30 September 2018; Ezekiel 37 Our 134th Corps Anniversary
I love the vision of Ezekiel - It speaks to me on several counts - the restoration of the people of Israel, the salvation that comes through the sacrifice of Jesus and the infilling and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
Remember the words of God through Isaiah the prophet Isaiah 43; 18.19 ‘Forget the former things, don’t dwell on the past, see I am doing a new thing, can’t you see it, I’m making a way through the desert’
And the words of Paul the converted zealous Jew who experienced new life - re-birth when he met Jesus on the Damascus Road and his life was turned around. Listen to what he writes to the church at Phillipi ch3; 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
WOW! Forget the former things v10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: and here we have the statement that reiterates what God said to Ezekiel Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
WOW! The vision of Ezekiel was not just for then, but also for the time when Jesus the Messiah would comes to bring man back to the Father by giving His life on the cross. It also speaks to me of the he future when the Jew return to Jerusalem and further on to the end of time as we know it when Jesus comes back to claim the true followers for the Kingdom.
At special times like we celebrate today - our 134th Anniversary of the Salvation Army coming to Idle. We look at the past and see the way that God has brought us and this church but we are encouraged not to dwell on it for too long but to let the lessons of the past - the good times that we have shared and the way in which God has brought us = let the past serve as a background, a base for all that I believe that God is going to do in the future - both in our lives and in the life of the church.
When we look at the past we can see the way in which God brought the Corps into being and how quickly the Corps grew in those early days.. In 1884 Cpt Annie Fleet and Lieut Jenny Street, opened fire in Idle using the Old Green Mill as their platform.
They reported in the War Cry at that time what great response they were getting in Idle when vast crowds came to see them. They left Idle the following year to move to York but within a few years, the work they had started had grown so that new premises had to be found. Building work was commenced in Walter Street where we are today and was completed in 1900 - just six years after opening in the Old Green Mill.
In the years that followed we had over 90 Officers take charge, many for just a few months, some for a full year and a handful for more than a year. The Corps grew and everything was going well until our first catastrophic event.
That was in 1978 when the local newspaper showed a picture of Cpt David Alliston surveying the the burnt ruins of our Corps caused by a fire in the cellar. Fortunately all the work was confined to the inner of the hall, mainly the platform - building work started and it took 3 years before we could move back into the hall in 1981. For the three years we were privileged to use the Idle Baptist Church Sunday School.
Don’t dwell on the past, God says, see I am doing a new thing - don’t you see it -
I see this as a word from God trying to encourage us to move forward. Just like the Israelites, Gods chosen people, God hadn’t brought us this far for nothing.
That new thing for me started seven years earlier in 1971 when the David and Dorothy Murden became our Officers. When I look back at the way in which God has led me I am amazed. A successful young 31 year old Salvationist - so I thought - who had come through the ranks, S/Coy Ldr, Bandmaster - then the Murdens came and through them, God opened my eyes to see that I didn’t really know Him, that I was busy’ doing’ and needed to stop and ‘catch the vision of what God wanted me to do’.
I sought the Lord and He filled me with His Spirit and started a new life. I plodded on for the next 13 years with a passion to do Gods will, not realising what God had in store for me - and this Corps. During which time we had the fire in the hall 1978.
Then one afternoon in 1984, God gave me a word from Jeremiah 29;11 which I interpreted as saying ‘I am going to take you out of the familiar and open up your mind and show you how I can change your life and the life of this fellowship’ - then I will bring you back - the plans I have for you are good’
He did exactly that, he took me out, I started the New Life Fellowship on the edge of the estate along with others whom He had taken out of their fellowships, Two Salvation Army Officers from Holmewood, ,Two friends from Leeds Road Baptist, Four from Holy Trinity Church Idle, Two from West Bowling SA and many others.
For a couple of years we sought the Lord and grew in Him. Never in my wildest dreams did I know that God was going to bring me back to Idle Corps. But when the time was right, 1986 just like He said, God brought me back here.
Idle Corps was by this time a very small Corps officered by Cpt Stephen Jocelyn. Not many came to the morning meetings, I remember, when some of the New Life fellowship came to the first Sunday morning we more than doubled the congregation.
Then in 1990 we had to close the hall for three months due to dry rot,
From then on, God opened a new way for me and Beryl when in 1994 God sent Betty Matear to be our Officers for a short time until DHQ had decided what to do about Idle Corps. The rest is history - Betty asked Beryl and I to become the Officers of our own Corps - we prayed about it and accepted and in October 1995 along with Ray and Pamela Powell, we were commissioned as Salvation Army Officers in a service at Brighouse.
The Corps started to grow - still we had more problems to face structurally - but looking back I see this as Gods way of building our halls to become the place within which He will move by His Spirit and builds His church - the people.
Shortly after becoming officers the balcony started parting company with the walls requiring major structural work as they tied the wall in to the balcony which took all our available funds. We were back in the hall in 1997 and at the re-opening I launched an appeal to raise money for a new hall - the Community Hall next door. The new hall was completed in 1999 at a cost of over £160 000 and after many prayer times, all the money came in. Once again - God provided all the finance to make available the building required for all I believe He has in mind for His Corps here at Idle.
God proved that again when fourteen years later in 2011 we found water coming through the ceiling in the main Worship Hall and needed about £190 000 to put that right. We prayed about that too and were amazed to receive a telephone call from a solicitor of a man who’s funeral I had done 3 years earlier in 2008 to find out that he had left all his money to us - £200 000 that paid for the new roof.
WOW! Our God is awesome - we never know what God has in store for us, but if we are obedient to Him - then He will achieve great things through us. We become partners in Gods Kingdom Building business.
2018 Praise God We now have a beautiful Worship Hall and Community hall. The Building is complete - We need now to pray and work for revival amongst the people for God to build His Church. God hasn’t done all this for nothing - Looking back I can see the hand off God in everything - but we are encouraged to see He is doing a new thing’ can't you see it? He wants us all to catch the vision of what He is going to do in our lives and the life of this fellowship.
That’s why I love to read stirring accounts of visions like this from Ezekiel that if followed through, change peoples lives for the better and build the Kingdom of God. Ezekiel was entrusted to know the mind of God and relay it to His people. The Church moves forward when men and women are open to the voice and will of God. The church triumphs when men and women not only listen to the words of God but are bold enough to embrace it and put flesh on the vision and live the dream. Ezekiel was a real man of vision.
God , through the prophet Joel said this ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Joel 2:28,29 O for people who will capture the visions that God relays from Heaven.
I don’t think that that is saying that if your old all your capable of is dreaming of former glories - living in the past all the time - it’s an encouragement to keep youthful in your attitudes and your actions - always open to the supernatural, the unexplained, the unexpected. In that way we will be receptive to the visions God sends.
I remember the birth of TV. In 1952 we bought our first TV a receiver a large wooden box with a tiny 9" screen that was capable of receiving visions sent from London
It wasn't long before almost every house in Idle had a 'H' aerial on the chimney. Then ITV came on the scene and everyone had to get a second arial, this time it was in the shape of a 'X'. We were all keen on 'catching the vision'.
These miraculous pictures that came from out of the sky into everyone's homes. Pictures that were capable of shrinking the world, and taking people to far off lands, places they might never visit in their lifetime.
The trouble today is, that we spend more time indoors catching those visions on much larger colourful screens and are less eager to get out of our homes and mix with other people to find out what God wants us to do. We are good at capturing visions on the TV but not so good at capture life changing visions from on High.
Long before the electronic age, way back in Bible days, ordinary men and women were capturing visions from God. Not on television sets this time, but in their dreams, or when they were praying to God.
These were not only visions of a future world, that they would never see themselves, but visions that captured their imaginations, fired them up filling them with great enthusiasm, spurring them on to make those visions a reality in their own time.
God sent pictures from on high that could only be received by people who’s arials were tuned in to the 'heavenly channel' not to be confused with the God Channel
People like Jacob who saw a ladder leading to Heaven, Ezekiel who taken into the potters shed,and the valley of dry bones. Isaiah, who prophesied the coming Messiah and even lamented the death
of Jesus. Micah and Joel who spoke of times afar off, that they would never see, the birth of Jesus, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Peter and his vision of the tablecloth spread all kinds of variety of foods, that foretold the inclusion of the Gentiles in Gods master plan of salvation.
The revelation, given to John on the Isle of Patmos about the end times and the return of Jesus.
In times when all seemed bleak and hopeless, God brought wisdom and hope to the world through the mouthpiece of man. I believe that today - we are living in such times when we need to hear the voice of God. God needs 'visionaries' today! God also needs people, who even though they themselves may not have been given a 'Vision', they have somehow captured the vision of what God wants to accomplish in His church and are willing to take risks to live it out.
People who are seeing their own lives changing, receiving and enjoying the New life that God is blessing them with.
Just Look around you. This Church has never looked better, or been better equipped to fulfil Gods mission of bringing hope, Forgiveness, New Life to the people out there who as yet don’t know that there is more to life than this.
Since calling me out, bringing me back, making me envoy of this Fellowship, God has been busy preparing the ground for greater things. Don’t be misled into thinking that you are here this morning by chance - God wants you to be a part of all that He is going to accomplish here at Idle in the next few years that will bring new life, purpose and direction to this Corps. God planned for you to be here - He wants you to be prepared to capture the vision of all that He wants to do here in Idle to bring others into the Kingdom.
See I am doing a new thing - don’t you see it? I’m making a way through the desert I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. We left Ezekiel listening to God tell him to speak to the dry bones - lets close this morning by reading his response.
Imagine being told to address a valley of dry bones, So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.' "So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet - a vast army.
Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, `Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' Therefore prophesy and say to them: `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.' "
Make no mistake - God has plans for us all if only we will seek to capture the vision.
I was amazed when I saw the theme for next years Salvation Army almanac which is Jeremiah 29 - Gods declaring it again - this time for the whole of the SA in 2019. All God asks of you and I is that is that we capture the vision again and go with it and be amazed as God builds His church.
We sang ‘I have caught the vision - have you? Well lets confirm that as we close with ‘Revive Thy work O Lord’
23 September 2018
Last week we read Psalm 42 where the Psalmist, who is going through a difficult time in his life is crying out to God - thirsting for help - desperately asking God ‘Why Why Why’ do I have to face the difficult times - One minute he’s shouting ‘Why have you deserted me’ even asking himself ‘why am I so downcast’ - ’ why have you forgotten me?’ ‘when can I go to meet with God’ and then in the next breath answering his own question with the statement ‘put your hope in God for I will yet praise Him my Lord and my God‘
Today we read a very different statement from the psalmist - this time an exultant psalm that starts ’I will lift my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the maker of Heaven and earth. Wow The Lord who made the mountains will not let your foot slip - in fact, He who watches over you will neither slumber not sleep.
Psalm 121; 1-8 'I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you - the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and for evermore.
Over the last few weeks - while the sun shone - I, like many others have taken the opportunity to get out in the wonderful countryside and enjoy the awesome views. In the Friendship Club, because of holidays and illness, those of us who have been available have been able to get out and about and have picnics in places like Yeadon, St Ives and Burnsal by the side of the river - it’s been great - especially the journeys there in the car especially our round trip to Burnsal via Ilkley and Bolton Abbey.
One minute you're driving through the valleys, and then just over the brow of the hill, there they are in front of you reaching high into the clouds, the majestic mountains that surround the lakes, each one an awesome reminder of the towering strength of an Almighty, and immovable God.
I like nothing better than to get out in the country side and we are certainly blessed with some wonderful views all around us. To look over Ilkley from the Cow and Calf and then to get down low land and look at the glorious mountains around us.
When Beryl and I took the family on holidays we used to love going to Wales - Llandudno and ride up mountainside to the swallow falls and enjoy the splendid view and the grandeur of the majestic Welsh mountains.
One year we went to Criccieth, a small coastal village 12 miles South West of Caernarfon, between Pthwelli and Portmadock. You can reach it by means of the coastal road, or you can drive, as we did, over the mountains, and through the valleys from Betwys Coed.
Its surrounded by places like the Llanberis Pass, the Snowdonian Valley, Bethlehem, Nasareth, Bethany.. It's a good place to get away from it all. We stayed in a farm house 4 miles from Criccieth in the middle of nowhere. The nearest shop was 5 miles away, so you made sure that you had milk in for the morning.
We were surrounded by the splendour of Gods creation, which on the one hand gave you a sense of How vulnerable you would be without the knowledge that God who created all this, also created you, and loves you and cares about you. The comfort of knowing Him made Him feel very close.
There we were, in Wales, one minute you're driving through the valleys, and then just over the brow of the hill, there they are in front of you reaching high into the clouds, the majestic mountains surrounding a lakes, each one an awesome reminder of the towering strength of an Almighty, and immovable God.
Psalm 121 does the opposite to the Psalm of last week who was looking down - downcast with all the troubles that he was having to deal with - today the Psalmist is looking up - Whilst he is looking upwards he makes it clear that he is looking even higher - to the creator -- Almighty God who made the hills. The statement is clear ‘I will lift my eyes up to the hills and then moves the statement on to ask the question - ‘where does my help come from? Not the hills but from the maker of Heaven and earth.
I believe that this psalm was written to rebuff those who in the writers own day did look to what they saw as mountain gods for help, by telling them that there is only one God who can help them, and that is the Almighty God who 'created the mountains'.
Last week we looked at the challenge Elijah made to the prophets of Baal to reveal to them that the gods they served were powerless against the true Almighty God.
The writer of Psalm 121, puts everything in perspective, when he say's ' look at the mountains, our God made these, He created them, they stand strong to remind us how Awesome He is, and that no matter what concerns us, nothing is too big for Him to handle. Whatever we are called to face in life - God is there to help us if only we would turn to Him.
I guess that whenever David the shepherd boy had problems in his young life, he would take his sheep into the mountains and when he looked at the majesty of those hills that surrounded Jerusalem, it comforted him to know that God cares and will protect him at all times. 'As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people, from henceforth, even forevermore' Psalm 125
One day as we travelled through the Welsh mountains, we saw a group of climbers. The Snowdonian valley is one of the place to go if you want to climb mountains. I thought 'Why on earth should someone want to climb a mountain?' I guess that the answer to that question is' that as well as a great sense of achievement, there is a spectacular view to be seen from the top.
The only time that I experienced anything like the feelings they must have had, was after catching the cable car to the top of one of the largest mountains in Austria, and seeing the magnificent view.
From the pit of the valleys, those mountains seem to tower above us, almost sending out a challenge, 'if you want to get out of the valley, then climb the mountain!' No one in their right mind would be so foolish as to try to climb those steeps, without an instructor, a guide, and without the proper kind of footwear and clothing.
Similarly, from the valley experiences that we find ourselves in as we go through life, we would never be able to look those difficult times full in the face and say 'I am going to beat this problem, face the storms, and climb the mountain, if we were ill prepared and had no instructor or guide. Thank You Lord for your Word.
In verse 3, the psalmist seems to write as one of those sure footed climbers, when he say's, 'He will not let your foot slip, He who watches over you will neither slumber nor sleep. He is our protector, He knows and understands what we are going through, because He is right there beside us. 'Fear not, for I am with you' whatever.
Verse 5. 'The Lord watches over you, and more than that, the Lord shelters you when the 'heat is on' and those problems burn into our emotions, and you don't feel you can cope. In those darkest moments of the night, when you feel so alone, when it seems there is no help available, because the rest of the world is asleep, even then when the moon shines, He is still there.
Verse 7, 'The Lord will keep you from ALL harm, and keep watch over you now and forever more. God offers 24 hour protection under all circumstances, and all we have to do, is trust Him.
The psalmist reminds us that Our God is bigger than any of our problems, but not too big to care.
Song 579 says this
'He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater
He giveth more strength as our labours increase,
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance
When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our fathers full giving has only begun
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure
His power no boundary known unto man
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.
Mallory and Irvine were part of an expedition to climb and conquer Everest, but sadly never returned. When the other members of the expedition returned home they faced a barrage of questions from the press. One of the crew members pointed to a picture of the giant mountain, Everest, and said this; " Everest, we tried to conquer you once, but you overpowered us, we tried a second time, but again, you were too big for us. But Everest, I want you to know that one day, we will conquer you, because you can't grow any bigger - but we can!
Psalm 91 'He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
9 If you make the Most High your dwelling - even the LORD, who is my refuge -
then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
Listen to what the Lord says 14 "Because I love you," "I will rescue you; I will protect you. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."
To enjoy this safe passage, the only condition he requires is that we love and trust Him. If we do that, then we not only have the capability of conquering those mountains, we begin to take on the attributes of a mountain ourselves, we become 'more than just conquerors'. Psalms 125:1-2 'Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures for ever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and for evermore.
Wow! that's fantastic! We become LIKE the mountain. Strong, upright, fearless. We CANNOT BE SHAKEN. If we love and trust the Lord, then we will not only be able to climb the mountain, we shall be as strong and as immovable as that mountain.
No wonder the psalmist said 'I will look, not to the hills, but to the one who formed the hills, and that's my Almighty God!' Jesus went further when He said to His disciples ( Matthew 17; 20-21) 'I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, `Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'
Perhaps you are facing difficult times, the problems, the pain, the heartaches and the hurts seem at times to tower above you like huge mountains. I pray that you will take heart from what I believe God is saying to you this morning. 'I know you are hurting, because I share your pain, but you and I together can not only climb the mountain, or even rise above the mountain, but if you love and trust Me with all your heart, then I will see to it that you become stronger than those mountains. - you will rise above them'
Psalm 31;2 tells us that Our God is our rock of refuge and a strong fortress
Psalm 9;9, tells us that the Lord is a refuge for the oppressed a stronghold in times of trouble
Psalm 46;1. God is our refuge and strength a very present help in times of trouble therefore we will not fear -
Psalm 46; 10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
When faced with difficulties in our lives our prayer should be that of Psalm 25
To YOU, O LORD, I lift up my soul; IN YOU I trust.......Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.
Our God is bigger than our problems, but not too big to care. Of all the solo's I used to sing, Beryl's favourite was 'How big is God' - a song that reminds us that 'God is big enough to make this mighty universe, yet small enough to live within my heart.' I believe that in all her confusion due to Alzheimers this was her strength.
I know that a lot of you here this morning are going through difficult times at the moment. I think of Molly and John Miller at this moment - this week I have taken Molly to see John a few times - John was in a desperate state when I went on Monday - he was in so much pain and all he wanted was to go home to the Lord - I have held John in my arms and prayed for God to take the pain away. God cares - and I believe strengthened John and enabled him to put a smile on his face for Molly - she was thrilled.
Some of us grieve for our loved ones -- me for the last four years for Beryl and Kevin, Shiela For Billy, Sheila for Nancy, Brian and Jennie for Jackie a year ago, Michelle for her dad and Ruth for David a couple of weeks ago - thank God we can put our trust in Him and have been given strength to cope.
No wonder the psalmist said 'I will look, (not) to the hills, but to the one who formed the hills, and that's my Almighty God!'
Jesus went further and said to His disciples 'I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, `Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.' ( Matthew 17; 20-21)
Perhaps you are facing difficult times, I know that some of you are. The problems, the pain, the heartaches and the hurts seem at times to tower above us like huge mountains. I pray that you will take heart from what God is saying to us this morning. 'I know you are hurting, I share your pain, but you and I together can not only climb the mountain, or even rise above the mountain, but if you love and trust Me with all your heart, then I will see to it that you become stronger than those mountains.'
Psalm 125 Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures for ever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and for evermore
They that trust in the Lord are as strong as a mountain and no matter what trouble they face will not be shaken and just as the mountains surround Jerusalem- so the Lord surrounds His people and upholds them in His mighty hand.
Whatever you are going through at the moment - don’t be downcast and look down - trust in God and look up to Him.
16 September 2018 Thirsting after God
Last week we spoke about prayer and how important it was to Jesus to spend time in prayer and obviously seeing the impact it had on Jesus, His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray.
This week we are looking at one of the many prayers from the book of Psalms.
Psalm 42 and 43 were originally one Psalm written in what seems like a desperate plea from one who at that moment was feeling downcast, the difficulties of life are getting on top of him - he’s thirsting for God - for help - for comfort - for strength - for direction - and so he cries out to God; Psalm 42 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
For some reason - he can’t stop the tears from flowing - something in his life has got on top of him - I guess we’ve all felt that that at some time in our lives - perhaps you still do. The times when we find it hard to cope with the difficulties of life, health problems, finance, grief at the loss of a loved one - we get downcast - we all have to face the difficulties as some period in our lives - I pray that when we do we are able to feel the love and support of one another. For it’s at times like these that we need the the prayers of one another to help us through the difficult times and make sure that we come through them and have a stronger faith because of them.
I feel it’s so sad when I read the way in which the people around him were saying ‘Where is your God’ - probably jeeringly bringing his faith into question. Maybe even trying to bring his faith into doubt - as we know - people in those days placed their faith in many gods - that’s why Elijah challenged the ones worshipping Baal to build an altar and pray to their god Baal to send down fire on that altar - while Elijah not only asked His true and only God to do the same - so great was his faith in the true and living God he even covered his altar with water and WOW woosh the fire fell.
The Psalmist thirsted for God - the Living God - whilst the people around baited him with the question ‘where is your God’
The psalmist asks the question When can I go and meet with God? and in the next few verses shares how he used to go to the house of God. These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.
As I read this I couldn’t help but think abut the many followers of God in Christian oppressed countries who dare to go to church to worship God - against the most terrible opposition. Only this week I read about a family, father, wife and children were burned to death for standing true to their faith. Their other son who was at a University somewhere heard about this terrible thing whilst watching the news on TV and went immediately back home.
All over the world the Christian Church is under threat and people need to seek the protection of their God - just like the Psalmist did. We in this country have had it so easy up to now - but who knows what the future might bring
The question that is repeated three times by the Psalmist is Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? And yet deep down, he knows the answer - and confirms it when he continues Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God. He repeats it at the end of Psalm 42 and again 43 v5
Whatever we are called to go through in this life - I pray that we have the support of one another to bring us through.
To me this psalm emphasises the importance of thirsting and hungering after God. Of seeking to be in His presence, to get close to Him, to really know Him.
In the last few weeks we have talked about the importance of developing a passion for Jesus, of giving Him the best part of our day, when we are alert, instead of offering Him the time we have to spare, when we are tired and lack the powers of concentration. To realise the importance of putting God first in our lives.
It's important in any relationship, that we spend time getting to know each other. Genuine relationships are built on honest communication, where we are prepared to share with others our innermost thoughts and desires.
The Psalms are a collection of songs and prayers, and as we read them we become aware that in some of them, we are actually eavesdropping on the most intimate, deeply private conversations between God and man.
One of the most prolific of the Psalmists is David who led a very up and down life -
In all he wrote 73 of the 150 Psalms, and in them, both he and the other writers hold nothing back as a whole range of human experiences are expressed.
As well as praising God in their happiest moments, when they are on the mountain top, thanking Him for His love and provision, they also pour out their hearts to the Lord, in times of need, with real honesty, holding nothing back.
They confess their sins, they express their doubts, their uncertainties and fears, and ask God to help them in their distress. But one thing is for sure, they are on speaking terms with the Lord, and in all their conversations with Him, they are honest and open. It's because of that relationship they have with God, that the dialogue is two way, God both listens, and speaks. Understands and is very forgiving.
In Psalm 42, the psalmist remembers the good times that he has spent in Gods presence, of better day's perhaps? Maybe he too would have been around when David lead the procession to the house of God, singing and shouting the praises of God. Now it would seem, he is deprived that joy, and yearns to be in God's presence.
Strange isn't it, that when we can't have something, we want it! I remember when I was in hospital following my first operation how for seven long days, all I was allowed to sip, was a little plastic medicine cup, only half filled with water. When you could have as much as you liked, you didn't want it, but if that freedom was denied you, then how you longed for it. The Psalmists yearning ‘As the deer pants for the water - would have been more a literal yearning of mine than spiritual at that time.
The Psalmist is yearning to spend time with God - as we do in prayer. Imagine, if we were denied the freedom of prayer, then we would respect the privilege more. The same with our Bibles If there ever came a time when we could not read our Bibles, then we would realise how precious it was to us. Yet prayer and Bible study whilst being the Christians vital breath are so sadly neglected outside our places of worship.
I remember receiving a birthday card 22 years ago on my 56th from dear friends Pearl and Ken Levitte which had this verse
I got up early one morning, and rushed right into the day
I had so much to accomplish, that I didn't have time to pray
Problems just tumbled about me and heavier came each task
'Why doesn't God help me?' I wondered, He said, 'you didn't ask'
I wanted to see joy and beauty, but the day toiled on, grey and bleak
I wondered why God didn't show me, He said 'but you didn't seek'.
I tried to come into God's presence; I used all my keys at the lock
God gently and lovingly chided, 'My child, why didn't you knock?'
I woke up early this morning, and paused before entering the day
I had so much to accomplish, that I had to take time to pray.
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needles pain we bear,
all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.
The Psalmist was downcast, his soul was disturbed within him as he remembered better days, when he spent time with his Lord. This day, he felt that God was so far away,. He cried out, 'Why have You forgotten me God, why must I go about feeling depressed, as if in mourning.'
There have been times in my life, when God seemed so far away, times when I have cried to God asking what's gone wrong with our relationship. All the time I knew that the problem wasn't God, it was me. The Psalmists cry was 'Why? Why? Why?' and I believe that his honest, heartfelt cry of 'why' brought the response that God put in his heart, when he realised that the trouble lay with himself.
God wants us to spend time with Him. God wants us to open up our hearts to Him. I don't believe that God even minds when we get angry with Him sometimes, as long as the lines are still open and we are in dialogue. If we don't stay close to Jesus, treasure His word and value our prayer life, when the problems come, we will find that we don't have the resources to cope with them.
That's the time we feel far away from God, that's the time we become vulnerable to the enemy. That's the time that we are taunted with the question, 'where is your God now?'
That's when others see us under pressure, the time when we should be glorifying God, by showing others how, with Jesus in our lives, we can cope.
As I shared last week, when I was at my weakest, my most vulnerable, the time in my life when God seemed so far away, I cried out 'Lord, where are you' 'Why have you deserted me', that's when the enemy within, taunted me with the question, 'Where is your God now? and I realised that I didn't really know Him. I hadn't worked on our relationship, I had neglected to stay in touch, and almost severed the link. The spiritual phone lines were down, I felt cut off, and I had no one else to blame but myself.
There was a time in the life of Jesus the man, when He felt cut off from His Father, when He cried out 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken me'. Jesus knows the pain of feeling that God has deserted us, of being separated from Him, and that's why He doesn't want you and me to have to go through that.
I still have day's, when I cry out to God, 'Why'? The time when I remember how my mum, suffering from Alzheimers used to try to sing her favourite song 'because He lives, I can face tomorrow, because He lives, all fear is gone, because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives'. She really struggled to sing it and to see her like this brought the desperate question of ’Why Lord’
The times my lovely wife Beryl -who after looking after my mother for many years - developed Alzheimers herself and like my mum, also found it hard to do the things she had done before -
In the last few years of this dreaded illness she would just look at me unable to tell me how she felt - Yes, I ask 'why', even though I knew He was helping me through it all as I knew I couldn't endure the pain, if Jesus didn't give me His strength.
In His humanness, Jesus shared all our emotions, he wept, he hungered, he grew tired, he got angry, and He even despaired and asked His father if there was any other way that His death could be avoided.
Thats why - because He’s been here, done that and worn the tea shirt - Jesus knows the pressures that we face day by day. He knows how precious time is, and how quickly it seems to go, yet as we said last week, He always found time to spend in secret with His Father. Jesus faced the challenges of life, but only after re-charging His batteries by talking to His Father.
Prayer is a privilege, not a chore, it's those precious moments when we, ordinary, sinful, needy men and women can come into the presence of an Almighty, holy and powerful God. A God who is so big and mighty yet small enough to reach down into our little world. A Father who loves to listen to His children, a Father who delights to reveal His secrets to those whom He can trust.
God knows the real you and me, that no-one else will ever know, and He wants us to come to know Him - the real God - the Living God that the Psalmist cried for. He has made it possible for us to be able to open up our hearts to Him, to share our inmost thoughts, doubts, fears, and longings. As we said last week - God wants to be a Father to you and me, He wants us to feel His love.
God has worked so hard in reconciling man back into His fold and family. God has been so patient with you and me. We have been called by God for a purpose, and His desire is to reveal more of His plan to us. He can only do that when we discipline ourselves to spend more time in His presence.
