Remembrance day 2017
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.
Last night I watched the service of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall. At the close of the service there is what I feel is a most moving sight - hundreds of poppies gently falling to the ground, some resting on the shoulders of the soldiers standing there, each one representing the life of a soldier who had given his of her life in the service of then country and for the cause of peace .
This morning we pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives fighting against tyranny and evil so that we could live our lives in Peace. 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.
Every Remembrance day I cannot help but wonder what the people who gave their lives in that quest would think if they were able to come back for a day and see what mankind has done with that peace. I ask myself the question ‘would they think that sacrificing their lives for the sake of what we have today was worth it? Every Easter I have the same thought ‘How does God feels when He looks at the world and sees the way in which they repay His love and ultimate sacrifice in giving His son Jesus to die on the cross - for what!
The men and women of all the terrible wars over the last 100 years were prepared to lay down their own lives so that their loved ones back home could live the rest of their lives in peace and harmony with each other. Instead, over the years, because of man’s sinfulness that breeds lust for power and dominance, mankind, instead of building on the peace they died to bring, has seen greed and selfishness develop injustice, intolerance the result being that mankind is still embroiled in wars across the globe.
Thousands of faithful soldiers in the Kings army fought for freedom from injustice, intolerance, greed, selfishness, oppression. Amazingly just one man, Jesus, waged war against the forces of evil - one man against an army of evil - one man filled with love for His fellowmen. Gods Love.
The Bible reminds us that one of the greatest expressions of Love is when’ like God’ we are prepared to give everything, for those that we love. ‘God so loved the World, you and I, that He gave His only Son Jesus, that whosoever believeth in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life. That's how much our Father loves you and me.
God showed the extent of His love to us in that He gave His son like a sacrificial Lamb to pay the price of sin, to make freedom in Christ a reality.
If you’ve ever been a blood donor you might remember how you were given a little card and printed on that card were the words; 'He gave his blood that others might live' That's exactly what Jesus did, when He was nailed to the cross. They crucified Jesus, but His sacrificial love gave new life to so many. The love that He showed was to live on in the lives of those for whom He died. Those who accept His love, become themselves channels of that love.
He was nailed to a wooden cross, and today that cross stands as a reminder of that sacrifice. As we look at an empty cross, it really says to each one of us 'I gave My life for you what are you doing with it? To many the cross is an adornment, like the poppy is for so many. Yet it speaks of sacrifice, of love
In the tragic way in which 77 years after the last war, man still cannot live in peace with his fellow men and seems to survive on conflict rather than harmony, in a world of mistrust, injustice, intolerance, greed, so too I find it extremely sad that even though Jesus died for mankind, they still reject Him and His message.
What's He going to say when they meet Him? will He heave a big sigh and ask 'Why? Why didn't you love one another. Why couldn’t you live in Peace with one another?
Why did you waste your life, when I gave mine as a ransom for yours?
What about me and you this morning? I wonder if we dare ask ourselves, am I living the life that Jesus wants me to? Does my life bring Glory to God? Am I concerned about the people I spend my time with at home, work or in the marketplace. Does the love of God shine through me?
For the last few weeks we have been looking at how God, in Christ, made Himself known to us - the Word became flesh - and dwelt among us. Wev’e looked at how we need to be a faithful, committed people devoted to the word and enjoying the privilage of being in touch with God through the power of Prayer.
We’ve looked at how God wants bring the truth to others through us. How God wants to share His love through us and help others to seek forgiveness for their past and enter a new relationship with Him that will bring love, Joy and Peace into their lives.
That's why John wrote these words that we read earlier; "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.
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.
This week I watched the daily Mirror Pride of Britain awards on TV and was heartened by the way in which people of all ages showed their love for others in the sacrificial way in which they lived their lives. The young lad who walked 100 miles to raise money for a cause that nearly killed his little brother - they really loved one another and it showed,. The old lady who does regular sky dives to raise money for those less fortunate than herself. The firemen who risked their lives when the multi storey flats caught fire in London, so many people who thought more about others than they did themselves.
Last year it was the young lad from Thorpe Edge, Dylan Graves who without any thought for his own safety put his life at risk for the sake of his friend James. He suffered appaling injuries and thought he was about to die he looked at his mum and three times told her ‘I love you mum’ - then on his way to hospital his first thoughts were to ask after his friend James. That’s love - Love for his mother - love for his friend. That’s real love - and the nation responded.
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. 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’ 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, we are reminded of the sacrifice of those millions of men and women who gave their lives in the hopes that one day their loved ones could live in peace. Many of them 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.
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 their loved ones 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 terrible things that are happening 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 deceived 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.
Remember the story of David and Goliath - the challenge thrown by the Philistines was meant to prevent thousands of lives being sacrificed on the battlefields - that if one man could defeat Goliath, then the vanquished would become slaves of the victor. David took up the challenge. One man took on the whole evil army for the sake of the nation.
This parralels the sacrificial love of Jesus who - even though He was afraid - 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.
Obedience to God is the natural outworking of our love for Him and that’s the way it should be. '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 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 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 the world seems to achieve 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.
The brave men and women we have remembered this morning gave their lives in the hope that their loved ones could live in love and experience the Joy of living in peace
Christ died to bring us back into the family of God to live in Love - Joy - and Peace.
Don’t forget, we are in an Army, the Salvation Army and as such called to fight against sin and injustice to bring God’s peace and love to the world. William Booth had the vision to enlist men and women, boys and girls to become soldiers in God’s Army to fight against, sin, greed, selfishness, injustice and intolerance with the weapon of Love.
In remembering those who bravely fought in the world wars we pay tribute to all the faithful soldiers of this Corps, down through the ages who have fought and given their lives serving Him and have gone onto receive their reward in Heaven.
Soldiers who were prepared to put their own lives, dreams and ambitions aside to love others into the Kingdom. People we thank God for and people who’s lives have impacted ours. Soldiers who have gone on to their eternal reward but who faithfulness still influences us today. Gods Soldiers who have been promoted to Glory - My Mum, Mrs Walton, My wife Beryl, my son Kevin whose birthday it is today, Bertha, David Barratt, Mrs Metcalfe, Nellie Oates and this year, Julia Barrans.
They are now with the Lord they loved and served and Just like we owe it those brave soldiers who fought to gain our peace in the world wars - so too we owe it to these brave soldiers of Christ who have fought the spiritual fight against evil to herald a Kingdom of peace and harmony, God’s Kingdom into our world.
Every year they lay wreaths at the tomb of the unknown soldiers - thank God that in God’s Army there are no unknown soldiers - He knows them all.
In the war years there was a sign that went up all over the country calling men and women to enlist in the Army - could it be that today, God is calling you to lay self aside, and by enlisting in His army take up you cross and follow Him.
We closed with the Gaither song sung by Ernie Haase and Signature Sound ‘There are no unknown soldiers’
Sunday 5 November 2017 Psalm 42 'A passionate heart for God'
Last week was Bible Sunday and we looked at how the Word became flesh in Christ Jesus who lived the word and showed by His life and actions what God was really like and what God expected from those who profess to love Him.
We looked at how God wants His people to be passionate about their calling and how He wanted His people to be conversant with His word so that we too could put it into practice and become living pictures to the world of what God was really like - how He loved His creation and wanted them back to live lives under His direction.
We read how important it was for us to know the word of God and that we could only do that by reading it - we talked about the neglect there is in many homes for the word of God to be a daily part of peoples lives - that so many have time for everything else but Gods word - as the song says time for business time for pleasure, but for Christ the crucified, not a place than He can enter in the heart for whom He died.
Over the last few weeks we have looked at how I believe, God wants His people to get back to Him - to seek Him in prayer and Bible study. We read how Gods word says that we should 'Hunger after the word, Feast on it, Digest it, Enjoy it, Savour it, How in Psalm 119 we are encouraged to
'Delight in it!' v1 'Obey it!' 1-8 'Walk in it!'' v 105. In James 1; 22; we read; Do not just listen to the word Do what it says. Paul to the church at Ephesus (Ephesus 6; 17-20) says 'Declare it'
Today we are going to read another of the Psalms - this one talks about thirsting after God Psalm 42 As the deer pants for the water so my soul thirsts after You O God. My soul thirsts for God for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
When we look at the Psalms we are privileged to share the deep intimate, personal longings of the heart of a people who are seeking God for comfort, Strength, help.
Many of the Psalms were written by the shepherd boy - King - David - a man who had a passionate heart for God. As you read Davids Psalms you get a sense of the deep passion he has for God as he bares his soul.
As we know, David was a loving person - a deeply passionate man who’s feelings often got the better of him and led him into serious trouble. David wasn’t afraid of letting his affections be known. There is no secret about David’s love for his closest friend Jonathan, ‘Agape love’ in the truest sense of the word - a love that was greater as he says ‘than the love of a woman’. It comes as no surprise then to hear David write about his love for God in such a passionate way. A truly perfect love.
In Psalm 27;4 we see how passionate David is to be in the presence of God when he says ‘ One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple’.
David hungered after the things of God that could not be expressed with anymore enthusiasm than picturing a thirsty deer who after living in the deserts intense heat needed to drink for the refreshing life giving streams - that why he cries out my soul thirsts for You, the living God. When can I go and meet with Thee?
Psalm 63;1` O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You, my soul thirsts for You - my body longs for You in a dry and weary land where there is no water’.
With the same intensity that he praised God, with all my inmost being, every part of me - he cried. David yearned for God. Psalm 138;1 ‘I will praise You O Lord with all of my heart, I will bow down and praise Your name, for Your love and Your faithfulness.
David puts mankinds’ thirsting after God’ - our ‘expressions of love’ for God in the shade as he sought passionately after the realisation of being in Gods presence and in a sense, God is being starved of our affection.
In the same way that we need to hunger after the Word, in order that we build up a good relationship with our Father, we need to spend quality time with Him. That’s not our ‘spare time’ but our ‘Prime time’ so often time with God is crammed in at the end of a busy day when we are really too tired to give Him the best attention. Imagine how we would feel if that’s all the time our friends could offer us!
There is a growing danger that today, in church, people are busying themselves in lots of activities that are merely social and neglect the Spiritual. I believe that today churches need to strike the right balance and get back to realising Gods presence and seeking His will for their lives and the life of the Church.
We have a perfect example of that in the New Testaments when Jesus went to the home of His friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Here we have a lesson about getting the right balance between our ‘works’ for God and making sure we have time to ‘enjoy His presence’ in perspective.
Martha was busy ‘doing’ for the Lord, making sure the house was in order, the meal ready that she was jealous of the fact that Mary seemed to be spending just sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to what He had to say. When she complained to Jesus, Jesus gently told her that ’Mary has chosen what is better’ which was to spend time with Jesus rather than busy herself ’doing things’.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the things we ’do for God’ are not important what I am saying is that we need to make sure we give time to know Him through reading His word and talking to Him in prayer.
We need to develop a passion for Jesus. To spend time getting to know Him. We can do this as we said last week, by disciplining ourselves to spend time reading His word.
Joshua was encouraged by God to meditate on His word both day and night ( Joshua1;8) Sadly , in todays busy world, many Christians only take time to look at His word on Sunday. Ask them to live on one good meal a week to help them grow instead of every day and they would laugh in your face.
So many people make the excuse that they are so busy they have little time left to settle dawn to read the bible or commune with Him in prayer, yet don’t have much trouble finding time to watch their favourite TV show. They might have had to tape it because they were busy when it was on TV, but they still find time to watch it later.
The bible often gets the same treatment as those old love letters that we sent when we were courting - often bundled up, tied with a ribbon with the intention of reading them at a later stage in our lives - often left lying at the bottom of a drawer . But when you take time to read them, all the memories and the passion of our love come flooding back. In them we sought to find out as much as we could about one another, there was a yearning, a searching after the inner most thoughts of our loved one as we sought to know them better.
I still have the lovely precious letters that Beryl and I sent to each other when just a few weeks into our courtship, Beryl went on holiday to the Isle of Man with her mum and dad. We wrote to one another everyday - my letters were in a pink envelope and hers to me were in blue envelopes - that’s where our love started and even though we were separated again when God took her to Heaven, she is still alive in my heart.
That’s how much God loves us all and His word is a love letter from Him to you and me that enable us to get closer to Him, all we have to do is take time to read what He has written there, to meditate on it day and night so that it becomes an integral part of our lives and influences the way in which we live our lives.
Prayer is an awesome privilage that God has made available for us to not just talk to Him but as we exercise it, get to know Him and recognise His voice when He speaks to us.
Mary sought to enjoy the time she had with her Master - she knew how precious time was - that time is short and so she listenned to His every word - like her we need to give Him first place in our lives.
David yearned for more time with the Lord and it showed in the Psalms he wrote.
The most powerful people on earth are those who spend time with Jesus. Being with Jesus always produces a passion for Him. Moses, David, Daniel and Paul were just a few of the people we read about in Gods word who were consumed with a passion for God.
This highlighted in Acts 4;13 when Peter and John were arrested by the priests, the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees and were both put in jail. All they had done was heal the lame man outside the Temple gates and told everyone that it was in the name of Jesus Christ who they had crucified but who God raised from the dead that the lame man was healed and then told them that Salvation is found in no one else. We are told that When they saw the courage of Peter and John they took note they had been with Jesus Acts 4;13
Spending time with Jesus will have a great effect on our lives - reading His word and communing with Him - what a privilage.
Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5;17 Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is Gods will for you in Christ Jesus.
Sunday 29 October 2017 John 1:1 'Jesus the Living Word'
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 men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
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.
Today is Bible Sunday - the day we thank God for His written word and the privilage that we have today of being able to read and understand the history of Gods people, His love for them and His requirements of them. It’s all there in the books of the Old and New testaments - we are such a privileged people .
When I was a young lad, I used to love to read. . Books that captured my imagination and transported me to far off lands, full of characters that did things that I would love to do but probably would never dare. I loved Enid Blytons books that were known as the ‘Fives’ - ‘Five go off the Kerrin Island’ and then the ‘Sevens’. I still love books but these days it’s the factual books rather than the fiction that I collect.
Today the young ones like Roald Dahls ‘Charlie and the chocolate Factory’ or the Harry Potter books Today, to lots of teenagers and older folk, books take second place to DVD’s and You tube - for we live in an age of ‘show me’ - and that’s exactly what God did - 2000 years ago God saw that man was either not attentive to His word - they would hear the priests reading from the prophets of the OT and in many cases misinterpreting what they were reading and miss understanding God and His requirements of them. They were getting bogged down in ritual and ceremonies so that God had to do something to bring them back into line.
That’s what He did in sending Jesus ‘ the word became flesh’ and in Christ Jesus God showed us what He was really like - He also opened peoples eyes and showed them what kind of people He wanted them to be .
In the musical 'My Fair Lady' based on 'Pygmalion' by George Bernard Shaw, Eliza Doolittle is being taught to speak ‘proper English’. it’s getting a bit much and in desperation she shouts to Professor Higgins 'Words ! Words! I'm sick of blooming words, Show Me!'
On my first day at work (58 years ago), I asked one of the craftsmen how to do something and he wisely said ' I'll show thee lad'. When I wanted to know how a part of the machine worked, he said 'I'll draw you a picture, for a picture speaks more than a thousand words'. I guess that that could have been in Gods mind when He sent Jesus.
What John is emphasising is the fact that he and others were eyewitnesses to the truth that Jesus was ‘the Word made flesh’ - that Jesus came to put flesh on the word and show people what God was really like and what He wanted from His creation. Jesus was that picture that speaks a thousand words - the Word made alive - because He not only taught it but He lived it too.
In him was life, and that life was the light of men 'I have come that you might have life' said Jesus, and in His 'living', Jesus brought the truth of the word to light. Jesus brought light into the darkness of mans soul, so that the light of the world, Jesus, becomes the light within men and women that enables us to be the light of the world.
The sad truth is that the only time some people, who go to church, read a bible is at church - not studying it at home means that they don’t really get to know the truth and be able to stand up against the falsehoods that are being banded around in these last days. Consequently when the JW’s come to their door, they cant’ see the faults in the misguided quotes that they preach from their New World translation.
Look at the JW bible and you’ll find that to try to convince the reader that Jesus was not God incarnate, they have added just one word to John 1 that changes the whole meaning of the sentence. Where our Bible says ‘the Word was God’ their‘s says ‘the word was a god with a little g. Not the Trinitarian God that we know but some kind of minor god.
If only more Church going Christians new what their own bible says they would be able to counter the lies and expose the twisting of the truth. We need to hunger after the word, to feed daily from it and squeeze every ounce of goodness out of it We need to act upon it, to do what is says, not to do what it tells us not to, to be obedient to the word.
Today, for many, the bible has been relegated to the position of a text book, a history book, and not the inspired Word of God that it is. Jesus is the 'revealed' word of God
Just as the word became flesh in Jesus so too the word ( Jesus) needs to become flesh in us.
The next door neighbour, the people we work with, need to see the gospel lived out in our lives as it was in Jesus. . For Christ to become flesh in us we have to allow Him to take up residence in our hearts. We know Him through His word. For the word to become flesh we have to read it.
We need to hunger and feast on His word, not be content with a quick snack, but sit down, eat the food slowly, digest it, relish it, let the food settle, rest after the meal and allow the nourishment to get into the system, let it replenish us, build us up until we become the mature Christians that God intends us to be.
Look at what God said to Ezekiel 2; 3 to 3;1-3 He said to me, "Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says.' And whether they listen or fail to listen - for they are a rebellious house - they will know that a prophet has been among them.
And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you."
Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe. And he said to me, "Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. Then he said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it." So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
We use a similar expression today to rebuff the foolish, selfish or hurtful things that people say to us when we say ‘you will eat your words’. Here God is telling Ezekiel to eat, digest the words of God so that he can become the living word and speak with the authority of God to a rebellious people.
We are called to ‘ Hunger after the word - read it and let your mind consume it until you are full to overflowing -
Then as we read in Jeremiah 15; 16 'Savour the word' When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty'.
Then after reading, digesting and savouring the word, we are told to be obedient to it.
Live it, delight in it , walk in it and declare it
Psalm 119; 1-8 'Obey it!' You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.
Psalm 119; 9 'Live it! How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
Psalm 119; 1 'Delight in it!' I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
Psalm 119; 105 'Walk in it!'' Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
Ephesians 6; 17-20 'Declare it' Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
The word encourages us to 'Hunger after it, Feast on it, Digest it, Enjoy it, Savour it, Obey it, Live it, Cherish it, Walk in it and Make it known to those that we live with.
Just as the Word became flesh in Christ, so too Christ, the word, needs to become flesh in us. To let the living Word, Jesus, live in us and become flesh in us. Only then, will the world see the truth of the word. Only when we go to the word will we be able to live it
Words, Word's I'm sick of blooming words, show me! God did just that, in Jesus.
I pray that we will allow Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit to do just that in us!
At Roots one year we saw and heard the testimony of Jackie Pullinger who said that she wasn’t interested in Christianity until she went to the Royal College of Music in Manchester. There she met a group of girls who asked her to go to the students Bible fellowship. She thought that they might be a little like the Christians she knew at home - boring and who did’nt live up to her expectations. She was wrong - there she met a group who obviously loved their faith and who’s lives reflected what they believed. She became a Christian at 23.
She took the challenge of the Gospel and bought a ticket around the world and asked God to tall her where to get off. Which He did, ‘The walled city of Kowloon‘. A most horrible place where 40000 people crammed into what can only be described as a filthy degrading rat infested community. They only had four standpipes for water between the 40 000. The flats were built on top of one another with dark rat infested alleyways separating them. The place was one big drug fuelled brothel where the dregs of humanity lived, many inn total darkness - lost to the world.
She couldn’t speak a word of their language - didn’t understand their cultural ways - yet in obedience to God she got off and went to live amongst them. She tried to tell them about Jesus and how much He loved them. She tried desperately but then realised ‘How can you tell someone that Jesus loves them if they don’t know who Jesus is and they don’t know what it is to be loved .
Jackie said ‘I had to BE Jesus’. The word had to become flesh in her OK. We might not be called to far off lands - but be sure of this, God can use us just where we are.
I believe that just as The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, as Christians - born of God and indwelt by Him so too the word -Jesus Himself - can become flesh in us WOW.
That’s what Jackie Pullinger said ‘She had to BE Jesus to the drug addicts she ministered to. That’s what happened to our angel when she became the arm of love and mouthpiece of our Lord to her friend.
One final word of advice from the good book; James chapter 1
22; Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
WOW! It couldn’t be plainer than that could it?
25 The man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - will be blessed in what he does
We are privileged to have the bible - the written word of God - we have so many different bibles - translated into language that we all can understand - we have no excuse.
The awesome truth is that in the early days, men died in their attempt to make the word accesable to us all. The devil doesn’t want us to know the truth - he is happy when we neglect to look at Gods word - lets determine that we will
'Hunger after the word,
Feast on it,
Let the word will become flesh in us - to His praise and Glory as we Walk in it and Make it known to those that we live with
Song When we walk with the Lord
in the light of His word
What a Glory He sheds on our way
While we do His good will
He abides with us still
And with all who will trust and obey
Trust and Obey
for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
Than to Trust and Obey
Sunday morning 22 October 2017
Ecclesiastes 3 (NIV)
Ecclesiastes - not an easy book to read or understand. The writer paints a picture of what life would be like without God as he looks at life more from a human perspective than a Spiritual one - particularly in the opening chapters.
Even the headings ; CH 1 Everything is meaningless, Wisdom is meaningless, CH2 Pleasure is meaningless, Toil or work is meaningless CH 5 Riches are meaningless The writer views life from a
very depressing standpoint.
As I read it I see it as a warning to all people to stop what they are doing and look at their own lives, their motives, their ambitions, their objectives, their goal - for as the writer points out that if you live your life without honouring God and living in obedience to His will then everything will be meaningless - pointless, hopeless. Sadly many in the world today spend their lives selfishly seeking wealth, pleasure with little or no regard as to how they get it.
Thankfully as we look further at the end of this book we are brought to look at the positives in life that bring real meaning to life, Pleasure the fruit of living in obedience to the wisdom of God. CH 12 Remember you creator in the days of your youth - before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say ‘I find no pleasure in them’ What the writer concludes is that mans ideas of life that seek pleasure and well being from selfish ambitions are the wrong approach. Put God first in your life - even from your youth so that when the difficult times of life come - your will know the presence and strength that God will give you to live life to the full.
V13 gives the right conclusion to the whole matter of life, ambition, purpose and goals. Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man for God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing wether it is good or evil.
When I knelt at my bedside and asked God what He wanted me to share this week and Ecc 3 came into my mind I thought ‘what? - a time for everything? Here I was in what to me has been one of the busyiest weeks in all the last 24 years as being the CO. It started two weeks ago when I was told that someone from the Coop undertakers were wanting to speak to me regarding the funeral of Joan Chapman .
As well as having to prepare for our own meetings, the friendship Club - which after planning them for the last 20 years gets harder and takes days, the Bible Fellowship, the Sunday meeting which takes some preparation - here I was faced with having to arrange a funeral for Joan who was with us for three years but then left us and became a soldier at Wibsey in 2011.
‘There is a time for everything’ our Bible reading says and here I was finding I was running out of time
I spent time visiting her son David who showed me a written list of the songs and music Joan requested we have at her PTG. I hadn’t heard of one of them, didn’t have the music for three others and had to start a search to get them. She had stipulated a piece she wanted to the band to play and the songsters to sing - a time to search and a time to give up we read. I couldn’t give up- I sought them on the internet and eventually found them and recorded them to add to a PowerPoint.
Busying myself in the funeral preparations I still had our own meetings to do as well as prepares two meetings that I had been asked to do a year ago - last week I had no time for anything. I still needed to spend time caring for the daily needs of my Sisters-in-law.
