared to take the risks that they would have done knowing that they had nothing to loose., They hadn’t yet burned their boats. They lacked commitment.
And so Jesus set His face towards Jerusalem, knowing the battle that was before Him.
There was no going back - as He rode into the city with the tumultuous Hosannas ringing in His ears - every Hosanna was like a flame to the boat.
When Jesus told His disciples They will mock Me, insult Me, spit on Me, flog Me and kill Me. but Hey! On the third day I will rise again." they did’nt understand Him, Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. But we do - we have the full story - Scripture reveals that thats exactly what happened and His followers, although they too went through it - their little fellowship enjoyed new life and were the stronger for it - as filled with the spirit they became a powerful force to be reckoned with in their land.
Maybe God us telling us to stop listenning to the voices of the past and tune in to Him with the response of Samuel - ‘Speak Lord for thy servant heareth’. In other words ‘Here I am Lord - Your servant - tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it!’
We have tasted the bitter waters of Marah - it’s time to move on to Elim
It’s Friday but Sundays coming -
Ten years ago I was called to go somewhere I didn’t want to go - but yet I felt that God wanted me to be there - to try and bring some kind of sense and meaning out of despair. It was to talk to two grieving parents who’s son had committed suicide and because the Corps Officers were at the Officers retreat, I was the only one around - we hadn’t been able to go because of Beryls deteriorating condition. DHQ allocated me to do the funeral.
As I listened to the parents talk about their son, I sensed the yearnings of the young man who died, his pain of loneliness, his longing for love and understanding - the failings of the world to understand - the hopeless feelings of despair and loneliness that he felt - the feelings of failure that his parents and friends would possibly be feeling now.
We prayed and I suggested that if any thing good could come from this tragedy it must surely be for people to have the opportunity of realising that Jesus came not to condemn but to bring mankind back to right living , back to the Father heart of God.
We read about Jesus who saw the hopelessness, the helplesness, the waywardness of mankind and whose heart went out to them in compassion. What they needed was a shepherd to lead them out of the futility of their lives. It was Easter time and we talked about why Jesus came. We talked about the love and compassion of Jesus who would understand how their son felt and the turmoil and desperation that his the parents and friends would feel.
The young man left a note regarding his funeral and had asked for a song by a group called James to be played at his funeral - The lyrics revealed a heart crying out for love
I'm so alone tonight - my bed feels larger than when I was small. Lost in memories - Lost in all the sheets and old pillows. So alone tonight - I Miss you more than you’ll ever know. Called you up, answering machine - when the human touch is what is need
What I need , What I need Is you - I need you
I knew that the echoes of that song would tear at the hearts of those who listenned as they wondered if they had done enough and simply been there for their young friend. I suggested that maybe this was the time to say sorry - to put the past behind and move on into the world with a determination to seek to know the one that Richard was really looking for.
We prayed at the end and one by one they came and sought their peace around the coffin, then they turned around and walked out of the darkness of that little chapel into the sunlight of a new day.
Sometimes in our spiritual journey of discovery we have to through the wilderness and if we have the strength and willpower to hang on in there - one day we shall walk through the door that brings us into the sunlight again - only this time, the sunlight will be greater and more awesome than we have ever experienced before . Perhaps God is saying to you this morning - trust Me - hang in there - you aint seen nothing yet.
Once you give your life to Jesus - there should be no turning back - we are called to continue His work in loving the lost - whatever the cost.
Sunday John 11:1-45
11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair). So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
No rush then? Obviously Jesus knew that there was a greater reason for the death of Lazarus - it would be a foretaste of what would happen to Himself when He lay in the tomb and then was raised to life three days later. Jesus knew exactly what was happening when he said 3v This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.
His disciples warned Jesus that it would be dangerous for Him to go back to Bethany as the Jews had tried to kill Him there
8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”We sing don’t we ‘Let us walk in the light, in the light of God’
11 After He had said this, Jesus went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” ( or as we would say today Sleep it off ) Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14 So then He told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Sounds a little bit like a despairing Thomas probably fearing what lay ahead.
Earlier we read that Jesus waited two days before He even set off to Bethany - No rush I said - It appears not - for even though it was only two miles away -it was four days later before Jesus showed up at the house of Lazarus 17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. Martha -ever the impetuous one - couldn’t wait - she ran out to meet Him.
While Mary stayed at home
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” That showed the extent of the faith that Martha had in Jesus. 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
WOW! What a great and comforting statement that is from Jesus - I love that knowing that Beryl, even though she died physically - because she lived her life believing - she’s alive with Jesus - I know that - just like Jesus said whoever lives believing in me will never die
What a great show of faith from Martha who believed that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God. 28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.
Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Here we see the depth of love that Jesus had for His friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. He knew what they were going through - and shared their sadness - Jesus wept. I believe that whatever we are called to go through in this life - Jesus cares.
Jesus also knew that the death of Lazarus would serve a greater purpose - it would be the forerunner of His own sacrificial death - a living parable to the power of God to give New Life - ressurection life - life in the Spirit - born again. And to illustrate this lesson with real impact, Martha and Mary and all their friends are going to witness the physically resurection first hand.
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”WOW can you imagine the shock and amazement of the crowds when Lazarus walks our free from the grave. Some of them would never have seen anything like this before - only the disciples - as this was nothing new to Jesus, He had already raised Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:52-56) and a widow's son (Luke 7:11-15). The raising of Lazarus from the dead would give greater understanding of the fact that in a few weeks time, Jesus Himself will walk free from the tomb.
As a result of this incredible miracle, many people put their faith in Jesus. Verse 45 tells us that; Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in Him.For you and me today, this is a foretaste of what Easter, which we will celebrate in a couple of weeks time, what Easter is really all about. Newness of life for each of us - now - a second chance to put to death the old way of life and begin to live our lives in obedience to the will of God.It’s also the promise of Newness of Life to come in the ressurection to life in the new Kingdom of Heaven - eternity with God and His loved ones. John 10;10 says it all; Jesus said I have come that they ( you) may have life, and have it to the full.To live life to the full? - WOW! How we all want that
When I was a lad, there was a favourite TV programme that I didn’t like to miss. There were just four notes in the signature tune, but the sound of it struck terror into many hearts. No! it's not Jaws, that only had two notes. There you were, going about your everyday life, unsuspecting any thing like this would ever happen to you and then Eamon Andrews steps out of the crowd, taps you on the shoulder, and shoves a great big red book in your hand, smiles and says
'This, is your life'
The reactions were as varied as the poor unsuspecting victim. From sheer horror, to elation and pride ' you could almost read their thoughts' 'No not my life, what about the uncomfortable bits, the bits I don't want anybody to know, surely they won't bring them out on Telly?'
