Sunday 21 January 2018
Last Sunday we read John 17 The prayer that Jesus made for all believers before going to the cross was that we - His followers - may be ONE in the same way that God and Jesus are. ‘I in them. Prayed Jesus in the same way that You ( God) are in Me (Jesus). ‘I have made You known to them in order that the love You have for Me may be in them - and that I Myself may be in them’. WOW!
We talked about the awesome truth that as Gods Chosen people we have the privilage of being indwelt by Him. Not just ‘with us’ but within us’. This week I want us to look at what that means in relation to how we relate to God, one another and the world out there.
What is the most important thing that happens to us when Christ lives within - what is it that makes us different from the world. Jesus said it in His prayer and in fact it’s shouted out throughout the whole of Gods word - especially the New testament and the writings of those who experienced the life transforming truth - and that’s LOVE.
Matthew 22; 37 when asked by one of the Pharisees what was the greatest commandment Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
To re-emphasise the importance of that command, shortly before He went to the cross and where Jesus showed the extent of Gods love for mankind, Jesus told His disciples “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13; 34
Read John 13; 34-35
What this means is that the evidence that Christ lives in us is evidenced by our love for one another in this fellowship and our love for people we know and meet who don’t share the same love of God that we do. Jesus said didn’t He - ’they will know you are Christians by your love’. That love is the perfect love God who in Christ lives in us by the power of His Spirit.
1 John 4;7 says this ’ Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
He goes on to tell us in verse 9 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.
Wow! we sing ‘they will know we are Christians by our love’ not the uniform, the cross around your neck or, the dove we might wear - but by our attitude and response to one another - our love for one another.
We are told in Acts that when the church was being formed by the house meetings of the new believers following Pentecost, that they couldn’t get enough of one another, they met frequently around the word for fellowship and prayer, they enjoyed meals together, sharing testimony of how God had been with them and was working through their lives. They loved one another so much that if anyone of them was in great need of anything, the others would get together and help them even to the extent of selling some of their possessions to raise the cash to help them - that was real love.
That was evidence that the risen Christ lived in and through them.
As John goes on to say; 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are to be like Jesus.
WOW! Like Jesus - because Jesus lives in and through us.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because He first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
You’d think that was easy and basic to everyone. I’ve known families where brothers and sisters don’t even speak to one another. I’ve heard of Churches where those who profess to be brothers and sisters in Christ - born again into the family of God and yet can’t get on with one another causing divisions in the church .
No wonder there are divisions in families - No wonder church attendance has been declining over the years. Love in the family, love in the fellowship of believers - love in you and me is the most important factor that reveals our true identity. When you love one another, you work together to achieve united higher goals.
That was what kept Beryl and I going when we accepted the role of Commanding Officers of this Corps - our Love for God and our love for one another. It was that love that helped us to achieve our highest goals when it came to ministry in the Church.
We loved God and one another with a passion that helped us love the fellowship, those that we had been called to serve and minister to.
Sadly that love wasn’t always shared by those we ministered to especially some who came to us from other fellowships up and down the country and there were times when troubles flared, people disagreed, started to bring division into the Corps as they tried to gain support from other members and when that failed they eventually left.
In the last 10 years of Beryls illness with Alzheimers, life was easy - to make it more difficult we had to cope with the tragic deaths of Victoria and then my son Kevin. Having to keep the flag flying with no one to take the Friendship Club that Beryl ran was not easy - but God kept us going. There were those of you who in love responded to help, especially Rachel who picked Beryl up every first Saturday of the month at 9.30 to take her in her wheelchair to the Coffee Morning and give me time to prepare the Sunday morning meeting. Without that love, I don’t believe I would have coped.
In July 1996 - just one year into our ministry - I preached on this very text John 13 and John 14 entitling it ‘Love Won another’ using a ‘W’on the second word instead of ending with an ‘e’ to make it ‘one’ - that was to emphasis what happens when we show genuine love to one another.
We looked at how Jesus told His disciples that His time with them was nearing it’s end and He would be leaving them, ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’
‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. John 14;15
Love - when we open our hearts to Jesus, when we accept forgiveness for our old way of life and declare our allegiance to our new master then we have to take on board all that Jesus said and did whatever that costs - and that means love one another.
The whole of our Christian teaching and lifestyle is based on that one vital, basic element - LOVE. God is love and if we don’t have the love of Jesus in our hearts then we don’t have Jesus in our hearts - it’s as simple as that. The only way that the world will really genuinely know that we are Christians is by the genuiness of the love that we share with the fellowship and with those we spend our lives with both at home, work or wherever we are.
A true test of a Christian, one indisputable sign that a person has accepted Jesus into their hearts is when they try to show real genuine love for their fellow men - whatever it costs. That should be seen both in and out of our fellowship. Love is at the very heart of our faith - without Love we will achieve nothing.
Romans 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.
That was how the early church grew - as the fellowships grew in love - God added to their numbers those who were being saved. That’s why Paul , Peter and John laid emphasis on the power of love in the fellowship
Paul; Ephesians 3; 14-19 For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Living Bible; 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.
Colossians 3; 1-7 Headed 'Rules for Christian living' 'Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Romans 12; 9-21 Love in action Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I pray that the love of God will be real in our hearts and at the heart of our fellowship so that we will enjoy what God has given us and brought us together to share.
I pray that we will be able to feel the love and support of one another as we endevour to grow together in His love and are motivated and empowered by God to take this love into the world and encourage others to come to know God and share our fellowship.
I pray that people outside will be able to see that we are a Christian Fellowship made up of people who are filled with the love of God = people who enjoy the awesome experience of knowing the inner presence of God within our hearts.
The only way in which we and our fellowship will grow as Christians is when we have that same love and determination that the fellowships in Acts had. A people who enjoyed being together. A people who were hungry for the ministry of the word and in putting the word, Gods commands, into action so that whilst we enjoy the Love of one another - that will develop into a love that 'won' another.
Sunday 14 January 2018
Colossians 1; 26-27 2 Corinthians 4;7
Over the last two weeks we have been looking at Gods word instructs us to put the past behind us and move forward to claim all that God has in store for us.
We, are called to hang in there - even though the going may not be easy- that as God chosen people He promises to be with us all the way. That’s was Jesus’s title Immanuel - God with us - and there’s more
As Gods Chosen people we have the privilage of being indwelt by Him
God is not just ‘with us’ but within us’
John 17 The prayer that Jesus made for all believers before going to the cross was that we may be one in the same way that God and Jesus are. ‘I in them. Prayed Jesus in the same way that You ( God) are in Me (Jesus). ‘I have made You known to them in order that the love You have for Me may be in them - and that I Myself may be in them’. WOW!
Christ in you Last week we looked at the letters from Paul who had experienced all this for himself. Born and brought a Saducee in the Jewish faith that thought they were exclusively chosen by God - Paul encountered Jesus on the Damascus road who called him to forget the past and move on as God had plans in mind for Paul who would find out the truth of Gods will for all mankind that was to accept Jesus as Messiah and in doing that, become a Born Again Messianic Jew who as God renewed him by the transforming of his mind set he became one of Gods most valued evangelists for the truth.
Paul knew what this meant in putting the past behind him and capturing the vision of all that God had in store for His creation. Paul was to learn that what he had before was nothing compared to what he now had in Christ Jesus. From the very first moment he received the light his desire was to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and become like Him.
Paul was passionate about his new found faith and wanted the whole world to know and seek Jesus for themselves. That comes over so clearly in all his letters to the new Christians. Paul the persecutor of the new Christian Church became one of its most valued and persecuted exponents.
He wanted the whole world to know that’s why he wrote the letter we read to the church at Colossi I have become its servant ( of the Church) by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1; 26-27 it’s now, as the song says - ‘an open secret that Jesus is mine’
We pursued this further at our Bible fellowship on Tuesday night in a Bible study that I called ’ the Christ within’ and we read Pauls letter to the Christians at Corinth 1Corinthians 3:16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?
Imagine my Joy when the very next day Michelle, who had not been able to come to the Bible Fellowship and so didn‘t know what we had discussed, put this on her Facebook ‘What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies WITHIN US‘
I read that as saying What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to who lives WITHIN US‘
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of spending your life doing things for God - even tiring yourself out trying to live your faith and try to share it with others - but relying on your own strength when all the time God has made it possible for you to be the vehicles through whom He will accomplish great things. Just as John tells us ‘it was the Word that became flesh in Christ’ and in the same way - we need to realise that Christ yearns to become flesh in us and work through us to accomplish all that He desires in the world today.
On Tuesday this week I came upon the Testimony of a man called Major W. Ian Thomas a Londoner, a Major in the military Army who in 1947 formed the Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers. I intended sharing it with the Bible Fellowship that night but we ran out of time - Maybe that’s because God wanted me to share it this morning.
This is his testimony; "At the age of fifteen, I felt convinced that I should devote all of my life to the service of the Lord Jesus. I told God that he would become a missionary and began to preach out in the open air at Hampstead Heath at that early age. I was also actively engaged in Sunday School work as well as in the Crusaders' Bible class. Life became a round of ceaseless activity.
Speaking of his youthful decision to become a missionary, he said: "I began to consider the best area in which I could become a missionary and the best means I could employ to be most effective--he was impressed by a doctor working in Nigeria that he thought the best thing for him to do was to become a doctor.
At university Ian became a leader in the Inter-Varsity Fellowship group. He started a slum club down in the East End of London "out of a sheer desire to win souls, to go out and get them. Life was a windmill of activity until, at the age of nineteen, every moment of my day was packed tight with doing things and I had been reduced to a state of complete exhaustion spiritually, until I felt that there was no point going on."
Then, one night in November, that year, just at midnight, I got down on my knees before God, and wept in sheer despair. I said, "Oh, God, I know that I am saved. I love Jesus Christ. I am perfectly convinced that I am converted. With all my heart I have wanted to serve Thee. I have tried to my uttermost and I am a hopeless failure."
That night things happened. I can honestly say that I had never once heard from the lips of men the message that came to me then from God, that night God simply focused upon me the Bible message of Christ Who Is Our Life. The Lord seemed to make plain to me that night, through my tears of bitterness: 'You see, for seven years, with utmost sincerity, you have been trying to live for Me, on My behalf, the life that I have been waiting for seven years to live through you.'"