This week I was speaking at Sunbridge on Monday and speaking and singing at Westcliffe Chapel Shipley on Tuesday, the Friendship Club on Wednesday and the Funeral on Friday. On Thursday I went came to the hall to set up the PowerPoint presentation for the Funeral only to find that the new music I had found on the internet and which worked fine on my own computer wouldn’t work her on this Computer. I needed to change the format - so I went home and did that - bringing it back to find that it would only work on the equipment we have in the Community centre so I had to transfer all the equipment into here - where ’Praise God’ it worked. I then took Thelma and Christine to lunch before taking the music for the crem to Nab Wood. I then found out that I had no one to work the PowerPoint on Friday - I rang my grandson Joshua who thankfully said he would .
I went home, finalised all what I was going to say at the funeral and at Nab Wood and had an early night - I always waken at 7am so I had no fear that I wouldn’t wake in time. I had set the alarm for 7.15 and after an early start picked Yvonne up at 9.40 and came to the Army. Thankfully, everything went to plan even though the Undertakers arrived before the Hymn Sheets. The driver who had them didn’t turn up until a quarter way through the funeral thankfully I had put all the hymns on PowerPoint and so we didn’t have to wait.
The funeral over at 11.30 I breathed a deep sigh of thanks to God and went home to rest leaving the preparation for today until Saturday .
As I said earlier, everyday in my daily prayers I ask God to show me what He wants me to share with His people Sunday and He does just that - telling me what Bible reading to look at. This week it was Ecclesiastes 3.
There is a time for everything - the writer said - but what a hectic time.
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace
As I read these verses I thought ‘How does this follow on from the last two weeks when God told me to share Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones, with the question ‘Can these bones live’
The answer was a resounding ‘Yes! and we looked at how living in obedience to Gods word would bring new birth, renew, restoration - renewal - as God breathed new life into His seeking Church and then last week God confirming through the word of Joel that He would breath new life, by the Spirit into His eager determined Church and that it would rise up a mighty Army with God leading us. WOW!
As I started to read and prepare this message I could see how God was again pointing His church - the churches all around us - you and me - to the importance of spending our time carefully - not wasting it on selfish ambition or putting things before God like TV, activities that we do for pleasure and to look at how we spend our time. Time to look at our lives and what our ambitions are our objectives, our purpose in life and if needs be to get right with Him and get back to what He called His people to be - obedient to His word and prayerfully seeking His direction.
To look at the activities at Church and to move on from what many churches have got bogged down with - maintenance - maintaining their weekly programmes at the expense of what they were really called to do and that is to be involved I mission - the spreading of Gods word - of letting Jesus become flesh in them to show the world what God is really like.
Time is precious - something that for most things we have no control over like; a time to be born - the decision of our parents a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, The harvest seasons set by God. As I read them I started to see them from a Spiritual perspective - lets do that;
a time to be born a time to die, Time for New Birth made possible by our Father -
Time to die to the sin of the old self
a time to plant and a time to uproot
Time to plant the good seed of Gods word in our hearts -
Time to uproot from the evil ways of life
a time to kill and a time to heal
To put sin to death and allow our broken lives time to heal
a time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to tear down our selfish ambitions and
build our lives under His direction.
a time to weep and a time to laugh
A time to weep tears of repentance and a
time to laugh with Joy at the forgiveness God gives
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
To realise what we’ve been missing and
be joyful and thankful for our new lives in Him
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to put our old relationships aside and make new friends
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
To embrace the new and stop embracing the old way of life
a time to search and a time to give up,
Time to search the scriptures and to
stop searching for fulfilment in worldly ways
a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to Keep to Gods way and throw away our selfish ambitions
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
Time to listen and be more understanding
more positive in our conversations with others. a time to love and a time to hate
To love the sinner whilst hating the sin
a time for war and a time for peace
To war against injustice and sin
to bring Peace and reconciliation to others
Make time to be the person God has made it possible for you to be - that New creation the brings glory to God and purpose and satisfaction to you.
Lets close with the positive words that we find in 1 Peter 1;3 and if we acknowledge all that I believe God is trying to tell us in these last days - embrace His purpose and plan for your life and the life of this Corps and rejoice in Him - the one who made time to come in Christ Jesus and show you a better way.
1 Peter 1; 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Who in his great mercy has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
God in His great mercy and love for you and I have made all this a glorious reality for those who love Him and desire to live in obedience to His will. It’s up to us. Lets determine to make time for the things of God and enjoy the benefits that He has provided for those who live in obedience to His will.
We closed with the hymn ‘Take time to be Holy’ and Take my life and let it be
Sunday 15 October 2017 Jesus said 'By their fruits Ye shall know them'
Matthew 7; 16:By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.
When I was a lad, to come into the hall at harvest time was an awesome occasion - before you would be a table spread with all kinds of fruit and vegetables. Apples, Pears, Plums, Oranges, Pineapples, bananas, Kiwi fruits, Coconuts, all resplendent in their various colours and shapes. Large and small baskets of fruit and all around the table would be sheaves of corn.
Today we bring tins - Why? Because the fruit wouldn’t last - they spray so much on them to enable them to grow them in vast numbers - then we bring them home to our lovely warm central heated houses that after a day or two - they go brown
Even the bread you buy these days goes blue in no time.
The best place to see a vast array of fruit is as you walk into Morrisons - there they are - just waiting to be picked up and bagged. Lots of different fruits, So many that you’re spoiled for choice. Apples of every variety, Cox’s, Royal Gala, Granny Smiths God said didn’t He that while the earth remained the seedtime and harvest would continue.
I guess that if we looked at the numerous trees and bushes that all these different fruits came from, we might be hard pushed to tell the name. ' I wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference between an Apple tree and a pear tree - it’s the fruits they bear that give them away - you will know them by the fruit they bear.
Jesus said - By their fruits you shall know them' said, this time talking about those who profess to know Him but in reality are false prophets and teachers. verse 21 brings it even more down to everyone who does not live in obedience to Him when He says; ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! ”You’ll know who are genuine in the way they live. Which is often revealed by the fruit they bear
The world today is so used to 'cover up jobs' or veneers, that it even expects things not to be the genuine article. Not so in the Kingdom of God, God gave his all and expects nothing less in return. It’s the Christians responsibility to show true, genuine Christianity to a veneer world. Even the advertising world have cottoned on to the importance of worth, value, honesty and integrity - As evidenced in slogans like 'If it doesn't say Kellogg's on the outside, then it's not Kellogg's on the inside'
It's so easy to look the part, even in these days, to appear 'clean, upright, righteous a good Christian, even holy, whilst inside, not being all that we appear to be. You have heard me say many times, that we live in a 'veneer world' where all is not what it appears to be. Furniture that has a thin veneer of the real thing covering cheap chipboard. The reason being of course that the real thing costs too much.
'Veneer Christianity' is a phrase I coined a few years ago and I guess that for the Salvationist, it's easier than for most other Christians, because the uniform shouts out to others what we profess to be. The truth is that you can so often look the part but when the testing time comes - thats when the truth is brought out into the open.
It is so easy to fool the world, and eventually fool ourselves into believing that we are what we profess to be, but we can't fool God, He sees right through the veneer. He sees right to the heart of the matter.
Matthew 7; 16:By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. .
We all know the story of how on one occasion when Jesus was hungry, He saw in the distance what appeared to be a fig tree, a source of food. It looked good - it had all the promise of being a source of food for Him. The trouble was that as He got closer to the tree, He saw that the fig tree was barren, no fruit. Jesus was rightly disappointed, the fig tree gave all the right signals, but when the testing time came, it was exposed as a fraud. There is no room for pretence in the Kingdom of God. That’s why Jesus went on to say Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them
The world needs to see Christ in you and me. How? By the way in which we live our lives. The fruit we bear. If we are truly rooted in Christ - it will show just like the fruit of an apple tree is evidenced in the apple. People we spend our lives with need to see the beauty of Jesus - the fruitfulness that comes from the living Christ within.
In Timothy we read that one of the saddest indictments of the Church in the latter days is that many so called professing Christians would have 'a form of godliness, whilst denying the power'. They look the part but fail to live up to it. God wants His people to be genuine through and through. I would guess that He is sick and tired of pretence.
In His day, Jesus encountered many pretenders
Pharisees who looked every bit the part in their fine regalia, yet were nothing more than hypocrites.
Teachers who held back the truth in favour of popularity among the people.
False shepherds who neither fed nor led their sheep into green pastures.
If the church had remained true to the truth that Jesus taught and lived by His example - then people wouldn’t have the cock-eyed view they have of the church today. To BE like Jesus this should be our aim., To BE church - to Be what we profess to be.
On Wednesday night in our Bible Fellowship we have been looking at how the church today has in many ways, failed to live up to the demands of Jesus and how many Christians have failed to live the life that Jesus taught and therefore have failed to bear good fruit. A couple of weeks ago we looked at the vision God gave to Ezekiel of the dry bones that lay helpless in the valley and the question asked was ‘Can these bones live?‘ when He asked - I likened it to the lifeless church of today - God said amighty yes they can. Last week I believe that God gave me another word, this time God's Restoration Promise from Joel 2; v11 'The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command.'
A vision of what the church today - this church - could be if Gods people turned to Him in obedience to His word - especially to the promises many of us made when we became soldiers to pray and read our Bibles the key to transformation and new life.
Do that and people will be able to see the beauty of Jesus in our lives.
No wonder Jesus said, By their fruit you will recognise them. Matthew 7; 16:
Just as a tree can be easily identified by the fruit it bears, so too should the Christian Church be able to be recognised by the fruit it bears.
John the Baptist got it right, when preaching in the wilderness he urged the people to 'Repent,' and 'bear fruit in keeping with repentance' (Matthew 3;8).
As Christians we are called to come to Him, repent, be joined to the vine and bear fruits that shows that we have been forgiven by God and desire to live lives that honour Him. To BE like Jesus. To let the word, Jesus become flesh in us.
On Tuesday night at our Bible Fellowship we looked at Ephesians 3; 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.
Rooted and established, in order that we might bear fruit that is worthy of Him.
Jesus said "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15;5
God provides His word, the seed, and as the seed of His word takes root in our hearts, the power of that word should bear fruit in the lives of ordinary people like you and me. In order for the fruit of His word to flow out of us and spread throughout the world, God gives The Holy Spirit who lives within us, so that Gods word, bears fruit.
What then is the fruit of the Spirit? Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, Joy ,peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Galatians 5; 22
Notice, what he says, 'The fruit, is' not fruits, there is no 'pick any two of nine' here.
If the Spirit of God lives within you, then you grow into that kind of person. As the word of God takes root in our hearts, then the world will know that you are Christians by your love, by the way in which you reflect the Joy of knowing that God is with you and is able to bring His peace into your life, even when times are difficult.
As born again Christians we re called to show patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentle in our dealings with others and full of self control.
We are told that a bad tree can’t bear good fruit. If we are impatient with our friends, unkind, unfaithful, harsh and let our impatience get out of hand, then we can’t be as good as we think or hope we are. The awful truth is that when we do that, then we come under the wrath of God. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. The truth is - A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
Jesus said; This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. Stay rooted in Christ and let His love shine through you and people will see the beauty of Jesus in you and by fruit you bear they will recognise that Christ lives in you.
What happens when we live God's way?
In Galatians 5;22 we are told and the Message makes it quite clear. He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, Gal 5:22 Message
In a moment we are going to sing about the faithfulness of God to us. We are going to bring our gifts to the altar - why not also use this occasion to let God know that the desire of your heart is to be rooted in Him so that you can bear good fruit that others will be able to see and desire for themselves.
Your desire is to know God with such certainty that we will feel His presence in your live and that His love will flow through you out into your family and your friends that you may grow in Him and be able to inspire others to want to know Him too.
That’s the promise that Ezekiel and Joel point to that will put new life in Gods people, Gods church and the world in which we live.
Sunday 8 October 2017
God's Restoration Promise Joel 2; v11 'The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command.' WOW What a glorious thought
Last week we looked at the vision of Ezekiel and the dry bones and likened it to the church today - Gods people who in many churches are either being led astray by false teachers or have lost the plot, or maybe loosing heart through an aging congregation and a lack of new life.
Can these bones live’ he asked and was told that ‘Yes - if Gods people return to Him He will restore them to new life - new birth - and fill them with the breath of life - the Holy Spirit that will enable them to rise a mighty army’
As I read this verse from Joel, I see the next stage following the restoration of Gods people - 'The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command.'
The last time I spoke from this verse was nearly 20 years ago in May 1998. We had just come back from an inspiring time at Roots Southport and were on a high.
I said then that ‘I was stirred by the vision that is still in my mind of seeing the sea of Salvationists young and old who stood with hands outstretched singing their allegiance not to an Army, but to the leader of that Army - Almighty God. This was no ordinary 'conference', this was a meeting of the 'War Cabinet' that had passion in it's heart to see the ideals of the Christian faith to which they belonged realised in this present age.
I could well see the vision that William Booth had experienced little more than a century ago when he wrote his book, 'In Darkest England and the way out' of an Army of God that would move in on the devils Kingdom and win souls for God. 'The Lord indeed Thunders at the head of his army'
Last Week was our 133rd Anniversary of the Salvation Army starting up in Idle through the efforts of two young women who in the short time they were here saw many people give their lives to God and took their place in the Idle Salvation Army. Within 6 short years the Corps had gained so many members that they needed to move out of the Old Green Mill and build a new hall here in Walter Street. WOW!
The Lord was certainly at the head of His army in those days. His new army of hungry people grew and gained new members and mighty were those who obeyed His command’ This Corps at Idle was caught up in the new furvore that was spreading around the country since William and Catherine Booth started the Salvation Army 21 years earlier.
The Salvation Army was founded in 1865, in the East End of London and originally called the Christian Mission, but changed its name to the Salvation Army in 1878. The first year of the 'Christian Mission' saw them spread like wildfire as people began to capture Booths vision of an Army of Christians who would fight the evils of this world and establish Gods order, the Kingdom of God. Twelve years after that first meeting in the dancing hall, there were twenty-nine missions with 600 speakers and a congregation of over 12 000.
The Army were there, not to point them to a God who lived in the splendour of heaven, the church of Booths day were already doing that, but to a God who chose to come to earth and be a part of the world. A God who because He loved and was concerned about the injustice, the intolerance the oppression, the utter helplessness of the people He created, chose to leave the splendour of Glory and came down to where we are in order to lift us up to where He is.
Jesus's first sermon reiterated those prophetic words of Isaiah 61; 'The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD'S favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
I said last week that what the church today needs is to get back into line with God -
In Repentance, restoration and revival. I called it the three ‘R’s’ of the church.
‘Can these bones live?’ was the cry- the answer was- of course, when Gods people get back to God - then He will give rebirth, and empower His people by filling them with the Holy Spirit - the very breath of God.
As we read in Joel 'The LORD thunders at the head of His army; His forces are beyond number' In Booths days there was a need for Gods Army to fight against the sin of the world and turn the hearts of the people in the world to God - and I believe there still is.
I believe that today there is a great need for the people who profess to be Christian to take a good and honest look at their lives and see how it measures up to the demands of God. Last week we looked at the promises many of us made when we became soldiers in the SA - to pray and to read our bibles. It was easy to be obedient to the things that we were told shouldn’t do - drinking, smoking, etc but the two things we were asked to promise were the ones that we found the hardest -If we even tried.
Joel 2; Is a call to true heartfelt repentance, after all, it may not be too late !
v12 'Even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your hearts, with fasting and weeping and mourning. 13; Rend your hearts and not your garments. The outward show of repentance in Joels day was to tear your clothes in despair. What God is saying is, rend not your garments, what I want is a genuine heart motivated repentance, not an outward pretence at repentance. I can see your real intentions, Today He’d be saying I can see what you’re really like beneath the uniform!
Joel's response and heart-felt cry is there in verse 13 'Return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love,
There is a great need in the world today of a strong and mighty Army - and for the Church of God today to get back to knowing God, living our lives under His direction in obedience to the word and so letting the world see that following Gods way is best and taking the good news of His love to the nation - to seek to know God in order to make Him known to others. To BE Church which is the living active body of Christ in the world today.
Verse 18 'Then the Lord will take pity on His people, He will reply to their cries of repentance ' I am sending you grain ( the bread of life), new wine ( the holy Spirit who brings power) and oil ( the oil of gladness that brings the joy of knowing that you’ve been redeemed). All this in abundance, enough to satisfy you fully!
Grain - the Bread of Life that is Jesus, Following the feeding of the five thousand Jesus told His disciples ‘ John 6; 35 I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; New Wine? and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
New wine - The Holy Spirit. In order that the Christian can be equipped to serve God and the age in which he or she lives, God pours His 'Holy Spirit' into us, to empower, to give courage, to enable His people to live victorious lives to His honour and Glory.
I believe that the oil referred to here is the oil of gladness, that came from deep within. Because of the peoples disobedience, the church had lost it's joy. Tired through failure brought upon mainly by self effort, their lives were joyless. true joy had gone.
It’s here in Joel that we get the promise for a future Pentecost v 28 I will pour out My Spirit on all people, your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men dreams and your young men see visions - even on my servants, both men and women I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth - blood and fire and billows of smoke - and v 32 And everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved’. WOW! Even the SA gets a mention ( Blood and Fire)
And further good news is that He will restore that which was lost v25 "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten - You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.'
We could read that as God speaking directly to us here at Idle ; I will restore the lost years and you will praise the name of the Lord your God who has worked wonders for you - then you will know that I am the Lord your God. Wow! thats what God said about the valley of dry bones - then you will know that I am God
There is a need today for men and women to have a passionate heart for God, and for the Army to wage that self same war against the forces of darkness as William Booth did all those years ago.
We need to be firmly rooted in the soil of God's marvellous love, as we grow enriched and nourished by Him to reach up to the Son, and blossom and branch out into the world where He's placed us. To produce fruits that bring Him great Glory. To recapture the vision of the first church, where the love of God and their fellow men and women, produced a caring community of like-minded people who were prepared to capture the vision and make every effort to make that vision a reality.
If you want the Lord to Thunder at the head of His Army, this Corps, if you want the power and might of God to be evidences in this Corps, then the word says, we need to acknowledge Him and live in be obedience to his word. God wants obedient people!
No wonder Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the gift of the Holy Spirit had been given. These were a once frightened, disillusioned people, who having been enthused by the appearances of the Risen Living Lord, were now a responsive, hungry, thirsty, eager people, bursting to tell the whole world about Jesus. These were like an explosive waiting for someone to light the fuse.
This was the time for the prophesy in Joel’s day to be realised and put into action to empower the new Christians to become like Jesus and start a revival that would sweep the nation and the world. That was Pentecost and it happened
Wow! that Awesome! To know that even though His people - His church then and today -had and still do, let Him down, God still wants to lift them up and make them into the kind of people He intended them to be in the first place. That's a loving, forgiving, merciful and compassionate Father who cares for you and me and the fellowships of believers that have come together over the years since Jesus lived amongst us.
The church today may be letting God down by giving in to the demands of a wayward world in relaxing it’s message thinking it will make it more acceptable by the world. Many of the different denominations and leaders are changing the long held beliefs of the church and allowing sin to enter the church.
There is even an article on face book this week from an officer who disagrees with an article in this weeks Salvationist that says John Coutts is changing the very doctrines of the Salvation Army - I havn’t read that article yet as we don’t get our copy until the Sunday but if it’s true then we need to react to it and make sure that it doesn’t happen.
We need to stand for Christ and by living in obedience to Gods word, make sure that we and this Corps regain the lost time, recapture the Spirit and seek to share the good news with others and in so doing regain the strong and mighty Army that God was building here. To rejoice when let 'The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command.'
Next year it will be the 125th Anniversary of this hall here in Walter Street - My desire is that over the next 11 months we will together, seek the blessing of God and the power of the Spirit to resurrect this corps to be what I believe God intends it to be - a vast and mighty Army So Ezekiel prophesied as God commanded, breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.
That’s what I believe God wants here at Idle - for you and I to get real with Him, buckle down to prayer and the reading of His word to enable us to move forward and win souls for Him - to move from Maintainance to Mission.
Sunday morning 1 October 2017 Our 133rd Corps Anniversary
Read Ezekiel 37
Wednesday this week ( September 27) was our 133rd Corps Anniversary as in 1884 two young lasses, Captain Annie Fleet and Lieut Jenny Street came and started the Salvation Army here at Idle. They commenced their work at starting the SA and were allowed to use the Old Green Mill owned by the Sharp and Vint family but following a fire the mill became vacant in 1876.
Wright Watson in his book Idlethorpe tells us this; 'I shall never forget a torchlight procession which the early Salvationists organised to precede one of their early meetings in the Old Green Mill. Crowds of people were drawn into the streets to see the much talked of procession, and the young and thoughtless element looked on the affair as a bit of a joke, while the older folk, were, generally speaking, either amused or cynical. Very few were really sympathetic.
The procession however was quite a striking display, for already, many converts had been won through the untiring zeal of the first two officers, Captain Annie Fleet and lieut. Jennie Street.
The procession, which was a long one, started from the mill and returned to it after parading the main streets. I stood at the top of New Street to watch it pass round the corner and on to the green. Every few yards on either side of the double line, walked a torch bearer, and at the head of the procession, rode on horse back, a leading coal merchant and the leading butcher of Idle, two of the new converts. Near the end of the procession was a wagon load of women, too old or too weak to march in the procession. The ground was thick with snow, and the hooligan element in the crowd took advantage of the opportunity to pelt the cowering women in the wagon, and beleaguered the men in the procession to knock of a hat or squelch a torch, or give someone ' one in the neck' .
Not to be content with this, some of the most thoughtless of the rouges pulled or stamped off the hard-trodden snow from their clogs, and used them as more effective missiles. But the heroic procession went on, back to the mill, to be greeted by the applause of a packed house, interspersed with the 'Hallelujahs', and 'Praise the Lord' of a people who realised something of the blessedness of those who are persecuted for righteousness sake'.
The stay of the Army's first Captain and Lieutenant in Idle was all too short, but still long enough for them to win the esteem of all classes of the community and all sections of the Church. The officers sent a report in the War Cry for 1884 which read; We are thankful for what our eyes have seen and ears have heard since we came and opened the Corps here. God has indeed owned and blessed our labours since the opening which was a grand time Thousands have come to see us. We have real good marches round the town and form big rings in the busy streets and when the people come round eager to hear the story of the Cross, we are just as eager to tell them. Sunday was a blessed day. At the close of the first meeting, three old women who had lived nearly seventy years in sin came to Jesus
The officers were only here for one year before they were moved to York. And in 1885 two new officers took over - within the next few years there was phenomenal growth so much so that it was felt that they needed a new purpose built 600 seater hall and in 1890 just 6 years after opening in Idle the foundation stone was laid for our hall in Walter Street which was being built by Obanks of Thackley.
Six years - from nothing to a multitude of people seeking and finding the Lord in what Wright Watson had described as a hostile community. Sounds like the book of Acts to me.
Nine years after opening in the Old Green Mill the Salvationists moved into their newly erected Citadel in Walter Street Idle, in 1893. Sadly all the early history of this Corps disappeared before I took over, probably lost in moving or burnt when we had a fire in this hall in 1978.
I do know that one of the first soldiers of Idle Corps was Annie Illingworth who became a soldier aged 20 in 1885 - she was still here when I was growing up in the Army and was PTG in 1961. Her sister Ivy who was just 15 became a soldier at the same time as Annie - she was PTG in 1962. Some of the first Soldiers here at the hall in Walter Street were Mary Scott in 1895 and Bertha Dickinson and Alice Waite in 1897.
A lot has happened since those days. We had a fire in Sept 1978 Lieut David Aliston was the officer and the hall and we had to move our services to the Idle Baptist Church Sunday School for the next three years before our hall was re-opened in 1982. We lost quite a few soldiers to other Corps following that many of our bandsmen moved and joined other bands in the division.
In October 1984 we celebrated our Centenary Weekend Six years later in October 1990 we had to close for three months due to dry rot and went back to the Idle Baptist Church with whom we shared our morning service.
