MM 5 May 2019 It’s time to fly
For the last few weeks we have shared the events of that first Easter. It started a few weeks ago when we read how Jesus after spending three years with His beloved disciples told them that His time had come. They were going to Jerusalem and everything that is written by the prophets about Him would be fulfilled - that He would be handed over to the Gentiles who flog Him and kill Him and on the third day He would rise again. Imagine their disbelief when Jesus told them He would be leaving them and going back to the Father - that Peter would deny Him, the Judas would betray Him.
Surely when Jesus rode into Jerusalem His disciples heard the crowds acclaiming Jesus as the one who came in the name of the Lord - surely what Jesus had said earlier can’t be true. Imagine the disciples horror when the same crowds that only a few days earlier as He rode into Jerusalem had acclaimed Him as the one who came in the name of the Lord now they were all shouting for His death - Crucify Him!
Imagine how they felt when Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, crying out to God asking if there is any other way - but there wasn’t - and then the soldiers came to arrest Him. Imagine how His disciples would feel then
We looked at how Peter denied even knowing Jesus - not once - but three times - just like Jesus had said he would. We tried to imagine how His mother and disciples felt as Jesus hung on the cross
Then their disbelief when Mary Magdalene came running from the tomb and told them that He had risen and was alive. His appearing to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The miraculous replay of the first calling at the miraculous catch of fish
The appearances to His believed disciples, then last week the forgiving of Peter.
Its been an amazing time. We’ve shared them all at Palm Sunday, the Haggadah, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Many in the world out there - today - find it hard to understand it all - why if Jesus was the Messiah did He have to die on a cross - what was the purpose of it all? Thankfully we have the answer in Gods word where John 3;16 tells us that ‘God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal live John 3 16
God who is Love in perfection created the world and everything in it - you and me - He wanted it to be a loving caring world where mankind lived with love for God and one another - a perfect world - a Heavenly world - sadly man had other ideas and under the spell of the evil one became a selfish - unloving person. His aim was to eat of the tree of knowledge to become master of his own destiny.
Thankfully, as we discussed in our Bible fellowship on Tuesday night, we read how in Genesis we read that God had planted two trees in the garden of Eden - the first the tree of knowledge and the second one was the tree of life. Jesus came offer new lives for old - a new way of living - Jesus was the life giver The second tree that is mentioned in the last book of the Bible Revelation.
I love the emphasis that Johns gospel puts on John 3;16 where we read that ‘God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal live John 3 16
God SO loved- you couldn’t have it more sincerely - He loved the world, His creation you and me - he Sooooo loved us. The bible tells us that God IS Love. The Bible shows us the extent of Gods love and how much He loves us - That’s why He sent Jesus - the living word - Jesus who life was dominated by the love of God - Jesus the Word became flesh and lived among us - In Jesus we see the perfection of how God intended His creation - you and me to be to be in the first place but through the wiles of the evil one man stepped down from Gods ideal and became a selfish creation.
God sent Jesus who Jesus became like us to show us how by repenting the past and accepting Him as Lord and saviour that we could become like Him - just as God intended us to be in the first place. Christ came into the world not to condemn the world but that through Him we would be saved - there is no other way - only Jesus.
God hates the sin but loves the sinner and wants him to repent and seek forgiveness in Jesus. The woman in John 8 is a perfect illustration of that - in that while she was caught in the act of adultery which was punishable by stoning to death- Jesus turned to her accusers and said- if anyone of you is without sin let him be the first one to throw a stone - no one did and so Jesus told the woman that if no one has accused you then neither do I’. - Go now and leave your life of sin’
That’s why Jesus came -to show us the extent of the Fathers love for us all and make it possible for us to repent and be forgiven - cleansed - a fresh start - born again of the Spirit. He did it because He loves us so much.
Charles Wesley who was the younger brother of John Wesley the founder of the Methodist Church wrote over 6500 hymns of which one of the most popular is ‘And can it be’ He wrote it following his conversion at the age of 31.
He begins the first verse by expressing amazement over the love expressed in God the Son dying for him; it is a mystery that we who caused his death now benefit from it. The chorus says it all - Amazing love! how can it be- That Thou, my God, should die for me
1 And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me?
In the third verse, Wesley recounts the infinite grace and mercy of Christ’s love and humility in the incarnation, death, and finding of lost sinners.
3 He left His Father's throne above, so free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love, and bled for Adam's helpless race;
'Tis mercy all, immense and free; for, O my God, it found out me
Finally, in the last verse he explores the results of Christ’s amazing and merciful work: there is no condemnation for those made alive in Christ and clothed in his righteousness; rather, there is bold access to the throne as we have the right to claim the eschatological crown.
5 No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown, through Christ my own
Romans 8;1 tells us that there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus. Jesus came not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be save - that’s what Jesus told Nicodeamus 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 John 3;17,18 Jesus told His disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me John 14 There is no other way but through Christ.
The good news and the whole truth about Easter is that God so loves you and me that He made it possible in Christ Jesus for us to be forgiven and whats more for our sins to be blotted out - remembered no more - Acts 3;19 and Psalm 51;9
Acts 3;19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, Psalm 51;9 we read how David repented after committing adultery with Bathsheba - he cried out Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
Forgiven and redeemed back into the Fathers loving arms to enjoy New life now and new life in eternity. WOW! What good news. No wonder Wesley became the person he did and together with his brother shared the love of God with thousands.
We are called by God to be filled with His spirit and become the person He designed us to be in the first place -that’s real love in action. No wonder Jesus when asked by one of the teachers of the Law what the greatest commandment was Jesus answered that we should love God with all our hearts and being and love one another - that’s Gods love in action do that and you can’t fail to obey all the other commandments.
The outcome of Easter to the disciples is that they saw the risen Christ and were themselves filled with the Spirit and commissioned to go and tell the world the good news that Gods has made forgiveness and reconciliation available for us all. All because of the love of God - That’s awesome.
What does the love of God mean to you - how does it affect your life and ministry
Gods redemptive plan for the world - was fulfilled in Jesus John 3:16
God made it possible for His redemptive work to be continued -In You and me -
Matthew 5: 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven
God wants us to be lights in the darkness, revealing God's truth in a murky, grubby world in which many people are stumbling in a twilight zone of half-light, if not total darkness.
Jesus came to earth to live alongside people, to live in their neighbourhood
He was found- not only in the Temple but also mixing with saints and sinners workers and housewives, friends and strangers. They were impressed that His life fitted His words
He wanted people to ‘have life, and have it to the full.
Pray that you might be more like Jesus throughout the week and not just on Sundays.
The Bible tells us that that is possible.
Over the next few weeks we will be looking at the time Jesus finally left the disciples and returned to His father in Heaven after telling them that in the next few days they will be baptised in the Holy Spirit and empowered by God to continue the work that Jesus began and be empowered by the Spirit to do the things that Jesus did.
That was what happened at Pentecost. Peter speaks with the same authority as Jesus. Through Peter and John a crippled man is miraculously healed - all because God is now exercising His love through ordinary men and women like you and me - the same can happen today in your life.
When we come to God and seek forgiveness for the past He forgives us and makes it possible for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit making it possible for His power to be manifest in our lives. If more people in church would accept that and reach out to God to give them strength to do His will - churches wouldn’t be struggling today . Empty seats would be filled with the people that we have influenced by our lives and the love they can see there. Believe it! Experience it! God has made it possible for each one of us to be actively involved in His redemptive work.
Isaiah 40; 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Sadly like much of Gods word - people read it but for whatever reason fail to experience it in their own lives. Iv’e used this modern parable before about a town which is inhabited by ducks. Every Sunday the ducks waddle out of their homes and waddle down to the main street to their church.
They waddle into the sanctuary and squat in their favourite pews. The duck minister comes forward and opening the duck bible, reads ‘ Dear ducks! the Lord God has given you wings - and with wings you can fly! With wings you can mount up and soar like eagles - no walls can confine you! No fences hold you back - you have wings - God has given you wings and you can fly like the birds!
All the ducks nodded their heads - shouted ‘Amen’ and then they all waddled home.
How descriptive that is of many church people and fellowships - they read in His word about their potential in Christ - they nod their heads in agreement with the declaration about the new life that can be theirs through faith and commitment - but in the end - they don’t act upon what they have just heard. They don’t make a commitment - they simply say ‘Amen brother’ and then continue on as they have always done. What are we? Quackers?
For too long people have chosen to ignore God when He says that as His people we have the potential to fly and prefer to stay grounded by the voice of the deceiver. When are we as Gods people going to face up to the potential of New Lives - changed lives?
Its so easy to read the bible and relegate all it says to history - to Bible days - and fail to realise that God is the same today - He loves His people you and I and wants us to become partners in His Kingdom building business.
God Loves us - is ready to forgive us and fill us with His love to enable us to become Christlike so that just as the Word became flesh in Christ, Christ becomes flesh in us.
This fellowship - you and I - will only begin to make a difference in this community - in our homes - ur workplace - our schools - amongst our friends, when we stop waddling and start flying - It’s time to fly, it’s time to spread our wings and catch the wind of the Spirit that blowing in our land and it’s time to soar, higher than we’ve been before - the wind of the Spirit is blowing, in our land.
Sunday morning 28 April 2019 John 20; 19-31
Forgiveness and Restoration
On Good Friday, we tried to imagine what Jesus thought as He looked down from the cross at those of His friends gathered there. Mary His mother, John whom He loved, Peter, the others, How He would want dearly to wrap His arms around them and tell them that everything is going to be OK - that this is not the end - this is the beginning. He will be back - this time in the victory of the ressurection.
Easter Sunday - We looked at the responses of Mary Magdalene, Peter, John and the other disciples when the news came that Jesus had dissapeared.. The shock when they saw that the stone had been rolled away and the body was missing.
The loving way Jesus spoke to Mary - now free from the shackles of the cross - but still not able to put His arms around her - His voice would have to say it all - His words would be full of love and compassion. ‘Mary’ Mary couldn’t contain her excitement and ran back to the upper room to tell the other disciples.
When the truth dawned on Jesus’s friends, their Joy would be real, but tinged with guilt and utter disbelief when they remember how, when the going got tough, they were quick to run away. They needed Jesus to come with words of comfort. Peace. - His peace
On Tuesday night we watched the film ‘the road to Emmaus ‘ about two followers of Jesus who were leaving Jerusalem following the Crucifixion and heading to Emmaus. We saw how Jesus appeared to them while they were talking about the events - they didn’t recognise Him and so started to tell Him all about what they had experienced.
This morning we have just read how as the disciples had gathered together in a locked room - fearful that the authorities might come after them - how Jesus appeared to and said ‘Peace be with you’ and as He showed them His hands and side - they were overjoyed - knowing an seeing for themselves that Jesus was indeed alive.
It was then that Jesus breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit with the command to go into the world and continue the work that He had begun.
We then read how because Thomas hadn’t been with them on this occasion they told him what had happened but he didn’t believe them and said that unless he himself saw the nail prints and even put his finger where the nails had been - even put his hand into the side of Jesus - then he wouldn’t believe.
That changed when a week later Jesus appeared again to the discuples, this time Thomas is there and Jesus invited him to put his finger in the nail prints and his hand into his side and told Thomas to ‘stop doubting and believe’.
Thomas’s reaction was a dumbfounded ’My Lord and My God! Jesus told him that he believed because he had seen for himself and added ’ Because you have seen me - you believe, blessed are those who have not seen Me and yet have believed’.
This is all recorded by John who adds - Jesus did many other miraculous things in the presence of His disciples which I havn’t told you about - but the things he has written are so that people who read his account which includes people today - you and - that we would believe with real certainty that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and that be believing we too would have life in His name. WOW!
This morning we continued to read chapter Ch 21 of John about the miraculous way in which Jesus appeared again to His disciples with the specific aim of bringing them back together to fulfil their calling. You may remember that when Jesus commissioned them to be His disciples He had been with them in a boat when they were out fishing and gave hem an awesome picture of what He was going to do through them by changing them from ordinary fishermen to become His disciples and fishers of men.
A lot had happened since that call three years earlier - the disciples had been through a lot with Jesus - they had seen Him do many miraculous things as He taught the truth about the Kingdom of God and Gods intentions for His creation. They had seen the apreciation of the people around - the acknowledgment as Jesus entered Jerusalem to the exhultant cries of ‘Hossana blessed is He who comes in the name of the |Lord’ followed a few days later by the crowds crying Crucify Him. They had watched Him die - they had been through a lot in the last few days And thankfully seen the risen Lord .
Peter had gone through a most agonising period of doubt and even rejection of Jesus as through fear for his won life he had even denied knowing Him. I don't know what your picture of Peter is like, but I always imagined him to be a big burly fisherman, the kind of man that you could trust with your life. The Peter that Luke reveals to us, is a frightened man, who when in fear of his own life, was prepared to lie about his friendship with Jesus.
Lets remind ourselves of what Peter did when Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane
Luke 22 54-62 Then seizing Jesus, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.
A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, "This man was with him." But he denied it. "Woman, I don't know him," he said.
A little later someone else saw him and said, "You also are one of them." "Man, I am not!" Peter replied.
About an hour later another asserted, "Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean." Peter replied, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about!" Just as he was speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Peter must have hated himself for denying Jesus. He had thought that he was a strong man, zealously committed to following Jesus, and yet at the first hint of danger, he had distanced himself in an attempt to save his own skin. At the last supper, Jesus had tolg Peter that - ‘when the cock crows you will deny Me three times’ He’d said.
Peter must have suffered a crushing sense of guilt during the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Not once, but three times, he had denied knowing Jesus. The cries of Jesus over the courtyard walls would have penetrated Peters heart. To see the bloodied Jesus carrying His cross to Calvary would have been too much. He would feel a traitor,
an utter failure, he must have felt despair as the body of Jesus was carried to the tomb.
That’s why I believe that knowing exactly how Peter would be feeling, Jesus couldn't wait to let him know that He was OK. 'Tell Peter', Jesus had said to Mary, the very first visitor to the empty tomb. 'Tell Peter' and when Mary ran to Peter to tell him that the tomb of Jesus was empty! Peter ran to the tomb and saw for himself that the body of Jesus had gone. Imagine how Peter would feel - after denying even knowing Jesus.
When Jesus had appeared to the whole of the disciples in the upper room and commissioned them to go and continue the work that He had begun this could only be achieved by Peter if he had a chance of repenting for his denials, and that’s exactly what Jesus did. Lets read that;
Bible John 21; 1-17 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask Him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love Me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "You know that I love You." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love You." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
The third time He said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love Me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.
Jesus forgave Peter
As I said earlier, what we have just read this morning is almost a replay of the time, three years earlier when Jesus first commissioned them to become His disciples.
Jesus enacted the whole scene, they fished, caught nothing, Jesus told them to cast their nets on the right side - they did and their nets nearly broke with the strain of the enormous catch of fish. When they realise to was Jesus - can you imagine how Peter would feel - what did Jesus think of him now? '
Jesus prepared a meal for them and took time to speak to Peter and ask him three times if he loved Him - three times - the exact number of times Peter had denied knowing Him - I can almost hear the voice of Jesus filled with love in His heart as He asked Peter the three times.
Jesus lovingly forgave Peter and reinstated him - Jesus called Peter 'the Rock' on which I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail upon you'.
I can just imagine Peter thinking ‘no one in their right mind would trust His life's work to a failure, would they? How can Jesus love me, after what I have done?'
But instead of rejecting Peter, Jesus showed him the greatness of His forgiving love.
Jesus showed 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.
This is what Easter is all about - Jesus dying on the cross for our sins making forgiveness available for those who repent and accept the risen Lord as their Saviour.
We all make mistakes - no ones perfect - but God loves us and doesn’t want us to fall into the traps of the evil one - God loves you and me and has made forgiveness available to us all. Forgiveness and a chance to get back on track if we’ve failed Him in any way. God offers forgiveness and new birth to us all.
The world might pull 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, as we have seen in the case of Peter, forgives the penitent,
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 completes the story by showing us how Jesus forgave Peter three times, once for each denial, and then reinstates Peter.
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
He knew he had failed His Lord - big time and 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 letting Jesus down, He is willing to forgive you .
If you feel that you’ve neglected Him by not giving Him enough time, you know, that quick prayer at the end of the day, or maybe being half hearted - this episode in Peters life shows that Jesus wants to forgive you 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 your’ letting Jesus down, 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 us all, and gave His life for you and me even though at times, we 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 our confidence in Him.
The awesome truth is that Jesus not only forgave Peter, but He reinstated him as the Rock to build His church. Jesus 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 in his heart, that Peter still loved Him and wanted to serve Him with his whole life. and gave Peter another chance.
Peter the strong, Peter the defensive - the one who had sliced off the soldiers ear in the garden when they came to arrest Jesus. 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 might pull 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 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.
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. Because He loves us.
We’ve all been there - made mistakes and still do - but thanks be to God, through the love of Jesus we can be forgiven a fresh start
Easter day 21 April 2019 read John 20; 1 - 19
If this is your first meeting this Easter, you’ve missed out on so much. The reason that the first Easter morning was so glorious to the friends of Jesus was because they had shared the tragic events of the crucifixion and the cross together, this day was a blessed release - a ‘champagne popping victory’ that would be mind blowing to them.
This last week has been very special to me and I think many of us. From the Haggadah and the Lord’s Supper on Tuesday to Good Friday morning when we met around the cross of Jesus and tried to imagine what Jesus would have thought as He looked at the out from the cross and looked at His friends and family - His mother Mary, beloved John and especially Peter who had denied even knowing Jesus.
After lunch together just six of us went to the cross at Otley and after singing
‘When I survey the wondrous cross’ we prayed that God would speak to each person that came to the cross that day.
As we looked out over Otley and I was reminded of a story I told you a couple of years ago. It was the Battle of Waterloo and the people of London were waiting anxiously for news of the outcome of the fierce fighting. No telephones then, only semaphore signals. From the top of Winchester Cathedral the people saw and read the message as it was relayed. They strained to see as blankets of fog came over the country.‘ Wellington defeated’ they read but then the fog veiled the signal.
The people of London were in deep despair at the thought of their great general being defeated. All seemed lost. Then the blanket of fog lifted and once again the message was relayed. Again they read ‘Wellington defeated’ - but this time there was more to the message. This time it read ‘Wellington defeated the enemy’ Their gloom changed to Glory, despair to delight, tragedy had become triumph.
I thought about the vast crowds that had gathered around the cross to see Jesus die.
As they looked, all they would see was Christ defeated at Calvary, if they’d have had to send a message to the world then it would have been ‘Jesus Christ defeated’ little were they to know that as the clouds lifted and night gave way to the glorious morning, the glorious message would read ‘Jesus Christ defeated sin and death’.
As the news spread from those early visitors to the tomb, it would be relayed like wildfire. ‘He is risen’ was the victorious cry ‘Jesus Christ has defeated sin and death’. Jesus the victim has become Jesus the victor
The gospel writers go to great lengths to help us to lift the fog and 'see' the truth for ourselves. Some of them, were 'Eyewitnesses' to the fact that Jesus lived, died and rose again. they 'saw and believed' in order that we might 'Believe and see' for ourselves.
Imagine the shock of the women who on visiting the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus seeing that the stone had been rolled away and when they entered they were unable to find Him. Then the angels question ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead’.
It reminded me of Isaiah’s vision when he says ‘In the year that King Uzziah died,
I saw the Lord’. In other words whilst others were following the funeral procession,
Isaiah followed the living, Risen Glorious Lord
This morning we celebrate the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Last week we shared How Jesus called His friends together and dropped the bombshell that they were going to Jerusalem and that all the things that the prophets had said about Him would come true. They would spit on Him, flog Him Kill Him - ‘Surely not - after the three years of relative popularity the people were getting to know Jesus - surely He’s got it wrong this time!’
We then read of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem with the adulation of the Crowds ringing in their ears ‘Blessed is He who come in the name of the Lord’ Hosanna’ He seemed to be gaining popularity amongst the ordinary folk - they clamoured to see Him - surely He’s got it all wrong -
Then when they heard what his enemies were saying about Him when they said ‘Look how the whole world has gone after Him’ that would surely give them more confidence.
‘He’s definately got it all wrong’
Then it all seemed to go wrong - the Last Supper, the terrors of the garden of Gethsemane - the shock of His arrest, His betrayed into the hands of the enemy by one of His own disciples. Taken away, then the crowds crying out for His blood as they shouted ‘Crucify Him’ - what’s happenning! ‘He WAS right all along’
They were afraid, they hid, Peter even denied that He knew Jesus. The feelings of despair, of guilt of fear were overwhelming.
On Friday we shared how THEY would feel looking at Jesus on the cross.
We also thought how JESUS would feel about them as He looked at them from the cross. If only He could reach out and love them - tell them it’s OK that in a few days their despair and grief would be changed to joy unspeakable.
And WOW - thankfully - amazingly - that’s exactly what happened
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.
Mary was devoted to her Lord, He had set her free from the demons that possessed her. She found healing, love and acceptance in Jesus. Unlike most of the other friends and followers of Jesus, Mary was one of the few who stayed with Him at the cross, until the end. Until it would seem that all hope was gone.
It was early in the morning, while it is still dark, when she came to the place where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had laid the body of her Lord. Imagine the shock that Mary must have felt when she found that not only had the stone been moved, but the tomb was empty. The first thing that she did was to run and tell His closest friends, John and Peter. 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb' she cried, and I don't know where they have laid Him'.
Where Mary's reaction at the empty tomb was probably shock, John and Peter’s would be disbelief. They still hadn't realised what Jesus had tried to tell them at that last supper they had shared with Him. " I will be with only 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".
Peter had been shocked when Jesus told him that in the next few day's, he would deny even being with Jesus, that he would desert his Lord. He would find it very hard to believe that Jesus could think that he would be capable of such a thing. Yet Jesus was right, Peter had let his friend down, and I would imagine felt very ashamed of himself.
Peter and John ran with much haste to the tomb, probably with feelings of disbelief,
who would do such a thing as remove the body, hadn't the authorities done enough
to humiliate Jesus ?
I wonder if the words of Jesus at that last supper had started to ring some bells. I can well imagine the thoughts that Peter would have had, knowing that not only had he denied even knowing Jesus, but he had deserted Him at the first sign of danger, and watched Him die on the cross alone.
Last week on Palm Sunday I asked the question ‘ have you ever had to get ready to go somewhere that you didn’t want to? We were thinking about how Jesus would be feeling that day - knowing that to go to Jerusalem meant certain death.
I believe that whilst John would want to get to the tomb as quickly as he could - Peters legs would be running faster than his head - he probably wasn’t as keen to get there as John - Peter would probably still have the image of Jesus looking at him when he denied knowing or being with Jesus,
No wonder we are told that John arrived first.
When John got to the tomb, he would see the bandages that had been wrapped around Jesus's body all neatly folded, not the work of someone trying to get away in a hurry. John saw the evidence, and scripture tells us 'he believed'
Mary just couldn't wait to go and tend to the needs of the Lord she loved. She felt indebted to Him, for what He had done for her, in giving her new life. Life that now had real purpose, a life of hope where before there was only despair.
Peter on the other hand would want to believe, but probably held back by his shame.
Today, like Mary, John and Peter those two thousand years ago, many Christians will give a sigh of relief that the pain and trauma of Good Friday is over - but unlike Mary, John or Peter, they hadn’t had to share the pain of Good Friday.
I don’t believe that anyone could fully appreciate the awesomeness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead if they hadn’t first, experienced the cross.
Paul writing to the fellowship of believers at Phillippi told them that the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is more fully appreciated by those who are willing to experience the cross themselves. Not the searing nails of iron or the cruel cross of wood - but the cross of sacrifice - that often comes when you seriously devote your life, time and energy to the service of God. The cost of true love - devotion to the father and compassionate unselfish love to those around us.
‘I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3; 10,11
On Good Friday I asked what your feelings were as we gathered around the cross of |Jesus. We thought about Mary His mother, John His beloved disciple, Peter who denied even being with Jesus. What are your feelings this morning as we come together to worship the risen Lord. Perhaps you share some of the feelings that Mary Magdalene had, of gratitude for what the Lord has and is doing in your life. A time when you want to rejoice in the victory over sin that Jesus showed was possible.
Perhaps, like Peter, you feel that you have let Him down, denied Him in some way. Maybe you have come sharing the same mixed feelings that Peter must have had, that if Jesus really did rise from the dead, exactly as He said He would do, then all the other claims He made must be true also. If they are, then perhaps I should be responding differently to the way I do?
Perhaps you've held back from making any kind of commitment to Him.
The way that we approach the empty tomb this morning, could change our lives.
Over the last week we have considered the claims of Jesus, the sacrificial lamb who paid the ultimate price on the cross, by freely giving His life as an atonement for the sins of the world. How God, so sick of the way in which man was rejecting Him, and His way of life, sent Jesus to show us by His example, that our Father wants His creation to live a life of love, and not a life of selfishness. The message of Easter, is one of new life, new birth into a living hope, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus said ' I have come that you might have life, life in all it's fullness'.
While Peter and John ran back to their homes, Mary stood outside the tomb weeping.
As she knelt there, she saw two angels, who asked her why she was crying. "because they have taken my Lord away, and I don't know where they have put Him". Then she turned round and saw a man standing by her side. "Woman, why do you weep, who are you looking for?" She thought he was the gardener, and asked him where he had put the body of her Lord. Jesus turned to her and gently said, "Mary" she turned and instantly recognised Him. In her deepest need, she found that He was there. Jesus came to her when in utter desperation she cried out for Him.
Maybe you feel like crying out to God, "where are you." There are times in our lives when ‘Lord You seem so far away’, when in reality He’s there beside us, sharing our pain, feeling our sorrow. It’s then we need to reach out to Him, and realise His presence.
Just as the way we approach the tomb is important, so too is the way we go from it and what we do with our lives.
Where Peter and John went home, perhaps to let the truth sink in before seeing the other disciples, Mary couldn't wait, and we are told that she went to tell them that she had found, the risen Lord.
I pray that that will be our testimony this morning that we know that Jesus Christ is indeed risen from the dead. That we serve a risen Saviour who is in the world today.
How do we know? Because He lives within my heart!
I remember as a young man how on Easter morning, everybody in Idle seemed to go to Church. There were very few cars then, and as you walked to church on - you met people on the way and shouted across the street ‘He is Risen’ Hallelujah. Today, the few people who do come to church, come in cars - so sadly, the greeting is rarely expressed.
William Sangster was a pastor in London in the middle of the last century. During World War II, when Germany was trying to bomb London into extinction, Pastor Sangster ministered to the citizens who for their safety were hiding in the underground tunnels. Many were injured, all feared for their lives.
In the later days of his life Pastor Sangster suffered from throat cancer. He lost his ability to speak. He lived the last months with his daughter. On the last Resurrection Sunday that Sangster spent on earth his daughter came into the kitchen where her father was eating breakfast. He gave her a napkin on which he had written these words, "How terrible to wake up on Easter and have no voice to shout, 'He is risen!' She fled the room with tears in her eyes, while she read the words on the other side. ‘But what is far worse, is to have a voice and not want to Praise Him."
He’s not in the manger, it’s an empty stable,
He’s not on the cross, it’s an empty Cross and
He’s not in the tomb - that too is empty -
but I know a place where He would love to be - in your heart.
The Living Christ promised that if we love Him and are obedient to Him then He and the father would come and live in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit - WOW!
He is risen -He’s alive - He’s conquered death and offers New life to everyone who will believe on Him
New Life that begins the minute we turn our backs on the past and accept Him as our Lord and Saviour.
Ressurection life begins when we are reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit. Life that begins now and continues on into eternity.
MM 14 April 2019 Palm Sunday Bible Luke 19; 28-44
On Palm Sunday there were two main groups spectators and the participants
Those Spectators 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 support Jesus whatever others thought, said or did. ' They had their own cross to carry
I say it every year - Its easiest thing in the world to wave a palm branch -
Its not so easy to carry your cross
Why? Because often, waving a palm branch means you are going along with the crowds, whilst carrying your cross alone means you‘re going it 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 - to go to the cross and die for the sake of people like you and me.
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 from Scripture what that means.
Gone the acclaim, the popularity now He would be the ‘Despised, rejected, a man of sorrows, grief stricken - the fulfilment of the prophecy outlined in Isaiah 53
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces But He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.
Not a pretty picture. People gathered who will mock Him, insult Him, spit on He, flog He and ultimately kill Him. Imagine what feelings of disbelief and terror would be in the minds of His disciples. Even the good news, the unbelievable that on the third day he will rise again, would’nt bring the comfort that they would need. 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 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 now- 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 your 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.
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 ressurection 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 - as the song say’s I'll not turn back, whatever it may cost, He was called to die, in order 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 ressurection.
For the Joy that was set before Him He endured the cross and all that that meant. Hebrews 12;2
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-
I wonder how many times the thought as entered your heads to say 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 guess we‘ve all been there. It’s not always to stand for Christ in a world where few acknowledge Him.
What the children of Israel 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.
Have you ever felt like that. Life isn’t always a bed of roses - in or out of Church.
Over the last few 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. Some of you are experiencing times like that today.
There have been problems with health that have stopped us giving 100% . We’ve had to say goodbye to people we’ve loved as they have gone to Glory. Loved ones, friends, colleagues.
On Tuesday at Bible fellowship we read the words of James, the brother of Jesus who wrote ‘Consider it pure Joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds at first read I don’t think many of us would have agreed with that, but thankfully he clarifies it by adding ‘because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance - in other words, the joy we feel is not in the trials but the fact that God has promised to be with us at such times and see us through so that the Joy is in knowing that we will come through stronger and better able to persever in life whatever befalls us.
Just as Jesus knew that in a couple of weeks - He would be nailed to a cross but in a few days the ultimate victory would come - 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. There was no Joy in what He knew He had to face - only in the ultimate outcome.
I guess that here at Idle we’ve had many rough times with people leaving, through choice or through sickness and for those of us who are left - the uncertainties and the doubts about the future of our fellowship have been blurred.
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 will be resumed - and I believe that 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.
As Bill Wilson shared this on TV, 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.
Luke tells us that when Jesus and His disciples were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."
He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family." Jesus replied, "No-one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Luke 9:57
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.
Hang in there - 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."
The disciples did not understand any of this. 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 that’s 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 reconned 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!’
As Jesus entered Jerusalem to the tumultuous applause of the crowds, He could have been thinking - its great today but the terrors of Good Friday are still to come. But then I believe that as He hung on the cross on Good Friday He would look at the crowds and think Its Friday but you wait -Sundays coming.
Over the next few days we will be sharing the rollercoaster of emotions, the highs of today, the lows of Good Friday but then the height of Easter Sunday when He triumphed over death, sin, apathy, and brought purpose, meaning, New Life.
Jesus went through all that He did for you and me, He came to seek the lost and bring them back to the Fathers heart. This is the message of Easter - that there is New Life for those who place their trust in Jesus.
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.
MM 7 April 2019
Last Sunday, Mothers Day, we looked at how Mary the mother of Jesus commanded the disciples to do whatever Jesus told them - Obedience. This was the first miracle that Jesus did at the beginning of . Today we will look at the last miracles Jesus did nearing the end of His earthly ministry.
This was around the week before Jesus went to Jerusalem the day we will celebrate next Sunday - Palm Sunday
Read Luke 18;- 31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.
A Blind Beggar Receives His Sight 35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied.
Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
I can’t begin to imagine how Jesus would be feeling at this time of His life - knowing that in a couple of weeks time He will be arrested, tortured and nailed to a cross.
