Word for the Day

22nd October 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

‘Walking in another’s shoes’

I would like to encourage you this week to read Ruth chapter 1.  In this chapter we meet many characters who are experiencing life in so many different ways.  As you read this familiar chapter again take a moment to consider these characters: Elimelech, his wife Naomi, their sons Mahlon and Chilion, then their wives Ruth and Orpah.

Their life is mostly summarised in first five verses of this chapter. Consider anew what they are living through and who they are.

Let me introduce them to you again:

There is the successful, innovative Elimelech taking his family to safety.

The two pairs of newlyweds, with many hopes and aspirations of the life to come and what it will hold.

Then there is the middle aged woman devastated by the loss of her husband and both of her sons.

Finally the vulnerable young women from Moab about to travel to a foreign land to become unacceptable immigrants.  One of them chooses to go, the other stays.

Now pause and ask yourself some questions:

Do you relate to any one of these characters more than another?  Why is that?

How easy do you find it to put yourself in the shoes of each one?

What would you want to say to each one of these people?

In your context, your home, your neighbours, our church who are those represented by Elimelech, Mahlon, Chilion, Naomi, Ruth and Orpah.  Who are you to them, are you able to step into their shoes for a moment? In what way are you being God’s hands and feet?  What would God have you say to or do for them?

It is profoundly challenging for some to relate to those of a different background than ourselves, whether that is ethnicity, or class or age, but as God’s children we are called to draw alongside everyone.  Often we are the only expression of God that people meet, that is both awesome, in the correct meaning of the word and can be inspiring, if we allow God’s Spirit to work through us.

With much love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

21st October 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

THE INVISIBLE ENEMY

The first wave of covid-19 looks set to become the second surge. The Prime Minister, primed by his scientific advisers, warns us that we need to be extra careful, introducing further restrictions – and greater penalties for ignoring them.

The relaxation of lockdown, accompanied by an unusual spell of good weather, has tempted us all to throw off restraint and take our freedom back – with ominous consequences.

How do you fight an invisible enemy?

I recently came across some reflections from Jelena Miličević, a facilitator in the Langham preaching movement in Bosnia & Herzegovina, and wanted to share them with you. Here they are.

How careful am I when it comes to spiritual things? Do I take care not to ‘infect’ other people with my negative attitudes, or with my anger and lack of kindness for people who come into contact with me? Do I put a mask over my mouth to stop words that are not glorifying to God, words that might infect, or even kill?!

I confess that sometimes I don't realise how much I can endanger other people when I thoughtlessly judge, complain, criticise, or tell inappropriate jokes. Sometimes my careless words and actions can offend someone so that instead of me being someone who brings people closer to Christ, I am the one who drives people from Christ. 

The enemy of our souls is invisible. We don't always recognise him. He lurks in the shadows and brings doubt, fear, judgement, anger; and he tempts us to sin. We collect his ‘germs’ and spread them around, not thinking about the people we contaminate along the way.

We need to be more careful about what we think, speak and do.

We need to shine the light of Jesus and allow the life of Jesus to spring up from within us.

We show our love for our neighbours by being careful and taking care of them.

We become those who bring hope and joy to others and who show strength to resist every fear and temptation. 

'Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Colossians 3:12–17).

 

20th October 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 1:15-23

Some passages of Scripture are just so incredibly rich and full that to plumb their depths would take not one devotion, but rather a lengthy series of books. For me, Ephesians 1:15-23 is such a passage. This is a passage that is full of challenge, hope, insight, inspiration, and aspiration. There are so many profound ideas, you can struggle to work out where to start!

Firstly, there is the simple challenge of who Paul is. Look at his response to hearing good news of the Ephesians, he is full to bursting with joy and praise. How do we respond to good news from other places and people. Yet this passage also reads with such sincerity, and with no condemnation, Paul is simply expressing how he feels and his reaction to their good news. There is no finger wagging or self-guarding, this is a call to genuine delight and aspiration to respond with thanks and praise at the good news of others.

Secondly, there is the encouragement to more. The Ephesians are doing well, and Paul points to the more that they have yet to experience. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. There is so much more, even when things are going well, for us to experience of God, both in terms of our knowledge of Him, the truths of His word and His kingdom, and in our experience of His power.

Thirdly, there is the call to just glory in who Jesus is. Look at the place that Paul gives to Jesus, our friend, our brother, our King, and our God. Jesus is far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. 

I could say so much more, instead I will leave you to read, think, and pray over this rich passage, with a promise that I have prayed for you, the very same prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesians.

 

19th October 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Did you see that sniffer dogs are being used in airports in some countries to find people with Covid-19? It is amazing what these dogs can pick up.  Apparently some of these dogs are able to detect  certain forms of cancer or diabetes.  There are smells there that we cannot detect ourselves but can be picked out by these dogs. Quite amazing.

It got me thinking about the verses in 2 Corinthians 2 where Paul says that Christians smell.   Actually the word used is a fragrance as God … through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him (Christ). (2 Corinthians 2:14). If someone or something smells they emit an odour which everyone who comes in contact with them will smell.  Paul indicates that everyone who has contact with us, as Christians, should sense the knowledge of Christ.  They should see Jesus in us, mixing the metaphors a bit!.

He uses the pictures of a victorious army returning home in Roman days.  The general would lead in his troops to loud acclaim and these would be followed by their captives. All along the route as they entered the city people would be making sacrifices and burning incense to thank their gods.  Paul pointed out that the smells from these sacrifices would have different significances to the soldiers and the captives.  To the soldiers they were the smell of success and life of celebration ahead.  To the captives they were the smell of slavery or even death.  Same smells – different meanings.

As we share Jesus with all we meet, not always by word but by living out his love to others, there will be those who recognise and welcome this ‘fragrance’.  We should not be surprised, however, to find that the acts of love and kindness in Jesus’ name, will not always be welcomed but may even be rejected or laughed at by others. These are those, Paul says, who in their current state are rejecting Jesus and so heading towards death.  This should not stop us from ‘emitting this odour’ or living out Jesus in our communities.  We do not know which people will be attracted to Jesus by our words and actions and who will be turned off.  That is between them and God.  Our role is to be the fragrance of Jesus in our homes, communities and work places so that have the chance to ‘smell’ his love and goodness and be drawn to him.

 

18th October 2020

Today Ruth Jess speaks about the life of hymn writer John Newton and reads one of his hymns. You can hear it here

 

17th October 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 1: 11-14 - What are you worth?

What's your worth? What's your value? That's a hard question to answer isn't it? Believe it or not, that's a question some companies actually do have to ask when they send employees into dangerous areas, for kidnap insurance.

So how much are you worth? I suspect the answer would depend very much on who you ask. To our families I suspect that we're worth a lot more than we would be to others. To a materialist they might simply examine the value of our assets; how much we have and own. So how much are you worth?

I think Paul gives us an answer of our value in God's eyes in the verses 11 to 14 of Ephesians 1. The answer is that we have great value, immense worth. How can we see this? We can see this in many ways. Firstly, as I said the other day, we were chosen; but look at the skill of the One who chooses us, in verse 11. We were predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. We were chosen by a master craftsman. I'm friends with a very skilled carpenter (no pun intended!) and it's fascinating watching him choose his wood. He examines the grain, and the weight of the boards, after carefully deciding which wood would best suit his purposes. This can be an exacting purpose, depending on the purpose of the wood. Yet imagine the skill and the intent that went into your choosing! You were chosen by not just a skilled carpenter, you were chosen by the One who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. Now that is a master craftsman! He works out the whole world to His purpose. So you were chosen with immense care.