In May 1995 Beryl and I were commissioned as Divisional Envoys and became the Commanding Officers of this Corps here at idle. Within a few months we were told that the balcony was parting company with the outside walls and was dangerous. We were having concerts at that time and the balcony was full for them so something had to be done and quick. We received estimates for £29 000 which took all of our Corps funds. During the repairs, we held our services in Stonebridge
When the hall re-opened in April 1997 we held a Celebration service which featured our own songsters and Bradford Central band. During the service, I launched an appeal for the New Community Hall and told the congregation this; 'I believe that God is building His Church here at Idle, we have caught the vision of what He is going to do 'right before our eyes', and are venturing forth to make that vision a reality. We have no illusions that it will cost us! But if it is Gods will, the funding will be no problem!'
So far, the estimate for a new extension to our hall, which will accommodate the Children's work and the mid-week activities will cost in the region of £100 000 of which the Corps will have to find half. A formidable task for us, but peanuts to God. The money will come, but it will take a lot of hard work and dedication. I believe that this is a part of God's strategy in establishing His Kingdom here on earth, and I am excited that God is including this Corps in His master plan.'
When God gave the vision for the new hall, a few, just as in Nehemiah’s day, were rather sceptical. Especially after just having emptied the bank of all our finance making this hall safe. The original estimate was £100 000, but I was convinced that the plans didn’t go ‘Large enough’ and the project got bigger, which meant that the final total was nearer £160 000. We opened it in October 1999
In all those years, God blessed our fellowship and the congregation grew so that we were getting over 40 to our Sunday evening services. God has really blessed us here at Idle over the last 133 years.
Today, sadly, we see a very different Corps following the promotion to Glory of a multitude of our Corps folk. Since taking the reins in 1995 I have done over 89 funerals - 55 who were members of our Corps including Bertha, Nellie, Edith, Ken Levitte. The last few years have been traumatic to say the least Beryl, Kevin, Julia.
When I read Ezekiel’s vision - it really hit home. The valley of dry bones - I thought of our Corps with it’s dwindling congregation - the lack of response to what I see as a call of God to Bible study and prayer -the basic requirements of revival - I thought about this and the words of God came to me again. ‘can these bones live?’
Ezekiel was commanded to say to the bones This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”’
So Ezekiel did what the Lord said and 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, breath, from the four winds 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.
Who were these people, what does it mean to us today here at Idle? I looked at what God said to Ezekiel next : 11‘Son of man, these bones are the people 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: 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.”’
When I look at the history of our Corps and where we are at now, I can see a parallel between what we have just read and our present position.
We need the life saving power of God and new breath that comes from the Spirit to bring us back into line with all that I believe God wants to do in our Corps. I don’t for one minute think that He has done all that He has done over the last 20 years = the miraculous answers top prayer for healings, the provision of all the money needed for our new community Hall (£190 000) and the awesome way in which God had made provision for the whole of the cost of the New Worship hall by making the executor of a mans will during the first year that Beryl and I became Officers at Idle. That money, which we received after the completion of the Worship Hall was £200,000) the full cost of the building. God is awesome and knew 20 years before we needed it.
The dry bones were the people of Israel - Gods children - I see them as representing the church today - the body of Christ - Idle SA. Just as in Ezekiel’s vision God resurrected His people - so today I believe that Gods call today is to His struggling church who He wants to restore and bring back to life by breathing new into His people by the power of the Holy Spirit.
God did this in Christ who after dying for our sins lay in the tomb but then was resurrected to New life - new Spiritual Life and who then as He had promised gave the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to bring new life and power to His people.
As we have been studying over the last few weeks, the Church is the living body of Christ - Paul in Colossians tells us that time and time again - the living body of Christ in the world today as Christ lives in and through the very lives of His people.
Yes - these bones - this church can live - it can be resurrected to become once again the living body of Christ in Idle. It all depends on our response to what I believe God is trying to tell us.
There is a need for His people - those who profess to be His soldiers - to get to know Him through His word and through prayer. The very things we all promised to do when we were commissioned soldiers - be honest - how faithful are you in giving time to pray and read His word.
The very first promises we make ‘I promise to pray and to read my bible’ are so often the most neglected parts of our lives. The hymn writer Donald Whittle wrote ’Have you any room for Jesus - He who bore your load of sin’ As He knocks and asks admission sinner will you let Him in? originally aimed at the unbelievers but so often a challenge to those who profess.
Room for pleasure room for business but for Christ the crucified not a place that He can enter in the heart for which He died - it’s amazing in these days, what people fill their time with - the things that they see as being important - I think that the challenge of this hymn should be aimed at the believers today. It’s so sad that church notice boards so often lack Bible Study or prayer meetings - the very life blood of the Army when it started here in Idle 133 years ago.
I believe that as we celebrate the 133rd Anniversary of the Corps here at Idle that we are being called to take a good look at not only our Corps but our own lives and commitments.
I believe that God, in these last days is presenting His church with their last chance to get right with Him - to see their need to repent and seek God through His word and through prayer. When Jesus comes again this time He is not coming to seek the lost as He did the first time, but to claim His church - His people and take them to be with Him in Glory.
The church today needs to get back in line with Gods word and live according to the guidance of God. The church today needs to be resurrected to new life - just like the vision of Ezekiel. Ezekiel responded to the word of the Lord and prophesied as he was commanded. And as he was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. He looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, Tendons and flesh - the restoration of the body of Christ - His church - this church but there was no breath in them.
They needed that vital breath of life that only the Spirit can give. The Spirit that came at Pentecost like a mighty wind
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, breath, from the four winds 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.
That’s the same wind of the Spirit that blew into Idle when the Salvation Army set up in the Old Green Mill and inspired a new church to hunger after God and seek to grow in Him - so that within 6 years they needed a premises that would house over 600 of their new converts. That’s the Spirit who through the years has shown His power - even in the last 20 years to prepare this place for the growth that will come when we His people turn to Him in prayer and seek to know Him through His word.
Next year it will be the 125th Anniversary of this hall here in Walter Street - My desire is that over the next 11 months we will together, seek the blessing of God and the power of the Spirit to resurrect this corps to be what I believe God intends it to be - a vast and mighty Army ’ So Ezekiel prophesied as God commanded, breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army. WOW that’s what God needs today.
Closing Song Revive Thy work O Lord
Sunday 24 September 2017 Getting real with God
Last Sunday was ‘back to church Sunday’ - we had the smallest attendance that we have for a long time due to illness and family concerns. We looked at what the world today meant by church, baptisms, wedding and funerals - church the building as against what church really should mean which is the people = living flesh and bone - the building ids the place where the church - the living body of Christ - meets.
We reminisced about the good old days when almost everyone went to church - it was our way of life - no distractions in the world as shops were Sunday was seen as a holy day as against what it has turned into today - which is a holiday.
When we were young, work places were shut on Sundays, no shops, no supermarkets, no mobile phones, no computers, no TV , Sunday was seen as the Lords day.
On Tuesday we looked at what the bible says about honouring the Lords Holy Day.
When God took His people out of bondage to freedom through the wilderness where they travelled for 40 days. Their He commanded them to prepare for the Sabbath by making sure they had all they needed on the day before. Like us shopping on Saturday for the things we need on Sunday. Exodus 16
One of the ten commandments Exodus 20; 8-11 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Exodus 31; 12 ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you.
Today people argue that this only applies to the Jews because the Lord goes on to say It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’"
But in the KJB Isaiah 56 is headed Salvation for the Gentiles
Isaiah 56; 1 Thus says the Lord: "Keep justice, and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come, And My righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, And the son of man who lays hold on it; Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And keeps his hand from doing any evil
6 "Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants—Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant—Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, "Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him."
The whole law about the Sabbath, Gods holy day, is summed up in Isaiah 58; 13 "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honourable, and shall honour Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken."
This was an important part of the Old Covenant and I believe also of the new covenant through Jesus Christ. In the New Testament we read how Jesus Himself faithfully observed the Sabbath Day - a stark lesson for us all today. I believe that Observing the Sabbath as the Lords Holy Day is something that the church, the body of Christ should adhere to today. It’s about the exercising of your own free will.
I personally think that it was a good Idea for the nation to adopt Sunday as the Lords Holy Day and to ban work, shops etc I look back and miss the Sundays of my youth when there was no work on that day and most people went to church. It was a better world then - a safer world where people cared about one another.
This week we are going to continue from Acts 2; 42 to see how the church fellowship progressed after Pentecost - the birthday of the church that brought the empowering of the Holy Spirit to equip the new converts to the Christian faith.
Last week we read how the believers were a together people who loved and cared for one another as brothers and sisters in the family of God - how they shared all that they had, there was no one in need, everyday they met together with glad and sincere hearts praising God and enjoying the favour of the people and as a result - the Lord added to their number, daily, those who were being saved. WOW!
God was obviously pleased with the way the new living body of Christ - the Christian fellowships - were functioning as too were their neighbours and friends - people could see the benefits of belonging to this new fellowship of Christ’s followers and liked what they saw - and God brought new people in to join them.
Lets look at what happened after that - Acts 3;1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
The man had been begging there for years - he would have been a familiar face - this day was going to be different - this day instead of just meeting the everyday requirements of the lame man - this day God was going to reach to the very core of the mans problems and bring healing and restoration and He was going to do it through Peter and John. This day, the man was healed before the very eyes of the ones who were passing him by to go into the church.
This gave Peter a chance to use what had happened to bring people to face the truth of what they had just seen - the result of having faith in Jesus the Christ as seen in the evidence of the infilling power of the Holy Spirit, ordinary man empowered by Almighty God. Peter went on to share with them the truth about Jesus - the Messiah they had rejected and killed. Peter went on to tell them that he had personally seen the ressurected Jesus and that by faith in the resurrected Lord, what they had just seen was made possible.
V 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see. He then called them to repent (19) turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out and that times of refreshing might come.
The priests were taken aback by all this and were angry because Peter and John were teaching the people about Jesus who they had put to death. They seized Peter and John and put them in prison. But, we are told that many who heard the message believed and the number of new converts increased to five thousand.
The next day when they brought Peter and John before the courts they asked ‘by what power or what name did you do this?’ Acts 4; 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.”12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’
WOW and the result ? When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised they were just ordinary men, they were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus - the evidence of healing stood before them and there was nothing more they could say. The verdict was that it was undeniable that the people had seen a miracle - but they needed to stop the spread of this Christian message and ordered them not to speak again to anyone in the name of Jesus to which Peter replied 'we can’t help speaking about what we have seen and heard’. All the accusers could do was let them go.
They went straight back to the Fellowship and had a praise meeting and the place where they were was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the words of God boldly. I find that awesome and inspiring.
That’s church - ordinary people who through knowing God and accepting Jesus as their Saviour are empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit to become like Jesus and through whom the mighty awesome power of God is manifest.
When we meet like this every Sunday - we are in the presence of Almighty God - the same God who we have just been reading about who performed great things through the lives of these ordinary men - uneducated fishermen - Awesome God.
As His Church we are called together to come before Him to realise His presence - to be filled with His love and His power that will enable us to be and do the things that we have just read about.
Of course it all starts by acknowledging our sins and genuinely asking for His forgiveness. It then progresses to getting to really know Him by spending time in His presence, not just on Sunday, but during the week - through prayer and bible study.
As we do this we begin to grow in our desire to become more and more like Jesus.
This is paralleled as being almost like the womb experience where we begin to grow and mature prior to the new birth when as the bible says - we are born again - of the Spirit with God as our Father figure and one another as brothers and sisters. We are born into the Family of God.
New birth in the Spirit brings with it the ability to be used by God in whatever way He wants to further His kingdom work.
Maybe for some, this is the morning where that new birth can begin - that new realisation that God is building His Church - which includes you and me - to bring His love and His power into our world to encourage others to reject the evils of this world and accept Jesus as their Lord and saviour.
I believe that the evidence is all around us that we are living in the end times - that means that Jesus is coming again - this time not to seek the lost but to receive the saved - His church - His living body - His bride to take them to the safety of heaven - eternity with God.
Jesus came to live with us to show us what God was really like - one day soon He is going to come for us to take us to be with Him in Glory.
I’m sure that we all want to make sure that we’re amongst those He comes for and to that end need to take a good look at our own lives and claims and if needs be to get back into line with what God wants of us which is to know Him and live according to His will. To be like the early Church - a people committed to God and one another - open to the moving of the Holy Spirit and empowered by Him to become like Jesus.
There is a great need among our fellowship for the healing touch of Almighty God on His people. For healing, Physical and Spiritual and I believe that this morning God is here and ready to show His power amongst us.
We have read how God showed His power by healing the lame man - well I believe and know that God is still the same today - He still loves His people and wants them - us - to love Him too.
Earlier we sang ‘Show Your power O Lord’ - In the closing moments of this meeting we are going to call on God to show His power amongst us, His people. We sang - Awesome are Your deeds O Lord, Renew them for this hour - Show Your power O Lord Among Your people now.
Let all fear, doubt, uncertainty be gone - lets experience the power of a world to come as they break through the wall of doubt and uncertainty and Show Your power O Lord among us - your people.
For our part; our promise is that we will stand for You against the foolishness of the world - whatever men may say we’ll lift Your name on high - because
You have chosen us to be fruitful and to be transformed into Your likeness
We are ready to serve - we are Your witnesses. You’ve appointed us and with Your Holy Spirit anointed us and we are going to fight on through til we see you face to face
WOW! If that’s our determination and our promise then I believe that God will show His power in our lives and in the life of our church.
The penitent form is open for those who wish to make their declaration public - lets in these precious closing moments sing the song Be still for the presence of the Lord is moving in this place.
Believe it, and receive it as we sing
Sunday morning 17 September 201
Today all over Britain people are celebrating back to Church Sunday
What do we mean by Church? Ask anyone out there in the streets - many would say that its the building - defined by the activities that take place there.
Its the place where people take their babies to be baptised
The place where couples get married,
The place we end up at when we die
The trouble is that for some that’s the only time they visit church and only one of them is their own choice. Parents take their children when they are christened, baptised or dedicated, Relatives take their loved ones when they die - but only you and I choose - to go to church to get married. For many it’s the place people go to on Sunday - their parents took them when they were young and so they continue to go - it’s a meeting place.
When I was young it was the centre point of most peoples lives - the place we met on Sunday and most nights during the week as there were no distractions, TV, Supermarkets, in fact shops shut at 6pm if you didn’t have it, you did without or borrowed it from the neighbour. Only the posh folk had phones, no mobiles, no computers, no face book - most people went to church .
Today the world has taken over, there are so many distractions that keep people busy that many would say they havn’t time to go to church. Sunday is just another day - in fact the local Christian School had a table top sale on back to church Sunday starting at 10 til 12.30 - the time many churches hold their Sunday morning service.
What should church be - certainly not just a building but what God intended it to be - a meeting place where the real church - that’s people who have dedicated their lives to God and desire to try living it His way. It’s a place where together, people experience the presence of God. It’s the place where people filled with the love of Jesus choose to go to find fellowship, gain strength, comfort, Peace, love. The ultimate is that the church, the people, by repenting their past foolish selfish ways are given a fresh new start and are born again. This new birth is as a child of God who through prayer and bible study are transformed - they become - The living Body of Christ in the world today. That’s the real meaning of Church
Back to church Sunday is ultimately a time to come back to God. Lets look at what the early church was like after Pentecost - the birth of the Church We can read about early church activity in
Acts 2; 42-47
The Fellowship of the Believers 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to them daily those who were being saved.
This was a new way of life for the Jews - this brought the church into the neighbourhood. The Temple ( their Church) was originally to be the place where man went to meet with Almighty God - not personally but through the medium of the Priest. They took sacrifices to pay for their sins - doves, lambs - the priest took them through a veiled curtain into what they called the holy of holies and offered them to God on their behalf.
That all changed when Jesus gave His life on the cross becoming the once and for all sacrificial lamb to bring forgiveness and make redemption possible - When Jesus died on the cross we are told that the veil in the Temple was torn from top to bottom giving ordinary man access to the living God.
Jesus before He died had promised His followers that He would come and live within them by the power of the Holy Spirit so that they could experience transformation through new birth that would help them to become more like Him. WOW! He made it possible that His followers then and today would become the living Body of Christ. - That’s the ultimate blessing that father God offers us as His children.
In New Testament days, Gods idea was that people outside the fellowship would be able to see the difference that knowing - really knowing God in Christ would make to a persons life and so encourage them to want to know Christ too and ultimately to give their lives to Him. When those outside the fellowship saw the difference in the lives of the new Christians, they wanted to know where their joy, their peace, their hope in all of lives problems came from - they were hungry to experience it for themselves. That’s why we read, and ‘God added to their number, those who were being saved’.
That’s what Church should be like today - sadly in many cases its so far from being the ideal.
There is a great need today for people to be honest, open, caring, loving and concerned about the welfare of others around, our families, friends and acqaintances.
People need to know that there really is a God - and that God loves them and wants them to know and love Him. I could never imagine what it must be like to live today without my faith - my faith in a living loving caring God.
When I went to see Frank and Jean ( two of our soldiers, Frank has just had a serious operation and is house bound at the moment) - Jean shared how she doesn’t know how people cope without a strong and positive faith when faced with the problems like she and Frank are experiencing. I totally agreed. I know I wouldn’t be able to cope if it wasn’t for the fact I know that God loves me and will see me through .
My own Kidney problems, my Cancers, not just one but two. Looking after and loosing to Alzheimers. Supporting my son Kevin and his wife Judy as they went through IVF only to see their 8 week old baby Victoria die. Then years later having to stand by and watch the doctors as they turned Kevins life support machine off . If I hadn’t a faith I wouldn’t have managed. Then Three years ago watching my lovely wife Beryl die after looking after her for ten years with Altzheimers - believe me
Without my faith in God I would not be here now.
My father God promises that when we go through the trials of life - when the waters are up to our necks, when the fire is at it’s hottest - God says I will be with you. I will see you through because you are precious to Me and I love you. Isaiah 43
When we laid my grandaughter Victoria’s body to rest in the Idle Graveyard, God gave me these words to share from Psalm 46; 1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
My personal faith isn’t the only thing that keeps me strong - it’s the support and the love of the fellowship, the church, the living body of Christ that sees me through. That’s what Church should be all about - that what God wants His church to be like - if only it was.
Today we see a sadly declining church that’s dying all around us. Churches that are being demolished because they don’t need them any more - people are going the way of the world - congregations getting older and dying off - young people finding lifes satisfaction in other things. A lack of verbal bodily communication and instead an increase in the non physical messaging and texting.
On the God Channel we see false prophets, so called Christian fellowships that project biblical untruths dressed up as Church - the prosperity Gospel etc. The bible tells us that in the end days, that will happen and to have nothing to do with them.
Mankind needs to get back to what Church was intended to be - The living body of Christ in the world today. People who, rather than just preach the word - live it and let people see that it works.
Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but to save it from its foolish ways. Jesus came to show us what God was really like - loving, caring, compassionate
Today the nation is being called back to Church - that’s back to Christ who offers real life - life in all it’s fulness to those who accept Him as their Lord and Saviour.
God gives the strength to endure all of lives difficulties with the ultimate promise that this life is not all there is - eternal life in a heaven of love, peace, Joy is the ultimate destination.
Over the last few weeks we have been looking at the lives, the work of the early church and the encouraging letters that people like Paul, Peter and John wrote to the young churches about rejecting the lies of false teachers who’s aim is to destroy the church and accept the ways of God who IS Love and wants His creation to live and experience His love one with another - that’s church!
The disciple John, who was very close to Jesus - he had spent three years with Jesus and so repeats with confidence and authority the very words of Jesus who said "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." John 13; 44
It’s more than preaching it’s more about living the good news - showing others the love of God and as the word tells us, ’they will know you are Christian by your love
That’s real church. That the only way the church fellowship will grow and attract others to come on board if we love one another.
Postscript; On Tuesday night at our Bible fellowship we looked at what the Bible tells us about the Sabbath - you can see this on the Bible Fellowship page.
Sunday morning 10 September 2017
Last week we read from Colossians 4; where Paul urges the new Christian fellowships
1 Devote yourselves to prayer To devote yourself to God, make it your passion to talk to God in prayer How did you go on?
2 Be watchful and thankful. For the answers to your prayers and also see a word of caution to be aware of what is happening all around in the world today and also the way in which the church is being persuaded to adopt the rules of the sinful world instead of being a beacon light . Keep your eyes open for and upon Jesus
3 Pray that God may open a door for your message did He?
4 Be wise in the way in which you act towards outsiders, make the most of every opportunity. Were you?
5 Let your conversation be always full, of grace, seasoned with salt, was it?
The better conversation is through your life -Let the word become flesh in you
The basis of this was to personally know God through the privilage of prayer and to make yourselves available to God so that He may open doors and bring people into your life who need to know Him for themselves. To become faithful witnesses of God.
This week we look at another great man of the Bible who is equally as keen to make us aware of the need to share the love of God with one another and with those outside. That man is John, brother of James - two of the first disciples Jesus called alongside Him. John and James were both cousins of Jesus - Their father was Zebedee and their mother was Salome a sister of Jesus’s mother Mary.
Like Paul, they had been brought up in the Jewish faith but now being called to become Jesus’s followers, they became Christ’s disciples - Christians. They came to know the truth through living those three years with Jesus. They would learn the importance of prayer - open - direct access to the Father - as revealed by Jesus who Himself spent much time in prayer.
They would learn the importance of sharing what they were learning from Jesus and were commissioned by Him to Go into all the world as disciples of Jesus and make disciples. To be open to the message of Jesus and the leadings of God.
Their prayer would be that God would open doors so that they could share the love and the Joy that they had received by spending three years of their lives with Jesus.
In Johns gospel we have this amazing testimony of a man who had been with Jesus
1 John 1;1-4 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.
Eyewitnesses - they saw Jesus - they touched Jesus and the impact of their relationships had changed their lives completely from what they were to what God wanted them to be. Now they were on fire and burning with great desire to share their experience and knowledge with others. John and James were members of family of Jesus - relations - I wonder how we fare with those who are closest to us - family?
John was there in the beginning of Jesus’s ministry and with Him when He gave His life on the cross to pay for mans sins. John, along with Peter was the first to see the empty tomb - John, along with Peter was the first to be vehicles of the Holt Spirits healing power with the lame man at the gate of the Temple .
John knew what he was talking about. Following Pentecost, the truth of God and His relationship with His creation spread and Christian fellowships - churches - sprang up all over the land. Obviously the devil didn’t like that and tried to stop them by bringing false teachers into those fellowships to try destroy them.
These verses written to those early fellowships re-iterated strengthen -what John wrote in his gospel. John 1; 1-5 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.
This is the verse that JW’s today share when knocking on doors - trouble is they have changed it to fit their own heretical teachings that Jesus is not the incarnation of God.
The JW’s bible says this John 1; 1-5 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. Just one word and it denies the fact that Jesus was God incarnate. The Greek says kai theos en ho logos translates ‘and God Theos was the Word Logos’
Jesus, the word become flesh, lived the word - and by so doing showed the world how God loved them. John wanted the new congregations to come to know God and then go and make Him known to others. As the songs says ‘Only as I truly know Thee can I make Thee truly known’
John implores his hearers to; Walk in the light God is light if we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness, we are living a lie but verse 1 John 1;7 tells us that; if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, His Son , purifies us from all sin.
1 John Ch 2; 3 tells us that Obedience is the key to walking in the light. V6 Anyone who claims to know Him must walk as Jesus did. WOW that’s not easy
John goes on to remind us that we are living in the end times and to make sure we don’t listen to the false teachers that are springing up all around us - the way in which this Christian country is putting aside it’s Christian belief and standards to accomodate the evil practices in the world. Ch 3 v 7 Dear children don’t let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil - the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devils work.
We are encouraged to live as children of God and know and share the love of our father God. 1 John 4; 7-11 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Ever since that sneaky temptation to eat of the tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden, man has fallen deeper into the hands of the evil one, seeking knowledge that will bring power and the ability to dominate over his fellow men.
The sad truth is that we are quickly becoming a Godless society! We, as the church needs to stand up for what it believes and declare that the god of this world is not our God. The god that this world serves is self, wealth and power.