Some of the folk were young kids who'd hardly lived a life. Others were stars of screen and TV. Others were unsung heroes that deserved their story to be told. One thing was common to all of them - they had all been taken by surprise. Yet we are told that there is indeed a book of life, it might not be red in colour, but it's there, in God's possession. No one ever knows when we will be called upon to meet the author, and few people are prepared for that unsuspected encounter. I wonder what kind of reaction God will see in you and me when one unsuspecting day, he appears and says well friend, 'This is your life'.
Strange isn't it that man only begins to value the life God has given him when they are in fear of loosing it. All of a sudden, life becomes precious. If only we could learn the value of real life - life under Gods control - and begin to really live it to the full.
I remember when I started work, and I told my colleagues that I spent almost every evening in the week at the Army as well as the weekend, they said 'Hey man - get a life! They somehow thought that what I had was boring and time wasting. Yet, the life that they lived outside the Kingdom, didn't seem to be satisfying their needs. All I ever heard about was their struggles with the kids, the family, trying to make ends meet, going out night after night to the pub to get rid of their frustrations, to try and dull the ache in their lives. The trouble is they thought that that was what life was all about.
They had been deceived by 'The thief who comes only to steal and kill and destroy; what they needed to know was the difference that Jesus Christ could make in their lives when He said 'I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full'. In today’s society 'life' seems such a struggle and is often seen as a sentence for a crime against society - You get 'Life' for murder ? Life languishing in a prison cell, all freedom gone. Thank goodness that's not what Jesus meant when He said 'I have come that you might have life, He’s talking about abundant life, life in all it's fullness'. New life - rebirth - Life now and life to come.
That’s what Jesus was talking about when He told Martha“ I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Jesus came to offer new life..... "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14; 6 John himself reminds us that "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3; 16
The message is clear In the book of Acts Paul instructed the apostles to 'tell the people the full message of this new life." Acts 5; 20 New life NOW not just in eternity. ' And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Romans 8; 11 This is not just pie in the sky when you die, but steak on your plate while you wait! This 'new life within us' is 'Jesus'
And for all of us, the question should be - 'How should I live the rest of my life.
Pauls desire for his fellow men was that they ' live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4; 1
'Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.' Ephesians 5; 2
For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. 2 Corinthians 2; 15
It's important that we live the life, and let others experience Christ through that life. Paul writing to Timothy gives lots of practical advice on how to live this new life in Christ and goes on to say 'Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4; 16
Each of us has the privilege of living that new life, of enjoying fullness of life now. And if we do, then 'The big red book' the 'This is your life' will not be such a big shock as we first thought.
In our Bible fellowship on Wednesday nights we have been looking at the last days of Jesus before His entry into Jerusalem on the last lap of His ministry. Two weeks ago we read what will happen when Jesus comes again and how He will sit on His throne and begin to separate the good from the bad sheep.
He said this; Come, you who are blessed by My father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world . For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you took me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer - Lord when did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, or needing new clothes. When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?
Jesus told them - when you did it for others - you were really doing it for me. The new life we are called to live is a real Christian life - you take the ‘I’ selfish me - out and put ‘O’ others first. That’s one of the signs of New Life. To Be like Jesus.
This morning we have been given the opportunity to do that in our giving for the Self Denial. In the closing moments of this meeting I invite you to bring your gifts to the altar but more importantly, the invitation is giving to rededicate your lives to God to come to Jesus and be given New Life - Resurection life just like Lazarus experienced.
Note; We sang ‘Take my life and let it be’ and as people brought their gifts to the altar, four knelt at the mercy seat in re-dedication.
Sunday 6 March ( Mothers Day) 2 Timothy 1:12
This is one of my favourite Bible readings for Mothers day. It shows the true depth of love and concern for the well being of her child from his mother that had made such an impacted on her son Timothy’s life that what she had shown him was now seen in the life of her son Timothy
This is Paul’s letter written from his prison cell to his friend and co-worker Timothy. There was an obvious strong bond between Paul and Timothy and this would have been a shared experience when Paul had to leave Timothy to pursue his ministry. Timothy would have been a great help and inspiration to Paul.
Here Paul commends Timothy for his sincere faith which he has as a result of the influence that both his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois had on him.
They obviously ' lived the faith'.
The faith of his mother Eunice that her own mother had encouraged her to uphold.
A ‘sincere’ faith that she passed through the family and now to her son.
Obviously a passionate faith, a faith that was real, immovable, whatever.
A ‘living’ faith that was evidenced by others because they were convinced of its truth, and lived it. A faith so influenced by a mothers love and devotion.
A faith that made a great impression on her son Timothy
A faith that ‘lived on’ in her son
A sincere faith that came from the influence of a good mother.
Many of us here this morning have a lot to say thank you to for the way in which our mothers influenced our lives.
Abraham Lincoln said 'All that I am or hope to be I owe to my angel mother'.
When the will of Henry J. Heinz, wealthy distributor of the famous "57 Varieties" line, was read, it was found to contain the following confession: "Looking forward to the time when my earthly career will end, I desire to set forth a confession of my faith in Jesus Christ as my Saviour. I also desire to bear witness to the fact that throughout my life, in which there were unusual joys and sorrows, I have been wonderfully sustained by my faith in God through Jesus Christ. This legacy was left me by my consecrated mother, a woman of strong faith, and to it I attribute any success I have attained."
Billy Grahams advice to a mother was ‘Let your home be your parish, your little brood your congregation, your living room a sanctuary, and your knee a sacred altar’.
The Bible is full of stories of mothers who have made great sacrifices for their children.
