Second Sunday in Advent 9 December 2018 Peace
Last Sunday we lit our first Advent candle ‘Hope’ and said how the world in Isaiah’s day needed that hope - and God gave them hope when He declared to His people that He would send a Saviour to lead them out of darkness into the light of His salvation. Looking forward to a Saviour would put hope in their hearts and light into their darkness. They needed that hope for a better future just as we do today.
Even though as we know from our Bible that God planned ‘Christmas’ centuries before it actually happened - even then - it took everyone by surprise. Even though God had told the world through the voices of the prophets - still the world wasn’t ready for the greatest event since creation- the time when God incarnate in Christ came to live in our world - the world He created but that had drifted away from Him causing Him to invade our world and draw alongside ordinary folk like you and me.
And here we are - 2018 and still the world rejects the truth of Jesus. Still nations war against one another in their fight for power. Still there are folk who simply ‘Haven’t got it. As we know, its easy to be caught up in the festivities - and miss out on the real truth about Christmas. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of pushing Jesus further into the background of Christmas instead of placing Him centre stage in our celebrations.
At that first Nativity there was a ‘No vacancy’ sign on the inn - no room for Jesus. This Christmas, as always, there will be many people celebrating Christmas but who have no room for Jesus. God wants people to take the ‘no vacancy’ sign down and make room for Jesus in their lives.
Jesus came into our world to give man purpose and meaning to his life, both now and to come. That’s the real truth of Christmas, that God in Christ, entered our world, became like us. He came t share our world, to live with us so that one day we could go and share His world and live forever with Him. The Word, became flesh and dwelt among us full of Grace and Truth. How can man resist such great love.
Just as the Christmas presents are waiting to be unwrapped on Christmas day- so too we need to begin to unwrap the truth of the real Christmas Present - Jesus Immanuel - or should I say ’The real Christmas PRESENCE - Immanuel - God with us. Gods love? It’s all unwrapped for us to see in Jesus.
Just as the word became flesh in Jesus, so the word, Jesus, needs to become flesh in us - we need to show the Love of God to our friends, family and the world at large. The world needs to see Christ in the hearts and lives of people like you and I.
Here we are today looking forward to celebrating the fulfilment of the prophesies when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just AS God said He would.
When you consider all the preperations that went in to that first Christmas - the lives that were invaded and turned around causing them to get ready. The angel appearing to Zacharia and Elizabeth telling them they were about to become parents to the one who would prepare the way for the coming Messiah, John the Baptist . Then to Mary and Joseph the unmarried couples who’s lives were really going to be brought into the spotlight.
Each and every character involved in the Christmas story had to be completely obedient to God The shepherds tending their flocks, the Wise men from the east - all of them had to be completely obedient to the will of God. Even down to the name of their babies. Zechariah was told to call his child John and Joseph to call his baby Jesus.
Read Luke 1; 1-25 Awesome - Lukes gospel was written some 60 years after the death of Jesus - Luke carefully investigated the whole life of Jesus from birth to death and ascention by checking all the reports to make sure that his account is the most accurate. Last Tuesday we watched as investigative journalist Lee Strobel set out to try prove to people that the very existence of Jesus was all a myth but during his careful and painstaking search came to realise that Jesus actually lived and died and rose again - today he is pastor of Willow Creek in America and a faithful advocate of the Christian faith.
Unlike Lee Strobel - Luke set out to bring the whole life of Jesus to the notice of Jews and Gentiles in his own day and the years that followed up to us today. Without Luke we would not have such an exacting account of the life of Jesus and the birth and growth of the Christian Church.
We have just read of the events leading up to the birth of John the one spoken of in Isaiah as the one who would prepare the way for the Lord Jesus.
Here we see Zechariah a priest well on in years who while he is on duty his confronted by the angel Gabriel who tells him that his prayers have been answered and that he and his wife Elizabeth are going to have a son whom they are to name John who will be great in the sight of the Lord and filled with the spirit from birth and that he will be the one God has chosen to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Zechariah found the news almost unbelievable - Gabriel tells him that he has been sent by God to tell Zechariah the good news but as he didn’t believe him when told, said that from that moment on he would be struck dumb. When the people waiting for him outside the Temple they could see that something awesome had happened to Zechariah and that he had seen a vision. He went home and his wife was found to be pregnant - WOW!
Lets read further what happened next. Luke 1; 26-38
Here we find the same angel, Gabriel appearing to Mary who was pledged to be married to Joseph. Gabriel told her that she was to have a baby by the Holy Spirit who will be called the son of the most High - the son of God - to call him Jesus. Unlike Elizabeth, Mary accepted what she was told and said I am the Lords servant may it be to me as you have said.
Wow! Both Zechariah and Mary visited by the angel Gabriel and being told such awesome news. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are past child bearing age and Mary hasn’t even married Joseph her fiance. All this in fulfilment of the prophesies given in the Old Testament that will lead to the birth of our Saviour Jesus and his forerunner John the Baptist.
One of the most striking things about these accounts is the way in which the angel told them what they were to call their sons - John and Jesus.
The name - always a problem What to call the baby - usually you don’t know wether to choose a girls name or a boys - but these were to be boys and had a name already. When I was born the first child was nearly always named after the father. The second after some other member of the family. Family names were handed down. Thats what they expected to be done for Elizabeth and Zecharias son - not so.
The Angel had told him, 'Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you are to call him John', which means 'Gods gift' or 'God is gracious'. Likewise the angel appeared to Mary, and told her 'You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus'. Jesus is a Greek form of the name 'Joshua', meaning 'Saviour' Just as Joshua led his people into the promised land, so too Jesus would lead His people into the promised 'Eternal life'.
The people of the Bible took names very seriously and saw them as a great source of strength and power. Last week we read in Isaiah 9 the various 'Royal' names by which Jesus would be called. 'For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace'
Wonderful Counsellor, meaning awesome, without comparison, excellent, miracle or wonder worker, and yet in all His greatness - someone you can talk to and you know will listen with understanding and concern and will always give the right advice.
Mighty God, not just any god, but none other than God Himself. Everlasting Father, Not just Father but everlasting Father, timeless, Father of all those who come to Him and are born again. This is a most powerful name that speaks of love, commitment, recognition that we are of the family of God.
Prince of Peace, He will govern with justice and peace. O How they needed Peace. The people of Isaiah's day, were governed by the apostate King, Ahaz, who abandons his religion - Judah was in darkness. The people needed to hear the message of hope, that Mighty God still cared and loved His creation = that our Father wanted His children back - that’s why He decided that the Messiah would come to lead His people out of darkness into light. That sadly wasn’t to be for another 700 years
During His earthly ministry, in different settings, Jesus gave Himself titles that pointed to special roles that He would fulfil. Some of these names refer back to Old Testament prophesies regarding the Messiah. Others were to simply help people to understand Him.
Jesus's emphasised His humanity with the name Son of Man, (John 6; 27). It can be found everywhere in the gospels, and only Jesus himself used it. Jesus said to Zacchaeus ' the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost'. Almighty God came wrapped in our humanity, to share our world, and in order to do that. He was willing to feel our pain, to share our grief. He wept, He laughed, He grew tired, became angry at man's foolishness, He knew what it was to be hungry and thirsty, Jesus was truly God, and truly man and as such shared our emotions.
When confronted by His accusers at His trial, the High priest asked Jesus if He was the Messiah, 'I am, He replied, and you will all see the Son of Man seated on the right of The Almighty and coming with the clouds of heaven'. Mark 14; 62.
He was known as 'the Bread of Life' (John 6;35), which referred to His life giving role. Bread, the staff of life, man's staple diet. After the miraculous feeding of the 5000, the crowds flocked to see Him demanding that He do more miracles if He expected them to believe that He was indeed the Messiah. 'Moses gave us bread from Heaven, how about giving us some of this bread? Jesus replied "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." "Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread." Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
'Light of the World' (John 8; 12), Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Light, the symbol of Spiritual truth. Jesus in the sermon on the mount said that 'we' are the light of the world. WOW!
In the first song this morning we sang that Jesus would be - A light to those in darkness And a guide to paths of peace’ then in our second song we sang ‘Wherever there is darkness Let’s try to bring some light Like the stars that keep on shining Through the cold and lonely night’ Jesus the light of the World desires to shine in and through each one of us
Graham Kendrick puts it this way 'as we gaze on His Kingly brightness, so our faces display Your likeness, ever changing from Glory to Glory, mirrored here may our lives tell Your story, Shine on me. The first verse says 'Lord, the light of Your love is shining, in the midst of the darkness, shining., Jesus light of the World shine upon us!
Sometimes I feel that we are a poor reflection of what God wants to show to the World, that our little light burns dimly. One consolation is that scripture tells us that 'He will nor quench the dimly burning flame'. Our prayer should be, fan me into flame 'O Lord' that I might shine for You.
John 10;11 Jesus said 'I am the Good Shepherd' The promised Shepherd of Israel, who would not only tend and lead His sheep, but also seek the lost sheep, and because He is 'The Way, The Truth and the Life' He will bring them home safely into the fold and back into His Fathers arms.
One of the most important names Jesus called Himself, was 'The Vine' the source of all life, and that we are 'The branches'. We cannot hope to be a good Christian if we neglect to stay firmly rooted in Him. We are completely dependant on Him for Spiritual life and growth.
Jesus is also Lord which in the Greek translations of the Old Testament is the word used to translate the special name of God - Yahweh. By the time of Jesus, Lord was well used as the name for God Himself. The disciples called Him Lord and worshipped Him as God . 'Jesus is Lord' is probably the first Christian creed for it sums up the whole of a Christian's faith.
What's in a name? Everything if it happens to be Jesus, Jesus the Messiah, our Lord.
In His name, is power, Peter and John realised that when they met the lame man at the gate Beautiful, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth - rise up and walk’ and we are told never to take the name of the Lord in vain, but to honour Him in all that we do.
I pray that this Christmas He may be all these to us, and that we will honour the glorious name that we have embraced, that of Christian, a follower of Christ Jesus, realising that in embracing the faith, we have been adopted into His family, and as a glorious consequence be given the honour of being called by His name, Christian.
One of the most awesome names can be found in Isaiah 7;14 and Matthew 1; 23, where Jesus is called Immanuel, 'God with us'.
All the way through His word, God reminds His people that if they are obedient to Him, then He will be with them.
Moses was told not to be afraid to face Pharaoh, because 'I Am' will be with you, God through Isaiah told His people to 'Fear not, for I am with you, When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, when you walk through deep waters it will not consume you, for I will be with you'
Jesus told His disciples this 'if anyone loves Me and will obey My teaching, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him', Wow! God himself the Everlasting Father will make His home in you and me.
Can we begin to understand what Jesus is saying here? God Himself wants to live in our lives, He wants to reign in and through His obedient people. He wants to be the Prince of Peace and bring His peace into our lives. Our second candle reminds us that Christmas is a time of Peace. Peace in our hearts our home, our fellowship. O how the world needs the gift of Peace.
While we celebrate Christmas - all over the world there are people on their guard against the enemy. Soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, wars all over the world. People in fear for their lives, homes where fear reigns, children living in abusive homes. Christians in Muslim countries fearing for their lives. Today in Jerusalem the heir are hundreds fearing for their lives. O how we need Peace.
In the closing moments of this service I want us to look at these first two candles - see them as that first glimmer of hope - of anticipation that something great is going to happen.
The joyful time that we are preparing to celebrate
Jesus the bringer of Hope - we all need positive hope in our hearts
Jesus the giver of Peace - in our troubled world, we crave Peace
Let the light penetrate the dark corners of your mind. Illuminate your thinking
Ask God to let that light, the light of Jesus penetrate into your soul.
Ask Jesus to impart His light into your heart to set your heart on fire with expectation that something good is about to happen and you don’t want to be left out.
Closing song Make me a channel of Your Peace
First Sunday in Advent 2 December 2018 Hope
Isaiah 9: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ....on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
Isaiah - one of the greatest prophets of all times - a man who, like the account we looked at last week regarding Paul who was approached by Jesus on the Damascus Road, Isaiah too saw the Lord and this was around 750 years before the birth of Jesus.
Chapter 6 of Isaiah tells us in the year that King Uzziah died - I saw the Lord - Isaiahs response was to cry to the Lord ‘ woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips and WOW! My eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty‘.
The Lord touched his lips and his guilt was taken away Then the Lord asked who He could send back to the nation to tell them of Gods anger, and tell them how He was going to deal with that and provide a way out in Christ- Isaiah cried ‘here am I Lord, send me’ WOW just as Jesus called Saul from his path of persecuting the new Christians following the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Here we see God calling Isaiah about 740 years earlier to leave his past ways and become Gods spokesman to tell the people that one day the Messiah will come.