That night, all in the space of an hour, Ian Thomas discovered the secret of the adventurous life. He said: "I got up the next morning to an entirely different Christian life, but I want to emphasize this: I had not received one iota more than I had already had for seven years!" The difference now was that now he realised that it was not in his own strength and effort that he began to find fulfilment in his spiritual life and work for God - it was that he realised that it was now Christ who was working through him and accomplishing powerful things. He realised that it was Christ in him that made the difference.
The words of God were these - , for seven years, with utmost sincerity, you have been trying to live for Me, on My behalf, the life that I have been waiting for seven years to live through you.'"
WOW! Christ in you Paul knew what this meant and wanted his hearers to know the truth. Look at what he says in Colossians 1; 26-27 I have become ‘servant of the Church’ by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
I felt it right to share this with you this morning - you may have been a Christian for a long time but are not finding it easy to spread the good news to others - maybe that’s because, like Major Ian Thomas you’ve been doing it in your own strength for too long and need to open yourself to allow the inner presence of God to show His power through you.
It’s when we realise that Gods intention is that we become vehicles of His power - mouthpieces that are open to let God speak through us, offer our hands to do the things he wants to do through us - even to comfort others. - it’s then that God Himself is able to do all that - through us.
It’s the living Christ within that is able to accomplish great things through us.
It’s the power of the Spirit within - working through us.
After Paul had encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road, God sent Annanias to meet with Paul - and tell him about Gods desire to filled him with the Holy Spirit. This is exactly what he did - he layed hands on him and that’s exactly what happened. Pauls eyes were opened and he was filled with the Holy Spirit in the same waty that the disciples had been filled at Pentecost that empowered Peter and John to minister healing to the lame man who had been begging for all his life outside the Temple courts. Being filled with the Holy Spirit of God meant that God could work through them and show the same mighty power that they saw Jesus do.
Peter and John would realise at that moment what Jesus had said to them when He was with them - ‘Greater things will you do than I have done’ meaning more because Christ would become flesh in and through them. If what we did relied on our own ability, our own strength we would struggle and in many cases fail.
As Paul said in his second letter to the believers at Corinth ch 4;7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. He then goes on to share how that in our weak bodies ( jars of clay as he called them) we may have problems but that God is still with us to help and strengthen. 8; We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed .
And because of this v 16 tells us Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away ( getting older and frail), yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ( we learn and grow through our difficulties) How? by doing what v18 tells us fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen (Christ within), since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
In the Salvation Army we like many other denominations believe in first the blessing of Forgiveness through repentance and a rebirth that would take us from what we were to how God intended us to be. Born Again. We then also believe that there is a second blessing that we can have and that is Sanctification - the indwelling Holy Spirit who empowers and equips the believer to become a vehicle through whom God can do mighty awesome things.
That gift is the gift of the Holy Spirit that empowerd the disciples to do the miraculous and Paul to preach with authority and great power to influence people to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
Because by nature Gods people are not all alike - we’re all different, perhaps it’s because of that that our giftedness varies. Some are gifted speakers, others better at serving and helping others in a more practical way - we’re all different. God probably chose Paul because of his passion and perseverance in doing everything possible to keep true to what he believes - even to the extent of seeking out the new Christian faith that conflicted with his own beliefs and trying to destroy it. God would see how strong Paul was in fighting for what he believed.
That was just the kind of man God needed to further the ministry of Jesus and the few remaining disciples - to do this Paul had to change - be transformed in his thinking and in his faith - that why Jesus appeared to Paul and stopped him dead inhis tracks - proving that He (Jesus) was still alive in Spirit and that He was the long awaited Messiah. Paul was converted by his encounter with Jesus.
That’s the first step for all of us is conversion - to seek and come to Jesus - ask Him to forgive us our past and set us on a new life - born again. As we come to know Him through the reading of His word and the testimonies of those disciples who had been with Him. That’s what happened to Paul - he encountered Jesus but them went to Damascus, met with Annanias before seeking out Peter and other disciples to hear first hand from them about Jesus. Three years it took for the transformation to take effect.
The second step I believe is to seek the inner presence of the Holy Spirit to empower and equip us to do what God has in store for us to do in furthering the Kingdom work.
In the closing moments of this meeting I want you to just look at and examine your own experience - to look at where you are in your relationship with Jesus.
The mercy seat is open if you think you need to come and rededicate your life to Jesus and ask Him to come and fill you with His presence to enable you to move on and allow God to do the things that He wants to do through you.
Maybe you feel that spiritually you are struggling to do what you know God wants you to do - you realise that like you have been doing it all in your own strength and in the way that you think is best when now you realise that maybe God wants you to open yourself to Him so that He can accomplish that which you are struggling with - through you.
Thirdly maybe this morning is the time to ask God for His empowering by filling you with His Almighty, Empowering Holy Spirit so that He can move in a Mighty way through you to do the awesome things that Jesus did. Christ in you - the hope of Glory
Song 218 Come great Spirit come
New Years Eve - Morning Meeting 31 December 2017
Over Christmas we read how the Saviour came and was born into our world and who right from the beginning, set the standards for us to live by. The simple humility of being born in a borrowed stable, the compassionate life He lived putting others first, seeking to help the weak, the lost the neglected and rejected of mankind. Living a simplistic lifestyle showing man his need to be dependant on God. Praying before He started the day, relying not on possessions, even borrowing a donkey to ride into Jerusalem, sacrificing His life at the tender age of 30 and being buried in a borrowed tomb.
Jesus lived a life of obedience and called His disciples to live in obedience to God and share His message of Love with one another. He then sent them out to share that message with mankind.
Because of that, we have the lovely powerful letters of His followers like Peter who, even though he denied knowing Jesus - was forgiven and reinstated to become one of His faithful witnesses and Apostle who spread the world and started many churches.
In 1 Peter 1 we read his letter which was written to the early Christians who he calls ’Gods elect’ and as such, ‘strangers in the World’ a scattered people throughout the wider region but who have been chosen by God the Father to live in obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkled by His Blood. Chosen by God - that’s you and me today- Chosen by God the Father to live in obedience to Jesus Christ.
Before He left them and went to the cross, Jesus had told His disciples - Peter included - that if they loved Him then they should live in obedience to His commands and that He in turn - would ask the Father, and He would give them another Councellor to be with them for ever - the Spirit of Truth’ John 14; 15-16 .
Again in v23 Jesus repeated that ’if anyone loves Me, he will obey My teachings. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him. WOW! God’s elect, chosen by Him to live in obedience to Jesus Christ.
That’s what God wants of you and me here this morning to commit ourselves to live in obedience to the teachings and the example of Jesus in the way we live our lives. That’s the way forward for 2018.
Obedience - not easy - but the more we aim to do that - the easier it becomes. The very nature of Jesus takes over our lives and like new born babies, we learn to be obedient to our Father God. I love that the truth that says we can be Born again. Forget the former things, stop dwelling in the past for - God says - see I am doing a new thing’.
Jesus’s purpose in life was to become Saviour of all - that’s what He meant when He declared that His will was that ‘all men might be saved’. When that happens, we acknowledge the privilage of being Gods chosen people - Gods elect.
Interestingly the people referred to as - Gods elect in our bible reading- scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bythinia is the same list as those who were gathered on the day of Pentecost when God poured His powerful enabling Holy Spirit on His people.
Lets look at what Peter says; 1 Peter 1;3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
This was written to the church at the culmination of all that Christ’s birth and life had achieved - the awesome example of Jesus in showing His great love for us all in dying on the cross as an atonement for our sins and in showing what happens to those who faithfully live their lives in obedience to Him - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
WOW! An inheritance kept in the bank of Heaven for those who remain faithful and are surrounded and protected by God Himself until Jesus comes again. No wonder Peter says that 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
For many of us, the last few years have been difficult but thank God we have been strengthened and upheld by the faith that we have in God - a faith that is priceless - a faith that has kept us going, knowing that when He comes again - all will be well. Some of us have had to experience the unbearable grief at the loss of our dear ones but one day - Thank God - when Jesus is revealed at the end of time, all will be well again.
As His dear children, we are called to live lives that are pleasing to God in obedience to the call of Jesus - lives that as Peter says, reveal that 8 Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. WOW!
Lets read the advice given by God through the prophet Isaiah 43; 18-19 'This is what the LORD says' - He who has been faithful in the last year and proved His presence in so many ways, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. This is Gods call today for us to leave the past behind and move on into all that He has prepared for us and His Church.
Forgetting the past doesn’t mean that we have to forget the beautiful things that have been a part of our lives - it’s about putting behind us the failures, the rebelliousness of our nature and being prepared to move forward and experience the ‘New things that God wants to bring into our lives’.
Here we are, the last day of 2017 - It’s been a difficult year for many of us here. Loosing our YP Treasurer and childrens teacher Julia in May and now on Christmas Day, lovely Nancy. Sad as we were to loose them, we have the assurance that as they loved God they will be in Heaven with Him.
When Sheila told me that Nancy had died, I put this out on face book.
Just recieved the sad news that our dear friend Nancy Tomlinson passed away on Christmas Day. Bless her, sad time for those of us who love her but a glorious day for Nancy - sharing the Lords birthday with Him in Heaven - WOW - She'll be with Beryl too, the one who brought her to the Army and the Lord - While we weep, Heaven rejoices at the safe arrival home of a lovely woman of God- Bless you Nancy. Our prayers are with Shiela and her family at this difficult time. God Bless - love Billy
I cant remember the exact year that Nancy joined us but it was following a New Year service around 2000 where I challenged everyone to pray a prayer there and then, asking God to lead them to someone the following day who He wanted them to share His love with and invite to our Corps.
Beryl - in obedience to God - prayed that prayer and the next morning met Nancy at the bus stop. Nancy had just moved into the area from Wilsden I think, and didn’t know many people. They got talking - which was unusual for Beryl who was really a shy person. Beryl was on her way to the Army and invited Nancy which she accepted.