The gospels reveal to us the feelings of Jesus that acknowledge the fact that whilst he was fully God incarnate with all the spiritual powers and authority of Yahweh- He was also fully man and so, like us, shared our feelings of sadness, fear, and pain.
Jesus the miracle worker who healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead - here we see Jesus the man who knew that He would be facing death in the next couple of weeks - not just going to die but to suffer pain, torture, humiliation not for anything that He had done wrong but take the punishment for mankind's sin upon Himself so to bring forgiveness to you and me.
What would you and I do if we knew we hadn’t long for this earth. I think we would do some of the things that Jesus did. He would make and effort to see His friends, to reassure those closest to Him that whilst He didn’t look forward to what was going to happen to Him, and was fearful about the pain and suffering that He had been called to endure - He didn’t fear death itself as He was going to Heaven - back to the Father to live in eternity. We will hear more about this next week when we look at the last Supper that Jesus shared with His beloved disciples and again told them He was leaving.
Jesus was reaching the end of His earthly ministry which was to bring man back to the truth about God and their relationship with Him. Jesus wanted to make sure that the church of His day would take a good look at itself and see how far removed it had become from it’s first love and had become a self centred community that was more interested in worldly things such as money , fame and success. That’s why, as we will read next week, He repeats what He had done at the beginning of His ministry when He went into the Synagogue and declared who He was - the promised Messiah who had come in fulfilment of Gods promise through the old prophets like Isaiah. - next week at the end of His ministry He would enter the Synagogue and show them Gods anger at what they had become by overturning the tables of the money lenders etc.
Jesus would be feeling rather down at the events that were to come in the next week or so - we know that by the prayer He makes in the Garden of Gethsemane before the soldiers come and arrest Him. Father if there is any other way p please take this cup of suffering from Me’. Here we see the natural outpouring of the heart of Jesus the man - It reassures me that Jesus, the embodiment of God knows exactly what we feel like when we face difficult times in our lives - God cares about you and me - He shares our pain and promises to be with us through it all and will see us through.
Jesus knew that this was His mission - to take the punishment for our sins so that once and for all we could be forgiven and reconciled back to the heart of the Father. Jesus had come to seek and to save those who had come under the authority of the evil one and set them free - release them from his grip and give them new life now and eternal life in the hereafter.
Lets read what happened on His way back to Jerusalem.
Read Luke 19;1-10 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
This is the first and only time that we hear about Zacchaeus - the very little man we used to sing about who so much wanted to see Jesus that he climbed into a sycamore tree to get a good view. Amazingly Jesus saw him and called him down by name saying He wanted to go to his house and stay there - Wow - Jesus knew his name - even wanted to go to his house and share with him there - that what you mean by being called - Jesus knows each one of us and sees deep into the depth of our hearts and knows the desires we have there.
He knows why you have came here this morning - He knows you by your name - He can see into the hidden depth of your heart - and just as with Zacchaeus, Jesus wants to come into your life today - He wants to go home with you and share with your family - He wants to be IN your life and make a difference to it. Jesus knew that Zacchaeus was there and knew that Zacchaeus was there because he wanted to see Jesus for himself and made the effort to see Him.
Everyone was amazed because they knew that Zacchaeus was a sinner who cheated people out of money in his role as tax man - But this was the kind of person that Jesus had come to save and set free - Zacchaeus was singled out by Jesus - who called him by name and told him how much He wanted to save him and his household. Jesus called Zacchaeus and Zacchaues responded in the only way man can when called by Jesus - he repented of his past sins and said he would make amends and pay the ones he had robbed back fourfold.
The response of Jesus was Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
This is why Jesus came - that what He had said in that first visit to the Synagogue when He began His ministry.
Luke 4; 18,19 The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because he has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
Freedom for the prisoner ( prisoner to sin) - Jesus did that for Zacchaeus,
He came to give good news to the poor ( certainly the tax payers would be pleased) but this refers to the poor in Spirit and what we read earlier - sight to the blind - (in this case the spiritualy blind)
Remember what Jesus said to the blind Bartimaeus, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God
In these two occasions before His return to Jerusalem to face His accusers, Jesus, set Zacchaeus the prisoner to sin free and gave Sight to the blind Bartimaeus two of the things He said at His first sermon in the Synagogue when He began His ministry.
Jesus ministry was to bring the truth of how God wanted His people to respond to Him and one another - in love for Him and one another and begin to live unselfish loving caring compassionate lives in obedience to His word.
Just like today the word of God had been diluted, changed to fit mans ideas - the devil had crept in and was taking over mans mind and corrupting the truth. That’s why at the beginning of His ministry the first pace Jesus went to was the Temple to declare that He was the promised Messiah who had come to set the prisoners free and offer new life to those who accepted His message. That’s why one of the last places Jesus visited when in Jerusalem will again be the Temple - this time to show the righteous anger of God on a people who had turned His Fathers house into a den of thieves.
My heart goes out to Jesus at this time in ministry - the time has come for the ultimate sacrifice to be made that will bring freedom to those held in sins grip and sight to the spiritually blind - Jesus was about to give His life to set mankind free.
Mankind, that is, that responds to His message and invitation to acknowledge their sinfulness and ask forgiveness - there is no other way - Jesus paid the price but in order for us to gain from this we have to acknowledge our sins, seek and accept forgiveness and desire in our hearts to love Him and live in obedience to His word.
Easter is that time - we have eggs to remind us that through the sacrificial love of God for each one of us - New birth -that what the eggs represent - New birth is available for us all through the sacrificial love of God as seen in Jesus and all mankind has to do is respond to the reason for the season - Forgiveness and reconciliation in the name of Jesus Christ for each one of us.
Lets make sure that this Easter is a notable and special one in our lives as we respond to the love of God as seen in Jesus who went through the most unbelievable pain to pay for our forgiveness.
That was the only way that God could make mankind see that their sins could be forgiven as it was the custom then for man to bring a sacrificial lamb - and innocent lamb to the altar to be sacrificed by the priest - that was the way they accepted it could be done - and God made it possible through Jesus Christ. As I said earlier I can’t begin to understand what Jesus knows He is going to have to go through for our sake - but |He did it for you and me.
At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus set the scene and proclaimed who He was and the purpose of His coming which was to set the oppressed free - those who were captive to satans evil ways - and to bring sight to the blind -to open their spiritual eyes to see Gods purpose for their lives.
At the end of His ministry on earth, Jesus fulfilled the promises He had made at the beginning - Only God in Christ Jesus could do that.
There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin
He only - Jesus - could unlock the gates of Heaven and let us in
Make this Easter special in your life by accepting and responding to the sacrificial love of Jesus
Mothers Day 2019 John 2; 1- 11 The wedding at Cana
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."
This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in Him.
Mary the mother of Jesus knew all about obedience. When the angel gave her the mind blowing news that she had been hand picked by God to be the mother of the long awaited Messiah, she listened, and then responded with the words 'I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said. Her response was obedience and faith in what God. In our bible reading this morning we see her encouraging His disciples to be obedient to Him too- no matter how strange His command may be.
Surprising that no where else in the gospels is this first miracle mentioned.
Our bible reading tells us of the first miracle that Jesus performed. Mary his mother and the disciples that he had only recently chosen were invited to a wedding in Cana. The wine has run out, and so Mary drew this to the attention of her son Jesus. Here is Jesus right at the beginning of His ministry, commanding ordinary, sensible people to do what would seem to be ridiculous.
But Mary knew there was something very special about Jesus, She was His mother, but also knew that He was more than just her son, He was the son of God! She trusted Him, and even though she wouldn't know what He could do about it, she wasn't afraid to ask Him.
Maybe you are in a situation that you cannot understand, and need to trust Jesus, and lean not on your own understanding, let Him take control. In contrast to the church notice board I saw that said, 'Why pray when you can worry about your problems?
Although Jesus said that it was not yet time for Him to do miracles, Mary said to the servants, 'Whatever He says to you- do it!' There were six water pots in the corner, the ones used for ceremonial washing, Jesus told the servants to fill them with water, then draw some of it off and present it to the master of the banquet to taste. I can just see the servants standing there thinking, 'He'll go barmy when he tastes it, when he realises that it's just plain water, he'll spit it out, or he'll kill us for sure.
The master drank and I can imagine that as a broad smile spread across his face and he judged it to be better than the first wine, everyone gave a huge sigh of relieve, I can just imagine Mary sitting back, a big smile on her face saying 'That's my boy'.
The main points of the story are these:
1 Mary trusted Jesus and encouraged obedience when she said to the servants 'Whatever He says to you- do it!'
2 the Servants themselves were obedient and did as Jesus commanded them
3 as a result of their obedience, they were amazed by the power, the authority of Jesus, they saw His glory and put their faith in Him.
O how we need to learn to trust Jesus. It's easy when the going is smooth, but not so easy when life is hard. Of course, before we can be obedient we have to learn to recognise Gods voice. To distinguish between the conflicting thoughts of inner self that find it easier to listen to reason, to common sense, to the dictates of our heart. That's where Mary came in, she knew her son, she knew who He was, she had been given special insight from God.
The words of the angel Gabriel would be forever ringing in her mind. Greetings you who are highly favoured .You are to give birth to a son, the Son of the most High. Any doubts that she may have had, went when Elizabeth confirmed what she had been told ' Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear. Blessed is she who hath believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.
Mary went on to become the mother of Jesus and following the further confirmation of the Shepherds and all the events surrounding His birth we are told that Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. Mary’s response was ‘be it unto me according word‘. Faith and trust that resulted in obedience. And the angel departed from her. Luke 1;38
Only believe, that's all it takes. Jesus said 'If you believe you will receive anything that you ask in prayer', Matt 21;22 When Jesus raised Jairuses daughter from the dead He said ' Don't be afraid, only believe' All the way through Mark, Jesus is telling people that the main condition of receiving is believing, having faith in God, and simply believing. This was the trade mark of Smith Wigglesworths ministry - the essence of a song he used ‘Only believe’ don’t rely on your own limited intelligence that finds it difficult to reach out for unbelievable answers to prayer - trust God and believe that in God - all things are possible to those who believe.
I stand here this morning as living proof of that - healed of a serous kidney malfunction - healed of one of the deepest cancers that should have been the death of me years ago. We have all witnessed awesome answers to prayers for healing of Christopher and baby Adam, weve all seen the result of believing prayer and Gods provision regarding the Community Hall, the roof, the chairs, the windows. Awesome!
Mary, this simple young girl, believed the unbelievable and as a result, had such a faith in her heart that she was able to encourage others to believe the impossible.
Mary is a supreme example of obedience. If only we could exercise that implicit trust that believes that whatever He says will happen, then we would be able to convince others with such an assurance that they would in turn have little doubt and believe for themselves. Only as we truly know Him can we make Him truly known. How do I know that that inner voice is God
Hannah, another of the famous mothers in the Bible, prayed for and was blessed by God with the birth of a son Samuel and in response to the favour of God, was obedient, and gave her son into His service as soon as he was old enough. Through Hannah's obedience we are able to learn the lesson of recognising the voice of God
You all know the story, Samuel slept in the next room to the wise Eli heard the voice of God, but didn't recognise it. Three times God called and it wasn't until Eli realised that it was God, that Samuel could make the proper response.
Although we need to recognise the voice of God for ourselves, sometimes, God uses others in our fellowship to identify those thoughts within us that are of God in the same way that as we have seen, Elizabeth would have helped Mary in this.
To know what He is saying, we have to listen 'speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth’
Many times people are waiting for some blinding revelation from God, yet fail to recognise that He is peaking to them every day through His word. Maybe if we listened more to what He says there, and were obedient to what He says, then He might speak to us from outside of His word.
Hearing the voice of God through His word
We already have the commands of Jesus in His word As regards our responses to each other Jesus said 'Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command'
Jesus assures us that the two greatest comandments are to Love God with all your heart and love one another. As we obey this commandment, to love one another, the darkness in our lives disappears and the new light of life in Christ shines in. In His final moments before going to the cross Jesus repeated this command to love one another
'Love one another as I have loved you' John 13; 33 - 34 "My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
'Love one another. As I have loved you' ouch! Is that possible? That costs Lord
Be servant of all - Jesus washed His disciples feet. but that costs Lord!
Take up your cross and follow Me - but that costs too Lord!
What did Mary say? 'Whatever He says to you - do it!
What did Jesus say? Love Me, and Love each other as I have loved you, Jesus demands that we give our lives to Him and to each other. To live sacrificial lives that sees our brother and sister as being more important than self?
The trouble is that because many Christians fail to obey Him in the basic commands that He has given through His word, they fail to receive all that He has in store for them. They amble on like a crippled church when the mighty healing of God is available. What is the church waiting for? another blinding light, some out of this world experience?
Mary His mother gave the best advice - ‘Whatever He says to you do it!’
Jesus commands us to;
Love God with all Your heart Mark 12;30
Love one another as much as He loved us John 15;12
Care for others Matt 25:34-36
Live in obedience to His Word John 14;15
Don’t worry Matt 6:25-26
Have complete faith in God Mark 11:22-24
Be born again John 3;7
Let your light shine Matt 5:14;16 Go and make disciples Matt 28:19-20
Be ready for His return Luke 12:40
Watch out for false prophets Matt 7:15
What’s God saying to you today - what’s He commanding you to do?
As Mary the mother of Jesus said - Whatever it is - do it
I believe that God called me and Beryl to accept the invitation of Betty Matear to become the Commanding Officers of this Corps 24 years ago. I believe God gave me the vision to build the Community Hall next door and in being obedient to God He has blessed us. He’s provided all that we needed to do that financially and because of that, I believe that God has more in store for this place - for me and you - all of us - and all we need to do is seek to know His will for our own lives and this - His church and in obedience give our all to see it through.
Whatever He says to you - DO IT!
MM 24 March 2019
Ephesians 1;3-8 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. 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. With all wisdom and understanding
Ephesians 1;3-8 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
Chosen to be holy and blameless in His sight That’s Gods desire for us all that we would be Holy and blameless in His sight by sending Jesus - the sacrificial lamb - to pay the ultimate penalty for our sins - Because it was the only way that man in those days believed you could atone for your sins by taking a sacrificial lamb to the High priest. Jesus became the sacrificial offering for our sins so that we could stand blameless before God.
In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will As a further display of His love, God made it possible for us to be Adopted to sonship - children of God our heavenly Father. - by providing a way for us to be born again - this time of the Spirit. God did this in accordance with His pleasure and will.
God did this for you and me through the loving sacrifice of His Son Jesus- in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding
What a privilage is ours that God should show His love for us in such an extreme way.
God - our Father wants His creation - you and me - to become the kind of people He intended us to be in the first place but through the wiles of satan mankind went it’s own way and still does today.
But hold this awesome truth in your heart - that God loves you and me and through Christ has made us part of His family. God is our Father and if we love Him and accept the sacrificial love of Jesus we are adopted into the family of God.
This is all made clear in the verses that follow where Paul offers a prayer of Thanksgiving. In Ephesians 1;15 we have this prayer of thanksgiving for the way in which the Ephesian church had accepted the love of God, been adopted into His family and were trying as best they could to live according to the will of God. Pauls prayer was that they would be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to know God better and know with real certainty in their hearts that Gods way was best and that being obedient to Jesus - the Word made flesh - there was so much more in store for them.
They had been forgiven their past which was now dead and given new life - made alive in Christ as seen in ch 2v10 created to do good works for Him. They are now One in Christ Jesus - v 14 meaning Jews and Gentiles- a together people - born again and now family. Gods family. Members of Gods household v 19. Because of all this, in the very next chapter ( 3) we have Pauls prayer for the church.
Ephesians 3; 14-21 For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
Wow! Pauls prayer for the church in Ephesus is that they would be strengthened and empowered by the Holy Spirit right through to their inner being - completely filled with the spirit so that there would be no doubt that Jesus Christ lived in their hearts through faith.
His prayer goes on And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
This has always been one of my favourite verses - which I first read in the Living Bible following my own experience of being born again. To not just know about, but to feel and enjoy the love of Jesus that is outside our limited understanding - it surpasses knowledge that we can be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God - that filled to overflowing.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
That power within us is explained further in In chapter 4; 13 where Paul talks about the way in which God builds His church by giving people in the fellowship ministerial gifts of service such as evangelists, pastors, teachers to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach the unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ. God is building His church using ordinary folk like you and me that’s why we are encouraged to Go deeper into the faith
Paul had a special place in his heart for the fellowship at Ephesus where he spent two years of his ministry (Acts 19:1-20). The apostle John wrote his gospel and the three letters of John in Ephesus where he lived. John had settled there along with Mary the mother of Jesus.
Ephesus was the most important city in western Asia Minor (now Turkey). It had a busy commercial harbour and was part of the major trade routes. It also boasted a pagan temple dedicated to the Roman goddess Diana known in Greek as Artemis . The local silversmiths made a lot of money making trinkets in memory of Diana who was the figurehead of a cult and when Paul started to preach the true gospel of Jesus, people turned away from the cult causing riots to start and the sale of trinkets fell dramatically. We can read about this in Acts ch 19; 23.
It was when Paul first arrived in Ephesus that he discovered twelve believers who had been baptized by John the Baptist for the forgiveness of their sins - who when asked if they had received the Holy Spirit - didn’t understand what Paul meant and when he explained, he placed his hands onthem and they receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7).
It was while he was in Ephesus that people witnessed Paul doing miraculous things just like Jesus, healing the sick casting out demons and as a result started to turn to Christ. Paul was so successful at Ephesus that it became a centre for evangelism and the church flourished and grew = that’s why Paul wrote this letter of encouragement to them after he had left and during the time he was in prison.
It was in response to the happy time that Paul had spent in Ephesus and seen the awesome growth of the Christian Fellowship there that he wrote this letter to them and sharing with them a prayer that he made for them in thanks to God.
This prayer of Pauls has a 'trini - tare - ian' outline, in which the apostle asks that his readers may possess the strength of the Spirit v.16 the indwelling of Christ v.17, and the fullness of God v. 19.
Paul kneels "before the Father." The Father after whom "the whole family" is named. A family that includes those present and those in the heavenly realms. The Jews were known to Stand in prayer although kneeling was not unknown ( Daniel knelt before his window to pray). To kneel is an act of total submission, a solemn act of adoration. Someone once said 'Satan trembles when he sees Christians on their knees'.
Every morning I kneel at my bedside and spend time with the Lord - I couldn’t start a day without that - I pray for you all individualy by name and then ask for His presence to be within me to strengthen me with power to face whatever the day may hold.
Paul's prayer for the Ephesian Church was that out of His glorious riches, He may strengthen you with power.
The power to resist the devil and the power to glorify God.
The power needed to say No, to reject temptation, to deny satans power over us.
The power to claim the Victory, to continue the work of Jesus,
The power to glorify God in whatever way that could be accomplished.
The power that increases our faith as daily we realise the glorious presence of Christ in our hearts.
That was Pauls prayer for the Christian fellowship then but I believe that as we read it - God is making it clear to us - His people today - that He desires us to experience the same awesome presence and power that Paul talks about in his prayer for the Ephesians. In the same way today, we need the inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit to enable us to 'live the Jesus life' . In this day and age, we need all the help that we can to simply stay in tune with God, and enable us to grow and mature into His New creation.
The evil one is very subtle, he knows for instance that if he can tempt someone back into their old ways he will do. He is the one who tries to put doubt into a Christians mind. He knows how to utilise our problems to his best advantage. He knows how to kick someone when they are down.
He also knows how to spoil a fellowship by worming his way into that fellowship knowing that he will have a better chance to destroy that fellowship from within. As a Corps, we have know what it’s like to be under the subtle attack of the devil in his attempt to try and spoil all that I believe God wants to do in our Corps.
How can we safeguard against such attacks. Paul tells us that as Christians we need to be deeply rooted in the love of Jesus. As we read last week, Jesus tells us to Love God and love one another. Love is so powerful. Love is the greatest gift we could ever desire. All you need is love' the Beatles sang, how right they were. God is love! Jesus said - Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends - you are my friends if you do whatsoever I command. He then went and gave His life - so that we could live. WOW!
Gods plan for His church and the Kingdom is that we should delight in the Love of God, delve deeper into the love of Jesus, be filled with His love and then go out into the world and let the love of God flow out to others. God IS love, Jesus showed the extent of Gods love by giving His life to save us. Gods plan is that we should be filled with His love so that we can show that love to the world, our world, wherever that may be.
Many churches today have folk in their fellowships who are just going along with the crowds - probably started out OK - with the intention of living in obedience to God and the honour the promises they made. Churches that once worshipped God in obedience to His word but who over the years have fallen away and whilst they may be busy in their churches are busy doing mundane things just to keep the doors open. Can’t believe that some churches and Corps have Yoga classes - In 2007 a lunchtime yoga session for staff our national headquarters in London was banned because of "irreconcilable differences" between yoga and Christianity - yet some Corps allow it.
That’s why I find sad that after all Paul wrote about the church at Ephesus we find disappointing words of caution to the church at Ephesus in in the book of Revelation where we read how John, imprisoned and exiled to a life of hard labour on the Roman penal colony at Patmos, had a Revelation from God, that forms the last book in the New Testament. In chapter 2, he writes this about the church at Ephesus I, (God) know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know how you have endured hardship for My name, and have not grown weary. Yet, I hold this against you - you have forsaken your first love! This is the same church that we have been reading the great things about this morning.
They are exhorted to look back and see the difference that coming into the truth and light of Jesus, had made in their lives. The change in their lives, when they asked Jesus into their lives. The 'high' they were on - and then. V5 Remember the height from which you have fallen, and do something about it, repent, and let's get back on course. If you don't, then you face the consequences.
Sadly the same could be applied to many Christian Fellowships and Christians today - people that when they started hungered after the truth in Christ and sought the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to empower them to be Gods disciples.
People in the Army who promised to pray, to read their bibles and seek to grow in the family of God - like the Church at Ephesus did at first but then over the years busied themselves in living the way of the world and without realising they had forsaken their first love.
The great things that we have all shared this morning in Pauls letter to the Ephesians fall into the shade when we read the sad indictment of how they eventually lost sight of their first love - Jesus.
People in church today need to heed the warnings, and seek to live in complete harmony with God and one another. We have our 'pattern' our example in Jesus. 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.
If only every Christian today who are meeting in churches all over the world would take an honest and careful look at their own Christian lives in the light of what we have read this morning and determined to make sure they were living in obedience to Gods word and enjoy the privilages that brings - then I believe there would be a new surge in the churches to be filled with the Spirit and become faithful witnesses to the world around us.
Ephesians 3v20 'Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen
In closing we sang - Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee
MM 17 March 2019 Li(o)ving for God
John 14; 15-21 ‘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 for ever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me any more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you. Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them.’
Wow! What a promise! Keep My commands - said Jesus - Live in obedience to My Word and I will ask the father to fill you with the Spirit of truth - the Holy Spirit - whoever has My commends and keeps them shows that they really love Me said Jesus and whoever loved Me can be assured that they will be loved by God.
A few weeks ago we read Mark 12; 28 where one of the teachers of the law asked asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus told him “The most important one is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And that from a teacher of the law.
All the way through Jesus’s life He not only taught and emphasised the way that man should strive to live in obedience to Gods word. To love God and one another - He lived it = the word became flesh in the way that Jesus lived His life. To share that same desire requires us to take self - the I - out of ‘live for God’ and replace it with O - which then says love for God. Jesus showed His love for God and mankind by giving His life on the cross to pay for mans sins. the cross. Just as God IS Love so too is Jesus - He lived showing the love of God.
I’ve said it so many time that just as we say in Yorkshire - ‘A picture speaks more than a thousand words’ that’s how Jesus lived His life and that’s how Jesus wants you and me to live our lives - honest and open to His word.
At school we had books that were full of information to teach us all kinds of subjects. History, Geography, Science - I can’t count the times I would ask a question and the teacher would say ‘it’s in the book’ havn’t you read it?
It’s amazing that we today have the book - in it we have awesome stories of how God wants us to live our lives - what His purpose is for you and me - what He wants us to know and do - ‘It’s all in the book - the trouble is that many people don’t take the time or make the effort to read it. If the quizzes on TV are anything to go by - especially when they get asked a question from the bible - people seem to know more about Coronation Street and Emmerdale than they do the Bible.
Jesus only had three years to share the good news and direct mankind into the right way to live their lives and prepare themselves for eternity - but WOW! He gave it His best. We read how Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to help man to begin to understand the ways of God and empower him to live his life in obedience to the will of God. The Holy Spirit who will lead man into all truth and empower and enable man to fulfil what God wanted him to do which is to share the good news with others.
Over the last few weeks we have seen how Jesus, when He reached 30 embarked on His ministry after being filled with the Holy Spirit and sent into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
In Luke 4;14 Luke tells us that the first things Jesus did after leaving the wilderness was to Galilee to the Synagogue to teach people the right way and how everyone praised Him. He then went to Nazareth where He had been brought up and on the Sabbath day went to the synagogue there - as was His custom - and there He stood up and read from the prophet Isaiah who all through the book of Isaiah heralds the Messianic age - Jesus read the part that heralded the coming Saviour that they had all been waiting for. In our Bibles it’s Isaiah 61.
A Saviour who preached good news, a Saviour who would bring freedom for prisoners of sin, sight for the blind and freedom for those oppressed. A Saviour was coming who would proclaim the year of the Lords favour - I can just see the face of Jesus as after He had read Isaiahs prophesy - I can just imagine the face of Jesus lifting His eyes from the pages of the scroll and handed it back to the attendants. I can just see Him turning His gaze and looking straight at the congregation and saying - today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing - in other words - Here I am - I’m the one you’ve been waiting for all these years.
At first the congregation were amazed and all spoke well of Him - that was until He turned the challenge back to them by saying the trouble is no prophet is is accepted in His home town - and that’s where He was - the place He had been brought up in.
They were furious when He said that and drove Him out of their town - took Him to the brow of a hill with the intention of throwing Him off the cliff - but he walked straight through the crowds and went on His way. Jesus then went to Capernaum and again - on the Sabbath began to teach the people - who were amazed at His teaching because He spoke with authority.
Luke tells us that there was a man there who was filled with an evil spirit who challenged Jesus - ‘what do you want of us - have you come to destroy us’ that was the evil one speaking through man and just like satan in the wilderness showed that he knew exactly who Jesus was when he said ‘I know who you are - you’re the Holy One of God’ Wow - no wonder when the people heard this - we are told that they were amazed and realised that Jesus not only spoke with authority but His actions showed the power that He had was from God as they watched Jesus cast the evil spirit out of the man.
Jesus went on to heal many and gain disciples who began to follow Him and learn from Him. WOW! It’s all here in the book - everything mankind needs to know about life and how God wants His creation to live in Peace, harmony and love with God and each other.
Jesus had just three short years to spread the truth around and get rid of the false teachings and hypocritical way that those who should have known better, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law.
Jesus came to offer forgiveness for mankind by paying the ultimate price - death on the cross - but more than that - He not only brought forgiveness but the further blessing of being filled with the Holy Spirit - just as He had been when the Spirit of God decended upon Him when He was baptised by John in the River Jordan.
Jesus didn’t need to be cleansed from sin by John - he was sinless - He did it as an example for us to follow to be forgiven and cleansed of our sinfulness. He didn’t need to be filled with the Holy Spirit because He Himself was the embodiment of God - He did it to show us that we too needed to be cleansed of our sin and filled with the Spirit to enable us to become Christ-like - more like Jesus.
Jesus emphasised this when He talked to Nicodemus who was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council. Nicodemus, who came to Jesus under the cloak of darkness - the night - and acknowledged that he knew Jesus was a teacher who had come from God as the miraculous things that Jesus did proved that.
John 3; Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.”
Then the most well remembered words from the bible 16 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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
Born again - I love that truth - A second chance at life - Born or the Spirit and God is our Father. It all hinges on our desire to love God and one another and live in obedience to the word of God. Love Him with all your heart - live in obedience to His Word - be filled with the love of Jesus so much that it shows - to let go the past and claim new birth.
‘Born of the Spirit’ - our second hymn this morning was ‘Heaven came down and Glory filled my soul’ we sing it because we know its true. ‘Born of the Spirit with life from above into Gods family divine - justified fully through Calvary’s love’ WOW! And because of that ‘I have a future in heaven for sure’
That’s what Jesus told His disciples at that last supper before He left them and went to the cross. He then went on to say; John 14 Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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. 4 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 know me, you will 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’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Some of the Pharisees and teachers of the Jewish law could see from the evidence of the miraculous things Jesus did that He had been sent by God. We read earlier how Nicodeamus said Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with Him.”
As the Bible reading we started with - John 14 -tells us that Jesus told His disciples that it they loved Him and lived in obedience to His word then He would come and live within them by the power of the Holy Spirit and enable them to continue to work that Jesus had begun - through them.
Finally - when Jesus commissioned His disciples to go and continue the work of reconciliation that He had begun He told them this; Matthew 28; 19 Therefore 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.”
Go and make disciples - bring them to accept the teachings of Jesus - the need to be forgiven and be filled with the Holy Spirit to enable them to live in obedience to the teachings of Jesus - do that and be assured that I will be with you.
From leaving the wilderness and beginning His ministry by declaring to Gods people that He was the Messiah they had been waiting for who would bring Gods people out of bondage to man made rituals and set them free by paying the ultimate price for their sins on the cross - Jesus showed mankind that they could have a fresh start in Kingdom terms by accepting Him as Saviour. Love God and one another and desire in their hearts to live in obedience to His word - by being born again and filled with the same Spirit that empowered Him to live the life He did.
That’s our privilage and responsibility in the world today - to know and love God - to live in obedience to His Word and to share that love with others - do that and be assured that God will be with you throughout your whole life.
We are not alone in this - Jesus promised to come and live within us to empower us to share His love with others so that they and we become like Him.
God calls us to come and really know Him and His word to enable us and equip us to share His love with others and bring them into the truth. That’s what Jesus did and what He called His disciples to do - and that’s exactly what He expects us to do
We closed with the hymn Lord I come to You
MM 10 March 2019 Matthew 4; 1-11
Lent is a solemn religious observance in the Christian calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. The 40 days ( not counting Sundays) represent the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness prior to beginning His earthly ministry following His Jordan river experience.
The purpose of Lent for the believer serves as a time of preparation for Easter through prayer, self examination a Spiritual check and affirmation of our faith.
During Moses' life he lived forty years in Egypt and forty years in the desert before God selected him to lead his people out of slavery when they spent 40 years in the wilderness. Moses was also on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights, on two separate occasions (Exodus 24:18, 34:1 - 28), receiving God's laws. He also sent spies, for forty days, to investigate the land God promised the Israelites as an inheritance (Numbers 13:25, 14:34). The prophet Jonah powerfully warned ancient Nineveh, for forty days, that its destruction would come because of its many sins. The prophet Ezekiel laid on His right side for 40 days to symbolize Judah's sins (Ezekiel 4:6). Elijah went 40 days without food or water at Mount Horeb. Abraham tried to bargain with God to NOT destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if forty righteous people were found (Genesis 18:29). God flooded the earth by having it rain for forty days and nights (Genesis 7:12).
The number Forty is mentioned 146 times in Scripture, and generally symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation.
Lent is the time we remember the time that Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tested by satan before His earthy ministry began. - For Jesus it certainly was a time of testing and preperation for what lay ahead. Jesus was tempted by the devil not just three times, but MANY times during the 40 days and nights he fasted just before his ministry began.