Isaiah 9 was a message of hope for a people who may be feeling desperate for good news. no more gloom for those who were in distress. Today that same message will be read in churches up and down the country in preparation for the first coming of our Saviour Jesus. On this first Sunday in Advent, churches will read this same promise of God in preparation for Christmas - the first coming of Jesus and in preparation for His return - the second coming..
Just as the people in Isaiah’s day lived in battle torn lands so too today, our world today is torn with conflict, oppression and wars - a time ripe for Jesus to come again. Isaiah talks about the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, Many today, especially in the Christian world are suffering persecution and death as they hold on to their faith in Jesus. Today we live in a world that has many parallels - today is not unlike the world of Isaiah’s day. A time of unrest, uncertainty, many who live in fear for today and see little or no hope for tomorrow.
We live in a world where frightened persecuted people have to leave their homes and seek refuge in foreign lands. People today, like in Isaiah’s day, need that glimmer of hope, that shred of light that promises a different future. They needed a Saviour to lead them out of despair into hope. Isaiah’s hope was in a promised Saviour. The same hope as today. People need hope - direction - a way out - you and I know that they need Jesus.
That was what was needed in Isaiah’s day - and so Isaiah speaks of victorious times to come. They wanted Peace - stability - they wanted a champion to come and lead them to victory - they needed a Messiah. This is not the champion warrior they probably expected- instead, Isaiah tells them of a man, a Saviour, who is coming to ' tend His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; and gently lead those that have young.
Isaiah tells where the ministry of the Messiah will take place, in Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan - and in Micah chapter 5, God even tells His people where the Messiah would be born "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
Incredible isn't it and yet even though God prepared His people with the news of the coming of Jesus, they were still taken by surprise! One can hardly blame them. How can ordinary man begin to understand the unbelievable, the extraordinary, unless he has been drawn in to share the 'secrets of the Almighty' ?
Jesus told Nicodeamus that no one will see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again - Nicodeamus found that hard to understand - Born again - how? Jesus said I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I tell you of Heavenly things’?
Even though God went on to tell them where and how the Saviour would be born -when it did happen, 740 years later - the leaders and authorities refused to accept it.
Thankfully Jesus sought out His disciples among the ordinary fishermen and called them to come and follow Him. They did and gradually came to see for themselves by the way in which Jesus lived among them, His attitude, His response, His love and concern for them - the miraculous things He did before their very eyes, the secrets of the Kingdom He shared with them - there was no way of stopping God getting through to them as He opened their minds to the truth. When they saw Jesus and what He did and said they began to realise the truth. The glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." Isaiah 40;5
Isaiah, heralded the start of the greatest adventure story of all time. An adventure that would captures the spirit if the people and draw them in to share the adventure.
This is the first Sunday in Advent - the beginning of a most wonderful and exciting adventure. I like adventures. The word Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus which means "arrival." Its the overture to one of the greatest adventure of all time - the coming of Immanuel - God amongst us, to share our humanity and prepare us to share His divinity. In the next few weeks we will be sharing this great adventure leading up to the exciting celebration of the birthday of Jesus our Lord and Saviour.
Everyone loves Christmas - the trimmings, the tree, the parties, the presents, the cards from family and friends you haven’t seen for a long time - The kids love sending letters to Santa, the excitement of Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning. That’s great - I love it all too.
Sadly today there are those who under the influence of the devil are doing their best to cover up the true meaning of Christmas - and moving the emphasis of what the true Christmas is really all about - the birth of Jesus the Saviour of the world.
Thankfully when we as Gods people anticipate the coming of Jesus, the Light and Saviour of the world who liberates us from the shackles of sin, bringing freedom and New Life to all who accept Him as their Saviour - it brings a real sense of Joy.
You - probably like me - love to go to the theatre to watch you favourite musical. There you are, you’ve got there well on time, the cars parked, you’ve got your sweets and programme, you’ve found your seats you’ve tucked your coat under the seat and as you settle back in your seats , there’s a sense of expectancy as one by one, the instruments in the orchestra start to tune up and then they strike up with the Overture.
It’s then that we start to feel the excitement knowing that as the familiar tunes start to play - we are in for a good time. We hum along - some around us dare to sing as we all wait for that tell tale bob of the curtain that tells us that the show is about to start.
Well that’s what Advent is, the overture - to God’s greatest production that as each day comes our expectations are raised and we long for the curtain to rise on what promises to be a most spectacular occasion. Advent is designed to bring a sense of expectancy that ‘something goods about to happen’ as we prepare to celebrate His coming.
It’s also a reminder that just as He came over 2000 years ago, He is coming again and as well as celebrating that first coming - we anticipate His second coming- a stark reminder that just as the first participants of that First Christmas were encouraged to get ready for His coming - today, we need to spend our time not just getting ready to celebrate the birthday of our Saviour - but also to make sure that we are ready for His return.
No one knows when that will be - the prophesies are all there in the New Testament
Especially Paul’s letter to Timothy and Johns revelations from the Isle of Patmos v- all given more than 2000 years ago - thankfully that has given mankind plenty of time to forsake his sinful past and get ready for the return of Jesus.
Just as the message of Isaiah brought hope to a desperate people the message of Christ’s second coming brings hope to us all of a better world to come - a world where love, Peace and Joy will reign. Just as Jesus came in fulfilment of the first prophesies, to prepare a way out - Salvation - for mankind - this time He will be coming to look at the way mankind has responded to His sacrificial love and take those who have to live with Him in Glory and discard the sinful.
We have this hope before us as an incentive to make sure that we don’t let the real reason for the season get lost in our preparations over the next few weeks up to the Lords birthday. Sadly many will get caught up in the fast moving festivities - buying and sending cards, choosing presents, buying too much food.
A few years ago, we used to have a choir and we went to sing at Sainsbury’s. We sang the old carols and a few new ones that I had found. One of them was ’the Christ in Christmastime’ and says this;
The streets are full of people hurrying along -
Buying things and making plans
It’s such a crazy season - such a busy time
it’s so easy to forget how it began
You’ve chosen all the presents written all the cards
Hung the lights around the Christmas tree.
But with all the celebrating it’s easy to lose sight
Of the star that’s shining down for you and me
Sadly we live in an age where the true meaning of the Christian festivals that we used to celebrate have been stolen from us and replaced with worldly and commercially profitable festivities. The Easter egg has taken prominence at Easter, Spring bank holiday has replaced Pentecost, All Saints Day has been captured by Halloween . I couldn’t believe how much evil looking merchandise was on sale in the supermarkets at Halloween - and if we are not careful, the glitter on sale in the supermarkets will overshadow the reason for our celebrations. The birth of Jesus Saviour of the world.
The media not wanting to upset people of other faiths, ignore and plays down the true meaning of Christmas. Nativity cards get harder to find . The media are trying to downplay the truth of Christmas.
Wouldn’t it be great if this year people decided to stop and think it through as to why and what we are celebrating. It doesn’t have to mean that we don’t do all the usual things like we have always done - it mean that we will give the Holy Spirit time to help us appreciate what GOD did in sending Jesus and the reason why Jesus is coming again. I believe that it’s up to us - His church, the living body of Christ in the world today to stand up and profess our faith to our friends, neighbours and colleagues.
When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Philippi from the confines of his prison cell, he said this;. Chapter 3; 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Chapter 4; Therefore my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, that is how you should Stand firm in the Lord dear friends. As the last verse of the carol I mentioned earlier says;
So keep your heart in heaven though your feet are on the earth
And hear the greatest story ever told
It’s all about a baby from a cradle to a cross
It’s the story of the Saviour of the World
To give love is the greatest gift of all
To bring hope is the reason and the rhyme
To find Joy and Peace is the wonder of it all
To give Love is the Christ in Christmas time
I pray that we will all see it in a new light, that the age old truth will dawn afresh and vibrantly new as we ask God to let the light of the truth dawn in our hearts.
The candle we lit this morning is the candle of Hope. What are your hopes and dreams - better health, more togetherness - that these seats get filled?
What’s your hopes and dreams. What is it that will make those hopes a reality - it’s faith - faith is the main ingredient of hope - faith makes things happen - faith brings hopes into focus and turns them into realities.
I said earlier that Advent reminds us also that Jesus is coming back again. When He came the first time - many were just not ready - Jesus is coming again - are we ready? Think about your friends and family - are they ready for His return - is that something that we should be making them aware of?
The long awaited Messiah that Isaiah heralded would come to bring hope to an oppressed people. To show mankind a better way - the way of holiness. Forgiveness for the past and a bright hope for the future.
Over the next few weeks we will remind ourselves how that was accomplished in Jesus, how the word made flesh, showed by example how God intended His creation to live in harmony with God and one another.
We sang ’Come Thou long expected Jesus’ It’s not just a song about the coming babe at Christmas, I believe that it speaks of His coming again - this time to take His ransomed, saved, redeemed and obedient Church to live with Him in Glory forever. Are we that people - are we ready - are we the people He wants us to be - a people who live for God and one-another. Not a people who seek after wealth at any cost. A people who put pleasure before commitment to God.
I find it sad that we live in what is supposed to be a Christian country but very few have a real experience of Christ. When I think of the wisdom and scope of Gods plan in coming to live in our world in an effort to call the world back to the Fathers heart - I feel sad that the very people He commissioned to help Him in this have failed Him so much that the light of this world shines brighter than the true light of the World.
In the closing moments of this service close your eyes and ask yourself how you would feel if Jesus were to come back right now. Ask Jesus to impart His light into your heart to set your heart on fire with expectation that when He comes again - you don’t want to be left out.
Think about all these empty seats and the people out there who live empty lives - the light of Christ could fill both. The light of the truth of Jesus could fill those empty lives with hope and these empty seats with people. We live in a dark world and it is our responsibility to bring the light back.
People out there - need to know that the is hope and that the answer to their problems won’t be found in anything or anyone else but Jesus. We need to put Christ back into Christmas.
The greatest witness to the truth of Jesus is the way that we live our lives.
You and I - His church should be a beacon light that lives the full gospel message. That people can see something of the beauty of Jesus in our lives. The way in which we cope with life, even through times of adversity - because Jesus is real to us. It’s up to us to us who have received the light to take that light into the world we live. To live without Christ is to live without Hope. The world needs a sure and certain hope
As I said earlier, I wouldn’t be able to cope with what I have to do without the knowledge that Jesus is with me and will never leave me and that in Him I have the victory over what, to those without Christ, would be an impossible life. People need the Lord this Christmas - the good news is that He is available - and the Lord needs you and I to share that good news with them.
The hymn we are going to sing in closing moments is the Graham Kendrick classic ‘the Message of Love’ which encourages us to take Hope and Peace out into the streets. To invade the rush in people lives with the Peace that only Christ can bring. Lets pray that the light of Hope and Peace flow from us out into the darkness of this world to put Christ back into Christmas.
Sunday Morning 25 November 2018
Last week we read the passionate plea of the newly converted Paul shared with the church at Philippi when he wrote; Philippians 3;10 ‘I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
The desire of Paul who met with Jesus on the Damascus road was to really know Jesus. The original intention and reason for him going to Damascus was to destroy the new followers of Jesus and obliterate the name of Jesus - Paul wasn’t seeking Jesus to know love and worship Him - it was Jesus Himself that sought out Paul and revealed Himself to Paul.
It became clear with the God appointed events that followed this when God arranged an awesome ,meeting with Ananias who would confirm the calling Paul and set him on his journey
of faith by praying with Paul that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Not surprising then that one of the first things Paul did after his encounter with Jesus and Ananias, was to meet up with the disciples of Jesus and find out about the Lords life and ministry. To hear first hand about the exciting life of Jesus from those who had been with Him from the beginning and also share his own testimony with them.
Lets just remind ourselves of Paul’s awesome encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road. This is six years after the death and resurrection Jesus Christ. Following Pentecost, Christianity had begun to take root and was spreading in Jerusalem - because of that, persecution of the followers of Jesus was rife. It’s also only a year since that Paul stood by and condoned the stoning of Stephen and here he is one year later being confronted by Jesus Himself on the Damascus Road - lets read it;
Acts 9; 1-23 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," He replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered.
The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."
"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."
But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim My name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for My name."
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?" Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
WOW Paul - a changed man following his encounter with Jesus and his desire to want to get to know Jesus. On Tuesday at our Bible fellowship we looked at Paul’s letter to Timothy - written 30 years later from the confines of his imprisonment after preaching about Jesus and sharing the good news with others - 2 Timothy 1; 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.