The rest is history as Nancy became a very active member of our Corps - especially in the Kitchen. It wasn’t long before Nancy , along with others, Barbara, Ruth became Adherants. Commiting their lives to serve God in whatever way He called them. Living a Christlike life in obedience to Him.
As Peter says; We have been chosen by God the Father to live in obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkled by His Blood We, the people He formed for Himself, are called to proclaim His praises, not by our lips alone, but in our very lives,. That our actions, our responses and our attitudes to each other and the world out there, will bring great Glory to God. That’s what God wants - and if we are faithful to Him, as the song says;
He will make a way - when there seems to be no way
He works in ways, we cannot see - He will make a way for me.
He will be my guide, hold me closely to His side,
With love and strength for each new day
He will make a way, He will make a way.
With determination and commitment to be obedient to God there is nothing that can stop us moving on both in our personal lives and the life of our Fellowship. His word confirms that - that’s why the next verse of the song goes on to confirm
By a roadway in the wilderness You lead me
Rivers in the desert will I see
Heaven and earth will fade but His word will still remain
And He will do something new today
Is that your desire for 2018 - a new year before us - How different to last year will it be. What lessons have you learned thus far - what are your priorities for this year? How will they affect your faith, your church, your commitment to God.
Gods word declares that You are My witnesses, that I Am God' Isaiah 43; 12
Peter puts it more personally 'You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you might declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His most glorious light' 1 Peter 2; 9
The last year is almost over - we now face another year 2018. What does that mean to you and me - to our fellowship - to our commitment to God?
I believe that we are being called to put the past behind us and make it our resolve to live in obedience to the example of Jesus. Let's look forward to 2018 with the determination to seek His will, be obedient to it and commited to see that His will be done.
When I worked at Watmoughs I was the instigator of a new class of printing called Report and Accounts. Every year companies are required by law to submit a financial report to all their investors to let them see how profitable the company has been in the last year and what their hopes for the future years are. It’s about learning the lessons from the past and in moving forward putingt right any mistakes they have made and plan for a successful and rewarding future.
I’ll never forget the day God spoke to me through Jeremiah 29; 11-13. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest. Never did I imagine that in a couple a years time Beryl and I would be the Commanding Officers of Idle Corps.
In a report I did where I stated that ‘Our ministry is to feed the church with Bible based relevant teaching. To encourage folk to seek the fullness of God, capture visions of what He wants us to do together in building His Kingdom and to nurture and grow the fellowship by pastoral visitation’. This we did and within the space of three years we had a full census board, a songster brigade of 20, we renovated the balcony, I was given a vision to build the Community Hall. From a soldiers roll in 1995 of 24 within 3 years this had grown to 41 and we had over 40 coming to our evening meeting.
God has been with us for the past 23 years - miracles of healing, miraculous provision of funds for all the building work ( £200 000) meaning that we didn't need grants or loans - God paid it all!
He's been with us through thick and thin and I firmly believe that whatever God has in store for us, we can be assured of this - that He will never leave us or forsake us - He will be with us through it all.
One of my favourite gospel songs by Andre Crouch says just that
Through it all, - I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God
Through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon His word
I’ve had many tears and sorrows I’ve had questions for tomorrow
There’ve been times I didn’t know right from wrong
But in every situation God gave blessed consolation
That my trials only came to make me strong
I thank God for the mountains and I thank Him for the valleys
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through
But if I’d never had a problem I wouldn’t know that He could solve them
I would never know what faith in God can do
We can not tell what 2018 has in store for any of us but what we can be sure of is that if we have placed our lives in His hands, He has promised to be with us all the way.
How can you make sure? Give your lives over to Him Trust Him and live in obedience to Him.
Let's look forward to 2018 with the determination to do just that.
Fourth Sunday in Advent - 24 December 2017 LOVE
Hope, Peace, Joy and today the fourth candle - the candle of Love.
Christmas is a time when the world is aware that love is the key to all lifes problems. Love when families that have probably not seen each other since last Christmas - get together.
Matthew 22:36 When asked what the greatest commandment in the Law was? " Jesus replied "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbour as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Love - Love - Love
Romans 12; 9-12 Love in the fellowship love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Outside the fellowship Share with God's people who are in need. Practise hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.
Personal attributes of love Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Paul calls for Christians to have a deep practical love within the fellowship that extends to those outside the fellowship. Friendship in the local church fellowship had to be worked at. To be real and meaningful, people had to be concerned about one another.
Love must be sincere. When you say Love is all I have to give - mean it and follow it with action. That’s love for God, love for one another, love for our neighbours, workmates, friends, acquaintances Jesus said ' They shall know you are Christians by your love'. God is love and our relationship with God is revealed by the sincerity of our love towards Him and one other. 'Only as I truly know Thee can I make Thee truly known'. If we have a right relationship with our Father God, then He will be seen in our lives. God who Is Love will Be love through us. Love must be sincere - but there’s more;
9b Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. As Gods people we are called to speak up about the injustices in the world. To get alongside the rejected, the outcast, the poor, the persecuted, the starving and impoverished, and speak in their defence. To hate that which is evil and Overcome evil with good. The perfect antidote to all that is WRONG in the world - is all that is GOOD, as seen in Jesus.
There is so much need - so much pain in the world today that -for many of us - I don’t believe there has been a more demanding time for us to show Gods love - not just to one another but to those who are suffering in the world today. The homeless on our doorsteps, the refugees desperately needing a safe haven for themselves and their families. To hate what is evil is not enough - we need to hold to that which is good.
10a Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. When you are totally devoted to something or someone, nothing is too much trouble, in fact more than that, you desire is to please others. That's real love and when its genuine, it's real.
10b Honour one another above yourselves. When Jesus lives within, then 'self' takes a back burner. Greater love hath no man than this than a man lay down his life for his friends'. That's exactly what Jesus did, and I believe that kind of self sacrificial love is only possible to those who are 'in Christ Jesus'. Jesus Christ by His sacrifice on the cross - showed what He meant when He had said ‘Greater love hath no man than this than a man lay down his life for his friends - You are my friends if you do what ever I command you’. That’s not just a call to be a martyr by being willing to die for those you love but to be a living sacrifice, willing to put your own life on a back burner to care for others. That’s how much we should love Love God by loving others with a sincere and true love.
11 Never be lacking in zeal... In the Oxford Dictionary, Zeal is defined as an extreme, enthusiastic of fervent devotion. Zealous for God and each other. ...but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Serving the Lord with enthusiasm, not half hearted duty. 'Get all excited, go tell everybody that Jesus Christ is King'.
12a Be Joyful in hope - our first candle was Hope Three weeks ago we lit the candle of hope - the eternal hope of new birth and a new life in Glory for those who love and live in obedience to the Lord . The hope that should be evidenced in our lives.
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Peace - the second candle we lit - oh how we need Peace in our troubled world. The future and eternal hope that bring lasting Peace and those two combine to give us the deep seated JOY that we talked about last week. I said then didn’t I? that the way we live our lives should be a reflection of Christ in us. The hope that fuels the Joy of the Lord in us. The Joy that should be evidenced on our faces and in the way in which we are able to be victorious over the problems of life. Zealous for - devoted to God.
Here we are this morning having lit the fourth candle LOVE If only the world would take the gospel to heart and learn to love with the heart of Jesus. With that kind of love, His people will blossom to the Glory of God. Gods love demands it. Christ’s sacrifice deserves it. In love, God gave His all to us and deserves nothing less from us
You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving.
That’s what Christmas is all about. God gave His son Jesus because He loves us and because He wanted to. O how we need to be rooted in Gods love and being rooted to cultivate that gift within us, our fellowship and our community.
Last Sunday morning in our nativity we saw the Wise Men present their gifts to the baby Jesus. Gifts that have meaning -
Gold, gold in the Bible was not so much a sign of wealth, but of worth - it was used to cover the Ark of the Covenant encasing the promises of God, It is used today as a sign of a binding agreement when couples exchange gold rings at weddings.
Myrrh a sedative and purifying oil. Remember how Jesus was offered wine mixed with Myrrh to try and ease His pain as He hung on the cross.
Frankincense Perfume now there’s an easy one. I remember when I was a lad, I used to buy mum a little bottle of perfume called 'An Evening in Paris' it was relatively cheap to the well off, but it cost me all I had. I didn’t realise then that the true value of a gift is often revealed not in how much it cost, but in how much it cost the giver.
A bottle of Evening in Paris to David Beckham would be nothing - he’d probably forget the perfume and give you the evening in Paris - Frankincense was a costly ingredient used to make the best perfumes. It was used to make Holy Anointing oil. Thats why the Magi brought it - to anoint Jesus, a symbol of priesthood.
One of my favourite Bible verses is from 2 Corinthians 2:14 - thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? ‘
When I was 15 I started to serve my apprenticeship as a printer at Harry B Berry’s printers on Windhill Old Road. At the end of the road was a toilet deoderiser manufacturers and half way between us was John Smiths Jam shop. For part of the week we could smell the awful stink of the toilet deoderiser factory whilst on another part of the week we could smell the sweet aroma of the Jam from John Smiths.
We got to know some of the workers at both factories - at lunch time some of the workers came and shared lunch with us. It was OK when the Jam factory workers came in but POOH! when the toilet deoderiser friends came in the stench was awful.
I used to go home on the bus and when I got home mother used to say ‘ and I suppose you sat upstairs again’ she knew because of the stench of the smoke. You could tell what company I kept by the smell that clung to my clothes. If we spent more time with Jesus - the sweet aroma of Christ would cling to us.
I love the story Tony Campolo tells about Teddy Stallard. It was Miss Thompsons first day as teacher of the school. She introduced herself and told the pupils that she would have no favourites and that she loved them all the same. She said it, but it wasn’t exactly true, teachers do have favourites. One lad, she didn’t like. He smelled, slouched, mumbled, but he was very attentive
In his first grade report she wrote ; ‘Teddy is a good boy who shows promise but has a poor home situation’. In his second grade report she put ‘Teddy’s a good boy but too serious his mother is terminally ill, his father shows no interest’.
For his third grade; ‘Teddy is a troubled child his mother died this year he is becoming detatched from realit’y. And finally for his Fourth grade she wrote ; ‘Teddy needs help and needs help badly’. She had the records but unfortunately did nothing about it.