As I said earlier, the purpose of Lent for you and me today serves as a time of preparation for Easter through prayer, self examination a Spiritual check an affirmation of our faith and re-dedication. I thought it was great last week at the close of the meeting when we brought our gifts of self-denial to the altar, when some of us knelt at the mercy seat at the feet of our Father God to feel His presence.
Lent, is the time when Christians should take stock of their lives, and if necessary, take the remedial action to bring themselves back on course. David the psalmist realised the importance of taking stock when he wrote Psalm 139, " Search me, O Lord and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts, see if their is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting ".
This morning, we have seen Jesus, on the verge of his earthly ministry, that of putting man back on course, to bring forgiveness, reconciliation with the Father. To offer a new life style, abundant life, life in all it's fullness. To bring man back to the Fathers heart and for this, He was prepared to give His own life.
God in Jesus, wanted to show man that his rituals, his vain oblations, his outward show, his attempts to appear religious, was not what God wanted. God wanted His creation to be honest with Him about themselves. What the Father requires, is that His children be obedient to His will, and seek to honour Him by 'producing fruit that is in keeping with repentance'. Lives that, as Peter put it, "declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His glorious light".
John the Baptists had been faithful in his preparation for the coming Messiah, and now, here was that very man, Jesus. John had given him the big build up, and now Jesus asked to be baptised by John, not for forgiveness, for Christ was sinless, but rather to identify with man, and show him the need for repentance. This baptism was symbolic of a much greater reality, that man could be completely cleansed of his sins through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. This baptism was but a shadow of the reality of true repentance.
In the Salvation Army we kneel at the penitent form - confess our need to repent of all our wrongs and rise from there forgiven. It’s also a place to recieve empowering, equipping and enabling us for future service and feel the presence of Almighty God.
As I said earlier, Lent is a time to take stock, to stand back and honestly look at ourselves and our relationship to God. A time to assess our progress, our commitment to God. A time for those who have already committed their lives to God and promised to live according to His will to ask themselves if they have been true to those promises, and if not - to repent and resolve to try again?
As we read the story of the commissioning of Jesus, we have a perfect example of the way in which the devil tries to trip us up, to go back on our commitment, by tempting us, by making us question the faith. He puts doubts in our minds, makes us question the importance of observing some of the promises we made, are they important, surely the observance of the Sabbath day isn't important, surely we live in more enlightened times.
Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted. A time when the strength of a mans convictions would be tested. In this Jesus identified with mankind, in this Jesus showed how by knowing the word of God, one could be victorious in defeating Satan.
Satan threw the book at Jesus and each time Jesus hurled it back to reveal the truth to satan.
The Israelites in the Old Testament, were, because of their own disobedience, led through the wilderness for 40 years, during which time God tested them. Now Jesus was allowed to be tempted by the ruler of this world, for 40 days to show that by obedience to the word of God, one could stand against the devil.
We all go through wilderness experiences which reveal the depth of our faith. If we know the word of God, then we know that He is with us, and that He gives us the strength to cope, and the peace needed to see us through.
Often, just after conversion, and indeed throughout our lives, the evil one of this world tries to tempt us back into our old way of life, by hitting us in our weak spots, which are often the very things in our lives we tried to give up. We need to make him aware that we are under new management! Born again of the Spirit - God is our father - Jesus lives within us and now have the inner strength of the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus was tempted, He was prepared, He fasted, and although He was hungry, He stuck out, and resisted the temptations that the devil put His way. Satan challenged Jesus to turn stones into bread to which Jesus replied ‘It is written, man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ .
The word of God is the Christians vital source of spiritual food, without it we die. The old self was satisfied by a different craving, the wrong desires that we hungered for, and be sure that the devil will use those desires to tempt us. As Christians we know the truth of what Jesus tells us when He said " I am the bread of life, He who comes to me shall never hunger". John 6; 35 The result of Jesus standing firm against the evil one was that the devil left Him, and scripture tells us "and the devil left Him, and the angels came and attended Him".
WOW we can learn a lot from this episode in the life of Jesus who before He embarked on His lifes mission needed to spend those 40 days in the wilderness to be strengthened and prepared for all that lay before Him.
We need to pray the prayer of David the Psalmist as related in Psalm 139;1-10, and 23, 24 You have searched me, Lord, 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, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and You lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
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. 23 Search me, 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.
What a powerful and honest prayer that is. I pray that over the next few weeks leading up to Easter, we may take an honest look at our own lives, and if needed, take the necessary steps to make sure that we are living according to His word, and the promises we made. Lent - a time of self awareness and affirmation of our faith and commitment
Just as Jesus prepared for what He would have to face at Easter - I pray that we will make sure that our lives are in step with our Lord and we are ready, available and equipped to love Him and serve Him whatever obstacles we may be called to face in the days that lie ahead.
We are living in difficult times as far as the Christian Church is involved. A time when the devil is testing the Christian faith and sneaking false teachers into our fellowships to question what the bible really says and move away from the truth by accepting worldly unbiblical ungodly ideals. The church is in the wilderness with many falling prey to the deciet of the devil. We need to be careful and hold to the truth.
As the Psalmist David reminds us and as we read last week, if we love God then Nothing - can separate us from the love of Christ? Trouble, hardship even persecution No, in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The very last words Jesus shared with His disciples before going to the cross was - 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. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. John 14; 15-17
We close with the Hymn ‘Search me O God’ - make the prayer of David your prayer this morning 23 Search me, 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.
Sunday 3 March 2019 Self Denial Sunday
Last week we talked abut the Love of God and how awesome it is to know that God loves us each one - our Father -in Heaven - God Almighty loves us all.
We read Romans 8; 28-39 where Paul shares to the fellowship in Rome that we can know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. As His children we can know with real certainty whatever we might be going through in our daily lives - God has promised to be with us because He loves us.
Paul further shares that God loves us so much that He wants us to take the example of Jesus and in our daily living seek to become like Him. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.
He called us and made it possible for us to know Jesus not only by reading about Him in His word but also through prayer knowing Him personally .
We looked at the awesome truth that God made it possible in Christ for mankind to not just to be aware of their sinfulness but to be able to claim forgiveness through the sacrificial love of Jesus who has paid for our sins and given us new birth. Born Again.
And it doesn’t stop there as all through our lives, He continues to perfect us and make us more like Jesus. We have been singing that song - God’s still working on me - all week and it’s so true.
Paul then asked his audience in Roman 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
He then concludes with a great comforting truth that because of Gods love - Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ? Trouble, hardship even persecution No, in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. As we sing, It’s so high you can’t get over it, so low you can’t get under it, so wide you can’t get round it - O wonderful Love
We looked at the importance of ourselves having the same love within us for God and for one another - the first two positives that Jesus commended as being the most important of the commandments. Love God and love one another.
Gods intention is that those who choose to accept Jesus as their Saviour would desire to be conformed to the image of his Son, and by accepting His offer of salvation and by spending more time with Jesus become Christ like.
We are called to love God and one another and that by fixing our eyes on Jesus He will empower and enable us to become the person He intended us to be
On Tuesday night in our Bible fellowship we looked at 1 John 4; 7-21 where John further explores the meaning of this great and awesome love that God, in Christ Jesus has for us and how we should endeavour to have that same sacrificial love for one another. This is about real family love where we care about one another.
John, was the writer of the gospel of John as well as the three letters 1vJohn, 2vJohn and 3 John as well as the last book of the New testament Revelation. John, like John the Baptist, was related to Jesus. He was a first cousin of Jesus - his mother was Salome, Mary‘s sister. John the Baptists mother - Elizabeth was Mary’s cousin.
Lets read 1 John 4:7-21 I’m reading it from the King James Version. 7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in Him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love Him, because He first loved us. 20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
That’s real family love - the love of the Father is seen in His children -1 John 3 begins How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called Children of God - and that’s what we are! - what we shall be has not yet been made known but we know that when He appears - we shall be like Him. Whoever loves God must also love his brothers and sisters
On Tuesday we looked at some of the ways that love is expressed like in ch3 v16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
A few years ago we were privileged to see and hear the testimony of the life of a great lady called Jackie Pullinger. In her teenage years, she had little interest in God and it wasn’t until she went to university that she befriended other girls who in their spare time went to Bible Class and invited Jackie to go with them. Because of their friendship she went with them. Amazingly she recalled how what they studied began to have a great impact on her life and eventually she accepted Jesus as her own Lord and Saviour - a further proof of the influence of other friendly Christians - As she began to get to know Jesus personally, she was influenced by His love and unselfish sacrificial life and decided to put her own ambitions on hold to seek Gods will for her life - this led her to ask God what He wanted her to do with her life.
She felt that God wanted her to do missionary work but when she applied to the Society in London she was refused help. Still determined to do what she felt God was calling her to do she shared how God told her to buy a ticket for China - get on the boat and wait until He told her where to get off. She obeyed and ended up in the walled city of Kowloon - where she met men and women who were captives to prostitution and drugs.
She started Bible classes there and started to influence the gang leaders and their brothel holders to give up their sinful lives and turn to God for their salvation. This they did - amidst the fiercest of opposition. Jackies persistence won through and through her work hundreds have come to the Lord.
Following the Lords direction, she laid down her life for the sake of her brothers and sisters in Kowloon. What an awesome testimony.
Some of us have been privileged to watch a video of her story and watch as group of young converts sang their thanks to God for setting them free with the song ‘Give thanks with a grateful heart’
Our bible reading goes further by saying; If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. That’s Love in action -
That takes great courage and determination - to give our lives into the service of God and to be prepared to share what we have with others less fortunate than ourselves. To love in action not just words.
This morning in our self denial offering we have the opportunity to give to help our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world - I hope you see this as an opportunity to show your love to them.
One of the recipients of what we give, is the Salvation Army school for the blind in Kingston Jamaica.
We were given a leaflet that shared what a difference you and I can make in the lives of the blind children there. They have marvellous typewriters that don’t just type the words in print but as raised dots- braille - so that they can be read the children can send letter to their friends and loved ones. We were given a message from a girl called Suen - it was written in Braille and we were given the braille alphabet to decipher what she wrote. I wonder if you read it -
She wrote ‘I want to say thank you for all of your wonderful help. We are all so happy to know that you are with us’
One of the last things Jesus shared with His disciples before He went to the cross was this “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another John 13:34-35 (NIV) The scripture verse on the envelope is from Hebrews 13;16 Do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Next Wednesday the 6th of March is the first day of Lent the period of 40 days which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days.
As well as coming to the front to lay our gifts on the altar I also see this as an opportunity to use it as a time of re-dedication and commitment to God - maybe by keeling at the foot of the cross - our mercy seat. This is where I knelt to give my life to Jesus as a 7 year old boy and then 30 years later knelt here and was baptised in the Holy Spirit.
I think it sad that in many places the Mercy seat is not even recognised as a special place to kneel and receive Gods blessing and empowering for our Christian lives.
In Most churches people make the effort to go and kneel at the front to receive communion - in other churches, the wine and the bread are brought to them in their seats - in the Salvation Army we - like the People in the Old testament have a mercy seat.
The Hebrew mercy seat was the top or lid of the ark of the covenant that contained the ten commandments - it was seen as a place of atonement - a place to go to recieve forgiveness from God and a place where the spirit of the Lord could be felt. Our Father God wants to come and live within the hearts of His people, you and I and this was the place ( the mercy seat) where that happened for me those 40 years ago.
I love verse 12 of our Bible reading - it says it all - its so awesome to know that even though No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit.
If we love one another - really love one another and extend that love to the rest of Humanity - then God lives in us and His love is perfected - manifested, grows, matures in us enabling us to become Christlike. That’s what Church is all about - it’s the living body of Christ in the world today.
It’s wonderful to be able to share with one another and as we do - see and feel the awesome presence of God in our midst.
There’s a lovely Yorkshire expression that we use when we say that we are gradually getting to accept and love something we say ‘ it’s are growing on me’. I believe that as we seek to know Him more - then Gods love not only grows on us but grows within us and should be able to be seen and experienced by those we share our lives with, our loved ones at home and each other here in the family of God. My prayer is that we will make every effort to let that love grow and be felt in our fellowship.
At the close of our meeting, our Self Denial giving took place and we sang the consecration hymn ‘Take my life and let it be’ as people brought their gifts to the altar It was lovely to see five of them place their gifts on the altar and then knelt in prayer at the mercy seat. - Thank You Lord
Sunday 24 February 2019 Fix your eyes on Jesus
Last week we read of the mighty men of the Bible who lived by faith and with that faith accomplished great things. We also looked at great men who since Bible times have continued to live in Faith and made a big impact on the way that we live our Christian lives today.
We looked at Pauls letter to the Hebrews where he wrote Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In todays world mankind has taken his eyes off Jesus and looks rather to the things of the world. Success is seen in financial terms, Ambition is set more towards the empowering and enriching of self. People set their eyes, their goal on anything but Jesus. The world is motivated by greed and selfishness. We see that in both the political commercial arena.
The world needs to take it’s eyes off self and look to Jesus - the author and perfector of our faith who as scripture reminds us was willing to give His life on the cross to show the extent of His love and concern for each of us and because of His unselfish sacrificial love awaits our response - seated at the right hand of the throne of God - waiting for us to respond to His example and in looking to Him -one day to be with Him in Glory.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. By looking away from the world and setting our eyes and goal on Jesus we will begin to know what it is like to really know Christ and not just about Him which is sadly what happens in so many Christian circles these days.
To fix your eyes on something is to make it your goal - your desire is to claim it for yourself no matter how difficult that goal may be to achieve - you are determined to reach it.
That’s what our response as Christians should be today - to fix our eyes on Jesus and seek to live our lives in gratitude for His sacrificial love for us.
With this in mind lets turn to Romans 8; 28-39
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Psalm 42;22 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 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. It’s so high you can’t get over it, so low you can’t get under it, so wide you can’t get round it - O wonderful Love
Our bible reading started with the words ‘And’ which requires you to look further back to the previous chapter to see what it says there. In the previous chapter Paul addresses the difficulties the nation was struggling with - which was to keep true to the commandments - the Law. The commandments originally made to show man how God wanted him to live - loving God and one another - had become a stumbling block to many. Paul says in Chapter 7; 7 I would not have known what sin was except through the law - and then mentions the tenth commandment - thou shalt not covet - as being the overall problem with mankind in it’s selfish ’I want’ attitude.
Paul stresses the point that the commandments - the Law - made man aware of his sinfulness and condemned mankind but that Jesus came to show us a better way and in taking the punishment for mans sins made a way possible - through His sacrifice - to reconcile mankind back into the loving arms of a forgiving God.
Gods intention is that those who choose to accept Jesus as their Saviour would desire to be conformed to the image of his Son, By accepting His offer of salvation and by spending more time with Jesus become Christ like.
Paul is not knocking the commandments but commending them for highlighting the sinful things in mans life that unless he turns to Jesus condemn mankind. Jesus, when asked by the young teacher of the law what were the most important commandments replied - ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and love one another’ by saying this Jesus knew that by obeying the first commandmentS - you would not be able to break the other commands.
Only last week ,Thursday, January 10, 2019 the Christian Headlines tell how a popular megachurch pastor Andy Stanley says that the Ten Commandments no longer apply to Christians today’.
My response was this ; The command of Jesus to love God and one another adds emphasis to the ten Commandments. Jesus points to the first commandment ' to love God and then adds emphasis to vs 12 to 17 of Exodus 20 by stressing the importance of love in it's proper unselfish response by loving one another - father, mother, neighbour. If you love God with all your heart and love one another then you will not be able to break the other commandments - they are a natural follow up to loving . As I see it, Jesus, in His two commands emphasised the importance of the ten commandments. Jesus was being challenged by a Pharisee lawyer to whom Jesus replied 'On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22;40 and by saying that, didn't cancel the ten commandments but showed that if we honestly have love for God and one another - we cannot fail to be obediant to the ten commandments.
The first commandments tell mankind to honour, love God and one another. These commands serve to highlight the verses that follow that show man the things that prevent him from knowing and becoming Christlike.
We are called to love God and one another and that by fixing our eyes on Jesus He will empower and enable us to become the person He intended us to be - and that by so doing; 28 tells us that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.
Predestined - Gods intention for mankind all along was to call mankind back to Himself by sending Jesus our Saviour to be the glorious example of Godly living.
To be Conformed to the image of Jesus.
And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified. Called to become Christlike and through Christs sacrifice enabled to stand before God Justified ‘Just as if I’d’ never sinned. WOW! How awesome is that? Justified by God
Paul continues 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Forgiven If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives. 1 John 1;9
How awesome to know that if we confess our sins to God He will forgive us, cleanse us and hold nothing against us We have been Forgiven and are justified by God as Jesus stands with us in the presence of God Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
When our time comes - Jesus will remember each one of us and be there to see that we enter Heaven 35 Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
Life is not always easy - we all know that - many of us have had to endure difficult times over the last year - trouble - hardship Thankfully Gods word assures us that at such time - God is with us - it might not seem like it - but hold on in there - it’s true.
On Friday night in the Gaither night we heard testimonies of those who are going through or have gone through the most difficult of lives but who hold on to the truth that if they hadn’t any faith in God they would not be able to cope. One of them was comedian Jeff Allen who asked the choir to sing Amazing Grace for his wife who was confined to her room dying with cancer. With tears in his eyes he shared how he was enabled to endure the suffering and pain through the Amazing Grace of God and become more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
The testimonies of the ones who shared in that video on Sunday night were as v 38 says 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.
Nothing - whatever we are called to go through in this life - be assured of this that Nothing can separate us from the love of God that we have come to know through Jesus our Lord.
Our final words this morning are the same as last Sunday - I trust that we will do as Paul says and fix our eyes on Jesus as we go through whatever we have to face in this life knowing that He will be with us and that nothing can separate us from the love of God -if we remain faithful to Him - and with the assurance that if we remain faithful to Him that one day we will come face to face with our Lord and hear His welcome ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant’
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Whatever we are called to face remember that He is with us. A song that John Gowans wrote for the musical Hosea says this;
Don't assume that God's dismissed you from His mind,
Don't assume that God's forgotten to be kind
For no matter what you do, His love still follows you
Don't think that you have left Him far behind.
Don't assume that God will plan for you no more,
Don't assume that there's no future to explore;
For your life he'll re-design, the pattern be divine
Don't think that your repentance He'll ignore
Don't assume you cannot give what He'll demand
Don't assume that God condemns you out of hand
For He gives to those who ask His grace for every task
Don't think that God will fail to understand.
For His love remains the same, He knows you by your name,
Don't think because you failed Him He despairs
For He gives to those who ask His grace for every task,
God plans for you in love for He still cares
Prayer Song His love remains the same
Sunday 17 February 2019 Faith
Hebrews 11 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
This is what the ancients were commended for.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that
what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
4 By Faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did.
5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; before
he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.
6 Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must
believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
7 By faith Noah, built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world
and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
8 By Faith Abraham, obeyed God and made his home in the promised land like a
stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, he was looking forward to the city
with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
9 By faith ,even though he was past age. And Sarah herself was barren, was enabled
to become a father and had descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as
countless as the sand on the seashore.
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. :even though
God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned."
23 By Faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, 29 led the
Israelites from bondage to freedom, led the people through the Red Sea as on dry
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell after the people had marched round them for seven
31 The prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those
who were disobedient.
32 Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, conquered
kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the
mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the
sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle
and routed foreign armies.
35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and
refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. :
36 Some faced jeers and flogging, others were chained and put in prison, stoned; sawn
in two; put to death by the sword, went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute,
persecuted and ill-treated -the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in
deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith yet none of them receive what had been
promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us
would they be made perfect
Hebrews 12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
What a great list of powerful Witnesses - hundreds of them - men and women from all walks of life who were so sure of their faith that they were even willing to give their lives for what they believed in.
Paul was saying that as we have such great a crowd of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let’s run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Over the last few weeks we have been looking at how Jesus called His disciples to leave their past and follow Him to become like Him in His life and death and continue to bring the truth of Salvation to those around them. They came to faith in Christ Jesus and lived the faith and by so doing were able to share their faith with others encouraging them to claim that faith for themselves.
The secret is in Knowing Christ and not just about Him which is sadly what happens in so many Christian circles these days. We have a Bible full of awesome testimonies of the time Jesus was on earth - we have books that tell us of the continuing story of Faith shared in days since the Bible and right up to our modern times - men and women who inspired by God have lived lives that have changed and impacted the world we live in today. People who gained their faith in God and in living a life of faith inspire us all to keep strong in the faith and be enabled to share our faith with others.
We sing I want to serve the purpose of God in my generation Do You?
I want to give my life for something that will last forever Would You?
The Bible is full of stories of the great people of faith. For the most part, the contents of the Bible are a compilation of eye witnessed accounts whose characters are real flesh and blood like you and me.
People who bleed when cut and cry when hurt. Real people with problems, doubts, uncertainties. People who have to eat, sleep, laugh, cry - real people with ambitions, feelings, emotions, desires, needs - ordinary people with an awesome faith in God. His witnesses.
Witnesses are ordinary people who have encountered an extraordinary God.
People who have placed their faith and trust in God against all man s reasoning.
People who’s only credential is that they ‘believe in God’.
What gives them the abilities to do the superhuman things they do is a faith in an Almighty God.
Witnesses inspire others to accept the faith who in turn become witnesses themselves and so it goes on until the ones become twos and the tens become hundreds until the whole world has been exposed to the truth and have either seen or heard about a new and better way, a Kingdom of power - all through someone else’s life and experience - Witnesses are those who have experienced and want others to experience for themselves,
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.
In Pauls letters to the Hebrews, his list of witnesses span from the beginning of time to people nearer his own era. People of whom the world was not worthy of them. The New Testament itself continues in the same way giving account upon account of men and women who became great witnesses. The continuation of the Christian Faith is dependant to some extent on the continuation of faithful men and women who become witnesses to encourage others to embrace the faith.
In my office at home I am surrounded by over Christian 900 books, many of them about spiritual giants - all of them, witnessing to a great and Awesome God. On my book shelves the clever intellectuals stand side by side with the ordinary simple folk.
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church stands alongside Billy Bray the Cornish tin miner. The great teacher Charles Spurgeon is next to converted chimney sweep Elijah Cadman who began work at the tender age of five.
People from different backgrounds who have stumbled on the most exciting hidden treasures known to man. Jesus the Rock over whom some men stumble whilst others stand.
In Victorian England, and up to even when I was a lad witnesses were out on the streets, attracting the crowds with storied of changed lives and the countenance to prove it. Glory shone from their faces. The only witnesses that do that today and go round knocking on doors are the deceived ‘Jehovah’s witnesses’ and the Mormons
In the technological world in which we live today, we have more ways of hearing about Jesus than at any other time in history - Books, Video’s, CD’s the Internet - and yet churches with dwindling congregations struggle on like a grovelling caterpillar on the ground. The difference is that the caterpillar knows, because its witnessed it in other caterpillars, that one day it will fly. The Christian has all the evidence in the world to tell him he has the potential to fly if only he will believe the testimony of others and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ yet instead chooses to struggle on .
The Bible bears witness. History bears witness. Great men and women of the past bear witness - Witness to a great, glorious, powerful God.
Why then are our churches not bursting at the seams?
Why, today, are we closing more Churches than we are building?
Why then do we find it easier to convert the chapel to a carpet warehouse than a sinner to Christ.
All the books that I read shout victory through Christ. They witness to a powerful, Almighty God who ministers to people today - Whats going wrong ? Is our concept of God a God of yesterday, a God relegated to the annals of History. I hope not! Or is it that the witnesses of this age, me and you, are not as effective as the witnesses of yesterday.
It would seem that Paul had to spur the believers on with a reminder of Gods power in the same way that the greats of the Old Testament were reminded of how God had been faithful to His people in the most extraordinary ways that encouraged them to move forward in faith, leaning on the mystery of God rather than the knowledge of man.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let’s run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
In those days they needed inspiration. When you are facing persecution and death then you need to be convinced that ‘Jesus is all that they say He is and Yes’ He is worth giving your life for that there is a better world. Thats the reason for Pauls advise when he said’ Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Here, Paul is using the terminology of the Sports stadium that they would all be familiar with. In those days the contestants, runners, hurdlers, discus throwers, wrestlers were naked so that their was nothing to hinder them or entangle them, nothing to hold them back so that they could run the race with determined perseverance. He likens the Christian life to a race that to win takes courage and commitment. You compete because you want to win.
Physically fitness comes through exercise and eating the right kinds of foods, of being mentally at you peak. I’ve never seen a sculpure or a painting of a fat out of shape Greek athlete. Christian perfection comes when we are hungry for Gods word as food for our Souls, and exercise diligence in our prayer lives. We know that - but do we do it?
Let us throw off everything that hinders ‘to personally discard all that holds us back’ let go your fears, your apprehensions, your doubts and trust in Jesus.
Sometimes the things that prevent us moving forward as a fellowship are the things that we busy ourselves with, established programme, familiar safe comfort zones that take our time and energy. Maybe some of them need to go to allow more time to get to know God, to fix our eyes on Jesus.
What do you need to let go of? What do you need to put aside in order to run the race that is set before you? It might be, pride, jealousy, selfishness, greed, always desiring more of what you don’t really need to fill an emptiness in your life that you pretend isn’t there?
Those hidden desires, those un-confessed sins that still niggle. Those little gateways for the devil to come in and tempt us with. When you get entangled you get frustrated - you find it hard to work your way out of the net - Look to Jesus, bring them to Him and let Him deal with them.
When I read of the simplicity of the faith of a man like Smith Wigglesworth whose advice to his hearers was ‘Only Believe’ and the way in which he plugged in to the awesome power of God, raising the dead, healing the sick in their hundreds, I realise how far short I am of coming anywhere near him. Yet all the books I have bear witness to the fact that God never changes, ‘He’s the same today as yesterday’.
Smith was an uneducated Bradford plumber who at first, preferred to listen to others preach. He could neither read nor write when he married the Salvation Army Captain Polly Featherstone. At first he found married life with a woman who was being powerfully used by God, frustrating. She was out every night at prayer meetings, house fellowships, and he was at home. One night when she came in late, he threw her out the back door such was his frustration.
What he didn’t realise was that he yearned to have what she had, to know God with the intensity that she did, and when that happened, WOW! his life changed and he became a power house for God.
He was uneducated and inarticulate. He could barely put a sentence together when he spoke and yet God touched him in the same way that He touched Isaiah and Moses before him and gave him a simple elegance with words that brought hundreds to the foot of the cross. ‘Only believe’ he would cry, that’s all it takes - Wigglesworth found out that faith makes the impossible - possible. For Wigglesworth, Faith was indeed the substance of things hoped for, things not seen’ ‘ faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
The key to unlock the power of God in our lives is faith. Thats what all the great witnesses had in common - faith. A strong and active Faith that makes sure - all the promises of God. Faith that makes us certain of things not yet seen
By faith these witnesses became the people God intended them to be.
By faith they became vehicles for Gods power.
By faith they saw the Glory of God.
By faith they lived lives that glorified God.
Thats all it took, an uncomplicated, childlike faith - as Smith said, ‘only believe- and because of that faith and trust, they became powerful witnesses. To have this kind of faith means that we have to put off that which holds us back - confess our sins to God and ask His forgiveness.
In Paul’s letter to the Church at Galatia. Chapter 2 verse 20 he says ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. We cannot be filled with Jesus if we are too full of ourselves. For Christ to live in me means that I have to die in many ways to self. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave
Himself for me.
This morning we have read of great men and women who have been obedient to His word and in whom Christ lived by the power of the spirit. We cannot witness to that we ourselves do not know or have not seen. The greater witness of all that God is and does through those who love Him is Jesus.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
When a tightrope walker sets off from one side of the Circus ring to the other, he sets his eyes on the central pole at the end of the rope. That focuses his mind and alerts his balance. The secret of balancing a stick on the tip of you finger is to fix your eyes on the top of the stick which again, alerts your balance senses.
To walk tall as a Christian, all one has to do is ‘Fix your eyes on Jesus’. That’s what Peter did when he walked on water and thats all we have to do to walk the Christian way and become good witnesses ourselves. Tomorrow, wherever you find yourself - how about becoming a witness for Jesus
MM 10 February 2019 Read Luke 5 17-32
Last Sunday we looked at how Jesus called His first disciples to leave their nets and follow Him, and from His example and teaching, learn how to live better lives and through a spiritual rebirth become more like Him and transformed to be able to continue the work that Jesus had begun, which was to wake mankind up and make them aware of how God wanted and intended them to live their lives by repenting of their sins, and claim salvation through Jesus.
We looked at the importance then of personal contact between the born again Disciples and people around them and the way in which Jesus equipped them to be able to influence others to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. I said then that that’s what God wants us - His Church - the Body of Christ to do today, by Christians living lives in line with the gospel Of Christ and sharing our faith with others around and so continue to help build the Kingdom of God.
We looked at the difference that sharing our testimonies with others influences them to find our more about the living reality of Jesus. I myself was influenced by the powerful faith of our then, new officer, Lieutenant David Murden who I believe was sent by God to show me that even though I had grown up in the Salvation Army, taken part in all their activities even becoming bandmaster that although I new all about Jesus, I didn’t really know Him.
In hospital, failed operation, Kidneys not working, attached to a kidney machine - all ready to go down for another operation in the morning to see if they could do anything more for me - David saw my predicament, layed hands on me - prayed for healing and the very next morning I awoke to the silence of a turned off kidney machine - the operation had been cancelled - the nurses said they couldn’t explain it but that my kidneys had started to function again - WOW - My prayer was ‘I want to know You Lord like David does. The same prayer that Paul said in Philippians 3;10-14. I couldn’t wait to get back home, kneel at the penitent form and receive the Holy Spirit of God into my life. All through the faith of another - David Murden.
David is the founder of the And Albert Foundation based in Beverley and works tirelessly to cultivate fare trade between Africa and Britain - his son Simon worked alongside him. Tragically Simon was shot dead by the Beverley police in 2005 when he was mistaken as having a gun in his hands when the police stopped him on the motorway - it was an African sword. They shot him 6 times. David and his mother Dorothy were devastated but David continued to do his work in Africa which has grown phenomenally.
Last week we looked at the lives of modern day celebrities who through the influence of other Christians their lives were dramatically changed to become like the first disciples - witnesses for Jesus and spend their time and energy proclaiming the truth of the gospel all around.
People like comedians Bobby and Tommy Ball, Limbless Nick Vucicic and David Ring born with Cerebral Palsy and how God was using them today to minister to hundreds.
I closed last week by saying that God calls us all to follow Him. Know Him and through bible study and prayer equip us to become true effective disciples with a passionate desire is to share our faith with others around. When God calls He transforms and equips us to fit the calling.
Just as Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, God still calls men and women to follow Him and taking His life as an example to build their own lifes and become Christlike - that way they can attract others to come to Christ to change their lives.
As we read last week, Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the one called to
(1) Proclaim good news to the (Spiritually) poor.
(2) Proclaim Freedom for the prisoners - those held captive to sin
(3) Recover the sight of those blinded to the truth by satans lies.
(4) To release those oppressed because of their stance for God’s values
(5) To preach the day of the Lord’s favour and imminent return of Jesus.
Jesus did that and continued to do that through the disciples He called to come to Him. Then following His return to Heaven commissioned them to continue the work He had begun in bringing mankind back to God through repentance, forgiveness and re-birth.
In the same way, today He is still calling for men and women to repent - accept Him as their Lord and Saviour and He does that through his modern day disciples - that’s you and me. Called to be like Jesus and encourage others to come to Him by living lives that mirror the life of Jesus. The challenge I set last week was to ask ourselves
1 ‘am I living the kind of life that God called me to live as a disciplined disciples of Jesus Christ?