The mother of Moses, was prepared to let her child be brought up by another woman in order that he would not be killed. A loving mother who was prepared to sacrifice her own desires for the sake of her son.
Then there was the mother who found herself in the centre of a dispute over whom was the rightful mother of her baby. The dispute got to the court of King Solomon who in his wisdom and knowledge of the depth of a mothers love, threatened to divide the baby into two by slicing him in half . Solomon's wisdom was proved in the way in which in order to preserve the life of the child she loved, the true mother was prepared to let the 'other woman' have her child.
Hannah, who was so grateful to God for allowing her to have her baby boy Samuel that she promised that when he was old enough, to give him back to God to serve in the Temple with Eli. Can you imagine leaving your child at the Temple gates when he’s not much older than Joel. That’s Sacrificial love, that’s the love of a mother.
The most well known mother is Mary the mother of our Lord She showed great faith in her son when she told the hosts at the wedding at Cana, ‘whatever Jesus tells you to do, do it’
Right from His birth, Mary had proved her total obedience to God.
As a young unmarried woman she was told by the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Saviour of the World, the son of the most high - confirmed by her cousin Elizabeth, she went on to give birth to Jesus. She was;
A mother who followed her Son on His mission, proudly watched as He perform His first miracle, watched as He befriended the friendless, the outcasts of society and the acclaim He received on His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Also a mother who then has to stand and watch in horror as the Soldiers arrest Him and take Him away. Listen to the crowds as they cry 'crucify Him' and stand helplessly by as they nail her Son to a cross, then share His agony as she sees Him die.
I know what I felt like as Beryl and I stood at the side of Kevin and watched him die. At least he died peacefully. But that could be nothing compared to watching your son die in agony on nailed to a wooden cross. Mary the mother of Jesus, stood by her Son till the end. That’s Sacrificial love, that’s the love of a mother.
A couple of years ago I told you the true story of a young mother who, when making her way across the hills of South Wales, carrying her tiny baby in her arms, was overtaken by a blinding blizzard. She never reached her destination and when the blizzard had subsided her body was found by searchers beneath a mound of snow.
They were amazed to discover was that before her death, she had taken off all her outer clothing and wrapped it around her baby. When they unwrapped the child, to their great surprise and joy, they found he was alive and well. The mother had protected her son by taking her outer clothes and wrapping him in them, she also wrapped her body over his and in so doing, gave her life for her child, proving the depths of her mother love.
Years later that child, grew to manhood and became prime minister of Great Britain.
That man was David Lloyd George, who became one of England's greatest statesmen.
A mothers love and influence are important to God as she has so much influence on her Childs early years - even if their years together are short - a loving mother can have a lasting influence on her children that will be seen in that child in future years.
I purposely use the term motherly love this morning realising that the term ‘mother’ as well as being biological, the word ‘Mother’ is also used to reflect true sacrificial love - sadly there are those children who, for many reasons, are denied that from their biological mums but who thankfully can experience those qualities in a father, grandparents, a foster mum, or adopted mother .
Whilst on Mothering Sunday the majority of us can celebrate the love and devotion of our own mothers, we also recognise that there are many in this world who are denied that love from their own mothers - but thankfully can feel as close as it gets - from others who care and show them motherly love.
Moses, although influenced by his own mother through his sister, was largely brought up by another woman, yet he grew to be a great leader.
Samuel, brought up by Eli would become a great leader with influence on King Saul and King David.
Whilst Mothering Sunday helps us to focus our hearts on the love and devotion of our mother, and be thankful for that. I believe that it also serves to encourage us all to embrace the caring, unselfish sacrificial loving qualities that the very word ‘mother’ conjures up in our minds and make them our own attributes - whoever we are, wether we’re mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, mature adults, we have the responsibility to care for and nurture the young.
Jesus parallels His own love with that of a mothers love when talking to the people who neglected Him and eventually put Him to death "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a (mother) hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Luke 13:34
I also believe too that in acknowledging the good foundations in life that good mentors bring, we have a responsibility to adopt what we have learned and pass it on to the next generation. Listen to what Paul goes on to say
2 Timothy 3; 14 Continue in what you have learned and have been convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for Salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Timothy's mother, like all good Jewish mothers, would have taken time to share the scriptures with her son from infancy, the result of which was evidenced in his life.
What a lovely thing to be remembered by, a sincere, practical outworking of your faith. Timothy, like his mother and her mother before that not only knew the word and loved the word but lived the word.
Timothy had been so influenced by the faith of his mother and grandmother, that he too possessed a strong faith. His father was a Greek, his mother a Jewish Christian and so it would not have been an easy household. United in marriage, yet divided by race and creed. Yet the mothers influence came through.
Timothy, as his name suggests, was probably a timid person. Shy, easily intimidated by others. Easily frightened or upset by others, is the way the Oxford dictionary explains it. Inwardly strong in faith, but outwardly shy.
At the start of his ministry, his brothers had gathered round him, prayed over him and laid there hands on him. 'Timothy, Receive the Holy Spirit, be filled with His power, His love, and self discipline'. Now Paul encourages Timothy to ‘fan into flame the gift of God which is in you, through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and self discipline. V6
Paul encourages Timothy to be strong in the grace and power of the Lord, and not to look at his own weaknesses, or listen to the taunts of others, or perhaps be overawed by what he sees in others. Wether you are feeling down, or inadequate this morning, take heart, Jesus wants you as you are, wether you are timid, shy, weak, or even full of confidence and strong.
Timothy sounds like a good man, a trustworthy man, and although a little timid, a man with a deep and immovable faith. Paul encouraged Timothy by placing great trust in him, and even though Timothy seemed to fail when Paul sent him as his personal representative to Corinth, Paul didn't give up on him. He knew that Timothy was a man with deep convictions, a man committed to the Lord.
No one could doubt Timothy's commitment and strong faith. And it all started with the obvious good influence that Timothy's mother had on her son. Timothy’s faith and character were influenced by the way in which his mother not only taught the word but lived it. There is a great lesson to be learned there. The light that she had received, from her mother shone through her life and was reflected in the life of her son. As I said earlier, we know very little about the mother of Timothy - but what we do know is that ‘she lived the faith'.