At Christmas the Kids brought presents for the teacher wrapped in brightly coloured paper. Teddy’s was wrapped in brown paper with sellotape. Teddy’s present contained an old broken bracelet and a half empty bottle of scent. The other children laughed. Fortunately Miss Thompson was wise enough to show the present to the class. She put the bracelet on and a dab of the perfume behind her ear
At the end of the day Teddy said to the teacher, ‘Miss, all day today, you smelled like my mother used to smell. All day long I could smell my mum. Thats her bracelet your wearing, I’m glad you liked my presents. He left the classroom and she knelt down and cried asking God for forgiveness and asking Him to change her and give her a heart of love and compassion.
The next day, the classroom felt differently. It was full of peace Shalom filled the place Love was in that place. She started to love the kids with the love of Jesus.
A few years later, she got a letter from Teddy. ‘ Dear Miss Thompson , I wanted you to be the first to know that I’m graduating high school. Love Teddy Stallard
Four years later another letter ‘Dear Miss Thompson, I wanted you to be the first to know I’m now second in my class’ love Teddy Stallard
Another Four years later - ‘Dear Miss Thompson, as of today I am Theodore Stallard MD I wanted you to be the first to know. I’m getting married in July and I would really love it if you could come and sit where my mother would have sat. My daddy died last year and your my only family now.
Miss Thompson went and she sat proudly in Teddy’s mums place. Today, Teddy Stallard is the only family that Miss Thompson has and they look after her. Miss Thompson dared to wear the perfume of his mum and so to Teddy - she was his mum. She brought love and understanding back into his life. She had more than the aroma of his mum, she had the aroma of Jesus. Spend time with Jesus and let the fragrance of Jesus mingle with the people you meet. Allow Jesus to live through you.
Miss Thompson gave the best gift she could to Tommy Stallard - he showed him LOVE real love. She was the aroma of his mother to little Tommy and that was really appreciated by him - he received her love and then returned that love to her by telling her that she had become the mother he never had
The Wise men brought their gifts to Jesus in gratitude to God for the greatest gift of all - Gods gift to mankind, Jesus Himself God so loved the world that he gave His only son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Christmas gifts choosing the right gifts for your family or friends gets harder every year The wise men didn’t seem to have a problem - they brought the perfect gifts.
What can I bring Him 'What can I give Him poor as I am, if I were a shepherd I would give a lamb, if I were a wise man, I would do my part. Yet what can I give Him, Give Him my heart. That’s the best gift we could bring - The source of all love.
What gift will you lay at the feet of Jesus this Christmas. God showed us how much He loved us when He wrapped it up in Jesus. Gods gift to you and me - God incarnate - God who is love - that what we celebrate this Christmas. The precious gift of love
Third Sunday in Advent 17 December 2017 Joy Carol Service
Christmas - only one week away - next Sunday will be Christmas Eve the night when a children, we found it easy to go to bed when told but hard to get to sleep. I love the excitement that Christmas brings - as a child it’s a time when Santa and presents seem to take prominence and that’s understandable but thankfully as we grow older we begin to realise the true meaning for the celebration - the birth of Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world. We give and receive presents in celebration of that.
For the last two weeks we have been lighting the Advent candles, the first hope in recognition of the hope that God gave to a sad world torn by wars and destruction that one day He would send a Saviour to save the world - last week we lit the second candle, the candle of Peace that Jesus the light of the world would bring through the saviour Jesus. O how the world needed Peace in their time.
When we read the OT we can see how Gods created had turned their backs on Him and were going their own selfish godless way. They had His word but were disobedient to it. It would seem that Words were not enough - the word had to become flesh - and so God decided to come into our world in His son Jesus to show us what He, Father God was really like and to turn the hearts of His creation, His children, back to the heart of God the Father.
That’s why God sent Jesus. The Love of God was manifest in Christ Jesus who became a man like us to show us what God was really like and how He wanted us to live our lives. Jesus was the Word of God made flesh in Christ. Jesus the LOVE of God to mankind. He came to show the what His word was trying to tell them. That God loves His creation and wants fallen man back into His fold and family.
As we look at the world today we can see similarities between the world of Isaiah and the world today. People suffering all over the world through wars and mans greed. The wars in the holy land and the fear of those living there. The suffering that we hear about every week when Jean and Frank come and tell us how they have been called to transport men and women from evil men who have trafficked innocent -sometimes, young people from the safety of their homeland to become slaves in this country - inhuman stories of people living in fear through the greed of their captors. O how the world needs Hope and Peace.
For some this Christmas will be a difficult time for many reasons. Victoria would have been 15 this year, my son Kevin died 5 years last Friday and then Beryl three years ago in February - difficult times but thankfully because of my faith in God and His love for me I have a sure and certain hope in my heart that one day we shall all be together again and that gives me the Peace I need to keep going.
Thank God for this third candle the candle of Joy - the joy that comes when in obedience to God we put Jesus first, Yourself last and Others in between. The joy that the angel said would be Zechariah and Elizabeths at the birth of their son John. The Joy Elizabeth felt when the baby leapt for Joy in her womb when Mary the mother of Jesus came to see her. The news of great Joy the angel brought to the shepherds. The birth of Jesus brought Joy to them and to the world.
Joy - I don’t believe that there is a more joyous time than at Christmas when as families we get together with those we love and have a great time. We send greetings to long lost friends, we give presents to our loved ones , we have parties, get together for Christmas dinner and play games that create a great atmosphere of Joy.
I love everything about Christmas the tree, the trimming, the parties. Christmas is a huge world wide colourful party to celebrate one of the greatest events in the Christian Calendar - our dear Saviours birth
Christmas is a great time to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas - the birth of our Saviour Jesus who came to show us what God was really like by living a life of love -Next week we light the candle of love
Even though as we know from our Bible that God planned ‘Christmas’ centuries before it actually happened - even then - it took everyone by surprise. Even though God had told the world through the voices of the prophets - still the world wasn’t ready for the greatest event since creation- the time when God incarnate in Christ came to live in our world - the world He created but that had drifted away from Him causing Him to invade our world and draw alongside ordinary folk like you and me.
And here we are - 2017 and still the world rejects the truth of Jesus. Some Schools ban Nativity plays for fear of upsetting other religions - each year it gets increasingly difficult to buy real Nativity cards - lots of reindeers, Santas, Holly etc but Jesus in a manger? Still there are folk who simply ‘Haven’t got it.
I love it when we come together like we have this morning for the Carol Service when we put Jesus Christ centre stage in our celebrations - after all - He’s the real reason for the season. We need to get through all the glitter, the glamour of the festivities, the party’s the presents and get to the truth - the coming of the long awaited Messiah. Its easy to be caught up in the festivities - and miss out on the real truth about Christmas. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of pushing Jesus further into the background of Christmas instead of placing Him centre stage in our celebrations.
Just as the Christmas presents are waiting to be unwrapped on Christmas day- today is the time to gather round the manger, and begin to unwrap the truth of the real Christmas Present - Jesus Immanuel - or should I say ’The real Christmas PRESENCE - Immanuel - God with us. Gods love all unwrapped for us to see.
My prayer for each one of us is that this Christmas will be very special in our homes and that as over the last few weeks , we have sought to unwrap Jesus from all the raz-a-ma-taz that is Christmas, our lives will begin to reflect the beauty of Jesus, God's gift to mankind.
Just as the word became flesh in Jesus, so the word, Jesus, needs to become flesh in us - we need to show the Love of God to our friends, family and the world at large. The world needs to see Christ in the hearts and lives of people like you and I.
At that first Nativity there was a ‘No vacancy’ sign on the inn - no room for Jesus. This Christmas, as always, there will be many people celebrating Christmas but who have no room for Jesus. God wants people to take the ‘no vacancy’ sign down and give Jesus ‘room’ in their lives and hearts.
The awesome truth is that as we celebrate the fulfilment of those first prophesies in the Old Testament, in the New Testament we read of a second coming when Jesus will return, this time not to seek the lost sheep - He did that the first time and gave His disciples then and today the job of carrying on the message of Salvation through repentance and obedience - No, this next time He is coming for His bride, the hose who have accepted His message and are living lives in obedience to His word.
Sadly just in the same way as many didn’t believe the first prophesies until they came true - the next time Jesus comes it will be too late, He is coming to take His obedient children home to live in eternity. The signs of His second coming are being fulfilled in our time as seen in the events that are taking place in the Middle East, in Jerusalem and the Holy land. The book of Revelation is coming to life even as we speak. We need to make sure that we are ready and living in obedience to His word.
The prophesies of the OT and there fulfilment in the New proof that Jesus came into our world to give man purpose and meaning - to offer forgiveness for past sins and promise of a new life now and to come. That’s the real truth of Christmas - God in Christ Jesus became flesh like us. He entered our world in Jesus and through Jesus came to share our world, to live with us so that one day we could go and share His world and live forever with Him. That’s when He comes again or calls us.
As I said, Jesus came to show us what the Father was really like - Immanuel ‘God with us’ The word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth. How can we resist such great love. No there are no words to say how we as a family are feeling - but just remember, that’s why Jesus, the word became flesh, we need to love one another
Jesus who is the Love of God made flesh came to show us that love is at the root of our Christian faith and life. Love is the greatest gift of all. We need to share the good news with our friends, neighbours, relations, that Gods so loved His creation that He sent His Son into the world - that’s what Christmas is all about - the celebration of the birth of the Saviour of the world.
Extra note; At our Bible Fellowship on Tuesday 20 December after the Sunday meeting - we discussed in more detail some of the prophesies that have already been fulfilled to make way for the Lords return - the last ones being fulfilled in our present day - the ability for world powers to destroy the world ( nuclear Power) the availability of the Word of God to penetrate all countries ( Internet) the dangerous things that are happenning in the Middle east - (especially Jerusalem) - the rise of the ten Global powers (EEC) - all present day fulfilled signs making His return more iminent. Whilst no-one but God knows the actual date - all these are being accomplished to make sure that we are ready and living in love and obedience to our Father God.
