Word for the Day

10th July 2020

From Miranda Shieh

Yielding To The New You

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This Scripture starts with a strong encouragement or urgency for action to be taken.  Why do we need to take action? We are reminded that, as believers in Christ and because of God’s mercy, we have become partakers of a new way of life that is in Christ through faith. This new way of life, being a living sacrifice, requires a lifelong process of transformation. Scripture tells us that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In the Old Testament sacrificial system, a lamb was sacrificed regularly to cover the sins of the people. Since Christ became the final atonement for sin, we no longer need the old system of sacrifice.  In view of the atoning sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, we as believers are now called to consider our whole life as a sacrifice dedicated to God and His purposes, a living sacrifice that is both holy and single- minded.

So, what do we need to do to offer our whole life to God?

Firstly, we have to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Notice the word ‘offer’ means a decision has to be made. It means one’s whole being must be presented by a decisive act of the will for the service of God. For a mere confession of our sins is not enough to enable us as believers to automatically walk in the Spirit.  It is about a complete yielding of the whole body and all its members, leading to dedicating and separation.

‘Come out from them and be separated, says the lord….and I will receive you’ (2 Corinthians 6:17).

It is about honouring God by giving Him dominion over our thought life (mind) and our flesh rather than doing whatever we feel like doing. You see, whatever is conceived in our minds will be carried out by our body.

You may say, what does this really look like in my daily life?

It means that, you need to start renewing your mind to the Word of God and begin speaking about your body as it really is…you are a living sacrifice to God; holy and acceptable to God. Remember that when you were born again, your spirit man was reborn in the image of your heavenly Father. Even though your body was not born again, it was bought and paid for through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross of Calvary (Ephesians 1:14). And God always calls things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17). He has called your physical body holy and acceptable to Him. Therefore, sickness, disease, poverty and fear do not belong in your living sacrifice.

2 Corinthians 4:10-11 says that  we are always carrying around in the body the death of the Lord Jesus, that also the life of Jesus might be expressed in our bodies. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that also the life of Jesus might be manifest in our mortal flesh or living sacrifice. And we have been redeemed from the curse of the law…every part of it including sickness, disease, poverty and every manifestation of the curse (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).

So, to apply this, you need to start speaking to your living sacrifice. Just like your heavenly Father, in whose image you have been created. You need to start calling things that are not as though they were.

For example, if you have say asthma, you say, Father, I know in Your Word that asthma is under the curse of the Law. I’m redeemed from asthma. Asthma, you can’t stay in my lungs. Lungs you are healed and I call you healed in the Name of Jesus. Body you are healed. You are a living sacrifice unto the LORD God and His Word says you are holy. His Word says you have been accepted (Romans 12:1). You are holy ground! Asthma, you cannot live in holy ground, you’ve attacked a citizen of heaven. I’m redeemed from the curse. Now take your filthy hands off me and off this living sacrifice. This body is not mine, it belongs to Jesus. He paid for it with His blood and I have sacrificed it back to Him. So take your hands off God’s property. I am redeemed and I have new lungs. Asthma has no dominion over me. I take my healing and I thank You Jesus for my new lungs. Amen.

With your faith solidly planted on God’s word, continue to call your lungs-healed of asthma, and continually thank God and rejoice daily before the Lord for new lungs until you see the physical manifestation. Do not be moved by the symptoms and or give up but be moved by the Word.

Secondly there is a need for transformation of the mind. A transformed mind can be accomplished through a life time of continuously renewal of one’s mind to the Word of God. According to Scripture, man’s mind has been darkened by sin (Romans 8:7, Col 1:21). Therefore, it must be brought to the place where it thinks as God thinks to stop it from conforming to the world (Ephesians 4:23). 

For example, just as our body needs physical food to provide physical power called strength, the spirit man needs to be fed spiritual food to produce the force called faith. Renewal of the mind will come through prayer in everything (Philippians 4:6-7) and constant meditation on the Word of God (Psalm 119:1).

Proverbs 4:20-22 …my son attend to my words, incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to all their body.

Joshua 1:8  says that when you speak and meditate on God’s Word, day and night … ‘’then thou shall make thy way prosperous and then thou shall have good success’’.

God’s Word is spiritual food that produces faith in the spirit of man (Romans 10:17). You see the world system is all around us, and it is run by Satan, producing fruits after its kind in abundance …the law of sin and death. But thank God that we as believers have an antidote to all the death and destruction to the world’s system … the spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2). So, God’s Word must be planted in the heart of a believer. For it is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh profits nothing. Jesus said, the Words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life (John 6:63). Jesus also said that if we continue in His Word we are His disciples and we will know the truth and the truth shall make us free (John 8:31-32).  The Scripture also says, that, for those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the first Son among many brothers.

So, we are destined to be conformed into the image of our Brother and Lord Jesus Christ. As we continuously renew our minds, we will not conform to the patterns of this world. And this conformation can only be possible through a continuous renewal of our mind.

 Scripture says that through the yielding of our members to God for His service, we will be able to prove what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.  Would you want to know what God’s will is for your life? Make the decision to yield your whole being to the service of God as an act of your will and do it with the Help of the Holy Spirit. And remember that the greater One, your Helper lives in you.

Miranda.

 

9th July 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

Psalms of Crisis  -   Psalm 91 - The Refuge! (When We Need Shelter)

This Psalm opens with words of promise and reassurance. “Whoever 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.’”

The challenge is for us to dwell in the shelter of the most high, both in our thought life and in our attitudes and our ways. Sometimes we find ourselves asking God to give us things that are in fact ours to give to Him! 

Trust is something we can ask God to increase in our lives, but it is ultimately our responsibility to apply it and take hold of it rather than the alternative which is to fear and doubt!

Let’s make our first thought and pronouncement, ‘I will say of the Lord, “He IS my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

There is a really helpful saying, ‘Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death.’

We will enjoy God as our refuge and shelter when we learn to centre our thoughts in Him.

Just as there is no place for darkness when we dwell in the light of God’s Glorious presence, there is equally no place for fear when our trust in God is our focus.

God’s Word is a weapon against fear and doubt, so let’s learn how to feast on His Word.

‘Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will REST in the shadow of the Almighty.’

For someone who is able to REST in the shadow of the Almighty it surely follows that they must be at peace in order to rest. Psalm 91 verse 3 onwards lists a whole deadly army of horribleness! The arrow that flies by day, the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, the plague that destroys at midday. None of these will disturb you from that place of peace and rest if your trust is in Him. He is our refuge and strength. He is our shelter, there is not any need to fear and no place for fear also.

With much love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

8th July 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

QUARTZ CHRISTIANITY

At the beginning of the 1960s 80% of the world’s watches were made in Switzerland. By the 1970s only 10% of watches were made there. The Japanese had taken over the market. What was it that made such a difference?

It was something that happened in 1967. The invention of Quartz watches. It revolutionised watch-making and consigned the Swiss to the backwaters of the industry.

Next question. Who invented quartz watches?

The answer to that is astonishing. It wasn’t the Japanese. It was the Swiss.

We live in an age when, we’re told, the church is declining fast. The saddest part of this sorry saga is that we have in our hands the secret of success. We are the spiritual descendants of those who turned the world upside down. We are in a position to enjoy what I call Quartz Christianity.

We see it demonstrated in the Book of Acts.

Centred on Jesus. If our Christianity is centred on us and what we can do it’s doomed to failure. But a Christianity that has Jesus at the centre can not only transform us, but turn the world upside down.

Informed by Scripture. Everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus. Everything God promised is fulfilled through him and demonstrated in the New Testament.

Powered by the Spirit. When the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples shock and fear gave way to joy and amazement, but not to authority and power. They were like soldiers without armour. But the coming of the Spirit changed all that.

Sharing good news. The gospel is not about opinions, advice or debate. It’s not primarily about anything that we must do. It’s all about what God has done through Jesus, to be accepted in simple faith.

Characterised by love. Jesus said, ‘This is how everyone will know that you are my followers, if you love one another.’

Sadly, alongside the genuine Quartz Christianity we see in Acts, we find evidence in the New Testament of failure to grasp the exciting new opportunity ushered in by the sacrifice of Jesus, the fulfilment of scripture, the power of the Spirit, the good news of the gospel and the priority of love.

Christians in Galatia who had begun with the Spirit were now depending on their own human efforts.

Hebrew converts who had been released from the burden of the Law were returning to a religion of legalistic ritual, abandoning their new found freedom in Christ.

Christians in Ephesus, doctrinally faultless, had grown cold and loveless.

And what about us? We have this truth. We cherish this truth. But are we living by it? Are we depending on ourselves or on Jesus? Are we following dead tradition or the vibrant truth of Scripture? Are we relying on our own resources or living by the Spirit? Are we sharing the good news or peddling platitudes? Do people say, ‘See how these Christians love one another’?

Quartz Christianity. Are we more like the Swiss or the Japanese?

 

7th July 2020

From Iain Colville

Matthew 27: 11-31 

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Is all lost?

In this passage we find Jesus on trial once again, this time before the Roman Governor, Pilate.  Under Roman occupation, the Jewish authorities were unable to carry out an execution themselves and so they must seek Jesus’ conviction before Pilate.

At first glance, this trial seems rather more orderly than the trial before the Jewish authorities, with at least a veneer of proper procedure being followed.  In order to persuade Pilate to act, the charge has shifted from the religious allegation of blasphemy (Matthew 26 v 65) to the more political claim to be the “king of the Jews” (v11).  The charge is put to Jesus.  But to Pilate’s surprise, Jesus is silent and does not defend himself, which entitles Pilate to find Jesus guilty.

Seemingly conflicted between a sense that he is being played by the Jewish leaders and a desire to do justice, Pilate is also mindful of the crowd’s volatility and the potential consequences if he were to be seen by his political masters to have lost control.

To Jesus’ followers watching as events unfold, there must have been a growing horror that their hopes were to be dashed.  Even the Master, usually so calm and able to take charge even in the middle of a storm, seemed to be out of control.  He wasn’t even trying to defend himself.  Then, as the mob cries “Crucify”, Pilate releases the freedom fighter, Barabbas, and hands Jesus over to be crucified.  

As a lawyer, one of the worst experiences is that moment when you realise that the judge is going to find against your client.  I’m sitting in court as the judge is reading out their judgment, reciting the facts and working through the various arguments made by each side. Even though they’ve not yet spelt out their decision, the direction of travel suddenly becomes all too clear. That sinking feeling becomes worse as I realise that this has not yet dawned on the client sitting beside me, and I’ve got a few moments before I have to explain the consequences to my client. Then the judge gets to the end of their judgment and the outcome is clear, and now I must turn to my client…

Yet, despite the condemnation of Jesus by his accusers and the authorities, the true reality described by these verses is very different.  As Jesus continues his journey towards the Cross, even as He is brought before Pilate and Pilate seemingly decides His fate, this is all part of the great plan to bring freedom and redemption. Far from being out of control, or surprised at Pilate’s verdict, Jesus knew what exactly was happening and that these events took Him closer to the Cross. 

How do we react when events begin to take a turn for the worse?  It’s so easy to focus on what’s happening in front of our eyes, and to be swept along with a growing sense of unease or despair, or that sudden panic that all is lost.  But Jesus’ road towards the Cross is a journey that’s punctuated by moments that call us to look not with a human, limited perspective but with heavenly eyes.

I wonder whether many of the disciples spotted the glimpses of the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies about the silence of the Messianic suffering servant before his accusers in Isaiah 53, or that Pilate was releasing a freedom fighter (who according to Matthew) was called Jesus Barabbas (or “the son of the father”) in place of the Jesus the Messiah who would be lifted up as a sacrifice to bring us freedom from our sins.

And even in these strange times, let’s remember that the Jesus who faced his trial before Pilate is still by our side. He will stand by us and give us strength and peace as we face our trials. He is with us when we’ve lost, when we find ourselves in dark days and when all seems to be out of control.

Many blessings,

Iain

 

6th July 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Handling the Bible

In our online service yesterday, when he was talking about learning to surf, Andy reminded us of the importance of not just doing what we think, but listening to what we are taught.  When we think ‘we know’ but fail to follow instructions we fall off the surf board.  How often we do that in real life.  The instructions are there but we do not have the time or inclination to study them.  So, when the wave comes, we fall off.