2 How many people have I influenced for Christ? - If not
3 what are am I going to do about it as the world needs that kind of witness and Heaven depends on it.
I said then that ‘That Jesus was committed to bring the Good News of Gods forgiving heart to fallen mankind - for that reason He called for disciples to share that commitment and go into all the world and share the good news with others.
Today God still calls and needs people to come on board, repent their past, look to Him for their future and commit their lives to follow Him and take up the challenge of Christ to share the good news with our communities, our neighbourhood, our family and friends.
Jesus gave His life for that - what is our response to that?
The challenge then was to look at our own lives and honestly answer the question - how many have I influenced to accept Jesus as their Saviour and Lord and to be ready this week to be open and available to God for Him to use us by bringing us into contact with others who need either help of encouragement in their faith.
On Friday I was led to talk to a man in the café at Bolton Villas who as we talked found that he had been brought up in the Salvation Army, been to training College and become an officer in the Social Work of the Salvation Army.
I didn’t find out why he wasn’t still in the work but following our conversation he excitedly told me that he had realised as we shared how he felt that he had to come to the café that day - that God had brought him to meet with me and how blessed and encouraged he now was.
This week we will are going to follow on from last week and look at what happened following His calling of those first disciples and how He then called Matthew.
Luke 5 17-32 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
I love this episode in the life and ministry of Jesus how through the faith and help of the paralyzed mans friends he was healed. They had to physically carry him to Jesus and even when they found obstacles in their way they went to the extreme of carrying him up onto the roof and lowering him through the tiles on his mat so that he was right in front of Jesus. Notice this - it was when Jesus saw their faith that he said to the man - friend, your sins are forgiven’.- look at the response of the pious Pharisees and teachers - 27; The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?
It was held in those days that severe illness was caused by the sin in a persons life and so Jesus forgave the man his sins and he was healed. The Pharisees and teachers of the law would hold to this firmly and taught that because of this, healing was not possible unless the man had been to a priest with a sacrificial offering seeking forgiveness from God.
For Jesus to openly forgive the man his sins would be seen as blasphemy. The reply of Jesus was to add credence to who He wanted them to know He really was = the Messiah - the Son of God
24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
The fact that the lame man had stood up would be proof to them that he had been forgiven his sins and that Jesus was indeed the Messiah they had been waiting for.
The lovely thing about this is that it further emphasises the important responsibility we have as Christians to be available for God to use us to share our faith in Him with others - the importance of loving God and loving one another - being concerned about one another here in the fellowship and just as importantly out there in the world we live.
It was through the efforts and determination of the cripples friends that he had been brought to Jesus and received healing.
I remember when a lady came to our corps many years ago who asked me to pray for her three week old grandson who was in intensive care as his lungs wouldn’t start to function - they didn’t expect him to live. We prayed and two weeks later she came and told us he had been healed and had been allowed home. The result was that when the baby was well enough she brought the whole family, her daughter and family and asked me to dedicate the children, Adam and his sister.
God calls us to be concerned not just about one another here in the fellowship but also people out there who as yet don‘t know the Lord. That’s why He has called us and brought us together. That’s what Church is all about - it not the building its you and I - the living body of Christ in the world today - people He has called and brought together, as He did the disciples - to come to really know God personally - invite Him to come and live in our hearts and be available for Him to use us to further the gospel as the disciples did. Following the healings Jesus went on to call another disciple - Levi - Matthew the tax gatherer.
Imagine this - Jesus had called His first disciples - two followers of John the Baptist and a group of fishermen like Peter, Andrew, James now He was going into unlikely territory to call a tax collector - not very popular people in those days - Matthew the tax collector to become one of His disciples.
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed Him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to His disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
It was here and through the calling of Matthew that Jesus proclaimed that He had come to call all men regardless of status or position - lowly fishermen of wealthy Tax Collector - they all needed to hear the truth and know that forgiveness for their past was available through the sacrificial love of Jesus and that rebirth into a new lifestyle was possible by repenting the past and looking to Jesus for the future.
The answer stresses the two things that the ministry of Jesus was proclaiming - Healing for the sick and forgiveness for the sinner. that’s why He said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
That was tone of the reasons why I believe God called William Booth to start the Salvation Army. The church in Booths say pandered to the healthy and wealthy.
The church had no time or place for the poor as was seen when they were converted in the SA and directed to go join their local church. The pews had names of the gentry on them - rich and well to do families had their own pews allocated - the poor, the drunks, the lower classes were turned away and so Booth had to hire halls to use as churches for them - that’s why when he eventually decided to purchase premises for them to meet he called them citadels - places of refuge - for those oppressed and rejected by society.
Gradually over the years many places of worship have become holy clubs for the few where very little evangelism takes place and over the years they become less and less frequented and eventually close through lack of support. There is a real need today for the disciples of Jesus - those who have been called out of the sinful world and into fellowship with God to begin to live the life of the forgiven - realise the presence of the living Christ within their hearts and seek to spread the good news outside with those who as yet don’t know Jesus.
Those who claim to know God and are seeking to be right with Him - the righteous - to do what God has called them to do which is to make Him known to the sinner - those who as yet don’t now Him. That’s the only way the fellowship of believers will grow. We are not here to create a social club but to encourage others to know the Christ we serve.
It was the cripples friends who brought him to Jesus. It was Johns disciple Andrew who sought his brother Peter to tell him he found the Messiah and brought Peter to Jesus. Jesus called Philip to become one of His disciples and it was Philip who then went to tell Nathaniel we have found the Messiah. It was Max Wigley who brought the truth to Bobby Ball, it was David Wideman a friend of David Rings who brought him to the truth, it was Nick Vujicic’s mother who helped him to find Jesus, David Murden inspired me to seek to know the living Lord.
You and I are important to God to spread the good news and encourage others to come to know Jesus.
MM 3 February 2019
Over the last few weeks week we have been looking at the early life of Jesus from birth to baptism, temptations in the wilderness and last week the beginning of His ministry when the book of Isaiah was handed to Him and using the words of the prophet declared to the people that He was the one the prophet was speaking about. Jesus declared himself to be the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophesies ‘The Messiah’ When baptised by John in the river Jordan following His wilderness experience, God had declared Jesus as His beloved Son’ and now Jesus is acknowledging that by in reality saying ‘Here I am’.
Jesus had been prepared and strengthened for His lifes commission which was to bring the truth to fallen mankind and offer forgiveness for their past lives and give them a hope for the future - a time for man to be reconciled to God - forgiven and given spiritual rebirth for the life ahead that God had prepared for them. We saw how Jesus - at just 30 years old is setting His face to move forward and accomplish all that His Father God had sent Him to earth to do.
(1) To Proclaim good news to the (Spiritually) poor.
(2) To proclaim Freedom for the prisoners people caught up in the sinful ways of the evil one. Also those were bound by tradition Freedom through the sacrificial love of Jesus who sets the prisoner free from the shackles of sin. That’s why John the Baptist introduced Jesus with the words ‘See the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world’. Freedom that has to be sought after and claimed through repentance.
(3) Recovery of sight to the blind those who have been blinded to the truth by satans lies. I said last week that today that would be the attractions of the world that tempt man away from the things of God. That includes leaders in parliament and in Church who are spiritually blind. Yesterday I read of a proposed bill to go through parliament banning the use of prayer before preliminary business.
(4) To release the oppressed those who live in fear, feel weak and of little value to the Kingdom. The devil is cunning that he uses the success and ability of others to make people feel inadequate. Those Christians in parliament and the Church who are being oppressed because of their stance for the values of the Kingdom of God. Christians in other countries who are being persecuted for their Christian faith. Jesus came to set the oppressed free.
(5) To preach the day of the Lord’s favour To herald the Kingdom to come that is not just ‘pie in the sky when you die’ but also ‘meat on your plate while you wait’.
A kingdom that begins the moment we accept Jesus into our lives
Just as 2000 years ago Jesus boldly stood in the Temple on the first leg of His journey to bring mankind back to the Biblical truth, there is a real need today for Christians - you and I to take our stand against the evil one and the unscriptural, ungodly ways of man today. God requires the world to reject the selfish aims of mankind and get back to establishing the truth. Jesus came to give us life in all it’s fullness, O how we need to grasp that while we can and live life to the glory of God - praising Him in the way we live our own lives.
I closed last week by saying that today there is a real need for the truth that Jesus proclaimed to be heard and accepted by the nation and the church - by you and me today. Sadly we see a world that has gone away from God - even churches who are preaching another gospel that is not of God - a world ready for the return of Jesus.
Matthew tells us that following the things Jesus shared All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. Jesus then shared that just as in the same way people rejected the things that the prophets of old told them In the same way people will reject the things that Jesus would tell them as no prophet is accepted in his hometown.
We then read that All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. People wouldn’t respond then and neither do they today. That’s why there was a call to prayer last Saturday and the need for the church start to tell the truth - however unpopular it may be. There is a real need today for people like you and me to live the truth and proclaim it to others.
The next things we read about Jesus is the way in which He showed the power and authority of God that we in Him by casting out demons and healing vast amounts of sick people from the most debilitating illnesses and diseases.
This morning we are going to read how Jesus went on to call His disciples to follow Him - learn from Him, be transformed by Him, and following His death and ressurection to be indwelt by Him and at Pentecost empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue to share the good news like Jesus did with the people around so that the truth of the gospel would spread throughout the whole world.
You could be forgiven for finding the writers of the four gospels relating the calling of the disciples at different times and in different ways but regardless it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, get to know Him and be transformed by Him into becoming witnesses themselves to the truth.
Lets read from one of them, John 1;35-51
The first disciple was Andrew, one of Johns the Baptists disciples who along with another of Johns disciples followed Jesus after John had declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God.
They started to follow after Jesus, and I can just see Jesus turning round and asking them ;’what do you want’ to which they replied ‘Rabbi - teacher - we want to kinow where you are staying. Jesus invites them to follow Him - ‘Come, he says, and you will see. So they did and spent a whole day with Jesus
Andrew obviously liked what he saw and was impressed by Jesus that the first thing he diod was to find his brother Simon and tell him ‘ Simon - we’ve found the Messiah - Christ’, WOW! No wonder Simon went with his brother Andrew who then took Simon to meet with Jesus.
The next day Jesus set off for Galilee and called Philip to follow Him. Like Andrew, who went to tell Simon, Philip went off and found Nathaniel and told him ‘we have found the one Moses wrote about - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Nazareth? Can anything good come from there? Nathaniel exclaimed = ‘Come and see’ said Philip. Jesus told Nathaniel that He had seen Nathaniel long before Philip called him - WOW! Rabbi you are the Son of God, the King of Israel’.
Jesus called His disciples to come along side Him and get to know Him and why He had come - what His mission was. This was the calling of the disciples.
The accounts we read in Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us about the commissioning of the disciples to be more than just followers but called to become like Jesus - examples to the world of men who are passionate in their desire to call others to repent and accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour - to become fishers of men.
Lets read Luke 5; 1-11
Luke goes on in v27 to tell of the calling of Matthew and in Chapter 10 Matthew gives us the names of all the twelve disciples - Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Thaddaeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot
I love the way Jesus didn’t just call His disciples to become followers but more than that, He commissioned them to become fishers of men. Right at the beginning of His ministry Jesus called people to become not just followers but disciples. People who accept the discipline of the Word ( Jesus) and become , like Him, people commissioned to continue in the ministry He began - to attract others.
Ever since the calling of the disciples, God has continued to call men and women to become not just followers but people committed to Him to share the good news with others and become Kingdom builders.
Today we have many people from all walks of life who having accepted Jesus as their saviour and Lord have become witnesses for Him to share the good news and spread the gospel around the world.
On Wednesday at the Friendship Club we watched the testimony of Bobby Ball of Cannon and Ball tell of how he became a born-again Christian in 1986 whilst starring in pantomime in Bradford. He wasn’t happy with his life - he was drinking heavily, spending a lot of time with different women and getting into a lot of fights. Basically, he knew that he wasn't a very nice person to be around and he felt dirty.
He met with Max Wigley who was chaplain to the Alhambra at the time. Max - an active disciple sent by God to challenge Bobby and introduce him to Jesus. He told Max that that even though he was successful and financially well off, he felt empty inside. Max spoke to him, talked his worries through and passed on some reading material - Journey into Life’.
Bobby read it, prayed, and decided that this was the path for him. He realised that what Max had said to him and what he had read made sense and decided to give his life to Jesus and became a Christian. People around him at the time thought that it was a passing fad and that it would pass but Bob proved them wrong and stuck fast with his faith. To this day it is something very important to him
Together with Tommy Cannon, who became a Christian in 1992 they published a book called ‘Christianity for Beginners‘. Yesterday they were comedians - today they are disciples of God and have their own gospel show "An audience with..." show in churches around the country. We went to see them in when they came to Bradford
God calls all His followers to take up the challenge to be disciples and soul winners - to God there is no obstacle. We might make excuses but God can use everyone as we can see in the lives of people like David Ring and Nick Vujicic - one born with Cerebral Palsy and the other completely limbless
In 1953, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a baby boy was born—dead. The attending physician set his little body aside and tended to his mother for eighteen minutes. That baby, was David Ring born with Cerebral Palsy. His childhhood was difficult being ridiculed by other children. Then when he was just 14, both his parents died and he was cast about from family to family with nowhere to call home. He endured constant physical pain, humiliating public ridicule and constant discouragement.
But God had a purpose for David’s life, and sent someone to help him achieve it. Through the friendship of David Wideman, a boy he met in the halls of Liberty High School, Ring found strength he didn't know he had and went on to face his demons, marry the love of his life, and start an international speaking ministry.
As a nationally known speaker since 1973, David shares his story with over 100,000 people each year at churches, conventions, schools and corporate events. He has been featured on numerous occasions on several nationally televised programs. Today David is married to a lovely wife, Karen and together they are the parents of four children, April, Ashley, Nathan and Amy Joy. They have two Grandsons, Carter and Cooper and a Granddaughter, Alexandra.
See how God used Max Wigley and David Wideman to bring the gospel of good news to Bobby Ball and David Ring - setting them off to become amazing witnesses.
I love the story of Nicholas James Vujicic born 4 December 1982 is an Australian Christian evangelist and motivational speaker yet he was born with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the absence of arms and legs. He is one of seven known individuals who are diagnosed with the syndrome. According to his autobiography, his mother refused to see him or hold him when the nurse held him in front of her, but she and her husband eventually accepted the condition and understood it as "God's plan for their son."
When he was eight, Nick contemplated suicide and even tried to drown himself in his bathtub at age ten; his love for his parents prevented him from following through. He also stated in his music video "Something More" that God had a plan for his life and he could not bring himself to drown because of this.
Nick prayed very hard that God would give him arms and legs, and initially told God that, if his prayer remained unanswered, Nick would not praise him indefinitely. However, a key turning point in his faith came when his mother showed him a newspaper article about a man dealing with a severe disability. Vujicic realized he wasn't unique in his struggles and began to embrace his lack of limbs. After this, Nick realized his accomplishments could inspire others and became grateful for his life.
Nick gradually figured out how to live a full life without limbs, adapting many of the daily skills limbed people accomplish without thinking. Nick writes with two toes on his left foot and a special grip that slid onto his big toe. He knows how to use a computer and can type up to 45 words per minute using the "heel and toe" method. participates in golf, swimming, and even sky-diving. When he was seventeen, he started to give talks at his prayer group, and later founded his non-profit organization, Life Without Limbs.
Today he and his lovely wife have four children and he travels around speaking to hundreds at evangelistic events and through his testimony hundreds have come to faith and given their lives to God. All through the witness of his own mother. Just as Jesus called His disciples to become witnesses who would spread the good news and bring others to Christ, so too today God calls us all to do just that - to leave the past behind, be born again and live lives that glorify God who can use us to bring others into faith.
God calls us all to follow Him and live lives that will speak volumes for Him. As we have heard, there is nothing stopping us from doing just that. When God calls us He transforms us to fit the calling.
Just as Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, God still calls men and women to follow Him and taking His life as an example to build their own lifes and become Christlike - that way they can attract others to come to Christ and ask Him to change their lives.
As we read last week, Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the one called to
(1) Proclaim good news to the (Spiritually) poor.
(2) Proclaim Freedom for the prisoners - those held captive to sin
(3) Recover the sight of those blinded to the truth by satans lies.
(4) To release those oppressed because of their stance for God’s values
(5) To preach the day of the Lord’s favour and imminent return of Jesus.
Jesus did that and continued to do that through the disciples He called to come to Him. Following His return to Heaven He commissioned them to continue the work He had begun in bringing mankind back to God through repentance, forgiveness and re-birth.
In the same way, today He is still calling for men and women to repent - accept Him as their Lord and Saviour and He does that through his modern day disciples - that’s you and me. Called to be like Jesus and encourage others to come to Him by living lives that mirror the life of Jesus. The question to ask ourselves this morning is -are I living the kind of life that God called me to live as a disciplined disciples of Christ?
How many people have I influenced for Christ? - If not what are am I going to do about it as the world needs that kind of witness and Heaven depends on it.
I close with the same final words that I closed last weeks meeting with which was; That Jesus was committed to bring the Good News of Gods forgiving heart to fallen mankind - for that reason He called for disciples to share that commitment and go into all the world and share the good news with others. Today God still calls and needs people to come on board, repent their past, look to Him for their future and commit their lives to follow Him and take up the challenge of Christ to share the good news with our communities, our neighbourhood, our family and friends. Jesus gave His life for that - what is our response to that?
MM 27 January 2019
Luke 4;14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Last week we shared how the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by satan - 40 days away from everyday life as He would have known it - a time for Jesus to get His mind and heart in tune with what God wanted Him to do for the rest of His earthly life. As I said last week, this was the normal practice for young men to prepared themselves for their lives ahead and help them put into focus their ideals and future direction.
This was a time for Jesus to be prepared and strengthened for His lifes commission which was to bring the truth to fallen mankind and offer forgiveness for their past lives and give them a hope for the future - a time for man to be reconciled to God - forgiven and given spiritual rebirth for the life ahead that God had prepared for them.
This was a time for Jesus to stand before satan and warn him what’s in store for him a kind of time to say ’Let battle commence’
Jesus - the carpenters son - Jesus the Nazarene, Jesus the Son of God who at just 30 years old is setting His face to move forward and accomplish all that His Father God had sent Him to earth to do. Here was Jesus the long awaited Messiah. He would withstand the temptations of the Devil and embarking on His life’s mission.
Coming out of the wilderness - the first thing Jesus - full of the Holy Spirit did was to go into the synagogue as He was brought up to do - but this time to stand up and read from the scriptures and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him and using the words of the prophet declared to the people that He was the one the prophet was speaking about. Jesus declared himself to be the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophesies ‘The Messiah’ God had declared Jesus as His beloved Son’ and now Jesus is acknowledging that by saying ‘Here I am’.
Remember how in the wilderness the evil one challenged Jesus to prove that He was the Son of God when he challenged Him ‘If you really are the Son of God‘ prove it - turn these stones into bread, - Worship me and I will give you authority over the world, - Throw yourself off the high mountain for if you really are who you say you are your God will save you from harm’.
Jesus had answered them all from scripture, Man shall not live by bread alone, Thou shalt worship and serve no one else but God who you should never put to the test.
These three elements of life are the same ones that the man of the world puts before God. Feeding his body and mind with everything but the word of God Putting the things of the world before God and spending his life reaching after fame, and wealth - questioning the true values of God whilst seeking after the things of the world.
The beauty of the answers Jesus gave show that to combat the evil one we need to know the truth of God through knowing the word of God. Jesus gained great strength in the knowledge and acceptance of the presence of the Holy Spirit - Empowered and strengthened by Him Jesus was up and ready to go.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised Him. He went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him.
Jesus full of the Holy Spirit went into the synagogue - the recognised church of His day - to establish from day one - His purpose and calling. The scroll of Isaiah was handed to Him and unrolling it He found the place Isaiah 6 where it was written. The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to; proclaim good news to the poor. proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him and He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
(a) Proclaim good news to the poor. (the poor in Spirit) To bring people back to the truth that over the years man had complicated, full of rituals that trappings of a religion that made it possible for man to feel he had been forgiven without needing to be fully repentant where knowing ‘about God’ had become a substitute for really ‘knowing Him‘. The blame was put on the leaders, the shepherds who instead of teaching the truth were starving their sheep in their care. Through the prophet Ezekiel God declared ‘Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?’ Ezekiel 34;2 Jesus the good shepherd came to preach the good news to those who were spiritually poor.
Today we have the full gospel - mankind has no excuse. The trouble is that today there are still false shepherds who lead the sheep under their care into falsehoods. Men who claim to speak with an authority that is not of God.
Yesterday there was a call to prayer for Britain at organised by David Hathaway from Wakefield. David is the son of Pastor W G Hathaway who was Pastor of the Elim Pentecostal Church in Bradford in the 60’s. David grew up loving the Lord and was passionate in taking the good news to places like Russia - to where, at great risk to his life, he used to smuggle bibles. The call to prayer was in response to the way in which this country, which used to be a Christian Country, has fallen and is under the rule of the evil one in both politics and peoples way of life today and tragically creeping into the church.
In his last reminder about this David wrote; As you know our nation – people and Parliament are totally divided – we must pray for unity, but this must begin with us. How can a divided Church pray for God to bring unity to the nation? The last prayer of Jesus was, ‘That they (we) may be united, one.’ The situation in Britain is more serious than in the last war, but as when the King called for the 7 Days of Prayer – and God answered miraculously, so we must believe that God will answer us NOW by a miracle.
The Prayer Points for the day were these;
For our Government and the Members of our Parliament - that God will work a miracle in our Prime Minister and that God will find an answer to the whole question of Brexit
With regards the Spiritual state of mankind and the Church today prayers were made for;
Repentance and Revival to change our nation . For the Church to repent and return to Biblical standards
For our Youth and the education system which is in opposition to Biblical standards.
That God will raise up Godly people to lead us
For Israel – God blesses the nations which bless Israel!
To pray for the very things that Jesus declared when He preached from Isaiah
To proclaim Freedom for the prisoners people then were bound by tradition such as thinking that the sacrificing of animals as an offering to God for their sinfulness would atone for their sins They failed to see that man in his own strength could never attain salvation and that only by the Grace of God could a man be set free from the slavery of sin. Freedom is only possible through Jesus Christ. The atonement for sin would be paid for once and for all time by the sacrifice of Jesus. That’s why John the Baptist introduced Jesus with the words ‘See the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world’. Freedom that has to be sought after and claimed through repentance.
Recovery of sight to the blind those who have been blinded to the truth by satans lies. Today that would be the attractions of the world that tempt man away from the things of God. Just as Jesus came not only to give sight to the spiritually blind but to also show those who thought they could see that they were in fact blind to the truth. - there are those today both in parliament and in Church who are spiritually blind.
To release the oppressed those who live in fear, feel weak and of little value to the Kingdom. The devil is cunning that he uses the success and ability of others to make people feel inadequate. Jesus uses ordinary folk, those who are willing to let Him rule in their lives realising that their own weakness can still be of value to God and allow His strength to show forth. Jesus came to set the oppressed free.
To preach the day of the Lord’s favour To herald the Kingdom to come that is not just ‘pie in the sky when you die’ but also ‘meat on your plate while you wait’. A kingdom that begins the moment we accept Jesus into our lives.
There is a real need today for the world to reject the selfish aims of mankind and get back to establishing the truth in Christ Jesus. Jesus came to give us life in all it’s fullness, lets grasp that while we can, lets live life to the glory of God and praise Him in the way we live.
Jesus is in the Temple - shared the things that Isaiah talked about by confirming that here He was - the long awaited Messiah and that only by placing our faith in Him can forgiveness be received. Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life - the only way, the only truth and the only way to new life today and eternal life in the future.
Today there is a real need for the truth that Jesus proclaimed to be heard and accepted by the nation and the church - by you and me today. Sadly we see a world that has gone away from God - even churches who are preaching another gospel that is not of God - a world ready for the return of Jesus.
In our Bible reading we are told how following the things He shared All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. Jesus then shared that just as in the same way people rejected the things that the prophets of old told them In the same way people will reject the things that Jesus would tell them as no prophet is accepted in his hometown.
We then read that All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
People wouldn’t respond then and neither do they today. That’s why there was a call to prayer yesterday and the need for the church start to tell the truth - however unpopular it may be. There is a real need today for people like you and me to live the truth and proclaim it to others.
The next things we read about Jesus is the way in which He called His disciples to take up their cross and follow Him - to learn from Him, be transformed by Him, and following His death and ressurection to be indwelt by Him, empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue to share the good news with the people around so that the truth of the gospel would spread throughout the whole world. How do you and I match up to God’s expectations? Last week was our commitment Sunday - What response did you make to that?
Jesus was committed to bring the Good News of Gods forgiving heart to fallen mankind - Jesus called for disciples to share that commitment and go into all the world and share the good news with others. Today God still calls and needs people to come on board, repent their past, look to Him for their future and commit their lives to follow Him and His example in Christ to share the good news with our communities, our neighbourhood, our family and friends. Jesus gave His life for that - what is our response to that?
The world has gone so far away from God. We live in an ever increasing evil world where in mans desire for power and dominance the commands of God are being softened or even rejected. Only this last week the US government passed a resolution to allow babies to be aborted up to the day before they would have been born - that’s murder.
God must be sad as He looks at His church today where the higher powers soften the word of God in the hopes it will become more popular and acceptable to todays sinful nation.
There is a real need in the world and the church for man to recapture the truth and get back in line with all that God has in store for us before time runs out and God sends Jesus a second and final time to take the faithful to Heaven. We need to make sure we are ready and when He comes He will find us faithful to Him. He needs us to be faithful whatever the cost and He showed us that by example.
Paul writing to Timothy urged then to pray this prayer; 'I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.' (1 Timothy 2:1-4) This was why David Hathaway organised the prayer gathering yesterday. Lets make it our pray
Morning Meeting 20 January 2019
Last week we continued the early life of Jesus by looking at the time when Jesus and John met as John was baptising in the river Jordan and Jesus was baptised in the Holy Spirit and declared by God to be His Son in whom He is well pleased.
This week we are going to look at what happened following the Lords baptism - the time the Spirit led Him into the desert to ne tempted by satan.
Again when we look at the four gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John we see various insights into the event. Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell us that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days to be tempted by the devil. John however makes no mention of this in fact John follows the baptism by saying the next day Jesus met John the Baptist and two of the Baptists own disciples one of whom was Andrew, the brother of Peter. Andrew decides to follow Jesus and goes to tell his brother Peter that ‘we have found the Messiah’.
Of the other three gospel writers, only Matthew and Luke go into detail and tell us about the temptations and Jesus’s response to them.
Lets read then from the gospel of Luke ch 4; 1-14
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’ Deuteronomy 8;3
The devil led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, “I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ Deuteronomy 6;13
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test. Deuteronomy 6;16
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.
The temptations of the devil, First- stones to bread - looking to the evil one to supply your daily bread, no different from the temptations of today where man seeks to better his way of life by doing anything that will bring him financial gain.
Secondly by not only living a life where mankind looks to selfish unloving ways to make life easy for himself but also to Worship the ruler of this fallen World, the devil. The devil states this when as we read The devil led Him ( Jesus) up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, “I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Today man foolishly looks to anything but God to see him through this life by being motivated by selfish aims and by so doing placing himself at risk - people putting the whole of their lives in the hands of the evil one.
Today fallen mankind is motivated by greed and selfishness. We see it all around us. In the political world - in the leadership - sadly many churches have changed their stance on biblical principals in an attempt to be more acceptable to the world.
Thirdly -put God to the test - Allowing the evil one to put any faith and trust in God they might have to the Test.
Since the creation of the world and the fall of mankind - the evil one has been - and still is - in control of fallen man - the awesome truth is that Jesus came to offer forgiveness for mans sins with the opportunity of rebirth into the family of God.
Resist the ways of the devil and although he is there until Jesus comes again - he will have no dominion over us. Not easy, knowing that because we choose to follow Christ, that we are a good target for the evil one to try to tempt us into foolish, selfish ungodly ways. Thank God we have Gods word to assure us that we can overcome the temptations of the evil one and be safe. We have the divine protection of God. The Lord’s prayer acknowledges this when Jesus taught us to pray ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil - for Thine s the kingdom, the Power and the Glory’.
The Apostle John tells us in 1 John 3;18; We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God ( Jesus) keeps him safe and the evil one cannot harm him. We know that we are children of God and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true ( God). And we are in Him who is true - even in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life
To this last temptaion Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ In preperation for His ministry, Jesus commits His life to the service of God - He displays His divine authority in knowing and acknowledging Gods Word.
There is a real need in the world today especially amongst Gods people for commitment to God, one another and the work He has appointed us to do which is to live Spirit filled Christlike lives in observance and obedience to the Word of God.
That was the positive stand that Jesus took when He showed His true colours to the evil one before He set off on His 3 year mission to bring forgiveness to mankind and herald the Kingdom.
Every year in the Salvation Army we are called together to re-affirm our commitment to God and the fellowship - today is our Commitment Sunday - at chance for us each one to take an honest look at ourselves and see how better we can commit our lives into the service of God in our lives and in our fellowship.
The world has changed dramatically in our own lifetime where mankind has changed from being a loving, caring, understanding community where the majority went to church on Sunday, had bibles in their homes and were conversant with the stories of Jesus to being a God neglecting community where only a few - mainly older folk - go to church on Sunday, live in Bible less homes and know more about Emmerdale and Coronation Street than they do about the life of Jesus.
We live in a society where the ‘Holydays’ that were given to celebrate Christian dates have been taken over by the state and have become Bank Holidays. WhitSunday, Pentecost is being forgotten and Hogmany celebrated - Watch out Christmas! We used to live in a Christian Country - now it’s a multi faith society where other faiths are slowly taking over.
One of our members, Michelle sent me a recording of David Pawson sermon entitiled The shrinking Church in a secular society on Facebook which says just what we are looking at this morning. He charts the decline of the church and it’s attempts over the last 40 years to bring about change. David Pawson talks about the three ‘R’s where the church started to look at bringing the church back in line with what it thought was Gods desire.
In the 70’s it started the Renewal movement, in the 80’s we saw the rise of the Restoration Church - The Abundant Life church was one of them - in the 90’s we had the start of the Revival movement. I remember them all - in fact I used to read the monthly magazine that The Bradford Life Church which in the 80’s was based in Church House on North Parade - the magazine was called ‘Restoration’ in fact I have all the copies ever produced on a CD. Lots of attempts to get back on track with God and be committed to Him and the ministry. Sadly what it did was take mainly young and active christians from established churches and bring a decline to those now older Christian denominations.
What I believe is needed today is for people like you and me to take a good honest look at our commitment - what are we committed to - the church we belong to or the Lord we serve. John the Baptist was committed to herald the coming Messiah Jesus - to make people aware of their need to repent their old ways and turn to Jesus as their Saviour and Lord.
Jesus from the very moment aged 12 when He spent time in the Temple discussing with the learned men attempting to open their minds to the truth of God - then showing man his need of repentance - of being cleansed by God filled with the Holy Spirit to empower and equip them to serve God.
Jesus in His desert experience confronted the devil and put him straight as to who He held allegiance to - God and using Scripture rebuffed the deception of satan before setting out into the real world to spread the good news not just in sermons but by living it. As the Yorkshire expressions says - ‘It’s better felt than telt’ and ‘A picture speaks more than a thousand words’
Jesus left the desert and went on to preach the truth , call His disciples and empower them to live Christlike lives as they shared the good news with the rest of the world.