Secondly, we are given a personal seal of value: you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. We only put seals on items and statements of significance and value, or on certain things with which we wish to be identified. God wishes to be identified with us. Yet we are not given a simple seal. We are given the complete investment of Him coming to live with us, by the Holy Spirit.

Thirdly, how much are we worth? We are to be the receivers of a vast and rich inheritance. This is one of the reasons we are receivers of the Spirit, so that we can be assured of this inheritance. Look at verse 14, which states that one of the purposes of receiving the Holy Spirit is that He is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.

So how much are you worth? A very great deal, and we need to know this. We are highly valued, we are worth much. Yet we do not know this in order to lord it over others, rather we know this so we can be secure to serve. Look at the incident with Jesus when He served the disciples in John 13:3, Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God. Jesus was supreme, and fully knew His value, and then choose to serve. So also, we are called to serve. Let's give thanks that we are loved, and then use that knowledge to share with, and to serve others, to the praise of His glory.

 

16th October 2020

From David Depledge

John 14: 1-7

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’

We have probably all heard it said “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” It is easy to say something, but often it is harder to actually follow through and do the things that we talk about. Often, we do a good job of talking about what is right and what we should be doing and what we believe…...... Well, at least, that is what we think  - but is it true?

What should we be saying? What is talking the talk? Many outside the church view Christians “talking the talk” as something very negative. They believe the church and Christians are saying “Thou shalt not…..”  have fun, swear, drink alcohol, smoke, use drugs, have sex outside marriage, steal, go to war, and so on.

They say that Christians are hypocritical because sometimes Christians do some of the things they have spoken against or that people believe they have spoken against.

Others will say that the church is always asking for money – the “thermometer” on the board outside saying just how much is needed to mend the roof or restore the bells.

Some will say Christians are bigoted because of Jesus statements about being the only way to God.

But what about us? We can see that people are getting wrong ideas about the Christian faith but how good are we at explaining “The Way”? Do we talk about our Christian faith at all or do we consider it just a private matter between ourselves and God?

Or perhaps we are very happy to talk about all the great things the church is doing in Coventry; about Foodbank, the Winter Night Shelter, Coventry City Mission, The Light House Counselling Centre, Global Care, Carriers of Hope and many more examples. But what do we say about what motivates this?

Perhaps we are prepared to talk positively about attending church services, saying they are ‘helpful’ or ‘lively’ or ‘uplifting’ but are we able to say why we attend, why we want to worship God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Can we explain our relationship with Jesus? Can we explain why it is a current blessing and a solid hope for the future?

So how do we speak for Him today? The same way the disciples did long ago. They heard the words of Jesus and believed them – that is a huge first step and it is step of faith. They took His words and obeyed them. They confessed their sins to Jesus as their Lord and God. They believed that He died to take the punishment of their sins and rose from the dead to give them new life. Then they followed His example and command to tell others about “The Way” - about Jesus, who he is, what he said. When we follow Him in “The Way,” we can be assured of following Him all the way to heaven. 

So that is challenging stuff about talking the talk. In my next contribution we will think about walking the walk

 

15th October 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

I would like to encourage you by my sharing what I would describe as a Bible Mashup today!

So, from 1 Peter 5:6-7 ; Psalm 118:24 ; & 1 Thessalonians 5:18  a wonderful chorus is created to help you through today as you turn your eyes to Him.

IN ORDER TO HEAR MY VOICE, you must release all your worries into My care. Entrust to Me everything that concerns you. This clears the way for you to seek My face unhindered.

Let Me free you from fear that is hiding deep inside you.

Accept each day just as it comes to you, remembering that I am sovereign over your life. REJOICE IN THIS DAY THAT I HAVE MADE, trusting that I am abundantly present in it. 

Instead of regretting or resenting the way things are, THANK ME IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES.

Trust Me and don’t be fearful; Thank Me and rest in My sovereignty.

With much love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

14th October 2020

From Miranda Shieh

You Have a Life Line

Have you ever tried getting hold of someone on the phone, and the line is busy or you are greeted by the answering machine? Or, have you ever wanted to make that call just to find out that there is no network in that area, or you do not have enough credit to make the call? How frustrating that could be.

Did you know that once you make Jesus Christ your Lord and Saviour, you instantly have permission and unrestricted access anytime, anywhere into the very presence of your Heavenly Father? You do not even have to worry about losing His number. In Him, that is in union with Christ Jesus, and because of His love for you, you now have access to a unique and royal network, a life line to His throne room. So, you get to go boldly into His throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Unlike that busy telephone network, you now have an unclogged lifeline through prayer. What an assurance. You enter His gates with thanksgiving in your heart and His courts with praises because you are loved by him, have been freed and adopted into an imperishable inheritance.

Your Almighty Father who has every solution to every problem you’ll ever have has now crowned you with a royal garment. For you are now chosen, a royal priesthood and His special possession with a royal line (1 Peter 2:9).  But remember that you have to take your place as a Royalty and use your royal line to allow Him access into your life. You do not have to beg like the Centurion did when his daughter was dying for your Father to heal you. But notice, that even when the Centurion came and begged Jesus to come and heal his daughter, His response was I will…it is my will, just give me the permission to heal (Mathew 8:5-7). For the Centurion’s asking was an indication of his faith in the Healer. He is saying to us, it is my will to give you all good things, to heal your body, to meet that need, to comfort you but I am just waiting for you to come to Me, to give me access, so I can give you the answer. It may take some private time alone with Him for you to hear it but He will never disappoint you.

Jesus, the firstborn among many brethren, of whom we are, depended on a direct and unceasing communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit and the fruit was evident in the success of His earthly ministry. This was same for every successful man and woman in Scripture. And what about us who have been earmarked to do even greater works and we have so many witnesses to learn from and our Helper – the Holy Spirit.

He is calling us today to, pray without ceasing and to give thanks in all circumstances for it is His will in Christ Jesus for us (1 Thessalonians 5 16-18). So, if you are afflicted; ill-treated, or suffering evil, then pray (James 5:13). If you are happy, sing praises to Him (James 5:13). Let every bit of your life and your daily task be an act of worship to God. For the effective prayers of those who have been made right with God will make tremendous power available; which is dynamic in its working; The power to heal you, set you free from that captivity, overcome your battles, to withstand evil, to be over your circumstances and not under, to be joyful and stand tall in the mist of adversity because the greater one lives in You.

We are living in times when we are continuously being separated physically from each other and circumstances are such that we may not always be able to reach out to others when we want to. God is calling us today to a place of intimacy with Him and with Jesus Christ. That fellowship that is a distinguishing mark of Christians (1 John 1:3). You can enter into that intimate relationship and you do not need to only depend on others to access that lifeline, although there’s is nothing wrong with having others pray for you.  For we are called as a body of Christ to strengthen and lift each other up. But God is calling you to come personally to His throne room today.

You may say, I don’t know how to get there. Remember that you have God’s Word that is alive, active and able to bring itself to pass, you have a helper, the Holy Spirit who is in you to teach, help you and to intercede in your behalf in harmony with the will of the Father. The Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of Truth will teach you everything, but you must live in, be rooted to, knitted in and never depart from him. As you fellowship continually with the Father and Jesus Christ, what so ever you desire when you pray, in accordance with His will, believing that you receive you will receive (Mark 11:24). So, ask in faith, in the Name of Jesus and you will receive, so that your joy may be full (John 16:23-24). Does that not awaken within your soul the fervour for persistent prayer?

Part 2 will look at how to keep our life line unclogged

 

13th October 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 1:3-10

When I worked in Aldershot, I would occasionally be asked to go and speak at a fellowship group on Tuesday afternoon. When I arrived, I would be encouraged to go and and sit with the three or four men in the back row, which I was never entirely sure if that was for my benefit, or for theirs! After a hymn and the notices, I would get up to speak to the group, before they finished with a final hymn. This hymn was the same song with which they finished every meeting.