Second Sunday in Advent 10 December 2017 Peace
Last Sunday we lit our first Advent candle ‘Hope’ and said how the world in Isaiah’s day needed that hope - and God gave them hope when He declared to His people that He would send a Saviour to lead them out of darkness into the light of His salvation. Looking forward to a Saviour would put hope in their hearts and light into their darkness. They needed that hope for a better future just as we do today.
Even though as we know from our Bible that God planned ‘Christmas’ centuries before it actually happened - even then - it took everyone by surprise. Even though God had told the world through the voices of the prophets - still the world wasn’t ready for the greatest event since creation- the time when God incarnate in Christ came to live in our world - the world He created but that had drifted away from Him causing Him to invade our world and draw alongside ordinary folk like you and me.
And here we are - 2017 and still the world rejects the truth of Jesus. Still nations war against one another in their fight for power. Still there are folk who simply ‘Haven’t got it. As we know, its easy to be caught up in the festivities - and miss out on the real truth about Christmas. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of pushing Jesus further into the background of Christmas instead of placing Him centre stage in our celebrations.
At that first Nativity there was a ‘No vacancy’ sign on the inn - no room for Jesus. This Christmas, as always, there will be many people celebrating Christmas but who have no room for Jesus. God wants people to take the ‘no vacancy’ sign down and make room for Jesus in their lives.
Jesus came into our world to give man purpose and meaning to his life, both now and to come. That’s the real truth of Christmas, that God in Christ, entered our world, became like us. He came t share our world, to live with us so that one day we could go and share His world and live forever with Him. The Word, became flesh and dwelt among us full of Grace and Truth. How can man resist such great love.
Just as the Christmas presents are waiting to be unwrapped on Christmas day- so too we need to begin to unwrap the truth of the real Christmas Present - Jesus Immanuel - or should I say ’The real Christmas PRESENCE - Immanuel - God with us. Gods love? It’s all unwrapped for us to see in Jesus.
Just as the word became flesh in Jesus, so the word, Jesus, needs to become flesh in us - we need to show the Love of God to our friends, family and the world at large. The world needs to see Christ in the hearts and lives of people like you and I.
Here we are today looking forward to celebrating the fulfilment of the prophesies when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just AS God said He would.
When you consider all the preperations that went in to that first Christmas - the lives that were invaded and turned around causing them to get ready. The angel appearing to Elizabeth and Zacharia telling them they were about to become parents to the one who would prepare the way for the coming Messiah, John the Baptist . Then to Mary and Joseph the unmarried couples who’s lives were really going to be brought into the spotlight.
Each and every character involved in the Christmas story had to be completely obedient to God The shepherds tending their flocks, the Wise men from the east - all of them had to be completely obedient to the will of God. Even down to the name of their babies. Zechariah was told to call his child John and Joseph to call his baby Jesus.
The name - always a problem What to call the baby - usually you don’t know wether to choose a girls name or a boys - but these were boys and had a name already
When I was born the first child was nearly always named after the father. The second after some other member of the family. Family names were handed down. Thats what they expected to be done for Elizabeth and Zecharias son - not so.
The Angel told him straight away, 'Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you are to call him John', which means 'Gods gift' or 'God is gracious'. Likewise the angel appeared to Mary, and told her 'You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus'.
Jesus is a Greek form of the name 'Joshua', meaning 'Saviour' Just as Joshua led his people into the promised land, so too Jesus would lead His people into the promised 'Eternal life'.
The people of the Bible took names very seriously and saw them as a great source of strength and power. In Isaiah 9, we read of the various 'Royal' names by which Jesus would be called. 'For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace'
Wonderful Councellor, meaning awesome, without comparison, excellent, miracle or wonder worker, and yet in all His greatness - someone you can talk to and you know will listen with understanding and concern and will always give the right advice. 'Come let us reason together ,said God, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow' Isaiah 1; 18.
Mighty God, not just any god, but none other than God Himself
Everlasting Father, Not just Father but everlasting Father timeless, father of all those who come to Him and are born again. This is a most powerful name that speaks of love, commitment, recognition that we are of the family of God.
Prince of Peace, He will govern with justice and peace. O How they needed Peace.
The people of Isaiah's day, were governed by the apostate King, Ahaz, who abandons his religion - Judah was in darkness. The people needed to hear the message of hope, that Mighty God still cared and loved His creation = that our Father wanted His children back - that’s why He decided that the Messiah would come to lead His people out of darkness into light. That sadly wasnt to be for another 700 years
During His earthly ministry, in different settings, Jesus gave Himself names that pointed to special roles that He would fulfil. Some of these names refer back to Old Testament prophesies regarding the Messiah. Others were to simply help people to understand Him.
Jesus's emphasised His humanity with the name Son of Man, (John 6; 27). It can be found everywhere in the gospels, and only Jesus himself used it. Jesus said to Zacchaeus ' the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost'. Almighty God came wrapped in our humanity, to share our world, and in order to do that. He was willing to feel our pain, to share our grief. He wept, He laughed, He grew tired, became angry at man's foolishness, He knew what it was to be hungry and thirsty, Jesus was truly God, and truly man and as such shared our emotions.
When confronted by His accusers at His trial, the High priest asked Jesus if He was the Messiah, 'I am, He replied, and you will all see the Son of Man seated on the right of The Almighty and coming with the clouds of heaven'. Mark 14; 62.
He was known as 'the Bread of Life' (John 6;35), which referred to His life giving role. Bread, the staff of life, man's staple diet. After the miraculous feeding of the 5000, the crowds flocked to see Him demanding that He do more miracles if He expected them to believe that He was indeed the Messiah. 'Moses gave us bread from Heaven, how about giving us some of this bread? Jesus replied "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." "Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread." Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
'Light of the World' (John 8; 12), Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Light, the symbol of Spiritual truth. Jesus in the sermon on the mount said that 'we' are the light of the world, 'that' as Graham Kendrick puts it 'as we gaze on His Kingly brightness, so our faces display Your likeness, ever changing from Glory to Glory, mirrored here may our lives tell Your story, Shine on me. The first verse says 'Lord, the light of Your love is shining, in the midst of the darkness, shining., Jesus light of the World shine upon us!
Sometimes I feel that we are a poor reflection of what God wants to show to the World, that our little light burns dimly. One consolation is that scripture tells us that 'He will nor quench the dimly burning flame'. Our prayer should be, fan me into flame 'O Lord' that I might shine for You.
John 10;11 Jesus said 'I am the Good Shepherd' The promised Shepherd of Israel, who would not only tend and lead His sheep, but also seek the lost sheep, and because He is 'The Way, The Truth and the Life' He will bring them home safely into the fold and back into His Fathers arms.
One of the most important names Jesus called Himself, was 'The Vine' the source of all life, and that we are 'The branches'. We cannot hope to be a good Christian if we neglect to stay firmly rooted in Him. We are completely dependant on Him for Spiritual life and growth.
Jesus is also Lord which in the Greek translations of the Old Testament is the word used to translate the special name of God - Yahweh. By the time of Jesus, Lord was well used as the name for God Himself. The disciples called Him Lord and worshipped Him as God . 'Jesus is Lord' is probably the first Christian creed for it sums up the whole of a Christian's faith.
What's in a name? Everything if it happens to be Jesus, Jesus the Messiah, our Lord.
In His name, is power, Peter and John realised that when they met the lame man at the gate Beautiful, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth - rise up and walk’ and we are told never to take the name of the Lord in vain, but to honour Him in all that we do.
I pray that this Christmas He may be all these to us, and that we will honour the glorious name that we have embraced, that of Christian, a follower of Christ Jesus, realising that in embracing the faith, we have been adopted into His family, and as a glorious consequence be given the honour of being called by His name, Christian.
One of the most awesome names can be found in Isaiah 7;14 and Matthew 1; 23, where Jesus is called Immanuel, which means 'God with us'. All the way through His word, God reminds His people that if they are obedient to Him, then He will be with them.
Moses was told not to be afraid to face Pharaoh, because 'I Am' will be with you, God through Isaiah told His people to 'Fear not, for I am with you, When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, when you walk through deep waters it will not consume you, for I will be with you'
Jesus told His disciples this 'if anyone loves Me and will obey My teaching, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him', Wow! God himself the Everlasting Father will make His home in you and me.
Can we begin to understand what Jesus is saying here?
God Himself wants to live in our lives, He wants to reign in and through His obedient people. He wants to be the Prince of Peace and bring His peace into our lives. Our second candle reminds us that Christmas is a time of Peace. Peace in our hearts our home, our fellowship. O how the world needs the gift of Peace.
While we celebrate Christmas - all over the world there are people on their guard against the enemy. Soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, wars all over the world. People in fear for their lives, homes where fear reigns, children living in abusive homes. Christians in Muslim countries fearing for their lives. Today in Jerusalem the heir are hundreds fearing for their lives. O how we need Peace.
Song 615, written by John Oxenham says this;
Mid all the traffic of the ways, turmoil's without, within
Make in my heart a quiet place, and come and dwell therein.
A little shrine of quietness all sacred to Thyself
Where Thou shalt all my soul possess and I might find myself.
A little place of mystic grace, of self and sin swept bare
Where I may look into Thy face and talk with Thee in prayer
Come occupy my silent place, and make Thy dwelling there
More grace is wrought in quietness than any is aware
In the closing moments of this service I want us to look at these first two candles -
see them as that first glimmer of hope - of anticipation that something great is going to happen. The joyful time that we are preparing to celebrate
Jesus the bringer of Hope - we all need positive hope inour hearts
Jesus the giver of Peace - in our troubled world, we crave Peace
Let the light penetrate the dark corners of your mind. Illuminate your thinking
Ask God to let that light, the light of Jesus penetrate into your soul.
Ask Jesus to impart His light into your heart to set your heart on fire with expectation that something good is about to happen and you don’t want to be left out.
Closing song Make me a channel of Your Peace
First Sunday in Advent 3 December 2017 Hope
Isaiah 9:1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan - The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ....on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
God told Isaiah 'Comfort My people', Isaiah 40;1 and went on to tel Isaiah that He would send someone who would prepare the way for Christs coming, John the Baptist The people in hs day needed the comfort of knowing that God was with them and for them. O how we need that comfort today- for the now - and the comfort of knowing that now and always for the future days - God is with us.