The faith that her own mother before her had encouraged her to uphold.
A ‘sincere’ faith that she passed through the family and now to her son.
Obviously a passionate faith, a faith that was real, immovable, whatever.
The key to all this is that His mother and His grandmother posessed a ‘living’ faith that was evidenced by others because they were convinced of its truth, and lived it. A living faith that could be Seen. A faith so influenced by a mothers love and devotion.
What do we learn from the example of Timothy’s mother this morning? I believe it‘s this ‘Let your faith in God be evidenced in the way in which you live your life, tell it, share it, without exception or excuse.’
Just like a good mother, I believe that we all have a responsibility to see that the children that come into our lives need good examples - good role models at home - not on the screen or the sports field, but good role models in the home to let the love of God be seen in our lives as an example for the children to follow.
The final word this morning comes from Mary the mother of Jesus who showed her obedience to God from the beginning and who’s advice to His disciples was ‘Whatever He says to you - DO IT’ Obedience
Sunday Morning 28 February 2016 John 3; 1-21
Last week we put the clock back, biblically to the beginning of time when God created the world but how over the years it changed dramatically as the forces of evil started to take over. We looked at how God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to show man his sinfulness and provide a way out- He even challenged the leaders and teachers in the Temples as being false teachers and misleading the people, which meant Jesus had to show mankind the extent of His love by giving His life on the cross. We saw how God started to reconcile the world back by empowering the early fellowship, the church with the Holy Spirit- and how it grew so fast and spread all over the world.
We then looked back over then the last few centuries to see how much the world has once again become a place so far removed from Gods original intention - with even the church, again, falling foul of what God tried to tell us through Jesus. Today we are seeing the birth pangs of the second coming of Jesus summoning in the end of the world in preparation for Gods final package - the New Heaven when He brings His creation back to perfection and collects the faithful to live with Him in Heaven.
I suggested that there is a real need for Christians today to take a good hard look at themselves, their lifestyles, their calling, their mission, their passion in life and seek to know God and move in His direction under His leadership.
This morning we are going to look at what Jesus said to Nicodemus about being ‘born again’ and what I believe that means for each one of us here at Idle.
This week my grandson was 21. He’s going through a difficult patch in his life job wise. Eager to work yet unable to find work. He is on the books of an agency that provide back up teachers when one goes sick and can be called at short notice to go anywhere he is needed in West Yorkshire. To do that he needs a car - unfortunately the car he was using was his dads that sadly failed its MOT leaving them without transport. I decided that the best way to help him was to buy a car for his 21st and found one in a Thackley Garage and excellent car, better than my own, reasonably priced and so bought it.
I well remember the day when if you bought a car, you went out and bought a 'Haynes manual' to service it yourself. I remember Beryl and myself, spending all evening under the car, replacing the brake pads etc. Not any more. I lift the bonnet up, and all I can see is a mass of electronic parts. When I take the car in to the garage because of some fault, all they say is that the onboard computer has developed a fault, and that is very costly! Like most things these days, a computer built the car, and a computer controls the car, I'm just the idiot who bought it and drives it!
Just as in the physical world in which we live, there are complex things that we may never understand, unless someone could sit down and explain using the simplest of language, so too in the realms of the Spiritual, there are mysteries, that until God our Father chooses to reveal them within the scope of our own understanding, we’ll never understand. Creation, The fall of man, the cross, the atonement, the resurrection, the miracles, the Holy Spirit. Thank God we have the manual - the makers instructions.
Often, if we are honest, the manual is rather difficult to understand - we need someone to show us. I remember when I was studying the theory of printing - I found it difficult until one of the men at work said - ‘come ower ‘er lad I’ll show thi’ - a picture speaks more than a thousand words. That’s exactly what Jesus did. The word became flesh.
I love the way, Jesus gives simple examples to help His hearers understand the seemingly impossible.
When Nicodemus heard Jesus say that 'no one can see the kingdom of God, unless he is born again he was shocked 'Surely you can't mean to start again in the mothers womb? to which claimed Jesus replied, the truth is that 'flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit'. No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he has been born again’. In other words, to begin to grasp the truth and understand the mysteries of the Kingdom life - you have to be a born again follower of Jesus, a spiritual rebirth where you forsake the old material way of life that is grounded in selfishness and accept the new spiritual way who’s foundations are firmly rooted in pure love - love for God and love for one another.
What Jesus is simply saying here is that God gives each one of us chance to make a fresh start by being born -again - re-born - a fresh start - a new beginning
To be given a chance to let go of the worlds values and standards to say sorry for being a part of all that, and seek to embrace the new ways of the Kingdom, Gods ideals, Gods values, Gods standards. Real love that cares about others, about God and about how we live our lives in future.
This week I’ve been trying to clear my house starting one room at a time - I hav’nt got very far - you unearth things that revive memories. One of the things was finding a large box containing hundreds of photographs. You start to sort them and the memories start to flood back. I also found a movie camera that captures movies as computer images - I watched it and my heart started racing away as I watched Beryl on one of our Thursday afternoon visits to Scartop. Memories are great until they start to hurt. O how I would love to put the clock back - I guess there are times when we all feel like that.
One of the things I found were the notes to a sermon I did nineteen years ago based on this very reading about Nicodemus and how Jesus told him he must be ’born again’ - this is what I wrote;
This week Beryl and I have once again been privileged to be reminded of exactly what Jesus meant when He said ‘you must be born again’. Cath and Tony had just been blessed with the birth of a new baby, born prematurely and in intensive care. Being premature, we can see Bethany, developing, as if she was still 'in her mothers womb'. There before our eyes is the miracle of new birth. With that new birth, comes the fight to survive, the staining of eyes to see the 'new world'.
You can almost see Bethany straining to make sense of the light, the shadows of her father. Before her is a world to explore, new things to experience, knowledge to be grasped, and as she clings to her father, to those who love her and have her best interests at heart, she will grow and mature into the kind of person that will bring great pride to her father. I use the term Father, only to make the 'simile' more complete between the miracle of 'physical new birth' and the 'spiritual New Birth' that Jesus talked about.