The God we serve is the God of Love, self sacrificial Love. A God who loves His creation to the full, and was prepared to go to great lengths to prove it. God so loved the World, that He gave His only son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
No wonder the Bible tells us that the Word became flesh and lived amongst us. No wonder God chose to leave the Heavens and come and live in our world. No wonder God, in Jesus, chose to come and show mankind that there is a better way. There is a way to enjoy this life to the full and go on to enjoy eternity with Him. He did it because He is love!
In John 10;10 Jesus said, 'I have come that you might have life' abundant life, 'life in all it's fullness'. Jesus lived that life, showing how by getting back into a right relationship with the Almighty, all the powers of Heaven, would be made available to mortal man to live like God, on this earth in preparation for the next. He shared our humanity so that we might share His divinity.
Jesus, to bring man back to his senses, to bring reconciliation, an escape route back to the Fathers heart. That one man, Jesus, so influenced a small group of ordinary men and women, that they began to believe in Him and who He was, so much so that their faith in Him grew in those three short years that they spent together.
It must have looked like the end when the authorities took Him away to crucify Him, to get rid of His influence. Yet something kept them together and that something was not only the influence that Jesus had on them, but just as Jesus said, they felt His presence was still with them. They began to realise that He was still with them by the power of the Spirit.
'May the force be with you' is not an invention of Star Wars but a reality in the Spiritual realms of the Kingdom. Jesus who had been with them was now 'within them' and daily they were being transformed into His likeness as they spent more time together, seeking His presence.
Then on the day of Pentecost, came the baptism of fire as God, by the power of his holy Spirit came and entered those ordinary men and women, equipping them to continue the work that Jesus had begun.
John reminds us of the words of Jesus in John 13;44. Jesus said "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 Won another Through the zeal and love of those early converts, the whole world began to hear about another way, the way of love, of peace, of reconciliation with his creator.
Today we have the world wide church, people like you and me, who because of the faithfulness of people like the apostle John have come into a realisation of the truth. The only trouble is, Evil seems to be winning. The word needs to become flesh in you and me!
Jesus told his disciples, He gave them the invitation to 'Come and follow Me'. Andrew told his brother Philip, The disciples told there contempories. Peter testified to the crowds, Paul to other countries. Luther, Calvin, John Wesley. William Booth to the deprived masses of drunks and down and outs in the filthy streets of Victorian London.
God called you and I to follow Him with the desire that we would then go on to live the life and make disciples - share what we have with others - family, friends, neighbours.
Next week Sunday 17 September is back to Church Sunday - How about contacting someone you know who used to go to church but for whatever reason stopped going. Maybe it’s someone who used to worship with us - why not give them a call and invite them to give us another try - That what John would have done - that’s the spirit in which John wrote to the early churchgoers to pray about it and get out and share the gospel truth with others inviting them to come and worship with them.
Love is the only way. They will know we are Christian by our love -
Somebody loved you enough to tell you about Gods way of love, and somebody told me. How many have you told.
Somebody cared for you so much, that they either took you or invited you to 'come to church' who have you brought?
The reality of the truth of the Gospel is that God is love, and that the only weapon needed to fight against the evil of this world is that - Love.
Love 'won' another How about it?
Sunday 3 September 2017
Last week we closed by looking at the advice Paul gave when he wrote to the church at Colossi
Ch4 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us to that God may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way in which you act towards outsiders, make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full, of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Here are the keys to that prayer
1 Devote yourselves to prayer If prayer was vital to Jesus how much more is our needs
2 Be watchful and thankful. Be aware of what is happening all around in the world today - the way in which the church is being persuaded to adopt the rules of the sinful world instead of being a beacon light .
3 Pray that God may open a door for your message so that you may proclaim the mystery of Christ clearly, as you should. in all honesty and humility
4 Be wise in the way in which you act towards outsiders, Those who as yet don’t realise the awesomeness of knowing and loving God and make the most of every opportunity.
5 Let your conversation be always full, of grace, seasoned with salt,
Gods Riches at Christ’s Expense and not through anything you may do so make it tasteful - that you may know how to answer everyone.
Following on from that we are going to read Paul’s letter to the Hebrew Fellowship
Hebrews 10:19-23 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,: by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
One thing that links Jesus to Peter and Peter to Paul, is the great emphasis they played on the value of Prayer. Jesus knew how important it is to keep in touch with His father and that’s why He taught His disciples to pray.
Paul, like Jesus was a man of prayer. Prayer was important to him and it would seem that his colleagues were the same - when he and Silas were in prison - they prayed and the prison doors were opened wide. When Paul and Silas got home, the whole fellowship prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and we are told that ’the building where they were praying shook’. Paul and his followers knew the value of prayer.
I’ll never forget the time a few years ago when Beryl was with us that my grandson Joshua called round one evening and said that he had noticed how much better Beryl had been over the last week - I agreed - he then told me that he prayed every night for his Nan and on the occasions when he helps his brother Joel with his prayer time, reminds him also to pray for Nan.
That’s why Paul wrote to the Colossians encouraging them to 1 Devote themselves to prayer . Joshua had indeed been 2 watchful and thankful.
Prayer is the Christians vital breath - Its our lifeline to the Father - its the channel of communication that connects the master builder -God- with the labourer -you and I, Prayer is like the chute on a building site through which God supplies His mighty resources with those who are ready and willing to build His Church.
Paul writing to the Hebrew Fellowship says this; Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.
This was revolutionary stuff, as the Jews were not used to speaking directly to God - only the priests were allowed to go into the holy of holy’s, that by means of a curtain, separated common man from His God. When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain was torn from top to bottom - opening a way to the father - access for the common man to meet with His God.
Similar in a way to how the church used to be in this country where only the priest could read the Bible as it was in Latin and therefore inaccessible by common man. It wasn’t until 1611 when King James ordered the Bible to be translated into the common language of all, that the word of God became available to everyone and they could read first hand what God wanted His people to know.
In a similar way today in the Catholic Church - if you need to confess your sins to receive forgiveness, it has to be done to and by the priest.
Reminds me of a funny story about the little old lady who knowing she had a bad memory, decided to write all her sins down on a piece of paper to hand to the Priest at Church. She did that, went to church and passed her list of sins through the little hatch in the confessional chamber. The priest opened it, read them and rather confused asked her why she had written, 2lb of sausage meat, a couple of lean chops and a side of bacon’ ‘Oh no, cried the old lady, What on earth is the butcher going to think when he looks at my meat order’?
Jesus, by His death on the cross, paid sins price and opened the way that made God known and accessible for all. Prayer was the new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith
1 Prayer is a Privilege bestowed on those who love Him and want to serve Him
Prayer makes the impossible Possible by releasing God’s Power
That’s why Paul emphasises the need for the early churches to spend much time in prayer.
3 Pray that God may open a door for your message
Today we live in an comparatively affluent society to those in Bible days - a society that suggests that IT has the answer to all life’s problems. Yet people look to drugs for escapism only to find that the drugs they use enslave them. People have become less needy of ‘Gods’ help as they clutch at the straws the world offers.
People look to alcohol to drown their sorrows only to find that they become reliant on that too. Those with financial problems or dreams of a better life turn to the lottery in the hopes that it will be the answer but the reality is that only a few win and by doing so take money of the poor and needy to feather their own nest - a kind of Robin Hood in reverse - taking from those who can’t afford to create the rich few.
To so many, Prayer is a desperate last attempt at an escape route, people try the world before it turns to God. I said last week how we live in a society where the art of conversation is dying. Where people text each other or spend time speaking to people at the end of a phone line, often whilst they are doing something else. You even find that when you ring the Electric or Gas providers you end up speaking to a machine that reacts to you pressing different numbers on the key pad or even using speech recognition. In the same way that people don’t talk to each other talking to God is so neglected these days.
One of the reasons marriage break-ups these days is that people don’t communicate.
Could that be one of the reasons why so many churches are emptying these days, because the so called ‘Christians’ who go have lost the art of conversing with God.
The saying ‘the family that prays together, stays together’ applies to both our own families and the family of God. That’s why we need to be
4 Be wise in the way in which you act towards outsiders,
Many years ago we looked at an Old Testament character called Jabez. A man that for some reason caught the attention of the writer of the book of Chronicles and stopped the him in his tracks. Jabez prayed this prayer
Lord Bless me this day, open doors of opportunity whatever they may be, let me meet people who will help me with my problems, people I can trust, new friends who I can share my experience of You with, people I can share my joys with, people who will understand me and love me for who I am
That’s what Paul meant when he said to the Colossians 4 Be wise in the way in which you act towards others outside your fellowship and make the most of every opportunity.
After sharing the prayer of Jabez with you in a sermon I preached at the beginning of our Officership here at Idle, Beryl shared how praying the prayer of Jabez had opened her horizons by bringing her face to face with a lady from round the corner. Beryl invited her to the CARE Group, she came and then came to the Friendship club and then to Sunday meetings. God had obviously answered Beryl’s prayer and touched Nancy’s heart. Nancy joined us, became an active adherent of our Corps and gained the love and respect of us all.
Beryl must have certainly did as Paul suggested when he said 5 Let your conversation be always full, of grace, seasoned with salt.
I cannot overemphasis the importance of prayer - Prayer is a Christians vital breath - access to Almighty God made possible through the sacrificial death of Jesus who as Paul reminds us - tore the curtain in the Temple that had separated man from His creator and made access to God possible.
The Michelangelo painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel showing the hand of man reaching up to the hand of God and God reaching down to give His hand to man
So strong is the visual impact of this truth that the Lottery uses the same picture trying to imply that by winning the lottery, you have access enough money to answer all your problems. A little like the slogan that the Midland Bank used to promote their credit card called Access. Access takes the waiting out of wanting.
The disciples learned the true value of prayer following the death and resurrection of Jesus and His instructions about waiting in Jerusalem until the gift the Father promised was given to them. They waited, shared fellowship with one another and spent time talking to Jesus - accessed by prayer.
A great man, Henri Nouwen wrote this;
‘Keep your eyes on the one who refused to turn stones into bread, jump from great heights or rule with temporal power.
Keep your eyes on the one who said ‘Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn and those who are hungry and thirsty after righteousness; blessed are the merciful, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted in their c cause of up righteousness’.
Keep your eyes upon Jesus
All God wants is people who are simply open to Him, seek him in prayer, Ordinary people like me and you.
Martin Luther said ‘I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer - in other words ‘Lord, I haven’t time NOT to pray’
Paul’s encouraged the Hebrew Church to ‘Draw near to God’ - How ? Through the miracle of prayer. Closing your eyes to the natural and allowing your spiritual eyes to focus on the ‘supernatural’ and in so doing to come into the presence of the Almighty.
Many folk use the excuse ‘But I can’t pray’, Prayer is a gift, something that ‘others find easy to do’, but not me, for me, prayer is hard. And yet Prayer is not as hard as one would think, prayer is simply talking to God - that’s all it is, talking to our Father.
Anyone who has ever heard Jeff Lucas would agree what a down to earth mountain of a Christian writer he is. He wrote an article called ‘Ten myths about prayer’. In it, Jeff said that his favourite daily reading book is ‘Every Day with Jesus’ but admits that often it turns out to be ‘every other day with Jesus’ and that he would feel more honest if someone would publish a book called ‘Once in a while with God’.
He admits that he sometimes falls asleep whilst praying.
There are times when the simple cry of ‘Father’ sums up all that needs to be said.
When Jesus died He opened up privilege of coming into the presence of God.
O that we might ‘draw near to Him’ and spend time in His presence
In closing lets remind ourselves of the important points of Pauls letter to the church at Colossi
1 Devote yourselves to prayer To devote yourself to God means give your heart, mind and soul - make it your passion to talking to God
2 Be watchful and thankful.
Be aware of what is happening all around in the world today - the way in which the church is being persuaded to adopt the rules of the sinful world instead of being a beacon light . Keep your eyes open for and upon Jesus
3 Pray that God may open a door for your message
so that you may proclaim the mystery of Christ clearly, as you should.
in all honesty and humility - just like Beryl did.
4 Be wise in the way in which you act towards outsiders, Those who at the moment are outside the Kingdom and make the most of every opportunity.
5 Let your conversation be always full, of grace, seasoned with salt,
The better conversation is through your life -Let the word become flesh in you
Sunday MM 27 August 2017 Galatians 1; 1- 24
Last time I spoke we looked at Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus encouraging them to live as children of light in and to love with one another. We looked at how over the years that followed they responded, by looking at Johns vision on the Isle of Patmos as outlined in Revelation where the angel of God said how he was pleased with their unity and growth but sadly over the years they had lost sight of their first love - God and needed to get back into right relationship with Him again. Even though they had lost their way God gave them another chance to get back on track.
Today we read another of Paul’s letters, this time to the church at Galatia who at an early stage in their development are beginning to listen to false teachers who are trying to discredit their new found faith in Christ and take them off course.
Galatians 1;1 Paul, an apostle - sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead -and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia:
Paul right at the beginning is making the point that he himself is not a representative of any earthly body but a true representative of Jesus - appointed by Him to share the truth with all men - Jews and gentile alike.
3; Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
He reminds them that Jesus came to show mankind how far they had departed from what God intended them to be and even went to the cross to pay for their sins to rescue mankind form the evil age they now lived in.
6; I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
WOW! Paul is outright in his condemnation of the false teachers and stands firmly for the truth of the new Gospel, of Jesus Christ.
10; Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Paul then goes on to share his testimony of how he was called by God to let go the past and turn to the new covenant and instead of persecuting the new Fellowships of Jesus that were springing up around him and instead go and make disciples.
13 you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles - only James, the Lord's brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing to you is no lie.
Paul met up with Peter who himself had been with Jesus and so could share first hand knowledge with Paul and inspire him to fulfill the calling Christ had made on him to go and share the truth with others.
Later I went to Syria and Cilicia.I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." And they praised God because of me.
Here we have a before and after picture of Paul a man who had been transformed beyond any recognition of his former self by his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road. A before and after picture of one who even took a change of name from Saul to Paul - not just to protect him from his own people who would be now against him for changing from who he was to a lover of Jesus - but to make him acceptable to the very people he had been trying to get rid of.
I remember as a young, very skinny lad, being very 'self conscious'. I used to look with real envy, at the adverts in the paper of Charles Atlas, where he said that 'You too could have a body like mine'.
It showed a picture of a skinny young man, like I was, on a beach, getting sand thrown in his face by a strong looking man. The young lad, was Charles Atlas in his teens. He decided to take up body building, and in the next picture, is seen putting the bully in his place. I used to look at that and wish I looked like Charles Atlas, but I never sent off for the Exercises.
We see all kinds of adverts in the glossy press, don't we? Contrasting pictures of folk who, in the left hand picture 'used to weigh 22 stones' and now have a sylph like figure. Before and after pictures, that are designed to encourage us to look at ourselves, and if we don't like what we see, to do something about it.
We could well do with applying that to our spiritual lives, couldn't we. God offers transformation from the old self with all it’s faults to the new self with all it’s God like Qualities. Are we the person that God designed that we should be?
People spend fortunes on trying to 'look good'. Adverts show what the world judges as 'Perfection' as good looking men, and beautiful women, advertise almost anything. Pity that the worlds idea of 'Ideal' often means what we look like, on the outside, as against what we are like on the inside, which is the way God sees us.
What this world needs, is people who's lives have been transformed by the message of the Gospel. People with living testimonies to the 'before and after' effects of accepting the truth of Jesus Christ. People who, having seen the difference that 'knowing Jesus, rather than just knowing about Him' has made in the lives of their fellow men, have asked Jesus into their lives, and allowed Him to transform them from the inside out!
When Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia, he was at great pains to let them know of the 'Change' in his life, that had taken place, when he came face to face with Jesus, on the Damascus road. His life had been transformed. He was a man with a new and different purpose in life. From persecutor of the people knows as 'followers of the way', Christians, to becoming one himself and therefore joining the ranks of the persecuted. This 'change' in his life had come about, not by listening to cleverly made up stories of any man, but revealed to him by none other than Jesus Christ Himself.
Just as today, there are those false prophets, false teachers, who try all ways to make you follow their ideas, so too in the early day's of Christianity, there were those who did exactly the same.
I well remember the advertising campaign that Kelloggs in order to stop people buying other firms corn flakes which were supposed to be as good as the real thing. " If it doesn't say Kelloggs on the packet , it isn't Kelloggs".
Today we encounter false teachers on our doorsteps, 'Jehovah's Witnesses' and because of man's shallow understanding of the Truth of the gospel, they become easy prey to these 'lookalikes'. (having a form of godliness by denying the power 2 Timothy 3;5)
Paul was transformed by the renewing of his mind, the truth of the gospel, spoke to his heart, and his response was to get to know Jesus, and not just 'about Him'.
Paul in writing to the Corinthian church, said this; (2 Corinthians 5 11-21)
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.
If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no-one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
Paul recognised that his calling was to testify to the way in which it is possible for man to be changed from the selfish, sinful person he has become, into the person that God our Father intended us to be in the first place. To be reconciled, brought back to the Father. To experience a 'right relationship ' with Him.
God did this, by sending Jesus, to pay the price for the sins of the 'Whosoever' by taking them to the cross. A once and for all sacrifice. All man has to do, is recognise his sinful state, repent, seek forgiveness and allow Jesus to begin that work of righteousness in our hearts. A mighty work of reconciliation, by blotting out our sins.
If you ever watched the programme on television 'Surprise, surprise' you would have been moved to see families being reunited with their long lost relatives. The tears, as they throw their arms around each other. An embrace that says I love you, I've missed you, I never want to be parted from you again.
The same when you watch long lost relatives. Many have been searching for years to find their long lost relatives and when they find them - they throw their arms around each other and immediately recognise that they bond.
That's just how much our Heavenly Father loves us, and wants us to be re-united with Him, come back into the family. The Bible tells us that 'Great is the rejoicing in Heaven, over one sinner who repents'. 'Heaven throws a party, when we come back to the Father, and are reconciled to Him.
We have in Paul, a marvellous picture of the transformation that is possible in the lives of those who encounter Jesus. We don't, we can't change ourselves. only He can do that work in us, our part is to be obedient to Him, to seek to do His will, and see the gradual change in our lives that He makes. When a person becomes a Christian, he is not the same anymore, a new life has begun. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come. Hallelujah! And there's more!
Paul reminds us that it doesn't stop there, we have been called to be ambassadors for Him. To let others see the difference that knowing Him makes. God reconciles men to Him, and gives them the ministry of reconciliation. We are Christs representatives, and He makes His appeal to others, through us. What a responsibility.
We - you and I are brothers and sisters in Christ - God is our Father - we are His children and He wants us to know that and respond to that by realising that when we come to Jesus, accept Him as our Lord and Saviour then we are in truth - ‘Born again’ into the family of God and as children of God are expected let the characteristics of our Father be seen in us. How can we do this?
Last time I spoke to you we read the letter Paul sent to the church at Ephesus. We read chapter 4 which told us how as children of God to live in right relationship with Him and one-another.
The very next verse chapter 5 v 1 says this; Be imitators of God therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. When asked by the teacher of the law which was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets’. Do that and all the rest of the commandments fall into place.
Imitators of God That’s not a ‘put on imitation’ that’s a natural part of being a child of God and taking on the characteristics of its father. Paul reminds us of our duty, to be good son's and daughters, and reflect the love of our Father in a world of darkness. to 'be genuine' no pretence, the real thing, that others will be attracted to the love in this fellowship, and want to know Jesus for themselves.
What we have and are in Christ Jesus is awesome and we need to realise that and then go and share what we have and know with others - our families - our loved ones, our neighbours, our colleagues. We need to let the love of God be seen in our lives by the people we meet in our daily living.
Paul was called by God - transformed by God and appointed by God to go and share the love of God with others.
I believe that we too, all of us this morning, have been called by God to come to know Him and then go and make Him known to others.
Those who have made an open commitment to be soldiers of Jesus Christ in the Salvation Army were called to evangelise and share the good news with the whosever. Years ago we did it in the open-airs. In those days TV was in its early stages and open-airs were east and acceptable - today it’s a different story.
People are being pushed apart from talking to one another due to the growth in mobile phones and the internet. Today much evangelism is done on the web - the internet - the mobile phone. I believe that just as the Word became flesh in Christ so too the Word needs to become flesh in us - a picture speaks more than a thousand words.
In the musical ’ fair lady’, Eliza Doolittle shouts to the proffesor who is teacher her to speak properly ‘Words, Words, I’m sick of blooming words - show me’
I believe that is no better way to share the good news with others that by living such good lives that people may see by example the beauty of living in right relationship with God. We are called to know Him and then make Him known to others - God wants to use us to spread the good news and bring others into right relationship with Him . How are we doing?
We closed the meeting with the song that is seen in the video above ‘I then shall live’
Sunday 13 August 2017 Ephesians 4; 1-32 New International Version
Unity and maturity in the body of Christ
Last week we looked at what Peter called ‘the Additives to faith’ Be Good, seek to know God and His plan for your life. Be self-controlled, persevere -stick at it whatever happens into your life - be Godly - like Jesus - show brotherly kindness to one another and above all be loving - additives to faith to make us more and more like Jesus who was all that and more.
Peter - the disciple on whom Jesus said ’I will build My church’ wrote this and more to the young churches that were springing up all over the land in response to the faithful witness of the new converts to Christ. God wanted His church to grow to be like Jesus who showed mankind what God was really like and how He made forgiveness available for the whosoever will seek to be obedient to Him.
This morning we read a letter another great man of God -Paul who until Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus Road had been brought up a Hebrew who as far as the law went was a devout Pharisee and known then as Saul who zealously sought out the Christians to kill them . Today, now renamed Paul he is as fervent in his quest to confirm the Lordship of Christ and encourage people to build the church as he was in trying to destroy it and wipe Christianity off the face of the earth. WOW! No wonder God called Saul out of the enemy camp as He could see how determined and sincere Saul was to safeguard the Jewish faith he had been brought up in.
And so we have here Pauls encouraging letter to the church at Ephesus. As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Paul was in Rome under house arrest for being obedient to God. He was guarded by a soldier - I guess that this was more for his own safety as the Jews were trying to get their hands on Paul to kill him for promoting the Christian faith.
From his home he writes a letter of advice to his Christian friends- the church at Ephesus. To encourage to walk in the ways of Jesus in their relationships with each other that will speak volumes to the unconverted. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Completely humble - that’s in every way possible - not to laud it over one another - to realise that in Gods eyes they are all equal - no one is above anybody else - completely humble and gentle in your dealings with one another. Patient in true love with one another. This is how God wants to build His Church with people who mirror the beauty of Jesus in their desire to become more like Jesus in their everyday lives. The church is to become the living body of Christ in the world today.
God does this by uniting the two- Jew and Gentile into one united people among whom God Himself dwells. Paul says this in c2;4 God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by Grace that you have been saved through faith - a gift from God - therefore v 11- 22 tells us that we are united - one in Christ - together to be a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.
Paul goes on; 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. WOW
The ultimate aim being that 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.
The ultimate aim is as the first verse of Chapter 5 says; to ‘Follow God’s example, 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’
As we know, the Church is not just a building but people - His people. The church began at Pentecost and by the power of the Spirit began to spread like wildfire . Paul as we know made three historic journeys, taking the gospel of Jesus to towns and villages, planting churches, bringing people together to realise the presence and power of an Almighty God. There was an urgency in his message and what he had to share with them would revolutionise their lives, transform them, bring light to their darkness, purpose where there had previously been despair and resignation.
The church at Ephesus was established in AD53 on Pauls homeward journey to Jerusalem. Paul returned a year later and stayed three years preaching and teaching them a new way of life.
This letter was written form the confines of a home guarded by a soldier but to whom many of the people from the churches he had started were able to come and share with Paul. One of the visitors was a man called Tychicus from Ephesus who would be able to bring Paul up to date of the churches progress.
The church at Ephesus was led by a dedicated team of elders and so far would be inline with how God wanted His church to grow and mature. There would be regular bible studies, prayer meetings in homes and times to grow together as they shared their testimonies with one another. A truly Acts 2 church.