Today what is needed is for the church to realise that it is more than a building, more than a denomination, more than a group of folk who attempt to simply come away from the world and recapture the mission of Jesus which is to live the good life and share the good news with others.
That’s why Jesus came and that’s why He calls us today.
Life will not be easy - the truth is that the more Christlike we become, the more we will face opposition - but the good news is that, like Jesus, we can be more than conquerors through him who called us. Romans 8;31 If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Psalm 44;22
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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.
It’s all about being committed to be His disciple and be prepared to live our lives in obedience to the Word - Jesus - and be committed to serve Him in whatever way He desires. Commited to Him - Committed to each other and committed to the fellowship where we have be called to serve.
In the Salvation Army full members are called to be either Soldiers or Adherants. If this is the place you feel God has called you to serve Him then maybe you need to establish your membership and make your commitment by looking at Soldiership or Adherancy.
I believe that it is no mere chance that God has brought us together and that together we can be more effective by making our commitment to God and one another by establishing that commitment by taking on the identity of a Soldier or Adherent.
If you havn’t already done so, I call you to think about this - pray about it and then make your commitment known by becoming full members of this part of the body of Christ.
Our last song is one written in 1896 by 41 years old Judson Van DeVenter who started life as an art teacher and an active layman in the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was also involved in the church's evangelistic meetings. Recognizing his talent for the ministry, friends urged him to give up teaching and become an evangelist. He was doing well as a recognised artist and wavered for five years about devoting himself to Christian ministry. Finally, he surrendered his life to Christian service, and confessed ‘For some time, I had struggled between developing my talents in the field of art and going into full-time evangelistic work. At last the pivotal hour of my life came, and I surrendered all. A new day was ushered into my life. I became an evangelist and discovered down deep in my soul a talent hitherto unknown to me. God had hidden a song in my heart, and touching a tender chord, He caused me to sing. He went on to write the text of this hymn as his own personal commitment to God. ‘All to Jesus I surrender’
Closing Hymn All to Jesus I surrender
Morning Meeting 13 January 2019
Matthew 3; 1-11 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Over the last few weeks we have been looking at the birth of both John and Jesus. Very little is told us about them both in their childhood days - the first encounter with Jesus following His birth and naming in the Temple was, as we read last week, when He was aged 12 and Joseph and Mary lost Jesus and found Him in the temple talking to the teachers there.. It was there that He told them that He was about His fathers business.
Not surprisingly the same applies to His cousin John - Matthew, Mark and John reintroduce us to John by telling us that in fulfilment of the prophesies in Isaiah, John is in the wilderness, preaching about Jesus and challenging people to repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of their sins.
Matthew 3 tells us that John the Baptist was preaching in the desert of Judea saying ‘Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is near. Matthew declares that John is the one Isaiah spoke of when he said ‘ He is a voice on one calling in the desert, Prepare the way for the Lord - make straight paths for Him’. John warns them to escape the coming wrath of God - repent - live good upright lives of obedience- bearing fruit in keeping with repentance -
Matthew, Mark and Luke all share how John told the people ‘one is coming who is more powerful - whose sandals I am not fit to carry - who will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.
Here we see John doing exactly what he was born to do - preparing people to receive the Messiah that they had been waiting centuries for - Jesus. Surprisingly we are not told if John and Jesus ever met in their childhood all we know about John is that he spent time in the wilderness - which was one of the ways that young men were sent in those days - away from the distractions of the world into the solitude of the desert where they could get their lives together to prepare then for manhood. Whilst in the wilderness John obviously found his vocation to follow the calling of the Lord to prepare people to receive and accept Jesus and it was there that he began to fulfil the God appointed task of calling people to repentance in preperation to meet the coming Messiah - Jesus.
All the gospel writers tell us this in the run up to the appearance of Jesus and the beginning of his ministry which as Saviour of the World was to reveal the true identity of God to His people and bring them to repent and accept Him as their Saviour.
In Christ Jesus- the word of God became flesh - to begin His ministry people had to see that Jesus was filled with the very presence of God - that He was God incarnate.
Jesus was not just born of the flesh but born of the Spirit and John the Baptist was the one chosen to introduce Jesus to the world.
Lets look at what the last gospel writer - the disciple that Jesus loved so much -John tells us about this.
John 1; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. That’s Jesus
Now we are introduced to John the Baptist. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive 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.
Awesome - Jesus came to show us that if we accept Him as our Lord and Saviour - we too can be re-born and know God as our Father. As John tells us The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John testified concerning Him.) He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
The people mistakenly thought John the Baptist was the Messiah they had been waiting for but he put them straight when he said, “I am not the Messiah.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
As we read on we find that this is the time when the real preperation for the ministry of Jesus begins. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
The other gospel writers then relate the instance where Jesus is baptised with the Spirit. Luke 3;21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry
Not surprisingly, the Apostle John - who, was originally one of the disciples of John the Baptist who was an eyewitness to the baptism of Jesus adds 32 Then John ( John the Baptist) gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him. And I myself did not know Him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
So there we have it. John the Baptist fulfils his appointed ministry of introducing Jesus to the world and Jesus is empowered as the Messiah following which He will be led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days in preperation for His lifes work.
When I look at the life and ministries of John and Jesus it brings me to look at the way in which, when God calls people today to repent of their sins and accept Jesus as their Saviour they become vehicles through whom God can call others to follow Him. Like John, we - the church - have been chosen by God to be His witnesses today to let people see the risen Christ living in each one of us. We are the body of Christ.
Like Jesus we are here to let the Love of God be seen in the way in which we live our lives. - How - by realising the awesome truth that we are born again - not of flesh but of the Spirit. In the same way that Jesus was filled with the Spirit - we too can be filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to do the things that God wants us to do which is to live the life of the ransomed the redeemed and bring others to accept and know Him as their saviour.
Remember what Jesus told Nicodeamus John 3;3 ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. 4 ‘How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.” Kevin and I sang that song many times all over the division
If only people would realise today that repentance is only the first step and that being filled with the Holy Spirit is the next step- as Jesus said no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Born of water - natural birth and born of the Spirit - Spiritual rebirth.
Baptism in water is seen by many as the way in which they can be washed clean of their sins and enter a new relationship with God. We in the Salvation Army kneel at the Mercy seat in repentance and receive forgiveness from God we are then consecrated under the flag as a witness to the world that we have received Christ as our Saviour.
I believe that there is more - the baptism of the Holy Spirit - sanctification - where we are blessed with the inner presence of the Holy Spirit who empowers and equips His people for service.
Remember what the disciples in Ephesus replied to Paul when he asked them ‘ Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ They answered, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’ ‘John’s baptism,’ they replied.
Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all Sadly - so many today fall short of this blessing. - the empowering of Almighty God to equip the believer to become the vehicle through whom God can minister to others.
We are privileged in that God loves us so much that He not only forgives us our sins but also blesses us with His awesome presence. If, as John says we live upright - honest and obediant lives then He will not only be with us through whatever this year holds but also fit us for Heaven.
As a young lad I was a great fan of the movies. Stars like Roy Rodgers I have since learned that Roy Rogers and his wife Dale Evans are two celebrities who love the Lord and are not afraid to let it be known.
Dale when asked how much she values Gods Word said this; ‘Every believer should be a missionary proclaiming the message of salvation. Not all of us can go to foreign lands but to those of us who remain behind should witness to those around us. Our very lives should be a living testimony to the reality and the control of Almighty God’.
When asked about the value of fellowship with others she said this ‘ Christians should never forsake fellowship amongst themselves. Where two or more are gathered together, God’s presence can be felt strongly. How wonderful it is when believers get together and talk over the things of the Lord - a joyous time indeed’.
Johnny Cash said ‘I don’t know what I would do without my Christian friends. They were there when I really needed them. They brought me truths from God’s Word, they were His instruments, His channel to me. I love them, and we have many fine times together that always begin and end with prayer’.
I have a book that shares the Christian thoughts of many well known stars, Dale Evans, Johnny Cash, Doris Day, Pat Boone and many others who share their experiences of knowing the presence of the Lord in their lives and the joy and responsibility that is theirs to make Him known to others. I love the testimonies of people like Smith Wigglesworth, Samuel Logan Brengle, Gypsy Smith and many others who share how they received the promised indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the difference that made to their lives and ministry.
I thank God that I myself know first hand what it feels like to be baptised in the Spirit when as a thirty one year old I knelt here at the mercy seat and asked God to make Himself known to me. It had taken a serious operation to show me that I didn’t really know God as He wanted me to know Him. I had just been going along with the crowds.
What happened next was to change my life completely. As I knelt there, I felt the awesome presence of the Holy Spirit and my life was filled with light - I stood up - danced all the way home. From that moment on I wanted to get to really know Jesus and seek His direction for my life.
This was in the early 70’s - was 31 and God was moving in a powerful way in His church. On one occasion I remember going to a mid-week prayer meeting at St Mathias Church in Armley Road Leeds led by Rev Harry Cooke. During the prayer time a woman stood up and spoke in tongues and I heard it all in plain English. I said to the Lord ‘not me Lord - I daren’t stand up and give the interpretation - what if I’m imagining it all’ and I sat there for what seemed a long time until another person stood and gave the interpretation. I knew then that what God had done in my life was real and that what He was doing that evening was confirming it. That was the turning point in my life.
John the Baptist had proclaimed that whilst he baptised with water - Jesus would baptise with the Holy Spirit. Then in front of John The Baptist, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus, John testified that The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Himself said to Nicodeamus ‘you must be baptised with the Holy Spirit. Paul laid hands on the new Christians in Ephesus and they received the Holy Spirit. Gods word is clear that as Christians repentance and forgiveness are the first steps but we have the privilage to move on be filled with the Holy Spirit.
In these closing moments of the meeting lets just look at what Luke tells us about the close of Jesus’s ministry following His death and ressurection.
Acts 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 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. 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 a water, but in a few days you will be baptized with 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.
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.
That happened when at the birth of the Church at Pentecost the crowds were told by Peter to repent, turn to God and as they did they were blessed with the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Following that experience, the disciples Peter and John became vehicles for the healing power of God as they ministered to the lame man.
Nothings changed - I believe that that is Gods intention for you and me today. Repent - claim Forgiveness and seek to be Christlike as you hunger after His word and move on to become like Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
We’re going to sing a song written by our founder William Booth - ‘Send the Fire’
I pray that we will sing it with real meaning - asking God to send His Holy Spirit and baptise those who realise that that is what God wants for His Church. The penitent form is open and I pray that if God is moving you to reach out and claim the indwelling that you will respond and experience the blessing of new birth - born of the Spirit -this morning.
MM 30 December 2018
What a wonderful time we have been sharing over the last few days - celebrating the birth of our Saviour Jesus - God incarnate - who came to show us the depth of Gods love and how God wants us to embrace and share that love with everyone.
We lit four candles, one in each Sunday of advent - Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and the centre candle on Christmas Day - Light - declaring that the light of the world has come to remove the darkness.
Over the last four weeks we have shared the Christmas story from the two gospel writers, Matthew and Luke - two varyingly different accounts told from the personal perspective of the writers, Matthew Jewish and Luke Greek Gentile.
Luke tells us how Jesus was visited by the humble shepherds but on the other hand as the Jews regarded shepherds as the lowly beings, Matthew tells us that it was the Magi - Wise Men who visited Jesus. Two varying accounts that today we accept both, bringing together both the Jewish and Gentile accounts of the birth of Jesus
Matthew then goes on to share how, following the wonderful birth of Jesus - chaos and terror follow as an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream instructing him to take Jesus and flee to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod who had ordered the death of all baby boys up to the age of two - trying to get rid of Jesus.
Following the birth as told by Luke, v 21 we are told that to fulfil the Jewish law Jesus was taken to the Temple to be circumcised and given the name Jesus. It was here that Simeon and Anna met with Jesus. Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen Jesus the Messiah.
Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God saying; Luke 2;29 Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in Peace, for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared in the sight of all people - a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for Glory to Your people Israel’ The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
WOW! Jesus the unrecognised Messiah who would be rejected by His own - the Jews
We are then introduced to Anna a prophet who acknowledged and presented Jesus as the one who would redeem Israel v36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on Him.
What a wonderful time Christmas is and what a privilage it is to share it together recognising Jesus as the promised Messiah who would come into the world and reveal the love of God to us all and a way out from the sins of the past to a bright future of eternal love, Joy and Peace for those who accept Him as their Saviour.
Here we are December 30 - just one more day left before the New Year 2019 begins.
2018 is almost over and we are privileged to face another year together- another chance to develop our love for God and one another. Another chance for a fresh start.
This time last year we read the advice given by God through the prophet Isaiah - lets look at this again and see how we responded to it over the last year.
Isaiah 43; 18-19 'This is what the LORD says' - "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland
I said then that forgetting the past doesn’t mean that we have to forget the beautiful things that have been a part of our lives - it’s about putting behind us the failures, the rebelliousness of our nature and being prepared to move forward and experience the ‘New things that God wants to bring into our lives’.
When Isaiah gave this advice he was speaking to a nation who had been rescued from their previous existence of tyranny in Babylon to set off on a journey to freedom in the promised land. In just the same way I believe this is Gods call today for us to leave the past behind and move on into all that He has prepared for us and His Church.
I’ll never forget the time when God called me to leave my past behind. Wanted me to move forward and claim all that He had in store for me - He led me to read Jeremiah 29-11 where the prophet gave me the promise He would take me out of my Babylon For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord
The words from Isaiah certainly began to make sense to me then "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland
He brought me out of what had become my way of life - as Sales Director at Wamoughs - I had to retire early because of the stress - I left work - a year later Beryl and I were called into Officership here at Idle - the Corps blossomed and grew - we built a new hall - we saw miraculous healings - Gods awesome provisions to give us a newly refurbished place of Worship - WOW! God gave me and us a new future.
We’ve had our ups and downs - life hasn’t all been easy - but I believe that God is with us and has plans for us and this Corps - He’s prepared a way forward for us as His fellowship - it’s up to us now to make sure that we don’t dwell on the past but be prepared to move forward and embrace the plan He has in store for us if we are obedient to Him.
Here we are, the last day of 2018 - It’s been a difficult year for many of us. Last year, 21 January we gathered to celebrate the life of lovely Nancy who had died on Christmas Day - we were not invited to her funeral as it was arranged by family in Halifax. This year we said goodbye to Doreen Black in July, Ruth’s David in August John Miller in October . Not an easy year.
In January 2016 Brian and Jennies daughter Jackie went to live with her Lord and only days earlier she had put this on face book - 'God is able to put hope into your life, even when everything seems hopeless' inspired by Jeremiah 29.11
Following Jackies funeral her husband Craig put this on face book. ‘Lord help me to accept what is, let go of what was and have faith in what will be’
What does our text say "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland
This last year has been a difficult one for almost everyone here this morning. Life isn’t easy - I would say it is impossible without faith in God - unbearable if we didn’t know that He is with us and will see us through.
I love the promise of God in the earlier verses of Isaiah 43 that say that whatever we are going through in this life Fear not - when you go through the waters or the fire
I will be with you - you are precious in My sight.
As the song written by Don Moen says;
He will make a way - when there seems to be no way
He works in ways, we cannot see - He will make a way for me.
He will be my guide, hold me closely to His side,
With love and strength for each new day
He will make a way, He will make a way.
After learning that his young nephew was killed in a car accident, Don Moen searched for some way to help bring comfort to his grieving family even as he struggled with his own sorrow. While reading Isaiah 43, he asked God to give him something that would bring hope to the family in the middle of a hopeless situation. As he prayed, the words for “God Will Make A Way,” came to mind. He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me.
For a while, that song remained a private message for his family. But slowly, he began sharing it with others and soon found that it was a message for the whole church. A message to cling to when “there seems to be no way.”
With determination and commitment to be obedient to God there is nothing that can stop us moving on both in our personal lives and the life of our Fellowship. His word confirms that - that’s why the next verse of the song goes on to confirm
By a roadway in the wilderness You lead me
Rivers in the desert will I see
Heaven and earth will fade but His word will still remain
And He will do something new today
How different to last year are we determines this new year will be?. What lessons have you learned thus far - what are your priorities for this year? How will they affect your faith, your church, your commitment to God.
Gods word declares that we are His witnesses, that He is God' Isaiah 43; 12
Peter puts it more personally 'You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you might declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His most glorious light' 1 Peter 2; 9
The last year is almost over - we now face another year 2019. What does that mean to you and me - to our fellowship - to our commitment to God?
I believe that we are being called to put the past behind us and make it our resolve to live in obedience to the example of Jesus. Let's look forward to 2019 with the determination to seek His will, be obedient to it and commited to see that His will be done.
I am forever grateful for that day God spoke to me through Jeremiah 29; 11-13. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest. Never did I imagine that in a couple a years time Beryl and I would be the Commanding Officers of Idle Corps.
My declaration to DHQ at that time said this; ‘I believe that our ministry is to feed the church with Bible based relevant teaching. To encourage folk to seek the fullness of God, capture visions of what He wants us to do together in building His Kingdom and to nurture and grow the fellowship.
This we did and within the space of three years we had a full census board, a songster brigade of 20, we renovated the balcony, I was given a vision to build the Community Hall. From a soldiers roll in 1995 of 24 within 3 years this had grown to 41 and we had over 40 coming to our evening meeting.
As I said earlier, God has been with us for the past 24 years - miracles of healing, miraculous provision of funds for all the building work meaning that we didn't need grants or loans - God paid it all!
He's been with us through thick and thin and I firmly believe that whatever God has in store for us, we can be assured of this - that He will never leave us or forsake us - He will be with us through it all.
One of my favourite gospel songs by Andre Crouch says just that;
Through it all, - I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God
Through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon His word
I’ve had many tears and sorrows I’ve had questions for tomorrow
There’ve been times I didn’t know right from wrong
But in every situation God gave blessed consolation
That my trials only came to make me strong
I thank God for the mountains and I thank Him for the valleys
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through
But if I’d never had a problem I wouldn’t know that He could solve them
I would never know what faith in God can do
We can not tell what 2019 has in store for any of us but what we can be sure of is that if we have placed our lives in His hands, He has promised to be with us all the way.
How can you make sure? Give your lives over to Him - Trust Him and live in obedience to Him. Let's look forward to 2019 with the determination to do just that.
Closing song Father I place into Your hands
Third Sunday in Advent 16 December 2018 Joy Carol Service and Nativity
Christmas - only one week away - a week on Monday will be Christmas Eve the night when as children, we found it easy to go to bed when told, but hard to get to sleep.
I love the excitement that Christmas brings - as a child it’s a time when Santa and presents seem to take prominence but thankfully as we grow older we begin to realise the true meaning for the celebration - the birth of Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world. We give and receive presents in celebration of Gods gift to mankind - Jesus- who came to show us what God was really like - loving - caring - passionate in His aim to make forgiveness freely available to all who would accept Jesus Christ as Saviour and bring love back into the world.
For the last two weeks we have been lighting the Advent candles, the first hope in recognition of the hope that God gave to a sad world torn by wars and destruction that one day He would send a Saviour to save the world - last week we lit the second candle, the candle that represented the Peace that God wanted to bring into our world through the Saviour Jesus. Just as the world then needed to know Peace so too do we today in a world where mans quest is for power, dominance, wealth etc.
When we read the OT we can see how Gods created had turned their backs on Him and going their own selfish godless way. They had His written word - the Bible of their day - but were disobedient to it. It would seem that Words were not enough - the word had to become flesh - and so God decided to come into our world in His son Jesus to show us what He, Father God was really like and to turn the hearts of His creation, His children, back to the heart of God the Father.
That’s why God sent Jesus. The Love of God was manifest in Christ Jesus who became a man like us to show us what God was really like and how He wanted us to live our lives. Jesus was God incarnate, the Word of God made flesh. Jesus was the LOVE of God to mankind. He came to show what His word was trying to tell them. That God loves His creation and wants fallen man back into His fold and family.
As we look at the world today we can see similarities between the world of Isaiah. People suffering through wars and mans greed. The turmoil in the holy land and the fear of those living there. People fleeing from their homelands to become refugees in foreign lands . O how the world needs Hope and Peace.
For some this Christmas will be a difficult time for many reasons. I know and share their grief. My grandaughter Victoria would have been 16 this year, her father, my son Kevin, died 6 years ago yesterday and his funeral was the day after boxing day. Then just over a year later my lovely wife Beryl passed away - difficult times but thankfully because of my faith in God and His love for me I have a sure and certain hope in my heart that one day we shall all be together again and although that doesn’t take the sadness away, it gives me the Peace I need to keep going.
Thank God for this third candle the candle of Joy - the joy that comes when in obedience to God we put Jesus first, Yourself last and Others in between. The joy that the angel said would be Zechariah and Elizabeths at the birth of their son John. The Joy Elizabeth felt when the baby leapt for Joy in her womb when Mary the mother of Jesus came to see her. The news of great Joy the angel brought to the shepherds. The birth of Jesus brought Joy to them and to the world.
Joy - I don’t believe that there is a more joyous time than at Christmas when as families we get together with those we love and have a great time. We send greetings to long lost friends, we give presents to our loved ones , we have parties, get together for Christmas dinner and play games that create a great atmosphere of Joy.
I love everything about Christmas the tree, the trimming, the parties. Christmas is a huge world wide colourful party to celebrate one of the greatest events in the Christian Calendar - our dear Saviours birth. Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus who came to show us what God was really like by living a life of love -He brought love into the world - Gods Love. Next week we light the candle of love.
Even though as we know from our Bible that God planned ‘Christmas’ centuries before it actually happened - even then - it took everyone by surprise. Even though God had told the world through the voices of the prophets - still the world wasn’t ready for the greatest event since creation- the time when God incarnate in Christ came to live in our world - the world He created but that had drifted away from Him causing Him to invade our world and draw alongside ordinary folk like you and me.
Here we are - 2018 and still the world rejects the truth of Jesus. Some Schools ban Nativity plays for fear of upsetting other religions - The title Christmas has become The Winter Festival, in fact each year it gets increasingly difficult to buy real Nativity cards - lots of reindeers, Santas, Holly etc but Jesus in a manger? Churches are emptying and many closing down because of mans lack of interest.
I love it when we come together like we have this morning for the Carol Service when we put Jesus Christ centre stage in our celebrations - after all - He’s the real reason for the season. We need to get through all the glitter, the glamour of the festivities, the party’s the presents and get to the truth - the coming of the long awaited Messiah. Its easy to be caught up in the festivities - and miss out on the real truth about Christmas. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of pushing Jesus further into the background of Christmas instead of placing Him centre stage in our celebrations.
Just as the Christmas presents are waiting to be unwrapped on Christmas day- today is the time to gather round the manger, and begin to unwrap the truth of the real Christmas Present - or should I say ’The real Christmas PRESENCE - Jesus -Immanuel - God with us. Gods love all unwrapped for us to see.
My prayer for each one of us is that this Christmas will be very special in our homes and that as over the last few weeks , we have sought to unwrap Jesus from all the raz-a-ma-taz that is Christmas, our lives will begin to reflect the beauty of Jesus, God's gift to mankind.
Just as the word became flesh in Jesus, so the word, Jesus, needs to become flesh in us - we need to show the Love of God to our friends, family and the world at large. The world needs to see Christ in the hearts and lives of people like you and I.
At that first Nativity there was a ‘No vacancy’ sign on the inn - no room for Jesus. This Christmas, as always, there will be many people celebrating Christmas but who have no room for Jesus. God wants people to take the ‘no vacancy’ sign down and give Jesus ‘room’ in their lives and hearts.
The awesome truth is that as we celebrate the fulfilment of those first prophesies in the Old Testament, in the New Testament we read of a second coming when Jesus will return, this time not to seek the lost sheep - He did that the first time and gave His disciples then and today the job of carrying on the message of Salvation through repentance and obedience - No, this next time He is coming for His bride, those who have accepted His message and are living lives in obedience to His word.
Sadly just in the same way as many didn’t believe the first prophesies until they came true - the next time Jesus comes it will be too late, He is coming to take His obedient children home to live in eternity.
The signs of His second coming are being fulfilled in our time as seen in the events that are taking place in the Middle East, in Jerusalem and the Holy land. The book of Revelation is coming to life even as we speak. We need to make sure that we are ready and living in obedience to His word.
The prophesies of the OT and there fulfilment in the New proof that Jesus came into our world to give man purpose and meaning - to offer forgiveness for past sins and promise of a new life now and to come.
That’s the real truth of Christmas - God in Christ Jesus became flesh like us. He entered our world in Jesus and through Jesus came to share our world, to live with us so that one day we could go and share His world and live forever with Him. That’s when He comes again or calls us.
As I said, Jesus came to show us what the Father was really like - Immanuel ‘God with us’ The word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth. How can we resist such great love. No there are no words to say how we as a family are feeling - but just remember, that’s why Jesus, the word became flesh, we need to love one another
Next Sunday we will be lighting our fourth candle of Advent - the candle of LOVE. Jesus who is the Love of God made flesh - came to show us that love is at the root of our Christian faith and life. The life that He lived was a life of love lived out in His own everyday life. Jesus showed us what God was really like - that God is LOVE.
Love is the greatest gift of all. We need to share the good news with our friends, neighbours, relations, that Gods so loved His creation that He sent His Son into the world - that’s what Christmas is all about - the celebration of the birth of the Saviour of the world.
This short address was followed by the children bringing the Nativity alive accompanied by our favourite carols
Second Sunday in Advent 9 December 2018 Peace
Last Sunday we lit our first Advent candle ‘Hope’ and said how the world in Isaiah’s day needed that hope - and God gave them hope when He declared to His people that He would send a Saviour to lead them out of darkness into the light of His salvation. Looking forward to a Saviour would put hope in their hearts and light into their darkness. They needed that hope for a better future just as we do today.
Even though as we know from our Bible that God planned ‘Christmas’ centuries before it actually happened - even then - it took everyone by surprise. Even though God had told the world through the voices of the prophets - still the world wasn’t ready for the greatest event since creation- the time when God incarnate in Christ came to live in our world - the world He created but that had drifted away from Him causing Him to invade our world and draw alongside ordinary folk like you and me.
And here we are - 2018 and still the world rejects the truth of Jesus. Still nations war against one another in their fight for power. Still there are folk who simply ‘Haven’t got it. As we know, its easy to be caught up in the festivities - and miss out on the real truth about Christmas. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of pushing Jesus further into the background of Christmas instead of placing Him centre stage in our celebrations.
At that first Nativity there was a ‘No vacancy’ sign on the inn - no room for Jesus. This Christmas, as always, there will be many people celebrating Christmas but who have no room for Jesus. God wants people to take the ‘no vacancy’ sign down and make room for Jesus in their lives.
Jesus came into our world to give man purpose and meaning to his life, both now and to come. That’s the real truth of Christmas, that God in Christ, entered our world, became like us. He came t share our world, to live with us so that one day we could go and share His world and live forever with Him. The Word, became flesh and dwelt among us full of Grace and Truth. How can man resist such great love.
Just as the Christmas presents are waiting to be unwrapped on Christmas day- so too we need to begin to unwrap the truth of the real Christmas Present - Jesus Immanuel - or should I say ’The real Christmas PRESENCE - Immanuel - God with us. Gods love? It’s all unwrapped for us to see in Jesus.
Just as the word became flesh in Jesus, so the word, Jesus, needs to become flesh in us - we need to show the Love of God to our friends, family and the world at large. The world needs to see Christ in the hearts and lives of people like you and I.
Here we are today looking forward to celebrating the fulfilment of the prophesies when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just AS God said He would.
When you consider all the preperations that went in to that first Christmas - the lives that were invaded and turned around causing them to get ready. The angel appearing to Zacharia and Elizabeth telling them they were about to become parents to the one who would prepare the way for the coming Messiah, John the Baptist . Then to Mary and Joseph the unmarried couples who’s lives were really going to be brought into the spotlight.
Each and every character involved in the Christmas story had to be completely obedient to God The shepherds tending their flocks, the Wise men from the east - all of them had to be completely obedient to the will of God. Even down to the name of their babies. Zechariah was told to call his child John and Joseph to call his baby Jesus.
Read Luke 1; 1-25 Awesome - Lukes gospel was written some 60 years after the death of Jesus - Luke carefully investigated the whole life of Jesus from birth to death and ascention by checking all the reports to make sure that his account is the most accurate. Last Tuesday we watched as investigative journalist Lee Strobel set out to try prove to people that the very existence of Jesus was all a myth but during his careful and painstaking search came to realise that Jesus actually lived and died and rose again - today he is pastor of Willow Creek in America and a faithful advocate of the Christian faith.
Unlike Lee Strobel - Luke set out to bring the whole life of Jesus to the notice of Jews and Gentiles in his own day and the years that followed up to us today. Without Luke we would not have such an exacting account of the life of Jesus and the birth and growth of the Christian Church.
We have just read of the events leading up to the birth of John the one spoken of in Isaiah as the one who would prepare the way for the Lord Jesus.
Here we see Zechariah a priest well on in years who while he is on duty his confronted by the angel Gabriel who tells him that his prayers have been answered and that he and his wife Elizabeth are going to have a son whom they are to name John who will be great in the sight of the Lord and filled with the spirit from birth and that he will be the one God has chosen to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Zechariah found the news almost unbelievable - Gabriel tells him that he has been sent by God to tell Zechariah the good news but as he didn’t believe him when told, said that from that moment on he would be struck dumb. When the people waiting for him outside the Temple they could see that something awesome had happened to Zechariah and that he had seen a vision. He went home and his wife was found to be pregnant - WOW!
Lets read further what happened next. Luke 1; 26-38
Here we find the same angel, Gabriel appearing to Mary who was pledged to be married to Joseph. Gabriel told her that she was to have a baby by the Holy Spirit who will be called the son of the most High - the son of God - to call him Jesus. Unlike Elizabeth, Mary accepted what she was told and said I am the Lords servant may it be to me as you have said.
Wow! Both Zechariah and Mary visited by the angel Gabriel and being told such awesome news. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are past child bearing age and Mary hasn’t even married Joseph her fiance. All this in fulfilment of the prophesies given in the Old Testament that will lead to the birth of our Saviour Jesus and his forerunner John the Baptist.
One of the most striking things about these accounts is the way in which the angel told them what they were to call their sons - John and Jesus.
The name - always a problem What to call the baby - usually you don’t know wether to choose a girls name or a boys - but these were to be boys and had a name already. When I was born the first child was nearly always named after the father. The second after some other member of the family. Family names were handed down. Thats what they expected to be done for Elizabeth and Zecharias son - not so.
The Angel had told him, 'Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you are to call him John', which means 'Gods gift' or 'God is gracious'. Likewise the angel appeared to Mary, and told her 'You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus'. Jesus is a Greek form of the name 'Joshua', meaning 'Saviour' Just as Joshua led his people into the promised land, so too Jesus would lead His people into the promised 'Eternal life'.
The people of the Bible took names very seriously and saw them as a great source of strength and power. Last week we read in Isaiah 9 the various 'Royal' names by which Jesus would be called. 'For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace'
Wonderful Counsellor, meaning awesome, without comparison, excellent, miracle or wonder worker, and yet in all His greatness - someone you can talk to and you know will listen with understanding and concern and will always give the right advice.
Mighty God, not just any god, but none other than God Himself. Everlasting Father, Not just Father but everlasting Father, timeless, Father of all those who come to Him and are born again. This is a most powerful name that speaks of love, commitment, recognition that we are of the family of God.