Thankfully the psalmist comes to his senses, and asks himself 'Why are you downcast O my soul, why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God.'
Psalm 43;3 Send forth your light and your truth so they may guide me. Let them bring me to your holy mountain and to your dwelling places. Then I will approach the altar of God, even to God in whom my joy finds its source. Then I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God
We need the light of Jesus to illuminate the truth, the word of God to direct our paths that leads us higher up the mountain, to the dwelling place of God.
Jesus told His followers I am the way, the truth and the life John 14;6 . The only way to the Fathers heart, is through Jesus. When we spend time with Him, then I believe we are touching the Fathers heart.
The question the Psalmist keeps crying out is ‘Why Lord - Why’ - I believe that our Father God wants to turn our 'Why's' into 'Wow's'.
I believe that God is just waiting for the opportunity to reveal His His Glory to us, and just as God wants us to earnestly and passionately seek His presence, He can't wait to welcome us.
This week I received a copy of the Salvation Army’s 2019 Almanac - a poster to hang on the wall that highlights the important events of next year. The text they are using is the one that we looked at three weeks ago - the promise that I believe God gave to me that - transformed my life . Jeremiah 29;11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future’
Prosper not in the way that the new false Churches are suggesting - just financially - but spiritually to bring hope and a future for you and me and the fellowship in which we serve God - and also a sure and certain future in Gods coming Kingdom.
WOW the Psalmists were living in pre - Jesus times - the Messiah had yet to come - the Word that they fought over was to be made clear and understandable in Jesus who would also die upon a cross to pay for their sins - the once and for all sacrificial lamb and in so doing made it so clear that God wants to be involved in our lives to save us, transform us in our thinking and living to become more like Jesus.
If only the Psalmist who penned the Psalm we have shared this morning knew the certainty of this that would certainly have turned his WHY into a WOW.
I believe that this morning God wants to do that for you - if you identify with the Psalmists cry and you believe that God is speaking to you this morning - why not come and kneel at the mercy seat and seek the presence of God.
We closed with the song ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’
Sunday 9 September 2018
Matt 6; 9-13
Today we look at the privilage of every believer to be able to talk to God and share our joys and concerns with Him knowing that because He loves us all - He will answer our prayers - not always in
the way that we wish but definitely in the way that is best for us, those we pray for or the situations we find ourselves in. Jesus prayed in every situation;
Mark 1;35 35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
Matthew 14;23 Following the feeding of the 5000 and prior to Jesus appearing to His disciples by walking on the rough sea we read that; 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone.
Before He made the great decisions in His life, Jesus prayed
Luke 6;12 Prior to Him choosing the disciples
12 And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
Luke 5;16 Jesus prayed following the healing of the man with leprosy
16 And He withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed
No wonder His disciples, seeing the power of prayer evidenced in the life of Christ asked Him to teach them how to pray.
Luke 11; 1-5 11 And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And He said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
His disciples came to experience the power of Prayer in their own lives as did the thousands that responded to the challenge of Peter at Pentecost. Peter became himself proof of the power of prayer.
When King Herod put Peter in prison because he knew that would please the Jews for earlier he had killed James the brother of John and saw their delight.
Peter was guarded by four squads each of four soldiers. Peter, bound with chains, slept between tow of them and sentries stood guard at the door of the prison. But as we read in Acts 12 - the church were earnestly praying for his release.
In answer to their prayers, God sent an angel who’s presence lit up the cell. He struck Peter on the side and told him to ‘get up, get dressed and follow me’ and amazingly Peters chains fell off. Peter thought he was dreaming but he wasn’t it was really happenning. They passed the guards go to the iron gate - which opened for them - and as Peter walked along the street, the angel disappeared.
Peters response ‘ now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent His angel and rescued me’
Peter went to the house of Mary, Johns mother where all the people were praying for him. The servant girl, Rhoda came, recognised Peters voice and overjoyed ran back to tell the others. They thought she was out of her mind - Peter kept on knocking and when they eventually let him in they were astonished.
Here we have the power of prayer so great that the people who prayed couldn’t believe it - incredible isn’t it, the whole church prayed for Peter and when God answered their prayer, they failed to believe it - I wonder - how many times we have prayed for the seemingly impossible and then when it happens, found it hard to believe.
Perhaps they were praying for Peter to have strength to face up to what was happening to him. Perhaps they prayed for him to not have to face death like James did. I wonder if they really had the faith to pray for Peters release - if they were they didn’t seem to have the confidence to believe that God would answer their prayer - or perhaps they did - they just found it hard to believe that God would answer their prayer in such a spectacular way. We are told they prayed in earnest.
Way back in the OT we are told that Elijah prayed earnestly that it wouldn’t rain for three and a half years - and it didn’t. Three and a half years later he prayed that it would rain and it chucked it down.
Elijah believed so strongly in the power of prayer that when facing the false prophets of Baal he challenged them to build an altar to their God and ask him to set it ablaze. Not content with that Elijah swathed his altar with water making it seem impossible for fire to come and consume it. Elijah the stepped back - called on His God, the true God, to set the altar alight and Whoosh God answered his prayer.
We are exhorted to pray earnestly in faith believing and God in love will answer our prayer.
I’ll never forget the time I talked to Beryl about the pram that had been filling the space in our hallway at home - we had three lovely children - growing up and had no further use for the pram. As we talked - the phone rang - it was our new Corps Officers David and Dorothy Murden. David told us over the phone that they had just been visited by an unmarried mother who had turned up unexpectantly on their doorstep - she needed a pram for her baby. They had invited her in and prayed about it with her. I told David that Beryl and I had just been discussing the pram we had in our hall. We were dumbfounded - we became the answer to their prayer - a prayer made in faith believing.
I remember years ago, kneeling here at the Army mercy seat asking God to make Himself known to me - and Wow! He did = He came in great power and revealed Himself through prayer and through scripture as He brought the Word to life.
We’ve seen many answer to some awesome prayer here at Idle - Healings, finance - God doesn’t need to prove Himself to us does He? Believing Prayer brings us into contact with God.
No wonder Jesus’s disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray.
Luke 11; 1-5 11 And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And He said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
Lets look at this from Mathews account when Jesus tells His disciples that when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Matthew 6;6
Ever since Beryl died, four years ago, I never start the day without kneeling at my bedside and praying. I could not start the day without prayer and I try to follow the Lords prayer as a guideline - a pattern for my prayer. As Jesus said - no need to babble on - just talk to God as you would your father - He knows what you need even before you ask.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.
Start with acknowledging the fact that even though you know you are praying to God Almighty - He wants to be known as your Father - our spiritual Father who gave us life in all it’s fulness
Our Father which art in heaven, - a reminder that God is sovereign, majestic and omnipotent. He is a mountain mover and bigger than any problem we might have.
We are called to fix our eyes on His ability and not our own inadequacies but on God.
Hallowed be Thy name. The precious, special name of God who I address as Yaweh and when I do I feel the awesome presence of my Father God.
We pray that the perfect, loving, peaceful Kingdom of God will come - one day yes but also in my life today - that’s what we mean when we say Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Then Yes - and Now Lord
Our desire is to live the Word - live the life that God wants us to - that God created us to do - to live in Peace, Harmony, love with Him and one another.
With that genuine desire - we can come before God and ask Him to;
Give us this day our daily bread. Knowing that He will -
Gods answered that prayer for me just as He did when Beryl and I prayed when we were experiencing a difficult time in our life when our family were young and we didn’t have enough money to go buy the food we needed that day - we prayed and God sent the gas man who emptied our gas meter and gave us the pile of money that made it possible to feed the kids for another few days until I got paid.
Gods done that all through my life - when I pray that line - ’give us this day our daily bread’ I always add - thank you Lord that I know You will
And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those that sin against us knowing that if we don’t - then God won’t. You can’t imagine the peace that praying that - and meaning it brings. I pray every morning for my wife and son Kevin that if I was the cause of any sins in their lives that God would lay it upon me - not them - and forgive us all.
Then finally asking God to lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
I pray that - knowing that without Gods help it is so easy to fall victim to the wrong temptations that the devil puts in our way - I pray this prayer because I love God and know that He loves me. That’s why I can finally say For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
What’s your prayer life like? More active in emergencies situations?
Is it a part of your daily routine? Or just as and when?
Have you prayed for the impossible or do you limit your prayers to conform to the limits of your own understanding.
Just as last week I said that in order to capture the vision of all that God wants to do in and through you - you need to stop staring up the steps and start stepping up the stairs I would suggest that in your prayer life you reach out in faith, believing that God is not just listening to your every prayer but eagerly waiting to answer that prayer and show His power.
That’s what Peter did - that’s what Elijah did - that’s what God wants of all His followers - you and me - to grasp the awesome privilage that is ours of praying to Almighty God our Father, knowing that He loves us and wants us to trust Him in aevery area of our lives and ministry. .
With this in mind I believe that in addition to our Weekly Bible Study the time is ripe for us to have a weekly Corps Prayer meeting where we can all meet to unite in prayer and we will be starting this in the next few weeks.
We ended our meeting with the chorus ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord the Holy One is here’
Sunday 26 August 2018
'Gods plan for your life '
Jeremiah 29 ; 11-14 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."
We then read Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, Ephesians 1
That first reading from Jeremiah was the word from God that completely changed my life. There I was, about thirty years old, a married man with three children, sitting in the congregation in an afternoon meeting at this Corps, listening to the band that only a few weeks earlier I had been bandmaster of playing. I sat there with mixed feelings.
I found it hard to come to terms with the fact that, here I was, a lifelong Salvationist having been brought by my mother at the age of seven, from Holy Trinity Church, here I was sitting, watching from the sidelines as it were as all the things that I had felt secure in, were now drifting away. It was a most difficult time of my life, when I had to make some very serious decisions that affected not only me, but my whole family.
I can imagine how the disciples felt after the death of Jesus, when they would feel very alone, wondering what on earth the last few years had been all about.
I had progressed through the various activities of the Army, Sunday School, junior band, and then later being made the Singing Company Leader, Youth Club Secretary, and finally Bandmaster. Here I was, sat with the congregation, feeling very much a stranger, an outcast, an alien in a foreign land. I found it very difficult to come to terms with what was happening in my life at that point.
All I had done, was seek to know the reality of God in my life. That came about when I was healed of a failed kidney. God had shown me, that I didn’t really know Him and He wanted me to. He showed me that up to that point in my life, I had 'gone along with the crowd', been swept along in my life as a Salvationist, enjoying the various activities without really knowing Jesus as a living reality in my life. The baptism in the Holy Spirit was the turning point. There was so much more, that God wanted to show me, and unfortunately that meant taking me away from all that was familiar.
As I sat in that meeting, God led me to read those verses from Jeremiah, that we read earlier. I was reading it from the Living Bible ; 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. "Yes,'' says the Lord, "I will be found by you, and I will end your slavery and restore your fortunes; I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and bring you back home again to your own land.
The words that hit me were, 'The plans I have for you are for good, to bring you a future and a hope, when you pray, I will listen, when in earnest, you seek me, you will find me. Then I will bring you home again, to your own land' I didn't fully understand what God was saying to me then, but now I do.
I look back and see the way that God has led me, and I see His hand in my life. What I now realise God was saying to me was, 'I want to take you out of all the familiar, all that you have grown up with, away from those things that up to now have been your life, and show you more of myself.' Then I will bring you back and empower you to share the things that you have received from me.
God led me to start 'The New Life Fellowship', and in the time that we were together with Christians from different denominations who God had brought out of their respective churches, God taught me many things. God also used it as a stepping stone for many others, to retreat from the familiar and equip them to do the things that they are doing today. God was preparing us to be partners in building His Church.
When the time came for God to bring me back to Idle Corps, some of the fellowship came with me and in time, became active Salvationists. Two of them who had previously been members of the Baptist Church were eventually commissioned Divisional Envoys in the Salvation Army at the same time as Beryl and I and were stationed to a Corps in Stanningley.
'The plans that I have for you, declares the Lord are plans for good, to give you a future and a hope'. Make no mistake, God has a plan for His creation and more to home, plans for this Corps, plans that include you too.
In our second reading, Paul writing to his friends and colleagues in Ephesus gets very excited, as he tells them of God's plans, he certainly knew that they were all included in those plans. He most certainly knew that he had been called, not by his own choice, but by the will of God. Saul had encountered Christ when he was on his way to persecute all the Christians who were spreading the good news about Jesus. He had mistakenly thought that this new wave of religious fanaticism was a threat the Jewish nation and was out to kill anyone who continued to propagate it. His encounter with Jesus changed all that.
Paul, writing to the Ephesians, shared how he now realised that Gods intention all along was that His creation should live in peace and harmony with Him. to be 'holy an blameless in His sight'. And God made provision that a way back to Himself would be possible, by providing an escape route in Jesus.
God's plan meant that even though the evil deciever had captured mans heart, and caused him to be separated from his maker, Jesus Christ, by His sacrifice on the cross, would make it possible for those who return to Him, to be forgiven and adopted as His sons, back into His fold and family.
And so Paul wrote telling the Ephesians (Ch 1; 7, 8) ‘In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.'
And He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment - to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
Paul knew that He and all those early Christians he was persecuting, had been chosen by God, to play their part in the building and establishing of His Kingdom. Paul realised that they were all privileged people in that right back in creation God had planned that Saul would be born, see the light and turn from his violent opposition of Christianity to become a changed man.
God planned that that should happen. It did, and it changed the course of 'human history'. God planned all along, that Saul would become the man who would do so much to spread the good news throughout the whole world, and become one of the most prolific contributors of the 'New Testament'. That’s why he could confidently write In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory.
And then he centered his attention on the people who he was writing this letter to - the fellowship in Ephesus when he writes; you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of His glory. ( ch 1;14,15)
All through history men and women have been called out of their ordinary everyday activities to be used by God to be filled with the Holy Spirit and further His work here on earth.
Abraham was nearly 100 years old when God's plan began to unfold in his life.
Moses was abandoned at birth, fostered into the enemy camp and was tending his father in laws sheep when God's plan began to unfold. like so many others before and after, Moses tried to wriggle out of God's call, but couldn't. God had predestined that Moses would lead the children of Israel out of slavery and bondage to head for the Promised land.
Gideon was threshing wheat, Samuel was so spiritually immature, that he couldn't even recognise Gods voice when He called, David was out at work when Samuel was sent to anoint him as future King and Isaiah said he wasn't good enough,, and yet each one of them was on God's list, to play an important vital part in His plan.
Jeremiah - we can read of his calling by God in Jeremiah 1; 4-10, The word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." "Ah, Sovereign LORD," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child."
But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, `I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant."
The disciples, Mary, Saul, were men and women for whom God had a plan and purpose in heralding and building His Kingdom. I believe that for every person that God calls to do a great work in establishing His Kingdom here and now, there are thousands of ordinary folk like you and I, that God also calls to play our part in establishing His Kingdom and preparing it for His return.
In just the same way as God called Paul, Martin Luther, Charles Wesley, William Booth, and so many others, I believe that God called me to first leave the Army, then come back and take command here along with Beryl at Idle.
In that same way, God called Brian to be treasurer, Yvonne to welcome us at the door, Barbara to take charge of the young people and Brian to minister in the public houses. Who knows what God has in mind for you to do in this fellowship.
You might be thinking ’and how do you figure in God's plan ? Paul inspired by God writes - And you - whilst addressing the people in the fellowship at Ephesus - I believe also speaks to us today when he says ‘And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your Salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of his glory. '
Today God is still calling people to come home into the bosom of our Fathers love, where we belong, and where He intended us to be all along.
I believe that God's plan is that all should have a chance of hearing His word and receive His receiving by responding to His call, that’s why God calls us to know Him and make Him Known to others. I also believe that for every one who responds, there are hundreds who ignore, and chose to reject the salvation on offer.
All we have to do is come to Him for the forgiveness of your sins 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!' It's as simple as that, almost too simple perhaps! And in responding to God’s invitation become - like the Ephesians - people for whom God has a plan and purpose in restoring the true Church of God and building the Kingdom of God.
Last week we looked at Paul’s plea to really know Christ - we responded by singing ‘ Only a I truly know Thee can I make Thee truly known - to others that is.
Jeremiah 29 ; 11-14 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, (Thats you and me) "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Gods overall plan for mankind is that we come to know Him and seek His indwelling and empowering to make Him known to others by living a life of obedience to God.
There are so many people - many that we know - who see this life as all there is - they don’t share the future hope of eternity in a Heavenly perfect and loving world. We need to share that hope with them, I trust that we will each come to know Gods specific plan for our individual lives and will seek Gods help to make it a reality. Our last song says.
We have caught the vision splendid, of a world which is to be.
When the pardoning love of Jesus freely flows from sea to sea.
When all men from strife and anger greed and selfishness are free,
When the nations live together in sweet peace and harmony
We would help to build the city of our God, so wondrous fair.
Give our time, bring all our talents and each gift of beauty rare.
Powers of mind and strength of purpose, days of labour, nights of strain.
That God’s will may be accomplished o’er the Kingdom He shall reign
Founded on the Rock of Ages, built upon God’s promise sure.
Strengthened by the cords of service e shall stand firm and secure.
When the Father, Son and Spirit, crown our labours with success.
Men and angels then uniting shall God’s mighty love confess
Sunday 19 August 201
This for me has been one busy week for me.
Monday final preparation for the Celebration of the life of David Pashley on Wed
Tuesday planning the Friendship Club for Wednesday then a doctors appointment in the afternoon
Wednesday morning the funeral followed in the afternoon by the Friendship Club
Friday the wedding of Joshua and Amanda - setting off at 10.45 in the morning and not getting home until well after midnight
Saturday preparing this mornings meeting
Added to all that, my printers ink ran out on Wednesday and I struggled to get my notes printed for any of the meetings
It has been both a busy - difficult week but as we have been saying for the last few weeks - God was there all the time - both in the good times and the difficult. That was proven when on Wednesday morning when I received an email from Commissioner Harry Read - it was one of his poems together with a bible reading taken from the words of Jesus when He was sharing a meal with His disciples before the Passover and His arrest John 15: 7 “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.” I certainly needed to hear that - lets read the rest of what Jesus says John 15; 7-14
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
Jesus is talking to His disciples about the importance of being one with Him and the Father by being joined to the vine- Jesus - in order to bear fruit. He may have been talking to His disciples but I believe that Jesus is speaking to us too - His modern day disciples - that the Joy of discipleship - of being rooted in Him - is the only way to remain in Him the living Word and live lives that are rooted in the word of God - and whatever you ask( wish) will be given you.
Paul writing to the church at Ephesus put it this way; I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
When Kenneth Taylor rewrote this passage in a way that his children would be able to understand he said this LB; 17 And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvellous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself.
It was the Living Bible that inspired me to read the RSV and NIV versions and gave me a hunger for Gods word.
Last week we read how the transformed Paul shared his deep desire with the fellowship at Philippi which was to really know the Lord - ‘I want to know Christ and become like Him’ . His writings prove that God answered the prayer of his heart and not only did he get to know Christ but he was able to make Him known to others. As our last song last week said ‘ Only as I truly know Thee can I make Thee truly known’.
The key to what Jesus is saying in John 15 is in Seeking His indwelling and living in Obedience to His Word.
Jesus had told His disciples earlier that ‘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;23
Obedience to the word of God - you can only do that when you take time to read the word of God and desire in your heart to live it. That’s why personal Bible reading and corporate sharing is vital to a Christians development and growth.
Sadly it’s so often the case that many people who go to church only read bible on Sunday.
Imagine what we would be like if we had only been to school one day a week and not read our text books on the important subject relating to life and education. Unthinkable.
Jesus wanted to make sure that His disciples not only listened to His words but that they put them into practice.
John tells us doesn’t he that ‘the Word became flesh in Christ’ in other words He lived true to the word and challenges His followers to let the Word - Christ - become flesh in them.
Jesus shared the Word of God with thousands with the sermon on the mount -The Gospel writers - disciples of Jesus who had lived with Him and learned from Him in the three years they spent together wrote about the things Jesus taught them - and we have the words of Jesus to read, accept and live by.
Obedience to Him is important to our growth and development as Christians and vital to the growth of the Church today. ‘remain in Me and let My words remaining you’ When we live in obedience to His word - then as He says - He will answer our prayers
When Harry Read sent this text to me he preceeded it with a poem entitled ‘Just thanking God’ and this was what it says;
He pushes out the boundaries of our minds;
Equips us with his gifts and his own love;
Removes the inward cataract that blinds
Our sight to all that we can be and daily prove.
Who knows the Lord, life’s secret truly finds.
He pushes out the boundaries of our minds; WOW I read that to say that when we seek to truly know Him and live in obedience to Him the result is mind blowing - I expanded that to say that; He pushes out the boundaries of our minds - the limitation of our mortal understanding to see and know the greatness of our awesome God.
On Wednesday I received a text message from Rachel to say Kaden had been taken into hospital and was on a drip having been burned by the sun - would I remember him in my prayers. I went straight to my room and prayed for healing and a quick recovery. I then went back to my office and continued to prepare for the friendship Club that afternoon. Eventually when I tried to print the notes I had compiled in preparation for the Friendship Club - 10 pages - my printer wouldn’t work.
It had run out of Black ink - and on my printer if just one of the six ink cartridges is empty it wont print any colour. I was so busy - fraught and at my wits end - I tried everything I could think off and nothing worked. I was half and hour from having to leave home, pick Thelma up and head for the friendship Club.
I tried to print it out in another colour, but because the black was empty it wouldn’t even print it in red. I tried everything for about half-an-hour without success. I stood in my Office and cried out to God to somehow - I didn’t know how - it could only be a miracle - somehow God, make my printer work.
I tried changing the black cartridge for an old empty one again but it would print in black - so for the second time I changed the instruction to print it in red. I sat - looked at the printer asked God again and to my amazement the printer started to make a noise and then started to print - I just sat there and thanked God that He had made it work.
The next day I received a text message on my phone to say that Kaden was out of hospital and been given some cream and antibiotics - I thanked God for answered prayer. John 15: 7 “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you Awesome!
He pushes out the boundaries of our minds; and
Equips us with His gifts and his own love;
We looked at the gifts of the Spirit a couple of weeks ago when we looked at 1 Cor 12 the gift of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, tongues, and have certainly seen proof of this in our fellowship with the healing of baby Adam who was put on a machine when his lungs wouldn‘t work at birth and, young Christopher whose legs were in calipers and he was expecting to have a steel rod put down his spine. Following our prayer, Adams lungs started to work and he was sent home, and Christopher didn’t have to have a steel rod put down his spine and God healed his legs and the calipers that he had worn for years - came off.
I’ve shared many times how when I was about 35, I was taken into hospital because my kidneys were not functioning as they should. I had an operation following which UI was confined to bed with a noisy pump at my side doing the work that my kidney should because the first operation had not been successful. I was due to go down to the operating theatre a second time and the night before the operation David Murden our SA officer came to see me and laid hands on me and prayed for healing.
The next morning I awoke to find my pump had been turned off and I was told that ‘for some unknown reason my kidneys were working again‘. I know then that God had miraculously healed me.
God healed me of cancer 20 years ago when I was given the news that there was no hope and chemo was declined. The letter sent from the specialist to my own doctor said ‘The long term prospects for this man are very poor’ They didn’t expect me to survive much longer but Praise the Lord here I am 20 years later. I’ve had cancer on my face, under my arms and God has healed me every time.
In our Corps we’ve been given money to pay for the new Community hall, the replacement roof ( £ 230 000), new chairs ( £6500), new windows - God is amazing. Equips us with His gifts and his own love
The wedding of my grandson Joshua and his fiance Amanda on Friday was a glorious day - filled with love - you could feel it - you could see in the sincere Agape love ( pure love) that people had for one another - particularly the young ones - the lads and the girls. You could see the love in my grandson Joel when as best man he did a great speech thanking God for Joshua and for Amanda - it was awesome. As Joshua’s grandad I was invited, along with Amandas grandmother, to offer prayers for them both following the marriage ceremony.
In my prayer I said to God ; I love them Lord and know that You love them too and have brought them together to love one another and live their lives to glorify Your name by sharing that love - Your love - with others. We pray that together they will experience your Love, Your peace and Your Joy and that their home will become a household of faith and a beacon light to others - especially to those they are called to minister to both here and in other countries.
Their love for one another was evident and as Joshua said in his speech their love extends out to others in Uganda, Brazil and where ever God will send them to share that love as they live their lives for Him. It was great to see the love of God alive in them and in so many of those who had gathered to celebrate their marriage.
The hardest part for me was being there without Beryl - I even had to write my prayer down beforehand in case I was so overwhelmed I wouldn’t be able to find the right words. Thankfully God s kept me going.
To me, personally, the love of God has been overwhelming in keeping me going through the most traumatic difficult times in my life, my mothers death through Alzheimers, the death of my grandaughter Victoria, my son Kevin and a year later my dear wife Beryl - without my faith in God there is no way I would have go through the last ten years - His presence and love is amazing.
Even Wednesday at Davids Funeral the love between the family was so real and out in the open - the music we came into said it all ‘Jim Reeves ‘I love you because - you understand dear every little thing I try to do - you’re always there to - I love you simply because you’re you’ That was the same music we brought Beryl in to at her funeral - it was a difficult day - but God was there with us.
The next line; Removes the inward cataract that blinds our sight to all that we can be and daily prove. As many of you know cataracts blur the vision and need to be removed.
The devil is so quick to try stop us seeing what God can do in our lives when we live in obedience to Him - but faith in God can and will remove that spiritual cataract to help us se clearly all that trusting and having faith in God can do for us.
God certainly did that for me 47 years ago when he showed me I didn’t really know Him and He wanted me to and I knelt here at the mercy seat and asked Him to make Himself known to me - crying out ‘I want to know You Lord like David Murden ( the one who laid hands on mehen God healed my kidneys) knows you. Wow! Jesus came in a miraculous way and made Himself known to me.
The truth of Harry Reads last line came true to me that day
Who knows the Lord, life’s secret truly finds.
The secret of life is revealed to us by God when we come to Him, repent and receive His forgiveness and seek to know Him as He wants to be known.
As He reveals more and more of Himself to us we begin to experience His love and know the awesome truth that that He loves us and wants us to live lives that will transform us into the likeness of Christ and in so doing live lives that will honour and glorify Him.
Our last song came about from an incident at one of Dwight L Moody's revival meetings in 1887. A young man who had just given his life to the Lord Jesus Christ was reportedly heard saying, 'I am not quite sure - I am going to trust and obey.'
The music director of the Moody Bible Institute, Professor Towner, was present at the meeting when these words were uttered. Based on these words, Professor Towner with help of John Sammis, who developed the lyrics , composed the music to this hymn Trust and Obey. The song also expresses the words of our Bible readings
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His word
What a glory He sheds on our way
While we do His good will, He abides with us still
And with all who will trust and obey
Trust and obey for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey
But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay
For the favour He shows, and the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey
Sunday 12 August 2018
At the beginning of the meeting we read from Isaiah 43 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour;
I love these verses, they give great comfort in difficult times. The promise of God to His children - and He was faithful to all His promises. He took His people out of bondage and set them free opening up the river before them as Moses and Joshua led them through to safety. God kept the flames from Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego in the Fiery Furnace - God is Faithful and will be with us when we go through difficult times in our lives.
The inspiration for the song comes from Lamentations 3:22-24 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!”
We then sang Don Moen’s song ‘God will make a way’ again inspired by Isaiah 43
Last week we read Pauls letter to the church at Ephesus when he urged them to live a life worthy of the privilage of being Christians. To be completely humble, gentle and patient, bearing with on another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit - together with God and one another -through the bond of peace.
We read how Paul told them that he felt his responsibility as a pastor was to prepare them as Gods people to serve God and build the fellowship up until they all reach unity in their knowledge and understand of what it means to be a Christian and attain the full measure of the fulness of Christ.
This and his other letters to the new churches continued to encourage the Young churches to grow to become more like Jesus - Christlike in their dealings with one another and the people around them - not just to know the Word but to live the Word. The Word being Christ. In fact in chapter 5 of his letter to the Ephesians Paul says this; Be imitators of God therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
This morning we are going to read part of Pauls letter to the church at Philippi, where he continues the same theme of encouraging them to live the victorious life of a true follower of Jesus Christ. To love God with their whole being and let that love be shared with one another.
Just as last weeks letter to the church at Ephesus was written whilst Paul was imprisoned under house arrest in Rome for simply spreading the word about Jesus, this week he writes from the confines of prison in Ephesus.