Paul was a wise discerning man who as he listened to Tychicus probably heard things about the church that as well commending and encouraging, needed a word of caution, and so when Tychicus left, Paul gave him a letter to take back to the church. In this letter to the Ephesians and indeed to all the new fellowships - even today - Paul points to things that needed attention before they got out of hand.
Having come to Christ, received forgiveness, brought back into the fold and family of God, they were encouraged not to continue to live in the same lifestyles as they had before but adopt their new lifestyle by making Jesus Christ their pattern for life.
They were encouraged To live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble, gentle and patient, bearing with one another in love. Peter would know from his own experience how Jesus was patient with him - helping him through his doubts and uncertainties and even forgiving him for denying Him.
God wants to build His Church with people who mirror the beauty of Jesus in their desire to become more like Jesus in their everyday lives. This is the message to the church of the day and I believe to the church today- Seek to know Him fully and be transformed to become the living body of Christ in the world today. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
A church planted by God will not only grow up, but grow together. Scripture speaks of believers as being ‘joined together’. The Greek word used is Kollao which literally means ‘glued together’ and emphasises the strength of our relationships with one another as the living body of Christ in the world today.
The bible goes further when it says that our relationships with one another must reflect our relationship with God. Loving God and our brothers are inextricably bound.
1 John 3;16-18 say this ‘This is how we know what love is; Jesus Christ laid down His life for us and we aught to lay down our own lives for our brothers. If anyone has material posessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us love not with words of tongue but with actions and in truth.
We are left in no doubt s to how the church at Ephesus responded to Pauls input as in Johns vision in Revelation God addresses to the seven churches at Smirna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea starting with the church at Ephesus,
Revelation 2; 2 starts in a very applauding way; I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Then comes a very serious observation; Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
To say they had forsaken the love they had at first. Suggests they had somehow lost touch with the one who called them -that the enthusiasm they had in the beginning for sharing and spreading the gospel had diminished over the years. They were loosing sight of their calling which iwas to know Christ and make Him known to others - to make disciples. Today it would be seen as their sense of mission - evangelism - the spreading and sharing of Gods word.
I thought about this and could see how churches today can be so involved in keeping the fabric of the church going that they have little time for the things that matter. Busy in social activities that takes all their time so that evangelism is put into the background - the church needs to strike the right balance.
Just as it is true that one can be ‘so heavenly minded that they are of no earthy use’ - It could also be possible to be ‘so earthy minded that we are no heavenly good’ when it comes to sharing the truth with others.
I wonder what God feels when He looks at the way His Church, His body here on earth is being deceived and drawn away from the truth by the cunning deciet of the devil - tragically through the false teachings of pastors and evangelists who are after their own fame and recognition some even feathering their own nests.
Many of them appeared to start out right with sound teachings but who over the last few years have been led away into falsehood. A far cry from what Gods word tells us here 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.
The truth is that some of them have been enticed away through greed and fame to become false prophets who’s flocks are being 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.
I believe that what Paul says in his second letter to Timothy about the last days is so relevant today.
2 Timothy 3; 1-5 But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God and look at verse 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. A sad indictment on some of the churches that are springing up and growing fast in todays society.
Today we don’t just have the JW’s knocking on our doors or the Mormons with their restoration messages of Joseph Smith - the devils taking over the airwaves and putting his lies on the internet on Youtube. Today we have churches that from the outside seem to be preaching the gospel but when you look into it are propogating a false prosperity gospel and in some cases showing a very worldly demonic form in their ’worship’. having a form of godliness but denying its power. The power they show is the power of the devil dressed up to look like the power of God - Have nothing to do with such people
We have to be very careful these days who we are listening to. The church today is being infiltrated by evil false teachers probably more so today than it was in Paul’s day and we have to be on our guard o make sure that we do as Paul suggests in chapter 5 of his letter to the church at Ephesus which is to ‘Follow God’s example, 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’
The church today - and that’s you and me - needs to take a good look at what we are doing and what direction we are going and recapture the sense of mission that we had when we first came to know Jesus and gave our lives to Him. To know Him through His word and make Him known through our lives. I believe that in the same way that the word became flesh in Christ Jesus that Jesus ( The living Word) needs to become flesh in us. We need to look at what we are doing in our churches and recapture the vision of evangelism by living the word and share the truth with our friends, neighbours and family.
That way I believe ‘God will add to our fellowships, those who are being saved’
Sunday Morning 6 August 2017 Additives to Faith 2 Peter 1; 1-12
Last week we read the first 4 verses of Peters letter to the early churches. This was the second letter of Peter who's calling card highlighted his credentials both Servant AND Apostle. With Peter there would be no 'Lording of his authority' instead he aligned himself alongside his people, taking his example from his Lord, who came 'not to be served, but to serve' as we sang in our second song ( the Servant King) and was willing to show that in the way He lived His life especially when He washed His disciples feet.
With the special commission of Jesus, Peter, 'the Rock on which I will build My Church' could have acted all proud and self righteous, but no, he points to the Righteousness of both the Father and the Son through whom all the new converts had received a faith 'as precious as ours' that's Peter and the other Apostles. WOW! The same faith that brought the same privileges was available for the whosoever.
A Precious Faith, precious because you can't buy it, and even if you could, you couldn't afford it, the price has already been paid by the sacrificial death of Jesus. A precious faith that you can't earn through good behaviour, no amount of good works will make it possible, it's a free gift, like the Queens birthday honours, it's bestowed upon you by Royal Charter.
To ensure that we remain strong in our faith, Peter reminds us that 'His Divine Power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, how? through 'Knowing Him' that's the key, knowing Him who called us to be His own, and who invites us to 'participate in the Divine nature' WOW! can you understand that, can we begin to grasp what Peter is saying here?
This is dynamite, this is mind blowing, this shows the extent of God's love and commitment not just to Peter and his hearers, but to you and me today. We said last week that for His people today, the church the first step would be restoration followed by Transformation as Gods Spirit within changes us to be the person He wants and intended us to be.
We are precious to Him, He loves us so much that He was willing to die for us, He gave His life for us, He then emptied us of self and sin, and poured His Spirit into our emptiness, filling us with Himself.
He made it possible for us to be 'born again (1 Peter 1;3), to start all over again, this time not just taking on the characteristics of our earthly parents, but becoming like God so much so that when He appears, we shall be like Him - and until that time - we are called to become like Christ and share His love with our families and friends.
I find that 'Awesome' He wants us to become partners in the Kingdom, shareholders in the family firm, beneficiaries of all the promises of God, inheritors of the Kingdom. Peter expressed it beautifully in his first letter - Peter 1v3 'A living hope' that can never perish spoil or fade, kept in Heaven for you' who through 'Faith' are being shielded until the day He comes again.
That's you and me, and that's our God given privilege. We live in an age where incredibly people find it easier to believe in Aliens' than to believe in a risen living Saviour.
The only aliens they will ever meet are not from other planets but right here amongst them - you and me. Peter in 1 Peter 2;11 refers to the 'new creation' ‘God's people’ as Aliens - people who having been born again are now indwelt by the Spirit of God so the way they act, think or speak is 'Alien ' to the selfish ways of this world. - that's what it should be like - that's how it was in the early church and why Peter uses this very terminology. Aliens - that while opposed sin - loved the sinner.
As Christians we are 'aliens, strangers in the world', by virtue that we have been re-born by the power of the Spirit, your a new creation. So important is this that Peter says 'even though you know it', I'm going to continually remind you of all this. Again, and again and again! We need to realise how privileged we are.
That’s why he pushes the point over telling them that the god of this world will try desperately to convince you otherwise - find your weak spots - tempt you sorely, will try to bring you down, to make you doubt yourself, but I, Peter, plan to keep reminding you of the glorious privilege that is yours of being a child of God, 'I want you to know how precious you are to Him'.
Do this and Peter says you will not fall down - don't do this and - YES, you will fall down, YES, you will fail, YES you will let God down, but know this - HE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU OR FORSAKE YOU, WHY? because you are PRECIOUS TO HIM, you're His adopted child and He loves you.
What has He done to enable me to live a life that is pleasing to Him, a holy, godly life in a depraved and corrupt world? How has He made it possible for us to as Pauls letter to the church at Philippi say -'shine like stars' in the darkness of this world? How? By making Himself known to us, in Jesus. When Phillips asked Jesus to 'show us the Father' Jesus replied 'He who hath seen me, hath seen the Father'. He fills us with His Spirit, makes it possible for us to get to know Him. That’s why Peter can say 'His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness --through our knowledge of Him'. 'Knowing you Jesus, there is no greater thing!
Peter wants to make sure that the church doesn't forget all this, and to help them, to safeguard them, he sets them a task. 'For this reason', Peter says, ' make every effort to add to your faith', and then he precedes to give a list of important additives to faith.
Today, people are very conscious and careful about what they eat and especially what our food contains. To encourage a healthy people, the law states that every food should be labelled with the contents. As well as revealing the carbohydrates and calories content, they also have to list the 'additives' the 'e' additives. The ones that add colour, texture, taste to artificially manufactured foods. In the world in which we live, additives are often substitutes for the real thing. Additives that the manufacturer has to put into the food to make it look, feel and taste like the real thing, why? because in the process of mass production, all these things have been lost.
Every morning I take Selenium which boosts the immune system. Selenium is an antioxidant and vital for the health of most of our organs. It used to be a natural part of Bread but through the modern production methods has been lost and, unless you eat plenty of nuts, is lacking from our daily diet. Today there is a steady market in vitamin tablets - why - because so many of the good additives have been manufactured out of our foods.
Peter introduces a list of good 'additives to faith' to help us to foil the devil and not fall fowl of his devious temptations that evoke wrong desires in us 'to escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 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, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
Down the years, all these 'additives' that Peter lists here, have slowly been lost from our lives and culture. As all the goodness that the creator put there in the first place, has been slowly eroded. Things like, 'Goodness, Self control, Perseverance, Godliness, Brotherly kindness and Love'.
Over the years there has been a sorry decline in morals, a lack of discipline, commitment, loyalty and trust. When I was a lad, you could leave the door 'on the sneck' or 'the latch' without fear of being robbed. There was a mutual trust between neighbours. If you ran out of anything, there was no corner shop to go to, you just asked a neighbour, and went round with a bowl. If anyone was ill in the street, it became the concern of the whole neighbourhood, who tended the sick person, saw the kids of to school, took in the washing, did the shopping until the crisis was over.
Running short of cash didn't stop you from going to the corner shop and getting your groceries 'on the tic'. The shop keeper knew you and trusted you. He knew that you would pay at the end of the week, and sometimes if it was really hard, he would let you could run up the bill into the next week. Try doing that in Morrisons!
The things that Peter talks about here have gone from the world, and are getting sadly are getting scarce in the church. He lists the mark of men and women who ’places his dependance firmly on Jesus', the men and women who have set their minds on the things of the Spirit and who are determined to live in the power of this new nature.
The portrait begins with faith and culminates in love, for without faith you cannot begin to please God and everything He does in you is to enable you to live more fully in His love.
These are the marks of the man of the Spirit.
1 He has a firm faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,. that will not be shaken by circumstance or situation.
2 He is determined to show the goodness of God in his life. A fruit of the Spirit
3 He is increasing in his knowledge of God and His purposes as He, God, reveals His word, and as he shares the word of God with others.
2 Colossians; 3 'In Him, Christ Jesus, lies all the mighty untapped treasures of wisdom and knowledge'.
4 He exercises 'self control' which is also a fruit of the Spirit, to curb his old selfish desires, so that he will give no place for the desires of the old nature and enable him to resist temptation.
5 He will persevere in his dependence and trust in the Lord, even when the going is tough, when the fire is hottest, when he is up to his neck in the troubled waters of life.
6 He manifests godliness by letting the beauty of Jesus be seen in his life. By allowing the word of God to become flesh in him and so letting the work of the Holy Spirit be seen in his life, displaying brotherly kindness - And lastly,
7 Loving others Our love for God should be seen in the extent of our unconditional love for each other and those around us.
The great truth is that ’ 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 if anyone does not have them, he is short-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins'.
Peter’s advice is 'Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and You will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. WOW!
A rich welcome in Heaven. That's worth the struggle, the battle, the pain and the hardship, that makes it all worth while. That's not just a 'O hello, were pleased to see you, glad you've made it.' That's the Father flinging His welcoming, loving arms around you, putting the best robes around you, making you feel special. That's the Father weeping with Joy as His child comes home. That's the promise of our Father who has prepared the most sumptuous banquet for each one of us - That's a hero's welcome.
You've fought the fight, You've won the race. 'Well done thou good and faithful servant'. You've made it! And great is the rejoicing in Heaven. Perhaps you have been a Christian for a long time, yet feel that somehow, you have not moved very far along the Christian road, I pray that the enthusiasm of Gods word this word this morning will encourage you to make your calling and election sure.
It's not easy. We get shaken by situations and circumstances in our lives. The old devil doesn't let us forget our past sins so easily does he? He knows our weak spots, he knows exactly where to plunge the knife in. It's not easy, but one thing is for sure, God knows, He cares, and loves us all the same. It's all about trying, going for it sticking it out persevering, persisting. And if you do, then the reward is there just for you!
As we said last week - It's all about getting to know Him better-Jesus the faithful and I believe that when we do, the additives to faith will be a natural outworking of the Spirit within us. Some of the additives to faith are also the fruit we bear when the Spirit of God dwells within us.
Lets determine to take what Peter is saying here and let the additives to faith be a natural outworking of the inner presence of God the Holy Spirit in our lives. Lets be fruitful and let our friends, family, fellowship and neighbours SEE the lovely benefits of knowing Jesus alive in our lives, our attitudes and our responses. Let the Word - Jesus- become flesh in us.
Sunday 30 July 2017 Transformed by Knowing Him 2 Peter 1; 1-4
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.
3 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.
For the last two weeks we have been looking at the gospel as recorded by Mark - the shortest Gospel - no mention of the birth of Jesus - Mark goes straight in by telling us about the baptism of Jesus by John and the calling of the first disciples. Mark then moves on to the beginning of Jesus’s ministry and tells us how His first port of call was the Temple where the crowds who had gathered there were amazed at His authority - not like their usual teachers - but one who spoke with the authority of God. Mark then tells us how Jesus then showed His authority by backing it up with a show of power as He healed one of their congregation of an unclean spirit.
Amazingly it’s the unclean spirit within the man himself who shouts to all around that Jesus is the ‘Holy one of God’ - Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of him and tells us in verse 27 that ‘the people were all so amazed that they asked each other - What is this - new teaching and with authority - even the evil spirits obey Him’ No wonder Mark tells us that news spread about Jesus quickly over the whole region.
Jesus came to bring man back to how God intended man to live - loving God and one another. Salvation could not be gained by good works or observance of the various ceremonies and laws that they had - but in obedience to the sacrificial love of Jesus.
I would imagine that when God looks at the state of His church today He must be sad and angry that the church is re-thinking it’s theology and bringing in changes to what it once believed were the ideals of God in order to be accepted by modern society. No wonder Jesus went to the Temple first in His ministry - I would imagine that if Jesus returned today - His first port of call would be the church.
When I asked God what scripture He wanted me to share this morning - Ezekiel 37 came straight into my mind. Ezekiel 37 is where God takes Ezekiel into a valley of dry bones - a graveyard of lifeless beings and asked him if he thought these bones could live. ‘God only knows’ was the reply. God tells him to prophesy to them telling them to hear the word of the Lord who says that He will breath new life into them - they will come to life and ‘know that I AM God’. Of course this was a restoration promise to the people of Israel but I also see it today as a restoration promise for the church - His chosen people.
As I read it I see the concern of our Father God that His church today has lost the plot but if they return back to Him then He will breath new life into them and bring restoration to His church.
As I said last week - when Jesus went into the Temple He preached with the authority and by so doing I believe would expose the hypocrisy of His people and bring a new covenant of Hope and restoration if people would reject their foolish way and return back to God.
We know that in His ministry He showed His followers what God was really like - the word became flesh - and after sacrificing His life on the cross once and for all for the forgiveness of mans sins, promised the Holy Spirit - the breath of new life that would transform His people to become like Jesus. The Gospels tell us how crowds followed Him - bringing their sick to Him for healing. We shared the miraculous healings of the leper, the cripple brought by his friends and let down through the roof because they couldn’t get near to Jesus for the crowds.
I believe that there is a real need for mankind to hear this message of Restoration that brings transformation. Especially those who call themselves His followers.
We are told in 2 Timothy that in the end times men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving - lovers of pleasure rather than God - and then the bombshell - having a form of godliness but denying the power - As I look at what is happening in the world today and more importantly in the church I can see this prophesy happening all around and Gods people need to be aware.
I believe that as an additive to Ezekiel 37 I was led to look at the progressive comments of the New Testament - Peter who talks of the transformation that comes when Gods people repent and turn to God.
There is a great need for Restoration today and when that happens transformation will take place. That’s why I believe Mark hones in on the early ministry of Jesus and the real need for Him to start with His own people - the chosen ones - those who were gathering in the temple. He spoke with real authority and then showed that authority in the healings.
One of the miraculous healings was Simon Peters mother-in-law who was ill with a fever. Awesome - knowing that so many here in our fellowship were being bogged down by illnesses we closed last Sundays meeting by seeking God in prayer for strength and healing.
This week we have read the letter from Peter one of the four fisherman that Mark tells us were called by Jesus to be His disciples. In this letter to the early followers of Jesus Peter sees himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ and as such addresses his letter to those who through the righteousness of God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as His - Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
I believe that what he writes to these early Christians can speak very forcibly to us here this morning - we - who through the righteousness of God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received the same precious faith as Peter and all the disciples- WOW! What a privileged people we are - I hope you feel it.
Wow! look at what he says now - His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life - how is this made possible? through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
Just as Salvation comes when we confess our sinfulness to God and receive His forgiveness - I believe that conversion and Transformation begins as we get to know Him - Jesus.
I say begun because I don’t believe that we are changed overnight - just like that I believe that transformation gradually at a pace that is unique to us - by getting to know Him more each day.
One day Peter was a fisherman - the next he is called by Jesus to come to know him and become a fisher of men. Wow - the work of transformation has begun.
Paul writing to the church in Rome put it this way ‘Do not conform any more to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ Romans 12.2
Peter opening intro in the portion we have just read says; v2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance - how? through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. Followed by; v3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life - How? - through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
Knowing Him and not just about Him
In Peter’s case, this took time - three years in fact - He became a faithful follower of Jesus - changed from being a fisherman into Peter the Rock on whom Jesus said He would build His church. Peter enjoyed the good times as He got to know Jesus more and more - but then it all seamed to go pear shape when following the arrest of Jesus - Fear stepped in and when the servant girl said she thought he had been with Jesus Peter replied ‘ I don’t know the man’.
Thankfully Jesus lovingly and gently transformed Peter ‘by the renewing of his mind’ so much so that the Peter we read about in the gospels seems a very different man from the Peter who wrote letters of inspiration and encouragement to the early churches. What God did for Peter and what Peter is encouraging the young churches to do, I believe He continues to do to this day as He changes, transforms men and women like you and me into people who will faithfully follow His every word and share His love with others around us.
Earlier we sang that lovely song by Marylin Baker ‘
Jesus You are changing me, by Your Spirit, You’re making me like You
Jesus you’re transforming me, that Your loveliness may be seen in all I do
You are the potter and I am the clay, help me to be willing, to let You have Your way.
Jesus, You are changing me as I let You reign supreme within my heart
Peter makes sure that his hearers know that what they have received was not as a result of their own endevours and could never be earned - what they had that was so precious was given them through the graciousness of Almighty God - the Righteousness of God.
Christ within - just as He promised before He went to the cross - who said to His disciples ‘If you love me and obey me then I and my Father will come and live within you - transformed from within by the renewing of our minds, by the changing of our hearts. And then blessed by the Holy Spirit who reveals all truth to us.
The early church spread rapidly as people saw the beauty of Jesus in His followers and came to know Him for themselves. This was not attained by mans ingenuity in arranging revival meetings, campaigns, Coffee Mornings to tempt people into churches but simply as people who knew Jesus made Him known to others as they were transformed into His likeness.
Peter the fisherman knew what it was to toil all night in the hopes of catching fish without success until he listened to Jesus and ‘did it His way’
Knowing Him makes all the difference between failure through self effort and success as achieved through Gods divine and Mighty power seen in His followers.
3 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.
The people of his day needed to hear that and so does Gods church today - you and I included.
When Peter talks about the Divine Power of God he knows what he is talking about.
The same mighty power that raised Lazarus from the dead.
The same Mighty power that moved the stone and raised Jesus to life
The mighty power that flowed through Peter and John causing the ,lame man to walk
The mighty power that broke the chains and opened the prison door to set Peter walk free
The same mighty power that shook the very building where he and the other disciples prayed following his miraculous release from prison.
God has called us to know him and make Him known. To Know His word stand firm in the truth of that word. To be transformed into His likeness - WOW!
4 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
Restoration and Transformation for you and me means being restored to what Gods desire for His creation was and transformed by knowing Him to become like Him - in the way we live our lives and respond to one another. I pray that the power that is available will become a reality in our own lives to the praise and Glory of our Father God.
We closed with the song 'Lord I pray that I may know Thee
Sunday 23 July 2017
Read Luke 5; 12-16
Last week we read the first chapter of Marks gospel - how unlike the other gospel writers Mark doesn’t talk about the birth of Jesus but begins his gospel with the commissioning of Jesus at His baptism by John , then moves to the calling of the first disciples and the beginning of Jesus’s ministry here on earth.
We read how one of the first port of calls for Jesus was the Temple where He went to preach what would have been a new and powerful message spoken with great authority and power that the congregation were amazed.
In our Bible study on Tuesday I suggested that the church of today would be the most likely first calling place for Jesus to go to bring people back to the truth - a people who on the outside look the part but inside reveals a different picture . A people that Timothy says ‘have a form of godliness but deny the power’ Many churches today need to get back to what God says in His word instead of changing it to fit their own and the worlds criteria. To bring His Authority and power back into our churches.
We saw how Jesus showed that authority and power when He commanded an unclean ( KJ V) spirit out of a man and began to heal the many who were brought to Him.
We focussed in on the source of power and authority which was the awesome way that He stayed in communion with His father God and made sure that He spent time in prayer .We looked at the importance of Christians - Gods children - you and I in making sure that we ‘recharge our batteries’ on a daily basis and make time at the beginning of each day to come to God in prayer.
In my devotions this week I did what I do every week and that is to ask God to show me the bible portion He wants me to share at the Sunday morning meeting.
This week it was Saturday morning when I felt that God had answered that prayer and the chapter and verses we have just read came into my mind. I was amazed and thrilled when I got my Bible and looked at the verses Luke 5;13. It was the very next account that followed last weeks reading taken from Marks gospel. God is amazing!
While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him.
WOW! As we read in Marks last week - Jesus certainly made a great impression on the people He had met in the Jewish Temple who were amazed at His authority and power and the way the evil spirit confirmed that Jesus was the Messiah when he shouted at Jesus ‘I know who you are - you’re the Holy One of God’.
The source of the power and authority was God - Jesus was God incarnate - God in flesh appearing.
The healing of the leper was further confirmation of who Jesus was when he healed the leper as the Jews believed that only God could cure Leprosy. We read this in 2 Kings 5 where we are told about Naaman a leper who went to Gods servant Elisha and was healed by the power of God.
That’s why we have here the astonishing way that the leper himself declares his faith in Jesus as the Son of God when, within the hearing of everyone he tells Jesus ‘ ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean’ as they believed that only God could do that. And so - ‘Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him.
Jesus wanted the authorities to know that the man had been healed and so in keeping with the law told the man not to tell anyone until he had gone to the priest and offer the sacrifice that Moses commanded - Luke tells us why Jesus did this purely as a testimony to the Jews as it was normal practice for them to take a sacrificial offering to the Priest in keeping with law when healing was needed - This man had been healed by Jesus, who was the once and for all sacrificial lamb who had come as fulfilment of the law.
Obviously such a miraculous healing would not go unnoticed and we are told that even though Jesus had told the man to tell no one news about Him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear Him and to be healed of their illnesses.