Isaiah 9 was and still a message of hope for a people who may be feeling desperate for good news. no more gloom for those who were in distress. Today Isaiah 9 will be read in churches up and down the country in preperation for the first coming of our Saviour Jesus. On this first Sunday in Advent, churches will read this same promise of God in preperation for Christmas - the first coming of Jesus and in preperation for His return - the second coming..
Just as the people in Isaiah’s day lived in battle torn lands so too today, our world today is torn with conflict, oppression and wars - a time ripe for Jesus to come again. Isaiah talks about the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, Many today, especially in the Christian world are suffering persecution and death as they hold on to their faith in Jesus.
Today we live in a world that has many parralels - today is not unlike the world of Isaiahs day. A time of unrest, uncertainty, many who live in fear for today and see little or no hope for tomorrow.
We live in a world where frightened persecuted people have to leave their homes and seek refuge in foreign lands. People today, like in Isaiah’s day, need that glimmer of hope, that shred of light that promises a different future. They needed a Saviour to lead them out of despair into hope. Isaiah’s hope was in a promised Saviour. The same hope as today.
People need hope - direction - a way out - you and I know that they need Jesus.
I wouldn’t have been able to cope, over the events of the last few years, loosing Kevin and Beryl - I would be lost without my faith - without Jesus. I know that that’s the same for many of you here this morning whatever you’re going through, You wouldn‘t cope- without Jesus.
That was what was needed in Isaiah’s day - and so Isaiah speaks of victorious times to come. They wanted Peace - stability - they wanted a champion to come and lead them to victory - they needed a Messiah. This is not the champion warrior they had expected- Isaiah tells them of a man, a Saviour, who is coming to ' tend His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; and gently lead those that have young.
Isaiah tells where the ministry of the Messiah will take place, in Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan - and in Micah chapter 5, God even tells His people where the Messiah would be born "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
Incredible isn't it and yet even though God prepared His people with the news of the coming of Jesus, they were still taken by surprise! One can hardly blame them.
How can Ordinary man begin to understand the unbelievable, the extraordinary, unless he has been drawn in to share the 'secrets of the Almighty' ? We read that last week when Jesus told Nicodeamus that no one will see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again - Nicodeamus found that hard to understand - Born again - how? Jesus said I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I tell you of Heavenly things’?.
Even though God went on to tell them where and how the Saviour would be born -when it did happen, the leaders and authorities refused to believe it even though He was there before their very eyes - there was no way of stopping God getting through to those who would be open to the truth , anmd when they saw Jesus and what He did and said they began to realise the truth. The glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
As I said last year - Imagine having to do a jigsaw without the picture on the box lid - we wouldn’t know where to start. That’s why God gave mankind the picture on the box, the prophesies of Isaiah and all the other prophets, and as man started to fit the framework pieces of the Jigsaw together - the mystery would begin to take shape.
Isaiah, heralded the start of the greatest adventure story of all time. An adventure that would captures the spirit if the people and draw them in to share the adventure.
This is the first Sunday in Advent - the beginning of a most wonderful and exciting adventure. I like adventures. The word Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus which means "arrival." Its the overture to one of the greatest adventure of all time - the coming of Immanuel - God amongst us, to share our humanity and prepare us to share His divinity.
Everyone loves Christmas - the trimmings, the tree, the parties, the presents, the cards from family and friends you haven’t seen for a long time - The kids love sending letters to Santa, the excitement of Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning. That’s great - I love it all too. But many there are who shun what Christmas is really all about - the birth of Jesus the Saviour of the world. Thankfully when Gods people anticipate the coming of Jesus, the Light and Saviour of the world who liberate His people from the shackles of sin, bringing freedom and New Life to all who accept Him as their Saviour - it brings a real sense of Joy.
You - probably like me - love to go to the theatre to watch you favourite musical.
There you are, you’ve got there well on time, the cars parked, you’ve got your sweets and programme, you’ve found your seats you’ve tucked your coat under the seat and as you settle back in your seats , there’s a sense of expectancy as one by one, the instruments in the orchestra start to tune up and then they strike up with the Overture.
It’s then that we start to feel the excitement knowing that as the familiar tunes start to play - we are in for a good time. We hum along - some around us dare to sing as we all wait for that tell tale bob of the curtain that tells us that the show is about to start.
That’s what Advent is, the overture - to God’s greatest production that as each day comes our expectations are raised and we long for the curtain to rise on what promises to be a most spectacular occasion. Advent is designed to bring a sense of expectancy that ‘something goods about to happen’ as we prepare to celebrate His coming.
It’s also a reminder that just as He came over 2000 years ago, He is coming again and as well as celebrating that first coming - we anticipate His second coming- a stark reminder that just as the first participants of that First Christmas were encouraged to get ready for His coming - today, we need to spend our time not just getting ready to celebrate the birthday of our Saviour - but also make sure that we are ready for His return - the second coming.
Just as Michael J Fox went ‘Back to the future’ three times, Advent takes us ‘back to anticipate the future’ as the Christmas Story reminds us not just of the past but an age to come.
Lighting this first candle marks the beginning of another Christmas. The hectic preparations, the cards, the presents, the food, trimming up, the carol service - we get so caught up in the rush, even though we have known for a while that Christmas was round the corner - we still get caught out and if we are not careful, the reason for the season gets lost in all the frantic rush. I hope that this year its more than that -
I hope it was more than that and that our hearts were stirred to look at the Awesomeness of what really happened when God decided that the only way that Mankind would listen and take notice of Him would be if He Himself came in flesh and became one of us.
Advent and Christmas, if we are not careful, could be just like a re-run of an old movie like the BBC tend to do every year - where having celebrated it many times, we just get caught up in the fast moving festivities - buying and sending cards, choosing presents, buying too much food.
As one of the carols I introduced a few years ago says; The streets are full of people hurrying along - Buying things and making plans. It’s such a crazy season - such a busy time it’s so easy to forget how it began. You’ve chosen all the presents written all the cards hung the lights around the Christmas tree. But with all the celebrating it’s easy to lose sight Of the star that’s shining down for you and me
One look at the way the world is treating Christmas in these days and one could be forgiven for thinking that the world is starting to cut Christmas out of the calendar in the same way it did Pentecost.
Sadly we live in an age where the true meaning of the Christian festivals that we used to celebrate have been stolen form us and replaced with worldly and commercially profitable festivities. The Easter egg has replaced Easter, Spring bank holiday has replaced Pentecost, Father Christmas has taken over Christmas - even All Saints Day has been captured by Halloween. I couldn’t believe how much evil looking merchandise was on sale in the supermarkets at Halloween.
The media not wanting to upset people of other faiths, ignore and plays down the true meaning of Christmas. There is a group who don’t want people to say Happy, or Merry Christmas. Nativity cards are even harder to find this year. There is even an attempt by Face book - that most people spend a lot of time on - are trying to ban a picture of the nativity as it might be offensive to some people. The media are trying to downplay the truth of Christmas.
Wouldn’t it be great if this year people decided to stop and think it through as to why and what we are celebrating. It doesn’t have to mean that we don’t do all the usual things like we have always done - it mean that we will give the Holy Spirit time to help us appreciate what GOD did in sending Jesus and the reason why Jesus is coming again.
I believe that it’s up to us - His church, the living body of Christ in the world today to stand up and profess our faith to our friends, neighbours and colleagues.
When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Philippi from the confines of his prison cell, he said this;. Chapter 3; 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Paul then goes on to say in Chapter 4; Therefore my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, that is how you should Stand firm in the Lord dear friends
As the last verse of the carol I mentioned earlier says;
So keep your heart in heaven though your feet are on the earth
And hear the greatest story ever told
It’s all about a baby from a cradle to a cross
It’s the story of the Saviour of the World
To give love is the greatest gift of all
To bring hope is the reason and the rhyme
To find Joy and Peace is the wonder of it all
To give Love is the Christ in Christmas time
I pray that we will all see it in a new light, that the age old truth will dawn afresh and vibrantly new as we ask God to let the light of the truth dawn in our hearts.
The candle we lit this morning is the candle of Hope. What are your hopes and dreams this year - better health, more togetherness - that these seats get filled?
What’s your hopes and dreams. What is it that will make those hopes a reality - it’s faith - faith is the main ingredient of hope - faith makes things happen - faith brings hopes into focus and turns them into realities.
I said earlier that Advent reminds us also that Jesus is coming back again. When He came the first time - many were just not ready - Jesus is coming again - are we ready? Think about your friends and family - are they ready for His return - is that something that we should be making them aware of?
The long awaited Messiah that Isaiah heralded would come to bring hope to an oppressed people. To show mankind a better way - the way of holiness. Forgiveness for the past and a bright hope for the future. Over the next few weeks we will remind ourselves how that was accomplished in the birth of Jesus, how the word made flesh, showed by example how God intended His creation to live in harmony with God and with one another.
Pauls letter to Timothy sets the scene of the last days when Christ returns. A world not unlike today; Mark this, there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying the power- have nothing to do with them.
That’s a picture of the world we live in today and sadly in many cases a picture of the church - wealth and prosperity etc. Where do we stand? Do our lives speak volumes for God. Do we show God that we love Him and serve Him in the way in which we live our lives
We sang ’Come Thou long expected Jesus’ It’s not just a song about the coming babe at Christmas, I believe that it speaks of His coming again - this time to take His ransomed, saved, redeemed and obedient Church to live with Him in Glory forever. Are we that people - are we ready - are we the people He wants us to be - a people who live for God and one-another. Not a people who seek after wealth at any cost. A people who put pleasure before commitment to God.
I find it sad that we live in what is supposed to be a Christian country but very few have a real experience of Christ. When I think of the wisdom and scope of Gods plan in coming to live in our world in an effort to call the world back to the Fathers heart - I feel sad that the very people He commissioned to help Him in this have failed Him so much that the light of this world shines brighter than the true light of the World.
In the closing moments of this service close your eyes and ask yourself how you would feel if Jesus were to come back right now. Ask Jesus to impart His light into your heart to set your heart on fire with expectation that when He comes again - you don’t want to be left out.