His passionate desire to really know Christ and the power of His resurrection had become a reality in his own life so that now he can write with real confidence - I Know whom I have believed - I know Jesus. This is Paul 30 years after his conversion - Paul who just as he asked is himself suffering in prison for sharing what he now knows about Jesus - in 3 years time he would be martyred in Rome.
It wasn’t easy in those days to be seen as a Christian and as I said last week that today following over 2000 years of comparative freedom to come to know Jesus and share the good news with others, we are living in difficult times where the gospel is being neglected and people are once again going their own way, seeking power, wealth, fortune, fame and pleasure. We live in times where the churches that once were full following the faithful witness of our ancestors are now emptying and in many cases closing through lack of interest and declining membership.
In Idle we have seen the demise of the Thorpe Methodist Church, The Ebenezer Methodist Church in Thackley, and selling of the Upper Chapel in Westfield Lane to a dance studio, the demolition of Norman Lane Methodist Church - Only next week the Salvation Army in Otley will be closing.
We are living in difficult times - a time where it takes determined, strong followers of Jesus to stand firm and hold fast to the faith. We might not have reached the point where the Christian Church in this country are being persecuted for their faith but the way it’s going I can see it coming if the Church of God doesn’t do something about it.
That’s why I believe God is calling the faithful to stand up for what they believe and not be afraid to share it with others. As individuals I believe God is calling us to share our faith with our friends, neighbours, people we meet day by day and encourage them to come to know Christ as we do.
The days have long gone when we could muster up a brass band, take our stand on the village green or in the streets around the district and proclaim the good news. People these days have so many distractions in their homes, TV, Computers that Mobile phones that they are not prepared to listen to an open air. Congregations are getting older and the young ones have so many distracting activities to do not just in the week but now on Sundays - the day that used to be seen as the Lords Day.
We live in a different world than the one many of us grew up in where Church was the mainstay of our weekly lives and everything revolved around the church. That’s why we need to make sure that we really Know the Lord and have the power within to go and make Him known to others.
I was saddened this week when I met with another Salvation Army Officer who defended the way in which many Corps today have moved away from the SA disciplines that many of us grew up with such as treating the Lords day with reverence and respect and regards Corps going to restaurants and sharing a meal together in place of the Sunday Evening Salvation meeting as acceptable- When I shared that a Corps I know goes bowling regularly on some Sunday nights, she saw nothing wrong with that, or the fact that some Corps have been seen wearing full uniform and bearing a rainbow badge and taking part in Gay Pride marches - Unbelievable
The first doctrine that we have in the Salvation Army states this ; ‘We believe that the scriptures of the Old and New testaments were given by the inspiration of God and that they only- constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice’.
Exodus 20;8 the fourth commandment says; Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Isaiah 58; 1 and 2; "Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek Me out; they seem eager to know My ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
Ezekiel 20;13 "‘- the people of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness. They did not follow My decrees but rejected My laws—by which the person who obeys them will live—and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out My wrath on them and destroy them in the wilderness. But for the sake of My name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out
Then verses 13-14 "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on My holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Why is it that the church today thinks that it can change the word of God not just regarding the Sabbath Day but about many of the things in an attempt to appease the sinful world in the hopes it will make the Word more acceptable - and that’s what’s happening.
The prosperity gospel that plays on the greed of man, both financially and materially so that even the misguided ministers of these churches see the purchase of Jets and mansions as being the Gods intention for those who accept their lies. So too in the churches all around us even the Sabbath day has been taken over by the world and become just another day.
The devil is certainly having a ball today not just in the world but in many churches. that’s why I believe we have been called to look at the testimony of Paul and see the transformation that took place when Jesus approached him and called him to become a follower of His. Paul obviously fell in line and as he said to Timothy - ‘I know whom I have believed’ and WOW how it showed in his life, his writings and in his death.
God needs people who really know Him and want to make Him known to others.
People who are eager to hold fast to the word of God and by living it help others to see the value in putting God first and living in obedience to His word. Our ninth doctrine states that We Believe that continuance in a state of Salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ. That’s how the church today will be restored and made ready for the second coming of Christ - the time when the Lord comes back for the faithful in His Church and takes it back to become His Kingdom in Heaven.
It takes guts to take a stand for the Lord in these days and where in Paul’s day it could mean jail, persecution and even death - today for us it can mean rejection from people we share our lives with, even friends or being shunned or misunderstood. It’s not easy but necessary if we are to see the church grow in our community.
How did you respond to what we shared last week - did it make a difference in the way in which you conducted yourselves this week - did what I believe God was saying to us last week impact the way we conducted ourselves - how we regarded others - what we did with our time - We might never get back to the way we used to worship and meet together during the week - but I believe that if we take more time to be with Jesus in our own homes then He will empower us to be His witnesses where we live and encourage others to come to know Him.
It would be great if the response to what I believe God is telling us today some of you if not all of us could look at the extent of our commitment. Think about it - pray about it and lets get moving to become that living vibrant growing church that will show others that we mean business
We looked at what the first doctrine of the Salvation Army says We believe that the scriptures of the Old and New testaments were given by the inspiration of God and that they only- constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice’.
And the ninth doctrine states We believe that continuance in a state of Salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.
To know Him through His word and to know Him by the power of the Holy Spirit which ensures that our desire is to show the extent of our faith by endeavouring to live in continued obedience to Christ Jesus.
We sang at the beginning of our meeting the song that declared that in our lives - Jesus is Lord
We then sang a song that asked God to help us do just that; Just let me live my life. Let it be pleasing Lord to Thee. And if I gain any praise let it flow to Calvary
We then sang the song from The Witness by Jimmy and Carol Owens that said
Lord make me like You Please make me like You. You are a servant Make me one too
O Lord I am willing Do what You must do. To make me like You Lord Just make me like You
I hope that’s your desire this morning - the song we are going to sing now is a confession of our faith - using the same expression that Paul shared with the early church when he declared I know in whom I have believed - a vibrant testimony of his new found faith that was growing daily as he lived in obedience to His Lord.
I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day. And be assured He will if we stick to our side of the bargain and live in obedience to His word in our daily lives and let the Word Jesus - He will become flesh in and through us.
Sunday 18 November 2018
Last week we read the words of Jesus to His disciples before He went to the cross and showed His great love for them and us - those who would respond to His sacrificial love and turn to God. We read from John 15; 9: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. ‘Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
We looked at the plea of Jesus for His people to love one another - really love one another - even to the point of being prepared to die for one another.
Jesus said ' you are my friends if you obey my commands, and the greatest command is that 'you love one another, as I have loved you'- that’s love - real love Love that brings Joy and Peace.
When I asked God to show me what He wanted us to look at this Sunday the verse that came straight into my head was Philippians 3;10 - the words of Paul when he shared his innermost desire with the Philippians ‘I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
I realised that I had used these verses many times over the last 24 years, the last time being just 4 months ago in August but as I read it again the words ‘I want to know Christ’ just echoed over and over in my mind and I said ‘Yes’ this is what God wants of each of us and it’s important that we in this day and age look at this in regards to our own individual experiences.
The desire of Paul - the converted Paul who had encountered Jesus on the Damascus road was to really know Jesus. The original intention and reason for him going to Damascus wasn’t to seek after Jesus and get to know Him but to destroy the new followers of Jesus and obliterate the name of Jesus - it was Jesus Himself that sought Paul out and revealed Himself to Paul.
It became clear to Paul regarding his amazing encounter with Jesus especially when it was followed by a God planned meeting with Ananias that the very person Paul had set out to destroy - Jesus - was in fact the Messiah that he as a Jew had been waiting for - for centuries.
Not surprising then that one of the first things Paul did after his encounter with Christ and Ananias, was to meet up with the disciples of Jesus and find out about the Lords life and ministry. To hear first hand about the exciting life of Jesus from those who had been with Him from the beginning and also share his own testimony with them.
Just like Christian convert today, who, seeking to get to know about Jesus, His life and ministry, takes the bible and read what His disciples Matthew. Mark, Luke and John have to share about Jesus - that how young Christians get to know about Jesus but so often, sadly, it stops there - knowing about Jesus seems to be enough.
Of course to know about Him and His ministry is good and important - but what I believe God wants and is encouraging us to look at this morning is how we need to move on - not just know about Him - but to really get to Know Him and His presence in our lives and our fellowship. There is a difference.
I believe that what Paul felt and meant when he wrote - ‘I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection’
We all have friends that we love and respect - you don’t just get to know friends by what others say about them - you spend time with them - because you want to really get to know them. To enjoy their company and share the love that we feel.
I’ve mentioned many times before that when Anna in the musical ‘The King and I’ was appointed as teacher to the kings children she desired to ‘get to know them, get to know all about them in the hopes that they would begin to get to know and love her’ That’s why she sang;
‘Getting to know you, getting to know all about you -
Getting to like you. getting to hope you like me
Getting to know you putting it my way but nicely
You are precisely my cup of tea
Haven't you noticed - suddenly I'm bright and breezy?
Because of all the beautiful and new things I'm learning about you - Day by day
I remember when I was a young lad and my friend Harold Cusworth met and fell in love with his future wife Nancy. Unlike today, in my young days we lads didn’t seem to bother with girls until we were in our mid-teens. That’s where Harold, a few years older than me, had reached and when he started courting Nancy, I was at a loss as to what to do with my time and we talked about the other girls in the Corps - Harold mentioned Beryl - she had just joined from the Ebenezer Methodist Church - I only knew about her from what others said but over the next few weeks I plucked up courage to ask her out and sought to really get to know her - as it turned out, she was precisely, my cup of tea - we fell in love and the rest is history.
When Paul said ‘I want to know Christ and the power of His resurection’ he wasn’t just saying I want to know about Jesus - what he was saying is ‘I want to really get to Know Him for myself’ First hand to become one with Him and know His indwelling power - the awesome power that raised Jesus from the dead..
One of the indictments of the Church in the last days is that they will ‘have a form of godliness but denying the power’ 2 Timothy 3;5. They might look the part but they will lack the power that Jesus said they would have if they really accepted Him as their Lord and Saviour’ That’s sad - that’s so evident in many churches today - Why - because many don’t really know Him as He wants them to - they havn‘t moved on.
‘ I want to know You Lord’ was my prayer when Jesus healed me through the powerful prayers of David and Dorothy Murden - I cried out to God ‘I want to know You like they do’ I knelt at the mercy seat and felt the most awesome presence of God in that place as the Holy Spirit of God came and I was filled with His presence. WOW! I was set on course to experience the difference between knowing about and really knowing the presence of Jesus in your heart - the transformation had begun in my life and as Anna sang to the children ‘ Haven't you noticed - suddenly I'm bright and breezy? Because of all the beautiful and new things I'm learning about you - Day by day
Jesus had told His disciples that they would have power when the Holy Ghost came upon them and greater things will you do than I have done’. That’s what I believe Paul meant when he said ‘I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection’
Remember the words of Jesus to His disciples at the last supper John 14; 6 when He told them that he was going to leave them and that they would eventually go to be with Him -they asked Jesus where are you going and how will we know how to get there - Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.’ 8 Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? the words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
There we have it again - v7 if you really know Me and to Philip Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?
There is a real need for Christians today to get to really know Jesus and not just about Him. Of course it starts by getting to know about Him but it mustn’t stop there for as we get to know about Him then I believe the desire to really know Him will come. That’s why I feel that today - Bible study - is important. I use both the NIV and an original Greek manuscript that I have.
Over the last few years I believe that God has made Christ more real to me so that the Man of the Word has become a companion - a real live living spirit within me.
Every morning when I kneel to talk to Him in prayer - I can really feel His presence - my heart wells up within me - tears come - tears of gratitude and Joy in His presence. The same feeling we experience when we meet with those we love. I believe that that is what God wants for His church today - people who are eager to know Him through His word but also really know Him as a living presence in their lives - people through whom He eventually will be able to show His power.
The opportunity to really know Him is available for us all - I really believe that that is Gods desire for you and me today. It all starts with obedience to His word.
V 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’ 22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them
Just as The word became flesh in Christ I believe Christ desires to become flesh in you and me - that’s how He will build His church - we are not called the Body of Christ for nothing Writing to the church at Corinth about spiritual gifts Paul says you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. Corinthians 12; 27
When we look at Jesus and consider His life and ministry we see a man of deep and real compassion - obedient to God, prayerful, loving, self sacrificial.
In response to the call of Jesus and the experience of knowing the living Christ within, Paul went on to be a true man of God who reflected the love and power of Jesus in his life and ministry. Apart from the four gospels we are deeply indebted to Paul for mast of the rest of the New Testament. Through the writings of the disciples and Paul we can get to know all about Jesus - but it can’t and shouldn’t stop there - we should have the same desire as Paul and that is to really Know the living Christ within.