Paul spent a lot of time in and out of jail, he was beaten mercilessly but that didn’t stop him preaching with more conviction - in fact the persecution he suffered only served to spur him on as it did to encourage his followers. In verse 12 of the opening chapter he says this ‘I want you to know brothers that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel - 14 because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
In ch 2 he again, as in his letter to the Ephesians continues to encourage the church have the same love for \god and one another and be one in Spirit and purpose humble in their dealings with one another - having the same attitude as Jesus Christ who even though being in very nature - God - took the form of man and became an obedient servant - even going so far as to laying down His life for the sake of you and me.
14 Do everything without complaining so that you may become blameless and pure children of God shining like stars in a dark world. Paul then shares his lifes testimony with them saying that what he had before he met Jesus was rubbish - nothing - compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Before, he was taught to believe that it was through human effort that he would be seen at one with God now he knows that being at one with God is purely through faith alone - faith in Christ.
Lets read what he says following this Philippians Ch 3;10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, ` and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Paul writes this letter along with his friend Timothy and heads it from Paul and Timothy - servants of Christ Jesus to all the saints in Christ Jesus, fellow sufferers, in fact, the whole church, deacons and leaders. This was a together church.
They write ’fellow suffers’ knowing full well that in those days to be a follower of Jesus Christ determined to share His love and message with others meant that they too would be prone to suffer hardship and persecution. We in this country have it easy but there are places around the world where they share the same persecution that was prevalent in Pauls day.
North Korea - where if you say you are a Christian you and your family are hauled off the prison - all you have to do is own a bible and you and the whole family will be hauled off to prison. Today there are up to 70,000 Christians locked away in virtual concentration camps."
Kim Sang-Hwa, whose name has been changed for her own safety, is a North Korean defector now living in South Korea revealed how her life was changed when she discovered a Bible hidden in her family home. “My parents continued to hide their faith from the outside world, but I remember waking up one night when I was six. Our house was very small, so we all slept in the same room. When I opened my eyes, I saw my father and mother under the blanket and I could hear the soft noise of the radio. Later I learned they were listening to a broadcast from a Christian radio station.
When I was 12, I accidentally found a hidden cabinet. I felt inside the cabinet and I felt a book. I pulled it out, opened the book and began to read. “‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…’ I began to shiver and dropped the book. I was so scared. My discovery could cost me my life. I was afraid to touch the Bible, but I couldn't just leave it there. I closed my eyes, picked up the book and put it back
She briefly considered telling the authorities about her parents’ Bible but instead talked to her father, who began to teach her about Christianity. He admitted he was a priest operating in secret - risking his own lives and the lives of his wife and daughter.
From that point on she became a practicing Christian, albeit in absolute secrecy. She said: “Sometimes my father met people in a secret location. Many children of believers came to that location too and learned the Bible. We prayed together. Among the people visiting the secret meetings were some non-believers too, even spies.
When one of those visitors was dying, my father went to see him on his death bed. He confessed ‘I know everything about you, your family and your faith. I was a spy and ordered to watch you - but you are a good man. I never told anyone you were a Christian. Tell me how I can become a Christian too.’“In the final moments of his life, this man repented and entered the Kingdom of God. My father was able to lead him there.
“Once there was a random house check and it seemed this man also knew we were Christians. But this official was a really great guy and really nice. He never gave us away.”
Eventually they were tipped off about an imminent crackdown and they fled. Now living in South Korea, Ms Kim prays for North Korea. She said: “Sometimes I'm discouraged. It seems like nothing is changing in North Korea. When I pray, I often ask God ‘What's the point? Why do you want me to keep on praying for North Korea?' “But then God reminds me 'You know North Korea better than anyone else. You know the people and their suffering. If you won't pray, who will? Rely on Me. Believe in Me.’”
So many countries around the world where you can be imprisoned even executed for being a Christian - Pakistan is a close second to Korea.
Persecution was rife when Paul and Timothy wrote to the churches and it took a lot of courage to be a believer. That’s why they wrote I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, ` and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
They certainly knew the cost of being a Christian - that why he says ‘I want to know Christ - really know Him - not just about Him - anybody can do that. I want to know Him - get close, share His ideals, His passion, His purpose, His love for the fellowship. I want to be like Jesus and if that means that I will be called to suffer for Him then I will.
The call is to Know Christ and become like Him and realise His presence in our everyday lives. Life is not always easy going - it can be so hard at times and that’s why I know that if we are earnest is seeking to really know Jesus then He will come and live within us helping us from within to face anything that life throws at us..
The prayer was to know Him in His suffering’ but the more we know Him and aim to live in obedience to Him then we can also know Him in our sufferings, in our doubts our uncertainties and our anxious times
Over the last thirty years I have come to know that. Beryl was diagnosed with Alzheimers and needing constant 24 hour care. Then in December 2012 after just a week in hospital, my son Kevin so unsuspectedly died through a failed what we were told was a minor operation. I can truly say that without God I would certainly not have coped. It was the week before Christmas - 15 December 2012 and we were with him when they turned his life support machine off - planning and leading the carol service was the most difficult meeting I have had to prepare. Christmas day without him was almost unbearable. His Funeral was the day after boxing day 27 December 2012. To add to that, just over a year later, my lovely wife Beryl died
Over the last few years, I believe that I’ve been broken, my world has fallen apart, things have looked very bleak. But God promised that when we go through the problems and difficulties of life - He will be with us. Knowing Him truly Knowing His presence in our lives is the only way
The promise is there in Psalm 46. God is our refuge and strength an ever present help in times of trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, My world has fallen into the sea a couple of times. I’ve shared the despair of wishing that I didn’t have to go through the things that were before me. I can identify with the way Jesus felt when He knelt in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane just before His arrest and death on the cross - Jesus cried out to God ’Lord if there’s any other way’ and then on the cross crying out to God ’My God, why have you deserted Me’.
Of course God hadn’t deserted the Jesus He loved - it was the man Jesus had become in taking on the sins of everyone - that God was deserting - that’s why Jesus came - to take on the sins of the whole world . Thankfully Jesus knows what it feels like when you are going through lifes difficult times and like Him I’ve been kept going by the love of God and all of you in this fellowship. Whilst I would never say that the suffering we go through can be compared with the sufferings of Jesus, I can honestly say that by seeking to know Him helped me make it through the difficult times, and through it all I came closer to God.
Thankfully - we have the privilege of Knowing Jesus, becoming One with Him - having a deep personal relationship with the risen Lord.
When I think of the difficult situations many of you have been through or are still going through I thank God that He is faithful to His promise that if we love Him He will see us through the difficulties, the hard times by surrounding us with His love - through the fellowship - and more than that - by filling us with His loving presence.
That’s the difference between knowing about Jesus as nominal Christians do and really Knowing Him as you do - The promise that when we go through the difficult times, He is with us and will see us through them.
As His family - God our Father has brought us together - As His fellowship we have the love of one another - we have the comfort of knowing that we all care about one another. No matter what we have to face in the next few days and years - He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He is with us and has given us each other.
The secret of the early church was that - to make Jesus known, they had to come to know Him for themselves. Know Him and make Him known. Come to me and then Go into all the world - evangelise. To evangelise is to simply introduce someone to your friend.
Jesus didn’t say make me Lord of your life, become My disciple and then settle back into your church . He said ‘Come to Me’ and then ‘Go’ get out their, back to your families, into your workplace, into your neighbourhood and make disciples. Show others, teach by example’ Live the life!. . . . . . . . . . . . . to come and know - then go and tell.
These were the words we closed with as we sang Brigadier Ruth Tracy’s song ‘Only as I truly know Thee can I make The truly known. We had already sung Graham Kendrick song ‘Knowing You, Jesus’ based on Pauls prayer in Philippians 3;10 during the meeting.
Sunday 5 August 2018
Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ Read Ephesians 4
Last week we read how Saul shared his new found faith with both Jew and Gentile telling them not to place wrong emphasis on ritual and ceremony but to place their emphasis on Faith in Christ as there was not other way. Because of this he was rejected and hounded by his fellow Jews - Saul the persecutor became Paul the persecuted.
We read how when he entered Ephesus he met a group of new Christians and asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed to which they replied ‘No we’ve never heard of the Holy Spirit’ we were baptised by John - Paul prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit and then went with them into Ephesus where he ministered for about three years.
This morning we have read part of the letter sent about seven years later to the church at Ephesus written when he was imprisoned under house arrest in Rome. Under house arrest meant that he couldn’t go out and preach but he could have visitors
One of his visitors was a man called Tychicus who came from the church at Ephesus and together he and Paul could catch up on all the news about how the church Paul started seven years ago was progressing. Paul would be excited at the good news about Ephesus and the progress they had made since he left, but then, Paul was a discerning man and as he listened to Tychicus probably heard things about the church that as well as commending and encouraging, needed a word of caution and so when Tychicus left he gave him this letter to take back to the church. The message Paul wanted to get across was that having come to Christ and received forgiveness they were to continue to live a life worthy of their calling.
In the first part of this letter he shares the awesome truth that they are a blessed people who have been chosen by God to live holy and blameless lives - adopted into the family of God through the sacrificial love of Jesus in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, the hope of eternal Glory in Heaven with the Lord we love. And the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
The headings for the next chapters say it all - Made alive in Christ and One in Christ.
Chapter 4 starts As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. That’s a real , heartfelt passionate plea from Paul urging them to live a life worthy of all that God has done in Christ to save them from the penalty of Sin. - How? By being completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
The same applies to us in the church today. Realising that we are in this together - His chosen - His people - His church we need to be humble. Gentle patient in our dealings with one another - all under the covering of LOVE
This was about right relationships, lifestyle, attitudes, responses, the way in which the whole body should interact and function as a complete and wholesome healthy body. The living body of Christ in the world today.
They weren’t meant to be just a people having a good time together, but a deeply loving, compassionate, serving fellowship who were growing together and as they did, experiencing Kingdom power and values here and now. An organism that was on the move - not just another organisation.
The heartfelt desire of Paul for this young church was to simply live a life worthy of the calling - easier said than done - yet there is a sense in which the way we live our everyday lives is ’Worship’ in the truest sense of the word. The way we live our lives should bring Glory and Praise to God and that’s what true worship is all about. When I was a young lad growing up in the Corps I used to look at the text that was written on the wall at the front of the hall which read 'Worship the Lord in the beauty of Holy living'.
It’s more than ’singing, raising your hands - it’s all about living a life worthy of the calling that you have received. Its all about realising something of the ’worth - ship’ the value that God places on our lives that He thought worthy of giving his Son Jesus in exchange for our life. We are that precious to God - that how much God loves you and me- WOW! That deserves our highest praise.
That’s why Paul urged them to live a life that is worthy of that kind of sacrificial love. A life that honours God, a life that reflects something of the privilage that is ours of being called by Him.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
You can almost feel the heart cry of Paul who knew that even though he was physically a prisoner, bound and shackled by the authorities, the truth and word of God could not be bound. Be completely humble and gentle; - we are all in this together - we need each other - we need to support and encourage one another - there is enough selfishness in the world today without us being drawn into foolish arguments and petty squables. be patient, bearing with one another in love. How we respond to one another, how we value one another matters to God.
Jesus said ‘They will know you are Christian by your love’ It’s not just about the uniform or the cross around your neck - it’s not about how big a bible you’ve got - it’s all about the genuiness of your love, your response, your tolerance, your attitudes to one another.
There was an advert on face book yesterday from a company called Gospel Jewelry.com urging people to buy a silver cross to wear around your neck with the comment ‘what better way to express your faith’ to which I replied; In response to the comment 'What better way to represent your faith' I would say 'Live it - let the beauty of Jesus be seen in the way you live your life' - its so easy to wear a symbol around your neck.
Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God - be careful how you live, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’.
Relationships are at the very heart of the Christian gospel and lifestyle. What we are to one another is important to God. We are His family and as such He wants us to live in harmony with each other - to care about and for one another - whatever the cost.
If the relationship we have with one another is not healthy and strong, then as a body, we will never grow and function effectively for God. Paul knew this and yearned for the Church at Ephesus to adapt to this new lifestyle to the glory of God.
Whenever scripture talks about the believers being ‘joined together’ it uses the Greek word ‘Kollao’ which literaly means ‘glued together’ and emphasises the strength of the relationship.
It can be frustrating when you try to join two surfaces together and find that they then fall apart. When you look at the instructions on the label it usually says that in order to have a good bonding, both surfaces must be clean and free from dirt. Probably that’s the reason why so many fellowships fall apart these days.
The Bible goes further when it says that our relationship with each other must reflect our relationship with God. Loving God and one another are inextricably bound .
1 John 3; 11 This is the message you heard from the beginning - We should love one another v16-18 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
And so Paul reminds the Ephesians to Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. and Ch 5;1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
How did the church at Ephesus respond to this letter from Paul? We have a pretty good idea from the vision John had when as a prisoner for the Lord, exiled to a life of hard labour on the Roman penal colony at Patmos, he had the Revelation from God that forms the last book in the New testament.
Rev 2; 1 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. Lost their first love - the love they had for one another or for Jesus?
Certainly Paul had been faithful in urging them to let love be at the centre of their lives and church. He wrote in his letter to them that Christ Himself did everything to make sure they stayed faithful to God by calling people to be bearers of His word - apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers - all with the aim of equipping Gods people - His church for works of service so that the body of Christ - His Church - may be built up and grow.
11 So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
I just pray that as the pastor of this fellowship I will be faithful in doing just that - encouraging and equipping each one to serve God as best we can and become a mature Spirit filled people filled with the presence of Jesus - also that we will not fall foul of false doctrine As Paul says Then we will no longer be infants, tossedback and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
That’s Church Growth inspired by Love. That’s what I believe God wants for us here at Idle - you and me to be the living body of Christ in the world today so that the words Paul wrote to another of his churches, the one in Thessalonica will apply to us here at Idle.
This is what he wrote Thessalonians ch 1;2
We always thank God for all of you mentioning you in our prayers.
We continually remember before our God and Father
Your work produced by faith
Your labour prompted by Love
and your endurance inspired by Hope in our Lord Jesus Christ
In closing lets sing ; How can I better serve Thee Lord
Thou who has done so much for me
faltering and weak my labour has been
O that my LIFE may tell for Thee
And the chorus Here at the Cross in this sacred hour
Here at the source of reviving power
Helpless in deed, I come with my need
Lord for Thy service fit me I plead
Sunday 29 July 2018
Last week we looked at the amazing transformation of Saul the persecutor of the Christian Church to Paul, the persecuted who through the awesome appearance of Jesus the Messiah on the Damascus Road turned his life completely round. Called by God to be a evangelist of the Christian Faith that he tried to hard to eradicate.
As we are told in Acts, Paul travelled extensively throughout the whole region - he travelled what in those days would have been an amazing distance to spread the gospel of Christ to as many people as he could.
Although we are not told in the book of Acts that Paul went to the province of Galatia we do know that he travelled to many places in Asia Minor where the Gaulls had settled when they invaded that area in the third century.
Pauls testimony was great - having been transformed from being a man in bondage to the rituals and customs of the Jewish faith that he was brought up in to a new found freedom in Christ that depended not on ritual but faith. Jesus called him to take the gospel to the Gentiles, non Jews as well as to the Jews.
This letter written to the churches on Galatia confirms this when he writes in the opening chapter v 11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.
Paul was addressing those who had responded to the Christian gospel but were being compelled by their teachers to conform to the old Jewish laws and rituals which included the Jewish practice circumcision. Paul wanted them to know that they were putting too much emphasis on the rituals and practices of the Jewish bretheren which was wrong - as Paul says in ch5,6 The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Lets read Galatians 5; 1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Slavery to ritual and ceremony.
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Paul urges them not to become slaves to ritual, ceremonial practices but rather find their salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and - in hungering after Him - grow to be Christlike in their response and attitudes to one another. Their new relationship with Jesus Christ was to be the focal emphasis for their new lives - from total interest in self to serving Christ and one another.
The selfish attitudes and ways of life are spelled out in v 19 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
I would guess that looking at them in todays society the first three selfish pursuits mentioned sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; are evidenced in our world as being the way of many - even the fourth one idolatry where man makes gods - of things like money, fame etc which become his passion and direction in life.
The others mentioned, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage; are sadly seen in many forms today as are selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy being the things that keep many going in a false pursuit to better their life styles.
Sadly it is so easy to become addicted to such selfish and idolatrous ways and can be seen in even the lifestyles of many who go to church. Idolotary - worshipping other gods can also mean putting other things before the things of God. Interests, sport, TV, hobbies, that take pre-eminence in people lives.
As for hatred, that may be a bit strong when talking about people who would class themselves to be christian but I’ve seen that in other churches. discord, Unharmonious not being at one with our fellow Christians jealousy, of peoples abilities or lifestyle fits of rage; I’ve even seen that - all are sadly seen in many forms today and sadly fuelled by selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy. As for the last two it speaks of taking too much interest in other spirits - resulting in drunkenness, orgies, and the like
People today need to be careful that they don’t fall foul of any of these ways for as Paul says, I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
There is a real need in the church for Christians to get real with God and in seeking to know Him more - become more Christlike in their actions, attitudes and goals. Paul needed to remind the whole of the Christian Church in those early days of the privilage of their calling and their responsibility to God and the Fellowship.
This morning I want us to look at the good things that Paul talks about - the fruits of those who are trying to live good Christian lives in the world today. The fruit of the Spirit - the good things that develop when we are one with the Lord and one with each other. After stressing the foolishness of pursuing the wrong path Paul says this; 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Love is the basic requirement for people of God. God IS Love and in love gave His son Jesus to take our place and pay the price for our confessed and forgiven sin. Love the gift that becomes a fruit within us.
Love - where would we be without the awesome feeling of love that wells up within our hearts - love for God and love for one another. Jesus explained its importance in reply to the teacher He met who sked what the greatest commandment was. Jesus replied ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”
Love the first fruit mentioned that without - the rest of the fruits would not be there. Love for God and love for one another - a command of God and also a fruit of the Spirit. Evidence of the Spirit within.
Joy that wonderful feeling of elated contentment within that bubbles to the surface in smiles, laughter, tears.
To know that you have been forgiven for the past and have the assurance that if you stay true to your promises to God brings real Joy - even the word sets the order of priorities in your life - Jesus first, Yourself last and Others in between. Live like that and you will feel the Joy that as we sing is almost unspeakable and full of Glory
Peace contentment - a warm feeling of freedom where there is no room for anger jealousy. O how the world needs to experience that kind of Peace. I guess that Charlotte ( Charlottee, bless her, all the way from Marmaris in Turkey was in our meeting) prays for that every day with all the fears that come from Syria. There are so many places in the world today that through the selfish cruel inhuman acts of the few strike terror and fear not disimilar to those in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s
This week I was reminded of a wonderful man called Sir Nicholas Winton a Londoner who at the outbreak of the first world war against Hitler organised the airlift out of Germany of over 699 children who if he hadn’t have done were destined for the gas chambers. Each one of those children had to say farewell to their parents not realising they would never see them again as they were destined for concentration camps.
I watched a video of a programme made about him when he was 79 years old. How surprised he was when at the close of the programme, sitting at the front of a large audience Esther Rantzen asked if there was anyone there who had been liberated by him and to his shock and amazement a large crowd - stood and applauded him. His face shone with love - Joy - tears in the knowledge that his service to them had brought them Peace. Love and Joy. He died in 2015 aged 106.
Forebearance which means patient, self-controlled, restrained and tolerant even against the most unloving people - that’s really is a fruit of the Spirit. Kindness to others less fortunate than ourselves, a heart full of Goodness that shows. Faithfulness, faithful to the promises we made to God faithful to our loved ones, Gentleness gentle in our dealings with one another and self-control in all that we do
Against such things there is no law in fact Paul goes on to say Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Great lessons for the Church - ideals to attain to for you and me. All made possible through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit
O how the church today needs to know the full blessings of God that flow from repentance through to forgiveness from God and the awesome blessing that comes from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God.
This was the complete fulfilment of Gods plan for mankind and His church. Forgiveness through Jesus Christ - Washed clean and given a new start - Born again - this time by the Spirit. The privilage of all believers is to experience the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
If you’ve repented the past and become a Christian then the next step is to be filled with the Spirit.
One of the first things Paul asked the new Christians when he met them in Ephesus was - ‘did you receive the Spirit when you believed?’ - they didn’t understand him and said ‘no we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit So Paul asked them what Baptism did you receive - John’s they replied
The realty of the Holy Spirit had only been experienced and talked about following the events at Pentecost when Peter preached a sermon and the fire of the Holy Spirit fell on all the believers there so it’s not surprising that they knew nothing about the Holy Spirit. In response to this, Paul placed his hands on them - prayed and they received the Holy Spirit..
What was your experience of conversion - repentance and forgiveness - what about the Holy Spirit?
The fruits that we have been looking at this morning are the fruits of the indwelling Holy Spirit - a supernatural reaction to the infilling of God to empower and equip His people for service and help them live a life of Holiness.
The Bradfordian Smith Wigglesworth was a man perfectly filled with the Holy Spirit.
He never went 15 minutes without looking at his New Testament. He was used by God to heal and to save thousands of people in a most powerfuly spectacular way.
That’s great but the same Spirit is available for all of us even though it may be in such an ordinary unspectacular way.
The Spirit in us produces fruits - the ones we have just read about that are vital for the growth of our fellowship and to the way in which we share our faith with others. Galatians 5; 1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Slavery to ritual and ceremony. Free to serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
In closing we are going to sing one of my favourite Gaither songs written by Gloria Gaither and David Phelps to the tune Finlandia.
I then shall live as one who's been forgiven.
I'll walk with joy to know my debts are paid.
I know my name is clear before my Father;
I am His child and I am not afraid.
So, greatly pardoned, I'll forgive my brother;
The law of love I gladly will obey.
I then shall live as one who's learned compassion.
I've been so loved, that I'll risk loving too.
I know how fear builds walls instead of bridges;
I'll dare to see another's point of view.
And when relationships demand commitment,
Then I'll be there to care and follow through.
This last verse is my prayer every morning
Your Kingdom come around and through and in me;
Your power and glory, let them shine through me.
Your Hallowed Name, O may I bear with honour,
And may Your living Kingdom come in me.
The Bread of Life, O may I share with honour,
And may You feed a hungry world through me.
I pray that this will be our prayer this morning and that the fruit of the Spirit may be evidenced in all our lives
Sunday 22 July 2018
Acts 8; 1-3 And Saul was there giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
Chapter 8 then goes on to tell us that; those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralysed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.
We are then told about Simon the Sorceror who hailed himself as a man with great supernatural powers who did magic everywhere and had a large following - we are going to look at that at our Bible fellowship on Tuesday and how relevant that is to what is happenning in many so called Christian Churches - particularly in America where so called pastors are amazing their misguided congregations.
Today we are going to look at the awesome intervention by God in the life of Saul.
Acts 9; 1-22 . Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
What a transformation - Here is Saul the man who had so passionately tried to stop the spread of what he mistakenly thought was a heretical teachings against God and the Temple worshippers - so determined that he had gained official documents from the high priest to take to the leaders of the synagogue in Damascus giving him and the leaders in Damascus authority to destroy the new movement.
He’s nearly there when suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “
Jesus, the very one that Saul is against confronting Saul and presenting Himself as the Messiah who tells Saul to get up and go into the city, where he will be told what you must do.”
What an awesome sight this must have been - Luke tells us that The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.
Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. He would be in deep shock - Imagine being stopped in your tracks by the very person you are trying to tell everyone doesn’t exist. Being struck blind and having to be led by hand into Damascus where - for three days you are just waiting for the next step - whatever that will be. Saul a man who was passionate for God - hating what he saw as opposition is now helpless. All he can do now is pray and ask God what’s going on - and that’s what he did and as he prayed God gave him a vision of a stranger called Annanias who came to lay hands on Saul and restore his sight.
verse 10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
You can just imaging the response of Annanias “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
WOW! God declares Saul to be His chosen instrument to spread the good news to the Gentiles and the people of Israel. Ananias - even with his fears - was obedient to God and did as He said
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul a transformed man. Gods chosen instrument to take the good news to both Gentile and Jew. Saul up to now would have believed that salvation was only for the Jews - that they were uniquely Gods chosen people - now God is showing him that the good news is for the whosoever and Saul is going to be one of His most faithful witnesses.
What a transformation - what a change in Sauls life - so dramatic that it would take a few days for his eyes to be opened to enable him to see the truth about Jesus and the Gospel. That’s what happens when a person is chosen by God to embrace the good news. For some it is a dramatic turn around from what they believed before and what they are going to be shown as they seek to know more about their new found Saviour.
It doesn’t happen overnight - we have a lot of rethinking and re-learning to do.
Change as dramatic as that doesn’t happen overnight. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5;17 if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin ( Jesus) to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
As the living bible puts it; When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun
As part of his new learning curve 19 Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. No wonder - All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
No wonder the Jews were baffled - here was Saul, the man who had come with documents telling the leaders to get rid of the Christians because Jesus isn’t the Messiah they were waiting for - here he is now proving to them that Jesus is the Messiah.
This awesome account just goes to prove the transforming power of the Gospel and that forgiveness and new birth are freely available for all. It also shows the determination of God to ensure that the church gets off on the right footing
Saul went on to build the Christian Church that he had tried so passionately to destroy and became the biggest contributors to the writings of the New Testament without whom we wouldn’t have the deep insight that we have about the growth and expansion of the Christian Church.
We have just read Lukes account of what happened = probably shared with him by Saul. Now lets look at what the renamed Saul - Paul writes about his own conversion experience as told to the church in Galatia
Galatians 1; 11-24 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.
In verse eleven, Paul expresses the uniqueness of the gospel he now preaches which is different from the doctrines of Judaism of which he was a strong advocate before his conversion. A gospel not made up or taught by man but a gospel received by revelation from Jesus Christ.
He acknowledges that God called him away from the traditions he had learned from birth and by His Grace ‘Gods Riches At Christ’s Expense‘ to the Gospel that was birthed in him when he met Jesus. He wasn’t looking for Jesus - far from it - he was out to get rid of His Church and followers -
It reminded me of the awesome way in which God intervened in the life of a modern day Paul, Lee Strobel a one time journalist and athiest who, following the conversion of his wife in 1981, began investigating the Biblical claims about Christ intending to publish a book entitled The case against Christ‘. It didn’t work out as he intended as, prompted by the results of his investigation, he himself became a Christian and the book was published under the title ‘the Case For Christ‘..
He had set out and interviewed many theologians and well known Christian teachers and instead of proving that God didn’t exist, God revealed Himself to him through the testimonies of the people he spoke to. The result was a book that did the opposite to what he had set out to do and instead, proved the existence of God.
Back to Paul, Unlike Lee Strobel, Paul thought he knew God and what God wanted from his life - but God intervened and revealed Himself to Saul in Christ. Set apart from birth by God and called by His grace - revealed His Son Jesus - and note this - IN ME so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, the non-Jews.
Paul stresses that he had not been shown this by any mortal man but by God Himself in Christ Jesus. It was three years later that he went to Jerusalem to get together with Peter and stayed with him a couple of weeks. He also saw James the brother of Jesus, Peter and James would confirm to Paul the things that they had learned from Jesus especially Peter who had been told by God that Jesus was indeed the son of the living God.
When you think of the impact that Paul and indeed the other apostles had on the early church - it should encourage us all to realise that God is still calling people from all walks of life to become His followers and commit their lives to be His disciples.
The verse that stands out to me and I believe can impact our own lives and church is verse 15 God set me apart from birth ( born a Jew) and called me by His Grace and Revealed His Son Jesus so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles’
God is still in the business of calling people like you and me, setting us apart from our natural birth instincts and way of life which by nature is a selfish way of life - by offering us New Birth - Born again - a fresh start -
New birth with Spiritual not worldly aims - all through the precious sacrificial love of Jesus who has paid the price for our sins and opened the way for us to get to know Him personally so that we can then go on and make Him known to our friends, neighbours, work colleagues and family.
Peter put it so simply when he wrote in 1 Peter 2; 9 You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, belonging to God that you may declare the praises of |Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you Have received mercy.
I believe that the life of Peter and the lives of the other disciples were impacted by the fact that they lived and shared the ministry of Jesus first hand and still speak volumes to all of us today through the gospels they wrote..