When I look at Bethany today, like Joshua, I see two young lives who love God and are trying to live their lives in the way God intended by seeking Him through His word and living obediently to what He says there. I see in them two young ‘born again’ believers who are already making a difference in the world today in ways that I could ever have only dreamt of when I was their age. Joshua in Africa, Bethany in Hungary and, bless him, even Joel knows and loves His Saviour and I believe will one day make his own stamp in God Kingdom.
Nicodemus wanted to know the secret to Kingdom Life - now and in the eternity. Jesus simply said - ‘You must be born again’. To be let in on 'Kingdom secrets' you have to be 'born again'. Jesus used the physical that we all can understand and see every day, to explain the deep 'mysteries of the Kingdom'.
As Christians, there are things that we will find difficult to understand, or accept. But as we are born again and begin to mature and grow in our 'New life', then things will one day 'fit into place'. We have to learn to live by faith. Just as new born babies have to learn to 'see' with their 'new eyes', learn to 'feed' on the 'new milk', to 'hear, and recognise' their 'Fathers voice', to 'speak' his words, to 'walk' in His ways, and to grow into His likeness.
So too, in our Spiritual lives, we need to do all those things. Only then will we ever be able to accept and understand 'Kingdom things'. Sometimes, we expect too much of each other, sometimes, we try to walk before we can run, we try to speak before we are ready. Sometimes, new Christians can be a little premature, and need to get plugged into the system until they are ready.
I love the concept of entering in to the secrets of the kingdom, as being 'born again'. The only way back into the sheepfold, to the Fathers heart, is to be 'born again'. A fresh start, a New beginning.
Just as new born babies have to learn to 'see' with their 'new eyes', so too as born again believers we learn to see things Gods way.
Just as babies learn to feed, being born again means that we learn how to feed on the milk of Gods word .
Just as babies learn to recognise the voice of their father so too we have to learn to recognise' our heavenly 'Fathers voice', learn to 'speak' His words, and 'walk' in His ways.
Just as a baby inherit’s the characteristics and looks of it’s earthly parents, so too, being born again, means that we learn to grow into our Heavenly fathers likeness.
To make all that possible for us to embrace came at a great price. For God to make that all possible for you and me - Sins price had to be paid once and for all. The lamb had to be offered on the sacrificial altar. Jesus, Gods son had to die.
Harsh - that certainly does sound harsh but it was the only way that man kind then could understand. To receive forgiveness for their sins, the priest sacrificed a lamb on the altar. That’s how they understood forgiveness in those days - that was the only way they would be able to understand - and so it had to be that way. There was no other way. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3; 16
Nicodemus asked "How can a man be born when he is old?" "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
Born again of the Holy Spirit. Samuel Logan Brengle - the great Holiness teacher in the Salvation Army puts it this way ‘Just as the Holy Spirit leads us into true repentance and confession and amendment of life - and when our repentance is complete and our surrender is unconditional it is He who reasons with us, calms our fears, soothes our troubled hearts, banishes our darkness and enables us to look to Jesus and believe in Him for the forgiveness of all our sins and the salvation of our soul.’ When we yield and trust, and are accepted by the Lord, saved by grace, it is He who assures us of the Fathers favour and notify’s us that we are saved. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God’ He is the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry ‘Abba Father’. Romans 8; 15,16
In other words, The Holy Spirit is the one who brings us to fully yield our lives to God, convicts us of our sinful past and gives us the assurance that we have been forgiven. He then goes further to what we call the second blessing - sanctification. He fills us with His Spirit enabling and empowering us to live the life and be witnesses to bring others into Kingdom life.
The New Testament is full of people who were led by the Spirit into this new life born again experience. Saul - who was shown converted on the Damascus Road and saw the light. He later wrote that what he had before is like filthy rags to what he has now. His prayer was ‘I want to know Christ and become like Him’ Philippians 3
The fishermen who Jesus made disciples, left their past and followed Him. Peter became the first evangelist who, filled and empowered by the Spirit at Pentecost, preached a powerful sermon and led thousands to Jesus.
What Jesus is saying to Nicodeamus is not an option it’s a command - you must be born again. - Thankfully Nicodemus not only heard what Jesus told him but he accepted it - took what Jesus said and acted upon it - by becoming a believer - a devotee of Jesus.
We know this because in, John 7;50 he tells us that on the last day of the Feast of the Tabernacles Jesus stood up and shouted ‘Whoever believes in me as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him’ meaning the Holy Spirit’ on hearing these words some said he was a prophet others said he was the Christ.
This was all the Chief priests and Pharisees needed to hear and they chided the temple guards for not bringing Jesus in. ‘But no one has ever spoken the way this man does’ the people answered - ‘You mean He has even deceived you? Said the priests They wanted to arrest Jesus. But who is it who stands up for Jesus by saying that the law doesn‘t condemn a man unless you first allow him to answer the accusations‘.? One of their own leaders - none other than Nicodemus.
The last occasion that we hear about Nicodemus is after the crucifixion when together with Joseph of Aramathia he takes the body of Jesus wrap it in cloths and take it away to the tomb. In John 19; 38 we are told that Nicodemus took 70 pounds worth of Myrrh and aloes to annoint the body of Jesus.
Jesus obviously had made a great impression on Nicodemus who, in spite of his position on the Jewish Council, took great risks in becoming supporter of Jesus.
He had taken to heart all that Jesus told him. Probably asked forgiveness for his sin, and became a follower of Jesus, Born Again of the Spirit he would now be assured of his place in the Kingdom of Heaven.
What about you and I this morning? What does being a Christian mean to you - Have you sought forgiveness for the past? That’s the first step - the beginning of the new life - the time we realise that there is so much more that God wants - He wants to bless us with new birth - to be sanctified and assured of a place in Heaven?
To be a Christian means to embrace the teachings of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ which means that what He says goes. Including the command to be born again - that’s not an option - that’s a demand - are you being obediant to His word .
God so loved the world that He gave - He gave His life for us
Surely our response should be I so love God that I surrender my life to Him.