‘I find it difficult to live as a disciple of Jesus’ is a common complaint.  I think surfing teachers face similar complaints from their students ‘I am sure I could never do that!’  Stuck in the garden with a small surf board you could excuse Andy for thinking that, but when he got in the water and obeyed the instructions, even Andy succeeded.  It was when he thought he knew best he failed.

We all know where to find the instructions for living as a disciple of Jesus and unlike learning to surf we know that it takes more than a day to learn.  We are challenged by Paul’s advice to the young man Timothy when he advised him - Do your best (study) to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

Do we know how to handle the Bible?  Are we prepared to put in the hard work to find out how to live as Jesus’ disciples?  How much of what we do is because we know from the Bile it is God’s way and how much is because we think we know it is the right thing to do? What have we been doing during lockdown to get to know God’s word better?

Once the Jewish exiles had returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the walls around the city, their next move was to find out how they should live as God’s people in their own land.  Nehemiah 8 tells us how they found the ‘Book of the Law of Moses which the Lord had given them’ vs2, they ‘listened attentively’ to it vs3.  They really wanted to know and were prepared to even stand all day to have it read in such a way that they ‘could understand what was being read’ vs8  (Note it was probably the book of Deuteronomy that was being read not the easy storytelling narrative of the Gospels or even the letters of the New Testament that they were helped to understand.)

Because they understood, the Word had its effects.  What were they?   First of all they mourned and wept as they realised how far they were from living God’s way  vs9.  Secondly they rejoiced and celebrated with a feast because now they understood God’s Word and could obey it – which they did by celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles vss14-17.  Their emotions whilst doing this? –‘ their joy was very great’ vs17 because as Nehemiah had reminded them ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength’ vs10.

Do we like Andy need to listen to the instructions and then obey them.  It may initially lead us into difficult times but will lead us to finding the secret of true joy.

 

5th July 2020

From Simeon Colville

Matthew 8:23-27

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’

26 He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’

At the moment, there are lots of things that are uncertain and scary about our current situation and it’s almost natural to feel worried or scared in such difficult times and it can be easy to let these things take control over our lives and just give up and accept we’re not going to  get through this hard time positively. And in the verses in Matthew, we can see the disciples are really scared about the situation and they don’t think they’ll survive. But then you have Jesus who is so calm about what is happening that He is asleep. But the disciples are so worried that they wake up Jesus saying “Lord, save us! We will drown.” And in our situation it can be easy for us to get desperate. But when Jesus wakes up, He doesn’t just stop the disciples from being scared; with just a word, He calms the wind and the waves, and the disciples are left in awe. So if we feel like our current problems are just too big and there’s nothing we can do to make things better, then I want to encourage you to bring your worries and your fear to Jesus.

Now I would like to share a moment of my own experience where this has happened to me. One night I was struggling to sleep because I was full of fear about all the uncertainty of the situation and I couldn’t think of anything else apart from all the bad things, so I prayed that God would take away my fear, and then within a few minutes all the bad things had gone from my head and I went to sleep really quickly.

Although God may not stop the virus immediately, or anything else you may be worried about, if in that moment of worry, as Jesus said on the boat, you “have faith”, then He can calm the storm of your worry and fear. As we learn to put our trust in Him, as the disciples did on the boat, we learn that He is faithful to all He promises.

*****

Throughout lockdown on Thursday nights, as part of the youth group, we have had the young people sharing a brief devotion. These have all been excellent, and we thought the wider Church could benefit from them as well. This was one that Simeon Colville shared with us, and it seemed apt.

God bless

Neil

 

4th July 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Matthew 27:1-10

For me, this is one of the most disturbing events to be found in the whole of the New Testament. It's tempting to just gloss over this section, but there are warnings that the Church needs to heed that are shown in this section. We should be wary of the lure of institutions, and of power. Listen again to the response of the chief priests when challenged about Jesus' innocence. ‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility.’ They will condemn an innocent man to death to protect their institution.

Surely the wiser response was that of Gamaliel, found in Acts 5:38-39 regarding the Apostles and their ministry. '...... leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God'.

But even in the actions of Judas, and the actions of the elders and chief priests, we find that, unbeknownst to them, they were fulfilling another act of divine prophecy: 'what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled'. (Matt 27:9)

People may scheme, they may form their plans against the kingdom of God. Yet they will find that the statement made by Peter in the early days of the Church in Acts 4:25 still holds as truth.  'You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?"' Jesus has no need for us to scheme, whatever we may face, privately or corporately, as a Church. He will work out His promises to both us as individuals and us as a body.  For us as individuals, we have the assurance of Romans 8:28 that 'in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose'. The Church has the promise of Matthew 16:18 that 'I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it'.

God is at work among us both together and as individuals, and He is equal to all that we will face. Let us give praise and thanks, that even in adversity and actions as dark as that of Judas and the chief priests He was not dismayed or perplexed but still achieved His aim.

 

3rd July 2020

From Miranda Shieh

Receive the Man of God

John 13:20 New International Version (NIV)

20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

 Have you ever wondered whether God is holding back the anointing of the Holy Spirit on your life or on the church? Let’s look at what John 13 is saying to us.

You would agree with me that as humans, we feel the need at times to be critical of people as long as they, their ideology or ways of doing things do not align with ours. In the body of Christ, this is even same. Most profound is the fact that many born again, Holy Ghost filled Christians pick their pastors apart during the week and then expect them to pray the prayer of faith for them on Sunday or when they need it. They constantly make critical comments about their pastors and preachers and wonder why the rain of the Spirit has all but dried up in our churches.

The Scripture tells us that, God has sent His servants such as evangelist, pastors and preachers to minister to us. If they have been sent by God, that means criticising them is criticising the ministry of Jesus. Yes, according to the Word of God, that is precisely what you are doing when you criticise them. You see, Jesus said, ‘whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me ‘.

You may be saying, do I just need to keep quiet even when I do not agree with them?

Let’s look at an example in the scripture. In Numbers 12, we are told about the story of Moses a servant of God, described as gentle, kind and humble. He was chosen and sent by God to lead the children of Israel to the Promised Land.  He got married to a wife from a tribe that God was opposed to. The chapter opens with his own brother Aaron and sister-in-law, Miriam being critical of him. Firstly they are critical of his choice of wife. Then, they question whether God only speaks through him. What happens next in verse 3 is the anger of God against their criticism. God Himself called for a meeting with Moses, his brother and sister-in-law and came down in a pillar of cloud.

Just imagine how serious this simple act of criticism towards God’s servant meant to Him. And his Words were stern towards Aaron and Miriam. We get an understanding of Gods anger in verses 8 and 9. In verse 8, He says … ‘why then were you not afraid to speak against MY servant Moses?’  Verse 9 says … ‘and the anger of God was kindled against Miriam and Aaron and He departed’. We are told Miriam was leprous as white as snow and Aaron could see that she was leprous. In verse 11, the Scripture says that Aaron acknowledged to God that he had done foolishly and had sinned, asking for God’s mercy. Moses cried for God to heal her and God asked her to be shut up outside the camp for 7 days.

So, two people within a community are critical of the servant of God, and everyone suffers as this meant that all the children of Israel could not continue on their journey until after 7 days. How would you have felt if you were part of that community? That really shows us how God sees criticism against His servants. But thank God for His mercy, for when we acknowledge our short comings, humble ourselves in repentance, we can draw upon His mercies that are new every morning.

Yes, as ministers, they will fail sometimes or make mistakes.  Moses did not make all the right choices. But even in the Scripture, Jesus even knew this but He still said … ‘if you receive them, you receive Me’ (John13:20).

So if you think God’s servant’s doctrine is wrong, then pray for them or stop sitting under their ministry if necessary. For the Scripture also says … ‘who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To His master, he stands or fails. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand’ (Romans 14:4).

Remember that, ministers of the gospel are not your servants. So whether they are right or wrong, love them and respect them if for no other reason than to honour the One who sent them.

Learn to receive the minister of God that Jesus sends to you with the same respect and same honour that you would Jesus himself. As you do this, you will open the door for great spiritual power to be released. You will clear the way for God to meet your needs. The anointing of the God will be released through the man of God to you and to the church.

Do you want the rain of the Holy Spirit upon your life and upon the church?  Refuse to let criticism hold back the anointing of the Holy Spirit and get ready to be blessed. He won’t hold back on you or on the church.

Miranda

 

 

2nd July 2020

 From Rev Graham Banks

Psalms of Crisis 

Psalm 27 - The Unhinged! (When we are losing it!)

The term ‘I’m coming to the end of my rope’ is usually used when we are running out of patience with someone or something. The term began as an  American phrase and can be traced back to the 1680’s. The idea is of someone who has been thrown a safety rope, and has run out of length. At the end of one’s tether also means to be at the end of one’s endurance, strength or patience.

I can relate to the safety rope idea because whenever I go scuba diving on a dive boat, at the end of the dive when we have surfaced, we send a hand signal to our boat and they come and pick us up. As the boat approaches, a long safety line is thrown out from the stern and every diver has to make for the line and then haul themselves in to the boat.

It can be an extremely strenuous task especially when there is a heavy swell and the current is against you. If you are beyond reach of the line or you let go it can be a worrying experience.

So what do we do or how do we react when we  are losing it or coming to the end of our rope?

It is no doubt a time of crisis, but it can provide us with an opportunity to find strength and help that is beyond our strength and resources. At one of our recent Tuesday evening prayer times we discovered that In China the word for crisis is made up of two characters: the first means ‘danger’ and the second means ‘opportunity’.

When we come to the end of our rope it can be a glorious opportunity to suddenly discover and take hold of God’s rope! This is certainly a theme that is running like a thread through Psalm 27. Verse 3 “Though an army besiege me my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.”

Whatever crisis we may be going through, let’s take our eyes off of the danger and look for the opportunity that God provides us with.

With much love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

 

1st July 2020

From David Depledge

Christian Fellowship (1)

Blest be the tie that binds

Our hearts in Christian love;

The fellowship of kindred minds

Is like to that above

(John Fawcett 1740-1817)

The first verse of an old hymn, often sung at Communion services when I was first here nearly 50 years ago. This is the first in an occasional series looking at how we understand fellowship – something vital to the Baptist way of “doing church”.

In order to understand the importance of Christian fellowship, we must first understand what Christian fellowship is and what it isn’t. The Greek words translated “fellowship” in the New Testament, I understand, mean essentially a partnership to the mutual benefit of those involved. Christian fellowship, then, is the mutually beneficial relationship between Christians.

The mystery and privilege that is Christian fellowship is that it exists because God has enabled it by His grace. Those who believe the gospel are united in the Spirit through Christ to the Father, and that unity is the basis of fellowship. This relationship is described by Jesus in His prayer for His followers:

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me- so that they may they be brought to complete unity. Then the world know that you sent me and have loved them as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23).

The “complete unity” Jesus refers to is the oneness that Christians experience in true fellowship, oneness with one another, with Christ and with the Father. (Having a cup of tea or coffee together after the service does not automatically fulfill all of these criteria).

This unity must be the basis of Christian fellowship. We can have friendships and relationships with anyone, but Christian fellowship can clearly only occur between Christians. We are united to one another by common beliefs, purposes and goals but, fundamentally, our unity is in the Spirit through Christ to the Father.

Do we always experience true Christian fellowship and, if not, why not?

 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.  It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life for evermore.”  Psalm 133:1-3

 

30th June 2020

From Liz Martin

Betrayed, denied and deserted

Matthew 26:47-75

I wonder at Jesus’ fortitude in these verses. A man who has literally sweated blood due to the stress and depth of emotion at what He is going to endure. We are told by Luke that He is strengthened by an angel, and maybe this is key. Within moments, He calls Judas friend, He rebukes His disciples for trying to protect Him, He heals a man’s severed ear. But nothing has changed, He is still going to the cross, He has been betrayed by one of His own, He will be denied by one of His best friends, deserted by all who know and love Him. When we talk about the goal of discipleship being becoming like Jesus, is this what we have in mind?