Think about all these empty seats and the people out there who live empty lives - the light of Christ could fill both. The light of the truth of Jesus could fill those empty lives with hope and these empty seats with people. We live in a dark world and it is our responsibility to bring the light back.
People out there - need to know that the is hope and that the answer to their problems won’t be found in anything or anyone else but Jesus. We need to put Christ back into Christmas.
The greatest witness to the truth of Jesus is the way that we live our lives.
You and I - His church should be a beacon light that lives the full gospel message. That people can see something of the beauty of Jesus in our lives.
The way in which we cope with life, even through times of adversity - because Jesus is real to us. It’s up to us to us who have received the light to take that light into the world we live. To live without Christ is to live without Hope. The world needs a sure and certain hope
As I said earlier, I wouldn’t be able to cope with what I have to do without the knowledge that Jesus is with me and will never leave me and that in Him I have the victory over what, to those without Christ, would be an impossible life. People need the Lord this Christmas - the good news is that He is available - and the Lord needs you and I to share that good news with them.
The hymn we are going to sing in closing moments is the Graham Kendrick classic ‘the Message of Love’ which encourages us to take Hope and Peace out into the streets. To invade the rush in people lives with the Peace that only Christ can bring.
Lets pray that the light of Hope and Peace flow from us out into the darkness of this world to put Christ back into Christmas.
Sunday Morning 26 November 2017
Over the last few weeks we have been looking at the early ministry of Jesus as related by the disciple who was probably the closest to Jesus - John.
Wev’e looked at the fact that Jesus is declared as the physical embodiment of God Almighty and called the Son of God. How John tells us that he Word ( God) became flesh in Christ Jesus. How when he was baptised by John in the Jordan river the Spirit of God came upon Him.
We read how He then went on to call together His team of Disciples, how at the wedding at Cana He performed His first miracle and then last week, how He entered the Temple and saw the terrible state it was in due to mans greed and foolishness and how, in righteous anger He overturned the tables where they were selling animals for sacrifice and the tables of the money exchangers. I said then that this to me this is a clear sign that Jesus came to put man straight in his misunderstanding of what the Temple was there for and of that man had moved further away from Gods intentions for mankind. As Jesus said - Gods house had been turned into a market place.
I saw this as an example of how Jesus’s first port of call all those years ago was to declare Gods anger at the way man, under the guise of religion, had moved so far away from God and to put man back on course by becoming the once and for all time sacrificial lamb - no need to purchase animals as mans sacrificial offering to pay for his forgiveness - instead Jesus paid the price and offers forgiveness through His blood.
I said then that I also believe that when Jesus comes back again - that this time He is coming back to take those of His church who are living in obedience to His word to live with Him in Glory. Jesus came the first time to open the way and call men and women to be His disciples to continue the work He began in calling mankind to repentance and new life - the next time He is coming for the ransomed, the redeemed, those who have accepted His call and who’s desire is to live in obedience to Him.
His first appearance was to show His people how God wanted them to live in obedience to Him and I believe that the second coming will again be to the church to sift out the wheat from the chaff - and as we discussed on Tuesday at our Bible fellowship, there will be lots of surprises when He comes especially to those who ’have a form of godliness but deny the power’ those who are playing at it.
Our bible reading today follows on from what we read last week read John 3; 1-21
I love the way in which Jesus explains deep spiritual truths in the most simplistic way.
We live in a very sophisticated electronic age. A world of computers, where answers to the most complex problems can be found at the touch of a button. An age where technology has overtaken the ordinary man, so much so, that all he can do, is accept things work, like computers, Satellite communications, computer driven cars, and such like - accept that they just work - and if they don’t he cant do much about it.
The first thing you did as a child, was take things to bits to see how they worked. When I was a lad, you wanted to know how things worked, there were even magazines that encouraged you to do exactly that. even the my comic ‘The Eagle’ had a centre spread showing the inner workings of the most complex cars and trains.
Things are so sophisticated now, that all the mechanical parts have been replaced by a 'chip'. I thought you ate them with fish. A chip, is a little piece of memory that contains all the workings that control the biggest machines. A little note has appeared on the back of most electrical goods 'No Consumer serviceable parts' in other words, keep out, you don't understand it!
I well remember the day when if you bought a car, you went out and bought a 'Haynes manual' to service it yourself. I remember Beryl and myself, spending all evening under the car, replacing the brake pads etc. Not any more. I lift the bonnet up, and all I can see is a mass of electronic parts. When I take the car in to the garage because of some fault, all they say is that the onboard computer has developed a fault, and that is very costly! Like most things these days, a computer built the car, and a computer controls the car, I'm just the idiot who bought it and drives it!
Just as in the physical world in which we live, there are complex things that we may never understand, unless someone could sit down and explain using the simplest of language, so too in the realms of the Spiritual, there are mysteries, that until God our Father chooses to reveal them within the scope of our own understanding, we’ll never understand. Creation, The fall of man, the cross, the atonement, the resurrection, the miracles, the Holy Spirit. Thank God we have the manual that explains all that. Hold up the Bible
Just as we have questions today over many issues, so too did people like Nicodemus. Yet he was no fool, a most learned man, a teacher and an important member of the Jewish ruling council yet he comes to Jesus seeking answers.
I believe that God’s word introduces us to Nicodemus because through him, God can teach us some of the most crucial and important lessons about what it is to be a Christian. As you follow the events of Nicodemus’s life, brief as they may be, we can see a progression from the enquiring mind of a seeker to the determined, resolute mind of a strong advocate who became a follower of Jesus.
We are introduced to Nicodemus as a man who came seeking an audience with Jesus whilst it was dark, hidden under a cloak of darkness - in the hopes that Jesus would let him in on the secret of His power. He had obviously heard much about Jesus - maybe seen Him perform some of the mighty miraculous things He did.
He would also know about Jesus because Nicodemus was a member of the ruling class - the Jewish ruling council who held Jesus in great suspicion and wanted rid of Him - any excuse would do. I don’t believe that he came to Jesus to try to trip Him up - I really believe that he came to Jesus to get to the truth.
His opening line - ‘"Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."
Jesus probably saw straight through those flattering remarks of Nicodemus and deep into the heart of Nicodemus exposing the real reason for his enquiries - that what he really wanted to know was the truth about Jesus. He wanted to know if Jesus really was who He said He was - the Messiah they had been waiting for.
'The truth is' said Jesus, no one in his present mind will ever understand, as 'no one can see the kingdom of God, unless he is born again. Surely you can't mean to start again in the mothers womb?' Nicodemus exclaimed Jesus replied, the truth is that 'flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit'. No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he has been born again’.
In other words, to begin to grasp the truth and understand the mysteries of the Kingdom life - you have to be a born again follower of Jesus, you have to have experienced a spiritual rebirth where you forsake the old material way of life that is grounded in selfishness and accept the new spiritual way who’s foundations are firmly rooted in pure love - love for God and love for one another.
Sadly the expression being ‘born again’ has been so badly derided over the last decade probably due to some of the American tele-evangelists who have made a mockery of it and brought the term ’Born again’ into ridicule.
What Jesus is saying here is a chance to make a fresh start by being re-born. To be given a chance to let go of the worlds values and standards to say sorry for being a part of all that, and seek to embrace the new ways of the Kingdom, Gods ideals, Gods values, Gods standards. Real love that cares about others, about God and about how we live our lives in future.
To get back to being what God intended us to be at the creation, Sons of God - the perfect Adam who was made in the image of God - Like Jesus - a son of God the Father..
God intended Adam to live in union with Him and b the first of Gods children to live at peace and harmony in a beautiful world - that’s why the devil - the fallen angel - deceived man and brought evil into the world. God wants His creation back - God wants His children back - that why He sent Jesus - to make a way back through repentance, forgiveness and a fresh start - being born again.
Born again - sons of the father - created to conform to the likeness of Christ Roman 8;29 And as John later wrote ‘ How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called Children of God - and that’s what we are.
I love the concept of entering in to the secrets of the kingdom, as being 'born again'. The only way back into the sheepfold, to the Fathers heart, is to be 'born again'.
A fresh start, a New beginning.
We have to learn to live by faith.
Just as new born babies have to learn to 'see' with their 'new eyes', so too as born again believers we learn to see things Gods way.
Just as babies learn to feed, being born again means that we learn how to feed on the milk of Gods word -
Just as babies learn to recognise the voice of their father so too we have to learn to recognise' our heavenly 'Fathers voice', learn to 'speak' His words, and 'walk' in His ways. Jesus illustrated that when He talked about the shepherd and the sheep - He said ‘My sheep hear My voice and follow Me’ (John 10;27)
Just as a baby inherit’s the characteristics and looks of it’s earthly parents, so too, being born again, means that we learn to grow into our Heavenly fathers likeness.
To make all that possible for us to embrace came at a great price. For God to make that all possible for you and me - Sins price had to be paid once and for all. The lamb had to be offered on the sacrificial altar. Jesus, Gods son had to die.
Harsh - that certainly does sound harsh but it was the only way that man kind then could understand. To receive forgiveness for their sins, the priest sacrificed a lamb on the altar. That’s how they understood forgiveness in those days - that was the only way they would be able to understand - and so it had to be that way.
That’s why Jesus said that the Son of Man would have to be lifted up for all to see so that everyone who believes in Him might have eternal life. There was no other way.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3; 16
That’s why Jesus overturned the tables in the Temple - man had taken to ritual, ceremony, show when God wanted man to seek Him from his heart - to be genuinely repentant and seeking after God in a real heartfelt way.
Thankfully Nicodemus not only heard what Jesus told him but he accepted it - took what Jesus said and acted upon it - by becoming a believer - a devotee of Jesus.
We know this because in, John 7;50 he tells us that on the last day of the Feast of the Tabernacles Jesus stood up and shouted ‘Whoever believes in me as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him’ meaning the Holy Spirit’ on hearing these words some said he was a prophet others said he was the Christ.
This was all the Chief priests and Pharisees needed to hear and they chided the temple guards for not bringing Jesus in. ‘But no one has ever spoken the way this man does’ the people answered - ‘You mean He has even deceived you? Said the priests They wanted to arrest Jesus.