How do you feel this morning - do you feel that you really know Jesus in the truest expression of the word or just about Him. Is Christ a living reality in your life - do you feel His presence ? I hope so - I believe that that’s what God intends for His church. That’s why I feel He wanted us to look in more depth - to what Paul says in Philippians 3
If you don’t feel that way than this morning seek to make it a reality in your own life before we leave the meeting. I believe God wants to put that desire within your heart and in response to your desire will begin that process in your life to become a living vibrant reality in your life.
There are too many churches around that have congregations that are content to play along with the outward show of being Christian but sadly without knowing and experiencing the awesome reality of the living presence of God who will motivate them to become living vibrant witnesses to His awesome power.
Just as last week I closed by saying Let Go and let God, this week I would say ‘Get up and get real’ take on board Paul’s words and make them your desire too ‘I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.
When Jesus becomes a living reality in our everyday lives, I believe we will begin to feel the empowering needed to fulfil the differing ministries He will give us.
To be like Jesus is made possible when we feel His loving empowering presence within and those around us will begin to see the difference in our lives. We will have a form of Godliness and display the power of God in our ministry.
We closed with the hymn Only as I truly know Thee
2018 Remembrance Sunday?
Today is Remembrance Day - a day that we remember all those brave men and women who died in the two world wars fighting to bring freedom from tyrants. The brave men and women who have given their lives hoping to make this world a better place for you and me. 100 years since the Armistis was signed in 1918 hoping to bring peace to our world - sadly only 20 years later we went to war a second time.
As the poppies fell in the remembrance service at the Royal Albert Hall last night - each one represented the life of thousands of soldiers who were killed fighting in those wars - and in the wars that followed and are still going on around the world.
One of those men was my uncle Sam. He went to war as a young lad and never came home. All my grandma got was a little note from the War Office and a tiny box with a medal in it. My grandma was sad and so was Sams mum and dad. Sam was a brave lad - who cared about others and their lives. When he was 15 he saved a girl from drowning in the canal at Apperley Bridge. I have the newspaper cutting - sad that after all that he had to go to war only to loose his own life.
Many people today will be sad when they think of the price their loved ones and themselves had to pay in the hopes of gaining peace. There is nothing glamorous about war - sadly it’s because of the inability of man to live with one another. It’s so often the result of mans greed for power and dominion - which by rights belong to God.
God's ultimate response to the world, when He saw man making a mess of it, when He saw man ignoring Him and going his own sweet way, was not to send calamity and destroy it, He chose to come and live here, to share our humanity. The word became flesh - He chose to share our world.
That's how much God loves you and me. Gods response to rejection is the opposite to mans. God came in love, and even though the world hung Him on a cruel cross, they could not destroy that love, His love lived on in His disciples, those who accepted His way of life and were obedient to Him.
John 15; 9: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
If ever there was a three point sermon, it's here in the final words that Jesus shared with His friends. Love, Joy and Peace If ever there were three words that should be preached in churches throughout the world today - Remembrance day - it should be these three words - Love - Joy - Peace
Love is a very powerful emotion, expressed in unselfish giving. Jesus reminds us that the greatest expression of love is when a man is prepared to give his life, for the sake of another. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a men lay down his life for his friends. Jesus said ' you are my friends if you obey my commands, and the greatest command is that 'you love one another, as I have loved you'- thats love - real love
The greatest love is seen when a man is ready to sacrifice his own life for the sake of others. That’s what the men in the wars did for our country - that’s what our Saviour Jesus did for the sake of the whole world.
Jesus loves you Jesus knew that His time had come. The culmination of His lifetimes work was about to unfold. The world was to learn it's greatest lesson, that 'God is love', and that only 'love will triumph in the end. He was to show us that the only way to combat evil in this world is with love.
By giving His life, freely on the cross Jesus fought the greatest battle against the evil forces of this world. This was 'spiritual warfare' against which there are no ‘man made modern weapons’ other than the exact opposite of that which you are opposing, which is hate and evil. The only antidote, the only weapon is the 'Love of God'. Love, real love, is prepared to sacrifice self, for the sake of those that they love.
Today, Remembrance day, we have remembered the sacrifice of those millions of men and women who gave their lives in the two world in the hopes that one day we could live in peace. Many were there not by choice, but because they were compelled to go.
Many of them didn't even know why they were there or even why they were fighting. Young men, old men from both countries who paid with their lives, for the folly of one mans lust for power. To say that many of them freely gave their lives would be wrong, many were forced into the situation.
That’s not to say that what they did wasn't a sacrifice, of course it was. They died for their country, and their sacrifice resulted in the defeat of the enemy. Jesus on the other hand knew that He was going to die. That was why He came. He knew that He would have to pay the ultimate price for the sinfulness of all mankind.
In the two world wars that we remember this morning, millions died on the worlds battlefields because of the sinful and evil ways of just one dictator, Hitler. Since then Satan has inspired other Hitlers to relight the torch of evil that fuels wars with mans greed, selfishness and lust for power and dominion.
Today , sadly we don’t just think of those men who gave their lives all those years ago but those young men who have been killed in Afghanistan and Iran. Today their are families who are suffering through the loss of sons, husbands, fathers who have given their lives to gain the freedom for people they have never met or knew existed until they were sent to these far off lands.
Our God IS Love and hates war and the threat of terrorism and oppression from evil men who will stop at nothing in their thirst for power. The Twin Towers tragedy in America and the Kings Cross underground bombs, The Manchester pop concert, the terrible things that are happenning in the Middle East right now today, strike home the truth of how vulnerable we are.
Terrorism as we see it today is not of God and sadly the men and women, and boys and girls in Syria who are enticed into sacrificing their lives in this unholy and abhorant way are being decieved by the leaders of their faith and encouraged to kill and maim anyone who stands in their way.
As we have seen, lasting peace will never be achieved through war - God’s word tells us that, The only way to lasting Peace is by encouraging people to learn to love God and their neighbour. Gods ultimate weapon against sin is Love. Gods word tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son Jesus that whosever believes might be saved. - He came and gave His life on the cross to pay sins price and set us free form the consequence of our own actions - sin. There was no other - good enough to pay the price of sin - He only! This was one man against the forces of evil - just one man filled with love for His fellowmen. Gods Love.
In the story of David and Goliath - we are told of the challenge thrown by the Philistines - that if one man could defeat Goliath, then the vanquished would become slaves of the victor. This would also prevent hundreds of lives being sacrificed on the battlefields. One young man - David took up the challenge and took on the whole evil army for the sake of the nation.
This parralels the sacrificial love of Jesus who - even though afraid - even asked His Father if there was any other way - still He was willing to give His life on the spiritual battlefield because of the sins of the whole world - to fight a lone battle against sin and evil and make it possible for the world to live the life of the redeemed.
One man , Jesus, took on the whole army of evil to claim victory over sin for the sake of the whole world. Jesus didn't want to die, but He freely gave His life for our sakes.
Jesus said,' The greatest love is seen when a man is prepared to lay down his life for his friends. 'You are My friends, if you do whatsoever I command you'. Jesus fought the powers of evil armed only with the love of God.
Last week we talked of what it mans to be a soldier in the Salvation Army and how fighting against sin in the world today is not easy. Last year a 21 year old Salvationist in Cleveland Ohio found that out to his cost. I can’t remember this reaching the news over here. This is how it was reported in America.
Jared Plesec , a 21-year-old Salvation Army worker in Cleveland, Ohio, was shot dead in the head Saturday morning December 2, 2017 with his Bible in hand, while preaching the Gospel. Those who knew Jared Plesec say that he was devoted to his faith, and lived to teach others about God.
"Jared was an employee (youth worker) and church member of The Salvation Army Temple Corps Community Center in Collinwood. Jared died as he lived, sharing God's love. Jared passed away in full Salvation Army uniform with his Bible in hand leaving home on his day off to volunteer at The Salvation Army's Red Kettle," The Salvation Army said in a statement, as reported by WKYC.com.
"In the past two days, hundreds of individuals, mostly youth, have flocked to The Salvation Army in Collinwood to pay tribute to Jared's life. They all had one thing in common, Jared loved them, he cared for them and he changed their lives.
"Today we feel great loss that Jared was taken from us too soon. Yet we rejoice that he is in heaven with the loving Heavenly Father he told so many people about." Jared paid the ultimate price in being obedient to God in sharing the good news of the gospel.
Obedience to God is the natural outworking of our love for Him and thats the way it should be - at any cost. Jesus said 'If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teachings' that’s the natural response of true love. If you really love someone then you will do anything for them.
Jesus is really saying ‘If you love Me, if you make Me the centre of your thoughts, then you can’t help but obey Me for it will be your hearts desire’. So often as Christians and Salvationists we promise not to do this or that, and place a lot of stress on sticking to those regulations when really what we should be doing is concentrate on the things that Gods word says that we should do. His commands were that we should love God and one another - it’s as simple as that!
Joy I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. O how we need more love in the world today - O how we need more Joy in our churches - its starts with me and you Joy is at the heart of Gods plan for human beings. Joy is at the very heart of God Himself. We will never understand the significance of Joy in human life until we understand its importance to God, I think that many of us underestimate Gods capacity for Joy.
Joy for God our Father is to see His children set free from the shackles of sin and back in the fathers arms. Joy for Gods children is having that assurance that Jesus loves and cares about us.
Joy is more than happiness, it's that deep feeling of warm contentment, that lovely feeling of belonging, of living with the assurance that 'whatever happens, whatever valley or storms we go through in this life, that God loves us, and that Jesus cares and shares our deepest sorrows. Joy is freedom in Christ And lastly Jesus said;
Peace Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. It seems ironic that the only way that man seems to aim for peace is to 'war' after it. Jesus died to make it possible for those who live opposed to each other, can be reconciled. The Jew and the Gentile, as referred to in Paul's letter to the Ephesians 'you who once were far away, have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
‘For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one'. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
He came and preached Peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Those who were around Him then and those who in future days would come to love Him. - thats you and me. For through Him both groupings have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God's people and members of God's household.'
Christ, by His sacrifice on the cross made it possible for all men to live in peace, without having to fight for it. Freedom in Christ brings lasting peace. We thank God for love, and the Joy that real love brings. And we thank God for the peace that knowing Him brings to each one of us. Love, Joy and peace are freely available to each one of us, and all we have to do is live a life of obedience to God.
Every Easter, I tell the same true story of what happenned when, during the Vietnam War, an American army captain was dropped with his men into the jungle. It didn't take him long to realise that they were caught in the middle of an ambush. The captain called his men back to a clearing. He counted his men and found they were one man short.
The helicopter was about to lift him and his men off, when he decided he couldn't leave without this man, so he went back for the soldier who was by this time, crawling towards him. He'd been shot in the leg. Dragging him to the helicopter, the captain lifted the soldier on board. At the last moment, as he was climbing on board himself, a burst of gunfire from the trees cut him down where he stood. The helicopter left him, dead in the clearing.
Back in America after the war had ended, the captain's parents decided they would like to meet the young soldier who's life had been spared at the cost of their only son so they invited the soldier to their home for a meal. The soldier eventually turned up, one hour late, and shocked and offended the captain's parents with his rudeness, his total lack of gratitude or respect for their son.
When he finally left, the captains mother fell onto her knees. Heartbroken, crying out to God. 'Why?, Why did my son have to die for someone like that? Why did he have to die for someone as rude and selfish as that. My son was a good boy, he hadn't done anything wrong?' The mother of the American soldier, grieved over the apparent waste of her sons life, dying as he did for an ungrateful man. Yet that’s exactly what Jesus did.
Imagine Mary, felt as she saw her Son nailed to that cross. Imagine how God feels, when He sees the way that man today, rejects the fact that His Son died for them.
I believe that nothing grieves the heart of the Father more than the rejection of His Son by those for whom His Son died. 'God so loved the World that He gave His only Son Jesus that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life'.
Imagine what the loved ones of those who gave their lives in the war feel like when they look at the way in which people live their lives in these days. Imagine what they feel like knowing that their loved ones, sons, husbands, fathers gave their lives so that we could live in peace and yet the world is constantly threatening or even waging war and fall out at the slightest things - I guess they too would think - was it worth it?
If those who gave their lives could come back and see the way in which mankind lives today - it would grieve them terrible. To think that they gave up their lives with their families, their wives and children for the world of today. Imagine how God feels when He sees the apathy of the world and the way in which they live their lives as if there were no tomorrow. Was it all worth it? In the light of the way in which the world lives, we could ask ourselves was the sacrifice of the innocent Jesus worth it?