I also believe that the life of Paul - who hadn’t shared their lives with Jesus as the disciples had - that Paul was transformed by the fact that he encountered the living Christ on the Damascus Road and was impacted by the Spirit of Christ coming to live in Him enabling him to influence the lives of others like Luke and Mark who -together also speak into our lives today.
We sang the song at the beginning of our meeting - ‘I serve a Risen Saviour - He’s in the world today and I know that because He lives within my heart’
I hope you meant that, for I believe that God is still calling people today to accept the message of Jesus and accept Him as their personal Saviour - to live their lives in obedience to His word and love Him and one another so that they can, like Paul, like Peter, Luke, John and Mark - influence others to want to know Him.
I believe that God wants us all to really know Him - like Paul, who even though he had only experienced the presence of Jesus that once writes in his letter to the Philippians 3;10 I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
We can find out about Jesus from taking time to read His word - Bible Fellowship
We can also find out the real Christ by talking to other Christians and sharing our testimonies with them. Bible Fellowship
That’s a start - but what Paul craves here is not just to know about Him but to really know Him. As you know, that was my prayer when I saw something of the awesome truth of Jesus when David Murden laid hands on me and prayed for healing.
That’s the song Anna sings to the children in ‘The King and I’ ‘Getting to know you, getting to know all about you’ and she did and they liked her and she liked them.
I really got to know Jesus when I took that first step of kneeling here at the penitent form shortly after the prayers of David were answered and I was well enough to come to the hall.
I knelt here and I believe the power of the Holy Spirit came into me and over the years since then I have been privileged to see the power of God flow through me and know the presence of God with me when I have had to go through some very difficult times in my life.
Don’t get me wrong - I’m not saying I’m perfect. Like Paul says, I’m in no way perfect - but I press on to hopefully take hold of that for which Jesus took a hold of me - eternity with Him.
What about you this morning - What is your relationship with Jesus like? Do you feel that you really know Him. Do you experience His presence in your daily life
The awesome truth is that He wants you to really know Him and feel His presence in your life.
God calls us first to really get to know Him and then go and make Him known to others. On Tuesday at our Bibe fellowship we will be looking at the awesome way in which God used obedient people like Annanias to play a great part in the on going transformation of Saul by being used by God to introduce Saul to the transforming, empowering Spirit - the Holy Spirit that would enable Saul to be the powerful Evangelist he became.
If we are obedient to God as Ananias was then I believe He wil use each one of us to envourage others, family, friends, neighbours even strangers to come to know Him for themselves. We are to be the embodiment of Christ - the Word needs to become flesh in us - and will do if we give ourselves in complete obedience to God.
We closed by singing one of Graham Kendricks songs based around these words of Paul in Philippians 3:10-11 - Knowing You Jesus
Sunday 15 July 2018
Last week we looked at how seven men were chosen to serve the Apostles and take over some of the jobs that were keeping them from fulfilling what the work they had been called to do which was built the church - the body of Christ. One of those men was Stephen - a man full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
At our Bible fellowship last week we looked at what it meant to be a servant of God by looking at Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus where he was serving his new found Saviour Jesus Christ by building the church.
This morning I want us to look at what happened to Stephen
Acts Chapter 6; 8-15 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
The opening verses reiterate what we know about Stephen - a man full of the Holy Spirit who not only served in the distribution of food but also in the outworking of God through him in the performing of miracles - WOW 8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.
As we said last week - we are called to be Gods servants just like Jesus did when He said ‘the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many Matt 20; 28
No matter what task we have been given in Church we are all equally important to God in serving Him and one another. Stephen was full of the Spirit - served on tables but also ministered in great power seen in the miracles he did.
Not surprising then that amongst those who thought they were for God - the church of the day - jealousy was rife and as we then read; 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen.
The freedmen were men who had been freed from slavery and were now members of what was called the Synagogue of Freedmen. Jews from Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia - Tarsus, the birthplace of Saul was one of the major towns - Ephesus was the capital of Asia - the place that a few years later the converted Saul would begin to preach and share his new found faith. It is possible that Saul was a member of the opposition that Stephen faced as we know that Saul was there and in complete agreement when they stoned Stephen to death.
But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. WOW! But so opposed were these so called Godly crowd that as we read in verse 11 they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
The charges were blasphemy against Moses and against God because Stephen was saying that the worship of God was no longer confined to the Temple when he said in v 48 The Most High does not live in houses made by men - as the prophet Isaiah said Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool - what kind of house will you build for Me? They twisted this to imply that Stephen was decrying the Temple so;
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
The truth that Jesus came to show man his folly and seek to bring mankind back in line with Gods intentions by offering forgiveness through the death of Jesus and new life through His resurrection was completely missed as it still is by the Jews led the freedmen to accuse Stephen of Heresy and stop him in his tracks - yet as we read further 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Even though his face shone - that didn’t stop them In Chapter 7 we have the complete interrogation of Stephen by the high priest and the bold testimony of Stephen that, like Peter at Pentecost - gave the Jews a long sermon culminating in a strong accusation that they killed the long awaited Messiah promised by God.
51 “You stiff-necked people! You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Saul - was there because he agreed with what the priests said - Saul was a devout Jew who following this set off on a mission to get rid of the new Christian Church that he mistakenly thought was a heretical new movement.
In the same way that Jesus when He was hanging on the cross said Father forgive them for they know not what they do, Stephen also looked at his accusers and instead of hating them, had a compassionate heart for them all as he knew that they were acting out of misguided ignorance and so as we read 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
The first verse of Ch 8 tells us again that Saul was there giving approval to his death and the following chapters tell us of the opposition and great persecution that broke out against new Christian Church and how following the burial of Stephen, Saul began to destroy the church going from house to house and dragging men and women and putting them in prison. - but that didn’t stop the followers who faithfully continued to spread the word.
What challenging things we read about the birth of the Christian church against the most ferocious opposition. - It’s so easy today to meet together in church and share fellowship under the authority of the Gospel that is so freely available. Yet as we read, the birth of the church was costly to those who wanted to embrace the faith.
We in this country haven it so easy - so easy that churches are going into decline and the Christian values our forefathers, our parents upheld are being neglected.
Not so in other parts of the world, there are still those who are facing great opposition and persecution for their faith. Men and women, boys and girls who are being persecuted and cast aside simply because they want to embrace the Christian faith that so many in this country have let go of.
The top five countries listed by as being the worst and most dangerous places to confess being a Christian are 1 North Korea, 2 Afghanistan, 3 Somalia, $ the Sudan and 5 Pakistan. In North Korea Christianity is outlawed and if you claim to be a Christian you and your family will be sent to a labour camp. It is estimated that between 50 and 70 000 people are imprisoned in brutal labour camps at the moment for simply being a Christian.
The most worrying truth for us all here today is that in what we call a Christian Country like ours, that it is getting increasingly more difficult to declare your faith here in Great Britain - even to wear a cross in public
What’s gone wrong - we read about Stephen and the persecution of the Christian Church in the bible, we hear and see the news about the persecution of the Christians in other lands and here today in Great Britain we see Christians being criminalised simply for holding on to their Christian faith and standing up for what they believe,
What’s gone wrong? What can we do about it. The first thing is to live true to the faith that we hold on to and not be afraid to share it with our loved ones, friends and neighbours. To look at our own faith and commitment to God. To make sure that we read our bibles, pray together and live lives that are faithful to God.
Last week we looked back at how in our young days, churches were packed, there were lots of Churches in Idle and Thackley - sadly most of them not there anymore. People seems to be more interested in the TV, or other activities that take their time away from Godly things.
There is a great need in the church today for people to recapture some of the joy and fulfilment they once had when they gave their time and energy to meet together in church. The media has slowly taken over peoples lives - TV - Phones the Internet - Some people, especially the younger ones, text more than they talk. Children play on their phones rather than outside with their friends.
The church is so quickly loosing out to the attractions of the world.
The Bible warns us that in the end times this is what will happen and that there is a real need for those who still love the Lord and worship together to loo at how they can strengthen their faith and encourage others to embrace it for themselves.
It will only happen when God is as real to us today as He was to Stephen who was so in love with the things of God that he was even prepared to give his life for it.
Over the next few weeks we will be looking further into the book of Acts and see what happened to the early church and especially it’s fiercest opposer Saul - how God took hold of Saul the persecutor of the Christian Church and turned his life completely around so that he himself embraced the Christian faith and became one of its most ardent exponents and apostle.
Who would have believed that Saul who stood by and watched Stephen stoned to death, Saul who then went on a rampage to destroy the new Christian Church - that Saul himself would be called by God to embrace the faith he fought so violently to oppose and become one of it’s most ardent followers and teachers.
Saul became Paul the complier of the greater part of our New testament. Lets look at what the converted - born again Paul wrote to the church at Philippi 3 about his past life as a passionate Pharisaical Jew who zealously set out to persecute the Christian Church - this is what he wrote Philippians 3; 7-11
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
I want to know Christ That’s been my prayer since God revealed Himself to me in a wonderful way after healing me way back nearly 50 years ago. The best place to start is by reading His word and praying
to know the power of his resurrection by seeking the infilling power of the Holy Spirit - Wow!
and participation in His sufferings, Life’s no been easy - the last 15 years have been the most difficult in my life loosing my mum, Dad, Victoria, Kevin, Beryl But thankfully I know that God cares and is with me. He’s seen me through cancer three times. This year has been o easier what with Christine and Doreen in hospital involving daily visits. Then falling - having no car - having to rely on Steven - life has not been easy
Becoming like Him in His death, I believe that in His death, we see a compassionate Christ who did what He did for the sake of others - even you and me today - I pray that that will be our aim - to give our lives for one another - to share and to serve
And so somehow attaining to the resurrection from the deadan. Wow! Resurrection from the dead - that’s new life now - born again to be transformed into His image - to be like Jesus in the world today with the firm assurance that one day we shall be resurrected to live with Him in Glory.
Stephen went to live with the Lord he loved and served. Saul was transformed to become the new man Paul and will be in heaven with the Lord
Today it's vitally important that Gods Children live in obedience to His word and live the Word so that others can see that just as it is only by faith that we can face the future so too , they, if they turn to God, repent the past then they too will be able to experience the awesome presence of Almighty God - be born again and one day live with the Lord they serve on high.
Sunday 8 July 2018
Acts 6 'In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
The early church was growing faster than I guess the Apostles were ready for. The pressures began to show as dissension entered the fellowship, as some of them began to complain that they were being neglected. The leaders, the Apostles all of a sudden found that they couldn't cope without help.
Here in our Bible reading, we have the perfect example of good management 'Kingdom Style'.
(1) spot the weak areas before they get worse,
(2) fill the gaps with the right people
(3) get on with the job that you were called to do.
The weak spot was one of administration. Part of the fellowship were being neglected because the Apostles were overstretched trying to be 'Jack of all trades' and do everything themselves. The remedy was to delegate the job to someone else and make it their responsibility. And then get back to the job that they had been appointed to do which was preach the Word, live the word and make more disciples.
Wisely, the Apostles passed the job of choosing the seven, to the very people that the seven were to serve. And so the seven chosen were all insiders part of the fellowship, elected by the people themselves. The command was to v3 Brothers, chose seven men from among you and what was the defining factor of those they were called to chose chose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. WOW! Full of the Spirit. We will then turn the responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word'.
I call them 'The Magnificent seven'. My son Steven is a film buff, and I guess that if I asked him to name all seven stars of the film of that name, he would! I wonder how many of you could name the magnificent seven chosen by the Apostles ? To be honest I tend to just remember the one - Stephen.
God's magnificent seven were Stephen, Philip, Procurus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas. They all had the same, necessary qualifications, they were chosen because they were known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. Full of the Spirit - wise and yet chosen to serve, to administer the daily distributuion of the food to the other believers, so that the Apostles could get on with what they had been called to do which was to preach the word of God
If an employer today was looking for people to look after the distribution of food he would probably look for people with the right qualifications in catering management. Not so the Apostles. They wanted men who would be not just fair, honest, in their dealings but men who were first and foremost, men of faith and conviction. Men who were 100% committed to the faith and the spreading of the word. Men whom they knew the others in the fellowship trusted.
Likewise, when I was Sales Director of Watmoughs, and needed new sales staff, I advertised in the top papers, and even though I always asked for a CV, my decision was taken, not just through qualifications, but character and the 'feel' of the interview.
I found out about his family, realising that if he was a good family man, he would want to be in long term employment which brought stability. I asked about his hobbies and interests, to make sure that there would not be a conflict of interests, such as sport that would make him inaccessible if we needed him to work over. I asked what his values in life were, as I wanted honesty and integrity. I even enquired about his beliefs, wanting someone I could trust.
Whenever the Salvation Army advertise particular jobs of service, Charity Shop managers, care workers, people to work in the homes and hostels, they stipulate on the job description 'No CV's'.
I guess they, like me, realise that the interviews themselves will reveal the true qualities they are looking for. People of integrity, honest, 100% committed to the faith. Why? because honesty demands, that such people would not be applying in the first place if they were not up to the task.
When Jesus chose His disciples, His team, he didn't necessarily look for well educated, learned people. He chose people whom He knew would give 100% to the cause. Men and women who were open to Him, whom He knew would be breakable, mouldable, fill-able. People who would be prepared to work, prepared to withstand the rebuffs, the knocks, the difficulties, the hardships, the problems.
Men and women who would learn to love and respect His authority. Men and women who would capture the vision of the new Kingdom life, and as well as embrace it themselves, would be eager to share it with others. Disciples first, then witnesses to the truth that they had received.
The Apostles could see that as the church was growing rapidly, then in order that each new member of the fellowship could be nurtured in the truth, the ministry of the word would not have to be neglected. They needed to delegate some of the tasks that were beginning to take so much of their time away from their first priority, that of Teaching and seeing that the truth of the Gospel was upheld. And so seven men were chosen to fulfil the ministry of serving the needs of the fellowship. Responsibility was delegated.
So many fellowships today, are struggling under 'one man ministries' instead of flourishing under the ministry of 'the priesthood of all believers'. Thankfully, we here at Idle are privileged in that being completely open to God, I believe He will bring a team together that I believe will help to move this Corps, His Body to inherit Kingdom Life here and now.
When I first preached on this episode in the life of the early church it was in 1998 just three years after Beryl and I became Commanding Officer of this Corps.
This is what I said then; When we took over the command of the Corps in 1995, in addition to Beryl and Myself, there were only two local officers. The Corps Treasurer and YPSM. Today (1998) we have nine. C Treasurer (Brian), CSM (Tony Brown), C Secretary ( Shirley Aldous), Recruiting Sergeant (Ian Thompson), Pastoral Visiting Sergeant (David Barratt) and Welcome Sergeant (Yvonne Mitchell). The YP Corps have YPSM (Kevin Cowgill), YP Singing Company Ldr (Pat Stannett), and YP Treasurer (Julia Barrans) and Judy Cowgill and Christine Thompson both working with the young people. And it's important that we support them all in our prayers.
I went on to say; In addition we also have an excellent team of helpers in Thelma Walton and Margaret Morell making sure that the clothes for the Coffee morning are up to standard. James Stannett helping at the Coffee morning and Keep fit classes. Brian Aldous going round the pubs with Shirley. Nellie, Oates, Edith Metcalfe and Eva Walker working in the Kitchen. All well able to serve the fellowship and make for the smooth running of the Corps. We need each other and no job is greater than the other. Wow and that was just 20 years ago this week.
The most wonderful thing of all, is to know that all those who acknowledge God as their Father, and Jesus Christ as Saviour, do so because they have all been chosen by Him in the first place. 'We are a Chosen people, a royal priesthood, a Holy nation, a people belonging to God, that we might declare the Praises of Him who called us out of darkness, into His glorious light. Once you were a nobody, now are the people of God'. 1 Peter 2; 9-10
A lots happened since then. Six of those mentioned are now in Glory with the Lord they served, my wife Beryl, my son Kevin, David Barratt, Nellie Oates, Edith Metcalfe, Eva Walker. We are almost back to where we were when I first took the reigns as Commanding Officer with just a Corps Treasurer, Corps Secretary and a welcome sergeant. Except I’m alone, I don’t have Beryl anymore.
For too long it has been seen as the job of the minister to run the Corps from the front, with the rest of the congregation as back up workers supporting them in their tasks.
This is wrong, leaving all the responsibility in the hands of the poor unfortunate leader and everybody else disempowered with no ownership of the mission. As we have been reading over the last few weeks - the early church that was being born and detailed in the Acts of the Apostles were a ‘together people’ co-equal with one another and thats why as we have read this morning - they needed to get their act together and look at how they could spread the load and make it possible for the leader and the rest of the team to function - to get on with the Job they had been chosen to do.
We do that by honestly looking at our own individual giftedness and see how that fits in with the needs of the fellowship. Colonel Phillip Needham puts it this way ' Ministry shared by all and apportioned according to recognised gifts bestowed by the Spirit, tends to be a function of a dynamic community of faith which is ever on the move'.
Ephesians 4; 11-12 'It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
I believe that my job is to make sure that the church members are taught, pastored, encouraged to hear God's prophetic voice, and encouraged to evangelise out there in the place where they are, to be light and salt amongst the unreached masses.
The primary function of the leader is the equipping of the saints, the ones who actually live and work amongst the unsaved, the very people we are trying to reach with the gospel of Christ. They need all the help and encouragement that they can get.
The success of the early Church is in part due to the apostles grasping the truth of what the priesthood of all believers really means. People called by Almighty God to fulfil their ministry, whilst allowing others to get on with theirs.
This Corps will go from strength to strength only when we realise that we are in this as a together people. We need each other. We need to value each other. We need to see the God given giftedness in each other that our Father has given, in order that the needs of the whole fellowship can be met through their ministry.
WOW! what a privilege. Chosen, hand-picked by God Himself. That's you and me! And when God chooses, He looks on the inside, the heart. He sees us through visionary eyes, and therefore able to choose us, not because of what we are now, but what He knows we will become.
I believe that God is building His Kingdom here at Idle. It's early days, but already we can see the way in which God is moving in our fellowship. Brian and Jennie have joined us because they feel that we are open to God and seeking to live according to His word - God sent Barbara to us to take up the role of YPSM after the death of Julia. God has brought Madeline back to us - There is so much to do, key positions still to be filled, Friendship Club Leader for instance and now a Safe and Sound manager.
I pray that you will be open to see what God wants of your life, and that you will be ready and willing to serve Him. God wants obedient folk who are 100% committed to Him. People who really mean it when they sing 'Here I am Lord, wholly available, as for me I will serve the Lord.'
There is one thing for certain, you will only find fulfilment in this life, if you seek to do God's will! Over the next weeks we shall be looking at what Commitment can mean in the Salvation Army and particularly here at Idle. We will look at ways in which we can move forward. Soldiership, Adherancy Positions to be filled. I believe that God is building His Church in readiness for His return
Of the seven were chosen, one of them was Stephen of whom the word tells us was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit and wisdom Wow! A great, learned, spirit filled man who has now been chosen to ‘wait on tables’.
As we can see, the role of servant is not a demeaning role in the Christian Fellowship - it’s a great calling - even Jesus said of Himself ‘ the son of man didn’t come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many’ Matt 20;28
We are called by God to serve Him and one another - it’s a high calling - wether it’s looking after the children in Sunday school or making the tea for the Friendship Club,, leading the meeting or cleaning the toilets - there is no difference - we are all called to serve. The fact that Jesus said this about Himself and Luke tells us that Stephen a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit was chosen along with six others of whom we know nothing - the truth is that we are equal in our service.
When the American Samuel Logan Brengle - a great man of faith, a well respected Bible teacher decided he wanted to become an evangelist in the Salvation Army he came to London to offer himself to William Booth -Booth thought he was too intelectual and clever to become a Salvation Army Officer who would be expected to take the gospel to the uneducated masses. Booth thought that Brengle was far above all that - but after much thought and prayer finally agreed to let Brengle go to the Training College where he was given the menial task of cleaning the other cadets shoes - he did it with great dignity and humility and went on to become the Holiness teacher in the Salvation Army.
Whatever we are called to do in the service of the Lord wether its preaching , cleaning, making tea, going to the pubs, doing the books - everything is equally important and will serve to bind the church together and develop it’s growth.
We are all equally important to God - no one is above the other - We are one in the Spirit - one with the Lord and it’s by our commitment and devotion to God that others will see and know we are Christians - by our love for God and one another.
Read Ephesians 4; 11-17
Sunday 1 July 2018
Last week I said ‘You can’t short change God’ when He calls us to follow Him and we accept the challenge to become Christian and live the lifestyle from the example set us by Jesus - we can’t go back on our promises.
We talked about truth and commitment to God being important and was shown this by the way in which, as we see in Acts, right at the beginning of the birth of Christianity - God made sure the church set off on the right foot by showing it’s commitment to the Gospel. Annanias and Saphira lied to the fellowship and to God and had to be removed so that right from the beginning - the Christian fellowship set off on the right foot to become the Church that would be a loving - honest and open fellowship.
Following the removal of Annanias and Saphira from the fellowship it began to grow and the Apostles were empowered to exercise the power given by the Holy Spirit to do the things that until then only Jesus had done, one of which was to bring miraculous healing - to show the power of God and the fact that here was the true Church of Jesus Christ that God wanted.
Last week we read how crowds gathered from all the towns around Jerusalem to see the power of God at work in the lives of the new Church that God had formed to become living vibrant witnesses of the truth.
Peter and John, who started all this when they healed the lame man at the doorway to the Temple had been arrested, imprisoned and on their release commanded not to speak the name of Jesus again - what did they do? They went back to the fellowship and prayed for more strength and power to do exactly what they had been commanded not to do - to spread the good news.
No wonder that the authorities were jealous of the Apostles successful gathering of the people who were seeking to embrace the Apostles teaching. The next verses, 17 onwards continue to tell us of the anger of the high priest and the sadducees - lets read it together;
Acts 5; 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.
WOW! Imprisoned by the powers that be = locked behind bars in the jail and what happens - God sends an angel to open the door and bring them out with the instruction to Go, stand in the temple courts, and tell the people all about this new life.” and that’s exactly what they did.
There’s no stopping them - they had found the truth and felt the call of God to go and share that truth with the world outside. Is’nt that what we are called to do?
It used to be so easy and expected of us particulary on a Sunday evening to hold an open air service on the green in Idle - people used to listen and respond. We even went out on the streets at 10am every Sunday morning - blowing our trumpets in the streets = wow I think that today would be a lot different. Most are still in bed - not interested. In those days, most people went to church and we shared the good news with the few.
One more reason to make sure that the lives we live reveal the faith we have in God and the passion to share His love with others.
So here we are in our Bible reading - the Apostles have been told to go stand in the Temple courts and tell people about the new life that can be experienced in Christ Jesus. - Suprisingly the authorities were unaware of what was happenning for we then read that;
21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. Course they didn’t - they’re outside the Temple Courts - So they went back and reported, “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.
Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. The new life that the Apostles preached about was gaining popularity
The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
I love the reply of that the Apostles gave ; 29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!
They then went on boldly to convict the High Priest and leaders of murdering the long promised Messiah they had been waiting for when they said; The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Wow! What bravery - but then - if you are as convinced as the Apostles were that you were telling the truth and had seen the power of God manifest in His Son Jesus. The response was obvious
33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. But then - Miraculously God used a man from their own group a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honoured by all the people, to stand up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while.
Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” 40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
What Gamilael said was so obviously true For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
Speak the truth of God and what you say and do will be blessed by God and bear fruit
Preach a false gospel and it will fail. That’s why we have to be careful in these days to make sure we speak the truth of the gospel and don’t fall into the trap of softening or changing it to meet the approval of modern man as so many so called Christian fellowships are doing.
The great result was that 41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. - Christ. There was no stopping them - Awesome - that’s the determination that is needed today in this country where daily mankind is moving further from the truth of the gospel and going it’s own blind way.
On Friday I met two friends who go to a church in Farsley one of whom helps at Sorted who said she was shocked when The leader told her that children were not taught the Lord’s prayer in schools anymore - I couldn’t believe it either. Times have changed
On Wednesday at the Friendship Group we looked at how the world we live in has changed dramatically in our lifetime. We looked at Bradford and the buildings in the centre - how anyone born in Bradford who has lived away for any length of time would find it difficult to recognise the place.
We looked at the churches in Idle and how over the last ten or so years they have gone into decline and in many cases are no longer there.
Earlier we had shared how in London 1556 – The Stratford Martyrs, eleven men and two women one of whom was pregnant were burned at the stake together for their Protestant beliefs watched by
20 0000 people. All, they had done was stand up for their faith in the true gospel - Appallingly it was the Church of the day that condemned them. In 1879 a large monument was erected in St John's churchyard in Stratford Broadway, to commemorate the 13 and others who were executed or tortured in Stratford during the persecutions
We only have to look at how the Christian faith today is being challenged not only by the unbelieving world but also from within its own ranks from leaders who want to compromise the basic concepts of our Christian faith to make it more acceptable to the man in the street.
What did Gamilael say? If what the Apostles and the early church preach and teach is of human origin, it will fail. And it will But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop it; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” In other words Preach the unaltered truth and it will eventually suceed. Preach the compromise and long term it will fail.
The Church today needs to get back to the truth of the Gospel and accept the way of Jesus to live a life that will glorify that truth. That great Sunday school song we sang earlier says it all ;
Standing by a purpose true heading Gods commands
Honour them, the faithful few- all hail to Daniels band
Many mighty men are lost, daring not to stand
Who for God had been a host by joining Daniels band
People who once embraced the truth and joined the Christian fellowship but then went on to accept compromise
Many Giants great and tall stalking through the land
Headlong to the earth would fall if met by Daniels band
In other words stand firm as Daniel did and the worldly giants - the lies of the enemy - will fall So then; Hold the gospel banner high, on to victory grand
Satan and his hosts defy and shout for Daniels band
Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone
Dare to have a purpose firm and dare to make it known
We all know how Daniel stood in defiance against the powers that be who ordered people to bow to him and not to God. Daniel still continued to stand firm and spend time on his knees in private devotional prayer to God - he was seen - arrested and put in the lions den. Daniel stood up for the truth - or rather bowed down for what He believed in the same way Peter and John and the early Church did - and just as God miraculously closed the mouth of the lion so too He opened the prison doors for Peter and John and they all lived on to fulfil what God had called them to do.
Acts is all about the birth and growth of the Christian Fellowship - the living body of Christ in the world that went on to become the Christian Church that we are a part of.
I believe that today, God wants us - His chosen people to stand up for Him and the truth of the Word by not merely talking and preaching it but by living it to the full.
The opposition that we face from the world today is apathy - un-interest - couldn’t care less what you believe - just let me get on with my life the way I like it. What they need to see is the difference that Jesus makes in our lives. The way in which, when we go through difficult times as they do, we are able to cope - that’s when I believe they start to ask the question how? That’s the time we can tell them that without our faith in God we, like them, would struggle.
That leads us on to be able to share the gospel and repentance of the old style to acceptance of new life in Jesus who gave His life on the cross to pay for our sins. Freedom in Christ today that makes the way open for us to move on into eternity with Him.
One of my favourite truths from Paul are found in 2 Corinthians 5; 17 When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun! The world needs to see that in you and me - we are not alone in this - He is with us - we are in His hands
Sunday 24 June 2 Acts 4:32 - 5;1-11
What a frightening story! What a story of contrasts.
Over the last few weeks we have read of the way in which the believers were together and shared everything - their was an honesty and openness a concern for the well being of everyone - so much so that they pooled their resources‘. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.
Underlying the togetherness of the fellowship and the great things that were being done in the name of Jesus, we have this tragic story of Ananias and Sapphira, two people who held back what they had promised to God and in lying and trying to cover up their foolishness brought the full vengeance and
wrath of God upon themselves.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a shocking but powerful lesson that when Gods people make promises to God, then He expects them to mean business, and when they do, He amazes them in the way He moves in great power through them.
I don’t for one minute think that this is just about finance. It’s not about giving up everything you have. It's all about truth, honesty. Ananias and Sapphira were members of a fellowship who in their determination to show allegiance to Jesus, were willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel - all except Ananias and Sapphira.
It's not about great giving - Ananias and his wife Sapphira didn't bring down the anger of God because they only gave part of the profits from the sale of the field, they were punished because they lied to the fellowship and to God. This was the beginning of the true church and God couldn’t allow it to get on the wrong foot - God in Acts is setting the pattern for True Church. A caring, together loving honest and open fellowship
This story speaks to me about integrity and truth. It's about being true to God and meaning it, that when we sing 'all their is of me Lord' we mean it It's all about being true to God, ourselves and the fellowship. As church we are called together to Love God and love one another.