He stands before a false trial; those who should have welcomed His coming, those who should have seen, are those who accuse, who were blind. He stands before their lies, their false accusations, their hatred and hypocrisy. And He remains silent. How often do we seek to defend ourselves, or our loved ones, when they are accused? Yet Jesus, alone and wrongly accused, remains silent. I can’t imagine how He felt, I don’t suppose anyone can. He could destroy them all with the breath of His mouth; if He withheld His hand which sustains all life, they would all perish. Yet He stays His hand. The majesty of our God astounds me, it humbles me.

When we face difficulty, whether false accusations, or physical or verbal attacks, can we put our trust in the One who has been there before us, who has endured, and who now lives in us by His Spirit? All too often, we have the tendency to rely on ourselves, our own strength, rather than trusting ourselves to our Heavenly brother, Father, friend.

A final word, about Peter. I think, in many ways, Peter is one of the bravest characters in the gospels, discounting Jesus. He walked on water, he sees Jesus as He truly is, and he follows Jesus when all the others (except John) have gone into hiding. Yes, he denies he knows Him, but he is still there, watching, waiting. Maybe now he prays, after having failed in the garden, maybe he is praying for his Lord, as he sees what is unfolding, but maybe he doesn’t. Fear, once again, gets the better of him, and this time Jesus isn’t there to stop him from sinking. We all fail, we all fall short, we all crumble under stress at times. But how we respond to our weakness being exposed will determine how we respond the next time. If we fast forward several years, although it’s not recorded in Scripture, we hear of Peter at the end, the last time he is asked whether he knows Jesus, and he doesn’t fail Him here.

I pray that we may all learn in these days not only to live in the strength and faithfulness of Jesus, but that we may learn to truly become more like Him.

 

29th June 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Yesterday was quite a day in Malawi, a small country in Southern Africa.  After Presidential elections last year were declared null and void, they were recently re-run.  For the first time in such a situation, the President, who had been accused of vote rigging and corruption, was soundly defeated in a democratic manner.  The new President, Lazarus Chakwera, was sworn in yesterday.  What makes a difference that he is a committed Christian who genuinely feels God has called him into politics to make a real difference.  For some time he has had to be patient, waiting for God’s timing having lost the invalid elections and dealing with all the intrigue that has been going on.  Now he has the position.

As a former pastor, theologian and leader of the Assemblies of God in Malawi, Lazarus knows about prayer and is keen that we should pray for him.  How can we do this?  His first request is for making the right appointments to the top jobs, especially those that affect finance in the country.  Certainly the top people need to be those who share his vision for just and honest government – both the leaders and their advisors.  Perhaps this prayer is needed for our own government as well.

It occurs to me that we could do a lot worse than look at Paul’s prayer for the Colossians and pray this through.

Colossians 1:9-12

… we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with

the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding

… in order that you may life a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way,

bearing fruit in every good work; growing in the knowledge of God, 

being strengthened with all power

… so that you may have great endurance and patience

Joyfully giving thanks to the Father

 

Lazarus will need to know God’s will 

  •     to have spiritual wisdom
  •     so that he can live a life worthy of the Lord
  •     bearing fruit in every good work
  •     so that he will have great endurance and patience.

It occurs to me that this is not a bad sequence of ideas to pray for ourselves as well.

(Lazarus was one of the young people with whom we worked in Malawi.  It is 50 years this week since we sailed from Southampton on our adventure of service in that beautiful land.  God has been very good to us.)

 

28th June 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

Tim and Roddy Part 2

If you haven’t worked it out by now, the senior missionary was called Paul. The church which supported his work in Europe was in Philippi and the letter which Paul wrote is in our New Testament.

So what about Roddy, or to give him his full name, Epaphroditus. (Did you notice the nod to the Greek goddess Aphrodite in the name his parents gave him?)

Paul admired him. There was a warmth of relationship between the two men, not this time like a father and son but more like two brothers. Paul had no hesitation in referring to him as a ‘my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier’.

Paul’s exact circumstances were that he was in a Roman prison, and that was no picnic. He badly needed help – help which the church at Philippi were only too willing to give.

When it came to tough missionary assignments Roddy was the obvious choice. He belonged to the church at Philippi and he was the natural ‘go to’ when they discovered that Paul needed help. He was appointed to be their messenger and to take care of those needs.

But after a while the church got the shock news. He had let them down and Paul was sending him back. This was what he wrote.

‘I think I need to send him back. He misses you all, and he was upset because you heard he was ill. In fact, he was so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him—and not just on him, on me too, because his death would have caused me great sorrow. That’s why I’m sending him without delay so that when you see him again you can be glad and I won’t have to worry.’

There’s an element of mystery here. Why did God allow it?

The mention of ‘great sorrow’ contrasts with the theme of joy so prominent in other parts of the letter. God didn’t give any explanation but his sovereignty was matched by mercy.

Was Roddy a disappointment? Was he an embarrassment? Were the Christians in Philippi a bit narked that their mission had failed because of him?

Paul says, ‘Welcome him in the Lord with great joy and honour people like him. He risked his life and almost died for the work of Christ, and he did this to make up for the help you couldn’t give me.’

Tim and Roddy: strength in spite of weakness, weakness in spite of strength.

When I think about the people who will be reading this I can see people who are strong – strong physically and emotionally. They have an energy and a capacity for work that makes other people look lazy in comparison.

But I can also see people who are weak, weak physically, weak emotionally. They feel inadequate. When the going gets tough they’re not tough enough to get going.

Yet those who are weak often have hidden strengths, and those who are strong can be hit by unexpected weaknesses.

Although we are so different we all have our place in the love and purposes of God.

 

27th June 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

Tim and Roddy Part 1

I don’t know what your picture of a typical missionary is. The days of the pith helmet have gone, but the truth is, there is no stereotype that covers everyone.

I was recently reminded of a senior missionary working in Europe who wrote a letter to a supporting church. In the course of this letter he mentioned Tim and Roddy, two junior missionaries who were working with him and who both had connections with the church.

Tim was from a Christian home. That is, his Mum and his Gran were committed Christians, although his Dad wasn’t a Christian. In fact Tim had been something of a disappointment to his Dad, always a bit on the nervous side and a bit of a weakling.

It was different with Roddy. He wasn’t from a Christian background and he had always been fit – a picture of health and very athletic. When he was converted he was a great example of muscular Christianity, what my parents would have called ‘a real mish-type’.

Which one, do you think, would be more likely to fit your mental image of a missionary?

Surprisingly, perhaps, the senior missionary was exuberant in his praise for Tim. His exact words were, ‘I have no one else like him.’

There was an irony in that. Quite literally he did have no one else like him. While Tim had been loyal, many of the other workers had been unsupportive, critical and selfish.

Yes, I’m afraid it’s true. The mission field throws together people who are – well let’s just say – not exactly compatible.

But in spite of his frailties Tim was someone who wouldn’t let you down. And he was always cheerful. Amidst the rigours of the mission work, that could not be said for everyone. Although some of the workers were reliable, they could be relied on to get you down!

Not Tim. He could be relied on to cheer you up.

Maybe it was because of his own weakness, but he had a real sympathy for other people. He was genuinely concerned about them and put their interests before his own. Unfortunately the opposite could be said about most of the others on the team.

During his probationary period he had been an eager learner and treated his older colleague with respect. Even when asked to do a menial task he did it willingly and with a smile. The relationship between the two of them was more like that of a father and son, in fact more than his own childhood had ever been.

What does Tim teach us?

Having a weak constitution or a disability doesn’t disqualify us from serving God. You don’t have to be Superman (or Superwoman) to qualify. It has been said that God doesn’t want your ability – just your availability.

Not everyone is called to be the leader of the orchestra. The hardest instrument to play can be ‘the second fiddle’.

And Roddy? You’ll have to wait till tomorrow to find out what happened to him.

 

26th June 2020

From Miranda Shieh

The Spirit of Slumber

Romans 11:8

 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear ;) unto this day.

Proverbs 24: 30-34

Proverbs 24:30-34 New King James Version (NKJV)

30 I went by the field of the lazy man, And by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; 31 And there it was, all overgrown with thorns; Its surface was covered with nettles; Its stone wall was broken down. 32 When I saw it, I considered it well;
I looked on it and received instruction: 33 A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest; 34 So shall your poverty come like 
a prowler, And your need like an armed man.

 

Have you ever wondered why you just do the things you know you should not be doing or do the opposite of what you intended to do? As I was meditating on what to write this week, I heard these words in my spirit man ‘Spirit of slumber’. As I was about to write this, I thought about my experience in maintaining a plot at the allotment.

 My family acquired our first allotment plot last year and we were blessed with bumper crops. We spent a lot of time in the allotment, sought farming tips and did all we knew to do. Some of the farmers were amazed at how well we did and wondered if we had been doing allotments for long. Unaware to us, was that we were going to get into the current lock down situation this year and this would affect our ability to be productive. We had not visited the allotment due to the current restrictions but received a letter, requiring us to attend to the plot as per the conditions of acquisition. We visited the plot, hoping to see some vegetable and maybe strawberries from the previous year but we were shocked at the state of the plot. The soil was hard as rock with lots of tall weed as if it had never been cultivated. Even our fruit tree appeared to be in winter. I was really shocked at the state of the plot considering it was just a few months ago when we had harvested crops.

You may be wondering what an allotment has to do with the Word for the Day.  You see, the bad state of my allotment plot was as a result of months of neglect and it produced fruits after its kind …weed, hard soil and no fruits. I did not for a moment expect it to be in a bad state. I had learned about maintaining the soil, but other things had taken over. So too will be the state of our souls when it is left unattended.  The weeds in our soul will continue to grow and if left unattended over time, our soul will become callously indifferent, insensitive and lukewarm to the things of God.

So, what really is this spirit of slumber and what causes it?

The word slumber means a state of being dormant, negligent, calloused and insensitive and especially to the ways of God. It is called a spirit because when God or our adversary wants to give us something, we are given a spirit. For example 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us God has not given us a spirit of fear.  In the book of Ephesians, we are told to ask God to give us the spirit of wisdom (Ephesians 1:17).

It is a spirit that needs to be received because it needs a point of access to operate in our lives. The point of access can be through yielding to unbelief (Romans 11:7-23), rebellion (Jeremiah 5:21-23) and hardness of the heart (Matt 13:13-15, Mark 8:17-18).  It can affect us individually or as a church. As a church. However, we can be freed from this through repentance, and allowing God’s grace and mercy to be poured out upon us.

Also, when we grant access to this spirit, it will act as a smoke screen. That is, it will blind us to the dirty and unhindered work of the enemy while we are in a slumber or asleep (John 10:10).  The agenda of this spirit is to keep us blind and dormant so that he can steal everything that is precious to us. Are we as a church finding comfort in sleeping? Let us not give room to the devil to ravage our treasure houses and gladly steal from us, blind us, steal the hearts of our children, destroy our reputation, lie to us and prevent us from walking in our true identities and destinies.

The children of Israel, experienced first-hand the dangers of this spirit. They decided to walk in rebellion against God and thought their own ways were better than Gods’. Because of this, the Bible says they became callously indifferent and hardened and God gave them an attitude of a state of near unconsciousness. Their hearts were hardened to God’s ways. According to Romans 11:8, the degree of this hardness was such that, the Bible says that, they had eyes that should not see and ears that that should not hear. How would you feel if you really wanted guidance from the Almighty God on a critical matter but failure was already looking you in the face because you knew that you were not going to be obedient to Him or were going to ignore His advice?  This is a dangerous place for a child of God or the body of Christ to be, especially at times such as this when divine counsel and direction means everything to us.

Proverbs 24 also gives us a picture of the dangers of this spirit. In verse 30, we are told that there are two men. One owned a field and he was lazy and the other a vineyard and he was void of understanding.  The field symbolises the soul of man and vineyard, the spiritual church.  Both the lazy man and the man void of understanding had same outcome, namely lands that were …’grown over with thorns and nettles were covering their faces and its stone wall was broken’.  When we look at this from the stand point of our spiritual lives, what can we say is the state of our spiritual field or vineyard? Is it fruitful or filled with thorns and nettles covering our faces and blinding us to the truth? 