The song they sang was "Count your blessings" which, if I can trust the internet, was written by Johnson Oatman Jr. The first verse is as follows:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

There are 2 ideas going round my head as I write this devotion. The first is how completely unequivocal Paul is in this passage. If you asked him the question, 'Paul how blessed are you?' his response is pretty clear: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. How blessed we are, completely and utterly. The second is we may sometimes feel like we're not blessed; we may have issues of health, or money worries, or family problems. Or we may be just fed up with the daily restrictions we are currently facing, and don't feel blessed. But we were reminded on Sunday that we walk by the Spirit not by sight. How blessed are we? We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

What do some of these blessings look like? Here are just 2 examples:

Firstly, we were chosen in love to be holy and blameless. We were not selected grudgingly, or with a passive apathy. We were chosen; picked deliberately; considered and selected; wanted. We were chosen in love to be holy and blameless. To look and sound like, to reflect the glory of our Creator. We are chosen.

Secondly, we were chosen to reflect praise. We praise things that are impressive and good. We don't generally praise a missed goal; but we cheer a scored goal! We reflect praise onto Him because of His incredible grace to us.

There are many other blessings given, but I'll leave you to enjoy looking into them.

 

12th October 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Have you ever been asked to do the reading in a service?  Nothing to it you may think.  Sometimes it is not quite so straightforward.  It is not just a question of reading the words, it involves reading with meaning and there are all sorts of things that can trip you up.  Take 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 for example.  In these few verses one word is repeated 9 times (+once in the past tense).

[3] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, [4] who comforts us  in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. [5] For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ,  so also our comfort abounds through Christ. [6] If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation;  if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. [7] And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings,  so also you share in our comfort.

Comfort is one of those words which can be a noun or a verb and it is being used in both ways in these verses.  It could be a little confusing to think who is comforting whom and what is it that is being used to comfort them.

The first point is that Paul points out that all comfort basically comes from God, who is the God of all comfort (vs3).  This comfort has been given to Paul and friends in all the troubles they were experiencing.  In itself this is encouraging, but Paul says there is more to it than just soothing his problems.  Because he has received this comfort from God, he can now pass on that comfort to others in trouble.  This is important that we can (and should) pass on what we have gained to others.

Let me explain how this works.  Sometime ago, in Malawi, a friend of ours had been married for a little while but just could not get pregnant.  For a Malawian lady this is more than a little difficult.  Then she announced she was expecting and everyone was eagerly expecting the birth.  The day came – and the child was still born.  She (and many others of us) were devastated.  How or why could this happen?  She was a keen follower and servant of Jesus, well loved by everyone.  We all cried with her and prayed with her that she would know the consolation that only God could give in the circumstances.  Months later she came to us and said ‘I think I know a little of why God allowed this thing to happen to us’.  Obviously we were keen to hear more, so she told us that a very good friend of hers had also just had a still born child.  Alice, our friend, said that whilst other people just could not help her friend, she was able to sit with her, cry with her, pray with her and assure her of God’s love for her – because she had been there before and received the comfort which God can give.  It was a great lesson for us.

Paul had learned this.  The comfort he had received in his troubles, from God, he could pass on to the Corinthian Christians in their troubles, because he had been there before and been comforted by God.  Especially during this time of coronavirus epidemic, when so many people are getting depressed and  frustrated, those of us who have experienced something of God’s comfort and peace should be looking for opportunities to share this ‘good news’ with those who are suffering.

Two other helpful notes are that

  • this comfort ‘abounds’, is found in plentiful quantities – in Christ – because he has had similar experiences
  • this comfort leads to endurance – greater strength through future difficulties.

One other note about this word ‘comfort’.  If you remember it comes as part of the standard Anglican wedding service promises – to comfort.  For reasons which are not relevant to this note Jane and I were given the opportunity to write our own wedding service, so long as we left in the important ‘legal bits’.  We spent a complete safari holiday with two other friends, who were also about to get married, going through the Anglican and Congregational wedding services asking ourselves what each word and phrase meant and how they were relevant to ourselves.  When we came to the word ‘comfort’ we were not sure what it meant.  We came to the conclusion that it did not necessarily mean applying a cold flannel to the brow when needed but could also be being like a gad-fly, stimulating or stirring up.  In the end we promised to encourage one another.  There are times when we need that more active ‘comforting’.  I know I have needed it on many occasions over the years – not that I have always realised the benefit at the time!

Whichever type of comfort you receive from others or directly from the Lord, are you willing to pass it on to others?

 

11th October 2020

Today Margaret Newby reads Isaiah 40:12-31 which talks about how unimaginably big and powerful our God is. "'To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?' says the Holy One."  You can listen here.

 

10th October 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

KING DAVID’S LAST WORDS (5)

‘If my house were not right with God …’ (2 Samuel 23:6).

If David did believe that his house was ‘right with God’ then subsequent history was to prove him wrong. The kings who followed David were rebellious and disobedient.

God was faithful. He sent prophets to warn them and judgments to waken them, but ultimately they failed to rule in righteousness and the fear of God and that royal dynasty came to an end.

When we come to the final verses of 2 Samuel 23 David turns from the promise of blessing to the problem of evil.

‘But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns,
       which are not gathered with the hand.

Whoever touches thorns
       uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear;
they are burned up where they lie.’

At first sight this looks a bit obscure.

David is again using picture language: not this time the clarity of early light or the refreshment of sunshine after rain but the way we deal with sharp thorns.

If you’ve been digging up branches with vicious thorns you don’t gather them up with your bare hands, or if you do, you don’t do it more than once. They’re sharp. They cut you. They need to be handled with extreme care. You need gloves and a suitable tool to prevent them doing you damage.

David combines two thoughts with this imagery of evil people. The danger they pose in the present is all too real but in the future they will be destroyed.

Eugene Peterson puts it like this in The Message: ‘Better not try to touch them; keep your distance with a rake or hoe. They’ll make a glorious bonfire!’

This stark contrast presents us with two visions of the future.

A future in Christ: the blessings of salvation. A future without Christ: the fire of judgment.

It will soon be Christmas, when we celebrate the coming of God’s Son, born as a tiny baby to a human mother. Jesus came to be our Saviour. But, more than that, he came to rule as King. He came to redeem but also to reign.

‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this’
[Isaiah 9:6, 7].

How much do you know of the reign of King Jesus in your life? Is he reigning as your King or is your life a republic in which you are the president?

Peace on earth and good will towards men? Yes. But only when Jesus is King.

These are David’s last words.

 

9th October 2020

Today Brenda Parsons reads Luke 10:30-35 and reflects on what we do with what we have got. You can hear her here

8th October 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

A young man working in the the army was constantly humiliated because he believed in God. One day the Captain decided to humiliate him before the troops. He called the young man and said, “Young man, take the key and go and park the Jeep in front.” 

The young man replied, “I can’t drive!” The captain said, “ Ask your God to show you how to drive! Show us that He exists!!

The young man took the key and walked to the vehicle praying all the time….As a result, he parked the Jeep PERFECTLY , just as the Captain had ordered.

The young man got out of the Jeep and saw them all crying. They all said together, “We want to serve your God.” The young soldier was astonished , he wanted to know what was going on? 

Even the Captain was crying, and went to open the bonnet of the Jeep, showing the young man that it had no engine. Then, the lad said, “See, this is the God I serve, the God who gives life to what does not exist!” 

In Matthew 19:16-30 Jesus said to the disciples after his conversation with the rich young ruler, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” God is calling us to trust Him for the little things as well as the big things. Jesus is the great Mechanic as well as the chief Physician!