Prince of Peace, He will govern with justice and peace. O How they needed Peace. The people of Isaiah's day, were governed by the apostate King, Ahaz, who abandons his religion - Judah was in darkness. The people needed to hear the message of hope, that Mighty God still cared and loved His creation = that our Father wanted His children back - that’s why He decided that the Messiah would come to lead His people out of darkness into light. That sadly wasn’t to be for another 700 years
During His earthly ministry, in different settings, Jesus gave Himself titles that pointed to special roles that He would fulfil. Some of these names refer back to Old Testament prophesies regarding the Messiah. Others were to simply help people to understand Him.
Jesus's emphasised His humanity with the name Son of Man, (John 6; 27). It can be found everywhere in the gospels, and only Jesus himself used it. Jesus said to Zacchaeus ' the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost'. Almighty God came wrapped in our humanity, to share our world, and in order to do that. He was willing to feel our pain, to share our grief. He wept, He laughed, He grew tired, became angry at man's foolishness, He knew what it was to be hungry and thirsty, Jesus was truly God, and truly man and as such shared our emotions.
When confronted by His accusers at His trial, the High priest asked Jesus if He was the Messiah, 'I am, He replied, and you will all see the Son of Man seated on the right of The Almighty and coming with the clouds of heaven'. Mark 14; 62.
He was known as 'the Bread of Life' (John 6;35), which referred to His life giving role. Bread, the staff of life, man's staple diet. After the miraculous feeding of the 5000, the crowds flocked to see Him demanding that He do more miracles if He expected them to believe that He was indeed the Messiah. 'Moses gave us bread from Heaven, how about giving us some of this bread? Jesus replied "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." "Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread." Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
'Light of the World' (John 8; 12), Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Light, the symbol of Spiritual truth. Jesus in the sermon on the mount said that 'we' are the light of the world. WOW!
In the first song this morning we sang that Jesus would be - A light to those in darkness And a guide to paths of peace’ then in our second song we sang ‘Wherever there is darkness Let’s try to bring some light Like the stars that keep on shining Through the cold and lonely night’ Jesus the light of the World desires to shine in and through each one of us
Graham Kendrick puts it this way 'as we gaze on His Kingly brightness, so our faces display Your likeness, ever changing from Glory to Glory, mirrored here may our lives tell Your story, Shine on me. The first verse says 'Lord, the light of Your love is shining, in the midst of the darkness, shining., Jesus light of the World shine upon us!
Sometimes I feel that we are a poor reflection of what God wants to show to the World, that our little light burns dimly. One consolation is that scripture tells us that 'He will nor quench the dimly burning flame'. Our prayer should be, fan me into flame 'O Lord' that I might shine for You.
John 10;11 Jesus said 'I am the Good Shepherd' The promised Shepherd of Israel, who would not only tend and lead His sheep, but also seek the lost sheep, and because He is 'The Way, The Truth and the Life' He will bring them home safely into the fold and back into His Fathers arms.
One of the most important names Jesus called Himself, was 'The Vine' the source of all life, and that we are 'The branches'. We cannot hope to be a good Christian if we neglect to stay firmly rooted in Him. We are completely dependant on Him for Spiritual life and growth.
Jesus is also Lord which in the Greek translations of the Old Testament is the word used to translate the special name of God - Yahweh. By the time of Jesus, Lord was well used as the name for God Himself. The disciples called Him Lord and worshipped Him as God . 'Jesus is Lord' is probably the first Christian creed for it sums up the whole of a Christian's faith.
What's in a name? Everything if it happens to be Jesus, Jesus the Messiah, our Lord.
In His name, is power, Peter and John realised that when they met the lame man at the gate Beautiful, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth - rise up and walk’ and we are told never to take the name of the Lord in vain, but to honour Him in all that we do.
I pray that this Christmas He may be all these to us, and that we will honour the glorious name that we have embraced, that of Christian, a follower of Christ Jesus, realising that in embracing the faith, we have been adopted into His family, and as a glorious consequence be given the honour of being called by His name, Christian.
One of the most awesome names can be found in Isaiah 7;14 and Matthew 1; 23, where Jesus is called Immanuel, 'God with us'.
All the way through His word, God reminds His people that if they are obedient to Him, then He will be with them.
Moses was told not to be afraid to face Pharaoh, because 'I Am' will be with you, God through Isaiah told His people to 'Fear not, for I am with you, When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, when you walk through deep waters it will not consume you, for I will be with you'
Jesus told His disciples this 'if anyone loves Me and will obey My teaching, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him', Wow! God himself the Everlasting Father will make His home in you and me.
Can we begin to understand what Jesus is saying here? God Himself wants to live in our lives, He wants to reign in and through His obedient people. He wants to be the Prince of Peace and bring His peace into our lives. Our second candle reminds us that Christmas is a time of Peace. Peace in our hearts our home, our fellowship. O how the world needs the gift of Peace.
While we celebrate Christmas - all over the world there are people on their guard against the enemy. Soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, wars all over the world. People in fear for their lives, homes where fear reigns, children living in abusive homes. Christians in Muslim countries fearing for their lives. Today in Jerusalem the heir are hundreds fearing for their lives. O how we need Peace.
In the closing moments of this service I want us to look at these first two candles - see them as that first glimmer of hope - of anticipation that something great is going to happen.
The joyful time that we are preparing to celebrate
Jesus the bringer of Hope - we all need positive hope in our hearts
Jesus the giver of Peace - in our troubled world, we crave Peace
Let the light penetrate the dark corners of your mind. Illuminate your thinking
Ask God to let that light, the light of Jesus penetrate into your soul.
Ask Jesus to impart His light into your heart to set your heart on fire with expectation that something good is about to happen and you don’t want to be left out.
Closing song Make me a channel of Your Peace
First Sunday in Advent 2 December 2018 Hope
Isaiah 9: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ....on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
Isaiah - one of the greatest prophets of all times - a man who, like the account we looked at last week regarding Paul who was approached by Jesus on the Damascus Road, Isaiah too saw the Lord and this was around 750 years before the birth of Jesus.
Chapter 6 of Isaiah tells us in the year that King Uzziah died - I saw the Lord - Isaiahs response was to cry to the Lord ‘ woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips and WOW! My eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty‘.
The Lord touched his lips and his guilt was taken away Then the Lord asked who He could send back to the nation to tell them of Gods anger, and tell them how He was going to deal with that and provide a way out in Christ- Isaiah cried ‘here am I Lord, send me’ WOW just as Jesus called Saul from his path of persecuting the new Christians following the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Here we see God calling Isaiah about 740 years earlier to leave his past ways and become Gods spokesman to tell the people that one day the Messiah will come.
Isaiah 9 was a message of hope for a people who may be feeling desperate for good news. no more gloom for those who were in distress. Today that same message will be read in churches up and down the country in preparation for the first coming of our Saviour Jesus. On this first Sunday in Advent, churches will read this same promise of God in preparation for Christmas - the first coming of Jesus and in preparation for His return - the second coming..
Just as the people in Isaiah’s day lived in battle torn lands so too today, our world today is torn with conflict, oppression and wars - a time ripe for Jesus to come again. Isaiah talks about the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, Many today, especially in the Christian world are suffering persecution and death as they hold on to their faith in Jesus. Today we live in a world that has many parallels - today is not unlike the world of Isaiah’s day. A time of unrest, uncertainty, many who live in fear for today and see little or no hope for tomorrow.
We live in a world where frightened persecuted people have to leave their homes and seek refuge in foreign lands. People today, like in Isaiah’s day, need that glimmer of hope, that shred of light that promises a different future. They needed a Saviour to lead them out of despair into hope. Isaiah’s hope was in a promised Saviour. The same hope as today. People need hope - direction - a way out - you and I know that they need Jesus.
That was what was needed in Isaiah’s day - and so Isaiah speaks of victorious times to come. They wanted Peace - stability - they wanted a champion to come and lead them to victory - they needed a Messiah. This is not the champion warrior they probably expected- instead, Isaiah tells them of a man, a Saviour, who is coming to ' tend His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; and gently lead those that have young.
Isaiah tells where the ministry of the Messiah will take place, in Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan - and in Micah chapter 5, God even tells His people where the Messiah would be born "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
Incredible isn't it and yet even though God prepared His people with the news of the coming of Jesus, they were still taken by surprise! One can hardly blame them. How can ordinary man begin to understand the unbelievable, the extraordinary, unless he has been drawn in to share the 'secrets of the Almighty' ?
Jesus told Nicodeamus that no one will see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again - Nicodeamus found that hard to understand - Born again - how? Jesus said I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I tell you of Heavenly things’?
Even though God went on to tell them where and how the Saviour would be born -when it did happen, 740 years later - the leaders and authorities refused to accept it.
Thankfully Jesus sought out His disciples among the ordinary fishermen and called them to come and follow Him. They did and gradually came to see for themselves by the way in which Jesus lived among them, His attitude, His response, His love and concern for them - the miraculous things He did before their very eyes, the secrets of the Kingdom He shared with them - there was no way of stopping God getting through to them as He opened their minds to the truth. When they saw Jesus and what He did and said they began to realise the truth. The glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." Isaiah 40;5
Isaiah, heralded the start of the greatest adventure story of all time. An adventure that would captures the spirit if the people and draw them in to share the adventure.
This is the first Sunday in Advent - the beginning of a most wonderful and exciting adventure. I like adventures. The word Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus which means "arrival." Its the overture to one of the greatest adventure of all time - the coming of Immanuel - God amongst us, to share our humanity and prepare us to share His divinity. In the next few weeks we will be sharing this great adventure leading up to the exciting celebration of the birthday of Jesus our Lord and Saviour.
Everyone loves Christmas - the trimmings, the tree, the parties, the presents, the cards from family and friends you haven’t seen for a long time - The kids love sending letters to Santa, the excitement of Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning. That’s great - I love it all too.
Sadly today there are those who under the influence of the devil are doing their best to cover up the true meaning of Christmas - and moving the emphasis of what the true Christmas is really all about - the birth of Jesus the Saviour of the world.
Thankfully when we as Gods people anticipate the coming of Jesus, the Light and Saviour of the world who liberates us from the shackles of sin, bringing freedom and New Life to all who accept Him as their Saviour - it brings a real sense of Joy.
You - probably like me - love to go to the theatre to watch you favourite musical. There you are, you’ve got there well on time, the cars parked, you’ve got your sweets and programme, you’ve found your seats you’ve tucked your coat under the seat and as you settle back in your seats , there’s a sense of expectancy as one by one, the instruments in the orchestra start to tune up and then they strike up with the Overture.
It’s then that we start to feel the excitement knowing that as the familiar tunes start to play - we are in for a good time. We hum along - some around us dare to sing as we all wait for that tell tale bob of the curtain that tells us that the show is about to start.
Well that’s what Advent is, the overture - to God’s greatest production that as each day comes our expectations are raised and we long for the curtain to rise on what promises to be a most spectacular occasion. Advent is designed to bring a sense of expectancy that ‘something goods about to happen’ as we prepare to celebrate His coming.
It’s also a reminder that just as He came over 2000 years ago, He is coming again and as well as celebrating that first coming - we anticipate His second coming- a stark reminder that just as the first participants of that First Christmas were encouraged to get ready for His coming - today, we need to spend our time not just getting ready to celebrate the birthday of our Saviour - but also to make sure that we are ready for His return.
No one knows when that will be - the prophesies are all there in the New Testament
Especially Paul’s letter to Timothy and Johns revelations from the Isle of Patmos v- all given more than 2000 years ago - thankfully that has given mankind plenty of time to forsake his sinful past and get ready for the return of Jesus.
Just as the message of Isaiah brought hope to a desperate people the message of Christ’s second coming brings hope to us all of a better world to come - a world where love, Peace and Joy will reign. Just as Jesus came in fulfilment of the first prophesies, to prepare a way out - Salvation - for mankind - this time He will be coming to look at the way mankind has responded to His sacrificial love and take those who have to live with Him in Glory and discard the sinful.
We have this hope before us as an incentive to make sure that we don’t let the real reason for the season get lost in our preparations over the next few weeks up to the Lords birthday. Sadly many will get caught up in the fast moving festivities - buying and sending cards, choosing presents, buying too much food.
A few years ago, we used to have a choir and we went to sing at Sainsbury’s. We sang the old carols and a few new ones that I had found. One of them was ’the Christ in Christmastime’ and says this;
The streets are full of people hurrying along -
Buying things and making plans
It’s such a crazy season - such a busy time
it’s so easy to forget how it began
You’ve chosen all the presents written all the cards
Hung the lights around the Christmas tree.
But with all the celebrating it’s easy to lose sight
Of the star that’s shining down for you and me
Sadly we live in an age where the true meaning of the Christian festivals that we used to celebrate have been stolen from us and replaced with worldly and commercially profitable festivities. The Easter egg has taken prominence at Easter, Spring bank holiday has replaced Pentecost, All Saints Day has been captured by Halloween . I couldn’t believe how much evil looking merchandise was on sale in the supermarkets at Halloween - and if we are not careful, the glitter on sale in the supermarkets will overshadow the reason for our celebrations. The birth of Jesus Saviour of the world.
The media not wanting to upset people of other faiths, ignore and plays down the true meaning of Christmas. Nativity cards get harder to find . The media are trying to downplay the truth of Christmas.
Wouldn’t it be great if this year people decided to stop and think it through as to why and what we are celebrating. It doesn’t have to mean that we don’t do all the usual things like we have always done - it mean that we will give the Holy Spirit time to help us appreciate what GOD did in sending Jesus and the reason why Jesus is coming again. I believe that it’s up to us - His church, the living body of Christ in the world today to stand up and profess our faith to our friends, neighbours and colleagues.
When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Philippi from the confines of his prison cell, he said this;. Chapter 3; 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Chapter 4; Therefore my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, that is how you should Stand firm in the Lord dear friends. As the last verse of the carol I mentioned earlier says;
So keep your heart in heaven though your feet are on the earth
And hear the greatest story ever told
It’s all about a baby from a cradle to a cross
It’s the story of the Saviour of the World
To give love is the greatest gift of all
To bring hope is the reason and the rhyme
To find Joy and Peace is the wonder of it all
To give Love is the Christ in Christmas time
I pray that we will all see it in a new light, that the age old truth will dawn afresh and vibrantly new as we ask God to let the light of the truth dawn in our hearts.
The candle we lit this morning is the candle of Hope. What are your hopes and dreams - better health, more togetherness - that these seats get filled?
What’s your hopes and dreams. What is it that will make those hopes a reality - it’s faith - faith is the main ingredient of hope - faith makes things happen - faith brings hopes into focus and turns them into realities.
I said earlier that Advent reminds us also that Jesus is coming back again. When He came the first time - many were just not ready - Jesus is coming again - are we ready? Think about your friends and family - are they ready for His return - is that something that we should be making them aware of?
The long awaited Messiah that Isaiah heralded would come to bring hope to an oppressed people. To show mankind a better way - the way of holiness. Forgiveness for the past and a bright hope for the future.
Over the next few weeks we will remind ourselves how that was accomplished in Jesus, how the word made flesh, showed by example how God intended His creation to live in harmony with God and one another.
We sang ’Come Thou long expected Jesus’ It’s not just a song about the coming babe at Christmas, I believe that it speaks of His coming again - this time to take His ransomed, saved, redeemed and obedient Church to live with Him in Glory forever. Are we that people - are we ready - are we the people He wants us to be - a people who live for God and one-another. Not a people who seek after wealth at any cost. A people who put pleasure before commitment to God.
I find it sad that we live in what is supposed to be a Christian country but very few have a real experience of Christ. When I think of the wisdom and scope of Gods plan in coming to live in our world in an effort to call the world back to the Fathers heart - I feel sad that the very people He commissioned to help Him in this have failed Him so much that the light of this world shines brighter than the true light of the World.
In the closing moments of this service close your eyes and ask yourself how you would feel if Jesus were to come back right now. Ask Jesus to impart His light into your heart to set your heart on fire with expectation that when He comes again - you don’t want to be left out.
Think about all these empty seats and the people out there who live empty lives - the light of Christ could fill both. The light of the truth of Jesus could fill those empty lives with hope and these empty seats with people. We live in a dark world and it is our responsibility to bring the light back.
People out there - need to know that the is hope and that the answer to their problems won’t be found in anything or anyone else but Jesus. We need to put Christ back into Christmas.
The greatest witness to the truth of Jesus is the way that we live our lives.
You and I - His church should be a beacon light that lives the full gospel message. That people can see something of the beauty of Jesus in our lives. The way in which we cope with life, even through times of adversity - because Jesus is real to us. It’s up to us to us who have received the light to take that light into the world we live. To live without Christ is to live without Hope. The world needs a sure and certain hope
As I said earlier, I wouldn’t be able to cope with what I have to do without the knowledge that Jesus is with me and will never leave me and that in Him I have the victory over what, to those without Christ, would be an impossible life. People need the Lord this Christmas - the good news is that He is available - and the Lord needs you and I to share that good news with them.
The hymn we are going to sing in closing moments is the Graham Kendrick classic ‘the Message of Love’ which encourages us to take Hope and Peace out into the streets. To invade the rush in people lives with the Peace that only Christ can bring. Lets pray that the light of Hope and Peace flow from us out into the darkness of this world to put Christ back into Christmas.
Sunday Morning 25 November 2018
Last week we read the passionate plea of the newly converted Paul shared with the church at Philippi when he wrote; Philippians 3;10 ‘I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
The desire of Paul who met with Jesus on the Damascus road was to really know Jesus. The original intention and reason for him going to Damascus was to destroy the new followers of Jesus and obliterate the name of Jesus - Paul wasn’t seeking Jesus to know love and worship Him - it was Jesus Himself that sought out Paul and revealed Himself to Paul.
It became clear with the God appointed events that followed this when God arranged an awesome ,meeting with Ananias who would confirm the calling Paul and set him on his journey
of faith by praying with Paul that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Not surprising then that one of the first things Paul did after his encounter with Jesus and Ananias, was to meet up with the disciples of Jesus and find out about the Lords life and ministry. To hear first hand about the exciting life of Jesus from those who had been with Him from the beginning and also share his own testimony with them.
Lets just remind ourselves of Paul’s awesome encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road. This is six years after the death and resurrection Jesus Christ. Following Pentecost, Christianity had begun to take root and was spreading in Jerusalem - because of that, persecution of the followers of Jesus was rife. It’s also only a year since that Paul stood by and condoned the stoning of Stephen and here he is one year later being confronted by Jesus Himself on the Damascus Road - lets read it;
Acts 9; 1-23 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He 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.
As he 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. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," He replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 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.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered.
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."
"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."
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."
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.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?" Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
WOW Paul - a changed man following his encounter with Jesus and his desire to want to get to know Jesus. On Tuesday at our Bible fellowship we looked at Paul’s letter to Timothy - written 30 years later from the confines of his imprisonment after preaching about Jesus and sharing the good news with others - 2 Timothy 1; 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.
His passionate desire to really know Christ and the power of His resurrection had become a reality in his own life so that now he can write with real confidence - I Know whom I have believed - I know Jesus. This is Paul 30 years after his conversion - Paul who just as he asked is himself suffering in prison for sharing what he now knows about Jesus - in 3 years time he would be martyred in Rome.
It wasn’t easy in those days to be seen as a Christian and as I said last week that today following over 2000 years of comparative freedom to come to know Jesus and share the good news with others, we are living in difficult times where the gospel is being neglected and people are once again going their own way, seeking power, wealth, fortune, fame and pleasure. We live in times where the churches that once were full following the faithful witness of our ancestors are now emptying and in many cases closing through lack of interest and declining membership.
In Idle we have seen the demise of the Thorpe Methodist Church, The Ebenezer Methodist Church in Thackley, and selling of the Upper Chapel in Westfield Lane to a dance studio, the demolition of Norman Lane Methodist Church - Only next week the Salvation Army in Otley will be closing.
We are living in difficult times - a time where it takes determined, strong followers of Jesus to stand firm and hold fast to the faith. We might not have reached the point where the Christian Church in this country are being persecuted for their faith but the way it’s going I can see it coming if the Church of God doesn’t do something about it.
That’s why I believe God is calling the faithful to stand up for what they believe and not be afraid to share it with others. As individuals I believe God is calling us to share our faith with our friends, neighbours, people we meet day by day and encourage them to come to know Christ as we do.
The days have long gone when we could muster up a brass band, take our stand on the village green or in the streets around the district and proclaim the good news. People these days have so many distractions in their homes, TV, Computers that Mobile phones that they are not prepared to listen to an open air. Congregations are getting older and the young ones have so many distracting activities to do not just in the week but now on Sundays - the day that used to be seen as the Lords Day.
We live in a different world than the one many of us grew up in where Church was the mainstay of our weekly lives and everything revolved around the church. That’s why we need to make sure that we really Know the Lord and have the power within to go and make Him known to others.
I was saddened this week when I met with another Salvation Army Officer who defended the way in which many Corps today have moved away from the SA disciplines that many of us grew up with such as treating the Lords day with reverence and respect and regards Corps going to restaurants and sharing a meal together in place of the Sunday Evening Salvation meeting as acceptable- When I shared that a Corps I know goes bowling regularly on some Sunday nights, she saw nothing wrong with that, or the fact that some Corps have been seen wearing full uniform and bearing a rainbow badge and taking part in Gay Pride marches - Unbelievable
The first doctrine that we have in the Salvation Army states this ; ‘We believe that the scriptures of the Old and New testaments were given by the inspiration of God and that they only- constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice’.
Exodus 20;8 the fourth commandment says; Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Isaiah 58; 1 and 2; "Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek Me out; they seem eager to know My ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
Ezekiel 20;13 "‘- the people of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness. They did not follow My decrees but rejected My laws—by which the person who obeys them will live—and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out My wrath on them and destroy them in the wilderness. But for the sake of My name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out
Then verses 13-14 "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on My holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Why is it that the church today thinks that it can change the word of God not just regarding the Sabbath Day but about many of the things in an attempt to appease the sinful world in the hopes it will make the Word more acceptable - and that’s what’s happening.
The prosperity gospel that plays on the greed of man, both financially and materially so that even the misguided ministers of these churches see the purchase of Jets and mansions as being the Gods intention for those who accept their lies. So too in the churches all around us even the Sabbath day has been taken over by the world and become just another day.
The devil is certainly having a ball today not just in the world but in many churches. that’s why I believe we have been called to look at the testimony of Paul and see the transformation that took place when Jesus approached him and called him to become a follower of His. Paul obviously fell in line and as he said to Timothy - ‘I know whom I have believed’ and WOW how it showed in his life, his writings and in his death.
God needs people who really know Him and want to make Him known to others.
People who are eager to hold fast to the word of God and by living it help others to see the value in putting God first and living in obedience to His word. Our ninth doctrine states that We Believe that continuance in a state of Salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ. That’s how the church today will be restored and made ready for the second coming of Christ - the time when the Lord comes back for the faithful in His Church and takes it back to become His Kingdom in Heaven.
It takes guts to take a stand for the Lord in these days and where in Paul’s day it could mean jail, persecution and even death - today for us it can mean rejection from people we share our lives with, even friends or being shunned or misunderstood. It’s not easy but necessary if we are to see the church grow in our community.
How did you respond to what we shared last week - did it make a difference in the way in which you conducted yourselves this week - did what I believe God was saying to us last week impact the way we conducted ourselves - how we regarded others - what we did with our time - We might never get back to the way we used to worship and meet together during the week - but I believe that if we take more time to be with Jesus in our own homes then He will empower us to be His witnesses where we live and encourage others to come to know Him.
It would be great if the response to what I believe God is telling us today some of you if not all of us could look at the extent of our commitment. Think about it - pray about it and lets get moving to become that living vibrant growing church that will show others that we mean business
We looked at what the first doctrine of the Salvation Army says We believe that the scriptures of the Old and New testaments were given by the inspiration of God and that they only- constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice’.
And the ninth doctrine states We believe that continuance in a state of Salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.
To know Him through His word and to know Him by the power of the Holy Spirit which ensures that our desire is to show the extent of our faith by endeavouring to live in continued obedience to Christ Jesus.
We sang at the beginning of our meeting the song that declared that in our lives - Jesus is Lord
We then sang a song that asked God to help us do just that; Just let me live my life. Let it be pleasing Lord to Thee. And if I gain any praise let it flow to Calvary
We then sang the song from The Witness by Jimmy and Carol Owens that said
Lord make me like You Please make me like You. You are a servant Make me one too
O Lord I am willing Do what You must do. To make me like You Lord Just make me like You
I hope that’s your desire this morning - the song we are going to sing now is a confession of our faith - using the same expression that Paul shared with the early church when he declared I know in whom I have believed - a vibrant testimony of his new found faith that was growing daily as he lived in obedience to His Lord.
I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day. And be assured He will if we stick to our side of the bargain and live in obedience to His word in our daily lives and let the Word Jesus - He will become flesh in and through us.
Sunday 18 November 2018
Last week we read the words of Jesus to His disciples before He went to the cross and showed His great love for them and us - those who would respond to His sacrificial love and turn to God. We read from John 15; 9: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. ‘Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
We looked at the plea of Jesus for His people to love one another - really love one another - even to the point of being prepared to die for one another.
Jesus said ' you are my friends if you obey my commands, and the greatest command is that 'you love one another, as I have loved you'- that’s love - real love Love that brings Joy and Peace.
When I asked God to show me what He wanted us to look at this Sunday the verse that came straight into my head was Philippians 3;10 - the words of Paul when he shared his innermost desire with the Philippians ‘I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
I realised that I had used these verses many times over the last 24 years, the last time being just 4 months ago in August but as I read it again the words ‘I want to know Christ’ just echoed over and over in my mind and I said ‘Yes’ this is what God wants of each of us and it’s important that we in this day and age look at this in regards to our own individual experiences.
The desire of Paul - the converted Paul who had encountered Jesus on the Damascus road was to really know Jesus. The original intention and reason for him going to Damascus wasn’t to seek after Jesus and get to know Him but to destroy the new followers of Jesus and obliterate the name of Jesus - it was Jesus Himself that sought Paul out and revealed Himself to Paul.
It became clear to Paul regarding his amazing encounter with Jesus especially when it was followed by a God planned meeting with Ananias that the very person Paul had set out to destroy - Jesus - was in fact the Messiah that he as a Jew had been waiting for - for centuries.
Not surprising then that one of the first things Paul did after his encounter with Christ and Ananias, was to meet up with the disciples of Jesus and find out about the Lords life and ministry. To hear first hand about the exciting life of Jesus from those who had been with Him from the beginning and also share his own testimony with them.
Just like Christian convert today, who, seeking to get to know about Jesus, His life and ministry, takes the bible and read what His disciples Matthew. Mark, Luke and John have to share about Jesus - that how young Christians get to know about Jesus but so often, sadly, it stops there - knowing about Jesus seems to be enough.
Of course to know about Him and His ministry is good and important - but what I believe God wants and is encouraging us to look at this morning is how we need to move on - not just know about Him - but to really get to Know Him and His presence in our lives and our fellowship. There is a difference.
I believe that what Paul felt and meant when he wrote - ‘I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection’
We all have friends that we love and respect - you don’t just get to know friends by what others say about them - you spend time with them - because you want to really get to know them. To enjoy their company and share the love that we feel.
I’ve mentioned many times before that when Anna in the musical ‘The King and I’ was appointed as teacher to the kings children she desired to ‘get to know them, get to know all about them in the hopes that they would begin to get to know and love her’ That’s why she sang;
‘Getting to know you, getting to know all about you -
Getting to like you. getting to hope you like me
Getting to know you putting it my way but nicely
You are precisely my cup of tea
Haven't you noticed - suddenly I'm bright and breezy?
Because of all the beautiful and new things I'm learning about you - Day by day
I remember when I was a young lad and my friend Harold Cusworth met and fell in love with his future wife Nancy. Unlike today, in my young days we lads didn’t seem to bother with girls until we were in our mid-teens. That’s where Harold, a few years older than me, had reached and when he started courting Nancy, I was at a loss as to what to do with my time and we talked about the other girls in the Corps - Harold mentioned Beryl - she had just joined from the Ebenezer Methodist Church - I only knew about her from what others said but over the next few weeks I plucked up courage to ask her out and sought to really get to know her - as it turned out, she was precisely, my cup of tea - we fell in love and the rest is history.
When Paul said ‘I want to know Christ and the power of His resurection’ he wasn’t just saying I want to know about Jesus - what he was saying is ‘I want to really get to Know Him for myself’ First hand to become one with Him and know His indwelling power - the awesome power that raised Jesus from the dead..
One of the indictments of the Church in the last days is that they will ‘have a form of godliness but denying the power’ 2 Timothy 3;5. They might look the part but they will lack the power that Jesus said they would have if they really accepted Him as their Lord and Saviour’ That’s sad - that’s so evident in many churches today - Why - because many don’t really know Him as He wants them to - they havn‘t moved on.
‘ I want to know You Lord’ was my prayer when Jesus healed me through the powerful prayers of David and Dorothy Murden - I cried out to God ‘I want to know You like they do’ I knelt at the mercy seat and felt the most awesome presence of God in that place as the Holy Spirit of God came and I was filled with His presence. WOW! I was set on course to experience the difference between knowing about and really knowing the presence of Jesus in your heart - the transformation had begun in my life and as Anna sang to the children ‘ Haven't you noticed - suddenly I'm bright and breezy? Because of all the beautiful and new things I'm learning about you - Day by day
Jesus had told His disciples that they would have power when the Holy Ghost came upon them and greater things will you do than I have done’. That’s what I believe Paul meant when he said ‘I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection’
Remember the words of Jesus to His disciples at the last supper John 14; 6 when He told them that he was going to leave them and that they would eventually go to be with Him -they asked Jesus where are you going and how will we know how to get there - Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.’ 8 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”? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? the words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
There we have it again - v7 if you really know Me and to Philip Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?
There is a real need for Christians today to get to really know Jesus and not just about Him. Of course it starts by getting to know about Him but it mustn’t stop there for as we get to know about Him then I believe the desire to really know Him will come. That’s why I feel that today - Bible study - is important. I use both the NIV and an original Greek manuscript that I have.
Over the last few years I believe that God has made Christ more real to me so that the Man of the Word has become a companion - a real live living spirit within me.
Every morning when I kneel to talk to Him in prayer - I can really feel His presence - my heart wells up within me - tears come - tears of gratitude and Joy in His presence. The same feeling we experience when we meet with those we love. I believe that that is what God wants for His church today - people who are eager to know Him through His word but also really know Him as a living presence in their lives - people through whom He eventually will be able to show His power.
The opportunity to really know Him is available for us all - I really believe that that is Gods desire for you and me today. It all starts with obedience to His word.
V 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’ 22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ Jesus replied, ‘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
Just as The word became flesh in Christ I believe Christ desires to become flesh in you and me - that’s how He will build His church - we are not called the Body of Christ for nothing Writing to the church at Corinth about spiritual gifts Paul says you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. Corinthians 12; 27
When we look at Jesus and consider His life and ministry we see a man of deep and real compassion - obedient to God, prayerful, loving, self sacrificial.
In response to the call of Jesus and the experience of knowing the living Christ within, Paul went on to be a true man of God who reflected the love and power of Jesus in his life and ministry. Apart from the four gospels we are deeply indebted to Paul for mast of the rest of the New Testament. Through the writings of the disciples and Paul we can get to know all about Jesus - but it can’t and shouldn’t stop there - we should have the same desire as Paul and that is to really Know the living Christ within.