The bible reminds us that by our fruits we shall be known (Mathew 15:20). Just like the thorns and the nettles that resulted from a life of laziness and lack of understanding, so also will the fruits of our lives individually or as a church testify against us.  Laziness mentioned in verse 30 is the most prolific source of spiritual poverty. On the other hand, spiritual understanding is needed to maintain the stone wall that is our source of protection.  The bible says we should get wisdom and with all our getting, we should get understanding (Proverbs 4:5-7).  Holy Spirit help us to recognise and deal promptly with any bad habits in our lives that may cause us to become insensitive to your ways. Remember that bad habits come in a subtle way just like a thief and if it is not dealt with promptly, our heart will become hardened to the things of God.

Proverbs 24:33  describes how sneaky the spirit of slumber can be… a  little sleep,  a little slumber, and a little folding of hands to rest and poverty comes like a thief and scarcity like an unarmed man.

Are you walking in your own self-righteousness, in unbelief or rebellious to the ways of God? Are you allowing those bad habits through your actions, thoughts and words that you know you should not give room to, to take root in your soul? Have you become too familiar with church, and the cross such that the suffering Jesus Christ went through to redeem you from the power and dominion of Satan has lost its relevance?  Have you become too lukewarm in your Christian experience and are you living without expectation?

So what can we do to avoid spiritual negligence and to be sensitivity to the things of God?

We must first of all realise that it is a dangerous and subtle spirit, and wake up from our slumber and return to God. We need to keep a check on our spiritual fields and vineyards to be able to recognise and stand against this subtle but dangerous enemy in our midst. Now is not the time to become lazy and to allow the thorns of insensitivity to take root in our souls, to rob and deprive us of our possession and destiny. Awake from your spiritual sleep and press on. Yes, we need knowledge and diligence but as we have found out in Proverbs 24, that a lack of understanding is just as bad as laziness in the things of God (Proverbs 4:5-7).

Notice that the man at the vineyard had knowledge but the vineyard still grew thorns, nettles and the walls were broken. Do you have knowledge of God but lack understanding of who you really are in Christ? Do you realise that you are a precious possession and that you have been bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus (Proverbs 24:31, I Corinthians 6:20).

Do not neglect the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Do not neglect your prayer altars.  If you do, you will begin to develop habits that lead to insensitivity to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The Bible warns us not to allow the weeds of evil habits to spring up in the garden of our soul through laziness, nor to suffer God’s protecting wall to be withdrawn from us because we have not sought God constantly in prayer. Remember that you are not alone in your struggles, you have the Holy Spirit as your helper.

As a child of God, the Greater One lives in you. Even Jesus’s disciples struggled with slumber. They were sleeping when they were meant to be waiting in prayers with Jesus. So even Jesus was aware of the danger of this spirit of slumber and he had this to say to his disciples when he found them sleeping in the garden of Gethsemane and it is for us today… could you not keep watch with me for an hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. (Luke 22:39-46). The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Mathew 26:41). For we can defeat this enemy not by might or the flesh but by the Spirit of the living God…. our Helper. Consider your ways and receive instructions to stand against the enemy of your soul. Arise from your slumber and shine. For you can only stand up and fight only if you are awake.

Miranda

 

25th June 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

Psalms of Crisis

Psalm 77 - The Sleepless Nights (When we have run out of Sheep!) [Also Psalm 3]

Why is it that in the middle of the night, when we are suddenly awake for some reason that there are times when we just can’t switch our brains off? We are trying to get back to sleep but we then begin worrying or trying to figure out how to solve a particular problem?

I guess it happens to all of us at times.  It certainly happened to King David. 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel along with the Psalms help us to understand how David responded during a night without sleep.

Let’s have a look at  the opening verses of Psalm 77.  “I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted.”

One thing is sure and that is that anxiety and distress don’t mix well with sleep! During times of trouble our brains go into, ’try to fix it mode’ and if the problem we are facing is out of our control, then the natural human response is to start worrying about it. So it is not unusual to be kept awake worrying when we should be sleeping.

Thank God that David wrote about his times of worry and distress in the night hours because this helps us. See how David takes hold of the faithfulness of God by remembering what God has done in the past and finding comfort and encouragement. in verse 10 he says, ‘Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.  I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds.”

Psalm 3:5  David said, ‘I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.’

David was facing many foes who were saying ‘ God will not deliver him’ (Psalm 3:2) and yet he found sleep and rest because he focused on the God of deliverance and gave his fears and circumstances over to God in prayer and trust.

When worry and anxiety threaten to overwhelm you, remember God’s faithfulness, give thanks as you remember how He has been with you in the past and ‘let go and let God’

With much love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

24th June 2020

From Anna Grimshaw

Ephesians 3:17-19 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)

17And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Isn’t it amazing how we often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone!!   Most people I know, when asked what they’ve found most difficult about lockdown, have missed the freedom of human contact in some form, whether that’s meeting with friends, family members, children, grandchildren or maybe new babies in the family.

I live on my own so like others in my position, on a Saturday, a couple of weeks ago, we were allowed the freedom to join a ‘bubble’ with one other household.   I’d arranged with my son who lives locally, to have my two grandchildren come to my house on Tuesday, for the first time in 3 months, something I was very much looking forward to.  But as a self-confessed hugger, when I woke on Saturday, I began to think…I can’t wait till Tuesday for hugs from them all…so I went to visit, and I was totally overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment!!

I’ve spoken to them and seen them (with social distancing) and Zoomed family gatherings, but I hadn’t realised quite how much physical touch and the freedom to express how much I love them would mean.

I imagine that must be how God feels about us sometimes.  There are times when we seem separated from him and it must cause him great sadness.   Sometimes it’s our sin that separates us; we allow other things to take our attention away from him; maybe we’re in trouble of some kind or anxious about something; or maybe we’ve just wandered off in the wrong direction.  All the time he’s longing to show us how much he loves us but he can’t touch us because of the obstacles we allow to be in the way.

But if and when we get past those barriers, he just loves to show us what we mean to him.  Think of the father in the story of the prodigal, running to welcome his son back home, and to lavish his love and attention on him.  Think of the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to search for the one lost sheep, and when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.  And then think of the Cross and Calvary!!

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Last Sunday was Fathers’ Day…maybe an extra opportunity for each of us to let our Heavenly Father know how much we love him.   But do you really want to limit ourselves to “special days” for a hug from him???  He’s always waiting and longing to touch us.   Why don’t you just ask him for a hug right now??

 

23rd June 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Matthew 26:17-46

When I imagine the scene of the Last Supper, the image that is suggested to me is that the disciples are lying on their sides, languid and relaxed, with that happy warm buzz of full bellies, cheerfully bickering, as friends often do when they eat together. Maybe they're thinking of the miracles they've seen, the crowd that has cheered them on. Maybe they're even thinking that with all that they've seen and done, and sacrificed, that now, now is the time of their reward. Then, from nowhere, Jesus starts to talk of betrayal; He talks of denial and death, failure and pain. The disciples, knowing the One who speaks is the One who had sent them to this pre-prepared upper room, are convinced, and are shocked, and are sad. Not least by the thought of betrayal, that one of them would betray Him. The glow is gone, and Jesus wants them to move on, and so, maybe somewhat strangely, they sing a hymn, and leave that place.

We know from Luke 22:45 that they were in a state of deep grief, so we may want to be more gentle with them than sometimes we are when we discuss their failure to pray. Though there is a question for us to ponder: what might have happened if they had have prayed?

I wonder, were they ever tempted in the coming days to linger in that memory, to sit and remember that last day together. As the real, relentless, nightmare of the next few days of betrayal, pain, and death unfolded around them, I wonder were they tempted to hold to the past? Were they ready for the changes that came?

This has something, I believe, to say to us today; how do we deal with change? Radical change has been forced on us in the last 3 to 4 months, and more changes will come. As we ease out of lockdown, we will begin to look at going back to Church, work, and the wider world. For example, at Church, if we are not allowed to sing, services will look and sound very different. We still won't be able to hug, or sit at a table with a cup of tea, talking to friends. Church will look and sound different; many will still want to participate online rather than in the building. Change has come, and will continue to come. These changes have been at times difficult and awkward and unsettling. Yet change can also be good, even if it is costly.

 If you had asked the disciples there on that night the question, would you rather have Jesus with you in body, or the Spirit within, as he promised in John 14, what do you think they would choose? I imagine they would have chosen Jesus with them in the flesh. Yet they would have missed so much if that had been the case. As we look ahead, we know that change will come, it's simply unavoidable, some we can guess at, such as social distancing, others we won't know until they happen. So as we look at the changes that we will face, let's pray with faith that the changes that come will do what is promised in Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Let's pray that they are changes that lead to opportunities, and new growth, and unexpected life in our church; let's look with faith to see how God will work out His purposes with us. Let's see what good God might work from these changes.

 

22nd June 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

‘Haves’ and ‘have-nots’.

Most of us know about Nehemiah returning to Jerusalem to build up the walls of Jerusalem when the exiles had begun to return back to their own land.  We are having some good times looking at this in our Thursday evening Bible studies.  Right in the middle of the building of the wall however, Nehemiah seems to have walked right into the centre of a social crisis.  It seems that there was something of a famine around and the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ became very obvious.  People who lived hand to mouth, spending what they earned that day or week on food, just could not find food as it was too expensive.  People who normally owned land and so had a base to work from had had to mortgage their land in order to get money for food. Others had been compelled to sell all they had, even family members, in order to cope with taxes.  It was a pretty dire situation and what made matters worse was that the people who were raking it in were fellow Jews who had only fairly recently come back to Jerusalem like them. Things got to such a state that there was a massive protest, especially from the wives, and it all landed on Nehemiah’s plate as he was trying to get the wall finished.  He had enough opposition to the building of the wall and could have seen this as the last straw.

As a new returnee it is possible that Nehemiah knew nothing about this social injustice until the protest (the Bible calls it an outcry) occurred.  What did he do? Nehemiah 5 verses 6 & 7 give three clear steps in his response.  First of all, he was not just cross or annoyed, he was not just angry, he was VERY ANGRY.  Is it right for Christians to get very angry?  If it is because they have been personally slighted or wrong footed or hurt – No.  But here Nehemiah saw that the way God had set down for people to live at peace with one another had been deliberately flouted by the nobles and the ‘have-nots’ were being exploited by the ‘haves’ in a time of crisis.  There was flagrant injustice around.  Yes, it made Nehemiah very angry that God was being slapped in the face, as it were, and that fellow Jews were suffering at the hands of other Jews,  Yes he was angry.  What emotions do we experience when the inequalities of race in this country are being unearthed, or we hear that people are still having to live in blocks of flats with dangerous cladding years after Grenfell and promises have been made but not kept – or whatever social injustices that we come across in life.  When was the last time it made us cross, let alone very angry.

The danger with getting angry, however, is that it can cause to lose control of our actions and do things which may seem acceptable at the time but afterwards we regret as they backfire on us.  The next thing that Nehemiah did was to ‘ponder’ on these things in his mind.  He thought about them,  checked his facts, looked at them from both sides, considered what was the best thing to do.  It maybe that crowds pulling down statues have thought through all the issues, but it seems more likely that emotions have been stirred up without thinking things through and working out the best way to achieve their goal.

Having carefully thought this through Nehemiah had no qualms about confronting those who were responsible for the social injustice and accusing them face to face.   Thinking things through need not remove our anger or sense of injustice but should channel it in a positive direction where it should be channelled.  Nehemiah put his accusation in such a way that the people in error ‘kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say’ Nehemiah 5:8.  Having got the moral high ground, he then pushed his way a bit harder telling them what should be done to put things right and extracting oaths, not just promises, from them that they would do the right thing.  He was also willing to admit his own, perhaps unwitting, guilt in the issue. Nehemiah 5:10.

We may not be the position of power that Nehemiah was at that time, but neither should we just turn a blind eye to social injustice when it is pointed out to us.  It is right to get angry, but that anger must be kept under control and used to channel energy and resources to where they are needed.  We need to ponder before we act.  Our motivation should be the same as that of Nehemiah who put God’s honour in society first and recognised that all are equal in God’s eyes.

 

21st June 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

THE PERFECT FATHER Part 2

This is how Jesus described his Father.