Crowds as we read last week who witnessed the most awesome healings - no wonder His fame spread - no wonder He was in great demand - no wonder we are then told that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Prayer - the source of the power.
I wonder what your prayer life has been like since last Sunday and Tuesday at Bible Fellowship where we looked further into the life of Jesus through the eyes of Mark.
That lovely hymn ‘what a friend we have in Jesus’ the verses say it all ‘All our sins and griefs to bear - What a privilage to carry everything to God in prayer‘.
If Jesus needed to pray to claim strength, power and authority from God - how much more do we.
I would not be able to function if I couldn’t take everything to God in prayer and feel the love of His arms around me providing as the song says ‘a solace’ which the dictionary explains is comfort or consolation in a time of great distress or sadness.
The holiday last week surrounded by my family was great but coming home to an empty house is a real knock back - one minute your with five close family the next your alone - and I really felt it this week. OK I’ve been busy every day preparing and doing meetings, spending time looking after the needs and caring for Thelma and Christine - but then at it’s back home - alone- where the solitude kicks in and the memories of happier times with Beryl tug at your heart.
Prayer to me is important - and I know God understands me and the way I feel. - even when I get angry sometimes - but the promise that He will never leave me or forsake me is so true. Knowing that even though I may feel alone - I’m not - for He is with me.
I know the power there is in prayer having been on the receiving end of prayers for miraculous healings in my life - not just once but many times. Kidneys, Cancer - God has certainly shown His power to me and I pray, through me.
After my miraculous healing from one of the deepest cancers the specialist said he’d had to deal with I was able, like the leper, to go back to that Specialist and tell him that whilst he had played a part in the healing - it was God who had fulfilled the healing in me.
I’ve also been able to share my testimony with so many in other churches and I pray that by doing so - spread the good news about Jesus that and God’s love for His creation - you and me.
Prayer really works - we know that here at Idle - the crippled Christopher, the baby Adam whose lungs would not function, the miraculous way God supplied the £5000 for new chairs less than 24 hours after we‘d prayed for it, the way He provided £200 000 for a new roof, £175 000 to build the Community Hall - the way He brought Brian and Maries surgery forward by months following our prayer meeting- He’s Amazing - Awesome - O how we need to share our answers to prayer with others in fulfilment of our calling to be disciples of Jesus. We need to combat the feebleness of mans faith and allow them to be challenged by the truth of His word.
You may be going through a difficult patch in your Christian experience - take it to the Lord in prayer
I know that within this congregation this morning there are so many issues and concerns that affect many of you. Illnesses - the Corps seems to have more than it’s fair share of these over the last few months. I believe this morning that God is calling us to bring them to Him in faith believing prayer so that He can show His great and awesome power to us and through us.
We need to take our concerns for ourselves and for others to Him in prayer. That’s what happened in the next part of the ministry of Jesus.
Luke 5; 17 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. To probably check up on Jesus and try to bring Him into disrepute as a blaspheming enemy of the Jewish faith. But they are in for a shock for as we read; And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal those who were ill.
Some men came carrying a paralysed 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.’
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"? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the paralysed man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.
WOW! The power of Jesus to heal is an obvious sign to those around - you can’t dispute the fact that this cripple is healed as he gets up and walks - also as it was Jewish practice to believe that illness is caused by sin - healing the man shows that he has been forgiven - by Jesus - by God. Anyone can say ‘your sins are forgiven’ that’s only words but to say to a lifelong cripple ‘take up your bed and walk’ that shows faith and power over an impossible situation.
No wonder we read that again; Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today ’
Well, I believe that we have heard remarkable things today. I believe that God wanted us to share this and be assured that He is the same today as yesterday - that’s why I believe He gave me this bible reading to share this morning. I believe that He wants us to take everything, our fears, our concerns, our illnesses, our worries and bring them to Him in prayer this morning so that He can deal with them all and show His power and authority .
Then lame man was brought by his friends who all had faith to believe in the power of Jesus. As friends we need to uphold one another in believing prayer this morning and as well as bring our own concerns to God, feel the strength of each others prayers for us.
Lets exercise our faith this morning by praying ourselves and for one another faith believing prayers - pray in the power of the Spirit and leave it with the Lord.
I know that God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we would want Him to - because God knows best - but that’s no reason not to let God know the deep desires of your heart - voice your concerns and as you exercise your faith in Him - as you believe in Him - receive His ministry in your life and situation.
We seen some awesome answers to prayer here at this Corps over the last 20 years and I believe that God wants to bring us this morning to open our hearts to Him in faith believing prayer and then leave it with Him.
Some of you will be amazed at the way God answers your prayer this morning. If your heart is right with God - like the men who brought the paralitic to Jesus - He could see they were acting in great faith and so in acknowledgment of that forgave them of any sin in their lives and followed that by showing them His power in answering their prayers and concern for their friend.
Lets ask God do that this morning - in prayer we are going to sing the inspiring song
‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’ He is here - what a privilage - the Living God Almighty is here with us this morning - believe it and feel His presence.
Note for the Internet readers of this message; I would encourage those who are reading this to respond in the same way to close your eyes and feel His presence as you bring your needs to Him. I have prayed for you as I add this message to our Corps site - God bless you
Sunday Morning 16 July 2017
Recharging your batteries
Mark 1; 21-39 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.
Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!’ ‘Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.’ News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all who were ill and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’ Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Verse 21 opens by telling us that ‘They went to Jerusalem’ Who are they? Simon, and his brother Andrew, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. The first four disciples that Jesus called to drop everything they were and follow Him. These were all humble fishermen who Jesus called to leave there nets and follow Him with the promise that He would make them fishers of men.
WOW! Unlike some of you I’ve never been to the holy land, I’ve not seen Galilee - and all the fishing boats - must be a great and inspiring sight especially for Christians to walk where Jesus walked and see the places He called His disciples from - this week I’ve been fortunate to have four days on the East coast. We stayed in Filey but travelled to Scarborough and Bridlington and saw hundreds of boats in the bays - especially at Scarborough - didn’t see many on the sea but lots in the bays.
I can imagine that Galilee, where the disciples were fishermen would have looked a bit like that.
Mark starts his gospel telling us about John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus he then goes onto tell us about the temptations of Jesus and then here, still in the first chapter he tells us about the awesome ministry of Jesus and the way in which having called His first disciples, lets them see the awesome power in Him as He begins His earthly ministry that starts with Him doing miraculous things.
Verse 21 tells us that He and the four disciples went to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.
Last week we looked at how Paul distinguished between the law and Grace as the new churches were being challenged by the Jewish Christians not to forsake their Jewish teachings epecially about ceremonies and the law. Jesus brought new light that taught that man is saved by the grace of God and not by mere observance of the law.
Imagine Jesus in the synagogue - teaching the people a new and living way - as He taught them they saw in Him a man of deep and positive authority who was very different from the teachers who focussed on the law. One of which was that to seek atonement for their sins they had to take a sacrificial dove or lamb to the priest and that would become their offering for forgiveness. Jesus came to show the love of God and by becoming the once and for all sacrificial lamb by giving His own life to pay for their sinfulness. Jesus taught that salvation was through the Grace of God and not the law. Gods Riches At Christ Expence.
What happened next is amazing and very pointed. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?
The man with the impure spirit was in their midst - in the Temple - and amazingly it was the evil spirit within the man that proclaimed to the whole congregation who Jesus really was when he cried out I know who you are – the Holy One of God!’‘
That must have challenged the other worshippers - Jesus’s response?
Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.’ News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
His work began right there in the temple where those who were supposed to be true worshippers - Jesus showed His power and authority by casting out the impure spirit. What follows is another miracle - this time in the home of one of the disciples.
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
The ministry of Jesus then continues; 32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all who were ill and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
An amazing introduction to the four disciples and to the whole neighbourhood as Jesus, at the start of His three year ministry - showed the people by the miracles He did, the things He said in the sermons and the way He lived His life who He really was and why God had sent Him to live among them.
I never cease to be amazed at the stamina of Jesus the man in the way in which He spent His time continually ‘giving out’. We have just read in the very first chapter of Mark how Jesus almost tirelessly expends Himself for the sake of the Kingdom. We see the authority and the power of Jesus that comes with that authority.
Twice we are told that the people were ‘Amazed’. Once at His teaching v22 ‘because He taught them as one having authority and not as the teachers of the law’ and secondly v 27 ‘they were so amazed’ because of the miraculous way He cast out the impure spirit. When Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law we are told that ‘the whole town gathered at the door’.
Wow and we think we live a busy hectic life. I used to say to Beryl after having experienced another busy week ‘surely this week can’t be as busy as the last, and then lo and behold, the phone would ring, we got the diary out and start to fill up the remainder of the week.
During the last ten years as Beryls Alzheimers got worse I found it very hard to keep going - only with prayer and the power of God was it made possible. Even now as Beryl has gone to live with the Lord - life has developed many more demands that add pressure to ones life and ministry - I really needed the four day break that we’ve had this week - in fact - it wasn’t long enough - I’m still tired.
I can just imagine how Jesus would be feeling after the hectic life He led - that’s why He needed to get away for short breaks to re-charge His batteries. His short breaks were spent in prayer. - I know I couldn’t keep going if I neglected prayer. Every morning this week I knelt at my bedside as I do at home and brought the day and my life to God in prayer - I even still prayed for all of you too.
Look at v 35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
If Jesus needed time to recharge His batteries - then more so do we.
Last Thursday after a rather busy day I got home about 6pm and started to prepare last Sundays meeting when the phone rang - it was Steven. He was outside ALDI and his car refused to start - he needed my help. I stopped what I was doing and drove up with a set of Jump leads. I attached the leads to my car and Steven to his but all we got was sparks flying everywhere. I drove Steven round to the garage just down Louisa Street and they were very helpful and I drove them round to Stevens car. They got it going and drove it back to the garage where we left it for a new battery to be fitted the following day.
Batteries - do go flat and need either recharging The best way to keep your spiritual batteries charged up is to keep plugged in to the Almighty power of God in prayer.
That’s what Jesus did and it worked. Even after all the ministry of that day we read;
36; Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’ Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Jesus needed to recharge His batteries by plugging in to prayer with the Almighty. Just as I needed to recharge my physical batteries this week I also know the need to recharge my spiritual batteries in prayer. Without it I would not be able to cope.
How do you feel? Life getting you down? problems that you find difficult to deal with? health problems that bring uncertainty or fear to your heart? Take it to the Lord in prayer. It also helps if we are prepared to share our needs with others so that collectively we can pray about the situations that concern you.
Perhaps you don’t feel that you are being effective in your witness - maybe like Stevens car - you need a jump start. Maybe your not experiencing the power in your ministry that you know is available - perhaps you need to re-plug into the Almighty. Jesus taught with authority, and ministered in great power because He faithfully went daily to the source of power and wisdom - to God in prayer.
Jesus was empowered to do more than preach the truth - He lived it and the only way He could do that was by spending time with His Father, re-charging his batteries and so ’very early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and found a solitary place where He prayed.
If you feel you’re ‘running on empty‘, this morning or feel ‘physically and spiritually drained’ Take a lesson from the book - stop- just where you are and take to heart the message I believe Jesus wants you to hear this morning
Jesus said ’Come unto Me, al ye who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest in Me’ Matt 11; 28 ‘Learn from Me’ said Jesus
Prayer, communion with God is vital if we want to keep firing on all betteries. On one occasion, Jesus came down from the mountain following a whole night of prayer and saw His disciples struggling to minister to the needs of others. Jesus told them that they would be powerless ‘without prayer and fasting’.
Maybe that the problem of many Christians in the church today because they try to do things in their own strength when the power is available through prayer. Maybe it’s time to re-charge your batteries in prayer - How about it
Sunday 9 July 2017
Last Sunday we looked at the letter of Paul to the church at Ephesus. How he had responded to hearing about their great faith in Jesus and the love that they shared with one another.
We read how Paul told them that his response was to remember them continually in prayer. His prayer for them was contained in three segments;
1 For the spirit of wisdom and revelation in order that they would know Christ, and not just about Him. That they would get to know Christ with increasing awareness.
As we know Saul, as he was known before he met with Jesus on the Damascus Road had not been looking for Jesus but for the new Christians so that he could destroy them and their new found faith because it conflicted with his own strict Jewish upbringing and was regarded as a heretical movement.
After his encounter with Jesus, his whole life took on a new meaning and direction, instead of being persecutor of the Christians, he himself became a Christian and would join the persecuted ranks. In his attempt to get to know the truth about Jesus he had travelled up to Jerusalem to find the disciple Peter who had lived with Jesus three years and knew Him first hand. I guess that spending those 15 days with Peter he would get to know about Jesus as well as pursuing his new found relationship with the risen Lord through prayer to enable him to get to know Jesus for himself.
Paul knew that the only way forward in his new direction was to get to know Jesus for himself. That was the basis of his prayers to the new churches.
The second phase of his prayer was that the eyes of their hearts will be opened to see something of the future He has called them to share.
The New Christian church was a movement not a static church and the only way forward was to catch the vision for themselves of what part God wanted them to play in moving His Church forward.
The third and most thrilling part of his prayer was that they would begin to see and To understand how incredibly great is His power.
The same mighty power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead was available for them in spreading the good news and building His church. This was an important prayer for Paul and would be a great encouragement to the churches he wrote to.
On Wednesday at the Bible study we looked further into the letters that Paul wrote - in fact we looked at them all and saw how similar are his letters to the churches at Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Phillipi, Colossi, Thessalonica, and his personal notes to Timothy and Philemon and how they all start by saying how much Paul values their faith and how they are constantly in his prayers.
Very different to his letters to the church at Galatia, Titus and the Hebrew churches where he warns them to pay attention to what they have learned so that they would not drift away by those insisting on the OT Jewish practices. The same applies to the letter Paul sent to Timothy ‘my true son in the faith’ and Titus who he again refers to as ’my true son in our common faith’ to not get caught up in the old practices.
Pauls prayers show his concern for the church that it doesn’t get drawn away by those who for whatever reason can’t let go of some of their old ceremonial practices or indeed others who try to steer the Christians away to other faiths and teachings. ‘Divisions in the Church’ he calls it
I said on Wednesday that I’m sure that if Paul were writing to the church today he would have the same concerns as he would see a very divided church where many of the teachings of the bible are being changed to win mans approval.
Philippians 3; 1 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
Wow! God certainly knew what He was doing in choosing Saul - a man was so steeped in the tradition of the Jewish faith - so much so that when fierce opposition came against the Christian Church - Saul would be able to combat it knowing all the arguments that the Jews would have against the new Covenant with real certainty and conviction because he’s been a part of all that.
Saul was certainly predestined by God to become the voice of truth to the Jews and a confirming spirit to the Gentiles having been confronted by the risen Christ on his way to persecute the new Christian church and it’s converts.
Lets look at the miraculous call of Saul in Acts 9
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.
Saul was given a vision of a man who would come and place his hands on him to give him his sight back. That man was Ananaias who God had already spoken to telling him to go meet up with Saul, to pray and lay hands on him so that Saul would receive the Holy Spirit.
Annanias was initially very cautious as he knew what Saul was doing in getting rid of the Christians - but he was obedient especial after God told him the This man, Saul is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. Ananias did as he was told
WOW! No wonder the know named Paul could write to the church at Philippi with such conviction - lets look at what Paul wrote next.
Philippians 3; 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.
No wonder Paul s prayer to the early churches was that they would get to know Christ, place their faith in Him and know the righteousness that comes not through the law but by faith inn Jesus. No wonder he could write to the churches warning them not to get trapped into their old ways of claiming their righteousness in sacrificial offering of their own or strict ceremonial practices such as circumcision.
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.
To really know Him and to know that whatever I am called to suffer in this life - He will be with me helping me through whatever comes, and one day I will be with Him in Glory. The same resurection power that Jesus experienced.
Paul didn’t say all this with a pompous attitude but in true humility
V 12 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.
He wants to live faithfully under the words of Jesus and begin to grasp the wonder of his calling. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.
His prayer was that they would;
1 Experience the spirit of wisdom and revelation in order that they would know Christ, with increasing awareness.
2 That the eyes of their hearts will be opened to see something of the future He has called them to share.
3 begin to understand how incredibly great His power is to those who believe.
WOW! We can learn so much from the conversion of Paul, his response and his enthusiasm in making sure that he fulfil all that God had called him to do in making the truth of the gospel known to both the unbeliever and to those who thought they were being obedient to the commands of God.
We could do no better than pray the same prayer that Paul made for all the new Churches that were springing up that they would really get to know Jesus, His purpose in coming to the world and His plans for those who would accept Him as their Lord and Saviour.
That certainly was my prayer 40 years ago after seeing the power of God manifest through David and Dorothy Murden. It’s been my prayer ever since.
To then seek to know His will and purpose for my life was the next step and He certainly showed me that through Jeremiah 29
The third part of Paul’s prayers, that believers would begin to understand how incredibly great is His power to those who believe, has been an awesome privilage of mine to experience the mighty power of God through laying hands on Christopher, the awesome way in which through stepping forward against the most formidable of odds and praying in faith for finances to get us to where we are today has been an awesome experience.
These are not boasts but acknowledgment of what God is able to do through His people when we act in faith and commitment to His ways.
Our God is awesome and wants each us to know and experience for ourselves how great He is and how He desires us - you and I to be open to Him so that He can move His fellowship - this fellowship - His church - forward to accomplish all that He has in store for us and His Kingdom.
Lets close by looking at the final words of Paul to the Church at Philippi.
4; 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Sunday morning 2 July 2017 Ephesian1 1; 15-23 NIV
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
An awesome prayer from Paul to the members of the church at Ephesus. Je has heard of their faith in Jesus and the love they share for all God’s people and so has never stopped from giving thanks for them to God in his prayers. Asking God to give them the Spirit of Wisdom and revelation so that they might know Him better.
Just like Graham Kendricks song Knowing You Jesus. To really get to know Jesus and feel His presence. That was and still is my prayer.
He prays ‘that the eyes of their heart will be enlightened so that they may know the hope to which He has called you’ That’s to know Him and the hope to which we have been called. He prays that they will know the power of God - the same mighty power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated Him in Heaven - WOW!
He Complements them for what they have become and earlier in the chapter reminding them from where they have come.
A few years ago, one f the most popular films around was ‘Back to the future’ starring Michael J Fox. It was a pure school boy escapist fantasy film about time travel. ‘The young Sherlock Holmes’ was another and on TV we had a similar story in the guise of ‘Dr Who’. The idea was that the only way you could hope to change the tragic events of today was by going back in time to put right the troubles that were the cause of today’s problems.
The reason that you were able to do something about it was that in Hindsite, knowing the cause of the troubles or problems you could go back and do something about it - change it - and therefore change the present situation. Sounds great if it worked.
I wonder what you’d change about your past if you could go back in time.
There are lots of times in our lives when we wish we could put the clock back and do things differently. To retract the unkind unhelpful word we made that caused so many problems, perhaps not make the same mistake that is today costing you dearly.
Back to the future was a great film but inn reality the statement is a complete farce. The most we can put the clock back is one hour per year - you can’t change the present or the future by going back and doing things differently - or can you?
We can’t change the past - but we can learn from it - start again and do things in a way that will affect our present day situations and of course our future. So where do we start? Gods word advises us to forget the past - and that’s great so long as we’ve learned from it.
Paul writing to the church at Ephesus reminds them of the past, the time that God called them - as we read it I wonder if we were reminded of the past and the way God called us. The time we first came to Jesus and asked Him into our lives. Remember how that felt? Remember the excitement of those early months and years, the enthusiasm you had, the eagerness that burned inyour heart to serve God and work to build the Kingdom./
Maybe in the light of those thoughts, things don’t seen to be the same today, in comparison to those first days of being a Christian your ‘get up and go’ seems to have somehow ‘got up and gone’.
Obviously the first place to start is to remember how God called you - where you were, what you felt like, what it was that challenged your lifestyle and brought you to commit your life to God. To put the blame for your present position squarely where it belongs, back in the devils courts, and then press on with even more determination and re-establish your place in God’s, Kingdom building project.
I’ve said so many times recently that God’s not given us this beautiful church for no reason - the facility of a Community Hall, new chairs etc When I consider the potential of the future that I believe God has in store for you and His church I can understand why the devil is having such a go at us. There is a spiritual war on and the opposition is quaking because he knows that he is in fear of loosing.
Paul writing to the church at Ephesus starts his letter in this way.
Ephesians 1;1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 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.
We looked at this in real depth last week as we considered what it meant to be holy
God had commanded His people to ‘be Holy as I am Holy’ to worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness Holy Living - to live lives that will glorify God and be an example to others just like Jesus did.
In love 5 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. Two week ago it was fathers day when we looked at what a privilage is ours to be called Children of God and as such address Almighty God as Father. The prayer Jesus taught begins ‘Our father’ who art in heaven - that’s God
7 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. Grace - Gods Riches At Christs expence. Generously Lavished on us. Redeemed through the sacrificial blood of Jesus who became the once and for all sacrificial lamb making forgiveness possible.
With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. God will is that all should be saved and inherit the Kingdom.
To unite us as one in the body of Christ and with God through the Holy Spirit.
Paul then talks about the way God in Christ chose the disciples and then the apostles like Paul who encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road when he says that 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
Paul then talks about those who would follow through hearing the word of God through the apostles. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory. A lovely follow up to the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane that we looked at in our Bible study where Jesus firstly prayed for Himself, then those He called, the disciples and thirdly those who would follow through hearing the good news.
Gods word in many places shows us how by taking people back and reminding them of how God had brought them to their present position, the prophets and leaders in the were able to spur them on to greater things.
Moses urged the Israelites forward when they faced the most formidable obstacles on their way to the promised land by reminding them of how God had faithfully brought them out of bondage and forward against the most difficult obstacles.
How God had parted the Red Sea to give them safe passage, provided water out of a rock when they were thirsty, miraculously feeding them daily with Manna from heaven.
In the New Testament too we read of how after the death and resurrection Jesus he appeared many times to the disciples showing them that He had indeed risen from the dead. On one of those occasions He appeared to the disciples when they had gone back to their old way of life - fishing - and caught nothing - Jesus appeared on the shore and began to take His disciples right back to the time when He first called them to leave their nets and follow Him.
When Jesus first called them, three years ago, to leave their nets and follow Him with the promise that He would make them fishers of men - they had been fishing. They had fished all night and caught nothing - They saw Jesus standing on the shore asking them if they had caught anything - ‘No’ they had answered ‘Throw you nets on the other side’ Jesus called - They did and the catch was great. They came ashore and Jesus shared how He would make them fishers of men if they were prepared to follow Him - which they did.
Now, three years later the same has happened - they had caught nothing and once again, there was Jesus standing on the shore instructing them to cast their nets on the other side - they did and caught a vast number of fish - just as they had those three years earlier.
I believe that this, together with the accounts of Moses leading the children of Israel forward to claim the promised land and Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus serve to remind us of the privilage of our calling to help us to take a step back and look at our own lives over the last few years and reflect on our calling.
We started by refering to the film ‘Back to the Future’ That’s what Jesus is doing here - taking His followers back to that time He first called them so that they could put right the mistakes they had made that would then affect the future that they still had to live. Time and time again all the way through the Bible, God reminds His people of their past and of the glorious future He has called them to share.
That’s why Paul in his letter to the Ephesians says ‘I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you wisdom to see clearly and really understand who Christ is ad all that He has done for you’. Living Bible
His concern is wrapped up in prayer for them. The desire of his heart finds expression in prayer. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can see something of the future He has called you to share.
I pray that you will begin to understand how incredible great His power is to help those who believe Him. The same mighty power that raised Jesus Christ for the dead and seated Him in the place of honour at the right hand of God in heaven, far far above any king or dictator or leader.
The three prayers of Paul are these;
1 For the spirit of wisdom and revelation in order that they would know Christ, not just about Him
2 That the eyes of their hearts will be opened to see something of the future He has called them to share
3 To understand how incredibly great is His power
To look back and be reminded of all that God in Christ Jesus has done for us.