The answer is Yes! it was if we make it so As far as God is concerned, He even thinks it is worth it for the sake of those who as yet don’t know Him and live ungrateful lives
Christ died to bring us back into the family of God to live in Love - Joy - and Peace.
Romans 5; 6-8 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus gave His life on the cross to save the world. The soldiers of the wars died to bring peace to our world. The Salvation Army Soldiers like Jared died sharing the love of God with others to bring salvation to the sinners.
Lets make it our aim to share the love of God with others and bring Joy into their lives and live at Peace with one another.
4 November 2018 The Righteous shall live by faith Galatians 3;11
On Tuesday Brian Lancaster led the Bible Fellowship and we looked at the importance of living a Christian life of faith. We looked at how important this was to the bible greats such as Abraham, Elijah, Jeremiah
Just a few of the greats who lived by faith and exercised that faith in their daily living. When you look at people like Moses who took God at His word when God spoke to him from the burning bush and told him to go to the Pharaoh and demand he set the Israelites free - Moses had said to God ‘ but Lord - who am I? that I should go to Pharaoh and demand my peoples release? To which God replied ‘I will be with you’ What great faith - a faith that brought boldness to Moses
The man who had little faith in himself who even said to God ‘but what if the people don’t believe me? And the Lord gave him two signs that He was indeed with Moses when he told him throw his staff on the floor and when he did it changed into a snake. Then He told him to put his hand in his coat and when he brought it out it was full of leprosy - God told him to put it back and when he did it was completely healed.
Moses was a frightened man who even told God that he didn’t have the vocabulary to impress the Pharaoh - ‘who made your mouth‘, God asked him - ‘I did and I will put my words in them’. Even then Moses backed away and asked God to ‘send someone else’.
The scripture says that Gods anger burned against Moses and said ‘What about your brother Aaron - he speaks well - he is ready and in fact is even on his way to see you as we speak’. Here was Moses - the man chosen by God to perform great feats that demanded great faith and here he was trying to back out - just shows that God can use anyone - He doesn’t judge us by what we are He sees the potential in us.
You all know the outcome - the Pharaoh refused and so God told Moses to go to the edge of the Nile and when Pharaoh arrives tell him that ‘ the Lord God of the Hebrews has sent me to tell you to let My people go’ God told him to then strike the waters of the Nile with his staff and it would be changed into blood and all the fish would die - ‘Incredible’ and yet Moses did what he had been told and it happened just as God said it would. Wow What faith - exercised by a man full of fear and doubts.
The people were set free and travelled to the edge of the sea which was parted when Moses raised his staff and the Israelites escaped to freedom - when their pursuers reached sea and set off through it - God closed the sea and they were drowned.
Awesome - miracles all done through the exercise of faith by Moses and Aaron and later by Joshua. Even when they were travelling through the desert God provided water from a rock when Moses touched it with his staff and manna from heaven.
Faith - wow in God who can move mountains - set people free, heal and even raise the dead - all through ordinary men and women just like you and me. God even gave Moses the privilege of presenting the Ten Commandments.
After Genesis the next four books are all about Moses until we get to the last chapter of Deuteronomy and learn of the death of Moses. The next great man of God was Joshua who continued to lead the Israelites to the promised land. Like Moses, he encountered a river that needed to be crossed and in the same way that God parted the first river, God did the same with the Jordan - as soon as they stepped into the river the waters abated and gave a safe passage through.
Faith - Wow what faith these people had - but then they were confident that with God all things were possible as they had experienced through Moses and Joshua.
The miracle of the Red Sea followed another awesome miracle - the fall of Jericho which resulted from the Israelites taking God at His word and marching seven times around it. This was a show of Gods power - not by the might of man but by the power of the Spirit exercised in faith. God had given the promise 'Not by might, but by My Spirit say's the Lord'.
As a young lad I marvelled at the mighty stories from Gods word - the parting of the Red Sea, Daniel in the lions den, David and Goliath, Jesus stilling the storms, walking on water, healing the blind, healing the cripple who was let down on the blanket, raising the dead, in fact all the spectacular, the seemingly impossible, I loved them.
As we read these wonderful accounts, there is one thing that is common to them all and that is faith and obedience. On Tuesday we read from Paul’s letter to the Hebrew Fellowship where he says that ' faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see' and what faith! By faith the people passed through the Red Sea, by faith the walls of Jericho fell.
We then read Hebrews 11; 1-6 together
From verse 3 onwards the writer of the Hebrews calls us even closer, and like Jeremy Cricket says 'and there's more, much more'. The mighty men of the Bible were men of great faith. Faith in a pure and holy God, that brought them into complete submission to His sovereign will and enabled them to accomplish impossible things in the strength of His unquestionable might.
When you are commanded by God to build a gigantic ark in your back yard and it's not even raining, it takes great faith to be obedient. Yet Noah did.
When you are called upon by God to go to Pharaoh and tell him to 'let My people go' it takes courageous faith to be obedient. Moses did exactly that
To be prepared to face death in a lions den for being obedient to God and acknowledging Him as your Lord by openly defying the King, takes unwavering faith. Daniel did that
To stand before the rising flooded waters of the River Jordan and command your priests to lead a nation through it, takes unquestioning faith. Joshua did
To step out of the safety of your boat and walk on water towards Jesus takes great faith, and yet that's what Peter did, or at least he started out well.
To face the unknown, the seemingly impossible takes faith, trust, obedience.
I wonder how you and I would have reacted if God told us to do any of those things.
You might say that God gave Moses a sign that 'anything' was possible if he was obedient to God. God showed him that when he did what God told him, marvellous things happen. He changed his staff into a snake, withered his arm, and with that, Moses went and did as God commanded. God then sent the plagues, the angel of death, and Pharaoh set the Israelites go.
The more Moses was obedient to God, the more God showed His power through him so that when he and the hoards of Israelites arrived at the Red Sea, it would be easier for Moses to raise his staff at defiance at the sea, knowing that God would do something, which he did.
Joshua was there as second in command, so it would seem to me that having evidenced the power of God then would bolster Joshua's faith when he and the Israelites arrived at a similar situation with the Jordan river.
This morning we have just read of an equally impossible task that God called Joshua to do. He had a mighty army of 40 000 men, yet God called him to simply walk around the walls without a sound. And under the leadership of Joshua, that is exactly what they did!
Joshua became a mighty successor to Moses, and having seen the power of God first hand, was ready to lead his people forward. Although Joshua was the leader of his people, he was subordinate to God, and stood in awe of Him.
1 Faith is the acceptance of the standards of God's Holiness
Our God is a holy God who will not, cannot tolerate sin and disobedience. Only in God, does the 'end justify the means'. We may think that the destruction of the Jericho was contrary to the love of God, yet the Canaanites were an idolatrous, evil people who were in themselves regarded as the very image of sin - they had to be destroyed in order that the kingdom of Gods righteousness could be established. Its the same with sin in our lives, it has to be defeated, conquered, destroyed, got rid off in order that the love, joy and peace of God can take root.
It was the acceptance of Gods Holiness that stirred Joshua to address his people and warn them of the dangers of the land that they were to inherit and the call to be pure and strong. In Leviticus 11 verse 44 and 45, chapter 19 verse 8, 20 verses 8 and 26 God says 'be ye holy because I am holy'. Isaiah 6; 3 'Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord'.
Obedience to God strengthens our faith to believe in the impossible.
Remember the first miracle that Jesus did, when He changed the water into wine at the wedding at Cana? He gave the instructions, and it was His disciples that had to be obedient, and they had never seen Him do a miracle before! All it took for them to obey, was faith and trust.
Peter, was looking at Jesus walk on water, and when Jesus beckoned him, he simply moved out of the boat and walked. the trouble was that when he realised what he was doing was impossible by human standards, he took his eyes off Jesus and started to sink. Sometimes God tells us to do the most ridiculous or improbable things to test our allegiance, our faith and to show us His incredible power.
2 Faith is abandonment to the government of God's will
For Six days the 40 000 warriors marched once around the walls of Jericho in silence. Imagine it! the people at the other side of the wall wouldn't understand what happening, so that they would be taken off guard. I think after a couple of days, I would have got the message and gone on holiday for a couple of weeks.
To let go, and let God take control of our lives is one of the hardest tests of our faith, and yet so many have done exactly that and proved God sovereign will at all costs.
The Apostles, Peter and the others in obedience to Jesus stood up against the forces of evil and injustice in their day, and the Kingdom of God moved forward with great power, and through them, great and miraculous things were achieved.
William Booth stood against the injustice of a sinful selfish society, and the apathy of the established church, and with great faith moved the Church of god forward by mobilising an Army that would stand for Christ and wage war against sin.
3 Faith is achievement in the strength of God's might
On the seventh day, they were told that 'when you hear the priests give a long blast on their trumpets, give a loud shout' and the walls will collapse.
The battle had already been won before they even started Ch 5;1 'the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.' They obeyed and the walls came tumbling down.
The people were 99% with Joshua, but there's always one isn't there? Achan.
The people were told that this land, the first city of the promised land had been promised entirely to the Lord, but Achan had seen spoils of war, a fantastic Babylonian robe, a heavy gold ingot and a hoard of silver, all of which he took and hid in the floor of his tent. Through Achan, God emphasised the importance of obedience to the sovereign will of God, and the consequence of disobedience.
Hebrews 11;6 says ‘without faith it is impossible to please God: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him’
We cannot underestimate the importance of faith and the exercising of faith in our lives. We have seen the awesome power of God exercised when we have placed our faith in Him for the most impossible things. Healing - Christopher and Adam, Finance for the building next door and this hall. Chairs, Windows - God is awesome
Faith demands obedience to God in every area of our lives - church and secular. Reading His word - prayer - our actions - our re-actions - all are in obedience to His word and when we are true to them - nothing is impossible God can use anyone of us if we have truly repented of our past and desire to live in are obedience to Him. Anyone!
This week I read about a man called William Neal Moore who spent 16 years on death row facing the electric chair for murder. He was prepared for the chair eleven times and each one was put off. Today he is an ordained minister of the church. As a young man he got drunk after problems with his wife left him and took all his money. In desperation he attempted a robbery - the man in the house he went to pulled a gun but William shot him first.
He admitted his crime and was condemned to death in the electric chair. While he was in prison two Christians came to visit him and told him about Jesus and about forgiveness - he told them that ‘nobody had ever told him that Jesus loved him and if he truly repented God would forgive him’ after a few visits, he got saved and was baptised in a prison tub.
For the next sixteen years he became himself studied the scriptures and became an evangelist winning many other prisoners for Jesus. He started Bible studies in the prison and on death row and many were saved. Deeply sorry for what he had done, he wrote to the family of the man he had killed and won the forgiveness of the family. Many well known figures heard about his conversion and transformation and publicly started to stand up for him including the family of his victim.
Amazingly just hours before he was going to be strapped in the electric chair for the eleventh time- his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Even more amazing and unprecedented in US History was the later decision to set him free which they did on 8 Nov1991.
When asked about how this came about he said ‘ it was Jesus Christ who changed my life, the old man has gone and a new man is here - I am a new creation‘. Today he is an ordained minister and he and his second wife run a prison ministry.
It was faith that achieved that - as we know, By Faith all things are possible
All it takes is a good devout person who lives in obedience to God - not necessarily a strong and impressive person. Moses wasn’t a strong person to begin with - He tried to back away from what God told him. His strength eventually came as a result of his obedience to God
Thinking about ourselves I guess many of us would admit to doubts, uncertainties, disobedience - the great thing is that God - in spite of our weakness can do mighty things through us if only we would trust in Him and aim to be obedient to His word.
He knows our weaknesses but by exercising our faith in Him He can accomplish great things through us. Trust and Obey there is no other way - and the two will, help to develop and strengthen utmost faith in Him.
There is a great need today, more than any other time for those who call themselves Gods people to be obedient to Him and by so doing develop and strengthen their faith.
In other words - Let go and Let God
Harvest Sunday 21 October 2018
As we look at the harvest table we can see the splendour of Gods innovative creativeness - each fruit is so different it is easy to name the vast array of luscious fruits - each one so different from the next one Pears, Grapes, plums, Oranges, Bannanas, Pinapples, Peaches, Kiwi fruits, and so many different varieties of apples. Such as Granny Smiths, Royal Gala and my favourite Cox’s.
All looking and tasting so different - when you pick up an apple you don’t expect to taste a pear, when you eat a strawberry you would be shocked if it tasted like a grape.