How do you feel this morning - do you feel that you really know Jesus in the truest expression of the word or just about Him. Is Christ a living reality in your life - do you feel His presence ? I hope so - I believe that that’s what God intends for His church. That’s why I feel He wanted us to look in more depth - to what Paul says in Philippians 3
If you don’t feel that way than this morning seek to make it a reality in your own life before we leave the meeting. I believe God wants to put that desire within your heart and in response to your desire will begin that process in your life to become a living vibrant reality in your life.
There are too many churches around that have congregations that are content to play along with the outward show of being Christian but sadly without knowing and experiencing the awesome reality of the living presence of God who will motivate them to become living vibrant witnesses to His awesome power.
Just as last week I closed by saying Let Go and let God, this week I would say ‘Get up and get real’ take on board Paul’s words and make them your desire too ‘I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.
When Jesus becomes a living reality in our everyday lives, I believe we will begin to feel the empowering needed to fulfil the differing ministries He will give us.
To be like Jesus is made possible when we feel His loving empowering presence within and those around us will begin to see the difference in our lives. We will have a form of Godliness and display the power of God in our ministry.
We closed with the hymn Only as I truly know Thee
2018 Remembrance Sunday?
Today is Remembrance Day - a day that we remember all those brave men and women who died in the two world wars fighting to bring freedom from tyrants. The brave men and women who have given their lives hoping to make this world a better place for you and me. 100 years since the Armistis was signed in 1918 hoping to bring peace to our world - sadly only 20 years later we went to war a second time.
As the poppies fell in the remembrance service at the Royal Albert Hall last night - each one represented the life of thousands of soldiers who were killed fighting in those wars - and in the wars that followed and are still going on around the world.
One of those men was my uncle Sam. He went to war as a young lad and never came home. All my grandma got was a little note from the War Office and a tiny box with a medal in it. My grandma was sad and so was Sams mum and dad. Sam was a brave lad - who cared about others and their lives. When he was 15 he saved a girl from drowning in the canal at Apperley Bridge. I have the newspaper cutting - sad that after all that he had to go to war only to loose his own life.
Many people today will be sad when they think of the price their loved ones and themselves had to pay in the hopes of gaining peace. There is nothing glamorous about war - sadly it’s because of the inability of man to live with one another. It’s so often the result of mans greed for power and dominion - which by rights belong to God.
God's ultimate response to the world, when He saw man making a mess of it, when He saw man ignoring Him and going his own sweet way, was not to send calamity and destroy it, He chose to come and live here, to share our humanity. The word became flesh - He chose to share our world.
That's how much God loves you and me. Gods response to rejection is the opposite to mans. God came in love, and even though the world hung Him on a cruel cross, they could not destroy that love, His love lived on in His disciples, those who accepted His way of life and were obedient to Him.
John 15; 9: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
If ever there was a three point sermon, it's here in the final words that Jesus shared with His friends. Love, Joy and Peace If ever there were three words that should be preached in churches throughout the world today - Remembrance day - it should be these three words - Love - Joy - Peace
Love is a very powerful emotion, expressed in unselfish giving. Jesus reminds us that the greatest expression of love is when a man is prepared to give his life, for the sake of another. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a men lay down his life for his friends. Jesus said ' you are my friends if you obey my commands, and the greatest command is that 'you love one another, as I have loved you'- thats love - real love
The greatest love is seen when a man is ready to sacrifice his own life for the sake of others. That’s what the men in the wars did for our country - that’s what our Saviour Jesus did for the sake of the whole world.
Jesus loves you Jesus knew that His time had come. The culmination of His lifetimes work was about to unfold. The world was to learn it's greatest lesson, that 'God is love', and that only 'love will triumph in the end. He was to show us that the only way to combat evil in this world is with love.
By giving His life, freely on the cross Jesus fought the greatest battle against the evil forces of this world. This was 'spiritual warfare' against which there are no ‘man made modern weapons’ other than the exact opposite of that which you are opposing, which is hate and evil. The only antidote, the only weapon is the 'Love of God'. Love, real love, is prepared to sacrifice self, for the sake of those that they love.
Today, Remembrance day, we have remembered the sacrifice of those millions of men and women who gave their lives in the two world in the hopes that one day we could live in peace. Many were there not by choice, but because they were compelled to go.
Many of them didn't even know why they were there or even why they were fighting. Young men, old men from both countries who paid with their lives, for the folly of one mans lust for power. To say that many of them freely gave their lives would be wrong, many were forced into the situation.
That’s not to say that what they did wasn't a sacrifice, of course it was. They died for their country, and their sacrifice resulted in the defeat of the enemy. Jesus on the other hand knew that He was going to die. That was why He came. He knew that He would have to pay the ultimate price for the sinfulness of all mankind.
In the two world wars that we remember this morning, millions died on the worlds battlefields because of the sinful and evil ways of just one dictator, Hitler. Since then Satan has inspired other Hitlers to relight the torch of evil that fuels wars with mans greed, selfishness and lust for power and dominion.
Today , sadly we don’t just think of those men who gave their lives all those years ago but those young men who have been killed in Afghanistan and Iran. Today their are families who are suffering through the loss of sons, husbands, fathers who have given their lives to gain the freedom for people they have never met or knew existed until they were sent to these far off lands.
Our God IS Love and hates war and the threat of terrorism and oppression from evil men who will stop at nothing in their thirst for power. The Twin Towers tragedy in America and the Kings Cross underground bombs, The Manchester pop concert, the terrible things that are happenning in the Middle East right now today, strike home the truth of how vulnerable we are.
Terrorism as we see it today is not of God and sadly the men and women, and boys and girls in Syria who are enticed into sacrificing their lives in this unholy and abhorant way are being decieved by the leaders of their faith and encouraged to kill and maim anyone who stands in their way.
As we have seen, lasting peace will never be achieved through war - God’s word tells us that, The only way to lasting Peace is by encouraging people to learn to love God and their neighbour. Gods ultimate weapon against sin is Love. Gods word tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son Jesus that whosever believes might be saved. - He came and gave His life on the cross to pay sins price and set us free form the consequence of our own actions - sin. There was no other - good enough to pay the price of sin - He only! This was one man against the forces of evil - just one man filled with love for His fellowmen. Gods Love.
In the story of David and Goliath - we are told of the challenge thrown by the Philistines - that if one man could defeat Goliath, then the vanquished would become slaves of the victor. This would also prevent hundreds of lives being sacrificed on the battlefields. One young man - David took up the challenge and took on the whole evil army for the sake of the nation.
This parralels the sacrificial love of Jesus who - even though afraid - even asked His Father if there was any other way - still He was willing to give His life on the spiritual battlefield because of the sins of the whole world - to fight a lone battle against sin and evil and make it possible for the world to live the life of the redeemed.
One man , Jesus, took on the whole army of evil to claim victory over sin for the sake of the whole world. Jesus didn't want to die, but He freely gave His life for our sakes.
Jesus said,' The greatest love is seen when a man is prepared to lay down his life for his friends. 'You are My friends, if you do whatsoever I command you'. Jesus fought the powers of evil armed only with the love of God.
Last week we talked of what it mans to be a soldier in the Salvation Army and how fighting against sin in the world today is not easy. Last year a 21 year old Salvationist in Cleveland Ohio found that out to his cost. I can’t remember this reaching the news over here. This is how it was reported in America.
Jared Plesec , a 21-year-old Salvation Army worker in Cleveland, Ohio, was shot dead in the head Saturday morning December 2, 2017 with his Bible in hand, while preaching the Gospel. Those who knew Jared Plesec say that he was devoted to his faith, and lived to teach others about God.
"Jared was an employee (youth worker) and church member of The Salvation Army Temple Corps Community Center in Collinwood. Jared died as he lived, sharing God's love. Jared passed away in full Salvation Army uniform with his Bible in hand leaving home on his day off to volunteer at The Salvation Army's Red Kettle," The Salvation Army said in a statement, as reported by WKYC.com.
"In the past two days, hundreds of individuals, mostly youth, have flocked to The Salvation Army in Collinwood to pay tribute to Jared's life. They all had one thing in common, Jared loved them, he cared for them and he changed their lives.
"Today we feel great loss that Jared was taken from us too soon. Yet we rejoice that he is in heaven with the loving Heavenly Father he told so many people about." Jared paid the ultimate price in being obedient to God in sharing the good news of the gospel.
Obedience to God is the natural outworking of our love for Him and thats the way it should be - at any cost. Jesus said 'If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teachings' that’s the natural response of true love. If you really love someone then you will do anything for them.
Jesus is really saying ‘If you love Me, if you make Me the centre of your thoughts, then you can’t help but obey Me for it will be your hearts desire’. So often as Christians and Salvationists we promise not to do this or that, and place a lot of stress on sticking to those regulations when really what we should be doing is concentrate on the things that Gods word says that we should do. His commands were that we should love God and one another - it’s as simple as that!
Joy I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. O how we need more love in the world today - O how we need more Joy in our churches - its starts with me and you Joy is at the heart of Gods plan for human beings. Joy is at the very heart of God Himself. We will never understand the significance of Joy in human life until we understand its importance to God, I think that many of us underestimate Gods capacity for Joy.
Joy for God our Father is to see His children set free from the shackles of sin and back in the fathers arms. Joy for Gods children is having that assurance that Jesus loves and cares about us.
Joy is more than happiness, it's that deep feeling of warm contentment, that lovely feeling of belonging, of living with the assurance that 'whatever happens, whatever valley or storms we go through in this life, that God loves us, and that Jesus cares and shares our deepest sorrows. Joy is freedom in Christ And lastly Jesus said;
Peace Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. It seems ironic that the only way that man seems to aim for peace is to 'war' after it. Jesus died to make it possible for those who live opposed to each other, can be reconciled. The Jew and the Gentile, as referred to in Paul's letter to the Ephesians 'you who once were far away, have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
‘For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one'. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
He came and preached Peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Those who were around Him then and those who in future days would come to love Him. - thats you and me. For through Him both groupings have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God's people and members of God's household.'
Christ, by His sacrifice on the cross made it possible for all men to live in peace, without having to fight for it. Freedom in Christ brings lasting peace. We thank God for love, and the Joy that real love brings. And we thank God for the peace that knowing Him brings to each one of us. Love, Joy and peace are freely available to each one of us, and all we have to do is live a life of obedience to God.
Every Easter, I tell the same true story of what happenned when, during the Vietnam War, an American army captain was dropped with his men into the jungle. It didn't take him long to realise that they were caught in the middle of an ambush. The captain called his men back to a clearing. He counted his men and found they were one man short.
The helicopter was about to lift him and his men off, when he decided he couldn't leave without this man, so he went back for the soldier who was by this time, crawling towards him. He'd been shot in the leg. Dragging him to the helicopter, the captain lifted the soldier on board. At the last moment, as he was climbing on board himself, a burst of gunfire from the trees cut him down where he stood. The helicopter left him, dead in the clearing.
Back in America after the war had ended, the captain's parents decided they would like to meet the young soldier who's life had been spared at the cost of their only son so they invited the soldier to their home for a meal. The soldier eventually turned up, one hour late, and shocked and offended the captain's parents with his rudeness, his total lack of gratitude or respect for their son.
When he finally left, the captains mother fell onto her knees. Heartbroken, crying out to God. 'Why?, Why did my son have to die for someone like that? Why did he have to die for someone as rude and selfish as that. My son was a good boy, he hadn't done anything wrong?' The mother of the American soldier, grieved over the apparent waste of her sons life, dying as he did for an ungrateful man. Yet that’s exactly what Jesus did.
Imagine Mary, felt as she saw her Son nailed to that cross. Imagine how God feels, when He sees the way that man today, rejects the fact that His Son died for them.
I believe that nothing grieves the heart of the Father more than the rejection of His Son by those for whom His Son died. 'God so loved the World that He gave His only Son Jesus that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life'.
Imagine what the loved ones of those who gave their lives in the war feel like when they look at the way in which people live their lives in these days. Imagine what they feel like knowing that their loved ones, sons, husbands, fathers gave their lives so that we could live in peace and yet the world is constantly threatening or even waging war and fall out at the slightest things - I guess they too would think - was it worth it?
If those who gave their lives could come back and see the way in which mankind lives today - it would grieve them terrible. To think that they gave up their lives with their families, their wives and children for the world of today. Imagine how God feels when He sees the apathy of the world and the way in which they live their lives as if there were no tomorrow. Was it all worth it? In the light of the way in which the world lives, we could ask ourselves was the sacrifice of the innocent Jesus worth it?
The answer is Yes! it was if we make it so As far as God is concerned, He even thinks it is worth it for the sake of those who as yet don’t know Him and live ungrateful lives
Christ died to bring us back into the family of God to live in Love - Joy - and Peace.
Romans 5; 6-8 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus gave His life on the cross to save the world. The soldiers of the wars died to bring peace to our world. The Salvation Army Soldiers like Jared died sharing the love of God with others to bring salvation to the sinners.
Lets make it our aim to share the love of God with others and bring Joy into their lives and live at Peace with one another.
4 November 2018 The Righteous shall live by faith Galatians 3;11
On Tuesday Brian Lancaster led the Bible Fellowship and we looked at the importance of living a Christian life of faith. We looked at how important this was to the bible greats such as Abraham, Elijah, Jeremiah
Just a few of the greats who lived by faith and exercised that faith in their daily living. When you look at people like Moses who took God at His word when God spoke to him from the burning bush and told him to go to the Pharaoh and demand he set the Israelites free - Moses had said to God ‘ but Lord - who am I? that I should go to Pharaoh and demand my peoples release? To which God replied ‘I will be with you’ What great faith - a faith that brought boldness to Moses
The man who had little faith in himself who even said to God ‘but what if the people don’t believe me? And the Lord gave him two signs that He was indeed with Moses when he told him throw his staff on the floor and when he did it changed into a snake. Then He told him to put his hand in his coat and when he brought it out it was full of leprosy - God told him to put it back and when he did it was completely healed.
Moses was a frightened man who even told God that he didn’t have the vocabulary to impress the Pharaoh - ‘who made your mouth‘, God asked him - ‘I did and I will put my words in them’. Even then Moses backed away and asked God to ‘send someone else’.
The scripture says that Gods anger burned against Moses and said ‘What about your brother Aaron - he speaks well - he is ready and in fact is even on his way to see you as we speak’. Here was Moses - the man chosen by God to perform great feats that demanded great faith and here he was trying to back out - just shows that God can use anyone - He doesn’t judge us by what we are He sees the potential in us.
You all know the outcome - the Pharaoh refused and so God told Moses to go to the edge of the Nile and when Pharaoh arrives tell him that ‘ the Lord God of the Hebrews has sent me to tell you to let My people go’ God told him to then strike the waters of the Nile with his staff and it would be changed into blood and all the fish would die - ‘Incredible’ and yet Moses did what he had been told and it happened just as God said it would. Wow What faith - exercised by a man full of fear and doubts.
The people were set free and travelled to the edge of the sea which was parted when Moses raised his staff and the Israelites escaped to freedom - when their pursuers reached sea and set off through it - God closed the sea and they were drowned.
Awesome - miracles all done through the exercise of faith by Moses and Aaron and later by Joshua. Even when they were travelling through the desert God provided water from a rock when Moses touched it with his staff and manna from heaven.
Faith - wow in God who can move mountains - set people free, heal and even raise the dead - all through ordinary men and women just like you and me. God even gave Moses the privilege of presenting the Ten Commandments.
After Genesis the next four books are all about Moses until we get to the last chapter of Deuteronomy and learn of the death of Moses. The next great man of God was Joshua who continued to lead the Israelites to the promised land. Like Moses, he encountered a river that needed to be crossed and in the same way that God parted the first river, God did the same with the Jordan - as soon as they stepped into the river the waters abated and gave a safe passage through.
Faith - Wow what faith these people had - but then they were confident that with God all things were possible as they had experienced through Moses and Joshua.
The miracle of the Red Sea followed another awesome miracle - the fall of Jericho which resulted from the Israelites taking God at His word and marching seven times around it. This was a show of Gods power - not by the might of man but by the power of the Spirit exercised in faith. God had given the promise 'Not by might, but by My Spirit say's the Lord'.
As a young lad I marvelled at the mighty stories from Gods word - the parting of the Red Sea, Daniel in the lions den, David and Goliath, Jesus stilling the storms, walking on water, healing the blind, healing the cripple who was let down on the blanket, raising the dead, in fact all the spectacular, the seemingly impossible, I loved them.
As we read these wonderful accounts, there is one thing that is common to them all and that is faith and obedience. On Tuesday we read from Paul’s letter to the Hebrew Fellowship where he says that ' faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see' and what faith! By faith the people passed through the Red Sea, by faith the walls of Jericho fell.
We then read Hebrews 11; 1-6 together
From verse 3 onwards the writer of the Hebrews calls us even closer, and like Jeremy Cricket says 'and there's more, much more'. The mighty men of the Bible were men of great faith. Faith in a pure and holy God, that brought them into complete submission to His sovereign will and enabled them to accomplish impossible things in the strength of His unquestionable might.
When you are commanded by God to build a gigantic ark in your back yard and it's not even raining, it takes great faith to be obedient. Yet Noah did.
When you are called upon by God to go to Pharaoh and tell him to 'let My people go' it takes courageous faith to be obedient. Moses did exactly that
To be prepared to face death in a lions den for being obedient to God and acknowledging Him as your Lord by openly defying the King, takes unwavering faith. Daniel did that
To stand before the rising flooded waters of the River Jordan and command your priests to lead a nation through it, takes unquestioning faith. Joshua did
To step out of the safety of your boat and walk on water towards Jesus takes great faith, and yet that's what Peter did, or at least he started out well.
To face the unknown, the seemingly impossible takes faith, trust, obedience.
I wonder how you and I would have reacted if God told us to do any of those things.
You might say that God gave Moses a sign that 'anything' was possible if he was obedient to God. God showed him that when he did what God told him, marvellous things happen. He changed his staff into a snake, withered his arm, and with that, Moses went and did as God commanded. God then sent the plagues, the angel of death, and Pharaoh set the Israelites go.
The more Moses was obedient to God, the more God showed His power through him so that when he and the hoards of Israelites arrived at the Red Sea, it would be easier for Moses to raise his staff at defiance at the sea, knowing that God would do something, which he did.
Joshua was there as second in command, so it would seem to me that having evidenced the power of God then would bolster Joshua's faith when he and the Israelites arrived at a similar situation with the Jordan river.
This morning we have just read of an equally impossible task that God called Joshua to do. He had a mighty army of 40 000 men, yet God called him to simply walk around the walls without a sound. And under the leadership of Joshua, that is exactly what they did!
Joshua became a mighty successor to Moses, and having seen the power of God first hand, was ready to lead his people forward. Although Joshua was the leader of his people, he was subordinate to God, and stood in awe of Him.
1 Faith is the acceptance of the standards of God's Holiness
Our God is a holy God who will not, cannot tolerate sin and disobedience. Only in God, does the 'end justify the means'. We may think that the destruction of the Jericho was contrary to the love of God, yet the Canaanites were an idolatrous, evil people who were in themselves regarded as the very image of sin - they had to be destroyed in order that the kingdom of Gods righteousness could be established. Its the same with sin in our lives, it has to be defeated, conquered, destroyed, got rid off in order that the love, joy and peace of God can take root.
It was the acceptance of Gods Holiness that stirred Joshua to address his people and warn them of the dangers of the land that they were to inherit and the call to be pure and strong. In Leviticus 11 verse 44 and 45, chapter 19 verse 8, 20 verses 8 and 26 God says 'be ye holy because I am holy'. Isaiah 6; 3 'Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord'.
Obedience to God strengthens our faith to believe in the impossible.
Remember the first miracle that Jesus did, when He changed the water into wine at the wedding at Cana? He gave the instructions, and it was His disciples that had to be obedient, and they had never seen Him do a miracle before! All it took for them to obey, was faith and trust.
Peter, was looking at Jesus walk on water, and when Jesus beckoned him, he simply moved out of the boat and walked. the trouble was that when he realised what he was doing was impossible by human standards, he took his eyes off Jesus and started to sink. Sometimes God tells us to do the most ridiculous or improbable things to test our allegiance, our faith and to show us His incredible power.
2 Faith is abandonment to the government of God's will
For Six days the 40 000 warriors marched once around the walls of Jericho in silence. Imagine it! the people at the other side of the wall wouldn't understand what happening, so that they would be taken off guard. I think after a couple of days, I would have got the message and gone on holiday for a couple of weeks.
To let go, and let God take control of our lives is one of the hardest tests of our faith, and yet so many have done exactly that and proved God sovereign will at all costs.
The Apostles, Peter and the others in obedience to Jesus stood up against the forces of evil and injustice in their day, and the Kingdom of God moved forward with great power, and through them, great and miraculous things were achieved.
William Booth stood against the injustice of a sinful selfish society, and the apathy of the established church, and with great faith moved the Church of god forward by mobilising an Army that would stand for Christ and wage war against sin.
3 Faith is achievement in the strength of God's might
On the seventh day, they were told that 'when you hear the priests give a long blast on their trumpets, give a loud shout' and the walls will collapse.
The battle had already been won before they even started Ch 5;1 'the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.' They obeyed and the walls came tumbling down.
The people were 99% with Joshua, but there's always one isn't there? Achan.
The people were told that this land, the first city of the promised land had been promised entirely to the Lord, but Achan had seen spoils of war, a fantastic Babylonian robe, a heavy gold ingot and a hoard of silver, all of which he took and hid in the floor of his tent. Through Achan, God emphasised the importance of obedience to the sovereign will of God, and the consequence of disobedience.
Hebrews 11;6 says ‘without faith it is impossible to please God: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him’
We cannot underestimate the importance of faith and the exercising of faith in our lives. We have seen the awesome power of God exercised when we have placed our faith in Him for the most impossible things. Healing - Christopher and Adam, Finance for the building next door and this hall. Chairs, Windows - God is awesome
Faith demands obedience to God in every area of our lives - church and secular. Reading His word - prayer - our actions - our re-actions - all are in obedience to His word and when we are true to them - nothing is impossible God can use anyone of us if we have truly repented of our past and desire to live in are obedience to Him. Anyone!
This week I read about a man called William Neal Moore who spent 16 years on death row facing the electric chair for murder. He was prepared for the chair eleven times and each one was put off. Today he is an ordained minister of the church. As a young man he got drunk after problems with his wife left him and took all his money. In desperation he attempted a robbery - the man in the house he went to pulled a gun but William shot him first.
He admitted his crime and was condemned to death in the electric chair. While he was in prison two Christians came to visit him and told him about Jesus and about forgiveness - he told them that ‘nobody had ever told him that Jesus loved him and if he truly repented God would forgive him’ after a few visits, he got saved and was baptised in a prison tub.
For the next sixteen years he became himself studied the scriptures and became an evangelist winning many other prisoners for Jesus. He started Bible studies in the prison and on death row and many were saved. Deeply sorry for what he had done, he wrote to the family of the man he had killed and won the forgiveness of the family. Many well known figures heard about his conversion and transformation and publicly started to stand up for him including the family of his victim.
Amazingly just hours before he was going to be strapped in the electric chair for the eleventh time- his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Even more amazing and unprecedented in US History was the later decision to set him free which they did on 8 Nov1991.
When asked about how this came about he said ‘ it was Jesus Christ who changed my life, the old man has gone and a new man is here - I am a new creation‘. Today he is an ordained minister and he and his second wife run a prison ministry.
It was faith that achieved that - as we know, By Faith all things are possible
All it takes is a good devout person who lives in obedience to God - not necessarily a strong and impressive person. Moses wasn’t a strong person to begin with - He tried to back away from what God told him. His strength eventually came as a result of his obedience to God
Thinking about ourselves I guess many of us would admit to doubts, uncertainties, disobedience - the great thing is that God - in spite of our weakness can do mighty things through us if only we would trust in Him and aim to be obedient to His word.
He knows our weaknesses but by exercising our faith in Him He can accomplish great things through us. Trust and Obey there is no other way - and the two will, help to develop and strengthen utmost faith in Him.
There is a great need today, more than any other time for those who call themselves Gods people to be obedient to Him and by so doing develop and strengthen their faith.
In other words - Let go and Let God
Harvest Sunday 21 October 2018
As we look at the harvest table we can see the splendour of Gods innovative creativeness - each fruit is so different it is easy to name the vast array of luscious fruits - each one so different from the next one Pears, Grapes, plums, Oranges, Bannanas, Pinapples, Peaches, Kiwi fruits, and so many different varieties of apples. Such as Granny Smiths, Royal Gala and my favourite Cox’s.
All looking and tasting so different - when you pick up an apple you don’t expect to taste a pear, when you eat a strawberry you would be shocked if it tasted like a grape.
We can tell the differences between each fruit by it’s colour, shape and size but we might be hard pushed to tell by looking at the tree what kind of tree it was. - it’s the fruit that gives it away. That’s also how you can tell a genuine Christian. From leaders to followers, from Pastors to clergy - from you and me and those out there.
Matt 7;16 False Prophets known by the fruit they bear “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
This scripture talks about the false teachers, prophets that are around us who teach a false doctrine - a man pleasing gospel, that promises prosperity - they might look the part - in sheeps clothing that suggests they represent the Good shepherd who only wants the best for His people whilst inwardly they are ferocious wolves. There are so many of them in this day and age that the true gospel of Jesus Christ is being changed to pander to mans greed and selfishness. Today these false prophets own and travel around in expensive cars and even jet planes - live in big houses and have thousands in the banks - the fruit of their False lifestyles - Jesus rightly said By their fruit you will recognize them
Sadly the same goes when deciding if someone is simply Christian or not - it’s by their fruit - their actions, their responses, their love that you can tell - As the scripture says - it’s ‘by their fruit shall know you them’. The false leaders attract people with their promise of wealth. Jesus was born in a borrowed stable, borrowed a donkey to travel into Jerusalem and was even laid in a borrowed tomb
When the Christian pathway proves to be too costly, it’s so easy to live a life of pretence. To give the appearance from the outside that they are through and through all that they profess to be.. The world today is so used to ‘cover up jobs’ or veneers, that people accept them for what they are. Not so in the Kingdom of God, God gave His all to mankind and expects nothing less in return. It’s the Christians responsibility to show true, genuine Christianity to a veneer world.
In 2 Timothy 3 we read of one of the saddest indictments of many Christians in the latter days which would have ‘a form of godliness but denying the power - have nothing to do with them’. The Psalmist said ‘Search me O God ; know my heart, test me and know know my anxious thoughts, see if there be any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’ Psalm 139; 23
It’s so easy to fool the world and eventually we even fool ourselves into believing that we are what we profess to be - but we can’t fool God - He sees right through the veneer - He sees right to the heart of each one.
As Christians we have to be careful that what we portray - is what we really are, that ‘what you see is what you get’ There is no way a Christian can wriggle out of his or her responsibilities to God and our fellow men. We have chosen to declare to the World that we love and serve God.
On Wednesday at friendship Club we watched one of the first episodes of the great Thora Hird classic comedy programme ‘Hallelujah’ where she plays a Salvation Army Officer. About the same time as this programme was produced another great classic comedy came on it was called ‘Keeping up appearances’ and starred a lady called Mrs Bucket - pronounced as she said as Mrs ( Boo - kay)
Unlike her sister and brother-in-law who slobbed around in his string vest - no pretence - Hyacinth Bucket, tried to keep up appearances - but unfortunately her true colours often came through.
It’s important that as Gods people - His church - the living body of Christ in the world today that what others see in us is a true reflection of the love of God - that the fruit they see is the result of being rooted firmly in God - That Christ lives in us.
Remember how when Jesus was hungry, He saw in the distance what appeared to be a fig tree - a source of food. As He got closer to the tree He realised that the fig tree was barren and there was no fruit on it - Jesus was disappointed as the tree, at a distance, had given all the right signals but as He got closer it was exposed as a fraud. Probably the roots were dead, the tree had been starved of water or had be shielded from the sun - we don’t know but the truth was that it was barren.
Keeping up appearance for a Christian should not be difficult after all Jesus shared how this was possible when He explained to them - I am the vine - you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing
On the other hand - He continued, - If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Jesus then goes on to reassure them 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
As He told them before They will know you are Christians by your love
God gave us His word - the seed, and as we read it we see the power of that word bearing fruit in the lives of ordinary people like you and me. We see that in order for His word to spread throughout the world, God gave the Holy Spirit who lives within us to enable Gods word to bear fruit.
Last week we looked at the additives to faith many of which were the fruit of the Spirit within that we read about in Galatians 5;22 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Notice what he says ‘ The fruit, not fruits - there is no pick and choose If the Spirit of God lives within you then you grow and people will be able to see the Love, of God, the Joy of God, the Peace that only God can give, the qualities of, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control.
God has given us His word - the seed, and as we read it we see the power of that word bearing fruit in the lives of ordinary people like you and me. We see that in order for His word to spread throughout the world, God gave the Holy Spirit who lives within us to enable Gods word to bear fruit in and through us. As the word of God takes root in our hearts then LOVE becomes our greatest aim
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples
It goes without saying that as we begin to take God at His word and are joined to the living vine that a lot of pruning, tending, feeding and nourishing will need to take place in our lives - thankfully God has made allowances for that and in effect says ‘ Remain in Me, be rooted in Me and you will grow
As a young born again Christian I gained such a lot from reading the Living Bible - which eventually attracted me to look at the AV bible and then the original Greek.
This is how the Living Bible expresses Paul’s words to the Church at Ephesus
Ephesians 3;14-19 14 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 marvelous 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.
At harvest we are reminded of Gods faithfulness - to feed the world not only through the food that builds our bodies but also feeding on the food of His word so that we ourselves begin to bear fruit and be fruitful.
My prayer is that we us might bear fruit that sets mankind longing for the truth in us, the truth that is Christ Jesus our Saviour. That people will know that we are Christian by the fruit that they see in us - Genuine love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
It was great to celebrate the life of John Miller yesterday and to hear the many words of thanksgiving for his life that showed the depth of His love for God - the fruit was so obvious
I spoke about his obvious love for God even in his darkest moments - My opening words were these - As you all know, John loved Molly and together they loved the Lord - you could see it in his face - you can’t hide true love - the bible tells us that people will know we are Christians by our love - it’s not what we wear, even this uniform - it’s so easy to hide behind our outward show - They will know we are Christians by our love.
At the celebration of his life later others too shared how you could see the love of God in John. The fruits of the spirit were so obviously there. Molly phoned me yesterday morning and shared how amazed she was that she was full of the Joy of the Lord
She praised God for the obvious answers to prayer in her life since the funeral - she had expected to feel so down and alone but No - because of all the lovely things we had shared about John and his love for the Lord - she felt at peace and so full of Joy.
She just praised God for His faithfulness and love.
NIV Hebrews 13;15,16 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Our Father loves to receive the praises of His creation.
We can’t Worship and Praise Him in any better way that by living lives that honour Him, lives that reflect the beauty of Jesus our Saviour. Holy lives.
Wholly devoted to Him - Worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness.
When we do we will begin to bear the fruit of those who are deeply rooted in Him - the fruit that comes when our roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvellous love.
The praise that comes from a grateful loving heart is sweet and pleasing to Him
The quality of the fruit we bear depends entirely on the devotion of our heart.
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased
MM 14 October 2018
Last week we read Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus 4; 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
I love that - so that we all - the body of Christ - this fellowship - reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of Jesus filled with the fullness of Jesus and when we have achieved that -14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. And to be sure - that’s the way the world is going today with false teachers peddling their heretical viewpoints , but you and I - speaking the truth in love, will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. WOW!