It's about being honest to God and each other
It's about being faithful to God and each other
It's about being committed to God and each other
The true expression of love for God and love for one another is stated here
'All the believers were one in heart and mind. No-one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. It's about seeing what great things can be accomplished when man gets real with God. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.
I talked about when William Booth said 'God shall have all there is of me', he meant it and was faithful to God in that. It wasn't an easy thing to say. Here was a young man with all his life before him, yet, living in darkest England - surrounded by extreme poverty - you were either rich or poor - the extremes were gigantic.
Booth saw this first hand working as he did in a pawnbrokers shop and seeing the desperate plight of the poor who had to pawn their belongings to live day to day.
William saw first hand the dire needs of a forgotten, neglected people and decided to give his life to not only ease their suffering and lift them out of their hopeless situations by giving them a voice and championing their cause, but to introduce them to a loving compassionate Saviour and Powerful Almighty God who would help them find a way out of their problems and give them new direction and purpose in life..
There’s a challenge here for us this morning Remember when you made your promises to God. The time you said 'God shall have all there is of me'. What's happened since that time?
The song we sang this morning said it all;
I want to serve the purpose of God
I want to give my life for something that will last forever
I want to worship the Lord with ALL of my heart, not just a part
I want to be out of my depth in Your love
Then the offer to God Take my life, My all
It’s easy to sing-a-long with everyone else. It not so easy to really mean it is it?- it’s easy to sing such songs of desire and commitment with the crowd and let others see and believe that those are your desires and intentions. That’s what Ananias and Sapphira did. I have always used the term ‘Veneer Christians’ when refering to this.
God sees and wants us to be honest, unlike Ananias and Sapphira, - we can’t go back - renege on the things that we have sung - When we offer God our lives, our service, our love - it’s got to be for real and it’s got to be forever or we let both the fellowship and God down.
God expects His people to be faithful to their promises, after all, He is faithful to His.
He didn't promise us an easy trouble free life. Riches and prosperity
But He did promise that He would be with us when we go through the trials of this life I will never leave you nor forsake you’ and that He would take care of our daily needs ‘Ask and it shall be given you He’s done that for me - how about you
He also gives (a) forgiveness for our sins (b) empowering for mission and (c) an inheritance of eternal life in Glory with Him. I think we get the best part of the bargain.
Read Psalm 103 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits -
He forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, He redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, He satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
God made forgiveness and Salvation possible to me and you by sending His Son, Jesus to die on a cruel cross. He suffered the nails, all I had to do was to say 'I'm sorry Lord'.
No wonder God was angry when Ananias tried to short change Him. He gave His all, all they had to do was to be honest. I believe that God even gave them one last chance to tell the truth, but they lied to Him and so received the just rewards of their deceit.
They were all show. They tried to look good to others in their fellowship by doing and saying the right things. Even though they thought they could deceive the fellowship, they couldn't deceive God and paid with their lives.
What did you think of the next verses? verse 13, says that 'no-one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people, nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord, and were added to their number.
It would seem to be a contradiction, that immediately after Luke tells us that ' no one dared join them', he continues by saying that' more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number'.
No one dared join them for good reason, for as God expected honesty and commitment. As they stood for Christ, they stood against the authorities, in their open defiance in the way in which they continued to testify to the risen Lord, after being commanded not to.
God didn’t want mere ‘joiners’ but good solid ‘believers’ The carpenter didn’t need joiners - He wanted dedicated believers. Like Peter and John.
A couple of weeks ago we read how, following the healing of the cripple at the gate of the Temple, Peter and John were arrested, thrown into jail, but because they found favour with the people, the authorities had to let them go with the warning to stop preaching.
And what did they do? They went back to their fellowship, rejoiced, gave thanks to God for their safe return, and then proceed to pray for more boldness to continue to do the very things they had been warned not to.
No wonder no one else dare join them, It took guts. You had to be a fully committed Believer. Men and women of integrity - true to their word - people who, if they had sung ‘I want to serve the purpose of God’ - meant it.
The early Christian began a revolution, that continued against the most aggressive opposition. They were persecuted, whipped, put into prison, killed, yet the grew bolder and their numbers increased at a phenomenal rate. You had to know who were the genuine Christians, no wonder God sifted out the pretenders, the hypocrites, those who were all show, or even in it for what they could get out of it.
God wants us to be men and women of our word.
People He can rely on.
People He can trust.
People He can use,
When we are that kind of people, I believe He will amaze us as we experience His power flowing through us to minister to the needs of our fellowship and bring Him praise and honour.
Acts 5; 12 'The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No-one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.
Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.'
I pray that we will catch the vision of what God wants to do here at Idle, and that we will be open to His leading, His equipping, His empowering, and that we will move forward in His name to attract others into our fellowship, not only by our programme, and the warmth of our fellowship but because people can see God in action.
They need to see the living God in a living Church. Where they can experience the power of an Almighty God who is able to meet their needs, whatever they are. They need to see a fellowship that has the courage to believe what it preaches, that Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday and forever, and is ready to forgive and receive His rebellious children back into his fold and family.
All over the World people are having to stand up and be counted. To be what they profess to be, without compromise. In this country it takes some people all their time to get out of bed to come to church, the terrible truth is that one morning they might wake up to find that there isn't a church to go to. You can't short change God.
God needs commitment, dedication and loyalty to build His church - I hope were all up to it - He needs Daniels who will stand up for Him and be true to their calling
Sunday 17 June 2018
1 John 3; 1-3 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Today is fathers day, and all over the country children old and young, will be putting their attention on their fathers. For some, this will have brought joy and a sense of thankfulness for a father who has given his best for the sake of his child.
But for others today it will be a time of great sadness - last year we thought about the hundreds of families who had lost their fathers in the murderous attacks on innocent people at the pop concert in Manchester and London Bridge and those who had died in the tragic fires in London when the large block of flats Grenfell Towers went up in flames 14 June 2017. Not just children who lost their fathers and their mothers but also fathers and mothers who lost their children - any day that followed would be unbearable but the added trauma of knowing the following Sunday was Fathers day would have been too much for those distraught families to bear. This year will still be difficult.
This morning each of us will have our own special thoughts about our own fathers and the role they played in our lives.
I was born in August 1940 - my dad was in Germany - the 2nd world war was well under way. I was two tears old when I first saw my dad. He came home on leave at the birth of my brother Sam - I can‘t remember it but I know he came as I have a photograph of us taken at Jeromes in Bradford.
He didn’t come home again until the war ended in 1946 and then he seemed to be a stranger. He was badly traumatized when he came home because of the awful things he had seen - he was there at the liberation of Belsen.
When he started work he was on nights from 6pm until 6am and so again, I didn’t see him until breakfast time when he came home from work and got us ready for school.
The next time was at tea time when he got up had his tea and then went off to catch the bus to work. Five nights a week - 12 hours a night. 60 hours a week and then if that wasn’t enough in the holidays he went to work with Howgates setting up bird shows up and down the country - we never saw him but he was there working hard to provide food and clothes for us as a family. Like many other fathers in those days, dad sacrificed a lot for me and I will never forget that.
Dad played a very important part in my life, I pray for him every morning thanking God for the devotion of my dad and even though he didn’t come to church with us on Sundays - he supported us in all that we did at church and came to the special meetings we had when the band played away. I would think that we all thank God for our fathers and the sacrifices they made in bringing us up - and the impact they had on our lives.
In the Gaither night last Sunday we watched as Bill Gaither played special homage to his own father who worked all hours at a car factory to provide income for the family
The title, Father is very precious title that we use to express the love and devotion one has for another - the same way we use the titles Mother, Brother, Sister to express the depth of a persons love.
That’s why I love the Bible reading 1 John 3; 1-2 that emphasises this fatherly love How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
This is John - the disciple whom Jesus loved - reminds us all that God wants us to know that He is our father - our heavenly Father - and we are His children.
I want us to think about God as our Heavenly Father, about His perfect and unfailing love for us His children, and our response to Him as our Father, how important it is that we live in close harmony with Him, so that we can reflect His character and His love, in the world in which we live.
In the same way that when I was a lad, our family went to my grandads - my mothers dads every Sunday, we come here to our Fathers house every Sunday, to fellowship together as the family of God. Brothers and Sisters in Christ - and celebrate our Father and His love for us, we come to tell Him that we love Him. We come to praise Him and thank Him for giving us life - real life in all it’s fullness.
We come, as any loving family would, to share our experiences of the last week in our sharing time. We come to talk to our Father. We come to listen to Him, We come to learn from Him, to seek His advice and hopefully to respond and act on His advice. We come to bring our needs to Him so that He can minister to us.
Our Bible reading stated that John wrote 'how great is love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God, and that's what we are! (1 John 3 1-3)
You and I this morning are ‘Children of God , and God is your Heavenly Father
'how great is love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God every time I read this I am reminded of the time when as a young lad, the ice cream man came round on a bicycle with the ice cream cart on the front, all the street used to go out to meet him. Hardly anybody had a fridge in those days, and so you couldn't keep Ice cream in the house. The choice was limited then, no 'feasts' or cornetto's, just the choice of a vanilla ice cream in a cornet or a wafer. A choc Ice was simply a 'sandwich' with a chocolate wafer at the bottom instead of a plain one.
The Ice cream man would then lavishly fill the mould with ice cream. If he liked you, he would pack the Ice cream in until it was deeper than the mould, and then sit the wafer on the top. It was so big, you couldn't get your mouth round it - very 'lavish'.
God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children and He lavishes His love on us.
Paul writing to the church at Rome reminded them of their relationship to God when he writes; All who are led by the Spirit of God are Sons of God and by Him we cry Abba - Father ( Romans 8;14) if we live obedient lives - whatever that may cost us - as His children we become heirs of the Father. WOW!
Like any good Father, He loves us, we are precious to Him. He cares about us, He's concerned about the quality of our life, that's why He sent Jesus, to give us 'life in all it's fullness'. That's not about money, fast cars, a successful business career, it's about the quality of our lives, and the things that really matter.
He wants us to be able to live; Lives that are lived in the freedom of forgiveness,
'Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have redeemed you; Isaiah 43; 1
Lives that are lived in the knowledge that God called us personally to be His child.
I have called you by name; you are mine’ said God.
The knowledge that to God 'I am precious and honoured in His sight’ Isaiah 43; 4
Lives that enjoy the confidence of knowing that whatever the world has to throw against us, He cares, and is there for us us. 'Fear not, for I am with you'.
The knowledge that ‘He loves us’ Isaiah 43; 4 That's the love of a Father who cares. That's the love of ' Our' Father . A Father who chooses to live within His people, and the only condition is that we 'love Him in return, and are obedient to Him.
Jesus said 'If you love Me you will obey My teaching, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our home with him. These are not just My words, but the word of My Father'. John 14; 23
Shortly before Jesus went to the cross, He shared with His disciples what was going to happen to Him - He loved them and He wanted them to know that it wasn’t the end but the beginning of a great new era in their lives. He was going back to the Fathers house and one day they would be able to join Him.
John 14; when Thomas said to Jesus, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
Then Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father'?
Years later Paul writing to the Hebrews , endorses this ' The Son is the radiance of God's Glory, the exact representation of His being'. And so Jesus rightly said to Philip, 'He who hath seen me, hath seen the Father'. The Father is seen in the Son.
The family likeness - When I look at pictures of my own sons, Kevin and Steven, it’s uncanny - I can see the family likeness.
John; Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Paul in 2 Corinthians we with unveiled faces are being transformed into his likeness as we said last week - under new management’. ‘Born Again‘
Over the last few months we have looking at what God says in His word about being transformed, changed, reborn into the family of God. Transformed by the renewing of our minds, changed in our attitudes and responses to others, re-birthed by the power of the Holy Spirit to become like Jesus.
As parents and grandparents I guess that we all see something of ourselves in our children and grandchildren. My prayer is that when our Heavenly Father looks at you and me - He sees loving, obedient children in whom He sees reflections of Himself
When we look at babies we often say to their parents - ‘He’s go his fathers eyes, or his mothers nose. It is so often true that as the child grows up they begin to take on some of the characteristics of their parents. The more time they spend with them, the more like them they become. In just the same way, spiritually the more time we spend in the presence of our Heavenly Father, the more it will show.
As born again children of God, the more time we spend in His presence, the more like Him we become. That’s why John says that when He appears, we shall be like Him - which presumes that we have taken time to be with Him. The song we sang earlier by Graham Kendricks - ‘Shine Jesus shine’ says it all ‘As we gaze on Your kingly brightness, so our faces display Your likeness, ever changing from Glory to Glory, mirrored here may our lives tell Your story - Shine on me’.
The world came to really know the God in a way they had never known Him before when they saw the Father reflected in the Son - Jesus. That’s how when Thomas asked Jesus to ‘show us the Father’ Jesus could rightly say ‘Anyone who has seen Me, has seen the Father’ I am in the Father and the Father is in Me’
We grow to be like Him when we discipline ourselves to spend quality time in His presence, reading His word, talking to Him in prayer - the more we do that - and together - the more we will be transformed by His loving, gentle presence.
I’m glad God wanted me to know Him as my Heavenly Father - I don’t know of any other religion where the relationship between God and man is that intimate or personal. That’s the extent of God’s love for you and me - that He wants to be our Father and wants us to be His children. I’m glad that God is my Father and that I am His child. Everyday should be our fathers day as we glorify Him in the way in which we respond to His love and live our lives - reflecting that love.
John goes on to tell us that you can tell who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil. 4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. 'He who does what is righteous is Gods child, and he who does what is sinful, is the devils child'.
What we see in the world is the evilness of the devil, the god of this world. The father of lies.
The father who deceives his children into seeking short lived pleasures in exchange for the lasting joy of knowing Jesus.
The father who persuades his children that this is all there is, 'make the most of it
The father who keeps his children in a state of oppression, and slavery to sin,
The father who tempts his children to experience what he sees as the 'best' that this life can offer, in exchange for the 'worst' that eternity with him will bring.
All around us we see reflections of the father of lies, sons and daughters of the evil one, satan, made flesh in his children. No wonder the papers and the media are full of 'bad news', the result of the influence that the evil one has, on this generation.
For the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom, the world needs to see the qualities of God our Father, in us, His children. Me and You Do we, His children, reflect the Glory of our Father God?
Last week we read how the court looked upon the Peter and John who they accused of inciting the crowds, they knew that they were only doing what Jesus had told them. They had spent so much time with Jesus, that it showed on their faces. It is not enough to tell people about the Father, we need to 'Show them, the Father'. How by letting them see the son in us.
The best way of showing our love for God is by loving Jesus, being obedient to Him - that way, God our Father will come and live within us. Not a lot to ask for that kind of devotion, that kind of care, that kind of protection, that kind of love, is it ?
Paul writing to the church in Rome said this " All who are led by the Spirit of God, are Sons of God. We should behave like God's very own children, adopted into the bosom, the very heart of His family and calling Him 'Abba' which means Father. His Spirit speaks deep into our hearts and tells us that we are God's children, and because of that, we will share His treasures. Romans 8; 14
Paul in a similar vein, wrote to the Ephesians with the good news that it was 'God's plan, that we should all be adopted as His children through Christ for God's pleasure.
We are His very own children, and as such, all the benefits of the Kingdom of God are ours. We are the children of the King! Doesn't that make you feel good, it should.
When we consider the depth of the Fathers love, and the length that He went to bring His rebellious children back into the fold and family, then our only proper response is to love Him in return, and be obedient to Him.
Jesus gave us a lovely picture of the extent of our Fathers love for us when He told the classic story of the prodigal son The story mirrors the Father love of God,
A father who continued to love his creation even though mankind chose to separate
himself from his Fathers love by his disobedience.
A Father who loved his child so much that he was willing to forgive him, and accept him back into His Family.
A Father who loved his creation so much that He was willing to come to earth to seek his wayward child, and welcome him home.
A Father who didn't impose His will on his child, but instead offered him a free will to either accept or reject His forgiveness and new life.
This is our Father God, we are His children, He loves us dearly and longs for man to forsake his waywardness, his rejection of Him, and come back into the fold and family.
In our bible reading, John said "we are children of God Children who desire to take on the characteristics of the Father - Children who have experienced spiritual re-birth - born again, adopted into His family, and who desire to spend more time in His presence, if that’s the case then the promise is that the more like Him we will become. John says that when He appears, we shall be like Him, which presupposes that we have taken time to be with Him. 2 Corinthians we with unveiled faces are being transformed into his likeness. how?
We grow to be like Him when we spend time in His presence, reading His word, when we spend time in prayer and praise. The more we do that, then the more our old selfish self is replaced by His loving, gentle nature. If we want the world to see our Fathers likeness in us His children then we have to be prepared to spend more time in His presence, learning about Him and taking on His likeness.
That’s what Gods word means when Scripture tells us that those who desire to be called the Children of God have to be born again - a Spiritual rebirth - to take on the fathers attributers . ‘You must be born again’ Jesus said
Everyday should be our Fathers day, as we glorify Him in the way in which we live our lives, reflecting His love.
Finally look at Verse 3 of our Bible Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Whenever I write Gods name or person I use a capital letter to make clear that I mean God. Unfortunatly the NIV doesn’t distinguish and it is so easy to read this verse as ’everyone who has this hope in him ’ himself rather than what it really means which is ‘hope in Him‘.
We have this privilage of being a child of God with God as our Father and so need to discipline ourselves to spend in His presence and be Obedient to His word ad by so doing be transformed to become like our Father. The world needs to see the Father reflected in our lives.
Sunday 10 June 2018
Last week we read Acts 3 that tells us of the awesome account of what happened when Peter and John were going to the Temple for the daily prayer meeting - how they met the lame man and through their faith, God healed him.
The next verses tell how the onlookers were astonished and Peter asked them ‘Why?
Why stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we have made this man walk?
He then reminds, just like he did when he spoke to them following the baptism in the Holy Spirit them that it is by faith in the name of Jesus - the Messiah - whom they crucified, but who God rose from the dead, that this man now walks.
Peter uses the occasion to warn then to ‘repent and turn to God that their sins will be forgiven and refreshing come to once again enliven and empower Gods people. He warns them with great power that if they don’t listen, respond and change their ways then God will cut them off. That’s why God sent Jesus to bring in the new covenant and restore His people back to the heart of the Father - God.
Wow! This would come as a great rebuff to the leaders of the ‘Church’ in their day and in the following chapter, Acts 4: 1 -12, we’re going to read the reaction of the Priests - and the leaders of Gods people
Acts 4: 1 -12, . The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. WOW first 12, then 3000 and now another 2000 - that’s growth - Amazing!
5 The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family.
Annas and Caiaphas were the ones who sent Jesus to Pilate - in fact Caiaphas had prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. (John 11; 49)
7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is "`the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
What boldness - to stand - accused of proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus and proclaiming Him as Messiah and now to turn the tables and defiantly accuse the powers that be of crucifying the long awaited Messiah - that takes guts - but then we are talking about Peter and John, who’s lives had been transformed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. They had seen the risen Lord whom as they state, ‘You crucified but whom God raised from the dead’ WOW
The church had now been born. These were a people who lives had been transformed. A liberated, bold, excited people, full of expectation and wonder as to what God was going to do next.
This was a church with a mission, a church with a vision from the Almighty.
A church where things happened so fast, that everyone was filled with Awe as they saw the power of God in action right before their very eyes. .
From day one - the day of Pentecost - when we are told Peter stood up with the first eleven. Thats eleven men plus a substitute (Mathias) A group of men who showed real commitment to work together as a team to win the world for Jesus -
I’m not an expert of football but I guess that the most important qualities of a successful team will be to have committed players who will work together under the leadership of a good manager.
When Jesus called His team together - He chose twelve good men - a mixed group, mostly fishermen - possibly very independant people used to looking after themselves, but Jesus - saw their potential and knew that under the right management and with the best training available - they could be transformed into the best team that one day would begin to win the world back to the Fathers heart.
That’s what it took - twelve good men who under His discipline could be transformed into a winning team. One man (Judas) had to leave the team but as soon as the substitute, Mathias had been called in to play, they were off. The whole match took on a new life and the supporters went wild as they rallied to join forces with the team.
On the day of Pentecost, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and under the watchful eyes of representatives of virtually the whole nation - started to win the hearts and minds of the spectators who wanted to come on board themselves and support the team they knew were going to win.
That’s the secret and success of a winning team. Togetherness
Men who are willing to give their own personal best.
Men who are not in it for self glory but are prepared to pass the ball when it’s right to make it possible for another of their team to score the goal.
Men and women who are not in it for their own glory but for the benefit of the team. With that kind of sacrificial commitment - there is every chance that they will win through to the next level.
The early disciples of Jesus - became Gods number one team who had more than just a World Cup in view - they were on fire for God and there was no going back.
As I read of the exploits of those early Christians it excites me . What happened then , was dynamic and so spectacular, that there is a danger that we relegate what happened, to the history books, and to forget that what we are reading, is dynamite!
Every time Pentecost comes around, what I read does two things. On the one hand, it lifts and excites me to know that our great and awesome God is the same today as yesterday and that His promise still stands if only we would believe’ But on the other hand it depresses me to see a church today that resembles the cripple more than it does the power available for those who’s faith is firmly anchored in Jesus.
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit brought the power that first transforms individual lives - secondly energises and transforms churches to make the word live- and thirdly to transform the Kingdom of this world into Gods Kingdom. God the holy Spirit entered our world like a pebble dropped in the sea creating ever widening circles of Hope where once there was only despair. As I’ve said, so many times before, the holy Spirit came and made the Ready and Willing - Able
The disciples were fired up - filled from within with the same Spirit that rested on |Jesus before He began His earthly ministry. The Holy Spirit of God who’s presence generated boldness and vigour - a boldness to move forward filled with a power that I’m sure amazed the Apostles as much as the watching world.
The power of God that empowered and equipped the ordinary, working man, the fisherman, the office worker, the tax collector, to show His power to a watching world.
Take a look around! whats happened to His Church? Whats happened to His people?
‘Why is it that with such power available, our churches are full of spiritual cripples? people unable to walk in the spirit, and who are content to sit and watch their world go by, accepting second best, when there is power available to stand them firm on their feet, and to move boldly forward ?
Why is it that there are so many struggling churches, who seem unable to stand on their own two feet, and who are powerless to minister to a dying world ? like the lame man Could it be that the reason the church today fails to minister to the lame world is because as I said last week, the church has become the lame man.?
Instead of working together as a victorious together team - it’s as if we’ve been injured by the opposition and carried off in a stretcher relegated to the sides of the pitch.
I say it every year - The Church needs to get it’s Act 2gether The Spirit was given to empower Jesus’s followers to live their lives in His power .
The God we serve - is a God of power who wants to equip and enable His body to move in the power of the Spirit to win the lost. That’s the mission of the Church and that’s why God gives His Spirit today - to raise the crippled church to its feet and let the watching world see the victories there are to be won in Jesus.
God wants to be glorified in His Church in you and me. God gave the Holy Spirit to set us on fire for Him. Our calling is first to know Him and then go and make Him known to others.
Its about time that Gods people began to rise up and recognise the power and authority there is in the Name of Jesus. Power, not only to preach a life -changing Gospel - but to live a life changing Gospel. When we get our Acts2-gether then others will be able to see the passion and the power of God in the church, what they see and hear will be enough and then God, just as He did at Pentecost, will steer people to our churches. ‘Daily God added to the Church, those who were being saved.
Acts 4; 13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. ‘unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus’ Wow It showed.
What they heard was a powerful preaching from men who hadn’t been to college. Their college was the University of life. No theory - all practical. Men who’s passion stemmed from their experience of simply being with Jesus - the truth shone from their faces and resounded in their conviction. These were men who had been who’s now motivated by Jesus andset on fire by the inner presence of the Holy Spirit.
I wonder if if when we go home from the meeting today - our families and friends will see anything different about us - I wonder if it shows that we have been with Jesus?
"What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name." Theyr’e scared and so they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
There’s a mighty storm brewing and the apostles would feel to be in the middle of a storm - but Jesus is there in the boat with them - they knew what that felt like - they were not afraid now. Pastor David Hathaway knew all about this when he said ‘I would rather be in a storm with Jesus than live at peace without Him’.
And so they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." and after further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
Their faith was so strong that they didn’t need props or crutches to help them stand firm. They knew the truth of what Paul would confirm years later when he wrote to the church at Corinth ‘Faith is the substance, the essence, the stuff of things hoped for - the unseen, of things hoped for. Sadly many in the church today need crutches, safety nets, positive assurance before they will step out and do anything for Christ.
The secret is in having a firm and resolute faith . The faith that relies not on the known, the tried and the proven -but on Jesus - who is and has to be for you and me, all these things - Known - Tried and Proven - but it takes faith on our part - Faith in in Him - to exercise that. You can’t learn faith - you have to boldly step into it!
Peter knew that when he stepped out of the boat - that’s when he began to walk on water. He and John experienced that when they reached out their empty hands to the cripple and the power of God flowed through them and brought healing.
The faith that the priests realised that when under Joshuas command they stepped into the fast and furiously flowing torrent that was the river Jordan - and the waters abated. The faith of Moses when he raised his staff before the fast flowing Red Sea. The faith of Elijah when he poured bucket loads of water over the altar when he challenged the prophets of Baal. The faith of Mary the mother of Jesus when at the wedding of Cana she told the disciples to ‘just do as He says’ as foolish as it may sound. This was to be His first public miracle and she had faith in Him.
Peter had simply said to the crippled man ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk’ there was real faith, real authority - and in the mighty name of Jesus the cripple got up and walked.
When we get our Acts2-gether then others will be able to see the passion and the power of God in the church, what they see and hear will be enough and then God, just as He did at Pentecost, will steer people to our churches. ‘Daily God added to the Church, those who were being saved.
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.. . . . . . .Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
The world out there more than ever today, need to see a church where they can see the power of God evidenced in their midst, a people who have the aroma of Christ.They need to see a victorious people, who even though we suffer the same hardships as they do, have found the answer to this life and the gateway to the next, in Jesus Christ.
Ordinary people like them, who have found the secret of real life now and eternal life to come. People who have found the source of real life, the Divine Power for living that can only be found in Jesus Christ.
It may have been Peter and John who reached out their hands to the cripple, but it was the power of the Living Christ that flowed into him, and that power is still available today!
I love the way that Peter and John, on their release, went straight back to the fellowship, and had a thanksgiving prayer meeting. They realised that the same mighty power of God that had healed the lame man, had also protected them.
They prayed for more boldness and as they prayed following their release from prison, we are told 'the building Shook’. This new church was shaken - not just stirred but shaken to the Core’ And that 'Mighty Power' is still available today.
The source of this dynamic power, is Jesus, who gives power for victorious living.
This power is still available, to equip and empower the church to let the world see God in action through the lives of ordinary people like you and me.
The early church began to realise the extent of that power as daily they saw God at work before their very eyes. As they felt the power of God flow through them, they grew ever bolder, and were able to face whatever the world threw at them.
They prayed for boldness to press forward, they asked God to stretch out His hand to heal and show forth His power through them. And in a show of force, God shook the building where they were, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
Awesome ordinary men - not as educated as you or me -unschooled - and yet people through whom the power of God was seen - the church today needs o get its ACTS 2 GETHER what about you? what about us all as a fellowship?
Sunday 3 June 2018
Last week we looked at Acts 2; 42-47 The Fellowship of the Believers How, following the awesome outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, Peter boldly addressed the mighty crowd that had gathered in Jerusalem for the Pentecost celebrations and challenged them with the accusation that the one they had crucified was the Messiah they had all been waiting for. He told them to repent, which they did and 3000 received the Holy Spirit = Wow!
We then looked at the enormous life changing impact that had on these new followers of Jesus - how the couldn’t get enough of meeting together to seek the truth from the Apostles teaching which resulted in them becoming a together people, together in thought, word an in deed as they shared with those in need and supported one another in love.
Amazing that God would go to such lengths to redeem His people and make forgiveness available to them through the death of His Son Jesus on the cross. God provided the sacrificial lamb - but it was the people who put Him to death. Personally when I think of the sacrifice Jesus made by dying on the cross I am deeply humbled to know that He loved me so much as to see me worthy of His death.
To think that Jesus aged just 33 years old was prepared to die on a cross to save sinners then and today for people like you and me is an awesome thought- but true. When I was 33, I was happily married, had three children and was just starting out in my career as sales manager for Watmoughs - for me at 33, life had only just begun and I was enjoying it.