We can tell the differences between each fruit by it’s colour, shape and size but we might be hard pushed to tell by looking at the tree what kind of tree it was. - it’s the fruit that gives it away. That’s also how you can tell a genuine Christian. From leaders to followers, from Pastors to clergy - from you and me and those out there.
Matt 7;16 False Prophets known by the fruit they bear “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
This scripture talks about the false teachers, prophets that are around us who teach a false doctrine - a man pleasing gospel, that promises prosperity - they might look the part - in sheeps clothing that suggests they represent the Good shepherd who only wants the best for His people whilst inwardly they are ferocious wolves. There are so many of them in this day and age that the true gospel of Jesus Christ is being changed to pander to mans greed and selfishness. Today these false prophets own and travel around in expensive cars and even jet planes - live in big houses and have thousands in the banks - the fruit of their False lifestyles - Jesus rightly said By their fruit you will recognize them
Sadly the same goes when deciding if someone is simply Christian or not - it’s by their fruit - their actions, their responses, their love that you can tell - As the scripture says - it’s ‘by their fruit shall know you them’. The false leaders attract people with their promise of wealth. Jesus was born in a borrowed stable, borrowed a donkey to travel into Jerusalem and was even laid in a borrowed tomb
When the Christian pathway proves to be too costly, it’s so easy to live a life of pretence. To give the appearance from the outside that they are through and through all that they profess to be.. The world today is so used to ‘cover up jobs’ or veneers, that people accept them for what they are. Not so in the Kingdom of God, God gave His all to mankind and expects nothing less in return. It’s the Christians responsibility to show true, genuine Christianity to a veneer world.
In 2 Timothy 3 we read of one of the saddest indictments of many Christians in the latter days which would have ‘a form of godliness but denying the power - have nothing to do with them’. The Psalmist said ‘Search me O God ; know my heart, test me and know know my anxious thoughts, see if there be any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’ Psalm 139; 23
It’s so easy to fool the world and eventually we even fool ourselves into believing that we are what we profess to be - but we can’t fool God - He sees right through the veneer - He sees right to the heart of each one.
As Christians we have to be careful that what we portray - is what we really are, that ‘what you see is what you get’ There is no way a Christian can wriggle out of his or her responsibilities to God and our fellow men. We have chosen to declare to the World that we love and serve God.
On Wednesday at friendship Club we watched one of the first episodes of the great Thora Hird classic comedy programme ‘Hallelujah’ where she plays a Salvation Army Officer. About the same time as this programme was produced another great classic comedy came on it was called ‘Keeping up appearances’ and starred a lady called Mrs Bucket - pronounced as she said as Mrs ( Boo - kay)
Unlike her sister and brother-in-law who slobbed around in his string vest - no pretence - Hyacinth Bucket, tried to keep up appearances - but unfortunately her true colours often came through.
It’s important that as Gods people - His church - the living body of Christ in the world today that what others see in us is a true reflection of the love of God - that the fruit they see is the result of being rooted firmly in God - That Christ lives in us.
Remember how when Jesus was hungry, He saw in the distance what appeared to be a fig tree - a source of food. As He got closer to the tree He realised that the fig tree was barren and there was no fruit on it - Jesus was disappointed as the tree, at a distance, had given all the right signals but as He got closer it was exposed as a fraud. Probably the roots were dead, the tree had been starved of water or had be shielded from the sun - we don’t know but the truth was that it was barren.
Keeping up appearance for a Christian should not be difficult after all Jesus shared how this was possible when He explained to them - I am the vine - you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing
On the other hand - He continued, - If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Jesus then goes on to reassure them 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
As He told them before They will know you are Christians by your love
God gave us His word - the seed, and as we read it we see the power of that word bearing fruit in the lives of ordinary people like you and me. We see that in order for His word to spread throughout the world, God gave the Holy Spirit who lives within us to enable Gods word to bear fruit.
Last week we looked at the additives to faith many of which were the fruit of the Spirit within that we read about in Galatians 5;22 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Notice what he says ‘ The fruit, not fruits - there is no pick and choose If the Spirit of God lives within you then you grow and people will be able to see the Love, of God, the Joy of God, the Peace that only God can give, the qualities of, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control.
God has given us His word - the seed, and as we read it we see the power of that word bearing fruit in the lives of ordinary people like you and me. We see that in order for His word to spread throughout the world, God gave the Holy Spirit who lives within us to enable Gods word to bear fruit in and through us. As the word of God takes root in our hearts then LOVE becomes our greatest aim
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples
It goes without saying that as we begin to take God at His word and are joined to the living vine that a lot of pruning, tending, feeding and nourishing will need to take place in our lives - thankfully God has made allowances for that and in effect says ‘ Remain in Me, be rooted in Me and you will grow
As a young born again Christian I gained such a lot from reading the Living Bible - which eventually attracted me to look at the AV bible and then the original Greek.
This is how the Living Bible expresses Paul’s words to the Church at Ephesus
Ephesians 3;14-19 14 When I think of the wisdom and scope of His plan, I fall down on my knees and pray to the Father of all the great family of God—some of them already in heaven and some down here on earth— that out of His glorious, unlimited resources He will give you the mighty inner strengthening of His Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high His love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself.
At harvest we are reminded of Gods faithfulness - to feed the world not only through the food that builds our bodies but also feeding on the food of His word so that we ourselves begin to bear fruit and be fruitful.
My prayer is that we us might bear fruit that sets mankind longing for the truth in us, the truth that is Christ Jesus our Saviour. That people will know that we are Christian by the fruit that they see in us - Genuine love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
It was great to celebrate the life of John Miller yesterday and to hear the many words of thanksgiving for his life that showed the depth of His love for God - the fruit was so obvious
I spoke about his obvious love for God even in his darkest moments - My opening words were these - As you all know, John loved Molly and together they loved the Lord - you could see it in his face - you can’t hide true love - the bible tells us that people will know we are Christians by our love - it’s not what we wear, even this uniform - it’s so easy to hide behind our outward show - They will know we are Christians by our love.
At the celebration of his life later others too shared how you could see the love of God in John. The fruits of the spirit were so obviously there. Molly phoned me yesterday morning and shared how amazed she was that she was full of the Joy of the Lord
She praised God for the obvious answers to prayer in her life since the funeral - she had expected to feel so down and alone but No - because of all the lovely things we had shared about John and his love for the Lord - she felt at peace and so full of Joy.
She just praised God for His faithfulness and love.
NIV Hebrews 13;15,16 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Our Father loves to receive the praises of His creation.
We can’t Worship and Praise Him in any better way that by living lives that honour Him, lives that reflect the beauty of Jesus our Saviour. Holy lives.
Wholly devoted to Him - Worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness.
When we do we will begin to bear the fruit of those who are deeply rooted in Him - the fruit that comes when our roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvellous love.
The praise that comes from a grateful loving heart is sweet and pleasing to Him
The quality of the fruit we bear depends entirely on the devotion of our heart.
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased
MM 14 October 2018
Last week we read Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus 4; 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
I love that - so that we all - the body of Christ - this fellowship - reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of Jesus filled with the fullness of Jesus and when we have achieved that -14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. And to be sure - that’s the way the world is going today with false teachers peddling their heretical viewpoints , but you and I - speaking the truth in love, will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. WOW!
We looked at what it meant to be Christlike in the world today - loving gentle, compassionate, considerate, forgiving, caring, hospitable, generous - to be like Jesus
We read last week - Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had. And Philippians 2;14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life
We looked at what it really meant to be a Christian which is to be receive Christ into our hearts to be transformed by the power of His Holy Spirit to become Christlike.
This week, as I always do, I asked God what He wanted us to look at and straight away 2 Peter came into my mind .We are going to look at what this says to us this morning - I believe that God is directing us to become the people of His Kingdom.
The writer is Peter a disciple of Jesus who spent three years getting to know Him - Peter the one through whom God Himself shared that Jesus was the Son of the Living God - the Messiah, The same Peter who after declaring who Jesus was, denied even knowing Jesus when Christ was arrested and taken before Pilate, Peter let fear take over. Amazingly the same Peter that Jesus even after Peters rejection and denial said He loved Pater and appointed him to be an Apostle upon whom He would build His church - WOW!
Lets read together what he later wrote 2 Peter 1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a Godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Wow - Peter is now such a positive - confident transformed person that he is set to do what Jesus commissioned him to do - and that was to build His Church.
Right from the opening verses of this letter Peter presents himself as a servant and Apostle of Jesus Christ and addresses those he is writing to as a people who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.
The same attributes that Paul used in his letter to the Ephesians when he said So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service. His whole aim is to encourage Gods people to confirm their calling and election.
We can’t and are not expected to do this in our own strength - Peter tells us straight away that 3 its His divine power that has given us everything we need for a Godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.
He has provided us with every possible help to become Christlike -
1 We have His word that inspires , instructs and teaches us how He wants us to grow, develop and live a Godly life. Through our knowledge of Him - the knowledge that comes when we eagerly seek to know Him through His word.
The sad truth is that Gods word is so neglected in this day and age - by the world and sadly by many who call themselves Christian. Bible study or fellowships where people can go and share the word of God are not well attended.
If we say God called us, that we are amongst the chosen then our desire should be to want to get to know all we can about the Lord we love.
The song in The sound of music that Anna shares her deep desire with the children when she ’Getting to know you’ getting to know all about you’ We sing ‘Only as we truly know Thee can we make The truly known’ so true
Jesus said that if we live in obedience to Him and love Him then He would come and live within us. Just as the Word became flesh in Christ - I believe that Christ - the living Word - wants to become alive in you and me. That’s why as I say, we have His word that inspires , instructs and teaches us how He wants us to grow, develop and live a Godly life
Tragicaly, churches today use newly translated texts that have been changed to pander to mans thinking. False teachers who put forward False Doctrines
God’s word tells us that Jesus told His disciples that He would come and live within us empowering us from within to be Christlike. That’s why Peter could write that Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
Participate in the Divine Nature - having escaped and put behind us the wrong selfish desires that dominate in the world today.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
The basis on which our Christian life is maintained is Faith -
1 Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen
Hebrews 11;1 in fact; Without faith it is impossible to please God: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him Hebrews 11;6
2 Add to your faith - Goodness Just as we express our faith in God, we also experience the goodness of knowing the Lords presence in our everyday lives., so too we are to share that goodness with others Psalm 123 says Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. And to goodness add
3 Knowledge - the knowledge that is gained through hungering after and faithfully reading His word. Add to your knowledge self-control
4 Self-control - that’s you and me controlling our actions, our thoughts, our attitudes towards others - I think we could all do with a bit more of that
5 Perseverance - sticking at it - holding true to what we believe and how we exercise that belief. Persevering in our prayer life - our bible study - our serving
6 Godliness - We’re not talking about an ‘holier than thou’ attitude of thinking ourselves holier than the next person. It’s reality of knowing that God Himself is with us and within us by His Spirit. Add to this;
7 Mutual affection a sincere high regard for one another - Yesterday in the checkout queue at ALDI there were two young lads - brothers - having a great time with one another - their faces were alight - you could see the brotherly love they shared. They couldn’t let go of one another - it was a beautiful sight - they obviously loved being together. That’s the kind of mutual affection Peter talks about here - when all of Gods people realise they are born again and family and enjoy each others presence. The basis of this is of course the last thing that Peter mentions - Love
8 Love True love - That’s God in you and me - For God is love
Peter stresses that if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, in other words they grow stronger. firmer each day they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul lists all these qualities and sees them as fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5; 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. So important that he lists them many times; to the Thessalonians and Ephesians
In summing up Peter goes on to say; 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Confirm your calling and election - WOW! These are the qualities that will let God and the watching world see that your faith is genuine and that your desire is to grow more and more to be the person God wants you to be and the fellowship that is His church - the living body of Christ in the world today.
How do you fare in all this - how determined are you to become the person God wants you to be - the church that God wants to build. - It’s up to you and me.
MM 7 October 2018 The Living Body of Christ in the world today
On Sunday 5 August we read Ephesians 4 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. I said then that hat’s a real , heartfelt passionate plea from Paul urging them to live a life worthy of all that God has done in Christ to save them from the penalty of Sin. - How? By being completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
I said then how I believe that the same applies to us in the church today. Realising that we are in this together - His chosen - His people - His church we need to be humble. Gentle patient in our dealings with one another - all under the covering of LOVE
They weren’t meant to be just a people having a good time together, but were a deeply loving, compassionate, serving fellowship who were growing together and as they did, experiencing Kingdom power and values here and now. An organism that was on the move - not just another organisation.
The heartfelt desire of Paul for this young church was to simply live a life worthy of the calling - easier said than done - yet there is a sense in which the way we live our everyday lives is ’Worship’ in the truest sense of the word. The way we live our lives should bring Glory and Praise to God and that’s what true worship is all about.