Loving: ‘The Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.’ When Jesus was baptised heaven was opened and a voice was heard, saying, ‘This is my Son. I love him and I’m really pleased with him.’

Trusting: ‘The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.’ God’s love is seen in his trust. He is no absentee father but always there, even in the worst times, supporting and sharing.

Hard-working: ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working. … the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.’

You used to see a sign sometimes by a hole in the road. It said, ‘Danger, men at work!’ Half the time the danger was that the men were not at work and the hole was easy to miss. Some people think God is nowhere, but we can put that a different way. God is NOW HERE. God is at work and Jesus shared that work.

Supportive: Jesus said, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.’ Both at the beginning of his ministry at his baptism, and at the end during the final week before the cross, God the Father spoke audibly with words of love, support and approval.

Generous: Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God. ‘All things!’ That’s a pretty big statement.

 All that a Father should be: A time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.

And now for the really good news.

Jesus came so that his Father in heaven could be our Father too.

To all who receive Jesus, to those who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Through Jesus we can know God as ‘our Father’: loving, trusting, hard-working, supportive, generous, one who will never leave us or forsake us, never let us down, a Father you can be proud of – in fact, a Father you can worship.

Do you remember that wonderful promise?

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.

The Father whose home is in heaven wants to make a home in our hearts and bring heaven down to earth.

Non-essential Dads? That is the opposite of what God intended. But with his help fathers can be more like him, and become all that he intended them to be.

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES

Jn 5:20; Mt 3:17; Jn 3:35; Jn 5:17, 20; Jn 8:54; Jn 12:28; Jn 13:3; Jn 4:23; Jn 1:12, 13; Jn 14:23

 

20th June 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

THE PERFECT FATHER Part 1

The non-essential shops are open again and their first priority was persuading us to buy things for Father’s Day. Sadly, there’s a growing trend in society to regard Dads themselves as ‘non-essential’.

When I was at university I studied English literature. The syllabus included the novels of DH Lawrence. In his novels Lawrence explored love between men and women, between men and men and between women and women. What comes across as the strongest relationship is the bond between mothers and sons. His famous novel Sons and Lovers might as easily have been called Sons and Mothers.

But there was only one relationship which he could find nothing good to say about, and that was between sons and fathers. His difficult relationship with his own father coloured all his work. It runs under his novels like the black coal seam that runs under the beautiful landscape of his native Nottinghamshire.

Sunday the 21st is Father’s Day. For many, like DH Lawrence, it is scarcely a day to celebrate. Card manufacturers duly roll out the Father’s Day cards but it is hardly on the same level as Mother’s Day. It’s never difficult to find something to buy for your Mum – flowers, soap, scent, and so on – but Dads are different. Just looking at the cards for Father’s Day, a fairly high percentage of them are either smutty or insulting.

This is why for some people the idea of God as a father is a difficult one. ‘Our Father in heaven’ doesn’t have any positive connotations or produce any confidence, rather the opposite.

Indeed, it is argued that we should consider thinking of God as ‘Our Mother in heaven’.

It’s not to say that there aren’t any good fathers. There are, and for many of us there is good reason to give thanks for them, but in our society fatherhood is suffering from some very bad examples. There’s the drunken father, the inadequate father, the cruel father, the absentee father.

There are so many reasons for which Father’s Day can be difficult.

When the Bible describes God as our heavenly Father it’s no wonder so many people find it hard to swallow. But when Jesus came he had no doubts about God as Father. Jesus described himself as the one who had been ‘sent by the Father’.

The Jewish leaders were affronted by his claim to be the Son of God. They dismissed him as the illegitimate son of Joseph the carpenter. But Jesus insisted that God was his Father.

And as he described God as the perfect Father he spoke about another father – the devil, the father of lies and of liars. In the last analysis the reason there are so many bad fathers in the world is because of the devil’s works and the devil’s lies.

But God is not like that. God is the perfect Father.

 

19th June 2020

From Iain Colville

Matthew 26: 1-16 

1 When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2 “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”
3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 5 “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”
6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot —went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

What are you looking at?

As Matthew 26 begins, we find Jesus predicting his imminent arrest and crucifixion, as the Jewish religious leaders resolve to arrest Jesus and kill him.  Even as the plotters hatch their plans and appear to be taking control from a human perspective, it is Jesus who commands his own destiny. 

How often do we see only the human perspective of a world in which Jesus appears to be absent or out of control? But as we are called, again and again, to fix our eyes on Jesus, we might begin to see the heavenly reality: Jesus is Lord and He is at work building and realising his kingdom amongst us. Perhaps not always in the ways that we might expect, but He is going about his Father’s business.

In verse 6, the scene then shifts to a meal at the house of Simon the Leper. A woman brings a jar containing an expensive perfume, which she uses to anoint Jesus at the table in an act of worship and adoration. As the perfume fills the room, the disciples react using their human senses, swift to object and criticise the apparent waste of the valuable perfume, which could have been sold and the proceeds used to help the poor. A very natural and sensible reaction, we might think.

But Jesus sees differently. He praises the woman’s act of worship, as a preparation for his forthcoming burial. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, ready to recognise those who honour Jesus in unlikely ways just as He does here.  

And would we have taken something as precious and expensive, and poured it at Jesus’s feet or upon his head? The woman’s actions also echo the gifts of the Magi (all the way back to Mathew 2), especially the frankincense and myrrh, given in worship before the new-born Jesus.  Do we bring our gifts freely to offer to Jesus in adoration in worship, not counting the cost or thinking first about what else could be done with the value?

Finally, in verses 14 – 16, the focus turns to Judas, who goes to the Jewish religious leaders and seals his bargain: thirty silver coins in exchange for handing over Jesus to be arrested and, ultimately, to go to his death on the Cross.  Thirty silver coins was the amount of compensation if a slave was killed (see Exodus 21.32). Are you, like me, wondering if that was a terrible waste of money, just like the perfume, or was it a fair price for the Son of Man?  But we are looking, and thinking, once again with our human eyes. The disciples, including Judas, and the Jewish religious leaders couldn’t see the much greater, and much more wonderful, plan that Jesus was hatching with His Father. 

The poet Godfrey Rust neatly captures this in his poem “Accomplices”. Here’s a short extract (and the whole poem is worth a read):

“father forgive them

they didn't know what I was doing

when I slipped into humanity disguised

 

my light shone in a darkness

they could not comprehend

 

forgive them all

my dear, dull accomplices

they don't know the cost

of an immortal’s suicide

father forgive them

they don't know what we are doing

…”

© Godfrey Rust, www.wordsout.co.uk. Used with permission.

 

18th June 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

Psalms of Crisis - Psalm 51 - The Confession! (When I’ve screwed up)

The header notes in Psalm 51 are as follows, ‘For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.’

When a king sinned the usual outcome was that people would turn a blind eye, in fact there are a number of examples in scripture. Take King Ahab and his desire to obtain Naboth’s Vineyard in 1 Kings 21 for example. 

At first Ahab offered Naboth a better vineyard in exchange for his, but when Naboth refused, because it was the inheritance of his Fathers, Ahab became sullen and angry and sulked refusing to eat. His wife Jezebel’s response was this, (verse 7) “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” Naboth was promptly disposed of!!

As we read Psalm 51 we are given a very different insight into the mind and heart of King David.

Here was a man who admitted and confessed his sin asking for God's forgiveness and compassion. He didn’t just go through the motions of ritual by offering sacrifices for his sin, for in verse 16 he said, “ You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” 

David had indeed sinned, not just by committing adultery with Bathsheba, but by arranging for her husband Uriah the Hittite to be killed in battle (1 Samuel 11:15). It is ironic that Uriah was among David’s Mighty Men of Valour. 

David’s sin was to cost him dearly. God spared his life, but took the life of his new born son.

So, what do we do when we screw up? Do you go into denial? Or do you just shrug it off? 

Or maybe you sink into a mega guilt trip and never forgive yourself??

Thank God that there is an alternative to all of the above and Psalm 51, as well as many other promises in scripture, remind us that we can find forgiveness when we truly repent.

Isaiah 53:5 ‘But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.

(Verse 6) We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

David knew God well, as in verse 1 he cried out for mercy citing God’s unfailing love and great compassion. He acknowledged his sins asking for God to renew him and cleanse him from his sin.

Instead of trying to make excuses or ignore his sin, David prayed, (verse 10) “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

If there is forgiveness for David, then there is hope for us all!

With much love,

 Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

17th June 2020

From Kay Hamer

Zacchaeus (Part 2)

If  Zacchaeus had stayed within the crowd he wouldn't have been in a place where Jesus could see him, call to him and change his life view. It could be that, in all life throws at us, we might be lost in circumstances which preclude us getting 'a good view' as it were.

Lord help us to see beyond 'stuff', circumstances, expectations, problems or worries so that we might  concentrate on seeing you; that we might experience your loving accepting presence, being led by you into all that you have planned for us.

When we recognise where we are in the crowd and need to see better, we must like Zacchaeus do something about it. Physically we need a time with God each day feeding on His word.

Emotionally, its good  to check thoughts and feelings and to make positive decisions; identifying where we need to think differently.

Spiritually, praise and prayer will lift us up into a better place.

All this might feel like I am 'teaching my Granny to suck eggs'. However a reminder will never go amiss. When in these better places we will see Jesus more clearly.

Jesus knew where Zacchaeus was, the hiding place was just there for him. Jesus will provide a place for us ( hopefully not up a tree). However He knows the best place for us, away from the distractions of everyday life. My trees are my prayer times with close friends, when in my garden alone, or a walk in a quiet place. Your tree will be just right for you as was the tree for Zacchaeus. There we will get a clearer view of Jesus, there we can know a wonderful closeness to Him, there we will be refreshed, encouraged and enabled to be the person we were meant to be.

When Zacchaeus moved in response to Jesus calling him, he was welcomed. Whenever we move in response to Jesus calling us, we are welcomed and accepted with encouraging words. Jesus desire is to come to our house and to share with us as He did with Zacchaeus.

Lord help us to welcome you into who we are, into what we do, into our needs and desires, into our hopes and dreams, and into our thoughts and feelings.

When Zacchaeus met Jesus he was convicted of his sin and immediately began to make amends.

Lord, when we meet with you, will you highlight for us the ways in which we cause a gap in our relationship? Will you, by your Spirit's guidance, help us to address things as they surface?

Lord work in our minds to show us what there might be that is not of you, search us and know our hearts, lead us in your way that we can eradicate anything in us that is not of you.

Just as Jesus recognised Zacchaeus for who he was, a son of Abraham, we know that he recognises us as His own.

Thank you Lord for the reassurance for us that whatever would try to separate us from you, there's no way that this will happen because you have bought us and you own that we are part of your family.

Jesus recognised that Zacchaeus was a lost person who He had come to rescue. He does this for us too.

Thank you Lord for your saving power, for your loving grace. Lord help us as your children to deal with life's issues as they come along; help us to do this in your way for your glory.

Lord have your way with us, show us how to do life your way, guide us by your Holy Spirit, help us to come out of where we might hide so that we live  to your praise and glory. Amen.

 

16th June 2020

From Kay Hamer 

Zacchaeus (Part 1)     -   Luke 19: 1-10

“Now Zacchaeus was a very little man

A very little man was he

He climbed into a Sycamore tree

For the Saviour he wanted to see

For the Saviour he wanted to see.

 

Now when the Saviour passed that way

He looked into the tree

And said ' Zacchaeus come down here

For I'm coming to your house for tea

For I'm coming to your house for tea'”

A chorus those of us of a certain age will remember from childhood. I got to thinking about the event in Jericho all those years ago and found much on which to dwell. Let me share some of those thoughts with you.

Zacchaeus climbed into the tree to get out of the crowd; did he do this to see better or was he so uncomfortable that it felt safer up there?

Do we need to step away from situations sometimes in order to assess things from a different aspect; possibly a more real perspective, revealing new truths?

Often making a move can be the first step to sorting out what needs to be done. Putting ourselves in a place where we can see Jesus more clearly and where He can see us clearly too.