Can you imagine how Jesus felt. He’d only been on the road as an evangelist for three years and in many quarters was gaining popularity with His miracles. Crowd flocked to hear Him preach - He was so good at it - people didn’t fall asleep when He spoke and He went on for hours - even through their meal times and even though they were hungry - they stayed listening with intent which meant He had to feed them which He did with two fish and five loaves. He had just begun, He was 33 for goodness sake, no wonder He asked His Father if it were possible for the cup of suffering to be taken away from Him, no wonder He cried ’Father if there is any other way’ but no, He had to give His life because we- the world, couldn’t control ourselves, fell foul to the tempter, were disobedient, chose to go the way of the rebellious sinner and because of that - He had to die.
Many are the times I have asked myself ’Am I worth it’ How about you- is the life you’re living now worthy of Christ’s death- THANKFULLY God must think it is.
I just wonder what God thinks about His church today. I wonder how He feels when He looks at the ones He gave His Son for. How do people respond? With half hearted service? Maybe ears that are more attuned to the voices of the world. Hearts that whilst warming to other interests are growing cold to HIM?
A long way from the church that was birthed at Pentecost- when through the ministry of Peter, God brought this to their attention and mankind to his senses, resulting in repentance and regeneration - ‘new birth into a living hope’.
The church, the living body of Christ had been born and when other people around saw the miraculous change in their neighbours and friends that they too were attracted to what they saw and true evangelism began.
Today we follow on from last week and see the development of the early church through the continued ministry of the Holy Spirit through the disciples.
Acts 3 3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
As we read a couple of weeks ago. When the day of Pentecost came, ALL the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit- they ALL received the dynamic gift from on high to equip and enable Gods people, His Church, to minister in power. These were now members of an alive, vibrant church- they were now ready, fired up, to go build His Kingdom here on earth.
Peter may have been the spokesman, but we are told that on the first birthday of the church, that Peter stood up ‘with the eleven’. they stood together as Peter condemned the acts of those who had opposed the ministry of Jesus and put Him to death.
Years ago, when Bradford City started to win the sort of matches that set them on their way to Wembley, it wasn’t just the ones who scored the goals that won the match, the other eleven played their part and were just as important to the result of that match - it was a team effort.
The first sermon preached at the birth of the church brought 3000 to Christ WOW and it didn’t stop there, that was just the beginning and they then went onto seethe power of God manifest in their fellowship and ministry.
As we read, when Peter and John went to the Temple to the 3 o’clock prayer meeting, they were confronted by the lame man who had been carried to the entrance of the Temple to beg from those going in.
This was no mere chance encounter, I believe that this was the next step in Gods plan to give credence to the teachings of the disciples and show Peter and John just how great was the power they had received to enable them to do the things that Jesus did whilst He was with them. The Christ who had been alongside them was now the Christ within. The Christ on the outside had become the Christ on the inside- as promised.
This cripple was ‘just outside the Temple, on the doorstep and those who were going into pray would have seen him many times- some would have given him money to help him meet his daily requirements - to see him through’ until tomorrow when he would be back again.
To me, the larger picture speaks of a needy, crippled world out there who both prayer and help to turn their lives around and bring meaning and purpose to their lies. People that we, as members of the church need to minister to - the reason why He has made the power available to us- family members, neighbours, work colleagues.
The people we pass every Sunday when we come to church - people who, even if they don’t realise it ‘need the Lord’ need to see a living vibrant church in me and you- a people on fire for the Lord.
When Peter and John met the lame man I believe that they too would have been amazed at the results when in faith they reached out o the man and offered him more than money but got straight through to the real need- healing.
Peter reached out, took the man by the hands and saw him not only walk but dance into the Temple to the amazement o f all the onlookers. The lame man became a living testimony to what Jesus had done in his life.
As you begin to look at the different parts of this early episode on the life of the early church - these six points begin to emerge;
1 Peter and John were an expectant, praying people
2 The cripple represented the spiritual state of the world outside. Crippled from birth as the Bible tell us that since the fall of Adam ‘all men are sinners and fall short of the Glory of God
3 Mans response was money - a short term help, it cannot get to the real root of the problem.
4 Peters response - You need Jesus of Nazareth.
5 The result - The man regained his strength and began to walk
6 Bonus - The cripple himself became a witness to the awesome power of God.
The three great truths that emerge from all this is that;
1 God showed Peter that he was a changed man‘ The Christ on the outside had become the Christ on the inside working through him and as a result;
2 The cripple felt the power of God come to work within him and
3 The onlookers became witnesses themselves.
Peter was now under new management, the cripple was under new management as also were those in the Temple who witnessed what happened. They had all been taken over by God. Under that new management, the church was now empowered to let the world see the power of God - that the church had found the answer to it’s lack of effectiveness.
A few years ago I heard a very simple illustration that highlighted the importance of realising our position in the church fellowship, which is the Living Body of Christ in the world today. A simple, illiterate man was helped and converted through the work of the Salvation Army. He started going regularly to the Sunday meetings. One day he came home rather downcast.
His mother asked him what the matter was to which he replied ’I’ve just noticed that most of the folk at the Salvation Army wear red sweaters and I don’t. ’She said ‘I’ll knit you one’ which she did.
The next Sunday after he had come home again he still wasn’t happy and his mother asked him What’s wrong this time? ’He told her that he had just noticed that their red sweaters had words printed on them.
‘Don’t worry’, she said ‘I’ll embroider you some words on’ The only trouble was that they were both illiterate and had no way of knowing that the words simply said ’ ‘Blood and Fire’. So she simply copied a few words that she could see in the window of a shop opposite their house and embroidered them onto his red sweater.
When he came home from the Army the following week she asked him ‘Did they like your red sweater?’ to which he replied ‘They loved it- some of them said they liked my sweater better than theirs’ What neither of them knew was that the sign opposite the house from which she had copied the words read ‘Under new management’ That’s what it really means to get saved, converted and filled with the Holy Spirit- when that happens we are ‘Under New Management’ just like the early disciples and the growing church of Acts. Born again!
Peter and John were under new management and God worked through them to grow His church. That’s what I believe God wants to do today in His church today and when we do come under His management great things will be accomplished.
The cripple was also now under new management and the people in the church saw that too and were inspired by that to
The church was now under new management and what happened next - which we will look at next week -inspired the whole body to grow and spread with great power
What does this say to the church today -to me and you - have you experienced the empowerment that the indwelling Holy Spirit brings - the second blessing, or is that something you need to address to make your ministry more effective?
One great lesson I have been reminded of this week is that if just one part of the body is not working as it should, the rest of the body struggles. ( I broke my arm at the elbow also my big toe and never realised how difficult life would be without the use of my hand) We need to work together and allow the Holy Spirit to show His power through each one of us.
SONG Show Your power O Lord
Sunday 27 May 2018
Last week we read how because of the obedience and faithfulness of just twelve men, the message spread out from Jerusalem, to Samaria, all Judea and into the uttermost parts of the earth.
The speech that Peter gave on the day of Pentecost was very bold, honest and extremely challenging He didn’t mince his words in his condemnation of the people who stood before him as he reminded them that it was they who put Jesus to death on the cross - then came the altar call , ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save y
ourselves from this corrupt generation.’
The result was that; Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Reminds me of the Salvation Meetings we used to have at the close of every Sunday when we would see folk come and kneel at the Penitent form. Maybe not 3000 but certainly one or two most weeks. When I first came in 1947 the place was full - over a hundred soldiers on the roll.
Acts tells us that Peter certainly stood for Christ when he preached his first sermon. He had first hand experience of what he is now voicing - Repent - was the first step and that’s what Peter had done when Jesus forgave Him for denying Him. Three times Jesus forgave him - every fault and sin needed to be confessed and forgiveness received - and that way, even today, God will fill His people with His Spirit.
As Peter spoke, the power of the Holy Spirit came upon all those who heard, and we are told that Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
This morning we are going to continue with what happened next.
Acts 2; 42-47 The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favuor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Just look at those main points
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And; 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. Lame man outside the temple healed in the name of Jesus 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. Don’t forget, that’s over 3000 people! And then, as if 3000 were not enough, 47 The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
WOW! That’s awesome! And the awesome truth that Pentecost says to us today is that that’s how God wants His church to be today and the power is still available - all people have to do is Repent - and as God says; ‘you shall receive the Holy Spirit‘.
The disciples receipt of power was preceded by persistent prayer. How much of a priority is prayer in your journey of faith.
We read a couple of weeks ago how the disciples had been told by Jesus to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the promise the Father had given them - and that’s exactly what they did they went back to their room and spent the time in prayer Different prayers, some repenting their doubts and asking for forgiveness -all of them seeking to know Jesus and the secret of His power and strength.
That’s exactly what I did 40 years ago after my first miraculous healing - I knelt here and cried to God - ‘I want to know You Lord like David and Dorothy do‘. They had prayed for my healing and God answered their prayer.
How much time do you spend in prayer? Is it just a Quick prayer when you have problems - or have you disciplined yourself to make time every day to come before the Lord in prayer to seek His presence and help for whatever the day has in store for you.
To experience that first Pentecost must have been awesome but as we are promised by God through the prophet Joel - the promise is for all time - that’s why William Booth could write the song ‘we want another Pentecost - send the fire today’.
The Holy Spirit is the same presence that filled and empowered Jesus - and who empowers and equips people like you and me to do the right, to conquer in the fight against sin and evil, to live in harmony with one another and to win others for Christ
How desperate do you want the ressurection power of God to be seen and experienced in your own life and in the life of our fellowship? Sadly many are content to stand by and see the empowering in others - probably through fear, insecurity of their own faith or fear of what it might cost them. We’ve got to be willing to venture with God from the Holy Huddle of Church out into a hostile world where discomfort, uncertainty and ridicule wait?
The song ‘I’ll stand for Christ for Christ alone - amid the tempest and the storm. Where Jesus leads I’ll follow on - I’ll stand, I’ll stand for Christ - Alone is easier to sing than it is to actually put into practice - the great thing is that we are not expected to do it alone - it’s a together activity as we read in Acts.
They were a together people - no divisions - together with one another and with God through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. It was the togetherness of the early church that brought strength and growth.
It was when the people around those early followers of Jesus saw their togetherness and what could be achieved by that togetherness that they were attracted to join then and in addition we read that ‘daily, God added to their number those who were being saved.
In our Bible reading we read how the disciples and the new followers responded to the baptism of the Holy Spirit - they couldn’t get enough of being together during - ever possible chance they had - every day in fact they met for prayer and fellowship.
Our bible reading tells us how eager they were to meet together.
It was the same when the Salvation Army came to Bradford in 1875. Elijah Cadman reported it this way; Holiness for the early day Salvationist was imparted by the indwelling Spirit. How else could they hold indoor and open-air meetings every night of the week - and three times on Sundays - summer and winter, rain or shine, unless they had the power of the Holy Spirit? What else could have kept every Salvation Army Soldier at his or her post seven days a week and taking part, if possible, in every meeting?
When I read Acts 2 and how the fellowship were passionate intheir desire to meet together under Gods word and in prayer I just say to myself Now thats church - thats the living body of Christ -
I can just see Jesus smiling that day as He looked down upon that glorious show of unity and power - I can just imagine Jesus smiling and thinking ‘that makes all the suffering and the sacrifice worthwhile, that was worth dying for’
All the believers were together and had everything in common NIV
And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, The Message
A we said last week - they were a together people - Wow! The answer to the prayer of Jesus John 17:11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name the name you gave me - so that they may be one as we are one.
That’s one with each other and one with the Father The great thing is that Jesus also prayed that prayer for you and me - for His church today
John 17; 20: "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
I love the song ‘We are one in the Spirit, we are one with the Lord, we are one with each other we are one with the Lord and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, they will know we are Christians by our love’. That’s church Gods people living in complete harmony - together in thought word and deed. Sadly I don’t think that that’s the picture the world has of the church.
But that’s what God expects - that’s what Jesus died for and that’s why He promised the Holy Spirit.
That’s a United Living body of Christ in the world today - Now that’s Church
There is a marked difference between the meaning of the words Untied and United
Untied means it won’t hold together - whilst United is a bond that holds it all together.
It all depends on where you put the ‘I’ Where you are in relation to everyone else
I, me, You - each one of us can make a big difference to this fellowship - we can cause disruption, dissention, diss-unity - or we can work together for unity It’s all down to me, you - I
The early church grew through their togetherness. Together in thought word and deed - they were united.
They were one with Jesus and wanted to stay close to Him through prayer and reading the word. They were one with each other.
Their coming together was a time to share, rejoice and consolidate. They were in party spirit - they had something to celebrate - Jesus who had been with them and been their inspiration, now lived in them and through them - His power was evidenced in their lives as the Holy Spirit of God worked through them. - Their Exuberance and Enthusiasm for everything they did and celebrated would act as a magnet in attracting others to claim what they had.
We are told that people around them liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were being saved.
The early church were Energised, Empowered - on fire - raring to go - a together people who enjoyed each others company - they couldn’t meet together enough. Look at verse 46 - ‘Every day thy continued to met together in the temple courts. They even broke bread in their homes and ate together. - WOW when I look back to my younger years - that’s what it was like then. I remember that almost every night we met together at church for something or other -
Monday was the Home league,
Tuesday the different musical groups met for practice,
Wednesday afternoon was the Over 60’s with a Family Night in the evening.
Thursday was the Corps cadets, a young peoples bible study
Friday the Torchbearer youth group.
Saturdays we had concerts or were out with the band somewhere.
Sunday 10 am out at the open air while the YP had their Sunday School. 11am we met for the Holiness meeting.
2pm in the afternoon, the Sunday school met again followed by a
3pm Praise meeting
6pm in the evening we were on the Idle Green for another open-air followed by a march back up to the hall for the evening
6.45 Salvation Meeting followed at around
8.30 with a Wind-up that finished at 9.30.
All that and the normal working week was 48 hours - that’s 8 and a half hours a day.
Like the early Christians, we met together almost every day and loved it.
Today the working week is 36 hours Today we have more time for leisure activities but , it seems for some, less time for Church.It’s so sad and then we wonder why we hear of more and more churches closing their doors every week through lack of attendance. The old congregation are dying off and there are no young families to replace them.
( I then showed 6 pictures of churches in Idle that were no longer there - some used as other social things a Unitarian Chapel- pulled down, The Upper Chapel became a dancing school - now up for sale, Thackley Ebenezer Methodist now a block of flats, Thorpe Wesleyan Chapel pulled down and the smaller replacement is now a local meeting hall)
The world today is a different one to the one of my childhood. Today there is more going on out there - more people in the Supermarkets, on the football pitch, at the cinema or at home watching TV. In fact today people spend more time watching other people live their lives in TV Soaps than they do getting on living their own lives
Church in this country today is a far cry from the church that we have just been reading about in Acts and if we are not careful tomorrows world will be a far cry from the world that God intended.
There is a real desperate need for churches today to ‘get real’ as far as God’s Church is concerned and to get their priorities right. Last week sang ‘We want another Pentecost’ I seriously wonder if people do -
Another Pentecost will only come when Gods people are together in their desire to give God the better parts of their lives and not just the left over time - Sadly Today we are lucky if we can get folk to one mid-week meeting let alone every night and three times on Sunday and it’s the same in other churches too, who looking at their notice boards of weekly activities seem to look more like social clubs.
As for Bible Fellowships, prayer meetings? It would seem that many folk who go to church on Sunday - and would see themselves as practicing Christians fill their time with other activities Such a contrast to the early church who were now so on fire for God that they loved to meet together as often as they could to share their blessings, seek further direction from God and be re-energised for more service.
Where has the powerful energetic life giving church that we read about in Acts gone? What’s happened to our churches. What’s Changed?, the message is the same, the power of the Holy Spirit is still available - what’s changed - To our shame - the church has. Exactly as is prophesied in the new Testament there are those in church who have a form of godliness but deny the power
When I look at today’s church, I see a people who are content to be with one another - busy doing what they feel they are good at in serving one another - happy to play their part in what they think will keep their church going.
Sadly though that’s not what Church is all about - it’s main purpose is that the members become a people who mirror the life of Jesus and desire to share the ideals of God with those who as yet don’t know Him. The purpose of Church to share the good news and bring the lost to faith in God.
I believe that as a fellowship of Gods people in the Salvation Army we need to look seriously at our commitment. If we are committed, what are we committed to.
These seats have been empty for too long - we need to do something about it. I believe that as we have read in Acts, the pattern that God set is there - it starts with Gods people being obedient to God and make prayer and bible study their starting point both individually and together as a Church.
It starts with prayer and progresses through to seeking to know what God will for us as individuals and as a fellowship by reading His word together.
I’ve said it before - but I believe that God hasn’t just provided us with a beautiful church and Community hall without reason - I believe that there is so much more in store for you and this fellowship. We want another Pentecost - Lord send the fire
I then closed by reading a recent poem written by Commisioner Harry Read
FINE-TUNE MY HEART, LORD
Give clarity of thought, Lord,
My focus, finely tune;
Your love my heart has sought, Lord,
I would with you commune.
Deal with my heart’s distractions –
The cherished faults I hold –
My trivial satisfactions –
Your way for me, unfold.
My heart would know the glory
Of union divine,
Would know why Christ died for me,
That I might call him mine.
Let Pentecostal fire, Lord,
Consume my every flaw,
And fire my heart’s desire, Lord,
To know you more and more.
Your love will never falter,
Your power will never fail,
Your vision will not alter,
You plan I should prevail.
The word you gave on Sinai
That we should holy be,
Through Pentecostal sky
Pentecost Sunday 20 May 2018
WOW - what an amazing episode in the life of the disciples and in what is really the beginning of the world wide church of God - the spreading of the Gospel - the good news that tells us that Whosoever believes on the Lord will be saved.
This is the day the disciples had been praying for since they were told to go back to Jerusalem and wait until the promise that the father gave comes about. As we said last week - they spent their waiting time praying - together in the presence of Almighty God Acts 1;8 You will recieve power to become My witnesses
The very first verse of Lukes account of Pentecost that we have just read tells us the first requirement for the church to begin to experience all that God has in store for them is that they were a together people. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
I believe that they were more than together in one locality - I believe that they were together in desire, thought, mindset - they were together with one another and with the Lord just like Jesus prayed they would be when He prayed for them in the garden of Gethsemane before He went to the cross. His prayer was that they may be one Father as We are John 17;11 One with God and one another
Sadly that’s not always true in the fellowship of believers in these days - and is probably one of the reasons the outsider is not attracted to the church. Many churches up and down the country comprise people who are not as ’together’ as they should be which creates trouble and fractions in the fellowship. God requires first and foremost that His people are together with Him and one another - One in Spirit
That togetherness would be seen by all those foreigners who met on the day of Pentecost and would encourage them to seek togetherness with the disciples and with God which was the second part of the prayer of Jesus as He knelt and prayed in Gethsemane. Firstly that the disciples would be one with God and one another and then He moved His attention to the world - those who the disciples would be ministering to 20 “I do not pray for these alone ( disciples), but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. WOW Together the first requirement for the church.
I loved the way years ago when we as one of the many churches of God in Idle used to show our togetherness by meeting on the green at Whitsuntide and holding an open--air witness. Sadly the ‘Holy days’ are being taken over by mankinds first love ‘Money’ and Holydays like Whit Monday have been taken over by ‘Bank holidays.
In my young days, on Whit Monday the Sunday schools hired horse drawn carriages from the local coal merchants who plaited the tails and main of the horses with coloured ribbons. The teachers would place old forms on the carts and then warned us to sit still, not stand up or else we might fall off’. The safety regulations of today would not allow that.
The younger children would sit on the forms and the older ones march behind us. We then took our place on the green where a wagon had been placed in front of the newsagents shop on which the ministers stood and spoke through microphones that carried the sound up the hill as around three thousand ( the number published in the local Telegraph and Argus of which I showed a copy of) gathered to enjoy the meeting.
This was our chance to show our unity even if for the rest of the year we got ion with our own programmes. It was a kind of re-enactment of Acts, praying for the fire opf the Holt Spirit to fall on us all. I didn’t fully understand it - to me it was a trip out on a wagon followed by a currant long bun back at the church.
The reason that lots of people met together in our Bible story is that it was the Jewish festival of Pentecost where they celebrated the first fruits of the wheat harvest and the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Both these festivals, still celebrated by the Jews, were celebrations of the Old Covenant. What a great time for God to introduce the New Covenant.
Just as Easter is the Christian Passover, the time when Jesus made an atonement for sin by becoming the once and for all time sacrificial lamb for those who would accept Him as their Lord and Saviour, so too Whitsuntide is our Pentecost where instead of the Law being given from on high in clouds of billowing smoke as on Mount Sinai, the Holy Spirit is given in tongues of fire to empower the church to become living witnesses of the risen Lord and let the first fruits of the harvest be seen in their lives as evidence when 3000 new converts were made in just one day. Just as The Word became flesh in Christ - the Word would become flesh in the believers.
The fact that they were obedient to God resulted in what happened next Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Suddenly from Heaven - the Spirit came - just as the Spirit came upon Jesus when He was baptised by John - then it was in the form of a dove - today, at Pentecost, it’s a mighty wind - that would empower and equip the ordinary men and women to become Spirit filled witnesses to the new covenant that is now available for whosever would believe and accept the message of the Lord. Pentecost is an important event that marks the shifting of God's redemptive purpose from the exclusive "descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" to all peoples. We are now a part of the Chosen people.
The universal church has now been born. These were a people who’s lives would be transformed, liberated, bold people full of expectation and wonder as to what God would do next. Gone were the fearful band of defeated followers and in their place God brought forth a strong, powerful, purposeful body of believers, His Church, an alive powerful fellowship devoted to the Word of God, devoted to one another and with a compassionate heart for those outside their ranks who as yet needed to hear the truth about Jesus.
They were now determined that the world would be able to see the presence of Jesus alive in their midst as He worked through them by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The disciples were filled with the Spirit enabled and empowered to take the good news to the world at large - look what happened next;
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, ( the sounds of the rushing mighty wind and the loud excited voices of the disciples speaking in so many different languages) a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism) Cretans and Arabs--How is it that we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
The people knew that the disciples were in the main all from around Galilee and yet they were now speaking in so many different languages that everyone there would hear the message in their own tongue. WOW! Amazingly the crowds thought the disciples were drunk but Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
He then went on to remind them what Joel had written centuries before that God would pour out His Holy Spirit on all people WOW! Everyone regardless of race, colour, sex or position in life - everyone - all flesh and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
He then went on to remind them about Jesus - how the miracles He had done could only have been the hand of God and yet they had put Him to death - 24 but God raised Him from the dead
Peter went on to remind them about King David who mighty as he was died and is buried, but that he was a prophet who shared the good news that God would send JesusTo reign and even though He would be killed God would raise Him from the dead. Peter added ‘And we today are witnesses of that fact God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Imagine - Peter the fisherman who when Jesus was arrested had denied even knowing Him and here he is just weeks later standing up before a vast crowd not only proclaiming Jesus Lord and Saviour but pointing an accusing finger at the crowds telling them they had crucified Jesus. That takes more than a brave man - that was what God had made Peter when He filled him with the Holy Spirit.
What was the response of the crowd? V17 When they heard this they were cut to the heart and asked ‘What shall we do? Peter replied ‘Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins - and you know what - and you shall receive Gods promise - the Holy Spirit. With many other words he warned them and pleaded with them about the corrupt generation they lived in and the result was that 3000 people accepted the message, repented, were baptised and were added to the church.
That’s why the church today - you and I need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit - that’s what Pentecost is all about. that’s why twenty or so years ago we were out on the green at Whitsuntide addressing the whole village with the good news about Jesus.
We need to share with the world that the first step to Christ is repentance - the seeking of forgiveness for the past and a desire that their lifestyle, goals in life and purpose for living be changed to accept Christ and His the ways -to live a life of obedience to God.
Over the last few weeks leading up to Pentecost we have looked at how this is a time for reflection on our own lives and objectives to honestly assess where we are in Gods kingdom plan. Even King David cried out to God ‘ Search me O Lord and show me if there is anything in my life that needs to change. That’s a prayer I pray daily.
The first message of Pentecost is being honest with ourselves and if needs be saying sorry to God and be determined to move forward His way.
Pentecost was the birth of a church with a mission - a church with a new vision from the Almighty. A church where everything would begin to happen so fast that everyone - themselves included , would be able to see the power of God right before their eyes.
What happened then should excite us today as we read the exploits of those early Christians. What happened was so spectacular that it’s so easy to relegate what happened to the history books and forget that what we are reading is dynamic.
This was a foretaste of what God is still able to do today when people like you and me are open to the power of God and seek to receive the promised gift ourselves to serve His Church just where we are today. As Joel prophesied those many years before and was experienced by the disciples and early church followers - that gift is for all today ‘ yours sons and daughters, your children’s children - you and me.
In a book entitled ‘Baptised with power’ about the Bradford plumber Smith Wigglesworth it talks about what happened in his day in The Salvation Army. ‘In 1875, William Booth, the head of the Christian Mission visited Bradford and commenced a series of meetings . Later these groups became known as the Salvation Army and were formed into individual Corps. Smith was immediately attracted to them with their dedication and zeal for witnessing to their Saviour.
He found their no-nonsense aggressive evangelism ‘right up his street’ and began to attend their meetings. They were a people of action and it seemed to him that they had more power in their ministry than anybody else at that time. They would have all nights of prayer, many would be laid out on the floor under the power of the Holy Spirit, sometimes for as long as twenty-four hours. It was common for these early day Salvationists to claim between 50 to 100 souls for Christ in one week. He believed that this was real evidence of spiritual power and not the result of human effort.
WOW! Nine years later in 1884 two young women officers, Annie Fleet and Jennie Street arrive in Idle and took over the Old Green Mill, so fired up by the Spirit that within a few months, hundreds are seeking God here.
When we claim the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives then something wonderful happens, we are filled with the very presence and power of God to make us more effective witnesses, to equip us to serve each other and the world out there.
We have read how firstly the disciples were filled with the Spirit that enabled them to speak powerfuly to the crowds so that 3000 of them responded, repented and were themselves filled with the Holy Spirit. I believe that in the same way God injected new life into the early Christians He wants to do the same today and re-birth His Church.
Sunday 13 May 2018
Thursday this last week was the day that the church commemorated the ascension of Jesus. We shared this last Sunday - the time when Jesus appeared to His disciples on before ascending into Heaven commanded them to ‘Wait in Jerusalem until you have received the gift My Father promised - John baptised you with water but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit’. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth’.
Lets read what followed Acts 1:12-26
The command was to go back to Jerusalem and wait - I said last week that waiting is not something we are good at - we hate waiting - whatever it is for.
When I got married - if you didn’t have enough money to buy furniture you had take out a bank loan or wait until you had enough money.
As a young child, the first time I was introduced to ‘credit’ or ‘tick’ as they called it then was at the local grocery shop - you could take your groceries away and the lady would add it to a bill that she recorded in a book or on a slip of paper which was then pinned top a board behind her. Then at the end of the week when my dad got paid at work we could settle the bill. There were a few occasions when we couldn’t do it that same week but the grocer trusted us and we paid the following week
As far as our clothes were concerned, I remember my mother paying a few shillings to a man called Willie Walton who worked for a firm called Magnet - he collected every week until mum had built up a target - she was then given a voucher for the full amount that she could only spend at this one shop in Bradford called Dixieland. In other words if you needed anything you had to have enough money to pay for it .
It all changed when in October 1972 the first Credit card was introduced - it was called the Access Card (Your flexible friend) and promised instant money for you to purchase things you couldn’t afford and would have had to wait until you could.
The slogan that they put out said this ‘Why wait till tomorrow for things that you can have today?’ ‘Access takes the waiting out of wanting’. Of course the Access card cost you more money that you actually borrowed. The best way was to wait until you’d saved up enough money to buy what you needed. ‘Waiting’ would prove to be the best and most profitable option.
The great thing is that God has given us His own Access card in the form of prayer. Prayer that puts us in touch with Almighty God and is an immediate access to Jesus.
Jesus had told His disciples to ‘Wait’ - wait in Jerusalem for the gift that Your Father promised. The gift was the Holy Spirit as outlined in the book of Joel.
As the disciples waited, Prayer - access to God - took the anxiety of wanting out of waiting as they spent time together in prayer claiming the constant presence of Jesus. Prayer helped them to stay in His presence until His presence came to stay in them.