But who is it who stands up for Jesus by saying that the law doesn‘t condemn a man unless you first allow him to answer the accusations‘.? One of their own leaders - none other than Nicodemus.
The last occasion that we hear about Nicodemus is after the crucifixion when together with Joseph of Aramathia he takes the body of Jesus wrap it in cloths and take it away to the tomb. In John 19; 38 we are told that Nicodemus took 70 pounds worth of Myrrh and aloes to annoint the body of Jesus.
Jesus obviously had made a great impression on Nicodemus who, in spite of his position on the Jewish Council, took great risks in becoming a supporter of Jesus.
He had taken to heart all that Jesus told him. Probably asked forgiveness for his sin, and became a follower of Jesus, Born Again of the Spirit he would now be assured of his place in the Kingdom of Heaven.
What about you? What does this mean to us today - What does being a Christian mean to you - To be a Christian means to embrace the teachings of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ which means that what He says goes. Including the command to be born again - that’s not an option - that’s a demand - maybe we need to look at our selves and ask the question am I being obediant to His word .
God so loved the world that He gave - He gave His life for us
Surely our response should be I so love God that I surrender my life to Him.
I love the words of Peter ( 1 Peter 1; 3) when he says ‘ 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 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 being shielded by Gods power until the coming of salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds. These have come so that your faith, which is of greater worth than gold which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and 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
1 Peter 1;23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
It’s all there in the song Kevin and I used to sing around the churches;
One man came to Jesus, John and chapter three
Oh so alone, he was so alone
Master You’re from God I really do believe
And that’s when he was born again
Born again, there’s really been a change in me
Born again just like Jesus said
Born again, and all because of Calvary
I’m glad so glad that I’ve been born again
One of my favourite bible verses in the Living Bible is this; 2 Corinthians 5;17
‘When a person becomes a Christian he’s not the same any more - a new life has begun’. Born again - re-birth - a fresh start - Born of the Spirit - God is our father - we are genuine brothers and sisters - a together family - in Christ Jesus
I also believe that just as when we are physically born we are then baptised in the family name - so too when we are ‘born again’ of the Spirit - Spiritually reborn - that’s the beginning of our new life as members of the family of God - we are then offered the opportunity to be Baptised in the Spirit - WOW!
God is our father and we begin to mature to take on His likeness by being empowered, enabled and directed by God to do whatever He commands.
Morning meeting 19 November 2017
Unfortunately I have mistakenly deleted the notes I did for the morning meeting so I have enclosed the notes from the Bible Fellowship that followed on the Tuesday evening 21 Nov. where we discussed what was said on the Sunday morning.
Bible fellowship 21 November
Over the last few weeks we have been looking at what I believe God is saying to His church today.
In Johns gospel chapter one John affirms straight away the Lordship of Christ by defining Christ’s identity as the embodiment of God. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning and through Him all things were made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.
This is emphasised again near the end of John’s Gospel Ch 20;31 These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in His name‘. In Johns gospel we have the most quoted and preached verse in all scripture. John 3;16 God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him would not perish but have everlasting life’ Here we see in the clearest and simplest form that salvation is a gift of God and is obtained only through belief - faith.
In verse 19 we are introduced to another John, John the Baptist who makes it clear that he was not the light but the promised messenger who would come and prepare the way for the Messiah.
John also reminds us that in His day Jesus Himself wasn’t recognised as the Messiah but to all those who did and believed in Him He would give the right to become children of God - born again of God. What a blessed privilage to be born again!
I love the firmness of Johns gospel when in verse 14 he declares that ’the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. And the proof he gives is that we have seen His Glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father full of Grace and truth. Surely proof enough to a world that will only believe if it can see it.
John then reminds his people that just as the law of life was given through Moses - Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. We are not under Law but under Grace.
As Jesus reminded the Teacher of the Law - the two most important laws are that we should Love God with all our hearts and love one another - do that and the rest of the ’law’ becomes a natural outworking of the love of God within us.
I love the last verse of chapter one v 18 where it says that ’no one has ever seen God - but God the One and Only who is at the Father side has made Him known’. God the unseen makes Himself visible in Christ Jesus. To many in John’s day and today to be expected to believe in that which is not seen is against all reason. The only way to believe in the unseen is by faith to the world, seeing is believing but to the Christian, believing is seeing. Believe it in your heart and mind and God will reveal Himself and His purpose for your life.
The next part of this first chapter, is spent with John having to make straight to the people that he himself is not the Christ, not even a prophet but the one declared in the words of Isaiah, the voice of one crying in the wilderness - make straight the way for the Lord’ .
John then goes on to baptise Jesus and make it clear to the onlookers that whilst he, John, baptises with water - Jesus will baptise you with the Holy Spirit. Jesus is truly the Son of God.
We then see Jesus calling His disciples - so great was the impact Jesus had on them, particularly Andrew who went to tell his brother Simon ‘we have found the Messiah’ and took him to meet Jesus who immediately called him Cephas that translates as Peter.
In the second chapter, John moves on to the wedding at Cana where Jesus’s mother instructs the disciples to ‘do whatever He tells you to’ and as they do, they see His first miracle which as John says, reveals the Glory of God and encourages His disciples to put their faith in Him.
This brings us to look at the verses I want us to share this morning John 2; 12 to 23.
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days. When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!’
Only Mark (Mark 11; 15) and Luke ( Luke 19; 45) tells us about this but not at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry but just before His arrest and death. In Matthew, Jesus enters the Temple and preaches repentance, in Mark Jesus cast out an evil Spirit and in Luke He preached from Isaiah 61 which heralds His coming and the reason why He came.
Only John places this incident at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry which probably emphasises the anger of God and the necessity to send Jesus. Here Jesus is showing His anger at the way in which mankind had turned the Temple into a market place. Here they were making money out of selling sheep, cattle and doves - the things that people were expected to take to the priests to pay for their sins. Not only that, to make it possible for visitors to the are to purchase the sacrificial offerings they had people exchanging their money to the currency of Capernaum.
The temple had gone a long way from its first intention as a place to meet with God and instead had been overtaken by mans greed in his quest to make money from the penitents. No wonder God had to send His Son to become the once and for all sacrificial lamb who, at no cost, apart from the renunciation of a mans sin, at no financial cost, Jesus paid for their sinfulness by giving His life on the cross. It cost man nothing but it cost Jesus His very life. That’s how much God loves us and wants us to love Him.
In Jerusalem, a furious Jesus drives those who conduct business out of the temple courts at Passover, His zeal for Gods house reflects a prophetic statement in Psalm 69;9. I thought about the churches today that spend more of their time and energy on social activities raising money for whatever at the expense of spending time doing what God wants His people to do. The Church was designed to be the house of God - a house of prayer - a place of learning where people could express their devotion to God in the way they sought to know Him and learn how to live lives that glorified Him.
They might not be doing what the people in Johns day were doing - raising money by selling sacrificial offerings - but when organising sales and markets and spending days getting them ready is done at the expense of the time that they could have spent in doing what the church is there for in the first place is wrong.
Gods church is primarily Gods People wherever they are not a building. In Acts we read how the followers of Jesus met wherever they could - in their homes and shared fellowship learning from God and one another. Since then, and to accommodate the increasing number of Christ’s followers, man has built large meeting places that he calls Church where people could come to worship, share Bible study, offer prayer and make their priority evangelism that will give the public opportunity to seek, find and give their lives to God.
That’s what Church should be - sadly, in more recent years I believe it’s lost it’s direction, purpose and mission and in so doing become a millstone for the ever decreasing congregations. In many places, raising money for the upkeep of the church has taken priority over the real reason for the building in the first place.
In the OT the Temple was the place to go to meet with God but over the years. Man had moved away from Gods intention and used it to fulfill his own desires - I shudder to think what God thinks about mans priorities or desires in church today. It comes as no surprise to read that the first port of call for Jesus at the beginning of His ministry was the Temple. No wonder Jesus was angry and overturned the tables and told them to get out. I believe that when He comes again Church will be His first call to gather His church - the ones who are fully committed to Him and obedient to His word.
His disciples remembered what scripture says when the Psalmist David cried out to God ‘Zeal for Your house will consume Me’. Psalm 69;9
Following this display of righteous anger from Jesus, the Jews asked Him v 18 ‘What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ They replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
Here are the points I raised on Sunday morning - what do you think?
In these first three chapters of John the purpose of Christs coming is made clear which was to reveal and make known the attributes of a Holy God.
to show Gods love for mankind
to show mankind how far he had gone from what God expected of him
to call man to repentance
to show man that he could start again by being born again of the Spirit.
to call man to follow Him and not their own selfish desires
took to enlist men and women to become His representatives on earth
to expose the limitations of man without God and show what could be achieved by the power of Almighty God
to show by example how He wants us to live at peace with God and one another
to expose the shallowness and hypocrisy of what was supposed to be His church
to offer His life to pay the price of mans sin by dying on the cross
to empower His Church, His people to live for and serve God.
to show us that this life is not all there is - everlasting life is offered to those who respond to His calling.
To bring us real life in all it’s fulness that would continue on into eternity when we will see Him and come face to face with Almighty God.
The Church is the living Body of Christ in the world today
The last verse reminds us that ‘After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
Wow - it took all that to convince them - after being with Jesus witnessing first hand the miracles, listening to His sermons - it took His death on the cross and the resurrection that followed to bring the truth finally to rest in their hearts.
Today we have it all there in Gods word We have seen the mighty power of God displayed in our own fellowship. There should be no room for doubt - having witnessed the way in which God has moved in preparing His house - this house - for all that I believe He has in store for those who are prepared to commit their lives - fully into His service.
I believe that this is the message God is trying to get through to His church today.
Get your priorities right - get back to prayer and Bible study and lets build your faith and purpose to motivate and empower you to meet My expectations.
Commit your life to Me - make sure that what you are doing in Church is to glorify Me and bring others into the Kingdom.
Look at the things that keep you busy in your church activity and ask yourselves are they taking priority over the things that really matter to your spiritual growth.
Do that and together we will build the kingdom.
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%