We looked at what it meant to be Christlike in the world today - loving gentle, compassionate, considerate, forgiving, caring, hospitable, generous - to be like Jesus
We read last week - Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had. And Philippians 2;14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life
We looked at what it really meant to be a Christian which is to be receive Christ into our hearts to be transformed by the power of His Holy Spirit to become Christlike.
This week, as I always do, I asked God what He wanted us to look at and straight away 2 Peter came into my mind .We are going to look at what this says to us this morning - I believe that God is directing us to become the people of His Kingdom.
The writer is Peter a disciple of Jesus who spent three years getting to know Him - Peter the one through whom God Himself shared that Jesus was the Son of the Living God - the Messiah, The same Peter who after declaring who Jesus was, denied even knowing Jesus when Christ was arrested and taken before Pilate, Peter let fear take over. Amazingly the same Peter that Jesus even after Peters rejection and denial said He loved Pater and appointed him to be an Apostle upon whom He would build His church - WOW!
Lets read together what he later wrote 2 Peter 1 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. 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.
Wow - Peter is now such a positive - confident transformed person that he is set to do what Jesus commissioned him to do - and that was to build His Church.
Right from the opening verses of this letter Peter presents himself as a servant and Apostle of Jesus Christ and addresses those he is writing to as a people who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.
The same attributes that Paul used in his letter to the Ephesians when he said So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service. His whole aim is to encourage Gods people to confirm their calling and election.
We can’t and are not expected to do this in our own strength - Peter tells us straight away that 3 its His divine power that has given us everything we need for a Godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.
He has provided us with every possible help to become Christlike -
1 We have His word that inspires , instructs and teaches us how He wants us to grow, develop and live a Godly life. Through our knowledge of Him - the knowledge that comes when we eagerly seek to know Him through His word.
The sad truth is that Gods word is so neglected in this day and age - by the world and sadly by many who call themselves Christian. Bible study or fellowships where people can go and share the word of God are not well attended.
If we say God called us, that we are amongst the chosen then our desire should be to want to get to know all we can about the Lord we love.
The song in The sound of music that Anna shares her deep desire with the children when she ’Getting to know you’ getting to know all about you’ We sing ‘Only as we truly know Thee can we make The truly known’ so true
Jesus said that if we live in obedience to Him and love Him then He would come and live within us. Just as the Word became flesh in Christ - I believe that Christ - the living Word - wants to become alive in you and me. That’s why as I say, we have His word that inspires , instructs and teaches us how He wants us to grow, develop and live a Godly life
Tragicaly, churches today use newly translated texts that have been changed to pander to mans thinking. False teachers who put forward False Doctrines
God’s word tells us that Jesus told His disciples that He would come and live within us empowering us from within to be Christlike. That’s why Peter could write that 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.
Participate in the Divine Nature - having escaped and put behind us the wrong selfish desires that dominate in the world today.
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.
The basis on which our Christian life is maintained is Faith -
1 Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen
Hebrews 11;1 in fact; Without faith it is impossible to please God: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him Hebrews 11;6
2 Add to your faith - Goodness Just as we express our faith in God, we also experience the goodness of knowing the Lords presence in our everyday lives., so too we are to share that goodness with others Psalm 123 says Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. And to goodness add
3 Knowledge - the knowledge that is gained through hungering after and faithfully reading His word. Add to your knowledge self-control
4 Self-control - that’s you and me controlling our actions, our thoughts, our attitudes towards others - I think we could all do with a bit more of that
5 Perseverance - sticking at it - holding true to what we believe and how we exercise that belief. Persevering in our prayer life - our bible study - our serving
6 Godliness - We’re not talking about an ‘holier than thou’ attitude of thinking ourselves holier than the next person. It’s reality of knowing that God Himself is with us and within us by His Spirit. Add to this;
7 Mutual affection a sincere high regard for one another - Yesterday in the checkout queue at ALDI there were two young lads - brothers - having a great time with one another - their faces were alight - you could see the brotherly love they shared. They couldn’t let go of one another - it was a beautiful sight - they obviously loved being together. That’s the kind of mutual affection Peter talks about here - when all of Gods people realise they are born again and family and enjoy each others presence. The basis of this is of course the last thing that Peter mentions - Love
8 Love True love - That’s God in you and me - For God is love
Peter stresses that if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, in other words they grow stronger. firmer each day they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul lists all these qualities and sees them as fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5; 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. So important that he lists them many times; to the Thessalonians and Ephesians
In summing up Peter goes on to say; 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.
Confirm your calling and election - WOW! These are the qualities that will let God and the watching world see that your faith is genuine and that your desire is to grow more and more to be the person God wants you to be and the fellowship that is His church - the living body of Christ in the world today.
How do you fare in all this - how determined are you to become the person God wants you to be - the church that God wants to build. - It’s up to you and me.
MM 7 October 2018 The Living Body of Christ in the world today
On Sunday 5 August we read Ephesians 4 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. I said then that hat’s a real , heartfelt passionate plea from Paul urging them to live a life worthy of all that God has done in Christ to save them from the penalty of Sin. - How? By being completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
I said then how I believe that the same applies to us in the church today. Realising that we are in this together - His chosen - His people - His church we need to be humble. Gentle patient in our dealings with one another - all under the covering of LOVE
They weren’t meant to be just a people having a good time together, but were a deeply loving, compassionate, serving fellowship who were growing together and as they did, experiencing Kingdom power and values here and now. An organism that was on the move - not just another organisation.
The heartfelt desire of Paul for this young church was to simply live a life worthy of the calling - easier said than done - yet there is a sense in which the way we live our everyday lives is ’Worship’ in the truest sense of the word. The way we live our lives should bring Glory and Praise to God and that’s what true worship is all about.
This was about right relationships, lifestyle, attitudes, responses, the way in which the whole body should interact and function as a complete and wholesome healthy body. The living body of Christ in the world today.
Last week we celebrated our 134th Corps Anniversary and looked at what that meant for us today. We saw how the Salvation Army here in Idle grew at a phenomenal rate in those early days and within 7 years they needed to move out of the Old Green Mill that later became the Idle picture house and erect a new building here in Walter Street.
We then looked at how over the years that followed the fellowship began to grow but then around 1978 catastrophic events regarding the building the God started to cause problems. The fire in 1978 that meant we had to move out of the building for three years during which time many people left and joined other Corps.
In 1990 we had to move out again due to Dry Rot problem.. Quite a list of events that over the years caused a drop in attendance. But looking back I believe I can see Gods hand in that - for whatever the reasons we had problems, God still had Idle in His mind for future growth - the right way.
In 1984 God brought my attention to the words from Jeremiah 29 and took me out of the Corps for about 16 months during which time I started the New Life Fellowship where I believe He taught me and showed me, and many others from various churches and Salvation Army’s the way he wanted us to go. The in 1986 God led me back to Idle Corps which by now was a shadow of its former self with only a handful of people - we practically doubled the congregation.
Less than nine years later in 1995 Beryl and I became the Commanding Officers of the Idle Corps. In 1997 we had some very well attended concerts that attracted many people who filled the hall and the balcony which eventually caused more problems with the building causing the walls to part company with the balcony.
The repairs took almost all our available funds and then at the re-opening, much to the shock of many Corps members I shared how I believed that God wanted us to build a Hall at the side of our Worship hall that would cost over £160 000. I launched a fund for this, the building work started and we moved into the hall in 1999.
That wasn‘t the end of our building problems, in 2011 we found water coming through the ceiling in the main Worship Hall and needed about £190 000 to put that right. We prayed about that too and were amazed to receive a telephone call from a solicitor of Mr Mann who’s funeral I had just done to find out that he had left all his money to us - £200 000 that paid for the new roof - we thanked God for providing the buildings that we have - Gods Church and the potential there is for us to capture the vision move forward
Last week read the vision of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones - that represented the state of the people of God in his time and how God asked him ’Son of man can these bones live’ The result was that God breathed new life into the dead church and it rose to it’s feet an alive church. I said then that the Church is not meant to be just the building but the living body of Christ in the world today. The building is the base - it’s the living body that God wants to bring in the Kingdom of God.
With this in mind we come back to Pauls letter to the early church - the newly formed church of God where he stresses the importance of the people to realise that they are in fact the living body of Christ in the world today.
Ephesians 4; 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. WOW!
The whole of the new testament stresses the importance of realising this awesome fact that just as the Word became flesh in Christ 2000 years ago - that Christ wants to become flesh in His followers, His people, His Church, you and me.
It’s the realisation of this truth that will transform the church and let the world see the Glory of God and the need for them to accept Jesus as their Saviour and start to live the Kingdom life here on earth. We pray don’t we ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven’’.
Jesus came to show us what God was really like - He came to show us by example how we should live in complete harmony with God and one another. He showed the depth of Gods love for His creation by becoming the sacrificial lamb to pay for our sins and open the door of Heaven to us all. That’s the only way the people in that day thought forgiveness was possible by offering a sacrificial lamb on the altar. Jesus became that once and for all Sacrificial lamb -
He did it the way man would understand at that time and gave His life as an atonement for sin - once and for all - on the cross. God then went on to show that in identifying with Christ and accepting forgiveness we could be given New Life by Raising Jesus Christ from the dead. He could not have made His plan for the salvation of mankind any more plain.
Jesus had promised before He went to the cross that if we love Him and live in obedience to Him then He would come and live within us all by the power of the Spirit - God would come and live within you and me and as we lived in obedience to His word, start a work of transformation in us to become more like Jesus.
To become more like Jesus should be the Christians highest aim - to let the world see the beauty of Jesus in us - we sang earlier Take time to be Holy - the world rushes on - spend more time in secret with Jesus the Lord - and when we do - the hymn says that - by looking to Jesus like Him thou shalt be and thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
Paul who as we have been looking at over the last few weeks knew first hand what that meant when he was transformed by his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road from the zealous misguided Jew that he was to be set fee by Christ to become His greatest advocate - the most prolific writer of the gospel truths - himself advocating the fact that Christ wants to become alive in us.
Listen to just a couple of his statements about this awesome truth.
Philippians 3;21 talking about the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul says this 21 who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.
2 Corinthians 3;18 And 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
We don’t become Jesus - we become the living vessel that for His indwelling - we take on the embodiment of Christ. As I understand it ; Just as Christ was God in Human form - in other words Gods Spirit was embodied in the human form - so too Christ - the Spirit of God wants to be embodied in you and me.
When we realise that, and embrace it, the indwelling Spirit will transform the way we act, our attitudes, our responses, our motives and ambitions. In other words we are United with Christ - Born Again - this time of the Spirit.
Attitudes Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had,
Philippians 2;14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life
Wow! ’the you will shine like the stars in the sky’ When Christ lives in you and me it should show - people will know you are Christian by your love, your attitudes to them, your responses, your actions - it should show and be obvious to others.
When we go through trials in life, they should be able to see by the way we cope and get through them that there is something different about us - what is it that enables us to face up to the same problems and difficulties that they find hard to cope with - that’s the time when we can share with them that without our faith we would not be able to cope. God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us - that when we go through the troubles of life He is there to see us through, to comfort and support us.
We live in a hostile world where many of the problems we face have been caused through mans greed, wrong motives, even mans attempt to better himself at the expence of others -God says trust in Me and I will see you through.
That’s the message God gives to mankind and the message He wants to project through you and me by living within us.
Philippians 2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Gowans and Larrson who wrote the Musical Spirit about the journey of Paul wrote this song - we sang it a couple of weeks ago - it sums up the desire of Paul for his own life and for the life of all those who responded to the call of Jesus.
To be like Jesus this hope possesses me
In every thought and deed
This is my aim, my creed
To be like Jesus this hope possesses me
His Spirit helping me,
Like Him I’ll be
30 September 2018; Ezekiel 37 Our 134th Corps Anniversary
I love the vision of Ezekiel - It speaks to me on several counts - the restoration of the people of Israel, the salvation that comes through the sacrifice of Jesus and the infilling and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
Remember the words of God through Isaiah the prophet Isaiah 43; 18.19 ‘Forget the former things, don’t dwell on the past, see I am doing a new thing, can’t you see it, I’m making a way through the desert’
And the words of Paul the converted zealous Jew who experienced new life - re-birth when he met Jesus on the Damascus Road and his life was turned around. Listen to what he writes to the church at Phillipi ch3; 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
WOW! Forget the former things v10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: and here we have the statement that reiterates what God said to Ezekiel Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
WOW! The vision of Ezekiel was not just for then, but also for the time when Jesus the Messiah would comes to bring man back to the Father by giving His life on the cross. It also speaks to me of the he future when the Jew return to Jerusalem and further on to the end of time as we know it when Jesus comes back to claim the true followers for the Kingdom.
At special times like we celebrate today - our 134th Anniversary of the Salvation Army coming to Idle. We look at the past and see the way that God has brought us and this church but we are encouraged not to dwell on it for too long but to let the lessons of the past - the good times that we have shared and the way in which God has brought us = let the past serve as a background, a base for all that I believe that God is going to do in the future - both in our lives and in the life of the church.
When we look at the past we can see the way in which God brought the Corps into being and how quickly the Corps grew in those early days.. In 1884 Cpt Annie Fleet and Lieut Jenny Street, opened fire in Idle using the Old Green Mill as their platform.
They reported in the War Cry at that time what great response they were getting in Idle when vast crowds came to see them. They left Idle the following year to move to York but within a few years, the work they had started had grown so that new premises had to be found. Building work was commenced in Walter Street where we are today and was completed in 1900 - just six years after opening in the Old Green Mill.
In the years that followed we had over 90 Officers take charge, many for just a few months, some for a full year and a handful for more than a year. The Corps grew and everything was going well until our first catastrophic event.
That was in 1978 when the local newspaper showed a picture of Cpt David Alliston surveying the the burnt ruins of our Corps caused by a fire in the cellar. Fortunately all the work was confined to the inner of the hall, mainly the platform - building work started and it took 3 years before we could move back into the hall in 1981. For the three years we were privileged to use the Idle Baptist Church Sunday School.
Don’t dwell on the past, God says, see I am doing a new thing - don’t you see it -
I see this as a word from God trying to encourage us to move forward. Just like the Israelites, Gods chosen people, God hadn’t brought us this far for nothing.
That new thing for me started seven years earlier in 1971 when the David and Dorothy Murden became our Officers. When I look back at the way in which God has led me I am amazed. A successful young 31 year old Salvationist - so I thought - who had come through the ranks, S/Coy Ldr, Bandmaster - then the Murdens came and through them, God opened my eyes to see that I didn’t really know Him, that I was busy’ doing’ and needed to stop and ‘catch the vision of what God wanted me to do’.
I sought the Lord and He filled me with His Spirit and started a new life. I plodded on for the next 13 years with a passion to do Gods will, not realising what God had in store for me - and this Corps. During which time we had the fire in the hall 1978.
Then one afternoon in 1984, God gave me a word from Jeremiah 29;11 which I interpreted as saying ‘I am going to take you out of the familiar and open up your mind and show you how I can change your life and the life of this fellowship’ - then I will bring you back - the plans I have for you are good’
He did exactly that, he took me out, I started the New Life Fellowship on the edge of the estate along with others whom He had taken out of their fellowships, Two Salvation Army Officers from Holmewood, ,Two friends from Leeds Road Baptist, Four from Holy Trinity Church Idle, Two from West Bowling SA and many others.
For a couple of years we sought the Lord and grew in Him. Never in my wildest dreams did I know that God was going to bring me back to Idle Corps. But when the time was right, 1986 just like He said, God brought me back here.
Idle Corps was by this time a very small Corps officered by Cpt Stephen Jocelyn. Not many came to the morning meetings, I remember, when some of the New Life fellowship came to the first Sunday morning we more than doubled the congregation.
Then in 1990 we had to close the hall for three months due to dry rot,
From then on, God opened a new way for me and Beryl when in 1994 God sent Betty Matear to be our Officers for a short time until DHQ had decided what to do about Idle Corps. The rest is history - Betty asked Beryl and I to become the Officers of our own Corps - we prayed about it and accepted and in October 1995 along with Ray and Pamela Powell, we were commissioned as Salvation Army Officers in a service at Brighouse.
The Corps started to grow - still we had more problems to face structurally - but looking back I see this as Gods way of building our halls to become the place within which He will move by His Spirit and builds His church - the people.
Shortly after becoming officers the balcony started parting company with the walls requiring major structural work as they tied the wall in to the balcony which took all our available funds. We were back in the hall in 1997 and at the re-opening I launched an appeal to raise money for a new hall - the Community Hall next door. The new hall was completed in 1999 at a cost of over £160 000 and after many prayer times, all the money came in. Once again - God provided all the finance to make available the building required for all I believe He has in mind for His Corps here at Idle.
God proved that again when fourteen years later in 2011 we found water coming through the ceiling in the main Worship Hall and needed about £190 000 to put that right. We prayed about that too and were amazed to receive a telephone call from a solicitor of a man who’s funeral I had done 3 years earlier in 2008 to find out that he had left all his money to us - £200 000 that paid for the new roof.
WOW! Our God is awesome - we never know what God has in store for us, but if we are obedient to Him - then He will achieve great things through us. We become partners in Gods Kingdom Building business.
2018 Praise God We now have a beautiful Worship Hall and Community hall. The Building is complete - We need now to pray and work for revival amongst the people for God to build His Church. God hasn’t done all this for nothing - Looking back I can see the hand off God in everything - but we are encouraged to see He is doing a new thing’ can't you see it? He wants us all to catch the vision of what He is going to do in our lives and the life of this fellowship.
That’s why I love to read stirring accounts of visions like this from Ezekiel that if followed through, change peoples lives for the better and build the Kingdom of God. Ezekiel was entrusted to know the mind of God and relay it to His people. The Church moves forward when men and women are open to the voice and will of God. The church triumphs when men and women not only listen to the words of God but are bold enough to embrace it and put flesh on the vision and live the dream. Ezekiel was a real man of vision.
God , through the prophet Joel said this ‘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. Joel 2:28,29 O for people who will capture the visions that God relays from Heaven.
I don’t think that that is saying that if your old all your capable of is dreaming of former glories - living in the past all the time - it’s an encouragement to keep youthful in your attitudes and your actions - always open to the supernatural, the unexplained, the unexpected. In that way we will be receptive to the visions God sends.
I remember the birth of TV. In 1952 we bought our first TV a receiver a large wooden box with a tiny 9" screen that was capable of receiving visions sent from London
It wasn't long before almost every house in Idle had a 'H' aerial on the chimney. Then ITV came on the scene and everyone had to get a second arial, this time it was in the shape of a 'X'. We were all keen on 'catching the vision'.
These miraculous pictures that came from out of the sky into everyone's homes. Pictures that were capable of shrinking the world, and taking people to far off lands, places they might never visit in their lifetime.
The trouble today is, that we spend more time indoors catching those visions on much larger colourful screens and are less eager to get out of our homes and mix with other people to find out what God wants us to do. We are good at capturing visions on the TV but not so good at capture life changing visions from on High.
Long before the electronic age, way back in Bible days, ordinary men and women were capturing visions from God. Not on television sets this time, but in their dreams, or when they were praying to God.
These were not only visions of a future world, that they would never see themselves, but visions that captured their imaginations, fired them up filling them with great enthusiasm, spurring them on to make those visions a reality in their own time.
God sent pictures from on high that could only be received by people who’s arials were tuned in to the 'heavenly channel' not to be confused with the God Channel
People like Jacob who saw a ladder leading to Heaven, Ezekiel who taken into the potters shed,and the valley of dry bones. Isaiah, who prophesied the coming Messiah and even lamented the death
of Jesus. Micah and Joel who spoke of times afar off, that they would never see, the birth of Jesus, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Peter and his vision of the tablecloth spread all kinds of variety of foods, that foretold the inclusion of the Gentiles in Gods master plan of salvation.
The revelation, given to John on the Isle of Patmos about the end times and the return of Jesus.
In times when all seemed bleak and hopeless, God brought wisdom and hope to the world through the mouthpiece of man. I believe that today - we are living in such times when we need to hear the voice of God. God needs 'visionaries' today! God also needs people, who even though they themselves may not have been given a 'Vision', they have somehow captured the vision of what God wants to accomplish in His church and are willing to take risks to live it out.
People who are seeing their own lives changing, receiving and enjoying the New life that God is blessing them with.
Just Look around you. This Church has never looked better, or been better equipped to fulfil Gods mission of bringing hope, Forgiveness, New Life to the people out there who as yet don’t know that there is more to life than this.
Since calling me out, bringing me back, making me envoy of this Fellowship, God has been busy preparing the ground for greater things. Don’t be misled into thinking that you are here this morning by chance - God wants you to be a part of all that He is going to accomplish here at Idle in the next few years that will bring new life, purpose and direction to this Corps. God planned for you to be here - He wants you to be prepared to capture the vision of all that He wants to do here in Idle to bring others into the Kingdom.
See I am doing a new thing - don’t you see it? I’m making a way through the desert I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. We left Ezekiel listening to God tell him to speak to the dry bones - lets close this morning by reading his response.
Imagine being told to address a valley of dry bones, So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.' "So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet - a vast army.
Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, `Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' Therefore prophesy and say to them: `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.' "
Make no mistake - God has plans for us all if only we will seek to capture the vision.
I was amazed when I saw the theme for next years Salvation Army almanac which is Jeremiah 29 - Gods declaring it again - this time for the whole of the SA in 2019. All God asks of you and I is that is that we capture the vision again and go with it and be amazed as God builds His church.
We sang ‘I have caught the vision - have you? Well lets confirm that as we close with ‘Revive Thy work O Lord’
23 September 2018
Last week we read Psalm 42 where the Psalmist, who is going through a difficult time in his life is crying out to God - thirsting for help - desperately asking God ‘Why Why Why’ do I have to face the difficult times - One minute he’s shouting ‘Why have you deserted me’ even asking himself ‘why am I so downcast’ - ’ why have you forgotten me?’ ‘when can I go to meet with God’ and then in the next breath answering his own question with the statement ‘put your hope in God for I will yet praise Him my Lord and my God‘
Today we read a very different statement from the psalmist - this time an exultant psalm that starts ’I will lift my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the maker of Heaven and earth. Wow The Lord who made the mountains will not let your foot slip - in fact, He who watches over you will neither slumber not sleep.
Psalm 121; 1-8 'I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you - the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and for evermore.
Over the last few weeks - while the sun shone - I, like many others have taken the opportunity to get out in the wonderful countryside and enjoy the awesome views. In the Friendship Club, because of holidays and illness, those of us who have been available have been able to get out and about and have picnics in places like Yeadon, St Ives and Burnsal by the side of the river - it’s been great - especially the journeys there in the car especially our round trip to Burnsal via Ilkley and Bolton Abbey.
One minute you're driving through the valleys, and then just over the brow of the hill, there they are in front of you reaching high into the clouds, the majestic mountains that surround the lakes, each one an awesome reminder of the towering strength of an Almighty, and immovable God.
I like nothing better than to get out in the country side and we are certainly blessed with some wonderful views all around us. To look over Ilkley from the Cow and Calf and then to get down low land and look at the glorious mountains around us.
When Beryl and I took the family on holidays we used to love going to Wales - Llandudno and ride up mountainside to the swallow falls and enjoy the splendid view and the grandeur of the majestic Welsh mountains.
One year we went to Criccieth, a small coastal village 12 miles South West of Caernarfon, between Pthwelli and Portmadock. You can reach it by means of the coastal road, or you can drive, as we did, over the mountains, and through the valleys from Betwys Coed.
Its surrounded by places like the Llanberis Pass, the Snowdonian Valley, Bethlehem, Nasareth, Bethany.. It's a good place to get away from it all. We stayed in a farm house 4 miles from Criccieth in the middle of nowhere. The nearest shop was 5 miles away, so you made sure that you had milk in for the morning.
We were surrounded by the splendour of Gods creation, which on the one hand gave you a sense of How vulnerable you would be without the knowledge that God who created all this, also created you, and loves you and cares about you. The comfort of knowing Him made Him feel very close.
There we were, in Wales, one minute you're driving through the valleys, and then just over the brow of the hill, there they are in front of you reaching high into the clouds, the majestic mountains surrounding a lakes, each one an awesome reminder of the towering strength of an Almighty, and immovable God.
Psalm 121 does the opposite to the Psalm of last week who was looking down - downcast with all the troubles that he was having to deal with - today the Psalmist is looking up - Whilst he is looking upwards he makes it clear that he is looking even higher - to the creator -- Almighty God who made the hills. The statement is clear ‘I will lift my eyes up to the hills and then moves the statement on to ask the question - ‘where does my help come from? Not the hills but from the maker of Heaven and earth.
I believe that this psalm was written to rebuff those who in the writers own day did look to what they saw as mountain gods for help, by telling them that there is only one God who can help them, and that is the Almighty God who 'created the mountains'.
Last week we looked at the challenge Elijah made to the prophets of Baal to reveal to them that the gods they served were powerless against the true Almighty God.
The writer of Psalm 121, puts everything in perspective, when he say's ' look at the mountains, our God made these, He created them, they stand strong to remind us how Awesome He is, and that no matter what concerns us, nothing is too big for Him to handle. Whatever we are called to face in life - God is there to help us if only we would turn to Him.
I guess that whenever David the shepherd boy had problems in his young life, he would take his sheep into the mountains and when he looked at the majesty of those hills that surrounded Jerusalem, it comforted him to know that God cares and will protect him at all times. 'As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people, from henceforth, even forevermore' Psalm 125
One day as we travelled through the Welsh mountains, we saw a group of climbers. The Snowdonian valley is one of the place to go if you want to climb mountains. I thought 'Why on earth should someone want to climb a mountain?' I guess that the answer to that question is' that as well as a great sense of achievement, there is a spectacular view to be seen from the top.
The only time that I experienced anything like the feelings they must have had, was after catching the cable car to the top of one of the largest mountains in Austria, and seeing the magnificent view.
From the pit of the valleys, those mountains seem to tower above us, almost sending out a challenge, 'if you want to get out of the valley, then climb the mountain!' No one in their right mind would be so foolish as to try to climb those steeps, without an instructor, a guide, and without the proper kind of footwear and clothing.
Similarly, from the valley experiences that we find ourselves in as we go through life, we would never be able to look those difficult times full in the face and say 'I am going to beat this problem, face the storms, and climb the mountain, if we were ill prepared and had no instructor or guide. Thank You Lord for your Word.
In verse 3, the psalmist seems to write as one of those sure footed climbers, when he say's, 'He will not let your foot slip, He who watches over you will neither slumber nor sleep. He is our protector, He knows and understands what we are going through, because He is right there beside us. 'Fear not, for I am with you' whatever.
Verse 5. 'The Lord watches over you, and more than that, the Lord shelters you when the 'heat is on' and those problems burn into our emotions, and you don't feel you can cope. In those darkest moments of the night, when you feel so alone, when it seems there is no help available, because the rest of the world is asleep, even then when the moon shines, He is still there.
Verse 7, 'The Lord will keep you from ALL harm, and keep watch over you now and forever more. God offers 24 hour protection under all circumstances, and all we have to do, is trust Him.
The psalmist reminds us that Our God is bigger than any of our problems, but not too big to care.
Song 579 says this
'He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater
He giveth more strength as our labours increase,
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance
When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our fathers full giving has only begun
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure
His power no boundary known unto man
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.
Mallory and Irvine were part of an expedition to climb and conquer Everest, but sadly never returned. When the other members of the expedition returned home they faced a barrage of questions from the press. One of the crew members pointed to a picture of the giant mountain, Everest, and said this; " Everest, we tried to conquer you once, but you overpowered us, we tried a second time, but again, you were too big for us. But Everest, I want you to know that one day, we will conquer you, because you can't grow any bigger - but we can!
Psalm 91 'He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
9 If you make the Most High your dwelling - even the LORD, who is my refuge -
then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
Listen to what the Lord says 14 "Because I love you," "I will rescue you; I will protect you. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."
To enjoy this safe passage, the only condition he requires is that we love and trust Him. If we do that, then we not only have the capability of conquering those mountains, we begin to take on the attributes of a mountain ourselves, we become 'more than just conquerors'. Psalms 125:1-2 'Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures for ever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and for evermore.
Wow! that's fantastic! We become LIKE the mountain. Strong, upright, fearless. We CANNOT BE SHAKEN. If we love and trust the Lord, then we will not only be able to climb the mountain, we shall be as strong and as immovable as that mountain.
No wonder the psalmist said 'I will look, not to the hills, but to the one who formed the hills, and that's my Almighty God!' Jesus went further when He said to His disciples ( Matthew 17; 20-21) 'I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, `Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'
Perhaps you are facing difficult times, the problems, the pain, the heartaches and the hurts seem at times to tower above you like huge mountains. I pray that you will take heart from what I believe God is saying to you this morning. 'I know you are hurting, because I share your pain, but you and I together can not only climb the mountain, or even rise above the mountain, but if you love and trust Me with all your heart, then I will see to it that you become stronger than those mountains. - you will rise above them'
Psalm 31;2 tells us that Our God is our rock of refuge and a strong fortress
Psalm 9;9, tells us that the Lord is a refuge for the oppressed a stronghold in times of trouble
Psalm 46;1. God is our refuge and strength a very present help in times of trouble therefore we will not fear -
Psalm 46; 10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
When faced with difficulties in our lives our prayer should be that of Psalm 25
To YOU, O LORD, I lift up my soul; IN YOU I trust.......Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.
Our God is bigger than our problems, but not too big to care. Of all the solo's I used to sing, Beryl's favourite was 'How big is God' - a song that reminds us that 'God is big enough to make this mighty universe, yet small enough to live within my heart.' I believe that in all her confusion due to Alzheimers this was her strength.
I know that a lot of you here this morning are going through difficult times at the moment. I think of Molly and John Miller at this moment - this week I have taken Molly to see John a few times - John was in a desperate state when I went on Monday - he was in so much pain and all he wanted was to go home to the Lord - I have held John in my arms and prayed for God to take the pain away. God cares - and I believe strengthened John and enabled him to put a smile on his face for Molly - she was thrilled.
Some of us grieve for our loved ones -- me for the last four years for Beryl and Kevin, Shiela For Billy, Sheila for Nancy, Brian and Jennie for Jackie a year ago, Michelle for her dad and Ruth for David a couple of weeks ago - thank God we can put our trust in Him and have been given strength to cope.
No wonder the psalmist said 'I will look, (not) to the hills, but to the one who formed the hills, and that's my Almighty God!'
The Idle Community Church of the Salvation Army
Walter Street Idle Bradford BD10 8ND 01274 621538
Church is not the building, it's the people. The place we meet in should be warm and inviting where all the family can feel at ease. There is no reason for Church to be boring.
Our Church is made up of ordinary people with the same problems, difficulties and temptations as you -
but as people who have found a faith, their lives now have purpose, direction and meaning. They love life and live it to the full.
If you don't belong to any other Church, we warmly welcome you to join us in any of our activites. You'll be glad you did.
For the last three years ( this was written 2013) we have been having extensive work done to our buildings as the back wall in the worship hall was parting company with the rest of the building and the roof was in need of repair. This has meant that we have also needed to redecorate both halls and update the safety requirements by installing safety bars on the balcony and a fire alarm system. New curtains have been fitted and new chairs for both halls have been
installed ( see Photo gallery)..
The Hall has been restored and revived - we now pray that God will restore and revive His Church - The Church being the people, the Living Body of Christ in the World today - we look to the future with renewed hope and determination to be a people who live the life that God wants us to. Just as the Word became flesh in Jesus, so too, the Word - Jesus, needs to be made flesh in us.
Please pray that will be so.
God bless, Billy.