Jesus knew where Zacchaeus was and why he was in the tree. He knows us and can always see where we are, not only in isolation but also in the crowd. There is nowhere we can hide that He will not see us - No hiding place! No escape from His loving, accepting gaze. Jesus will always relate to us wherever we are and in whatever situation in which we find ourselves.

Jesus called Zacchaeus to come down. Can we hear Him calling to us to come near? Do we actually expect Him to do this? I assume Zacchaeus did not expect Jesus to see him up the tree - he was, after all, just hiding. How about us? Just hiding???

Lord, help us to hear your voice calling us to come near; help us in our response; that our desire might be to hear and to come. There are times when life takes hold of us, we busy ourselves with so much that our relationship with you can become misty. Our prayer must be that we are always aware that Jesus is near.

Jesus accepted Zacchaeus just as he was, despite how others saw him. Likewise, despite how others see us, Jesus accepts and loves us just as we are.

'When we were still sinners Christ died for us'.

It is really not about how we are, more that it is who we are, His precious ones, for whom He died.

Just as Zacchaeus needed acceptance, we too need to have that assurance that we are accepted, are loved and supported.

We need to be real about ourselves as was Zacchaeus; his need to see Jesus resulted in life changing ways. His very close encounter with the Lord was the catalyst for a different future.

Each close encounter will be for us too, life changing and empowering.

 

15th June 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Remember

Remember … Remember … Remember … It is found right through the Bible – at least 162 times.  Sometimes it is the reader or listener who is called to remember and at other times people are calling on God to remember.  With all the controversy about statues in the last week we have been made to think about what we want to remember and how to do it.  Statues have been erected in the past so that the individuals depicted and what they did would be remembered and not forgotten.  We might feel that this is a valid activity if they are being remembered for something that is good.  Of course society’s values and priorities change over the years, as we have seen, which can cause difficulties.

It is interesting that of the many references in the Bible, possibly only two tell us to remember people – neither of them very positive. In Luke 17:32 Jesus encourages his listeners to remember Lot’s wife, who looked back when warned not to and in Deuteronomy 24:7 Moses reminds the Israelites how God punished Miriam for her sin.  (My apologies if I have missed others out.)

Much  of the rest of the time, especially in the Old Testament,  the Israelites were told to remember what God had done for them.  For example, when Moses was speaking to the Israelites, just before their last push to enter the land God had promised to give them.  In Deuteronomy, he challenged them to remember all sorts of things. ‘only be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.  Teach them to your children and to their children after them.  Remember the day you stood before the Lord..(Deut 4:9-10) and then he goes on to describe the time when God spoke with the 10 commandments. 

Time and time again the prophets called on the Israelites to remember all that God had done for them in the past.  (They were also called on to remember the ways in which they had disobeyed God and gone their own ways.)  They were not called to remember their leaders but to remember God who led and empowered those leaders to succeed.  Somehow we find it easier to remember individual leaders and praise them, than to praise the God who lay behind them.  Perhaps that was why the prophets did not tell people to remember the leaders but to remember God.

In our study on Nehemiah, on Thursday evening, we shall, amongst other things, be looking at a brief, rousing speech made by Nehemiah to the wall builders.  The building of the wall had started with great vigour and they got half way up.  Then two things happened.  People who were not involved in the building began to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the builders as to whether or not they could complete the wall as they were already so tired.  Secondly there were open threats of physical violence from the enemies.  Having arranged the practical aspects of defence, Nehemiah ‘stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:14).  At a time of crisis, Nehemiah called on the people to remember who it was they were serving and who was on their side.  GOD.  The people were enthused and motivated and got on with the work.  It appears the enemy were so taken back they never did attack physically.

I love reading Christian biographies and see how God worked in and through other people.  I am a little slow sometimes at remembering how God has worked, and still is working, in my life.  It is good to do this as long as we do not elevate others and our past history above the God who made all this is possible.  How often do we really acknowledge God’s goodness in our lives?

I wonder if this was, at least in part, why, in the Ten Commandments, God told the Israelites not to make images of things that they might in some way worship? (Exodus 20:4-5)

 

14th June 2020

From Liz Martin

Are you ready?

In Matthew 25 Jesus asks a simple question: are we ready? It seems like an odd question right now to ask, considering we can’t go anywhere, see anyone, do anything, seemingly. Yet it’s a question that I think faces us more in these days than we might think.

What kind of people do we want to be? Wise, or foolish? Prepared, or panicked? Fruitful, or wasteful? I know of no follower of Jesus who would want to hear what He says to the foolish virgins, to the wicked and lazy servant, to the goats. Yet this will be the reality for some. The challenge of these parables is not that they are for ‘other people’. They are for us, His followers. What we do, the choices we make, who we are, who we are becoming, matters.

Matthew 25 is Jesus challenging His followers that He will return, and He will return to judge, and to reward, and so His question as to whether we’re ready still stands. We live in a world that is all about the now, the moment, not dwelling on the past, or concerned with the future, but there is a truth that we, as disciples, are looking towards what is to come; we know that this is not all there is. As has been said, we live in the now, but not yet of the Kingdom. We need to be fully present in the world in which we live, to love those around us, to work for God with all our hearts. But we also strain towards the goal to with the prize, as Paul puts it. There is a deeper reality to which Jesus alludes that has bearing on us.

There is a really serious challenge in Jesus’ words, for those who would hear it. Ironically, though, those who would hear the challenge are already likely those to whom He says, ‘well done, good and faithful servant, come and share your Master’s happiness.’ But let’s live as people who seek to hear those words in all we do, whatever the tasks and trials of the day.

Are you ready?

 

13th June 2020

From Miranda Shieh

Living from His Presence

2 Corinthians 13:14

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

If you are like me, I crave for more intimacy with the Holy Spirit, that inexpressible yearning that creates a stirring in the heart for more and more of His presence; for that intimacy with Him that overwhelms me.

So what is it about living from the presence of the Holy Spirit?

Living life from the presence of the Holy Spirit is central to our Christian walk.  It is the sole enabler in every Christian life. Living from His presence entails, constant fellowshipping, sharing together, participation, intimacy with or communing with the Holy Spirit. It is about making His presence our habitation or address.  It is living in that secret place of the Most High, where we abide and the result is boldness to walk in God’s provisions (Psalm 91:1). It is being in that place where we live in the physical but we operate from the spirit realm. In John 16, Jesus said it was profitable for Him to go away for the Holy Spirit to come into close fellowship with us (John 16:7). How He loved us to want the best for us.

Without living in and from His presence, we will lose the reality of who Jesus Christ is to us. Our Christian experience and worship will be stale and void of power as we go through the motions. We will be as orphans with lifeless and ineffective prayers. Human wisdom, intellect and our flesh will take over with the fruit of it being death. For it is the Spirit alone that gives life; the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63). Without fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit, we will strive, get burnt out and disillusioned about the reality of Jesus Christ.  How sad this can be, considering the sacrifice Jesus made for us. For without the Holy Spirit we can do nothing. For it is not by might, nor by power but God’s Spirit (Zachariah 4:6). We cannot be righteous without him and those who live in the flesh cannot even receive Him (1 Corinthians 2:14).

So why should we seek to live life from the presence of the Holy Spirit?

Living life from and in His presence, means everything in our Christian walk. Notice that Jesus became more real and greater to the disciples after the Holy Spirit came and they spent more time communing with Him than during Jesus’s earthly ministry.

Let’s look at the life of Paul, one of the apostles for example.

The apostle Paul, one of the most powerful preachers in the history of the church; who contributed a good portion of the New Testament by revelation, understood the importance of fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit. Paul’s greatest desire was to fellowship with the person of the Holy Spirit and this bore fruit in his ministry.  Paul wrote … ‘but I bring and keep my body under subjection lest when preaching to others I myself should be disqualified’ (1 Corinthians 9:27).  Paul wanted his Christian experience to be fuelled with power as well as to finish strong. So, for Paul to effectively live in the realm of the Spirit and in communion with the Holy Spirit meant, he had to die to his flesh (Romans 8: 12-14). For it is only through the Spirit that the deeds of his flesh were put to death, for the Holy Spirit to reign and to strengthen him to successfully accomplish his earthly ministry. And that is same for us today.

In the book of Acts, Paul empowered by the Holy Spirit during his ministry, became an effective witness for Christ. The empowerment of the Holy Spirit also enabled him to walk in power and in revelation knowledge and he finished strong.  Paul was able to say these words… ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness….’  (2 Timothy 4: 7-8).  How would you like to be able to say these words at the end of your race on earth? 

However, the secret to his success was found in his continuous communing with the Holy Spirit. His desire to see the church in Corinth partake in the same fellowship was conveyed in his prayer to them. He prayed ‘…the presence and fellowship in the Holy Spirit be with you all’ (2 Corinthians 13:14 AMP). That prayer is for us today if we can take hold of it and walk in it.

In the book of Acts, the first apostle Paul, and the disciples’ fellowshipping with the person of the Holy Spirit, was what equipped them for service. More miracles were performed through the hands of the disciples; they prayed effective prayers in one accord that made tremendous power available and dynamic in its working, they were effective witnesses for Christ, the church grew, and fresh revelation knowledge was the norm.

Oh how we have desired so much to do the greater works that Jesus promised us (John 14:12).  Are you tired of where you are in your Christian walk? Do you want to operate from the realm where you are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6)? Do you want to live always in that secret place of the Most High where no foe can come your way? Do you want to walk in the comfort and freedom of the Lord? Do you want to walk in the realm of the supernatural and to receive wise and prompt counsel from your Counsellor as He declares, reveals and discloses truths to you straight from the throne room? Are you tired of praying powerless prayers? Do you want the Holy Spirit, your Helper to aid and bear you up in your weaknesses? Do you want to complete your race and to finish strong?

 The Holy Spirit is calling for you His bride to come and commune with Him.  To move your address to His and live in and from His presence. He is here ready for you to call on Him. Are you going to walk away because you are too busy; to seek Him, to be still in His presence, to spend time with Him?  Call upon Him, wait upon Him and let His soaking presence strip off the old flesh and infuse you with spiritual strength to successfully run and complete your race. Fellowship with him and be that vessel for the anointing to flow through.

Miranda.

 

12th June 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Matthew 24

Sorry, this is not the apocalypse I ordered.

Matthew 24 is a problematic chapter for the theology of several groups of Christians. Firstly, for those who believe that following Jesus will equate to stature, comfort, and riches. Vs 9 makes uncomfortable reading for that group. "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me." Persecution, hatred and death doesn't sound like the blessed life to me. Secondly, for those who like a gentle Jesus, who is popular with the crowd, a Jesus who is warm and fluffy, who will never chide or challenge, a teddy bear. We have vs31 "all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory." Why will all the peoples mourn? Because He has come in power, to judge the earth. This is not the apocalypse I ordered. I want one where Christians get to escape early please; and also, do You have to be so harsh with the unbelievers?

We can struggle at times with these images and realities can't we? We struggle with accepting that God is as powerful and sovereign as He is. That when He says, 'enough', He means it. So what comfort can we draw from this passage? Firstly, God is bringing justice; this is the end, true and final justice comes, and frauds, liars, deceivers will be judged, even in the Church (vs51). Secondly, even in meeting out justice, He is mindful of those who are His own in vs22 "for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened."

Yet this is why, and who, we worship. This is our glorious God, one who came in meekness, and will come in majesty. One who came in humility and was crucified, and one who will come in glory and judge. Jesus is both a wise, near, and humble friend, and a glorious triumphant judge at whose appearance mountains shudder and fall. This is why, and who, we worship. This is our God. 

 

11th June 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

Over the next seven Thursdays I am going to be following a theme entitled ‘Psalms of Crisis’ in our Word for the Day.

Today let’s look at Psalm 57 - The Cave (When we need comfort).

Psalm 57

For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam. When he had fled from Saul into the cave.

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.

I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me.

3  He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me—
    God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.

4  I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—
    men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.

5  Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.

6  They spread a net for my feet— I was bowed down in distress.
    They dug a pit in my path— but they have fallen into it themselves.

My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music.

8  Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!
    I will awaken the dawn.