The disciples ‘access card’ was ‘prayer’ and is also our access to the Lord. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength
As I read this account in Acts I was impressed by the fact that the angels who appeared as Jesus was taken into Heaven asked a similar question that which the two angels asked Mary when she went to visit the tomb of Jesus. ’Why are you looking for the living amongst the dead? Or to the disciples at Christ’s Ascension ‘why are you staring up into the sky’ He’s not here.
The great thing is that as the disciples were instructed to wait - they found their comfort and strength in praying together. The disciples were obedient to the command of Jesus and went back to Jerusalem to the room where they were staying - all eleven of them - not forgetting Mary, Jesus’s mother and His brothers - and what did they do? - They all joined together constantly in prayer and got back in touch with the Lord.
Today, it’s easier to keep in touch with one another wherever we are knowing that most people these days have a mobile phone.
The waiting time for the disciples would also serve as a time of self examination, reasessment, of reflection, of looking at themselves and how far they had come in their walk with Jesus - it was a time to re-strengthening their ranks and re-establish their calling their commitment. This waiting until the Holy Spirit came to empower and equip them to continue the ministry that Jesus had started.
They had been called as Disciples which means learners under the discipline of Jesus - now they were being called to be Apostles - spokespeople, teachers - those who now having spent three years with Jesus learning from Him are now going to be equipped to go on the mission and continue the work that Jesus would empower them to do - they were being sent as missionaries into the areas all round them and unto the uttermost parts of the world. This started by prayer and building their team into a together ministry that would then find fulfilment when they were filled with the Spirit and in their preaching and ministry become able to spread the truth to all who would listen to them - starting at Pentecost.
Jesus had said ‘Wait’ and when the Holy Spirit comes upon you - you will receive power - power that will enable you to be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth’ --- WOW surely that’s worth waiting for?
No sooner had Jesus said this, than He was taken up before their very eyes and disappeared ‘. They were politely told to ‘stop looking into the sky and get back down to earth’.
Their waiting proved to be a valuable time - it was this time of fellowshipping together, praying together, that bonded them into a ‘together people’. As we all know, ‘The family that prays together, stays together‘. As a together people they would now be able to move forward and accomplish all that God had in store for them to do.
Next week is Pentecost Sunday - the day we look at the fulfilment of Gods promise to His church and the Lords instruction to His disciples to wait until the Spirit came upon them. The birthday of the Church - a very special day. I believe that as His Church today we should be looking forward to this important time by waiting upon Him in prayer - asking God to show us what needs to happen, or change in our lives to take us forward and become the people He wants us to be.
God want to move us forward from being disciples - learners - to become Apostles - those He has called to go show and tell our neighbours, our families, our colleagues what Jesus is all about and how He wants to reveal Himself to them through us.
It’s a time for reflection, reassesment - a time to examine our commitment to God and seek His empowering - His infilling to move forward and accomplish all that He wants to do in our lives and the life of our fellowship.
It’s a time of re-awakening of the church to be what God intended it to be - the living body of Christ in the world today. That’s you and me.
Originally there were 12 disciples but with Judas’s death the needed another disciple to bring it back to the original number. Twelve was an important number, as we know there were twelve tribes of Israel, Twelve disciples. Even today the number 12 is a very significant number, there is 12 in a dozen, 12 months in a year, 12 inches in a foot and before decimalisation there were 12 pennies in pound.
The disciples went back and as they waited they prayed and as they prayed they looked at re-strengthening their fellowship by asking God to show them who He wanted to replace the one who had betrayed then and led the authorities to Crucify Jesus - that was Judas.
They felt the need to bring their number back to twelve and to make sure it was Gods choice, they would write the names of the two candidates on to rocks, place them into a container, shake it and tip one out. It wasn’t chance - it was God’s choice and their way of finding out what God’s choice was. The person chosen had to be one who had been with them all the way through Christ’s ministry from the beginning. That one was Matthias.
Now they were completely together - now they were ready and waiting on God to empower them to move forward. O that the church today would approach Pentecost in the same way - to get plugged in to what God wants to do in the world today - especially here at Idle. We need to get plugged in to God. As you all know, a plug has three wires. The live wire which is coloured Red ( or Brown), the negative which is Blue and the earth which is Yellow/green. These are also the same colours on the Army Flag.
The Red Live The blood of Jesus that offers life
Blue The purity of God and the need to live a life of holiness
Yellow The fire and power of the Holy Spirit
Just as in the electric plug all three wired need top be connected to be effective so too we as Christians need to make sure that we are fully in contact with God - we need to get plugged in.
Last week we talked about togetherness as being a valuable result of waiting upon God in prayer. This week we see the need to be open and honest in our assesment of self and the need to seek God in prayer while we await the power from on high to enable us to move forward.
To get plugged in to the power that is not only available but vital to our continued growth as His fellowship. In preparation for next week - could I ask that in your own private devotions - prayer - you seek to ask God to make you aware of how He sees you in your daily Christian walk and to help you change - if needed - to be available and ready when we meet together next Sunday and seek the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our fellowship.
Prayer is the vital key; Last week we looked at the Welsh revival of 1903 which started when Evan Roberts felt the need to pray ‘bend me O Lord to Thy will‘. One man - revival.
In America they had what is known as the The Fulton Street prayer meeting that sparked a revival in 1858 that began when one man, Jeremiah Lanphier decided to open his church for prayer. The first meeting he was alone for over half-an-hour, then he was joined by six others. Over the next few days that number increased to 20 - then 40 and within six months there were ten thousand businessmen gathering daily for prayer in New York City, and within two years one million converts were added to the American church. One man - revival.
Our own William Booth also inspired revival when the Christian Mission became the Salvation Army and in his own lifetime the Salvation Army spread throughout the whole world.
I believe that what God is saying to us today is that ‘You won’t accomplish anything of lasting value until I have filled you with power from on high, so wait, get your act together, be a together people and pray. If you do this I will amaze you. I will fill you and empower you to be my church, My witnesses, My people - together we will build My Church.
How about it?
Sunday 6 May 2018
Last week we looked at the awesome way that Peter experienced forgiveness from Jesus who commissioned Peter to build His Church - which doesn’t mean by bricks and mortar - by Church He meant the people - build the people up - to inspire them and encourage them to know Christ and be obedient to His ways. To prepare people to live Christian lives that will enable them to grow and be changed - transformed into a new creation - a born again people
We saw the transformation reflected in the letter Peter wrote to the early church scattered throughout the region 1 Peter 1; 3-9 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
The early church needed the encouragement of the now vibrant apostle of God - Peter and the wisdom of his teaching as a born again believer whose life had been transformed by God. He tells them to stand firm and be faithful to God and His word.
We marvelled at the new Peter - this morning we are going to look at what happened following the appearances of Jesus to Peter and the rest of the disciples before the awesome events of Pentecost, the empowering of the Holy Spirit. We look at the time that Jesus appeared to them on the mount prior to His return to Heaven on Ascension Day.
Next Thursday is the day appointed for the church to celebrate the appointing and commissioning of His disciples following His ressurection and many appearances. The ascension is recorded in three of the gospels and the first chapter of Acts
Matthew 28; 16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, ‘All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Go and teach people, baptize them and encourage them to live in obedience to Christ,
And with the confidence that when they did ’Jesus would be with them’
Mark 16;19 simply tells us that after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
Luke 24 ; 45 I love the way in which Luke goes further and tells us how Jesus referred them back to the Scriptures and opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53) And to rise from the dead the third day (Psalm 16: 9-11 Isaiah 53;10,11) that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Isaiah 49;6) And ye are witnesses of these things.
49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
And so we come to Lukes continued account of the ressurection of Jesus and the events that preceeded Pentecost. Read Acts 1
This morning I want us to look at the command Jesus gave Peter and the other disciples when He told them ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ and what that says to us today especially when Jesus said you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. ’After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’ It’s almost like they’re saying ‘stop staring with your head in the clouds - get back down to earth - you’ve got a job to do - go and wait like He told you.
The Upper Room Prayer Meeting 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
Jesus had told them at the last supper He shared with them before the crucifixion that if they loved Him and were obedient to Him then He and the Father would come and make their dwelling within them by the power of the Holy Spirit and here He was confirming that again with the command to ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about
Can you begin to imagine what the disciples would go through in this waiting time - this would be the most agonising time for them - they would be thinking - what happens next - what are we waiting for - how would they spend their time? Earlier we sang the song from the musical ‘The Witness’ - where the fishermen Peter, James and John sing ‘you’re waiting but you don’t know what you’re waiting for’ Then Jesus came and all of our lives were changed ‘- WOW!
Jesus wanted His disciples to continue the work that He had begun in bringing others into Kingdom life - to grow His church - and knowing that they would never accomplish this in their own strength instructed them to Wait for the infilling - that will equip, enable and empower them to become living witnesses to what the Lord had done in their life and what He could do in other peoples lives. Today I believe He would say the same - Wait. in Idle until the power comes upon you.
We live in a world that says that you don’t have to wait - you can have it now - today.
We have instant Coffee - instant meals microwaves that enable you to prepare a dinner in minutes. We’ve got CD’s that enable you to get straight to the song you want without the need to play all those leading up to it. DVD’s that do the same - why wait?
We live in a ‘ I want it and I want it now - society. The first credit card that came out - was Access with a slogan that said ‘Why wait until tomorrow for something you can have today’ - ‘Access takes the waiting out of wanting’.
Yet so many times God’s word tell us that waiting is important
Isaiah 40; they that wait upon the LORD will renew their strength
Isaiah 30:18 .... the LORD longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. Blessed are all who wait for Him!
Isaiah 64:4 Since ancient times no-one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.
Waiting can be profitable - waiting on God is vital in order to claim the promises He has made available for us to share. In two weeks time we will be celebrating the fruits of that waiting time - Pentecost - the time that the church, the body of Christ went public - out onto the streets - not cooped up in - dead lifeless ineffective churches. The birthday of the real Church - when Gods people realised the awesomness of His indwelling Spirit and began to move in the spirit and see the power of God flow through them.
Those early converts not only encountered the awesome truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - but knew by experience that Jesus had come to live in their hearts and therefore was integral in their thoughts, their actions, their living. This was revival at it’s best - O how we yearn for the fire of the Holy Spirit to once again set His church ablaze so that the world will see the awesome power of God in us drawing mankind to the feet of Jesus.
The secret is in the waiting - I believe that revival will come again when Gods people humble themselves before Him and are prepared to wait for His blessing. I believe that revival will come to the church when Gods people give themselves in total commitment to His service and are prepared to wait for His anointing, His enabling and His empowering.
I believe that revival will come when Gods people and fellowships cry ‘break me, melt me, mould me and fill me’ Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me’. Jesus said ‘Wait’ stay just where you are - don’t move out of Jerusalem until you receive the gift My Father promised. Joel 2:28
Jesus said ‘Wait’ stay just where you are then - Wow! you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth."
After Jesus had said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
Stop staring up the steps and get back to Jerusalem - wait there and when the time is ripe, I will empower you to step up the stairs
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
That’s the secret - while your waiting - pray - seek His will and purpose for your life and ask Him to come and equip you to do what He desires of you in His Kingdom building work. That’s what the disciples did, they waited on the Lord in prayer - they sought His presence every day - they kept in touch with the Almighty until the blessing came from Heaven and they were off!
In 1904, a young uneducated coal miners son Evan Roberts waited on the Lord and the result of his ‘waiting’ heralded the great Welsh revival when through him, God revived his Church in a might way.
Here was a man who had grown tired of the way in which the church had settled into a rut of complacency. The fire had gone out, the heart of mission had grown cold.
He saw churches filled with people who went more out of habit and duty than to meet with God and get fired up to serve him. They might sing the right Hymns, but in Evans own words ‘ there is a total lack of Joy’.
He yearned for a revival - cried out to God for revival - but before God could use him Evans had to be broken before God - truly repent and give himself wholeheartedly to God. This was ‘waiting time’ with a purpose.
And so, Evans, under the instruction of God, waited upon the Lord and during a prayer meeting as Evans prayed ‘O Lord, bend me to Thy will’ He felt a living force grow within him - he was almost bursting and he fell on his knees crying out to God - tears ran down his face - ‘Bend me Lord’.
The power of the Holy Spirit entered Evan Roberts and a wave of Peace came over him. Someone started to sing ‘I hear Thy welcome voice’. I am coming Lord, coming now to Thee, wash me, cleanse me in the Blood that flows from Calvary.
From that moment Evan Roberts was a changed man - the answer to prayer that God would bring a young man from the mines to start the revival had been answered. Wait until the Holy Spirit comes upon you - the disciples were told - and that’s exactly what happened to Evan Roberts
Today as we look at the church - what do we see? A people who have retreated into their own buildings, separated by the division of denominationalism, a place of meeting that could be seen more of a social club than a centre for evangelism. A place of comfort rather than a powerhouse of energy that has set out to change the world.
A church that once was seen as Gods people in waiting - waiting for His return - but using the time to make sure that no one would be left out of the Kingdom - that the message of Gods redeeming love would be actively proclaimed. Somewhere down the line - the church seems to have lost both direction and the plot. The church has lost it’s sense of mission and is in maintenance mode.
O how we need a revival in these days when we see churches all round us dying on their feet because they refuse to wait on their knees. I believe that there is a great need for a spiritual shake up that will bring the church back to its senses that will restore vision and renew our mission
I believe that if we are obedient to Him - He will not only Shake this Church to the core, but Shake this Corps to become His Church
Isaiah 40: 30-31 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Lord teach us to wait on You in prayer until we are filled with Your Holy Spirit and equipped, enabled and empowered to be Your witnesses - not just in word but in deed.
When Beryl and I got married we went to London on a steam train A mighty powerful Steam train that stood in the station all raring to go building up pressure as the fire in it’s belly was stoked and burned fiercely. As the guard waved its flag - it heaved and puffed as the brakes were released and went hurtling out of the station with a purpose.
Today those steam trains stand powerless in the York Museum to be viewed as relics of a by-gone age. Imagine what would happen if somebody stoked the engines and set them ablaze again.
You could say the same about the church in this country today. Relics of a by-gone age when the power of God was seen in the people who comprised those churches. They were on fire - ready to go and show the mighty power of God.
It can happen again as you and I allow the Holy Spirit to come in and set us on fire.
Prayer Chorus Spirit of the Living God
Sunday 29 April 2018
Last week we listened as Ernie Hasse and Signature sound as they sang the song ‘Forgiven again’ which told the story of the prodigal son who having left his father went off to seek his own way. We heard how he realised his foolishness and decided to go back to his father and start again. His father, like Jesus to Peter, didn’t just wait for him but went out to meet his son and forgave him and reinstated him much to the surprise and disdain of his sons brother.
Just as the father of the prodigal son couldn’t wait to forgive his son and reinstate him as his child so too, Jesus couldn’t wait to forgive and reinstate Peter.
Forgiveness is one of Gods greatest gifts to mankind. We don’t deserve it but He really desires to forgive our waywardness and sins. Jesus couldn’t wait to forgive Peter. The prodigals father couldn’t wait to forgive his son and with that same passion I believe that our father God can’t wait to reconcile His lost sheep and faultering flock back into the fold.
The desire to Forgive is a heart desire as is that same desire that stirs our hearts to seek forgiveness. Forgiveness, an act of sheer love, is made possible when that Love is real. God - who is Love - desires that all men be saved from the power of sin.
Paul in his first letter to Timothy ch 2 urges him to pray for everyone, Kings and all in authority - that we may live peaceful and quiet loves in all godliness and holiness. For this is good and pleases God our Saviour who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. That’s why He sent Jesus - that’s why we read ‘greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for His friends - to which Jesus added - and you are my friends if you do whatsoever I command you.
Forgiveness is at the heart of God. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, one of the first things we ask following our acknowledgment of the Awesomness of Almighty God is Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
I pray that prayer every day - forgive me Lord just as I forgive those who trespass against me’. Only in the last year have I realised the extent of what that really means. To forgive others for whatever they do or say against me - in the same way that Jesus from the cross cried out to His father ’Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’. I wonder how far we as Gods people are prepared to go forgiving others.
I love the way in which Jesus, to emphasise great truths, replays some of lifes episodes to re-establish the things that are of vital importance.
Last week we read how He repeated the circumstances that led to the calling and commissioning of His disciples three years earlier - the time He called them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat after failing to catch any fish. After His death and resurection we found Him again calling to His disciples who were fishing and caught nothing, to cast their nets on the other side and great was their catch - a kind of de-ja-vue that would remind them of their first calling and the truth that here was Jesus - alive again. This time Jesus used the occasion to forgive and reinstate Peter
In Matthew 18;21 we read how before His death, Jesus shared the parable of the lost sheep and followed that by talking about forgiveness and how we should respond when a brother sins against us - it is then that Peter asks ’Lord how many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me - Seven times? To which Jesus replied ’not seven but seventy-seven times - WOW!
This was before Peter denied Him and then after Peters denial showed how important it is that we are prepared to go to any length and as many times as is needed to forgive those who cause us pain by forgiving Peter for his sinning against Him as many times as was needed. Three times. Jesus forgave, reinstated and transformed Peter into a Spirit filled disciple and Apostle who would build the new Christian Church on the foundation of Jesus the Rock.
Peter, the disciple who when Jesus asked His disciples who people said that He - the son of man was - boldly declared Jesus to be the Christ - the Son of the living God,
To which Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. Matthew 161;16
Jesus then went on to say And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Hard to believe that this is Peter who at the beginning of his walk with Jesus declared him to be the Son of the Living God a few years later actually denied even knowing Jesus. Surely Jesus isn’t pinning His badge of authority and power on Peter to continue the work he is doing in reconciling the world back to the heart of the father? Peter let Jesus down big time but Jesus didn’t let Peter go.
A few weeks ago we read how Jesus showing real concern and compassion on Peter told Mary - the first visitor to the empty tomb - to go and tell Peter which she did and Peter ran to the tomb to find that just as Mary had said, Jesus wasn’t there.
We then read how Jesus appeared to Peter on the shore when he had gone fishing and told him to cast his net on the other side - an exact replay of the first calling of Peter three years earlier. Last week read how they caught lots of fish and that whilst they were sharing a breakfast of some of the fish, Jesus forgave and reinstated Peter.
This morning we I want us to look at the result of that transformation in Peters life following his forgiveness and reconciliation, to look at the man Peter became. The difference that experiencing the loving forgiveness of Jesus made in his life and ministry. I call it ‘Transforming power’ that can be seen in Peters letters to the early churches that Jesus had called him to help build.
Read 1 Peter 1; 1-5 To think that the man who wrote this letter was none other than the man who denied even knowing Jesus. The frailty and the faith of Peter had been exposed before, when he saw Jesus walking on water and Jesus beckoned him to come to Him. At first he was full of faith and then when he saw the reality of what he was doing, his fears overtake him, and he started to sink. This morning we see another Peter. A forgiven and transformed Peter
Peters first name was Simon which means 'stone' When Jesus said ‘upon this Rock’ I believe He meant Himself - as the foundation stone- upon which I will build My church using living stones like Peter - to build His church by feeding the lambs, taking care of the sheep and feeding them also.
I love the way in which Peter acknowledges Jesus as the Living Stone in ch 2 4.
when he says As you come to Him, the Living Stone, rejected by men, but chosen by God and precious to Him - you also, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house, Wow! That you and me - Living stones. He then goes on to quote Isaiah 28,16 that affirms Jesus as the cornerstone.
Following the denial and restoration of Peter, Peter was told to wait in Jerusalem until the power came from on high to empower Peter a Gods spokesman and builder of the new fellowship of Christians.- the church. In a few weeks we will be celebrating Pentecost when, Peter. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, stood up and was eloquent enough to preach a sermon that had 3 000 people kneeling at the feet of Jesus.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter was the Billy Graham, the Smith Wigglesworth, the William Booth of the New Testament. Peter the fisherman was now a 'fisher of men' just like Jesus said he would be
It's simply amazing what a difference a personal encounter with the Risen Living Lord can do in a persons life! You can’t meet Jesus and it not make a difference. A difference that cannot be ignored, a difference that can be seen, both in the way a person acts and reacts to others, and also in the unseen, our attitudes to one another.
Following the resurrection, the bible tells us of another man - a most unlikely man if ever there was one to become an evangelist and Church builder. that man was Saul of Tarsus - a guy who saw it as his own personal battle to get rid of these new Christians who were springing up all over the place and keep the faith pure. He saw it as a mission from God. that was until Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Saul’s encounter on the road to Damascus, changed him from being a zealous persecutor of the Christians - to a spirit filled persecuted Christian himself.
On Thursday I was asked to do a celebration for the life of a lady called Enid Thornton where I used Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church that says Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed -in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
I told them how at the butterfly park you can see the metamorphosis of the caterpillar that has struggled all through it's life, then it dies to self, leaving only a shell that withers away it is transformed into a beautiful butterfly that soars in the sky as free as a bird.
Whilst I feel that beautifully portrays death and resurrection, I also see it as a perfect picture of a life that is transformed by Jesus. In dying to self, we are given New Life and our spirits are set free to fly like the eagle on the mighty winds of the Spirit.
Peter - then Paul - whose lives were transformed by God to become Apostles who would spread the good news and build His Church. Later the two men Peter and Paul got together and shared many thoughts in their letters to the young churches.
The Bible is full of people who’s lives were transformed by Jesus. Today it’s still the same - an encounter with Jesus changes lives.
On Tuesday at our bible fellowship I asked the question, What about you and me. How have we changed. How different are we now to the person that we used to be. How has Jesus changed us?
There is no way that a personal encounter that develops into a living relationship with Jesus, can not make a difference to a persons life and there is no way that that difference can be hidden
Paul wrote to the church at Colosse and said this 'When a person becomes a Christian, he is not the same anymore, a new life has begun' and later he wrote that 'we are all being transformed into His likeness' If that's true, then It's got to show!
Peter certainly changed, and became a strong, trustworthy Rock of a man, on whom
Jesus could firmly build His church. A man who would certainly make every effort to take care of the sheep and feed His lambs. A vehicle through whom the good shepherd could continue His work.
1 Peter 1; Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a 'living hope' through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
New birth into a living hope - a reality NOW - made possible through a new relationship with the risen Christ. This is not just pie in the sky when you die - this is now - this is ‘meat on your plate while you wait’
Born again - a fresh start - a new beginning - How many times do folk say - ‘If I had my time over again - I wouldn’t do this I wouldn’t do that’? The truth is that you can’t change the past but He and You can change your future.
A new beginning - A clean slate, through the undeserved favour of Jesus. ‘In His great mercy, He has given us NEW BIRTH into a LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That’s what Easter is all about - new beginnings!
How many times have you heard people say ‘If only I could start again’ Well - In Christ we can.
Peter wrote his letter to the young Churches ‘God’s elect’ strangers in the world.
It was the latter part of AD 63, the year that preceded the outbreak of official Roman persecution of the early Christians. Wow! how they needed assurance and encouragement
On July 19 AD 64, the fire bells were ringing all over the Roman Empire as Rome was put to the torch. Nero's reaction was to blame anyone he could for the fire, and his main target was the Christians, who were already suffering under his rule.
The new converts were being terrorised and so this letter would become a rallying call, a bulletin of encouragement to a scattered Christian Church, people chosen by God, . Ordinary folk like you and me who were suffering because they had embraced the New Christian teachings of love and forgiveness.
These early Christians had had an encounter with the risen Christ or why else would they be prepared to go to their own deaths. Within weeks of the crucifixion and resurrection historians tell us that thousands of Jews began abandoning long held practices that had until now had been of great religious importance.
They did this at the risk of damnation if they were wrong. Yet the church grew strong amidst fierce Roman persecution. The streets of Rome were lined with the burning crosses of the new converts - no one will go to such a length as giving their lives for what they believe in if their was any shred of evidence to proof otherwise. They were sure of their new found faith in the Risen Lord and needed all the encouragement they could get.
Peter wrote to the new Christians '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 goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
These people had been changed by an encounter with the risen Lord. Their lives took on a new meaning, they had purpose - a hope - a goal.
Jesus is still in the business of changing lives today if only we will let Him
Jesus wants to transform your life, a change that will be as startling as the transformation of the caterpillar to a butterfly. He wants us to stop struggling, and begin to fly.
Sunday morning 22 April 2018
On Good Friday, we tried to imagine what Jesus thought as He looked down from the cross at those of His friends gathered there. Mary His mother, John whom He loved, Peter, the others, How He would want dearly to wrap His arms around them and tell them that everything is going to be OK - that this is not the end - this is the beginning. He will be back - this time in the victory of the ressurection.
Easter Sunday - We looked at the responses of Mary, Peter, John and the other disciples when the news came that Jesus had dissapeared.. The shock when they saw that the stone had been rolled away and the body was missing. The loving way Jesus spoke to Mary - now free from the shackles of the cross - but still not able to put His arms around her - His voice would have to say it all - His words would be full of love and compassion. ‘Mary’
We then looked at the way in which He appeared to the other disciples in the upper room. The way - knowing their mixed feelings, His first words were ‘Shalom’ ‘Peace’ be with you. After the traumas of that last week - they would be in deep shock - they needed Peace - they needed compassion and love - they needed Jesus to be gentle with them.
When the awesome truth dawned on Jesus’s friends, their Joy would be real, but tinged with guilt when they remembered how, when the going got tough, the ‘tough got going’ and they were quick to run away. They needed Jesus to come with words of comfort. Peace. - His peace
This morning we look at the events of Easter through the eyes and thoughts of Peter.
I don't know what your picture of Peter is like, but I always imagined him to be a big burly fisherman, the kind of man that you could trust with your life. The Peter that Luke reveals to us, is a frightened man, who when in fear of his own life, was prepared to lie about his friendship with Jesus.
Lets remind ourselves of what Peter did Luke 22 54-62 Then seizing Jesus, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, "This man was with him." But he denied it. "Woman, I don't know him," he said.
A little later someone else saw him and said, "You also are one of them." "Man, I am not!" Peter replied.
About an hour later another asserted, "Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean." Peter replied, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about!" Just as he was speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Peter must have hated himself for denying Jesus. He had thought that he was a strong man, zealously committed to following Jesus, and yet at the first hint of danger, he had distanced himself in an attempt to save his own skin. Jesus had said he would - ‘when the cock crows you will deny Me three times’ He’d said.
Peter must have suffered a crushing sense of guilt during the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Not once, but three times, he had denied knowing Jesus. The sight of Jesus looking at Peter over the courtyard walls would have penetrated his heart. To see the bloodied Jesus carrying His cross to Calvary would have been too much. He would feel a traitor, an utter failure, he must have felt despair as the body of Jesus lwas carried to the tomb.
In contrast I love the way in which Jesus, knowing exactly how Peter would be feeling, couldn't wait to let him know that He was OK. 'Tell Peter', Jesus had said to Mary, the very first visitor to the empty tomb. 'Tell Peter'
And when Mary ran to Peter to tell him that the tomb of Jesus was empty! Peter ran to the tomb and saw for himself that the body of Jesus had gone. The pieces of the jigsaw would probably start fitting together as Peter remembered how Jesus at the last supper, had told His disciples that He would have to die, but on the third day, He would rise again. Imagine how Peter would feel now - after denying even knowing Jesus.
Last week we read how Jesus appeared to the disciples when they went back to fishing, and exact replay of the time, three years earlier Jesus had called them to be His disciples and become fishers of men.
Jesus enacted the whole scene, they fished, caught nothing, Jesus told them to cast their nets on the right side - they did and their nets nearly broke with the strain of the enormous catch of fish. When they realise to was Jesus - can you imagine how Peter would feel - what did Jesus think of him now? '
Jesus prepared a meal for them and took time to speak to Peter and ask him three times if he loved Him - three times - the exact number of times Peter had denied knowing Him - I can almost hear the voice of Jesus filled with love in His heart as He asked Peter the three times.
Jesus lovingly forgave Peter and reinstated him - Jesus called Peter 'the Rock' on which I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail upon you'. I can just imagine Peter thinking ‘no one in their right mind would trust His life's work to a failure, would they? How can Jesus love me, after what I have done?' But instead of rejecting Peter, Jesus showed him the greatness of His forgiving love.
Jesus showed Peter that the message of the cross, was about forgiveness and reconciliation, about new starts, fresh beginnings, the joy of new life now ,and the sure hope of eternal life to come.
Lets remind ourselves again of the time following the appearances of Jesus to the disciples in the upper room that we read last Sunday morning. Peter and the disciples decided to go fishing, probably a way of getting back to normality - it what they were used to doing.