To get to really know Jesus and look forward to all that God has in store for us and His church and to know the enabling power. Called, Enthused and enabled.
What is God saying to you this morning - how has you relationship with Him developed over the years since you first felt His call?
Maybe this morning is your time to get back to reaffirm the promises you made years ago and step ‘Back to the future’ with a new determination to live it for the Lord.
Maybe this morning is the time when those who maybe have never felt the call of Jesus or if you have , you didn’t respond - maybe this morning is your calling time.
What a blessed time that would be if you accepted that call in your heart and were prepared to put the past behind you and step into the future He has awaiting for you. A time to look back and re-capture the future He has called us to share.
I remember the time when God spoke to me all those years ago when He led me to read Jeremiah 29; 11-14 For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord ‘plans to prosper you and not 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.
And the staggering declaration that ‘I will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.’ He took me out of this place to start the New Life Fellowship, openned my eyes to see a wider picture of His church and intentions for His church and then when He had done that brought me back to the place He had taken me - here this Corps to eventually become the Commanding Officer.
Through Paul, God wanted to move His people forward
Paul gets excited when he wrote to the church at Ephesus as he reltes to them God’s plans ‘And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession - to the praise of His Glory.
I believe that God wants to move us forward as individuals and as His Church.
To be encouraged, challenged and srtirred to a deeper commitment and realisation of our calling and what that means to each of us personally.
Song How can I better serve Thee Lord?
Sunday morning 25 June 2017
1 Chronicles 16;23-29 Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim His salvation day after day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvellous deeds among all peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendour and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place. Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come before Him. Worship the Lord in the splendour of His holiness.
We sang earlier Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Holy is the Lord God Almighty. Here we are being exhorted to ‘worship the Lord in the beauty of His Holiness‘. Holy God - Almighty, Pure, Clean, Wholesome - set apart from the rest.
The Salvation Army is of course, a Holiness Movement. One of it's great leaders in it's early days was Commissioner Samuel Logan Brengle. I have all his books and they are a real inspiration to me. As well as being well known as a teacher in holiness - he didn’t just teach it - he did what Jesus did and lived it. Let me read you an extract from the book 'Helps to Holiness'.
On January 9, 1885, at about nine 0'clock in the morning, God sanctified my soul. I was in my own room at the time, but in a few minutes I went out and met a man and told him what God had done for me. The next morning, I met another man on the street, told him, and he shouted and praised God and urged me to preach full salvation and confess it everywhere.
Wow! Joshua must have told those men in a powerful and meaningful way , especially the second man who having heard what Joshua had to say began to shout and praise God himself and urge Joshua to preach full salvation - not just in words but in a ‘meaningful way’. In otherwords - ‘Live it’. just like Jesus did.
Joshua continues; Two mornings after that, just as I got out of bed, and was reading some words of Jesus, He gave me such a blessing as I never dreamt a man could have, this side of heaven. It was a heaven of love that came into my heart. I walked out over Boston Common before breakfast weeping with Joy and praising God. O how I loved! In that hour, I knew Jesus and I loved Him till it seemed my heart would break with love. I loved the sparrows, I loved the horses, I loved the dogs, I loved the urchins on the streets, I loved the strangers who were hurrying past me, I loved the heathen - I loved the whole world!
Another WOW! As he was reading his bible that morning, the words of Jesus went right to his heart and filled him with a blessing that he never thought was possible this side of heaven - sounds like the two disciples on their way to Emmaus who as they walked and talked with Jesus felt their hearts ‘burning within them‘.
He describes it as a ‘heaven of love’ that began to express itself in tears of joy and spontaneous praise. His heart was filled with the intense Love of God. ‘O how I loved!’ In that hour he knew the reality of the presence of Jesus whose love burned deep in his heart so great that it felt it would burst with love - . I loved the sparrows, I loved the horses, I loved the dogs, I loved the urchins on the streets, I loved the strangers who were hurrying past me, I loved the heathen - I loved the whole world!
I know just how Joshua feels -Every morning as I kneel before God in prayer - my heart bursts with love and tears do flow as I begin to say my prayers - my heart is filled with love - Gods love.
Joshua goes on; Do you want to know what holiness is? Do you want to know what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is? It's not mere sentiment, or anything that will go away in the night. It is a baptism of Love that brings every thought into captivity to the Lord, that casts out all fear, that burns up doubt and unbelief like a fire, that makes one meek and lowly in heart that makes one hate uncleanness, lying and deceit, a flattering tongue and every evil way with a perfect hatred.
I love his description of Holiness that he links with the baptism in the Holy Spirit - it’s not a short lived one off experience that will go away - it’s a baptism of love -
Gods love - that casts out ALL fear - knowing that whatever we face - we have the assurance that God will be with us - seeing us through
That burns up doubt and unbelief like a fire
That makes you meek, lowly of heart, makes you hate uncleanness, lying, deciet - even a flattering tongue and every evil way with a ‘perfect’ hatred.
And there’s more; It makes
Heaven and Hell eternal realities,
makes one patient, gentle, pure, peaceable, merciful and fruitful, without partiality, without hypocrisy.
It brings you into unbroken sympathy with the Lord Jesus Christ in His toil and travail to bring a lost and rebellious world back to God.
And you know what? God did all that for me, bless His holy name. I had longed to be pure, hungered and thirsted after God - the living God. And He gave me the desire of my heart. He satisfied me, He satisfied me, He satisfied me!
WOW! Joshua knows with real certainty that he feels this way because God wanted him to - he’d prayed for it and God answered his prayer and gave him the desire of his heart - he then repeats himself three times - ‘He satisfied me, He satisfied me, He satisfied me!
And so the book goes on with Samuel Logan Brengle - teacher of Holiness - praising God for giving him the blessing of holiness.
I’ve often shared how our Sunday morning meeting used to be called the 'Holiness meeting'. The first meeting of the day, when as God's people we met to seek His presence together, and learn the secrets of holiness. The meeting was a rich experience that embodied the awesomness of His presence.
As I keep saying - worship is not something that Christians do only on Sundays, Worship should be expressed in the way in which we conduct our lives during the week. Worshiping the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness means that our daily lives should reflect the glory of God, and honour Him -
To some, holiness is a historic observance of tradition, rules, dress. The Pharisees had a programme of don't' and thought that their observance of these rules was enough to get them to Heaven, but instead of making them holy, they became self-righteous, proud of their observance of the Law.
To many people, to be seen as Holy is either for people like Geoffrey Brindley who used to walk the streets dressed in a blanket waving and smiling at the cars and people that pass by, or simply to be regarded as too heavenly minded to be any earthly use.
Today, by many in the world, to be known as ‘holy’ is to be regarded as pious - above everyone else - To have a holier than thou attitude. Holiness is often seen as being unattainable, and unfashionable. Sadly our misguided concept of holiness is so often a great hindrance to our actually being holy.
It's no wonder that many churches are dying all round us as the world looks in and sees an oppressed people trying desperately to live by a set of archaic, often man made rules - 'you can't do this - you mustn't do that. What the church often presents to the world is a picture of an oppressive God who rules from heaven waving a big stick seeking to condemn those who enjoy life.
Perhaps because of this misconception, many believers seem content to live lives of semi holiness - if that were possible- in a church that tolerates the imperfections of life.
The Bible is very clear - God is Holy, and wants His children to be holy yet many Christians find even the concept of holiness, unreachable, so they give in. Using the excuse - 'Nobody's perfect, God understands, He forgives. They presume and take advantage of His goodness and mercy.
1 Peter 14-16 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy ( Lev 11;44)
Man's lack of holiness, is not because he fails to observe a set of 'thou shalt not's', but rather that he fails to observe the 'thou shalt's'. Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart and Him only shalt thou serve.
When I last spoke on this subject in 1995 I said then that Holiness begins not with man, but with God. It's not what we do or don't do, that makes us right with God, it's knowing what He has done for us, that makes it possible for us to be holy.
Unless God comes to live in you and I by the power of the Holy Spirit, then it is impossible to live a holy life, in a sinful world. That's why God gives the Holy Spirit, to empower and equip us for 'Holy Living'. The God who calls us to be holy, comes along side us to make us holy. That was the experience of Brengle.
Stephen Gaukroger in his book 'Hunger for Holiness' relates this story. 'One winters night, a cold, exhausted tramp was found in the streets by the Salvation Army. Two Officers half walked, half carried him back to their hostel. They sat him down on a bed, gave him a towel and some soap and suggested he might like to have a wash.
Looking in on him ten minutes later, he was still sitting there, huddled up, too exhausted to move. So they gently lifted him up and carried him to the bathroom where they gently and lovingly helped him to wash himself. Then they took him back to the bed and tucked him in.
It's OK for God to tell us that we need to be spiritually clean, but we need help to get to that point. Even when He has given us the soap and towel, we still don't know how to go about cleaning up our act. So, like those Salvation Army Officers, like Jesus who knelt down and washed His disciples feet so that they would be wholly clean, He comes along side us and works with us to bring about the results He wants. God encourages our holiness.
Holiness is not an option it's a necessary requirement. We are called to 'be holy'.
Hebrews 12;14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
You and I have be called by a holy God, to be holy. Obedience is the first step to Holiness. Everything we need to know about Holiness acceptable to God, is here in His word. There is no point reading His word and then living transparent lives. God wills that we should be holy. Obedience brings with it discipline, commitment, dedication
Our heavenly Father hates disobedience but rejoices in us when He knows that the desire of our hearts is to obey Him and please Him. Even if we are clumsy and less than perfect. Even if we get it wrong the first time. Holiness that is acceptable to our Father is based on our hearts desire and intentions.
David in Psalm 119 v10 say's ' With my whole heart I seek you', and because of that, God called David ' a man after His own heart' Acts 13; 22. David failed God many times, just as we do but by the desire of his heart, God measured his holiness.
We become holy not because we strive for perfection, but because we freely give ourselves in obedience to God. He sees our desire is to be like Him, He sees how we hunger and thirst after righteousness, and as we walk with Him in obedience to His word, we are sanctified by His Spirit.
Holiness calls us to turn our backs on sin, to turn away from living by our feelings, to live by the truth. The reward for denying self is to discover Jesus. And as we walk closer with Him, we become more like Him. His holiness rubs off.
I love the march for Jesus that we read from the book of Isaiah. This wonderful picture of the joy of restoration as Gods people having been set free from the power and bondage of sin, are now on their way, walking together towards the Fathers heart, returning to their roots, back to their Fathers home. The ransomed, the redeemed, God's chosen, holy people.
Isaiah 35 The Way of Holiness. Only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.'
This is a victory march the likes of which we have never seen before, the march that started off as a daily walk with Jesus, as men and women, boys and girls from all walks of life and from every continent under the sun, congregate together as one people and head for home. A walk that blossoms into a determined and purposeful walk as with the excitement of walking and talking with our brothers and sisters in Christ each step is filled with joyful anticipation as we near our destination.
That's a real March for Jesus, and I want to be on that one! In the same way that our destination determines the way we should go in respect of walking in obedience, so too the Journey determines the destination.
We as a fellowship need to be 'walking together' with our destination firmly in view, walking Heavenwards. Make no mistake, the Bible clearly say's; But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return. But what a victory march this will be They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
I pray that as we realise the privilege of our calling that we will move forward to receive all that he has in store for us, that will enable us to love the life that He wants us to live.
Thoughts on Holiness
1 There is no detour to holiness. Jesus came to the resurrection through the cross, not around it. Leighton Ford
2 Holiness is not the way to Christ, but Christ is the way to holiness.
3 The Christian is not ruined by living in the world but by the world living in him. Christ does not take us out of the world; he takes the world out of us.
4 Holiness is not freedom from temptation, but power to overcome temptation. Holiness is not inability to sin, but ability not to sin. G. Campbell Morgan
5 Although we become Christians instantaneously by faith in Christ, knowing God and developing faith is a gradual process. There are no shortcuts to maturity.
It takes time to be holy. Erwin W. Lutzer
MM 18 June 2017
1 John 3; 1-2 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is.
Today is fathers day, and all over the country children old and young, will be putting their attention on their fathers. For some, this will have brought joy and a sense of thankfulness for a father who has given his best for the sake of his child.
But for others today it will be a time of great sadness - our hearts go out to the hundreds of families who have lost their fathers in the murderous attacks on innocent people at the pop concert in Manchester or on London Bridge in the last month and then this week the tragic fire in London when a large block of flats went up in flames.
Not just children who have lost their fathers and their mothers but also fathers and mothers who have lost their children - any day that followed would be unbearable but the added trauma of knowing that today is Fathers day will be too much for those distraught families to bear.
Lets just close out eyes and bring them to God in prayer
This morning each of us will have our own special thoughts about our own fathers and the role they played in our lives. I was born in August 1940 - my dad was in Germany - the 2nd world war was well under way. I shared on Wednesday in the Friendship Club how I saw my dad for the first time in 1941 when he came home from leave at the birth of my brother Sam - I can‘t remember it but I know he came as I have a photograph of us taken at Jeromes in Bradford.
I can’t remember seeing him again until the war ended in 1946 and then he seemed to be a stranger. He was badly traumatized when he came home because of the awful things he had seen - he was there at the liberation of Belsen.
When he started work he was on nights from 6pm until 6am and so again, I didn’t see him until breakfast time when he came home from work and got us ready for school.
The next time was at tea time when he got up had his tea and then went off to catch the bus to work. Five nights a week - 12 hours a night. 60 hours a week and then if that wasn’t enough in the holidays he went to work with Howgates setting up bird shows up and down the country - we never saw him but he was there working hard to provide food and clothes for us as a family. Like many other fathers in those days, dad sacrificed a lot for me and I will never forget that.
We thank God for our fathers and the sacrifices they made in bringing us up - for the impact they made on our lives.
Of course when we think of our Fathers we are reminded that God wants us to know that He is our father - our heavenly Father . I want us to think about God our Heavenly Father, about His perfect and unfailing love for us His children, and our response to Him as our Father, how important it is that we live in close harmony with Him, so that we can reflect His character and His love, in the world in which we live.
We come every Sunday, to fellowship together as the family of God. Brothers and sisters in Christ - family and celebrate our Father and His love for us, we come to tell Him that we love Him. We come to praise Him and thank Him for giving us life - real life in all it’s fullness.
We come, as any loving family would, to share our experiences of the last week in our sharing time. We come to talk to our Father. We come to listen to Him, We come to learn from Him, to seek His advice and hopefully to respond and act on His advice. We come to bring our needs to Him so that He can minister to us.
Our Bible reading stated that John wrote 'how great is love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God, and that's what we are! (1 John 3 1-3) You and I this morning are ‘Children of God , and God is your Heavenly Father
I remember, that when I was a young lad, and the ice cream man came round with his bicycle with the ice cream cart on the front, all the street used to go out to meet him. Hardly anybody had a fridge in those days, and so you couldn't keep Ice cream in the house. The choice was limited then, no 'feasts' or cornetto's, just the choice of a vanilla ice cream in a cornet or a wafer. If you were flushed, you could have a choc Ice which was simply a 'sandwich' with a chocolate wafer instead of a plain one.
The Ice cream man would then fill the mould with ice cream. If he liked you, he would pack the Ice cream in until it was deeper than the mould, and then sit the wafer on the top. It was so big, you couldn't get your mouth round it. If you were on your best behaviour, He could be very generous, very 'lavish'.
God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children.
Paul writing to the church at Rome reminded them of this when he wrote; All who are led by the Spirit of God are Sons of God and by Him we cry Abba - Father ( Romans 8;14) if we live obedient lives - whatever that may cost us - as His children we become heirs of the Father. WOW!
Like any good Father, He loves us, we are precious to Him. He cares about us, He's concerned about the quality of our life, that's why He sent Jesus, to give us 'life in all it's fullness'. That's not about money, fast cars, a successful business career, it's about the quality of our lives, and the things that really matter.
He wants us to be able to live;
Lives that are lived in the freedom of forgiveness,
'Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have redeemed you; Isaiah 43; 1
Lives that are lived in the knowledge that God called us personally to be His child.
I have called you by name; you are mine’ said God.
The knowledge that to God 'I am precious and honoured in His sight’ Isaiah 43; 4
Lives that enjoy the confidence of knowing that whatever the world has to throw against us, He cares, and is there for us us. 'Fear not, for I am with you'.
The knowledge that ‘He loves us’ Isaiah 43; 4 That's the love of a Father who cares. That's the love of ' Our' Father . A Father who chooses to live within His people, and the only condition is that we 'love Him in return, and are obedient to Him. Jesus said 'If you love Me you will obey My teaching, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our home with him. These are not just My words, but the word of My Father'. John 14; 23
Shortly before Jesus went to the cross, He shared with His disciples what was going to happen to Him - He loved them and He wanted them to know that it wasn’t the end but the beginning of a great new era in their lives.
John 14; 1-14 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father'?
‘Lord Show us the Father’ cried Phillip ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ replied Jesus. Paul writing to the Hebrews , said this ' The Son is the radiance of God's Glory, the exact representation of His being'. And so Jesus rightly said to Philip, 'He who hath seen me, hath seen the Father'. The Father is seen in the son.
The family likeness - everyone who looks at my grandson Joshua can see the family likeness in him. Even though he’s a ’Brown’ he’s a proper little Cowgill. When I look at photographs of myself as a young lad, it’s like looking at Joshua. When I look at pictures of my own sons, Kevin and Stephen, it’s uncanny - I can see the family likeness.
Gods word said; Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is. Of course it’s not necessarily what we look like but if we have the family characteristics of our Father. Loving, compassionate, generous, caring - that’s what really matters. 2 Corinthians we with unveiled faces are being transformed into his likeness
At the beginning of this year we spent a few weeks looking at what God says in His word about being transformed, changed, reborn into the family of God. Transformed by the renewing of our minds, changed in our attitudes and responses to others, rebirthed by the power of the Holy Spirit to become like Jesus.
As parents and grandparents I guess that we all see something of ourselves in our children and grandchildren. I guess that our Heavenly Father likes that too when he looks at you and me - His loving, obedient children.
When we look at babies we often say to their parents - ‘He’s go his fathers eyes, or his mothers nose. It is so often true that as the child grows up they begin to take on some of the characteristics of their parents. The more time they spend with them, the more like them they become. In just the same way, spiritually the more time we spend in the presence of our Heavenly Father, the more it will show in our actions, our thoughts, the things we share and do.
As born again children of God, the more time we spend in His presence, the more like Him we become. That’s why John says that when He appears, we shall be like |Him - which presumes that we have taken time to be with Him. Graham Kendricks song ‘Shine Jesus shine’ says ‘As we gaze on Your kingly brightness, so our faces display Your likeness, ever changing from Glory to Glory, mirrored here may our lives tell Your story - Shine on me’.
The world came to really know the God in a way they had never known Him before when they saw the Father reflected in the Son - Jesus. That’s how when Thomas asked Jesus to ‘show us the Father’ Jesus could rightly say ‘Anyone who has seen Me, has seen the Father’ I am in the Father and the Father is in Me’
We grow to be like Him when we discipline ourselves to spend quality time inHis presence, reading His word, talking to Him in prayer - the more we do that - and together - the more our own selfish self will be transformed by His loving, gentle presence.
I’m glad God wanted me to know Him as my Heavenly Father - I don’t know of any other religion where the relationship between God and man is that intimate or personal. That’s the extent of God’s love for you and me - that He wants to be our Father and wants us to be His children.
I’m glad that God is my Father and that I am His child.
Everyday should be our fathers day as we glorify Him in the way in which we respond to His love and live our lives - reflecting that love.
MM Sunday 11 June 2017
Last Sunday I asked the question What is the church like today? What is this Corps like today? And ended by saying I believe the words of William Booths song ‘Send the Fire’ is so much needed today - we need another Pentecost - Lord - send the fire’. To the disciples the task must have seemed formidable, when Jesus commanded them to ‘go and make disciples’, and yet, they did it! Empowered by the Holy Spirit. Because of the obedience and faithfulness of just twelve men, the message spread out from Jerusalem, to Samaria, all Judea and into the uttermost parts of the earth. They captured the vision and made real the 'impossible dreams' of those visionaries thousands of years earlier.
The speech that Peter gave on the day of Pentecost was very bold, honest and extremely challenging He didn’t mince his words in his condemnation of the people who stood before him as he reminded them that it was they who put Jesus to death on the cross - then came the altar call , ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’
The result was that; Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Reminds me of the Salvation Meetings we used to have at the close of every Sunday when we would see folk come and kneel at the Penitent form. Maybe not 3000 but certainly one or two most weeks. When I first came in 1947 the place was full - over a hundred soldiers on the roll.
Acts tells us that Peter certainly stood for Christ when he preached his first sermon. He had first hand experience of what he is now voicing - Repent - was the first step and that’s what Peter had done when Jesus forgave Him for denying Him. Three times Jesus forgave him - every fault and sin needed to be confessed and forgiveness received - and that way, even today, God will fill His people with His Spirit.
As Peter spoke, the power of the Holy Spirit came upon all those who heard, and we are told that Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
This morning we are going to continue with what Luke records in Acts 2; 42-47 headed The Fellowship of the Believers 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
We are then told what happened
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And;
43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. Lame man outside the temple healed in the name of Jesus
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. Don’t forget, that’s over 3000 people! And then, as if 3000 were not enough,
47 The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
WOW! That’s awesome! And the awesome truth that Pentecost says to us today is that that’s how God wants His church to be today and the power is still available - all we have to do is Repent our past - and you shall receive the Holy Spirit.
Earlier this last week I read an article in the Salvationist headed ‘Pentecost Power’ that said all the things that God had inspired us to look at over the last few weeks and asked a few questions. A few of us looked at these questions in our Bible Fellowship on Wednesday evening.
I wonder how you would answer them?
The first question was this; the disciples reciept of power was preceded by persistent prayer. How much of a priority is prayer in your journey of faith and in the life of you Corps or centre?
We read a couple of weeks ago how the disciples had been told by Jesus to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the promise the Father had given them - and that’s exactly what they did they went back to their room and spent the time in prayer Different prayers, some repenting their doubts and asking for forgiveness -all of them seeking to know Jesus and the secret of His power and strength.
That’s exactly what I did over 40 years ago after my first miraculous healing - I knelt at the mercy seat and cried to God - ‘I want to know You Lord like David and Dorothy Murden do‘. Before the operation I had been in the Army for over 30 years doing all the stuff Salvationists do, band, songsters, even becoming bandmaster - I thought I knew God but God showed me I didn't and that He wanted me to know Him. They laid hands on me and I was miraculously healed and didn't need a second operation.
How much time do you spend in prayer? Is it just a Quick prayer when you have problems - or have you disciplined yourself to make time every day to come before the Lord in prayer to seek His presence and help for whatever the day has in store for you.
The second question was this; Some suggest that Pentecost is a one off event like the incarnation, the Crucifixion - unique and never to be repeated again- what do you think?
Of course the first Pentecost was unique but as we are promised by God through the prophet Joel - the promise is for all time - that’s why William Booth could write the song ‘we want another Pentecost - send the fire today’.
The Holy Spirit is the same presence that filled and empowered Jesus - and who empowers and equips people like you and me to do the right, to conquer in the fight against sin and evil, to live in harmony with one another and to win others for Christ
Question 3 was ; How desperate do you want the ressurection power of God at
work in your life? Sadly many are content to stand by and see the empowering in others - probably through fear, insecurity of their own faith or fear of what it might cost them.
The last question was this; Are you willing to venture with God from Holy Huddle to a hostile world where discomfort, uncertainty and ridicule wait?
The song that we sang at the beginning of our meeting says it all ‘I’ll stand for Christ for Christ alone - amid the tempest and the storm. Where Jesus leads I’ll follow on - I’ll stand, I’ll stand for Christ - Alone is easier to sing than it is to actually put into practice - the great thing is that we are not expected to do it alone - it’s a together activity as we read in Acts.
They were a together people - no divisions - together with one another and with God through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. It was the togetherness of the early church that brought strength and growth.