9  I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.

10  For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
     let your glory be over all the earth.

The introductory notes to this psalm inform us that this Psalm was inspired when David fled from Saul into the cave. There are two occasions when David fled from Saul into a cave, one in 1 Samuel 22:1 when we hear that “David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam...... All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered round him and he became their leader. About 400 men were with him.”

David already had enough trouble without having to cope with 400 distressed, debt ridden and discontented men to look after and listen to. What a  motley crew! He was in a deep crisis without this additional burden of responsibility, but verse two tells us that “He became their leader” 

The second time that David fled into a cave is found in 1 Samuel 24:3. This time we are told that the cave was in the Engedi area (by the Dead Sea). More specifically the cave was near the craggs of the wild goats. David and his men were hiding from Saul when he (Saul) actually went into the cave to relieve himself. What a situation! Talk about a crisis coming to a head!! There they were hiding and his men whispered to David, kill him while his pants are down! David however would not lay his hands upon the Lord’s anointed one, so instead, he crept up and cut off a piece of Sauls hem from his garment.

There is a real lesson for each of us from this incident. What should David do? All that he needed to do was to kill Saul at the most opportune moment and completely rid himself of the extreme pressure that he was under.  Or trust God and be obedient to Gods commands.

When we are in crisis and under pressure how would we act?  Psalm 57 helps us to understand how David was feeling and why he responded as he did. Verse 1 says, “ I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has past.” Good advice from David to each of us in the midst of our situation. In verse 7 David  says, “My heart is steadfast, O God.” & in verse 9 he adds, “I will praise you.”

Such good advice from David to each one of us. Take your eyes off of the problem and fix your eyes on Jesus, the one who is our refuge and help.

First, take refuge under the shadow of His wings. Secondly, remain steadfast in trusting the Lord.  Thirdly, Praise Him in the midst of your problems. 

With much love,

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

10th June 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

A song of ascents: Part 2

Today we continue our upward journey with the writer of Psalm 121. Having gained a new perspective on the God who is both powerful and personal, we now explore his promises.

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. (v3-4)

The God who is all-powerful is ever-watchful.

How easy it is to ‘slip’, to slip into hatred, into back-biting, into jealousy, into gossip. The Lord wants to keep your foot from slipping and keep you from stumbling.

Notice that while the Lord is concerned for each of us as an individual he has a wider perspective: he who watches over you … watches over Israel. God’s love for me is not intended to make me selfish but to open my eyes to his love for others and to share that loving in practical ways.

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. (v5-6)

Here is a further promise. At a very practical level, the pilgrim on the long journey to Jerusalem could well suffer from too much of the sun by day and be frightened by the eerie light of the moon at 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. (v6-7)

The word translated ‘harm’ is a different word from the harm in the previous verse which the sun might cause. In most contexts elsewhere it is translated ‘evil’. It is God’s answer to our prayer: lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For the Israelite pilgrim there were dangers on the journey: rough paths, bad weather, physical weakness. But there was also the danger of evil: attackers, robbers, bandits, murderers.

We are fortunate to live in a part of the world where we are shielded from such danger but it is never completely absent. There are events that can only be described as evil and we can be caught up in them. Here is an assurance to give us peace – not to make us complacent but to remove anxiety and fear, so that we trust in God and walk in his light.

If we look back carefully at the psalm we can detect a lot of repetition.

The first word to be repeated is ‘the Lord’, his personal name, which occurs five times. We need to change our perspective, looking away from doubts and dangers, and focusing on him.

The other word which is repeated – six times in the original language – is ‘watch over’ or ‘keep’ or ‘guard’. This is the Lord’s repeated promise. It’s for each one of us right now. It’s valid today. It’s valid from this time forth. And it’s guaranteed for evermore.

 

9th June 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

A song of ascents: Part 1

Psalm 121 belongs to a series of psalms sung by Israelite pilgrims going to Jerusalem for the annual festivals. It’s interesting that today some people talk about going ‘down to London’ while others say ‘up to London’. I think those Hebrew pilgrims definitely thought in terms of going ‘up’ to Jerusalem – a song of ascents. So if you’re feeling ‘down’ this psalm will help you to ‘ascend’.

While we may bemoan the fact that lockdown has robbed us of any significant travel, these psalms remind us that we are all on a journey, a spiritual journey – destination the heavenly Jerusalem. What can we learn from our Old Testament counterparts? What can keep us from going down? What can keep us going up?

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Hills and mountains inspire us. There’s something majestic about them, but at the same time they can be dangerous places. The psalmist is on a journey, with all kinds of dangers. Where can he find help?

‘My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.’

Today we’re living in perilous times. Last year the news was all about global warming, climate change, storms and floods, devastation and destruction, misery and fear. That’s all but forgotten now, since coronavirus has grabbed the headlines and turned all our lives upside down, but those problems have not gone away.

God’s word reminds us that ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it’ (Psalm 24:1). The greatest problem the world faces today is that it has rejected the true God, written him out of the script, the only one who can help.

He is ‘the Maker of heaven and earth.’

When you’ve bought something with a guarantee and it goes wrong, what do you do? You look for the maker’s instructions. And if you can’t find the answer there you contact the maker and refer it back to them.

So where do we start? We need to start where the psalmist started: ‘my help’. I may not be able to solve the problems of the world but there’s one place I can make a difference, and that’s with myself.

Where does ‘my help’ come from? It comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He is a supremely powerful God – the maker of heaven and earth.

He is also a personal God, my God – my help.

It’s a happy coincidence that this psalm is number 121. It reminds us that what the Almighty Lord wants is to have a one-to-one relationship with each one of us, to calm our fears, to enter our world. When we turn to him for help, that changes everything.

This psalm starts with a change of perspective. Is that what you need today?

 

8th June 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

It was probably the most bizarre phone call I have ever had.  We were working for Scripture Union in Malawi in Central Africa, when I received this call from the southern tip of Malawi.  “Is that Ralph Hanger?” the voice enquired. “That’s right” I replied.  “Well” he said. “I was almost your uncle!”  Weird or what?  It appears that this gentleman, Cecil by name, had seen my mother’s name in the visitors’ book of some missionary friends in Lulwe in the far south of Malawi, made a few enquiries and made this call.  The strange thing is that he was right.  In his youth he had courted my mother’s sister!  A small world.

This, however, was the not the most important thing about Cecil as we found out later on.  Cecil had trained as and become a highly successful accountant. He was a Christian and as he spent long hours studying his accountancy books he felt a challenge from God.  It went something like this ‘Which is more important, your accounts study or your study of God’s Word?’  As Cecil thought about this he determined that he would not study his accounts any less, but that he would match this study with that of the Bible, spending equal times on each. As a result he, not only built up a highly successful accountancy business in London, but taught widely in his church, helped many young people in his church and gave prayer and financial support to mission work throughout the world.  When  he retired he was able to spend his time travelling the world to visit various missionaries to encourage them in their walk with the Lord and work for him.

I was reminded of him when, in our Bible studies on The Return of the Exiles, on Thursday evenings, we eventually met Ezra. He does not appear until chapter 7 of the book that bears his name, but when he does ‘arrive’ we are told that he ‘had devoted himself to the study and observance of the law and to teaching its decrees and laws’ Ezra 7:10.  Ezra was someone God could use in a revival in Israel for this very reason.  He studied God’s Word, put it into practice and was then able to teach it at the appropriate time. Not many of us are called to teach but all of us are called to practice – to live by God’s word.  The question is how many of us try to live God’s way without getting to know what it is by studying our textbook – the Bible. I find that Ezra and Cecil both challenge me about the seriousness with which I take my discipleship of Jesus.  What things do I allow to stop me from not just reading but studying God’s Word so that He can use me when He wants to?

 

7th June 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Matthew 23

Verses 3 and 4 in Matthew 23 be quite tricky to understand.

'So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them'.

They're tricky because surely the Pharisees are practitioners of what they preach? They make most Christians' obedience look utterly inadequate and half-hearted. In case you're offended, have you examined your herb garden recently to make sure the Church gets a tenth of your mint and cumin? These are people who practice what they preach, surely? They even limit how far they walk on a Sabbath. Except they don't practice what they preach, and the answer to why this is the case is found in verse 5,

'Everything they do is done for people to see: they make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long'.

The question that lies at the heart of Jesus' rebuke to them is this: Who do you worship? Jesus believes the answer is clear about the Pharisees: they worship themselves. Their focus is all on themselves, 'look at me, look at me, I'm more pious than him; My garments are more holy than his; I haven't eaten in weeks, I'm so holy.' Before you know it, you sound like a Monty Python sketch, comparing childhoods. It would deserve to be mocked, if only it wasn't so sad. Jesus has spent years with the Pharisees, Sadducees and Teachers, reasoning, arguing, challenging them, even commending individuals among them at times. Yet after years of challenge and effort, their worship was still on themselves. Their worship was not for, or to, God. The Pharisees' worship was performance art for people, not for God.

So that's the questions for us: who do we worship? Is our faith, our religion, for others to see, is it for show? Are we performing for the crowd, or are we performing for Jesus? That's a question that only your own heart can answer before God, yet it's an important question to ask. Who am I worshipping?

 

6th June 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

Romans 7:18-19  reads, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing."

Paul was talking about an internal spiritual battle with temptation and sin, a battle that we all experience. This is a battle that is full of paradox and tension that we can only win by resisting temptation and sin.

Life is often full of paradoxes and contradictions. In a lockdown world there have been many who have been strictly adhering to the government’s lockdown instructions by not going out and resisting their greatest urges to see loved ones and family. Then out comes the sun and beaches are packed, with no social distancing, along with large groups of youths in parks enjoying raves deep into the night.

Many have complained saying that their actions have been prompted by a certain Mr Cummings who flouted lock down rules. 

These incidents become strong reminders of just how vulnerable we all are to temptation and sin. How we can so easily convince ourselves that ‘it will never happen to us’ or if it does it only be mild etc.

Let’s keep encouraging one another to keep persevering in doing what is right and good in the face of pressure to give in and go to the beach with the rest.

With much love 

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

5th June 2020

From David Depledge

The necessity of hope

1 Peter 1:3-9

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

In his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Victor Frankl, successor of Sigmund Freud at Vienna (developing psychotherapy), argued that the “loss of hope and courage can have a deadly effect on man.” As a result of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp, Frankl contended that when a man no longer possesses a motive for living, no future to look toward, he curls up in a corner and dies. “Any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in camp,” he wrote, “had first to succeed in showing him some future goal.”

Hope is necessary for our well-being. Hope gives significance to life choices and enables people to endure living in a fallen world where pain, suffering and injustice are the norm. When troubles come and rob a person of their livelihood, material possessions or physical health, the enormity this kind of suffering can crush even the steadiest of souls! C. H Spurgeon said “The persons whom Peter addressed were in great need of comfort. They were strangers, strangers scattered far from home; they had in consequence to suffer manifold trials, and therefore needed plenteous consolations.” Old fashioned language but he is saying they needed hope.

Peter stated that the only goal that cannot be crushed by this fallen world is the living hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the kind of hope that finds joy in three things:

  1. JOY IN OUR FUTURE HEAVENLY REWARD
  2. JOY IN SPITE OF SUFFERING
  3. JOY IN KNOWING CHRIST

In James 1:2-4 we read:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. to consider it “pure joy” when facing trials and tribulations for the testing of one’s faith produces perseverance which ultimately leads to spiritual maturity (1:2-4)

It is very easy to go through troubles only to focus on what is lost rather than the potential of what can be gained. Instead of living a life of gloom and pessimism, crushed by suffering and pain, James tells believers to rejoice in their faith, which, as Peter says, is more precious than gold.

We have all met Christians who don’t manage that “pure joy” when facing trials. I am one! When, in October 2014, I was told by a consultant that the lump in my stomach was “very, very serious”, pure joy was not what I was experiencing. Earlier that year I had had a procedure on my heart which had not been successful so having a major operation was not an easy prospect in more ways than one. If you had asked me if I believed in God, I would definitely say yes but if you asked me if I was joyful then I might have said something rude to you. There were so many things I wanted to see and do rather than face what I was told was ahead.