With much love,

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

7th October 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

KING DAVID’S LAST WORDS (4)

2 Samuel 23 verse 5 presents a problem. Compare these two translations, where David’s ‘house’ refers not only to David but to his family and the royal line which would follow.

New International Version: ‘If my house were not right with God, surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part.’

New King James Version: ‘Although my house is not so with God, yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure.’

Do you see the difference? In the NIV the implication is that David’s ‘house’ is right with God. In the NKJV the implication is that David’s house is not right with God.

So which is correct? The original Hebrew is so concise that either translation is possible.

An earlier revision of the NIV presents the issue as a question: ‘Is not my house right with God?’

The most amazing thing about this question is that the obvious answer is ‘No’. What about Bathsheba and Uriah? What about Amnon and Tamar? What about Absalom? On what grounds could David claim that his house was right with God?

1 Kings chapter 2 presents what we might call ‘the alternative last words of David’, addressed to his son Solomon, in which he seems to say, ‘I spared these enemies of mine but when I’m gone, you know what to do; let them have it!’

And what about those future generations? Overall, history records failure rather than success, defeat rather than victory, shame rather than glory. After Solomon the kingdom split into a north-south divide. Both kingdoms degenerated into compromise and paganism and finally, at the hands of first the Assyrians and then the Babylonians, they were taken into exile and all but destroyed.

On what grounds can we agree that God’s promise to David was indeed an eternal covenant, an agreement that would not be changed, a promise that would not be broken?

The answer is twofold. Firstly, David’s royal descendants did not keep their side of the agreement. They failed to rule in righteousness. They rejected God’s laws and were disobedient. They failed to rule in the fear of God. They were rebellious and lapsed into pagan practices while still paying lip service to the true God.

But the second part of the answer is that in spite of those failures God did keep his side of the covenant, sending a Son, born in David’s line, a Son who would demonstrate true and perfect obedience to God, who would deal with the darkness of past sins and lead his people into the light of righteousness and truth, a Son whose coming would herald a harvest of love, joy and peace.

Of course that Son, that King, is Jesus.

Jesus was truly ‘the Son of David’. His message was, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand.’ And even as he hung on the cross, above him were the words, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews’.

 

6th October 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 1:1-3

I wonder if you have you ever played an introduction game? We do them often in youth work. The premise is usually pretty simple, for example, you have to give your name and an animal starting with the first initial of your name. So 'Neil the Narwhal' is one I would use. At the start of Ephesians, Paul is giving a formal introduction to himself, even though he was the planter of the Church, and what an introduction. 3 short lines, 36 words and yet so much is contained in these words.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

Paul, his name no longer Saul, rather it is Paul as he seeks to identify with Gentiles. This former radical Judaic purist who would persecute and kill to keep his faith pure. He would now use a Gentile affectation of his name to remove a barrier to his message. He is an apostle, a messenger, one who speaks on behalf of an other. His new identity, his new purpose is to speak on behalf of his former enemy, and everything in his life is subservient to that fact. It is the will of God.

To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Paul has introduced himself and his title, and now he is introducing ourselves to us. Who are we? We are God's. Just as Paul is an apostle by the will of God, so we also are His. Not only are we His, we are holy. There is no prevarication or equivocation, it is a bold direct assertion, we are holy, not we will be, nor we might be, but we are holy. The faithful in Christ Jesus. That is who we are, and who we are called to be. Paul is introducing us to who we are.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have a final introduction and declaration; it is a declaration of favour, that is unearned but definitively given. It is a declaration of peace, a promise of friendship, a promise of family and brotherhood. We have grace and peace, not just from God the Father, but from Jesus also. We are family; God is with us, and God is for us.

When you think of yourself throughout the day is this what you will think of? That you are an ambassador for Christ, that you are holy, and that you are a recipient of grace and peace. Not that you will be, or even might be, rather you are these things. Not bad as a 36 word introduction is it?

  

5th October 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

We came across some very strong words in our study of John’s first letter last week. In his words of encouragement and exhortation to a group of Christians he wrote these words.

Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15

Contrasting this with what John wrote in his gospel that -

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

- we decided the word ‘world’ was being used in different ways.  In the Gospel, clearly ‘world’ is being used to mean the people in the world, whilst in the Letter John is referring to the human institutions and system of the world as opposed to that of God and the Church.  This caused something of a discussion as more than one person thought back to earlier days in their lives in other churches where things were taken to an extreme.  Someone quoted the example of having to slip into a cinema carefully, in case someone from his church saw him going in.  Lots of other instances come to mind where certain churches or individuals have frowned on different types of entertainment or other activities as being not suitable for Christians.  Fair enough there are some things which are clearly unsuitable for those who claim to be followers of Jesus, (no need to spell these extremes out!) but on the whole there are a vast number of hobbies, pastimes, activities, which are not positively harmful or dangerous, which may do a lot of ‘good’, or just be thoroughly enjoyable.  They may have nothing to do with the Church or following Jesus.  Does John mean to say they are wrong for us?

Interestingly Paul, in his advice to Timothy, speaks about people who, in the name of faith, forbid people to marry or order them to abstain from certain things.  He describes such folk as ‘hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared with a hot iron’ (1 Timothy 4:2-3).  Instead he wrote

Everything God created is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4:4-5.

Amongst other things I think Paul is saying if, as we read God’s Word and pray about things we can be thankful for what we are involved in, it is good for us.

How then does this link in with what John has to say? I think the answer can be found in his use of the word ‘love’.  The contrast he makes is between love for the things of the world and love for the Father.   You probably know that there are different words used for ‘love’ in the New Testament.  The word John used is ‘agape’ the highest form of ‘all consuming, sacrificial giving’ love.  John is saying that this sort of commitment cannot be given to the things of the world and the things of God.  He is not talking just about liking or enjoying.  This is where the challenge came for us as we studied.  Are there things we ‘love’ more than God and how is this shown in our use of time, energy and other resources?  You might like to muse on this as well and see what God might be saying to you.

 

4th October 2020

Today Anna Grimshaw reads the whole of Eprhesians 1 to us. And what a chapter it is, talking about blessings from God, grace, unity in Christ, salvation, the promised Holy Spirit, hope, enlightenment, thanksgiving and prayer. We suggest you might like to listen to it all through and then go back and listen again, perhaps in stages, as you thank God for all that he has done, is doing and will do for us. The reading is here.

3rd October 2020

KING DAVID’S LAST WORDS (3)

In our last visit to 2 Samuel 23:1–7 we saw how David’s words highlighted the greatness of God, the nearness of God and the grace of God.

They also emphasise the word of God, verses 2 and 3.

‘The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me.’

‘The God of Israel spoke … to me.’

There is a finality about God’s word. God has spoken.

He has revealed himself in creation, in his Son Jesus, the living Word, and in scripture, his written word.

If I were to ask you what the preacher said last Sunday you might struggle to remember. But if you had a written record there could be no argument.

Because God wants us to have no doubt about the truth of his word he has arranged that what was spoken should be written. That’s why the Bible is so significant. This is our supreme authority.

David affirmed not only that God was speaking through him but that God was speaking to him. ‘The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me.’

Two questions are important if we are to understand the Bible correctly.

What was God saying to the people who first heard or read these words? And what is God saying to me?

Note also that what God has said to us is to be passed on by us. ‘His word was [not just in my ears and in my mind but] on my tongue.’

In verses 3 to 5 David reflects on the covenant which God made with him when he was anointed king over Israel.

‘The God of Israel spoke.’

It was God who initiated the covenant. God takes the initiative and guarantees its validity.

‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
      when he rules in the fear of God …’

The covenant came with conditions. The requirement on the human side was righteousness and the fear of God. That meant both obedience and reverence.