They had gone back to their ‘pre -calling’ days. They knew how to fish, but today, for some reason, things were not going so well - a stranger appears on the beach and tells them to cast their nets on the other side - John realised it was Jesus - they did as He instructed and caught a great amount of fish. they pulled the boats onto the beach and Jesus was waiting for them, probably already started a small fire to cook the fish on.
Bible John 21; 12-17 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask Him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love Me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "You know that I love You." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love You." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
The third time He said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love Me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.
The world might pull failures down, but not Jesus, He knows our difficulties, our problems and our weakness and instead of condemnation, He encourages the weak, lifts the fallen, loves the unloved, and in the case of Peter, forgives the penitent,
That's why I love the story of the catch of fish, and although all the other gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke are quick to tell us how Peter denied knowing Jesus, only John completes the story by showing us how Jesus forgave Peter three times, once for each denial, and then reinstates Peter.
As Jesus cooked the fish and gave it to His disciples, He looked at Peter and asked '
him three times ' Simon Peter, do you love me? each time Peter replied, 'You know I do, Lord'
I guess that each time Jesus asked 'do you love me' Peter grimaced and felt ashamed
He knew he had failed His Lord - big time and each denial, needed repentance and forgiveness to make Peter feel clean and good about himself again. I believe that what Go I saying to us all this morning is this, that if you feel that you seem to be always letting Him down, maybe by the way that you live your life, He wants the opportunity to forgive you .
If you feel that, neglected Him by not giving Him enough time, you know, that quick prayer at the end of the day, or maybe being half hearted - You know that because He loves you, He will forgive and help you start again if you are truly sorry
I want to encourage you by reminding you what Jesus said 'I will never leave you or forsake you' that surely demands the same loyalty from us, doesn't it?
I want to remind you that no-matter what, Jesus loves us all, and gave His life for you and me even though at times, we fail Him. Jesus is much kinder to us, than we are to ourselves, and to each other.
If this morning, you are feeling unworthy, inadequate, a failure, take heart, Jesus loves you so much, that He died to forgive you - We use the phrase so glibly when we want to show how much we want something ‘I’d die for that’ we say - Jesus didn’t say it - He DID IT He died for me and you and because He loves us, He reaches out with arms of love and forgiveness to welcome you back into His arms
The world is quick to pull us down by identifying our failures, the world has little sympathy. But Jesus wants to lift you up by encouraging you and boosting our confidence in Him.
The awesome truth is that Jesus not only forgave Peter, but He reinstated him as the Rock to build His church. Jesus gave him a commission, to look after, to take care of and feed His church. Even though Peter had failed Jesus when the pressure was on, Jesus knew in his heart, that Peter still loved Him and wanted to serve Him with his whole life. and gave Peter another chance.
Peter the strong, Peter the defensive - the one who had sliced off the soldiers ear in the garden when they came to arrest Jesus. Who would believe that he would be the one who would ever deny Jesus. Looking deep into the eyes of his friend and Saviour - he had denied even knowing Him - not once, not twice - but three times..
Peters story is awesome news for those of us who feel like we have screwed things up - many times - He is proof that failure is not the end when it comes to God. That just as we screw it up big time, Jesus is ready to forgive big time.
The world might pull failures down, but not Jesus, He knows our difficulties, our problems and our weakness and instead of condemnation, He encourages the weak, lifts the fallen, loves the unloved, and in the case of Peter, forgives the penitent,
Jesus knows our weakness, He knows that at times, we are ashamed of some of the things that we do. He knows that even though many times, our actions are not indicative of our true feelings. He knows that when by our foolishness, our 'giving in to temptation' we seem to deny all that we profess to be, that in our heart of hearts, their is remorse, a wishing that we hadn't done it, said it, thought it, and is always ready to forgive. Why? Because He loves us.
Even though Peter had denied Jesus, Jesus still wanted him on His team, Jesus had major plans for Peter. Peter needed to Know the forgiveness of Jesus, so that he could then, forgive himself.
One of the classic films of 1987 was ‘The Mission‘. In it, a soldier called Captain Mendoza, kills his brother in an argument over a woman that they both loved. Afterwards, consumed by remorse, he feels that the only way to rid himself of the burden of guilt and sin is to do some sort of penance, so he ties a huge net to his back, fills it with a huge boulder and starts to climb a high mountain.
In the company of a priest and some others, he travels over bracken, gorse, rocks, rivers and through forests. You see him cut, bruised, and bleeding. A broken figure crawling up the mountain with this heavy weight on his back. From time to time, the others in the group urge him to let go the burden 'you don't have to carry it any more' they say. But he can't let go.
Eventually, reaching the top of the mountain, he collapses, exhausted. And then a youth comes to him, and cuts the net from him. As the net and the rock cascades down the mountainside, Mendoza is filled with a feeling of total release; his burden has gone and he knows that he has been forgiven.
What burdens of guilt are you carrying round this morning? Just as Jesus wanted Peter to really know His forgiveness, I believe, this morning, Jesus wants you and me to 'really know' forgiveness. There is Joy in heaven over one sinner that repents Perhaps He is saying to you this morning, 'come to Me - lets reason together ?
Jesus knows our weakness, He knows that at times, we are ashamed of some of the things that we do. He knows that even though many times, our actions are not indicative of our true feelings.
He knows that when by our foolishness, our 'giving in to temptation' we seem to deny all that we profess to be, that in our heart of hearts, their is remorse, a wishing that we hadn't done it, said it, thought it, and is always ready to forgive. Because He loves us.
We’ve all been there - made mistakes and still do - but thanks be to God, through the love of Jesus we can be forgiven a be given a fresh start
Closing song Dear Lord and Father of mankind
Sunday Morning MM 8 April 2018 The Road to Emmaus
Last week we rejoiced at the ressurection of Jesus. We read how the women followers of Jesus went to the tomb only to find it empty and ran to tell Peter and John. We then read how Mary Magdalene from being a mourner of the dead Christ became the first to witness the risen Christ. She thought it was the gardener but after Jesus spoke to he, she realised it was non other than the risen Christ - her Saviour. In those few moments, Jesus took her from despair to exultant rejoicing.
One minute she was downcast - the next on cloud nine. One minute she was experiencing a deep private inner pain, the next and inexpressible Joy that would have been evidence by all who saw her - the joy of knowing that Jesus was alive would be written all over her face. Jesus - the one who had set her free from the guilt of the past - now gave her life a new meaning, a positive hope - she - a mere woman - and I say that in the relative terms of how the Jews at that time would regard her - here she was - a woman on whom Jesus bestowed the privilage and responsibility to be the first witness to the risen Lord who actually saw Him. She went back and reported it to the other disciples who obviously didn’t believe her.
This morning we have just read what happened on that same ressurection morning about the two followers who were walking away from Jerusalem on their way to Emmaus - . We don’t know who they are apart from the fact that one of them was called Cleopas. The only other gospel writer to mention this is Mark although he just says they were walking in the country. Mark 16; 12
They would have been in Jerusalem for the Passover, they had been amongst the crowds that greeted Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem a week earlier. They would have followed the footsteps of Jesus as He went through the traumatic week before His arrest, heard the crowds cry ‘crucify Him’ saw Him die on the cross.
One thing is for sure, they not only knew about Jesus, they were in the inner sanctum of friends. We know that by their responses to the ‘empty tomb ‘some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions ( Peter and John) went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see‘.
As they walked to Emmaus, they reasoned through the events of the last few days together. A stranger joins them, it was Jesus, but His identity was kept from them, for the moment anyway. He asked them what they were talking about ‘"Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?" "What things?" he asked. "About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.
In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning
but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."
These men were getting away from Jerusalem - their hopes dashed, their faith in pieces. Yet they had had the truth within their grasp. People who had walked and talked with Jesus, heard His prophecies, saw His miracles, listenned to His sermons - were now going back to their old way of life. Getting on with their lives. Peter did the same when he went fishing with the other disciples.
It happens to us all I guess, that when the bottom falls out of our lives, our response is so often we tend to go back - even get depressed - we can’t cope. These disciples probably felt a little like that. Jesus had gone - and with Him, their hopes and dreams.
Jesus drew alongside them and began to remind them from their own history of all the prophesies about Himself. He called them ‘slow of heart’ to believe. Like Thomas, they would only believe if they could see.
Paul wrote to the Church in Rome ‘if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.’ Romans 10; 9,10
That’s where these men went wrong. They knew the teachings of Jesus, but it failed to register in their hearts. Paul didn’t say ‘believe it in your head but believe it in your hearts. For it is with your heart that you believe, and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.’
It wasn’t until Jesus shared a meal with them that the penny finally dropped who this stranger was. It would flood back into their minds the time at the last supper that Jesus broke bread with them. It was in that moment their ‘hearts burned’ within them.
I believe that God longs for men and women who’s hearts are on fire for Him. Whose burning desire is to follow Him, love Him and take Him to all the world. and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.’
The words of Jesus in verse 25 clearly show that in order to know Him as Lord, to understand the truth of who He is, it is important to consider and believe everything that the prophets have spoken and not be selective. That’s why, ‘beginning with Moses and ALL the prophets, He explained to them what was said in ALL the scripture concerning Himself. And as He spoke to them He began to lead them into ALL truth.
How important it is that as Christians, we look at Gods word in its entirety. That we know all that there is to know from His word. Then, and only then will God reveal the truths that lie hidden in Christ.
When you start to do a jigsaw puzzle, what do you do? you start by getting the straight edges together and they form the framework into which the whole picture fits. It’s hard at first, but it gets easier as the picture begins to take shape.
It’s the same with Scripture, the puzzle slowly takes shape and the full picture is revealed when we start putting the straight edges into place. We start by getting the framework in place and then by following the picture on the box begin to see the whole picture revealed before our very eyes. The Old Testament in the Bible like the edges of the jigsaw sets the framework whereby the New Testament can reveal the true picture of Jesus who becomes the picture on the box that forms the pattern by which we build our lives.
That’s how, beginning with Moses and ALL the prophets, Jesus started creating the framework that would make way for the picture, Jesus to be revealed. When we come into a realisation of the truth of Jesus and His claims on our lives, that might be the point when we acknowledge His presence, but in reality, I believe that He has been with us in journeying through life and without us even realising it.
As we look back we can see the way in which much if not all of our lives, Jesus has been there, influencing our decisions to bring us to a point of recognising Him as Lord.
Certainly, for the moment, the ‘eyes’ of these two men were kept from ‘seeing’ Jesus.
He wanted them to know His word. He wanted their expectations to be fired up. He wanted them to hunger after more. He wanted them to realise for themselves the truth.
After revealing the truth to them, He wanted them to come into a free acceptance of Salvation. Having worked on them, the time came when He was going to ‘open their eyes’ and let them see Him in all His glory.
It was when He sat at the table with them, took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. At that point, their eyes were opened, they recognised Him and woosh! He dissapeared from their sight. WOW! They had been in the presence of Jesus the risen Lord and not realised it until now.
They rushed back to Jerusalem and shared how as Jesus talked with them, as He had made known to them the scriptures, their hearts began to burn within them. Yes it really was true The Lord has arisen’. Even as they talked, Jesus appeared among them again. There are times when we need to ‘Be still and know’
I believe that for all of us here this morning, wether we feel it or not - Jesus is with us in every area and aspect of our lives..
Sometimes we need to be reminded of why He called us in the first place and why we responded when we did. The promises we made then, have we stuck to them? The zeal and enthusiasm we had then - is it still there?
Sometimes we need to be reminded of what God has already done in our lives.
There may be those here morning who perhaps- like the disciples - feel that Jesus is far away. Don’t you believe it. That’s what the devil wants you to believe, When life isn’t easy an your going through the mill, the devil uses that to make you think God doesn’t care. Don’t believe it - God promised that when you go through the difficult times, the valley experiences in your life - when the waters seem to be flooding in or your little world is collapsing - He promised to be with us - ‘Fear not for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name you are precious to Me says the Lord - Isaiah 43 The dilemma is that the time when you need Him the most, Now, is the time you fail to be aware of His presence.
I can testify that there have been times in my life when I have cried out to God ‘Where are you Lord’ ‘I’m hurting . Looking back, I can see that He was always there, seeing me through. Maybe that’s the time you should be crying out to God, Lord I know You’re there, You know I’m finding life difficult at the moment, You know I need You.
Jesus probably reminded the disciples of the way in which He had been with them in His earthly ministry. That time in the boat on Lake Galilee when He brought Peace to the troubled waters. The times He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry, even walked on the sea. The beautiful truth for us this morning is that just as Jesus didn’t give up on His disciples even though they seemed to give up on Him , Jesus wont give up on you and me either.
Even though - They couldn’t keep watch for Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, even though He’d asked them to.
Even though - Peter denied even knowing Him not just once, but three times.
Even though - The disciples went into hiding following His death
Even after all that, Jesus was concerned for all of them. He appeared to them on numerous accasions. He forgave them, reinstated Peter, revealed Himself to Thomas the doubter, reminded His Disciples of the time He first called them to leave their nets and become fishers of men. Even - on this occasion going after them when they were heading back to their old ways - going to Emmaus.
The Christian walk is about knowing His presence with us every step of the way.
It’s also about the living Christ within us, drawing alongside others, our friends, our work colleagues, our family, our neighbours, and through us, making Himself known.
What a privilage that is.
What’s your journey like?
Where are you on that journey?
Do you know the presence of Jesus?
What was it like when He called you Did He set your heart on fire?
What’s it like today, Are you still burning with that same passion
Maybe this morning is the time when as Isaiah 43 says - we need to ‘Be Still and Know God’ to realise that God is with us . I pray that you may do that and begin to feel the awesomness of His presence.
Easter Sunday 2018 John 20; 1-18
Mary was devoted to her Lord, He had set her free from the demons that possessed her, and delivered her. She had found healing, love and acceptance from Jesus. Unlike most of the other friends and followers of Jesus, Mary was one of the few who stayed with Him at the cross, until the end. Until it would seem that all hope was gone.
It was early in the morning, while it is still dark, when Mary, this woman with a very dark and sinful past came to the place where late last night, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had laid the body of her Lord.
You can imagine the shock that Mary must have felt when she found that not only had the stone been moved, but the tomb itself was empty. The first thing that she did was to run and tell His closest friends, John and Peter. 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb' she cried, ' and I don't know where they have laid Him'.
Where Mary's reaction at the empty tomb was probably shock, John and Peter would be disbelief. They still hadn't realised what Jesus had tried to tell them at that last supper they had shared with Him. " I will be with only a little longer. Then you will look for me. I am going away, but I will come back to you. I am telling you this now, before it happens, so that when it does. you will believe".
Peter had been shocked when Jesus told him that in the next few day's, he would deny even being with Jesus, that Peter would desert his Lord. He would find it very hard to believe that Jesus could think that he, Peter, the Lords friend, would be capable of such a thing. Yet Jesus was right, Peter had let his friend down, and I would imagine he felt very ashamed of himself.
Peter and John ran with much haste to the tomb, probably with feelings of disbelief, who would do such a thing as remove the body, hadn't the authorities done enough to humiliate Jesus ? I wonder if the words of Jesus at that last supper had started to ring some bells. I can well imagine the thoughts that Peter would have had, knowing that not only had he denied even knowing Jesus, but he had deserted Him at the first sign of danger, and let Him die on the cross alone.
Last week on Palm Sunday when we thought about how Jesus and how He would be feeling that day - amidst the exultant cries of Hossana - Jesus knew that to go to Jerusalem meant certain death. Today we think about how Peter would be feeling and that whilst John would want to get to the tomb as quickly as he could - I would imagine that Peters legs would be running faster than his head - he probably wasn’t as keen to get there as John - Peter would probably still have that image of Jesus looking at him when Peter denied knowing or being with Jesus,
No wonder we are told that John arrived first, and when he got to the tomb, he would see the bandages that had been wrapped around Jesus's body all neatly folded, not the work of someone trying to get away in a hurry. John saw the evidence, and scripture tells us 'he believed'
To John that morning seeing was believing - thankfully because of the testimonies of those who had been with Jesus - We havn’t had that privilage of seeing the Lord but thanks be to God, today through reading the New testament accounts - we believe and God opens up the eyes of our heart to see Him in all His glory. To us today - believing is seeing.
Mary just couldn't wait to go and tend to the needs of the Lord she loved. She felt indebted to Him, for what He had done for her, in giving her new life. Life that now had real purpose, a life of hope where before there was only despair. Peter on the other hand would want to believe, but probably held back by his shame.
Today, like Mary, John and Peter those two thousand years ago, we along with Christians all over the world, will give a sigh of relief that the pain and trauma of Good Friday is over - but unlike Mary, John or Peter, we didn’t share the pain that they did on Good Friday.
The glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is more fully appreciated by those who have experienced the cross. Paul wrote to the Philippian Church, ‘I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3; 10,11
What are your feelings, what are your hopes as you come together to worship the risen Lord this morning? Maybe you have come sharing the same mixed feelings that Peter must have had, sadness, remorse for having let your Lord down Perhaps, maybe denied Him in some way or held back from making any kind of commitment to Him.
The way that we approach the empty tomb this morning, could change our lives
I hope we all share some of the feelings that Mary had, that of intense gratitude for what the Lord has and is doing in your life. A time when you want to rejoice over the forgiveness of sin and the victory over sin that Jesus showed was possible.
While Peter and John ran back to their homes, Mary stood outside the tomb weeping.
As she knelt there, she saw two angels, who asked her why she was crying. "because they have taken my Lord away, and I don't know where they have put Him". Then she turned round and saw a man standing by her side. "Woman, why do you weep, who are you looking for?" She thought he was the gardener, and asked him where he had put the body of her Lord. Jesus turned to her and gently said, "Mary" she turned and instantly recognised Him.
In her deepest need, she found that He was there. Jesus came to her when in utter desperation she cried out for Him. Maybe you feel like crying out to God, "where are you." There are times in our lives when ‘Lord You seem so far away’, yet He’s there beside us, sharing your pain, feeling your sorrow. It is at such times we need to reach out to Him, and realise His presence.
Just as the way we approach the tomb is important, so too is the way we go from it and what we do with our lives. Where Peter and John went home, perhaps to let the truth sink in before seeing the other disciples, Mary couldn't wait, and we are told that she went to tell them that she had found, the risen Lord. I pray that that will be our testimony this morning that we know that Jesus Christ is risen indeed from the dead. That we serve a risen Saviour who is in the world today.
How do we know? Because He lives within my heart!
I love the way Paul who’s life was changed so dramatically when he encountered the risen Lord on the way to Damascus, wrote to the church at Rome saying this
Romans 5; 6-11 When we were utterly helpless, with no way of escape, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners who had no use for him. Even if we were good, we really wouldn't expect anyone to die for us, though, of course, that might be barely possible. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since by his blood he did all this for us as sinners, how much more will he do for us now that he has declared us not guilty? Now he will save us from all of God's wrath to come. And since, when we were his enemies, we were brought back to God by the death of his Son, what blessings he must have for us now that we are his friends and he is living within us! Now we rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God - all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done in dying for our sins - making us friends of God.
The Gospels do not explain the Resurrection; the Resurrection explains the Gospels.
I remember as a young man how on Easter morning, everybody in Idle seemed to go to Church. There were very few cars then, and as you walked to church on - you met people on the way and shouted across the street ‘He is Risen’ Hallelujah. Today, the few people who do come to church, come in cars - so sadly, the greeting is rarely expressed.
On the Easter just before he died, D. William Sangster, who was a deeply spiritual Methodist, who had spearheaded a renewal movement in the British Isles following World War II - painfully printed a short note to his daughter. His ministry had been tragically cut short by a tragic disease which progressively paralysed his body, even his vocal chords. All he could do now was silently pray for others to continue the work. The voice that used to powerfully preach the gospel was now silenced.
On the last Resurrection Sunday that Sangster spent on earth, and only now able to move his fingers, he painfully wrote these words to his daughter
"How terrible to wake up on Easter and have no voice to shout, 'He is risen!' But what is far worse, is to have a voice and not want to shout."
Just as Peter and John ran to tell the other disciples that ‘Jesus was alive’and in the same way that Mary couldn’t wait to share the good news with others, so too, we here this morning are called know the risen Christ in our own hearts and share the good news with those that we live with, spend time with, or even live next door to - the good news that God loves them, that there is more to life than this - that Jesus is alive and gave His life to save them. They need to see that in our lives -to see a difference in our way of life, our attitudes, our responses, our goals
Our testimony this morning should be that we know Christ is risen because, like Paul we Know Christ our risen Saviour because He lives within my heart.
Sunday 18 March 2018 Read Luke 4;14-21
This follows the wilderness experience of Jesus after being baptised by John.
Here we see Jesus at the beginning of His life’s ministry having been baptised by John in the Jordan river and being acknowledged and presented to the world by God as His son. Awesome! Luke tells us that when Jesus stepped into the water, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form like a dove and a voice came from Heaven ‘ You are My beloved Son whom I love and with whom I am well pleased’. The voice and words of a proud father presenting His Son for the first time to a needy world.
Here was Jesus - just 30 years old setting His face to move forward and accomplish all that His Father God had sent Him to earth to do. This was the beginning of His ministry on earth.
I wonder how Jesus felt at that time - honoured by God but called to save the world by eventually giving His life on the cross to bring forgiveness to everyone who acknowledges and accepts Him as their Saviour and the assuredness of a new home in heaven with the ransomed, the redeemed.
Here was Jesus who had grown up as the carpenters son - the Nazarene - here was Jesus the Saviour, the long awaited Messiah. He had withstood the temptations of the Devil and was now embarking on His life’s mission.
Coming out of the wilderness - Jesus - full of the Holy Spirit - began teaching the new truth in the synagogues and word about Him began to spread like wildfire throughout the whole countryside.
WOW! What a great time and what a great impression Jesus would have on His hearers.
Luke tells us that He was brought to Nazareth, where He had been brought up and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue as was His custom and stood up to read from the scriptures and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him and using the words of the prophet declared to the people that He was the one the prophet was speaking about. Jesus declared himself to be the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophesies ‘The Messiah’ God had declared Him to be the one at Jesus’ baptism and now Jesus is acknowledging that by saying ‘Here I am’.
A lot had happened between the two occasions, His baptism and now teaching in the synagogue. A lot had happened to confirm to Jesus what His mission was. Being filled with the Holy Spirit He had been led into the wilderness and tempted by the devil as to His identity;
1 ‘If you really are the Son of God‘ prove it - turn these stones into bread,
2 Worship me and I will give you authority over the world,
3 Throw yourself off the high mountain for if you really are who you say you are your God will save you from harm’.
Jesus answered them all from scripture, Man shall not live by bread alone, Thou shalt worship and serve no one else but God who you should never put to the test.
These three elements of life are the same ones that man of the world puts before God today. Feeding his body and mind with everything but the word of God. Putting the things of the world before God and spending his life reaching after fame, and wealth - questioning the true values of God whilst seeking after the things of the world.
The beauty of the answers Jesus gave show that to combat the evil one we need to know the truth of God through knowing the word of God. Jesus gained great strength in the knowledge and acceptance of the presence of the Holy Spirit - Empowered and strengthened by Him Jesus was up and ready to go.
Interestingly, this was the scripture that we looked at on the morning of 3 March 1996 prior to the evening meeting when we enrolled two new members as Soldiers here at Idle.
I said then that ‘ tonight we will share one of the most thrilling experiences in the lives of Brian and Shirley and this fellowship as together they make their declarations to God and are accepted into the fellowship of this part of Gods church by being ‘baptised’ under the Army flag. A public declaration and acceptance of their new life in Christ that they wish to live out in the ranks of the Salvation Army.
In the same way that the whole Godhead was evidenced at the baptism of Jesus, God the Father. God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, so too under the colours of the army flag, the Blue that represents the purity of God. The Red that signifies the Blood of Jesus and the yellow, the fire of the Holy Spirit, Shirley and Brian will identify with Jesus of their to ‘take up their cross and follow Him’.
Who knows what that holds for them both, or indeed this fellowship? Whatever happens, one thing is for certain, Our Father God is with us and will continue to be with us so long as we are obedience to His will. Life will not always be easy, there will be new demands, pressures that come from serving God in a caring, loving way.
To follow Jesus is to go the way of the cross and live sacrificial lives, unselfish lives in devotion to our Lord. Looking back, Brian and Shirley over the last 22 years I guess you will know that - and I pray that you will feel as blessed as we all do at being part of our fellowship.
I guess that there would have been times in the life and ministry of Jesus that He could have yielded to the pressure of His ministry - after all He was Human as well as divine - He became like us so that we could become like Him. Jesus experienced the same disappointments, the same hurts, the same trials that we do - and more so. He grew tired through continually giving out and His heart despaired over the apparent unbelief of those He had come to minister to and give His life for.
The rejection, the laughing behind His back, the scornful abuse, even at times from His own fellowship, the disciples. His friends let Him down and showed many times that they didn’t fully understand the full implications of the truth He tried to declare,
I believe that when we are told that ‘Jesus wept’ it wasn’t’ only because His friend had died but because of the deeper spiritual implications that men and women, unless they accepted Him and His message, were doomed to die in their sins and not experience the ‘new life’ that resurrection brings.
We are reminded of the humanness of Jesus when in the garden of Gethsemane, just before He was arrested, Jesus prayed to His Father to ask if there was some other way, if it were possible that the cup of suffering could be removed. Jesus would feel utterly alone - His disciples were asleep - yet in His heart He would know that there was no other way. As the hymn says ‘there was no other good enough to pay the price of sin - He only - could unlock the gates of Heaven and let us in’ He had to go through with it for my sake and yours.
The truth is that to take up our cross and follow Him there will come times in our lives when the going will get tough, when we feel to be on our own, and at such times the devil will put the thought in our hearts ; is it worth it’ There are times when you may feel like giving up - but you won’t - Why? Because you know that you are not alone because Jesus experienced those same temptations and knowing exactly how you feel is right beside you ready to give that inner strength that will enable you to cope and see you through.
In the same way that Jesus was filled with the Spirit, we too can share that same privilege and have that inner strength to help us fulfil our calling which is to be witnesses to the truth of a gospel that needs to be lived, not preached with mere words, but lived and seen in the everyday lives of people like you and me. In the same way that the word became flesh in Christ so too Christ needs o become flesh in us.
Jesus full of the Holy Spirit went into the synagogue - the recognised church of His day - to establish from day one - His purpose and calling. The scroll of Isaiah was handed to Him and unrolling it He found the place where it was written.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to;
(a) proclaim good news to the poor.
(b) proclaim freedom for the prisoners
(c) recovery of sight for the blind,
(d) to set the oppressed free,
(e) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
(a) Proclaim good news to the poor. To bring people back to the truth that over the years man had complicates, full of rituals that trappings of a religion that made it possible for man to feel he had been forgiven without needing to be fully repentant where knowing ‘about God’ had become a substitute for really ‘knowing Him‘.
The blame was put on the leaders, the shepherds who instead of teaching the truth were starving their sheep in their care. Through the prophet Ezekiel God declared ‘Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?’ Ezekiel 34;2
Jesus the good shepherd came to preach the good news to those who were spiritually poor. Today we have the full gospel - man had no excuse. The trouble is that today there are still false shepherds who lead the sheep under their care into falsehoods. Men who claim to speak with an authority that is not of God.
To proclaim Freedom fro the prisoners people bound by tradition who in Jesus day thought the sacrificing of animals as an offering to God for their sinfulness would atone for their sins They failed to see that man in his own strength could never attain salvation and that only by the Grace of God could a man be set free from the slavery of sin. Freedom is only possible through Jesus Christ.
The atonement for sin would be paid for once and for all time by the sacrifice of Jesus. That’s why John the Baptist could introduce Jesus with the words ‘See the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world’.
Recovery of sight to the blind those who have been blinded to the truth by satans lies. The attractions of the world that tempt man away from the things of God.
Jesus came not only to give sight to the spiritually blind but to also show those who thought they could see that they were in fact blind to the truth.
To release the oppressed those who live in fear, feel weak and of little value to the Kingdom. The devil is cunning that he uses the success and ability of others to make people feel inadequate. Jesus uses ordinary folk, those who are willing to let Him rule in their lives realising that their own weakness can still be of value to God and allow His strength to show forth. Jesus came to set the oppressed free.
To preach the day of the Lord’s favour To herald the Kingdom to come that is not just ‘pie in the sky when you die’ but also ‘meat on your plate while you wait’.