It was when the people around those early followers of Jesus saw their togetherness and what could be achieved by that togetherness that they were attracted to join then and in addition we read that ‘daily, God added to their number those who were being saved.
In our Bible reading we read how the disciples and the new followers responded to the baptism of the Holy Spirit - they couldn’t get enough of being together during - ever possible chance they had - every day in fact they met for prayer and fellowship.
Our bible reading tells us how eager they were to meet together. It was the same when the Salvation Army came to Bradford in 1875. Elijah Cadman reported it this way; Holiness for the early day Salvationist was imparted by the indwelling Spirit. How else could they hold indoor and open-air meetings every night of the week - and three times on Sundays - summer and winter, rain or shine, unless they had the power of the Holy Spirit? What else could have kept every Salvation Army Soldier at his or her post seven days a week and taking part, if possible, in every meeting?
Sadly Today we are lucky if we can get folk to one mid-week meeting let alone every night and three times on Sunday and it’s the same in other churches too, who looking at their notice boards of weekly activities seem to look more like social clubs.
As for Bible Fellowships, prayer meetings? They fill their time with other activities Plenty of people through the doors mid week but empty seats on Sunday Such a contrast to the early church who were now so on fire for God that they loved to meet together as often as they could to share their blessings, seek further direction from God and be re-energised for more service.
Where has the powerful energetic life giving church that we read about in Acts gone? What’s happened to our churches. What’s Changed?, the message is the same, the power of the Holy Spirit is still available - what’s changed - To our shame - the church has.
When I look at today’s church, I see a people who are happy to be with one another - busy doing what they feel they are good at in serving one another - happy to play their part in what they think will keep their church going.
Sadly though that’s not what Church is all about - it’s main purpose is that the members become a people who mirror the life of Jesus and desire to share the ideals of God with those who as yet don’t know Him. The purpose of Church to share the good news and bring the lost to faith in God.
I believe that as a fellowship of Gods people in the Salvation Army we need to look seriously at our commitment. If we are committed, what are we committed to.
These seats have been empty for too long - we need to do something about it. I believe that as we have read in Acts, the pattern that God set is there - it starts with Gods people being obedient to God and make prayer their starting point both individually and together as a Church.
It starts with prayer and progresses through to seeking to know what God will for us as individuals and as a fellowship by reading His word together.
I’ve said it before - but I believe that God hasn’t just provided us with a beautiful church and Community hall here at Idle without reason - I believe that there is so much more in store for you and this fellowship. We want another Pentecost - Lord send the fire
MM 4 June 2017
As I read books like ‘Trailblazers’ that record the thrilling early days of our movement the stories of transformed lives are simply amazing. Samuel Logan Brengle, Elijah Cadman, people who reached out armed with nothing but the name of Jesus and saw thousands come to Christ.
Today we live in a different society, where as we read in Acts, the fellowship of believers grew to become the living body of Christ in the world - the church of God today, sadly it seems that in the main, the church has lost it’s way, lots its vision and become a social club for the few instead of the spiritual school for the many. Today we live in a society where spiritual poverty abounds.
All around us churches have closed down. The Idle Methodist closed which meant the few who remained had to either join the Methodists at the bottom of Thackley, the once thriving Upper Chapel has now only a handfull who meet in a house somewhere whilst the magnificent church building has become a dancing school, the Methodist Chapel at Five Lane Ends has been demolished to make way for a block of flats. Where has the powerful energetic life giving church that we read about in Acts gone?
The church today need the infilling of the Holy Spirit who energises, empowers and equips Gods people to become in essence the Living Christ in a dying world. People need Jesus and we who are still in the church need the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to minister to them and bring them to Christ.. A Spirit filled life of Holiness should be the aim of all Salvationist
The closing words of the preface to the book ’Trailblazers’ says this; Holiness for the early day Salvationist was not just imputed but also imparted by the indwelling Spirit. How else could they hold indoor and open-air meetings every night of the week - and three times on Sundays - summer and winter, rain or shine, unless they had the power of the Holy Spirit? What else could have kept every Salvation Army Soldier at his or her post seven days a week and taking part, if possible, in every meeting?
Sadly Today we are lucky if we can get Salvationist to one mid-week meeting let alone every night and three times on Sunday and it’s the same in other churches too who looking at their notice boards of weekly activities seem to be social clubs and coffee mornings. Bible Fellowships, prayer meetings? Plenty of people through the doors mid week but empty seats on Sunday
As the world has grown in technology and is able to keep in touch with people across the globe - the church is loosing touch with God and the world is taking over. Even the Christian festivals that we have grownup with are changing emphasis. Christmas - every year it gets harder to find a Nativity card in the shops. Easter is more about Easter Eggs, Whitsuntide has gone completely but Halloween - every shop is full of severed arms, ghost costumes - everything associated with evil.
What is the church doing about it? Nothing.
When I was a lad the village green was chock-a-block with people, families, church fellowships all gathered together for a united service of thanksgiving for Whitsunday. Whats happenneing this weekend here in Idle as far as uniting with other churches to celebrate Pentecost? - nothing. What’s Changed?, the message is the same, the power of the Holy Spirit is still available - what’s changed - To our shame - the church has.
On Wednesday at the Friendship Club I shared the life of Smith Wigglesworth a local Bradfordian who is known all over the world, particularly in America and Switzerland - but here in Bradford where it all began?
Smith was born 10th of June 1859 to a very poor family in Menston and started work when he was six, pulling and cleaning turnips which meant that there was no schooling for Smith and it wasn‘t until years later when he was married that his wife taught him to read and write. When he was seven he joined his father in the mill. Life was hard in those days. Rising at 5am in the morning, he had to walk two miles to start work at 6am and didn't finish ‘til 6pm. He never went to school.
In 1875, a new revolutionary church, 'The Salvation Army' opened fire in Bradford meeting in theatres and evangelising on the street corners. Smith went along - liked what he saw and joined them.
Years later he wrote ‘I delighted to be with these earnest Salvation Army people. Every week we prayed for and saw scores of sinners yielding their hearts to Christ. I continued with the Salvation Army because it seemed to me they had more power in their ministry than anybody else at that time. We used to have all nights of prayer. Many would be laid out under the power of the Spirit, sometimes for as long as twenty-four hours at a time. We called that the baptism in the Spirit in those days. Those early Salvationists had great power and it was manifested in their testimony and in their lives. We would join together and claim in faith, fifty or a hundred souls every week and know that we would get them. Alas, today many are not laying themselves out for soul-winning but for fleshly manifestations '.
Smith saw in the Salvation Army a movement that had captured the Spirit of the Acts of the Apostles - who empowered by the Holy Spirit shared their experience of Christ with people who would not be accepted by the established church of that day as they were seen as the undesirables. When the Spirit came, the windows of heaven were opened to all - Jew and non Jew alike. The Jews who saw themselves as Gods chosen people rejected any concept of Jesus being the promised Messiah the fulfilment of Prophesies and went all out to get rid of the new Christians. Saul himself had been one of them until He encountered the Living Christ on the Damascus Road.
In Smiths eyes, the church of his day had lost it’s vision and become a holy club of members who wanted to keep their respectability in worship and reject and deny the very people they were called to evangelise.
Such a contrast to the early church who were a mixed bunch of Jews and Gentiles who were now so on fire for God that they loved to meet together as often as they could to exchange notes, share their blessings, seek further direction from God and be re-energised for more service.
They lived in the surety of Christ’s indwelling
They moved in the power of the Spirit
They won victory after victory as they learned to rely on God and not their own resourses.
These were ordinary folk like you and I, who had been called by Jesus to follow Him and trust Him. Men and women who had been called out of their ordinary everyday lives and shown, by first hand example what could be achieved this side of Heaven, when you put your life in 'His hands.
Some of them had seen the glory of God revealed in Jesus, they saw His devotion to the task, His compassion for the people, His love for them, they saw Him do the impossible. They saw how in return for their trust, Jesus provided for their every need, and equipped them for every task.
They saw God mirrored in Jesus and were encouraged to emulate Jesus by themselves being indwelt by Him, and so empowered to continue His work.
They were fired with enthusiasm to tell others about Jesus, 'Come and see the Messiah' they would say, they saw for themselves, and then became 'eyewitnesses 'to all that they had seen and heard.
They had received forgiveness, been cleansed from their sins and now Jesus was going to fill them to overflowing with The Holy Spirit, the power force of God, to enable them to fulfil the commission that He had given them. 'Don't leave Jerusalem, Jesus said, 'but wait for the gift that My Father promised. John baptised you with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit'.
That’s was the command of Jesus and I believe that command still stands today. God not only calls, He equips. Don't ever let your own doubts and uncertainties become an excuse for not responding to the call of God. Those He calls - He equips, Beryl bless her found that out - when we first met she was so shy - even had a nervous twitch but after receiving the call to become an Army Officer - to lead - to speak in meeting, something she would never have thought possible - God took hold of her life and filled with the Spirit she was empowered and enabled to speak for God and let others see in her life that Jesus was real to her.
'When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will receive power, and you will become My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. That's where you are now, our Jerusalem is Idle, Thackley, Eccleshill, Cottingley, Guiseley, wherever you live - that’s our Jerusalem, our starting point to share with the folk you live with and know, and then the net widens to include the community at large, then to those of different cultures and so on to the ends of the earth, that's the world for Christ.
To those eleven disciples the task must have seemed formidable, impossible, and yet, they did it! They did it! WOW!
We read last week how Joel had prophesied years earlier, that 'in the last days, God would pour out His Spirit on all people, your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams, and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord, will be saved'
When the day of Pentecost came, this prophesy began to be fulfilled. I say began, because I believe that that is God intention today. God wants to equip those who confess Him as Lord, by filling them with the Holy Spirit.
When I look at this the Church today, and this Corps, I see all the ingredients that were there in the early church, folk who have been called from all walks of life, to fellowship with one another as the family of God.
In the sermon I preached at Pentecost 21 years ago - just one year after Beryl and I had been made commanding Officers of this Corps I said this; In our own fellowship there is the opportunity to pray together, to study Gods word, in order that we might 'know Him' and not just know 'about Him'. I see a loving, caring, sharing fellowship. I see a people who love to be together. Co-workers in our church - and that’s great - but it’s only the start.
I see people who’s desire is to grow spiritually, people who although they themselves have not been given a 'Vision', have somehow captured the vision of what God wants to do in their lives and the life of this Corps. People who themselves are seeing their lives changing, and receiving and enjoying the New life that God is blessing them with. I wonder what God sees when He looks at this Corps - or more directly, as He looks at you and me. That was 21 years ago - A lots changed since then.
When I look at today’s church, I see a people who are happy to be with one another - busy doing what they feel they are good at in serving one another - happy to play their part in what they think will keep their church going. Sadly though that’s not what Church is all about - it’s main purpose is to become a people who mirror the life of Jesus and desire to share the ideals of God with those who as yet don’t know Him. The purpose of Church is not to build a holier than thou club that is foreign to the neighbourhood, but to share the good news with bring the lost to faith in God.
God’s desire is for a people who, are seeking in their own lives to know Him better and who’s desire is to share the good news with their neighbours. People who have captured the vision for the future, the vision of Evangelism, that will enable more people to come to know Jesus for themselves. And for that reason Jesus at His ascension, the last time the disciples saw Jesus, He promised them that the Holy Spirit would be given to equip and enable His people for any task.
After He had said this, He disappeared from their sight. They must have stood their open mouthed, for the word says this, ' they stood there looking intently up into the sky, when suddenly two men dressed in white, stood beside them and said 'why do you stand here looking into the sky'. In other words, 'you heard what Jesus said, what are you waiting for, stop staring into space, and get on with it! Stop staring up the steps, and start stepping up the stairs!
We have been called to experience the transforming power of Almighty God, who gives us this 'New Life', this 'Abundant life' 'life in all it's fullness' for ourselves, and then to go and become witnesses to that which we ourselves have experienced, in order that others will come to know Him for themselves.
Jesus said 'I will send the Spirit, and he will bear witness to me, so that you too will bear witness, you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will become My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
Our witnessing needs to start just where we are. Here where He has placed us, among our own folk, those who know us best. One of the hardest things to do when we ask Jesus into our lives, is to tell our friends and our families.
We said last week that the problem is not with the telling, but with the showing. People need to 'see' the change in our lives.
Jesus said 'you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem', that was home ground to the disciples, one of the hardest places to start, and yet, if what our loved ones, our friends, our neighbours can see the difference that Jesus is making in our lives, then it must be for real, if they can see Jesus living in us, then how much easier it will be to tell others.
Those first Christians faced hostility from their families and friends as they not only accepted a new lifestyle, they stood up against those who saw them as traitors to the Jewish cause, they were persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and put to death for what they believed in. To tell others that they had accepted Jesus as their Saviour and Messiah was to virtually sign their own death warrant. And yet they did it!
Because of the obedience and faithfulness of just eleven men, the message spread out from Jerusalem, to Samaria, all Judea and into the uttermost parts of the earth. Because they captured the vision and saw it through against the most impossible odds, the Christian Church has made real the 'impossible dreams' of those visionaries thousands of years ago, who's arials and dishes were correctly positioned to look to God, and receive messages from Him.
Are you tuned in to God? Have you caught the vision? or are you still staring into space?
Lets read the altar call that Peter gave on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2; 38,41 Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Could this be the same man, Peter, who only weeks earlier had three times, denied even knowing Jesus, the man who fled from the authorities in fear of his life? Notice - Peter isn’t the only spokesman, the scripture tells us that ‘Peter stood up - WITH THE ELEVEN! They were all there together, united in one voice - Peter may have been the mouthpiece but theirs was a show of unity, they were together in their mission - no longer alone - now ‘The Force was with them’ The Holy Spirit! God.
They were now ready to serve, to rise and obey, to show YOUR power O Lord!
The power of the Holy Spirit came on them and all those who heard them - Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
As the next verses show what happened to new converts? 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
WOW! We want another Pentecost Lord - send the fire. What Pentecost says to us today is that the power is still available - all we have to do is Repent our past - even our present in many cases - and you shall receive the Holy Spirit.
There’s no other way - Sadly we read in 2 Timothy 3; 1 there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – and listen to this! Could this be a reference to many of the churches of today? v5 ‘having a form of godliness but denying it’s power’ - have nothing to do with these people.
I pray that this Whit Sunday - this day of Pentecost will be the day in this fellowship that the Holy Spirit sets us on fire to continue the work that Jesus began.
MM 28 May 2017
Thursday this last week was the day that the church commemorated the ascension of Jesus. We shared this last Sunday - the time when Jesus appeared to His disciples on before ascending into Heaven commanded them to ‘Wait in Jerusalem until you have received the gift My Father promised - John baptised you with water but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit’. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth’.
Lets read what followed Acts 1:12-26
The command was to go back to Jerusalem and wait - I said last week that waiting is not something we are good at - we hate waiting - whatever it is for.
When I got married - if you didn’t have enough money you had to wait until you had in order to purchase anything. The first places that offered ‘credit’ or ‘tick’ as they called it was the local grocery shop - but that was only until the end of the week when you got paid at work and you could settle your bill. My mother used to give a few shillings to a man called Willie Walton who collected it every week until she had enough to pay for what she wanted - she was then given a voucher for the full amount that she could only spend at this one shop in Bradford called Dixieland. In other words you needed anything you had to have enough money to pay for it .
It all changed when in October 1972 the first Credit card was introduced - it was called the Access Card and promised instant money for you to purchase things you couldn’t afford and would have had to wait until you could.
The slogan that they put out said this ‘Why wait till tomorrow for things that you can have today?’ ‘Access takes the waiting out of wanting’. Of course the Access card cost you more money that you actually needed. The best way was to wait until you’d saved up enough money to buy what you needed. ‘Waiting’ would prove to be the best and most profitable option.
The great thing is that God has given us His own Access card in the form of prayer. Prayer that puts us in touch with Almighty God and is an immediate access to Jesus. Jesus said ‘Wait’ - wait in Jerusalem for the gift that Your Father promised. The gift was the Holy Spirit as outlined in the book of Joel.
The disciples access card ‘prayer’ is also our access to the Lord. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength
As the disciples waited, Prayer - access to God - took the anxiety of wanting out of waiting as they spent time together in prayer claiming the constant presence of Jesus. Prayer helped them to stay in His presence until His presence came to stay in them.
As I read this account in Acts I was impressed by the fact that the angels who appeared as Jesus was taken into Heaven asked a similar question that the two angels asked Mary when she went to visit the tomb of Jesus. ’Why are you looking for the living amongst the dead? Or to the disciples at Christ’s Ascension ‘why are you staring up into the sky’ He’s not here.
The great thing is that as the disciples were instructed to wait - they found their comfort and strength in praying together. The disciples were obedient to the command of Jesus and went back to Jerusalem to the room where they were staying - all eleven of them - not forgetting Mary, Jesus’s mother and His brothers - and what did they do? - They all joined together constantly in prayer.
Today, it’s easier to keep in touch with one another wherever we are, in or out side - by the fact that most people these days have a mobile phone. We were sitting at the side of the lake at St Ives on Friday and a man a few yards away was fishing. All the time, we were there, he was on his phone talking to his wife - as if she were there.
Prayer is Gods way of helping us to stay in touch and that’s what the disciples did.
This was to be a time of self examination, reassesment, of reflection, of looking at themselves and how far they had come in their walk with Jesus - it was a time to re-strengthening their ranks and re-establish their calling their commitment. This waiting until the Holy Spirit came to empower and equip them to continue the ministry that Jesus had started.
They had been called as Disciples which means learners - now they were being called to be Apostles - those who now having spent three years with Jesus learning from Him are now going to be equipped to go on the mission and continue the work that Jesus would empower them to do - they were being sent as missionaries into the areas all round them and unto the uttermost parts of the world. This would be accomplished when they were filled with the Spirit and in their preaching and ministry were able to spread the truth through to all who would listen to them - starting at Pentecost.
Jesus had said ‘Wait’ and when the Holy Spirit comes upon you - you will receive power - power that will enable you to be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth’ --- WOW surely that’s worth waiting for?
No sooner had Jesus said this, than He was taken up before their very eyes and disappeared ‘. They were politely told to ‘stop looking into the sky and get back down to earth’.
Their waiting proved to be a valuable time - it was this time of fellowshipping together, praying together, that bonded them into a ‘together people’. As we all know, ‘The family that prays together, stays together‘. As a together people they would now be able to move forward and accomplish all that God had in store for them to do.
Next week is Pentecost Sunday - the day we look at the fulfilment of Gods promise to His church and the Lords instruction to His disciples to wait until the Spirit came upon them. The birthday of the Church - a very special day.
I believe that as His Church today we should be looking forward to this important time by waiting upon Him in prayer - asking God to show us what needs to happen, or change in our lives to take us forward and become the people He wants us to be.
God want to move us forward from being disciples - learners - to become Apostles - those He has called to go show and tell our neighbours, our families, our colleagues what Jesus is all about and how He wants to reveal Himself to them through us.
It’s a time for reflection, reassesment - a time to examine our commitment to God and seek His empowering - His infilling to move forward and accomplish all that He wants to do in our lives and the life of our fellowship.
It’s a time of re-awakening of the church to be what God intended it to be - the living body of Christ in the world today. That’s you and me.
The disciples went back and as they waited they prayed and as they prayed they looked at re-strengthening their fellowship by asking God to show them who He wanted to replace the one who had betrayed then and led the authorities to Crucify Jesus - that was Judas.
Originally there were 12 disciples but with Judas’s death the needed another disciple to bring it back to the original number. Twelve was an important number, as we know there were twelve tribes of Israel, Twelve disciples, Even today the number 12 is a very significant number, there is 12 in a dozen, 12 months in a year, 12 inches in a foot, before decimalisation there were 12 pennies in pound.
They felt the need to bring their number back to twelve and to make sure it was Gods choice, they would write the names of the two candidates on to rocks, place them into a container, shake it and tip one out. It wasn’t chance - it was God’s choice and their way of finding out what God’s choice was. The person chosen had to be one who had been with them all the way through Christ’s ministry from the beginning. That one was Matthias.
Now they were completely together - now they were ready and waiting on God to empower them to move forward. O that the church today would approach Pentecost in the same way - to get plugged in to what God wants to do in the world today - especially here at Idle.
We need to get plugged in to God. As you all know, a plug has three wires. The live wire which is coloured Red ( or Brown), the negative which is Blue and the earth which is Yellow/green. These are also the same colours on the Army Flag.
The Red Live the blood of Jesus that offers life
Blue The purity of God and the need to live a life of holiness
Yellow The fire and power of the Holy Spirit
Just as in the electric plug all three wired need top be connected to be effective so too we as Christians need to make sure that we are fully in contact with God - we need to get plugged in.
Last week we talked about togetherness as being a valuable result of waiting upon God in prayer. This week we see the need to be open and honest in our assesment of self and the need to seek God in prayer while we await the power from on high to enable us to move forward.
To get plugged in to the power that is not only available but vital to our continued growth as His fellowship. In preparation for next week - could I ask that in your own private devotions - prayer - you seek to ask God to make you aware of how He sees you in your daily Christian walk and to help you change - if needed - to be available and ready when we meet together next Sunday and seek the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our fellowship.
Prayer is the vital key; Last week we looked at the Welsh revival of 1903 which started when Evan Roberts felt the need to pray ‘bend me O Lord to Thy will‘. One man - revival
In America they had what is known as the The Fulton Street prayer meeting that sparked a revival in 1858 that began when one man, Jeremiah Lanphier decided to open his church for prayer. The first meeting he was alone for over half-an-hour, then he was joined by six others. Over the next few days that number increased to 20 - then 40 and within six months there were ten thousand businessmen gathering daily for prayer in New York City, and within two years one million converts were added to the American church. One man - revival.
Our own William Booth also inspired revival when the Christian Mission became the Salvation Army and in his own lifetime the Salvation Army spread throughout the whole world.
I believe that what God is saying to us today is that ‘You won’t accomplish anything of lasting value until I have filled you with power from on high, so wait, get your act together, be a together people and pray. If you do this I will amaze you. I will fill you and empower you to be my church, My witnesses, My people.
How about it?
MM 21 May 2017
A couple of weeks ago we looked at the reinstated Peter who Jesus commissioned to build His Church - which doesn’t mean by bricks and mortar - by Church He meant the people - build the people up - to inspire them and encourage them to know Jesus and be obedient to His ways. To prepare people to live Christian lives that will enable them to grow and be changed - transformed into a new creation - a born again people.
As Peter wrote; 1 Peter 1; 3-9 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Last week we followed that on by looking at what Peter said in 1 Peter 4;7 about how we should behave as Christians whilst awaiting the return of Christ. About loving one another, being hospitable, using whatever gift God has given us be it speaking or serving so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
We ended our meeting by looking at Pauls letter to the church at Rome where he outlines some of those gifts. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12; 4
We can’t be good at everything but together - WOW - but God has brought us together and together we can change the world. We can’t do it in our own strength - but with the Holy Spirit of God inside us - WOW - God can accomplish great things.
This week we look at the final appearance of Jesus which was at His ascension. Of the four gospels, only Matthew, Mark and Luke mention briefly the ascension of Jesus. (Matthew 28; 16-20, Mark 16; 19-20 and Luke in the last few verses of 24;50-53) but then Luke continues in Acts 1 - lets read that together.
Acts 1 ; 1-11 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 baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’
Then they gathered round 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.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’
This is the second letter that Luke had written to Theophilus - we don’t know who Theophilus was, but some say he was probably a Roman Official who wanted to know the truth about Jesus and found a good teacher in Luke. The name Theophilus means ‘One who loves God’. Obviously the life of Luke who had been transformed by spending those three years as a disciple of Jesus impressed Theophilus and Luke was able to share the truth about Jesus with him.
I 1n 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. Following the death of Jesus, He appeared to them many times giving them convincing proof that He was alive. He also instructed them to wait in Jerusalem until they had been empowered power from on high. Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’
Forgiven and Cleansed by the water - commissioned and empowered by the Spirit.
His disciples wanted to know when - but as Jesus said - only God knows -But -WOW! when it happens you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Sama