What were the rewards of the covenant? ‘

‘he is like the light of morning at sunrise
      on a cloudless morning …’

There is a quality of light at sunrise on a cloudless morning that is unique. Later the temperature will rise, clouds will come, pollution will mask the clarity and purity of that first light. But at sunrise on such a morning it is magical, the light that a photographer or an artist seeks.

Then we have another picture:

‘like the brightness after rain
      that brings grass from the earth’

Both these images contain a contrast with something that has gone before: the darkness before the dawn, the rain before the sun. They also contain a contrast with what is ahead: the light of morning heralding a new day, the brightness after rain producing an abundant harvest. Healing for the past and hope for the future.

Verse 5 confirms the duration of the covenant. It is ‘an everlasting covenant’, an agreement that will not be changed, a promise that cannot be broken.

2nd October 2020

Today marks our 200th contribution for Word for the Day and we welcome our guest contributor, Rev Neil Le Tissier . HEBA Regional Minister

One of my favourite sayings is…

“Yesterday is history,

Tomorrow is a mystery,

But today is a gift.

That’s why it’s called the present.”

And who is credited with such wisdom? Well, Winnie the Pooh of course. My favourite philosopher!

Today we reach the 200th day of these Words. What a milestone! Did any of us really believe on day 1 that we would still be experiencing the Coronavirus restrictions to the extent that we are in October?

Perhaps we find ourselves constantly looking back with longing to that simpler, more predictable way of life? When we were free to gather with family and friends, to socialise without constraint, and to holiday without quarantine. When we could worship together, sing with gusto, embrace in fellowship, and share bread and wine around the Lord’s Table.

Perhaps we find ourselves constantly looking ahead with anxiety, or even dread? Wondering how much longer this pandemic will continue to affect us. Concerned about our loved ones, our jobs, our income, and our health. Maybe we’re nervous about whether an important event that we’ve been planning and looking forward to for ages, will be able to take place.

These feelings, and ways of thinking, are natural and we shouldn’t feel guilty about them. However, the Bible teaches us that…

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

“No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matthew6:34)

“One thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Running through scripture is this encouragement to us to remember that each day is a precious gift from God. That His mercies are new every morning. That through His grace and forgiveness, God gives us a fresh start whenever we mess up. That He provides all we need for today, so that we can face each new challenge and grasp each fresh opportunity. And that He is with us always.

So today, let’s not focus on it being the 200th day, but on it being a new day; packed full of the promise and potential that God wants to bless us with. And let’s walk with Him through it, aware if His presence, and hungry for all that He wants to show us.

Have a great day!

 

1st October 2020

Provided by Graham Banks

C.S Lewis wrote, “Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable . To love is to be vulnerable.”

What insight and wisdom from C.S Lewis, and what a challenge he lays before us to love like the One who laid down His life for us.

With much love,

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

30th September 2020

From Miranda Shieh

Continue … part 2a

What does it take to make Jesus Christ Lord of our lives?

Living a yielded life is what it takes. The word to yield means, to submit, to give way to someone or something that you can no longer resist. Jesus, our role model during his earthly ministry lived a yielded life to the Father. Jesus said, ‘I can do nothing by myself’.  I only do what I see my Father doing and I only say what I hear my Father saying (John 5:19).  His yielded life allowed Him to walk in the power of the anointing, allowing the expression of God’s unlimited possibilities in the lives of people.

‘How God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power and he went around doing good, healing all under the power of the devil for God was with Him’ (Acts 10:38).

He is beckoning us today to do same so that as we trust in Him, in the Name above every name we can walk in same anointing and do even greater works than He did (John 14:12, Philippians 2:9-11).

So what does living a yielded life mean? It means absolute and total surrender of our public and private lives to God and this includes our thoughts. Scripture tells us that we are able to think and speak God’s thoughts because we have the mind of Christ.

Human nature is always inclined to be in control of life’s circumstances, so yielding is perceived as failure or weakness, because it brings us to a place of vulnerability.  But yielding is a place of true humility, where we experience a lifting up because we have humbled ourselves under God’s Mighty arm with complete reliance on his grace and strength.  Apostle Paul had a revelation of this when he said that he was going to glory in his weakness so that God’s power will be made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Total surrender is that place where we can say, I can do all things through Christ Which strengthens me because it would no longer be in our strength. God will be able to work in and through us both to will and to do (Philippians 4:13, 2:13). That was why the rich man who came to Jesus went back sad. (Luke 18:22). To Him it meant losing all that he had worked for and preserved in his strength. What he did not realise was that all he had, was by the grace of God and Jesus wanted him to break out into a world of possibilities.

As children of God, we have been made to sit in heavenly places with Christ but to take that place, we need to first of all surrender our own crowns. Does God have the key to every area of your life? What is that one key to your life that says private, keep out? Remember that, we have an all knowing and all seeing God who already knows what we are keeping from Him. As scripture says,’ where can we go from His Spirit? ‘(Psalm 139:7). So if God already knows and will not coerce us to give that key to Him, who is losing out?  So is it worth the defeat, lack of joy and peace in our lives?  For that joy, peace, victory and power is waiting at that point of yielding. Are you willing to surrender that key and experience all that he has in store for you?  

Yielding also means acknowledging His ownership in our lives. Scripture reminds us that, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in us and Whom we have from God and we are not our own.  For we have been bought with a price and we should therefore glorify God in our body and in our Spirit which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We belong to Jesus Christ as His purchased possession and we are not our own.  If He owns us, then does it not imply that He already has an intended purpose for our lives? We need to acknowledge His ownership over our lives by giving up our own personal rights, seeking His plans for our lives rather than our own and walking in it. 

Yielding to the Lordship of Jesus Christ also means unreserved obedience. Jesus echoed this when he said these words, ‘why do you call me Lord and don’t do what I say?’  (Luke 6:46).  If Jesus is your Lord then, are you doing the things He is asking you to do? Are you doing them immediately and exactly? Remember that your spiritual growth is in direct proportion to your obedience to the revealed truth of God’s word and the expression of His possibilities in our lives.

The Lordship of Jesus also involves a willing service. Are you willing to go where He sends you, when he sends you regardless of the cost? I think that is a hard one to chew but thank God that once our vessels are yielded, He brings it to pass in His strength.  Jesus had to make this decision when he said yet not my will but yours be done (Luke 22:42). Elijah had to say, ‘Here I am Lord, send me’ (Isaiah 6:8). For it is only by grace and His strength that we can. For God has already made provision for us to live a full and abundant lives but it comes with a cost. For He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, but we have to die to ourselves first and live a life that is occupied by Jesus alone (2 Peter 1:3). For we have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer us who live and the life we live in this flesh, we live by faith in the son of God (Galatians 2:20). Jesus loves you. So are you ready to let Him rule and reign in your life?

 

 

29th September 2020

From Iain Colville

Galatians 6 

Read rapidly, and superficially, verses 1 to 10 seem like a torrent of almost random instructions, as if Paul is running out of time to finish his letter. But Paul is encouraging his readers to apply the principles he has been teaching throughout the letter, as he demonstrates the outworking of the fruit of the Spirit: If someone sins, restore them with gentleness (v1). Bear one another’s burdens (v2). Be humble and keep hold of sense of perspective (v3-5). Work to leave a spiritual legacy (v7-8). Keep on doing what is right (v9). Work for the good of all, especially the family of faith (v10).

To me, each one of these instructions bring a challenge and, perhaps, as you re-read this chapter, one or two will stand out for you. Am I aware of someone to whom I need to respond with gentleness, not condemnation? Do I need to be more watchful to avoid falling into temptation? Whose burden should I offer to carry as we journey together? Have I lost my sense of perspective? Am I sowing to create a legacy for my own benefit, or for the Spirit and the Kingdom of Jesus?