Lets sing the chorus ‘Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me’ sing it from your heart and seek to experience it for yourself. A spiritual rebirth - be born again
Sunday 21 February 2016
Last Sunday was Valentines Day and naturaly we talked about the love of God, for us and our love for Him. We talked about the need to be able to see ourselves as God sees us - to see how God wants His creation to live - in peace and harmony with Him and one another. This week we look at Love from the viewpoint of why God sent Jesus into the world. This followed on from the discussion between Jesus and Nicodeamus about the need to be born again.
John 3; 16 God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
The world had gone a long way away from Gods intention and man needed to come back to Gods idea - to be re-born as it were - born again. A few weeks ago we looked at the story of Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones and said then that that’s possibly how God sees His church in these days - lifeless, ineffective in it’s mission - dead in fact and as such, needed, once again, for God to breath new life into the body, His church just as He did right back in creation when He breathed life into Adam.
Jesus tells Nicodeamus that he needed to be born again - obviously not physically, but spiritually. To try to begin to see the world as it were, as God sees it and if necessarily - to do something about it.
God so loved the world WOW! His creation, His children, His family.
I could see this from both angles of loving His creation - the world, the hills, the seas, the land - we are told aren’t we that when God created the world, the universe, the planets, that He looked at it and saw that it was good. He was pleased with His creation. - and why not. Our opening hymn was ‘How great Thou art’ - we stand I awe of God and the miracle of creation. As we look around we see the beauty of Gods world. The fruit bearing trees, flowers, the landscape, the seas, the sky, the birds, the animals, people like you and me - we too can appreciate Gods handiwork and that’s part of what I believe John means when he says. God so loved the world
God so loved the world - not just God loved the world - John adds the word ‘so’ emphasising the full heart felt passion of God in the depth of His love for the world.
Have you noticed that that’s very much like the way kids talk today. They don’t just say ‘that was good’ today it’s ‘well good’ There is a passionate emphasis in what they are saying.
I believe that when John says ‘God so loved the world’ he’s talking about His total creation - the world and the people - but not the way they have developed.
On Wednesday night at the bible fellowship we read Matthew 23 where Jesus is speaking to the Scribes and Pharisees, the teachers and leader of the day and calling them hypocrites, vipers, and with such force - He was angry and it showed. He condemned and then proceeded to give them seven reasons to do something about it - ( Woes) or else the wrath of God would be upon their shoulders and they would end up in hell.
It was such strong stuff, that when Jean saw it portrayed on screen by Bruce Marchiano she said ‘well I’ve read it so many times before but the anger of Jesus had not impacted her as much as it did that night. Jesus was rightly angry with the way in which the leaders of the day were misguiding the people with their hypocritical ways
The world that Jesus lived in was a world where the people had gone so far away from Gods intention even though He had sent prophets and people to steer man back. The leaders of the day had wandered so far away from Gods intention that they were misguiding the people and labouring them with so many burdens of guilt and shame that made it almost impossible for them to get on the straight and narrow and live in obedience to God. ‘Generation of vipers’ Jesus called them ‘ leaders who told the people to do what they say -but not to do what they do. Leaders who wore the uniform but hid behind it. What you saw wasn’t the truth - Today in the Christian word we would call them Veneer Christians.
When John records Jesus as saying that ‘God so loved the world’ He is talking about His first intention - the reason why He created the world and you and I - God so loved the World that He wanted it back - God wanted man to love Him and live in obedience to His will and not the false misguided ideas of the teachers and leaders of their time.
And because God so loved the world, He God had decided to send His only Son Jesus into the world, not to condemn the world - it condemns itself by it’s disobedience - but that the world through Him might be saved’. WOW! That’s the depth of the love of God - So high, so wide, so deep all embracing love of God that knows no limits
Make no mistake - Jesus is coming back again one day. I wonder what Jesus would say if He came back today? Would He love the way the world has developed since creation? I doubt it That poses the question ‘What should we be doing about it?
Would He love the way the church - I can’t say ‘has grown’ because it isn’t - would He love the way it has is developed since it’s inception in Acts? I doubt it
The same question arises ‘What can we do about it?
The world is in a great state of crisis with wars causing death and upheaval with people having to leave their homeland. We have the homeless, the poor, people being enticed into slavery to feed the pockets of the rich, and there are the trafficked - the abused.
The Church has never been in such a mess - worse I would say than it was in Jesus’s day. Churches closing all over the place. Teachers of the Word changing what it really says to try appease the people and make the corrupted Word of God more acceptable.
We even have some ministers in the Church of England changing Gods instructions of marriage and accepting Gay marriage. There are even Priests and bishops in who say that God is female. Only this week Premier announced that a Cof E Church in Manchester is hosting a play - in church - that says God is a woman and should be referred to as Mother God - that’s pure blasphemy. I dread to think what Jesus would say if He came back to the world this morning.
Jesus tells us - In the last days ‘many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' Matthew 24; 5 I showed videos recently of three such men - one being interviewed on Morning TV who each one said they were Jesus.
Jesus says There will be wars and rumours of wars Matthew 24;6 - and there is - all over the world. Timothy tells us that 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— 2 Timothy 3 Look around - the world is full of such people today
And worse still -having a form of godliness but denying its power. That can only be the church that has turned it’s back on the truth and has opened it’s doors to heresy and false teaching. Timothy’s advice? Have nothing to do with such people. Is that the world that God so loved that He sent His Son to die for?
Jesus said the greatest commands are that we love God with all our heart mind, soul and being - every part of ourselves - and extend that love to one another.
When you love someone - really love them to that extent - you want to please them - and for them to love you - that’s the relationship God wants for you and me. That’s how much He loves us - so much that He sent Jesus to show us what He was really like and call us to live lives of obedience to Him and His word as revealed though our Saviour Jesus Christ - His Son.
I think that the church today really needs to take a step back and examine it’s intentions and motives. To see if they are the church that God created and empowered to continue to minister to the world. I also think it would be a good idea if those who profess to be His followers would also take a long hard look at themselves - their intentions, their desires. It is good for us all to step back and take a good hard long look at where we are in our spiritual life and what our intentions are.