I think we do the Gospel a disservice if we are not honest about how we find what the Bible says so hard in some circumstances. When it is hard to pray for ourselves we need our brothers and sisters to pray for us, to pray for our hope, for our perseverance. In my case that has led to what I consider is a very good outcome for me for which I am grateful to God but, if it had gone differently, it would still have been a good outcome because of the hope of heaven I have as a believer - glory, praise and honour to Christ because He is the one who enables us to have this hope.

I want to finish with a final question to ponder: are we (even in a pandemic) living our lives as believers with a “living hope” of our glorious inheritance that we have and are about to receive?

 

4th June 2020

From Anna Grimshaw

Romans 10:13-15 New Living Translation (NLT)

13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

I’m not someone who normally walks for miles, several or even a few times a week.   I live relatively close to the War Memorial Park and so if I fancy some fresh air I sometimes do a lap and if I’m feeling more adventurous I’ll maybe go further afield.   But during the time of lockdown it’s become more important to me to escape from the confines of four walls and I’ve looked for more interesting or at least different places to walk.

So it was that recently I found myself for the first time in Wainbody Wood, just off the Kenilworth Road, and it was really very pleasant.   It was one of the beautiful sunny days we’ve been enjoying recently, and as it was so peaceful I sat on a tree stump watching the sun sparkle through the leaves and just listening to the birds singing.  

As I sat, I thought, I’m probably no more than two miles from home, and I’ve lived in Coventry since 1974,  how come I’ve never found this wood before?   But then I thought, I haven’t actually found it…..someone on the ladies’ REAL  WhatsApp group had mentioned walking there, but before that no one had ever told me it was there.   And then those thoughts reminded me of these words…    “How can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”

When we finally emerge from the lockdown situation “normal” life, “normal” church will probably look very different to what it was before.   Perhaps because of their experiences during the crisis, many people are already searching for something…..meaning, belonging, peace, healing or something else. 

As Christians we believe Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”  But how will they know unless someone tells them?  I don’t believe that means we all have to be “preachers” but I love that question often used by Billy Graham….. “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you”

I’m sure, like me, you’ve heard people say that this virus situation has brought out the best and the worst in us, but as Christians we strive to show the best, as we demonstrate Christ’s presence in us as we live out our faith in Him. But we need also to be prepared to tell others what He’s done for us, when we’re prompted by the Holy Spirit, using words, when the opportunity comes our way.

 

3rd June 2020

From Miranda Shieh

Let Out Your Weapon of Praise

2 Chronicles 20:1-22

After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites[a] came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom,[b] from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said: Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’

10 “But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord. 14 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. 15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”

18 Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. 19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendour of his[c] holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lordfor his love endures forever.”

22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.

Praise precedes victory. The Bible reveals to us how praise was used to release an onslaught upon the enemy of God’s children and to bring about deliverance. As a child of God, you have a powerful weapon at your disposal to defeat your enemies and that is the weapon of praise.

In 2 Chronicles 20, the Bible tells us that a multitude of forces were marching against Israel and these forces outnumbered the army of Israel.  Jehoshaphat, the king of Israel and the children of Israel, literally did not know what to do. How would you respond if you had an enemy coming against you and you knew that you did not stand a chance of defeating the enemy? What would your first response be? Get into a panic? Perhaps, ring a few people to get advice on how you should approach the situation?

The Bible says, Jehoshaphat feared (verse 3). But then, what did King Jehoshaphat and the children of Israel do?

The Bible says that, Jehoshaphat set himself …determinedly, as his vital need to seek the Lord (verse 3 AMP)…  ‘’ Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you (Mathew 6:33).’’ He determined as a vital need to seek God, acknowledging His sovereignty and reminding God of His covenant to His people. He proclaimed a fast and the people fasted and prayed until they received a word from God.

 …‘’Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this mighty army, for the battle is not yours but the Lord’s (2 Chronicles 20:15). 

But Jehoshaphat and the children of Israel did not stop there. Do you know what they did in response to the revealed word?

They put together a praise choir. Yes a choir. They appointed singers and praisers and sent them out in front of the army! That sounds silly in human eyes, doesn’t it?  A praise choir in front of an army that had the physical weapons to fight and protect a people?  Yes, because their praise was going to birth forth the revealed word into the physical realm. In times of true praise and worship, God is enthroned and His presence comes down (Psalm 22:3). When God’s authority hits the earth through praise and worship, the outcome is deliverance as it was for the children of Israel.

The Bible tells us that ‘’the Lord set ambushes against the men…who had come against Judah and they were self-slaughtered’’ (verse 22). It even gets better as the bible tells us that not one of the Israelites had fallen but not one of their enemies escaped. Moreover, they took three days to gather the spoils from their enemy.  That is what you call victory and it all began with praise. 

Are you looking for that type of victory today? You may be in a similar situation today, with a vast army coming against you. A vast army of sickness, frailty, lack or loneliness; whatever it may be. You may be saying I have prayed, fasted, cried but I am feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, fearful and powerless. I have no strength left to face this vast army or to carry on fighting.

Child of God, just like the Israelites experience, do not be discouraged because Jesus already defeated your enemy. Jesus won the battle for you on Resurrection morning. Take courage, have faith in God, have faith in His Word.  Remember that the children of Israel went out in praise, with a Word and with their enemies still in front of them. And God has already given you His Word….His unshakable promises, sworn in the blood of Jesus Christ. You may say, I am not in a comfortable place to praise right now.

Remember also, the story of Paul and Silas in the Bible. These men were arrested and thrown into prison for casting a demon out of a slave girl who was being used for divination (Acts 16:23-26).  At night, in prison and in chains, Paul and Silas began to sing …. ‘’hymns of praise to God.’’  The Bible says, suddenly, there was an earthquake and they were released from their chains. They praised their way out of their chains and imprisonment.

So, wherever you are or whatever you may be facing right now, you do not have to wait until you get to the next church service or when you feel comfortable.  Your deliverance is near. When you enthrone God in your praise, God will set you free. You can do it in a prison cell or even in your home. 

Dance and Shout out… ‘’glory’’. Go on! Break out in victorious praise in anticipation of your victory that has already been provided in Christ Jesus despite your difficulties. Shout out your praises in a dance, lift up your hallelujah to the Omnipotent one. Confess your faith in His presence, sing it and declare it in the face of your enemy. Let your praise be your weapon.  For God, just like in the case of the children of Israel cannot inhabit your praise and leave you the same. Once your enemy hears your praise, he will know he doesn’t stand a chance. Always remember that you never fight for victory, but you always fight from the place of victory.

Miranda.

 

2nd June 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Matthew 22

The message from this chapter is simple: be wary of pride, and where it leads. This chapter is linked to the previous chapter; Matthew is wanting to convey something very clear, and very direct, about the Pharisees, Jesus and pride. It starts with the priests and elders challenging Jesus' authority to say what He says and do what He does in Matthew 21:22-27. When they can't answer Jesus' question about John and his authority, He then tells a series of parables that strike at the heart of the issue of the Pharisees' relationships with God. It begins with the story of 2 sons: one was verbally disobedient, but became obedient, and the other was verbally obedient, yet did not do what was asked. This is a stab at the Pharisees, who have witnessed John's ministry, yet in their pride would not recognise it as coming from God, whereas the sinners who heard John's message came and followed.

This is followed with another parable in 21:33-45, where He lays the charge at the Pharisees' feet that, not only have they not responded to John, but in their pride they have not even responded to God's own Son. Consequently, because they have rejected God, He has rejected them and taken the Kingdom away from them (Matthew 21:43).

This series of stinging parables is finished with Matthew 22:1-14, where He says that the Pharisees have been invited into the Kingdom, yet have spurned the invitation. Now, those that the Pharisees would despise and disdain, the people on the street, the sinners and even yes, even us, the Gentiles, they would be welcomed to the Kingdom Banquet. Yet the Pharisees still would not come, nor would they respond.

If I had received this stinging rebuke, how would I respond? How do we react when our pride is poked? When our pride is challenged and hurt? The wisest thing that the Pharisees could have done would be to go away, reflect, think over what Jesus has said, see the truth of His words, then repent and yield to God. Instead, their thoughts turn to trap Him and their pride ultimately led them to murder. Pride is dangerous. We see it still in so many ways, 'I don't need God'; 'how dare you accuse of me sin, or moral failure?'; 'I have no sin, it's an outmoded concept'; 'I don't need to repent, God should apologise to me'.

So who is this warning for? Firstly, it was to the Pharisees, those who spurned Jesus. Secondly, it is to those who, in their pride, will not receive His offered forgiveness, who believe they have no need of mercy or grace. Lastly it is to us, even as Christians, because we can fall so easily into pride. We can consider ourselves as superior, better than, and we must be reminded that we all start each day at the foot of the cross, in the need of forgiveness; that our salvation is of grace.

There is a wedding feast coming, a celebration that is open to all. You are invited to attend. Let your pride fall. 'Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.' Confess, and be reconciled. Come, join the party.

 

1st June 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

“Mum” said our eldest daughter, who also happens to be a GP, “don’t forget.  It’s still out there.  Just because lockdown is being partially lifted, it does not mean the virus has gone away.  Be careful!!”

“Yes, dear” we dutifully replied “we will try to remember.”

It made me think, however.  Just because we cannot see the virus and we have been given greater freedom by the powers that be, the risk is still there and will be for some time.  ‘Seeing is believing’ is the motto some folk go by and there are those who are still finding this whole pandemic thing as a difficult concept.  Once we are free to meet up with more people and go shopping in more shops and… and… and …the need for social distancing and the extra hand washing and so on could well be felt to be less important and then…?  Just because we cannot see it.

Recently Graham helped us to think of parallels between Covid-19 and sin. He pointed out that people cannot see the virus and really don’t think it can affect them.  The same is true of sin.  Often people just do not believe it is real.

Neil reminded us that, in the Christian life, we are in a battle and have an enemy with whom we have dealings.  Peter reminded his readers that ‘Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’ (1 Pet 5:8). If this is so, how come our Christian life seems not much more than a ‘stroll in the park’ sometimes.  When was the last time we felt we had to use part of our Christian armour (Ephesians 6:10-18) to defend ourselves against the attacks of the devil or to attack him in some way?  When was the last time we felt exhausted because of the spiritual effort we had to put in to a particular situation or a prayer meeting?

It was C.S. Lewis, I think, who reminded us that one of the most effective weapons the devil has in his armoury today is to encourage Christians (and others) to believe that he does not exist.  He cannot be seen or experienced with our 5 senses, so he does not exist.

There are many, today who have been attacked by this weapon and have succumbed.  Surely the idea of a devil with horns and a forked tongue is outdated, old fashioned and utterly unreasonable?? Certainly this caricature of him is out dated.  We may be badly served today by the artists of the past who have sought to pin him down to a particular form.  The reality of his existence and activity, however, should not be thrown out with these pictures.  Just looking around at the pain, suffering and difficulties in the world around us should be enough to see the effect of evil in the world.  These things have often been caused by human errors, but behind the human and physical aspects, the evil is the work of the devil.  This is no excuse for the people who cause such devastation, but it should help us to see the work of the devil in a more real light.  We need to tackle disasters at every level – scientific, medical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual.

It is very difficult to read the Bible at face value and not believe in a real devil rather than just the existence of ‘evil’ as opposed to ‘good’, although there are those, today, who try to convince us that real evil does not exist.  It has been helpful to share in some of the eye-witness accounts of World War II in recent days to be reminded just how invalid this argument is.  Jesus, himself, clearly believed in the devil and I would stop short at claiming that I was ‘more enlightened’ than he was!

As we are gradually released from our lockdown(s) over the next little while, being very much aware that the Covid-19 is still ‘out there’ and a very real risk to our health, let us also be aware of that other danger out there.  Perhaps we should be asking what precautions we should be taking against him as we keep our social distancing and hygiene precautions against Covid-19.

The verse of a hymn I used to sing as a youngster comes to mind –

When by faith in Christ we become God’s sons

We become his soldiers, too.

Tis an awful strife

It will last through life

And we need good armour too.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood

But with foes unseen and strong

With the world, the flesh, and the devil too

And with everything else that’s wrong.

We’ll ne’er give o’er the fight

With the Lord abide – on the winning side.

 

 

Archive of earlier contributions here (14th March to 20th April 2020) and here (21st April to 31st May 2020)