Paul then takes the pen from his scribe, and the final verses are written in his own handwriting. And he returns to the central message that Jesus has freed us from slavery to the law and its observance, making us new creations. We no longer need to be concerned about whether or not we’ve met the standard of the law. Instead, we are a new creation in Jesus, full of promise and freedom.

I pray that, as we discover more and more of the outworking of Jesus’ freedom in our lives, we would echo Paul’s battle-cry (v14): “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” As we do so, Paul’s prayer is that each of us would know the peace and mercy of Jesus, as we discover that we are part of the special people of God, the spiritual Israel (v16).

Interestingly, just before his final words of blessing, Paul asks that “no one make[s] trouble for him” (v17). To me, this suggests that Paul’s readers have been doing exactly that – causing trouble for him. How often do we, even inadvertently, cause trouble for our leaders? Let’s heed Paul’s call to show gentleness and mercy to those in authority over us.

And let’s join Paul in praying his blessing over one another, as we call to mind our sisters and brothers across this church family: May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen

 

28th September 2020

From Ralph Hanger

Have you ever been guilty of name dropping?  You know just mentioning some ‘important person’s’ name into conversation to indicate you have met them or had some contact with them. ‘When Billy Graham came to tea’ or ‘when we were talking to Julian Lloyd-Weber’ or whoever it may be.  It can be very tempting to do it and many of us have been guilty, either deliberately or without thinking.  Why do we do it? Perhaps there is a desire to raise our own profile by showing we have something of a relationship with this person who is important so that some of their ‘glory’ or ‘honour’ might rub off on us.

In this week’s Bible study, someone pointed out that the Biblical term ‘fellowship’ really means relationship.  In his first letter John speaks of the fellowship or relationship he has with, not just some human celebrity or icon, but with God, Himself.  This was not just passing contact but a close contact which was so real and significant to him that he wanted to share with everyone else.  This relationship was one that gave him ‘complete joy’. (1 John 1:4).  I find something of a challenge in this.  Am I prepared to drop ‘God’ into my conversations because my walk with Him is so real?

John went on to explain why sometimes this fellowship or relationship might seem strained or non-existent. (Recognise that?) In Chapter 1 verse 6 to chapter 2 verse 2 John makes a very blunt point which we might find offensive.  He points out that is can be sin which breaks our fellowship with God (and also with one another).  When someone dares to point out something wrong in our lives we often have one of a few different reactions. ‘Who are you to accuse me of wrongdoing; you are no better than me?’ ‘ It was not my fault: I could not help it.’ ‘I am not as bad as so and so.’ And so on.  John does not allow for any of these excuses.  He bluntly tells us that ‘walking in darkness’ (=sinning) means our relationship with God, who is Light must be broken, that none of us is perfect, we have all got sin in us and to deny this is to contradict God, Himself,  to deny our sins is proof of our failure.  On the positive side he tells us that when we sin we have Advocate with God, one who pleads on our behalf.  If we confess (which means say with God ‘this is sin’) the blood of Jesus, God’s Son purifies us from our sin. If we do not admit sin, we cannot be forgiven.  This breaks our relationship with God and with one another.

Rather than depressing us this is a very positive promise which can restore our closeness to God and give us confidence to claim God’s presence with us during the rather depressing times of social restrictions.  Why not take a little time alone with God and ask Him if there are things which you have not dealt with which are causing a ‘distance’ between you and God.  Then read and claim 1 John 1:9 for yourself. 1 John 2:1 is a brilliant encouragement for us all.

27th September 2020

From Liz Martin

Galatians 5:13-26

“It is to freedom that you have been called, my brothers. Only be careful that freedom does not become mere opportunity for your lower nature.

You should be free to serve each other in love. For after all, the whole Law toward others is summed up by this one command, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’.

But if freedom means merely that you are free to attack and tear each other to pieces, be careful that it doesn’t mean that between you, you destroy your fellowship altogether!

Here is my advice. Live your whole life in the Spirit and you will not satisfy the desires of your lower nature. For the whole energy of the lower nature is set against the Spirit, while the whole power of the Spirit is contrary to the lower nature. Here is the conflict, and that is why you are not free to do what you want to do. But if you follow the leading of the Spirit, you stand clear of the Law.

The activities of the lower nature are obvious. Here is a list: sexual immorality, impurity of mind, sensuality, worship of false gods, witchcraft, hatred, quarrelling, jealousy, bad temper, rivalry, factions, party-spirit, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like that. I solemnly assure you, as I did before, that those who indulge in such things will never inherit God’s kingdom.

The Spirit however, produces in human life fruits such as these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control—and no law exists against any of them. Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for. If our lives are centred in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.

Let us not be ambitious for our own reputations, for that only means making each other jealous.” (J. B. Phillips)

As Neil talked about before, freedom is a powerful word, isn’t it? We’re called, as followers of Jesus, to freedom. Not only in the initial act which brings us freedom from our sin through repentance and faith, but freedom which keeps on giving, more and more freedom, each day, a little more free in the life of the Spirit. It’s like the Tardis from Doctor Who, a life bigger on the inside than it is on the out. But it’s not a freedom as the world understands it, freedom to do what I want, when I want, however I want, with whomever I want. It’s a freedom to grow, to thrive and to flourish, not to decay and wither. Drunkenness, sexual immorality, bad tempers, idolatry, factions, all of these things which can so easily destroy a life, and prevent us from inheriting the Kingdom. We must remember that we are at war, not with one another, but with ‘the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’, among other things (Ephesians 6).

I want to inherit the Kingdom of God! So let’s look further on at what the Spirit produces in us, and reflect on that: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity (faithfulness), tolerance (gentleness), self-control. These, as Paul reminds us, are good things, there is no law against these things. They remind me of a summer’s day after the rain. We go outside, and everything is fresh and clean, there’s warmth in the air, and the sun on our faces feels good. This is life in the Spirit, a life of freedom. Not necessarily a life of ease and comfort. But life in all its fullness.

Let’s decide each day to live like this, to invite the Spirit afresh into our lives, to guide to teach, to encourage, to rebuke, and to form the likeness of Jesus, so that we may keep in step with the Spirit, and encourage one another in humility and freedom.

 

26th September 2020

From Ian Macnair

KING DAVID’S LAST WORDS (2)

The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse,
      the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High,
the man anointed by the God of Jacob,
      Israel’s singer of songs:

The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me;
      his word was on my tongue.

The God of Israel spoke,
      the Rock of Israel said to me:

‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
      when he rules in the fear of God,

he is like the light of morning at sunrise
      on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
      that brings grass from the earth.’

The striking thing about these last words is that they are more about God than they are about David. God is described in a number of different ways.

He is described as ‘the Most High’. This speaks to us of the greatness of God. There is no higher power or authority in the universe.

David uses God’s personal name, Yahweh, translated ‘the LORD’ in capital letters in our Bibles. Although he is the Most High he is not a God far away but one who wants us to know him personally. This name reminds us of the nearness of God.

He is ‘the God of Jacob,’. Jacob was the troubled kid with an eye for the main chance and a flair for skulduggery. God changed his name and his character but throughout the Old Testament God still wanted to be known as the God of Jacob.

More than any other divine title it reminds us of the grace of God, and this context is no exception. David was chosen to be king – by the God of Jacob.

David grieved the Spirit of God. He committed the sins of adultery and murder and he tried to cover it all up. He had to plead with God not to take the Holy Spirit from him. He was a man with blood on his hands. He needed the God of Jacob.

Today, if we’re honest, we too need the God of Jacob, the God who can forgive our sins, the God of the second chance.