Jesus said to Nicodeamus ‘the only way into heaven is for you to be born again’ there is no other way - to be re-born Spiritually and learn to see God as our father and live in obedience to Him.
He doesn’t expect us to do it in our own strength - when we are born again by the Spirit we take on a whole new aura - the aura of Christ - indwelt by Him and empowered by the same Holy Spirit as He was.
John 14;15-17, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth.
v 23-24 “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
The world is in a mess, the Christian Church is in a mess too. How do you see the world? What are you going to do about it? God needs people like you and me to get real with Him, be filled with the spirit - be born again so that He through us - can bring people back to how He intended us to be in the first place. Obedient Lovers of God and one another.
Way back in the OT God called people like Isaiah to come and know and then go and tell Gods people how He felt.
In Isaiah 6 - Isaiah was called to be cleansed of his sin and then challenged to go and tell his people about their sins and the anger of God. The challenge was ‘Who will go - who will tell them?‘ Isaiah's response was ‘here am I Lord, send me’. The song we are singing to close with is a challenge based on that.
God so loved the world that He sent Jesus into the world to tell people the right way to live and even go so far as to die upon the cross for their sins, come and live within those who accepted His message and send them out equipped, enabled and empowered to continue His work among men by spreading the good news.
The disciples did this in fact Peter went on to say in 1 Peter 3;15 ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have’.
On Friday a few of us took the trouble to come and see a very challenging film called ‘God’s not dead’ which told the story of how through the bravery of one young man, many came to know Christ. He was challenged by a professor at his college to prove why he thought that God was not dead - and he did.
How do we fare in that task - how many people do we share the good news with - how many this week will you give your reason for the hope you have in Christ.
The challenge is there for us all and so is the empowering the Holy Spirit - all we have to do is seek cleansing for the past and to be born again - let the breath of God fill us with new life.
Closing Song Here I am Lord
Sunday 14 February 2016
Today is Valentines Day - the day when people declare their love for one another by sending a Valentine card, flowers or chocolates. It is a very popular celebration day all around the world.
Legend has it that Saint Valentine of Rome was imprisoned by Emperor Claudius for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. During his imprisonment, Valentine healed the blind daughter of his jailer, Asterius.
On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he is supposed to have written the first "valentine" card himself, addressed to Asterius, who was no longer blind, signing as "Your Valentine." The expression "From your Valentine" was later adopted by modern Valentine letters.
A Valentine is a declaration of love - non so great as the declaration of love from our Father God
The greatest expression of Love is the one that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. A Bible reading that is used at most weddings. It goes to great lengths to show the value and importance of true love above all.
1 Cor 13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
It doesn’t matter how clever we think we are or how gifted we are - if we haven’t got love in our hearts and exercise that love towards God and one another - we are all talk - or as Paul puts it - nothing more than a loud noise - a clanging cymbal.
Here he is talking about prophets, teachers - great men of faith - if there is no love there - we are nothing. He then goes on to share what real love is; Love is patient, Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Patient, Kind, un-envious, not boastful or proud. Not self seeking, not easily angered. - totally forgiving. Takes no delight in wrong doing but is happy and blessed declaring the truth. Love is protective towards others, trusting and trust worthy, full of hope and perseveres in life to show love to others.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
All the other qualities and gifts we think we have will not last forever only true love is declared the perfect quality and attitude to have as a Christian.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. It’s time to grow up and put on the true qualities of Gods people. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
As mere mortals we will never be able to understand the mysteries of the Kingdom of God until we stand before the King of Kings But what is important to know is that our faith is deeply rooted in Him bringing the assurance, the hope of eternity with Him when we will live forever surrounded by the love of God.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
The greatest is the Love of God. Jesus even confirmed this when asked the question ‘which is the greatest commandment’ to which He replied ’thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and love one another too‘.
To Love and be Loved is the greatest blessing in the world. It’s the very essence of God Himself who IS LOVE.
Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth stressed the importance of genuine love. The church, somehow had grown into a church that seemed to have all the right ingredients, but getting nowhere. A church without purpose, a church gone wrong.
A church that had failed to evangelise to the world and instead allowed the world to infiltrate it's thinking. On the face of it, they appeared to have all the gifts of the spirit, yet it was all show. the life blood had ceased to flow -love. It's purpose for existing had been lost. Here was a church that had a form of godliness, but denied the power - the love of God.
Paul’s emphasises it again in his letter to the church at Rome For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8; 38-39
John 14; 21 Jesus said, "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 teaching. These words you hear are not My own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
Strong words indeed. If this was the instruction of Jesus it would be enough, but this statement has the stamp of the authority of the Father '"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 teaching'.
The apostle John knew what it was to be loved by Jesus that's why he could write such words as these 'Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions'. 1 John 3; 18 Living Bible
I love the illustration I used on Mothers Day about a man stopped at a flower shop to order some flowers to be sent by Interflora to his mother who lived two hundred miles away. As he got out of his car he noticed a young girl sitting on the curb sobbing. He asked her what was wrong and she replied, "I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother. But I've only got 30p and a rose costs £1." The man smiled and said, "Come on in with me. I'll buy you a rose."
He bought the little girl her rose and ordered his own mother's flowers. As they were leaving he offered the girl a ride home. She said, "Yes, please! You can take me to my mother." She directed him to a cemetery, where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave. The man returned to the flower shop, cancelled the wire order, picked up a bouquet and drove the two hundred miles to his mother's home.
'The Apostle John also wrote this; Dear friends, let us practice loving each other, for love comes from God and those who are loving and kind show that they are the children of God, and that they are getting to know him better. But if a person isn't loving and kind, it shows that he doesn't know God - for God is love'. 1 John 4 ;7,8
Real life is knowing Jesus and being obedient to Him, living in His love.
John wanted us to know the love of God and live life to the full. The reason John wrote his gospel and the letters is stated in John 20; 31 'But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name'. and 1 John 5; 13 'I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life'.
John 15; 9-14, 17 Jesus said "I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Live within my love. When you obey me you are living in my love, just as I obey my Father and live in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your cup of joy will overflow! I demand that you love each other as much as I love you. And here is how to measure it - the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends; and you are my friends if you obey Me.