This was about right relationships, lifestyle, attitudes, responses, the way in which the whole body should interact and function as a complete and wholesome healthy body. The living body of Christ in the world today.
Last week we celebrated our 134th Corps Anniversary and looked at what that meant for us today. We saw how the Salvation Army here in Idle grew at a phenomenal rate in those early days and within 7 years they needed to move out of the Old Green Mill that later became the Idle picture house and erect a new building here in Walter Street.
We then looked at how over the years that followed the fellowship began to grow but then around 1978 catastrophic events regarding the building the God started to cause problems. The fire in 1978 that meant we had to move out of the building for three years during which time many people left and joined other Corps.
In 1990 we had to move out again due to Dry Rot problem.. Quite a list of events that over the years caused a drop in attendance. But looking back I believe I can see Gods hand in that - for whatever the reasons we had problems, God still had Idle in His mind for future growth - the right way.
In 1984 God brought my attention to the words from Jeremiah 29 and took me out of the Corps for about 16 months during which time I started the New Life Fellowship where I believe He taught me and showed me, and many others from various churches and Salvation Army’s the way he wanted us to go. The in 1986 God led me back to Idle Corps which by now was a shadow of its former self with only a handful of people - we practically doubled the congregation.
Less than nine years later in 1995 Beryl and I became the Commanding Officers of the Idle Corps. In 1997 we had some very well attended concerts that attracted many people who filled the hall and the balcony which eventually caused more problems with the building causing the walls to part company with the balcony.
The repairs took almost all our available funds and then at the re-opening, much to the shock of many Corps members I shared how I believed that God wanted us to build a Hall at the side of our Worship hall that would cost over £160 000. I launched a fund for this, the building work started and we moved into the hall in 1999.
That wasn‘t the end of our building problems, in 2011 we found water coming through the ceiling in the main Worship Hall and needed about £190 000 to put that right. We prayed about that too and were amazed to receive a telephone call from a solicitor of Mr Mann who’s funeral I had just done to find out that he had left all his money to us - £200 000 that paid for the new roof - we thanked God for providing the buildings that we have - Gods Church and the potential there is for us to capture the vision move forward
Last week read the vision of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones - that represented the state of the people of God in his time and how God asked him ’Son of man can these bones live’ The result was that God breathed new life into the dead church and it rose to it’s feet an alive church. I said then that the Church is not meant to be just the building but the living body of Christ in the world today. The building is the base - it’s the living body that God wants to bring in the Kingdom of God.
With this in mind we come back to Pauls letter to the early church - the newly formed church of God where he stresses the importance of the people to realise that they are in fact the living body of Christ in the world today.
Ephesians 4; 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. WOW!
The whole of the new testament stresses the importance of realising this awesome fact that just as the Word became flesh in Christ 2000 years ago - that Christ wants to become flesh in His followers, His people, His Church, you and me.
It’s the realisation of this truth that will transform the church and let the world see the Glory of God and the need for them to accept Jesus as their Saviour and start to live the Kingdom life here on earth. We pray don’t we ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven’’.
Jesus came to show us what God was really like - He came to show us by example how we should live in complete harmony with God and one another. He showed the depth of Gods love for His creation by becoming the sacrificial lamb to pay for our sins and open the door of Heaven to us all. That’s the only way the people in that day thought forgiveness was possible by offering a sacrificial lamb on the altar. Jesus became that once and for all Sacrificial lamb -
He did it the way man would understand at that time and gave His life as an atonement for sin - once and for all - on the cross. God then went on to show that in identifying with Christ and accepting forgiveness we could be given New Life by Raising Jesus Christ from the dead. He could not have made His plan for the salvation of mankind any more plain.
Jesus had promised before He went to the cross that if we love Him and live in obedience to Him then He would come and live within us all by the power of the Spirit - God would come and live within you and me and as we lived in obedience to His word, start a work of transformation in us to become more like Jesus.
To become more like Jesus should be the Christians highest aim - to let the world see the beauty of Jesus in us - we sang earlier Take time to be Holy - the world rushes on - spend more time in secret with Jesus the Lord - and when we do - the hymn says that - by looking to Jesus like Him thou shalt be and thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
Paul who as we have been looking at over the last few weeks knew first hand what that meant when he was transformed by his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road from the zealous misguided Jew that he was to be set fee by Christ to become His greatest advocate - the most prolific writer of the gospel truths - himself advocating the fact that Christ wants to become alive in us.
Listen to just a couple of his statements about this awesome truth.
Philippians 3;21 talking about the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul says this 21 who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.
2 Corinthians 3;18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit
We don’t become Jesus - we become the living vessel that for His indwelling - we take on the embodiment of Christ. As I understand it ; Just as Christ was God in Human form - in other words Gods Spirit was embodied in the human form - so too Christ - the Spirit of God wants to be embodied in you and me.
When we realise that, and embrace it, the indwelling Spirit will transform the way we act, our attitudes, our responses, our motives and ambitions. In other words we are United with Christ - Born Again - this time of the Spirit.
Attitudes Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had,
Philippians 2;14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life
Wow! ’the you will shine like the stars in the sky’ When Christ lives in you and me it should show - people will know you are Christian by your love, your attitudes to them, your responses, your actions - it should show and be obvious to others.
When we go through trials in life, they should be able to see by the way we cope and get through them that there is something different about us - what is it that enables us to face up to the same problems and difficulties that they find hard to cope with - that’s the time when we can share with them that without our faith we would not be able to cope. God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us - that when we go through the troubles of life He is there to see us through, to comfort and support us.
We live in a hostile world where many of the problems we face have been caused through mans greed, wrong motives, even mans attempt to better himself at the expence of others -God says trust in Me and I will see you through.
That’s the message God gives to mankind and the message He wants to project through you and me by living within us.
Philippians 2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Gowans and Larrson who wrote the Musical Spirit about the journey of Paul wrote this song - we sang it a couple of weeks ago - it sums up the desire of Paul for his own life and for the life of all those who responded to the call of Jesus.
To be like Jesus this hope possesses me
In every thought and deed
This is my aim, my creed
To be like Jesus this hope possesses me
His Spirit helping me,
Like Him I’ll be
30 September 2018; Ezekiel 37 Our 134th Corps Anniversary
I love the vision of Ezekiel - It speaks to me on several counts - the restoration of the people of Israel, the salvation that comes through the sacrifice of Jesus and the infilling and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
Remember the words of God through Isaiah the prophet Isaiah 43; 18.19 ‘Forget the former things, don’t dwell on the past, see I am doing a new thing, can’t you see it, I’m making a way through the desert’
And the words of Paul the converted zealous Jew who experienced new life - re-birth when he met Jesus on the Damascus Road and his life was turned around. Listen to what he writes to the church at Phillipi ch3; 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
WOW! Forget the former things v10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: and here we have the statement that reiterates what God said to Ezekiel Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
WOW! The vision of Ezekiel was not just for then, but also for the time when Jesus the Messiah would comes to bring man back to the Father by giving His life on the cross. It also speaks to me of the he future when the Jew return to Jerusalem and further on to the end of time as we know it when Jesus comes back to claim the true followers for the Kingdom.
At special times like we celebrate today - our 134th Anniversary of the Salvation Army coming to Idle. We look at the past and see the way that God has brought us and this church but we are encouraged not to dwell on it for too long but to let the lessons of the past - the good times that we have shared and the way in which God has brought us = let the past serve as a background, a base for all that I believe that God is going to do in the future - both in our lives and in the life of the church.
When we look at the past we can see the way in which God brought the Corps into being and how quickly the Corps grew in those early days.. In 1884 Cpt Annie Fleet and Lieut Jenny Street, opened fire in Idle using the Old Green Mill as their platform.
They reported in the War Cry at that time what great response they were getting in Idle when vast crowds came to see them. They left Idle the following year to move to York but within a few years, the work they had started had grown so that new premises had to be found. Building work was commenced in Walter Street where we are today and was completed in 1900 - just six years after opening in the Old Green Mill.
In the years that followed we had over 90 Officers take charge, many for just a few months, some for a full year and a handful for more than a year. The Corps grew and everything was going well until our first catastrophic event.
That was in 1978 when the local newspaper showed a picture of Cpt David Alliston surveying the the burnt ruins of our Corps caused by a fire in the cellar. Fortunately all the work was confined to the inner of the hall, mainly the platform - building work started and it took 3 years before we could move back into the hall in 1981. For the three years we were privileged to use the Idle Baptist Church Sunday School.
Don’t dwell on the past, God says, see I am doing a new thing - don’t you see it -
I see this as a word from God trying to encourage us to move forward. Just like the Israelites, Gods chosen people, God hadn’t brought us this far for nothing.
That new thing for me started seven years earlier in 1971 when the David and Dorothy Murden became our Officers. When I look back at the way in which God has led me I am amazed. A successful young 31 year old Salvationist - so I thought - who had come through the ranks, S/Coy Ldr, Bandmaster - then the Murdens came and through them, God opened my eyes to see that I didn’t really know Him, that I was busy’ doing’ and needed to stop and ‘catch the vision of what God wanted me to do’.
I sought the Lord and He filled me with His Spirit and started a new life. I plodded on for the next 13 years with a passion to do Gods will, not realising what God had in store for me - and this Corps. During which time we had the fire in the hall 1978.
Then one afternoon in 1984, God gave me a word from Jeremiah 29;11 which I interpreted as saying ‘I am going to take you out of the familiar and open up your mind and show you how I can change your life and the life of this fellowship’ - then I will bring you back - the plans I have for you are good’
He did exactly that, he took me out, I started the New Life Fellowship on the edge of the estate along with others whom He had taken out of their fellowships, Two Salvation Army Officers from Holmewood, ,Two friends from Leeds Road Baptist, Four from Holy Trinity Church Idle, Two from West Bowling SA and many others.
For a couple of years we sought the Lord and grew in Him. Never in my wildest dreams did I know that God was going to bring me back to Idle Corps. But when the time was right, 1986 just like He said, God brought me back here.
Idle Corps was by this time a very small Corps officered by Cpt Stephen Jocelyn. Not many came to the morning meetings, I remember, when some of the New Life fellowship came to the first Sunday morning we more than doubled the congregation.
Then in 1990 we had to close the hall for three months due to dry rot,
From then on, God opened a new way for me and Beryl when in 1994 God sent Betty Matear to be our Officers for a short time until DHQ had decided what to do about Idle Corps. The rest is history - Betty asked Beryl and I to become the Officers of our own Corps - we prayed about it and accepted and in October 1995 along with Ray and Pamela Powell, we were commissioned as Salvation Army Officers in a service at Brighouse.
The Corps started to grow - still we had more problems to face structurally - but looking back I see this as Gods way of building our halls to become the place within which He will move by His Spirit and builds His church - the people.
Shortly after becoming officers the balcony started parting company with the walls requiring major structural work as they tied the wall in to the balcony which took all our available funds. We were back in the hall in 1997 and at the re-opening I launched an appeal to raise money for a new hall - the Community Hall next door. The new hall was completed in 1999 at a cost of over £160 000 and after many prayer times, all the money came in. Once again - God provided all the finance to make available the building required for all I believe He has in mind for His Corps here at Idle.
God proved that again when fourteen years later in 2011 we found water coming through the ceiling in the main Worship Hall and needed about £190 000 to put that right. We prayed about that too and were amazed to receive a telephone call from a solicitor of a man who’s funeral I had done 3 years earlier in 2008 to find out that he had left all his money to us - £200 000 that paid for the new roof.
WOW! Our God is awesome - we never know what God has in store for us, but if we are obedient to Him - then He will achieve great things through us. We become partners in Gods Kingdom Building business.
2018 Praise God We now have a beautiful Worship Hall and Community hall. The Building is complete - We need now to pray and work for revival amongst the people for God to build His Church. God hasn’t done all this for nothing - Looking back I can see the hand off God in everything - but we are encouraged to see He is doing a new thing’ can't you see it? He wants us all to catch the vision of what He is going to do in our lives and the life of this fellowship.
That’s why I love to read stirring accounts of visions like this from Ezekiel that if followed through, change peoples lives for the better and build the Kingdom of God. Ezekiel was entrusted to know the mind of God and relay it to His people. The Church moves forward when men and women are open to the voice and will of God. The church triumphs when men and women not only listen to the words of God but are bold enough to embrace it and put flesh on the vision and live the dream. Ezekiel was a real man of vision.
God , through the prophet Joel said this ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Joel 2:28,29 O for people who will capture the visions that God relays from Heaven.