There are two more titles which complement this one, ‘the God of Israel’ and ‘the Rock of Israel’. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel and his descendants became a great nation. That nation took the name Israel, the name they are proud to bear to this day, and God was pleased to be known as the God of Israel.

He is not only the God of the second chance but the God of the new start and the ongoing commitment.

He doesn’t just forgive the sins of Jacob. He forges the character of Israel.

As long as we’re this side of heaven we’re weak and prone to sin, but God is strong and able to deliver, ‘the God of Israel’, the God who is strong like a rock.

In these ‘last words’ David draws our attention to three wonderful characteristics of our God: his greatness, his nearness and his grace.

 

 

25th September 2020

Make Him Lord

Part 2a: What it means to say that Jesus is Lord.

In part 1, we looked at what the Lordship of Jesus means in our walk of faith. We will now look at what it means to say Jesus is Lord?

To say Jesus is Lord, is to say He is the ruler, our boss and master of our whole life. Not just some parts of our life but all. Jesus Is Lord, is not just a cliché that forms part of a Christian’s recitation but something to seriously ponder over.  So stop and think. Is Jesus Christ really the Boss in every area of your life? For Jesus cannot be Lord of only a part but of your whole life. Yes, even the bits about you, that you think you can handle or are too small to bother Him with. We live in a culture and world system today that tells us that our strength is determent by the prominence of our ideologies, our possessions, our status and wisdom.

Did you know that in the system of God’s Kingdom, the Lord is our strength?  Making Jesus Christ Lord over our lives is where true strength comes. It is also where true freedom is found. For where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). For the Lordship of Christ can only be real to us when we yield everything to the reign and rule of the indwelling Spirit. The Holy Spirit reigning in us means we have access to the truth as He will be able to declare, disclose and transmit kingdom truths to us that will empower us to walk in victory.

Also with Jesus as Lord over our lives, we are positioning ourselves in a privileged place where the devil will have to get permission from our owner to touch us or destroy us.  As scripture puts it, that we may be pressed on every side, troubled and oppressed in every way but not cramped or crushed. We may be perplexed but never driven to despair, persecuted and hard driven but not deserted; struck down to the ground but never struck out or destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). This because if He is on our side, who can be against us or who can bring a charge against us when it is He who acquits us. And who can condemn us when He is the one pleading in our behalf and interceding for us? (Romans 8 31-34).

So, what does it mean to be in a privileged position when we make Jesus Christ Lord over our life? We are privileged because our Boss Jesus Christ, is the Lord almighty, the owner of all power and all the systems of this world.  The world’s system can say no to us but He can override and change our situation as our Boss, and because He is also the Boss of the systems of this world.  He is saying to you today, because you let Me reign in your life, I will restore back to you the years that the canker worm and the locust had eaten. You will eat in plenty, be satisfied and praise My Name, for you shall not be put to shame ( Joel 2:25-32).

For the earth and everything in it belongs Him (Psalm 24:1).  The beast of the forest and the cattle on a thousand hills and the fowl, all belongs to Him and the world is His (Psalm 50:10-12). In him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him (Colossians 1:16). So if all things including us belongs to God, why should we not acknowledge His Lordship? For what do we have that God has not given us and why do we boast as if we did not receive it (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Moreover, the depth of the riches of His wisdom and knowledge are unsearchable, his judgments, and his paths are beyond tracing out (Romans 11:33). But more exciting is that as children of God, we have the mind of Christ and we can think and understand His thoughts. So how much more exciting can it be if we would allow Him access into every area of our lives, giving Him the freedom to steer us according to His wonderful plans and purposes for our lives, to prosper us, for our welfare and give us hope for the future (Jeremiah 29:11). 

His Lordship in our lives enables us to walk confidently through the valley of the shadow of death but yet fear no evil because He becomes the biggest thing in the valley (Psalm 23: 4). We have the confidence to live our lives free from the fear of terrors at night, evil plots and slanders of the wicked, pestilence and the destruction and sudden death that surprise and lay waste at noon day because we can boldly say that He is our protection. We can have thousands fall death beside us but we will be inaccessible and untouched (Psalm 91:4-7). We can rest in him as we release our children into our Master’s care in this chaotic world, with the assurance that they shall be taught by Him, obedient to His will and shall have great peace and undisturbed composure because His mercy will constantly hover over them (Isaiah 54:13, Psalm 145:9).

We thank God for loving us so much to make us stewards of all that belongs to him.  How exciting but humbling. So do we then insult the Master by claiming ownership of what we have received? God loves you and wants to shower you with immeasurable blessings and wants you to know that you can always count on Him regardless. But are you willing to let Him reign in your life?

Part 2b will look at what it takes to make Jesus Christ Lord

 

 

 

 

24th September 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

We all live in the same world, however there are many different kingdoms and world views. Before I became a Christian at the age of 18 I didn’t have a strong conscience. I didn’t think through the implications of how my actions would affect someone else.

As soon as God came into my life that all changed and with it my thinking, my actions and attitudes to everything had a major overhaul, or rather, a life revolution took place!

Jesus spoke a lot about the Kingdom of Heaven and illustrated the truths and values of that Kingdom through the telling of Parables. 

Take the Parable of the workers in the vineyard for example in Matthew 20:1-16. There was a direct clash between the  values of an earthly mentality and a kingdom of Heaven perspective. An earthly attitude and mentality says, “I have a right” whereas the Kingdom of Heaven teaches us about grace  and sacrifice.

After nearly 40 years of ministry I have heard many things. Times when people have sought guidance or after suffering years of guilt have confessed things that they have done. Some of the details of those confessions would truly shock you as they did me. Often the individual would express their worry and fear that I would never look at them or relate to them in the same way, however, I can honestly say that their fears were unfounded.

There are many kingdoms in this world, but we are called to be children of the Kingdom of Heaven living as light in a dark world. So, let your light shine!

The Kingdom of Politics always desires to domination, divisiveness and winning at the expense of another.

The Kingdom of God always desires healing, reconciliation and unity through the laying down of our lives for one another.

Which Kingdom are you operating in?

With much love,

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

23rd September 2020

Today's spoken Word for the Day from David Depledge can be heard here.

 

22nd September 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Galatians 5:2-12

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is required to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. ‘A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.’ 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offence of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

Flying by the Spirit

Apparently, when you learn to fly, there is one thing that you are taught that hardly anyone ever listens to, or so I’ve been told. The thing they teach you is this: when you fly into a cloud bank and lose visibility, use, and check, and trust your instruments. Don’t rely on your sight and instinct. Yet apparently, nearly everyone, when they fly into a cloud bank, and lose visibility, it happens. They start well, they carefully check their instruments and gauges but after a while they make a little nudge here, and a little tweak there, because they feel like they’re in the wrong position, and before you know it, they come out of the cloud bank upside down, wondering how on earth that happened.

I suspect this is what happened to the Galatians. They started well, they moved with the Spirit, and saw God perform powerful miracles and healings. Yet they saw this by faith in the Spirit, not by works of their flesh, but their works began to overshadow their faith. Before they knew it, the miracles had stopped, and their vibrant joyous infectious faith, was replaced with a dull performance based ritual of observances and rules. They had lost their way, and had lost their way badly. They came out of the clouds upside down.

Likewise, for us, we cannot ever earn our salvation; it is a gift of grace and mercy; Jesus has done it. We receive, and rejoice in, His goodness and mercy. We must work out our salvation, of course, but we cannot earn or add to it, we can only receive it with joyous thanks. This is what causes Paul such despair with the Galatians. They had begun to think they must add to what to God has done. What about us? Do we think that we need to add to our faith?