One evening just before the great Broadway musical star, Mary Martin, was to go on stage in South Pacific, a note was handed to her. It was from Oscar Hammerstein, who at that moment was on his deathbed. The short note simply said: "Dear Mary, A bell's not a bell till you ring it. A song's not a song till you sing it. Love in your heart is not put there to stay. Love isn't love till you give it away."
After her performance that night many people rushed backstage, crying, "Mary, what happened to you out there tonight? We never saw anything like that performance before." Blinking back the tears, Mary then read them the note from Hammerstein. Then she said, "Tonight, I gave my love away!"
As I shared last week, this month has been a difficult one for me culminating in the most difficult day of my life - Thursday - the day, two years ago that Beryl died. If you really love someone it doesn’t get any easier as the years go by. As I knelt to pray on Thursday morning my heart was so full of love it was fit to bursting and the tears flooded out and wouldn’t stop flowing. Real Love is bred in the heart of us all.
I believe that that is what the real love of God is all about - that’s how much God wants us to love Him and one another with a real heartfelt, genuine, sacrificial love is felt by the object of our love. That’s the Love that God has for each one of us here this morning. That’s the extent of the love that Jesus has for each one of us - the love that He was prepared to lay down His life to gain.
Jesus said, ‘Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends - and you are my friends if you do whatsoever I command you’. And what were His commands - to love God and one another with all our heart, mind and soul.
God is Love. And God wants to live through me and you and show His love to the world.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians says how we need to be firmly rooted in God’s love When I think of the wisdom and scope of his plan, I fall down on my knees and pray to the Father of all the great family of God - some of them already in heaven and some down here on earth - that out of his glorious, unlimited resources He will give you the mighty inner strengthening of his Holy Spirit.
And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him.
May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvellous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God's children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself.
Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of - infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. May he be given glory forever and ever through endless ages because of his master plan of salvation for the Church through Jesus Christ. Ephesians 3; 14-21
Sunday 7 February 2016 Psalm 139
Last week looked at Psalm 42 ’As the deer pants for the water so my soul thirsts after You O Lord’ I said then what a privilage it was to be able to share the deep, intimate, personal longings of the heart of a man who had a 'passion for God'. As we read the psalms, you can almost sense his 'hunger' as he bared his soul to God.
David was a loving person, a deeply passionate man, a man who's feelings often got the better of him and led him into serious trouble. He wasn’t perfect, yet God still loved him and not only elevated him from humble shepherd boy to become the King but God also moved powerfully in the life of David that today, thousands of years later we are encouraged and inspired by His prayers and his writings. Almost everyone knows Psalm 23 - the Lord’s my shepherd’.
I said how much David puts our 'thirsting' after God, our 'expressions of love' for God in the shade so much so that today, many Christians are missing out on realising the deep sense of Gods presence, and more importantly, God is being starved of their affection.
Psalm 27;4 'One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
The psalms reveal the intense desire that David had in his yearning for God . Psalm 138;1, 'I will praise You, O Lord, with all of my heart, I will bow down and praise Your name, for Your love and Your faithfulness'.
I asked the question - do we yearn to know God, to experience His presence with that same intensity, that same yearning. That’s the sign of True love - What did Jesus say in response to the question of the man who came to him and asked which were the most important commandments? ‘Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and also love one another.’
I love the way that God lets us see the real David - the man with many imperfections who succumbs so many times to the sins of the flesh - when it comes to the 'Thou shalt not’s' of the ten commandments, he broke them all - despite all that - he had a contrite heart, knew his many failings and yet God still loved him, never gave up on him and even refered to David as ‘the apple of His eye‘.
The Psalms expose in so many ways the heart of the man David - crying out as he does when he is despairing and at a loss as to what to do in his life. Reaching out to God when he is down and praising Him when he is enjoying the strength and love of God.
Unlike many today who fail to see their need of God and prefer to live in a veneer world where what you see is not always what you get - David was open and honest to God - he knew his failings and relied of Gods forgiveness - He knew that he fell short of Gods love and mercy and that only by the Grace of God could he stand before Him.
Psalm 139 1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely, O Lord
WOW! It’s just like you and I standing before God and saying ‘ you know what I’m like Lord’ you know everything about me - not just the outward show, the things that everyone else can see - you really know me from the inside out. You even know what I’m thinking, your familiar with all my ways - you know how I’m going to respond, what I’m going to say even before I say it’.
5 You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Sometimes that's the hand of comfort and protection, at other times, when we have been disobedient, that's the heavy hand - but always, the hand of love. David in Psalm 32 acknowledged the fact that when he sinned, Gods hand was heavy upon him, and only when he confessed his sin, did he feel the forgiveness of God.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
David realised that as well as being the God who sees all and from whom we could never hide, He was also the God who became his hiding place, His refuge, his place of safety and protection. In fact David when he was fleeing from his oppressors called God 'His hiding place, You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance'. Psalm 32;7
What does the first verse say? 'O Lord, you have searched me and You know me'.
The amazing thing is, that even though Our Father God knows the real you and me, He still loves us. He still wants us to love and serve Him - He has plans for us. There is no escaping the all seeing eyes of our 'Invisible God'. God is Spirit, who is omnipresent, here with us and within us. There is no way of hiding from His presence.
You can't flee from God, He sees everything we do. You can't even hide under the cover of darkness. 12 'Even the darkness will not be dark to You, for the night will shine like the day. Realising the Awesomeness of the power and knowledge of God regarding ourselves, how dare we act and think as we so often do? God sees and knows the real you and I. He created us! Not just the our bodies, the outward, but our inmost being. He created us to love Him and love one-another. He knows us better than we know ourselves.
Knowing this, why does the Psalmist need to cry out 'search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting'?
I think that one thing David is really saying is, Lord you know what I’m really like, 'tell me what it is You see in me, O Lord. Why you love me so much when you know what I’m really like? I want to be good Lord, but in my own strength I fail miserably. I ask Your forgiveness, time and time again for the obvious things within my life that I know are wrong, the things that must surely hurt You, yet I still go on doing them. When I look a