I don’t think that that is saying that if your old all your capable of is dreaming of former glories - living in the past all the time - it’s an encouragement to keep youthful in your attitudes and your actions - always open to the supernatural, the unexplained, the unexpected. In that way we will be receptive to the visions God sends.
I remember the birth of TV. In 1952 we bought our first TV a receiver a large wooden box with a tiny 9" screen that was capable of receiving visions sent from London
It wasn't long before almost every house in Idle had a 'H' aerial on the chimney. Then ITV came on the scene and everyone had to get a second arial, this time it was in the shape of a 'X'. We were all keen on 'catching the vision'.
These miraculous pictures that came from out of the sky into everyone's homes. Pictures that were capable of shrinking the world, and taking people to far off lands, places they might never visit in their lifetime.
The trouble today is, that we spend more time indoors catching those visions on much larger colourful screens and are less eager to get out of our homes and mix with other people to find out what God wants us to do. We are good at capturing visions on the TV but not so good at capture life changing visions from on High.
Long before the electronic age, way back in Bible days, ordinary men and women were capturing visions from God. Not on television sets this time, but in their dreams, or when they were praying to God.
These were not only visions of a future world, that they would never see themselves, but visions that captured their imaginations, fired them up filling them with great enthusiasm, spurring them on to make those visions a reality in their own time.
God sent pictures from on high that could only be received by people who’s arials were tuned in to the 'heavenly channel' not to be confused with the God Channel
People like Jacob who saw a ladder leading to Heaven, Ezekiel who taken into the potters shed,and the valley of dry bones. Isaiah, who prophesied the coming Messiah and even lamented the death
of Jesus. Micah and Joel who spoke of times afar off, that they would never see, the birth of Jesus, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Peter and his vision of the tablecloth spread all kinds of variety of foods, that foretold the inclusion of the Gentiles in Gods master plan of salvation.
The revelation, given to John on the Isle of Patmos about the end times and the return of Jesus.
In times when all seemed bleak and hopeless, God brought wisdom and hope to the world through the mouthpiece of man. I believe that today - we are living in such times when we need to hear the voice of God. God needs 'visionaries' today! God also needs people, who even though they themselves may not have been given a 'Vision', they have somehow captured the vision of what God wants to accomplish in His church and are willing to take risks to live it out.
People who are seeing their own lives changing, receiving and enjoying the New life that God is blessing them with.
Just Look around you. This Church has never looked better, or been better equipped to fulfil Gods mission of bringing hope, Forgiveness, New Life to the people out there who as yet don’t know that there is more to life than this.
Since calling me out, bringing me back, making me envoy of this Fellowship, God has been busy preparing the ground for greater things. Don’t be misled into thinking that you are here this morning by chance - God wants you to be a part of all that He is going to accomplish here at Idle in the next few years that will bring new life, purpose and direction to this Corps. God planned for you to be here - He wants you to be prepared to capture the vision of all that He wants to do here in Idle to bring others into the Kingdom.
See I am doing a new thing - don’t you see it? I’m making a way through the desert I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. We left Ezekiel listening to God tell him to speak to the dry bones - lets close this morning by reading his response.
Imagine being told to address a valley of dry bones, So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.' "So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet - a vast army.
Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, `Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' Therefore prophesy and say to them: `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.' "
Make no mistake - God has plans for us all if only we will seek to capture the vision.
I was amazed when I saw the theme for next years Salvation Army almanac which is Jeremiah 29 - Gods declaring it again - this time for the whole of the SA in 2019. All God asks of you and I is that is that we capture the vision again and go with it and be amazed as God builds His church.
We sang ‘I have caught the vision - have you? Well lets confirm that as we close with ‘Revive Thy work O Lord’
23 September 2018
Last week we read Psalm 42 where the Psalmist, who is going through a difficult time in his life is crying out to God - thirsting for help - desperately asking God ‘Why Why Why’ do I have to face the difficult times - One minute he’s shouting ‘Why have you deserted me’ even asking himself ‘why am I so downcast’ - ’ why have you forgotten me?’ ‘when can I go to meet with God’ and then in the next breath answering his own question with the statement ‘put your hope in God for I will yet praise Him my Lord and my God‘
Today we read a very different statement from the psalmist - this time an exultant psalm that starts ’I will lift my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the maker of Heaven and earth. Wow The Lord who made the mountains will not let your foot slip - in fact, He who watches over you will neither slumber not sleep.
Psalm 121; 1-8 'I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you - the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and for evermore.
Over the last few weeks - while the sun shone - I, like many others have taken the opportunity to get out in the wonderful countryside and enjoy the awesome views. In the Friendship Club, because of holidays and illness, those of us who have been available have been able to get out and about and have picnics in places like Yeadon, St Ives and Burnsal by the side of the river - it’s been great - especially the journeys there in the car especially our round trip to Burnsal via Ilkley and Bolton Abbey.
One minute you're driving through the valleys, and then just over the brow of the hill, there they are in front of you reaching high into the clouds, the majestic mountains that surround the lakes, each one an awesome reminder of the towering strength of an Almighty, and immovable God.
I like nothing better than to get out in the country side and we are certainly blessed with some wonderful views all around us. To look over Ilkley from the Cow and Calf and then to get down low land and look at the glorious mountains around us.
When Beryl and I took the family on holidays we used to love going to Wales - Llandudno and ride up mountainside to the swallow falls and enjoy the splendid view and the grandeur of the majestic Welsh mountains.
One year we went to Criccieth, a small coastal village 12 miles South West of Caernarfon, between Pthwelli and Portmadock. You can reach it by means of the coastal road, or you can drive, as we did, over the mountains, and through the valleys from Betwys Coed.
Its surrounded by places like the Llanberis Pass, the Snowdonian Valley, Bethlehem, Nasareth, Bethany.. It's a good place to get away from it all. We stayed in a farm house 4 miles from Criccieth in the middle of nowhere. The nearest shop was 5 miles away, so you made sure that you had milk in for the morning.
We were surrounded by the splendour of Gods creation, which on the one hand gave you a sense of How vulnerable you would be without the knowledge that God who created all this, also created you, and loves you and cares about you. The comfort of knowing Him made Him feel very close.
There we were, in Wales, one minute you're driving through the valleys, and then just over the brow of the hill, there they are in front of you reaching high into the clouds, the majestic mountains surrounding a lakes, each one an awesome reminder of the towering strength of an Almighty, and immovable God.
Psalm 121 does the opposite to the Psalm of last week who was looking down - downcast with all the troubles that he was having to deal with - today the Psalmist is looking up - Whilst he is looking upwards he makes it clear that he is looking even higher - to the creator -- Almighty God who made the hills. The statement is clear ‘I will lift my eyes up to the hills and then moves the statement on to ask the question - ‘where does my help come from? Not the hills but from the maker of Heaven and earth.
I believe that this psalm was written to rebuff those who in the writers own day did look to what they saw as mountain gods for help, by telling them that there is only one God who can help them, and that is the Almighty God who 'created the mountains'.
Last week we looked at the challenge Elijah made to the prophets of Baal to reveal to them that the gods they served were powerless against the true Almighty God.
The writer of Psalm 121, puts everything in perspective, when he say's ' look at the mountains, our God made these, He created them, they stand strong to remind us how Awesome He is, and that no matter what concerns us, nothing is too big for Him to handle. Whatever we are called to face in life - God is there to help us if only we would turn to Him.
I guess that whenever David the shepherd boy had problems in his young life, he would take his sheep into the mountains and when he looked at the majesty of those hills that surrounded Jerusalem, it comforted him to know that God cares and will protect him at all times. 'As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people, from henceforth, even forevermore' Psalm 125
One day as we travelled through the Welsh mountains, we saw a group of climbers. The Snowdonian valley is one of the place to go if you want to climb mountains. I thought 'Why on earth should someone want to climb a mountain?' I guess that the answer to that question is' that as well as a great sense of achievement, there is a spectacular view to be seen from the top.
The only time that I experienced anything like the feelings they must have had, was after catching the cable car to the top of one of the largest mountains in Austria, and seeing the magnificent view.
From the pit of the valleys, those mountains seem to tower above us, almost sending out a challenge, 'if you want to get out of the valley, then climb the mountain!' No one in their right mind would be so foolish as to try to climb those steeps, without an instructor, a guide, and without the proper kind of footwear and clothing.
Similarly, from the valley experiences that we find ourselves in as we go through life, we would never be able to look those difficult times full in the face and say 'I am going to beat this problem, face the storms, and climb the mountain, if we were ill prepared and had no instructor or guide. Thank You Lord for your Word.
In verse 3, the psalmist seems to write as one of those sure footed climbers, when he say's, 'He will not let your foot slip, He who watches over you will neither slumber nor sleep. He is our protector, He knows and understands what we are going through, because He is right there beside us. 'Fear not, for I am with you' whatever.
Verse 5. 'The Lord watches over you, and more than that, the Lord shelters you when the 'heat is on' and those problems burn into our emotions, and you don't feel you can cope. In those darkest moments of the night, when you feel so alone, when it seems there is no help available, because the rest of the world is asleep, even then when the moon shines, He is still there.
Verse 7, 'The Lord will keep you from ALL harm, and keep watch over you now and forever more. God offers 24 hour protection under all circumstances, and all we have to do, is trust Him.
The psalmist reminds us that Our God is bigger than any of our problems, but not too big to care.
Song 579 says this
'He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater
He giveth more strength as our labours increase,
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance
When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our fathers full giving has only begun
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure
His power no boundary known unto man
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.
Mallory and Irvine were part of an expedition to climb and conquer Everest, but sadly never returned. When the other members of the expedition returned home they faced a barrage of questions from the press. One of the crew members pointed to a picture of the giant mountain, Everest, and said this; " Everest, we tried to conquer you once, but you overpowered us, we tried a second time, but again, you were too big for us. But Everest, I want you to know that one day, we will conquer you, because you can't grow any bigger - but we can!
Psalm 91 'He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
9 If you make the Most High your dwelling - even the LORD, who is my refuge -
then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
Listen to what the Lord says 14 "Because I love you," "I will rescue you; I will protect you. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."
To enjoy this safe passage, the only condition he requires is that we love and trust Him. If we do that, then we not only have the capability of conquering those mountains, we begin to take on the attributes of a mountain ourselves, we become 'more than just conquerors'. Psalms 125:1-2 'Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures for ever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and for evermore.
Wow! that's fantastic! We become LIKE the mountain. Strong, upright, fearless. We CANNOT BE SHAKEN. If we love and trust the Lord, then we will not only be able to climb the mountain, we shall be as strong and as immovable as that mountain.
No wonder the psalmist said 'I will look, not to the hills, but to the one who formed the hills, and that's my Almighty God!' Jesus went further when He said to His disciples ( Matthew 17; 20-21) 'I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, `Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'
Perhaps you are facing difficult times, the problems, the pain, the heartaches and the hurts seem at times to tower above you like huge mountains. I pray that you will take heart from what I believe God is saying to you this morning. 'I know you are hurting, because I share your pain, but you and I together can not only climb the mountain, or even rise above the mountain, but if you love and trust Me with all your heart, then I will see to it that you become stronger than those mountains. - you will rise above them'
Psalm 31;2 tells us that Our God is our rock of refuge and a strong fortress
Psalm 9;9, tells us that the Lord is a refuge for the oppressed a stronghold in times of trouble
Psalm 46;1. God is our refuge and strength a very present help in times of trouble therefore we will not fear -
Psalm 46; 10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
When faced with difficulties in our lives our prayer should be that of Psalm 25
To YOU, O LORD, I lift up my soul; IN YOU I trust.......Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.
Our God is bigger than our problems, but not too big to care. Of all the solo's I used to sing, Beryl's favourite was 'How big is God' - a song that reminds us that 'God is big enough to make this mighty universe, yet small enough to live within my heart.' I believe that in all her confusion due to Alzheimers this was her strength.
I know that a lot of you here this morning are going through difficult times at the moment. I think of Molly and John Miller at this moment - this week I have taken Molly to see John a few times - John was in a desperate state when I went on Monday - he was in so much pain and all he wanted was to go home to the Lord - I have held John in my arms and prayed for God to take the pain away. God cares - and I believe strengthened John and enabled him to put a smile on his face for Molly - she was thrilled.
Some of us grieve for our loved ones -- me for the last four years for Beryl and Kevin, Shiela For Billy, Sheila for Nancy, Brian and Jennie for Jackie a year ago, Michelle for her dad and Ruth for David a couple of weeks ago - thank God we can put our trust in Him and have been given strength to cope.
No wonder the psalmist said 'I will look, (not) to the hills, but to the one who formed the hills, and that's my Almighty God!'