Our faith always begins with thanks and praise, we give thanks for God’s goodness, and praise Him that we can’t add to Christ’s salvation. We are loved, and we are wanted, we are chosen, and our response is to receive it by faith. So when it seems you’re flying into a cloud bank and are losing your way, trust the Spirit.

 

21st September 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

What do we say?

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. – Romans 12:1-2

These two verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans have been the source of considerable challenge and inspiration to me over the years.  One of the biggest challenges comes when thinking through what was meant by the beginning of verse 2 –Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,  – What is ‘the pattern of this world’?  How am I conforming to it?   What does it mean to –‘be transformed’ by ‘renewing’ my mind?

Many years ago a ‘new’ translation of Paul’s letters was published by J B Philips which gave me a bit of clarity to this verse.  It said  ‘Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within’.  I got to thinking about what it is that controls the way I think, especially about this Covid pandemic but a number of other issues as well.  When I start listening to myself, I find that I not only quote ‘facts’ about Covid which I have picked up from the news or social media, but also adopting the same attitudes as the media with so much fear mongering, cynicism and inherent fault finding.  It is so easy to take these things on board and to let the media squeeze me into its mould of worry and anxiety about the future and condemning those in authority. (Just listen to yourself next time you are talking about Covid and see if we are not in the same boat!)

In the chat room after service on Sunday, a number of folk were commiserating together about the difficulties reported in the media about getting tests for Covid.  One after another added things we had heard from the media, all of which were probably true, but depressing.  Then one person butted in with their own experience of getting tests for the whole family which were quick and did not involve travelling 100+ miles.  It changed the atmosphere of the discussion.  It reminded me of Paul’s advice to the Ephesian Christians to ensure that what they say -  is helpful for building others up  according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.(Eph. 4:29) I have got so much to learn about this. It is so easy to be ‘squeezed into the mould’ of everyday depression about the current situation, spreading it as we repeat the depression.  I am not sure how often I ask myself the question ‘Is what I am about to say going to help build up others?

Paul was not only negative in his advice in Romans.  He did not only say ‘Do not let the world squeeze you into its mould’ but also ‘let God remould your minds from within (be transformed by the renewing of your minds(NIV)).  His remedy for being pressured into unhelpful talk is to let God have control of our minds.  If the media, albeit unwittingly, control our thinking and speaking because we spend time listening to it, then we can give God control of our minds by spending time listening to him.  It is amazing the difference it does make if we take time out of our busy schedules to listen to God, through prayer and studying God’s Word.  This gives God the chance to mould us into his way of thinking, speaking and behaving.

 

20th September 2020

Today Graham Carpmail talks about deep routed faith and reads Matthew 13:18-23 - the Parable of the Sower. You can hear it here

19th September 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

KING DAVID’S LAST WORDS (1)

People’s last words are often full of significance.

King David’s last words are found in a psalm – not in the Book of Psalms but in 2 Samuel chapter 23, the first seven verses.

These are the last words of David.

They were not literally the last words spoken by David before he died but his final statement in the face of death. Not just the random thoughts of an old man but an ‘inspired utterance’, a message through which God was speaking.

David lived a long and eventful life, one that was to reverberate throughout history with a significance that few others have achieved. What he said this last time must be important.

In the introduction to these famous last words we learn some things about David.

The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse,
       the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High,
the man anointed by the God of Jacob,
       the hero of Israel’s songs.

He is introduced by name and placed within his family. He was David son of Jesse.

In his providence God has placed each of us within a family. God has made us what we are and moulded us by means of the family background we have.

David’s family do not seem to have rated him very highly. If you recall the story of David and Goliath you will remember that his relationship with his brothers was anything but easy but it was all in God’s plan.

And so it is with each of us. Who we are and how our family has shaped us is no accident.

David then describes himself as ‘the man exalted by the Most High’. There is the paradox.

A man – at the end of the day, no more than a man, with all the frailties that human beings are prone to – but a man exalted by God, exalted and anointed, anointed as king.

Finally, he is described as ‘the hero of Israel’s songs’.

Most other translations have ‘the sweet psalmist of Israel’. If you knew nothing about David besides what the history books tell us you would never guess at this side to his character.

People are never completely predictable. It’s an amazing thing that in David God combined such strength with such sensitivity.

Which were more important, David’s victories in battle or David’s music?

It’s a comparison of two very different things, but for us there is no question. The psalms of David have long outlasted his military exploits. David served God in his own generation but through his psalms he has served God in every generation since, right down to our own.

This introduction to David challenges us to evaluate our own lives.

God has made us and placed us where he wants us.

What is it in us, in our character and in our actions, that will have lasting value, eternal value?

To think about: what words would you choose to sum up your life in the face of death?

 

18th September 2020

From Anna Grimshaw

Digging out the roots

Isaiah 43:25 (NIVUK)

25 ‘I, even I, am he who blots out
    your transgressions, for my own sake,
    and remembers your sins no more.

I don’t remember planting ivy in my garden, but it seems like it’s been there for a very long time.   It’s the variegated sort and at first it looked quite attractive, but over the years it’s begun to take over, getting thicker and thicker, and now it’s begun to destroy the fence where it’s been growing.

I’ve pulled off new shoots many times in an effort to stop the destruction of the fence, but the main stem of the ivy is now very thick and firmly attached to it.   So this summer I decided that the whole lot has to go.   I first tried to remove the stem but to no avail, so I’ve now cut it through, near the bottom and the leaves and shoots above the cut have now dried up and seem quite dead.  But unfortunately, just recently I’ve noticed some new shoots below the cut, so I guess if I want to be free of the ivy, I will have to dig out the roots!!

As I’ve thought about my ivy problem, I’ve been reminded of how our sin can affect us if we allow it to grow in our lives.   At first it can seem harmless, maybe even quite attractive, but eventually, unchecked, it can cause damage, and in particular it can damage our relationship with our Heavenly Father. We too can try to remove the obvious signs of the growth of sin in our lives, but unless we are prepared to deal with the roots, we won’t experience permanent and complete freedom from it.  

Thankfully we have a Heavenly Father who already knows everything about us, including every detail of our sin and He longs for us to come, confess what we’ve done and ask for His forgiveness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.   1 John 1:9

That means we are made completely free, but if we make a mistake and step out of line again, what will happen?  Thankfully all is not lost!!

2 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.               1 John 2:1-2

Thank God for Jesus!!!

 

17th September 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

This little boy is Marley, one of my Grandsons. We are very blessed to have six Grandsons and one Granddaughter. They are all so very different from one another and it is so fascinating to compare their characters and personalities.

We often say of Marley that he is in ‘Marley land’ that is because he can amuse himself for hours and hours oblivious to anyone else. He has an amazing imagination often surprising us with his ideas.

Psalm 139 :13 says, ‘For You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, 

I know full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place.’

Even though Marley is only six years old, he came up with a real pearl of wisdom when his Dad asked him to give thanks for dinner. He readily agreed to pray, and with a very cheeky smile on his face he prayed,  “Heavenly Father, Thank you for everything, apart from sin. Amen” 

Remember and give thanks that you are unique and precious in God’s eyes.

With much love,

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

16th September 2020

Margaret Newby reads Luke 24:13-37 and reflects on the story of the men on the Road to Emmaus. You can hear it here

15th September 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Galatians 5:1

Galatians 5 starts with quite simply one of the most sublime statements ever given: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." This is a verse, and a phrase, that resonates with our hearts, doesn't it? The word freedom is so evocative. Whether it is being cried out during Braveheart as his life purpose, or more powerfully stated in truth by Rev Dr Martin Luther King 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!', freedom is a word that resonates with our hearts.

Yet the freedom of which Paul is writing is twofold. First, it is a freedom from dead works of the law; we need not be circumcised, we need not convert to Judaism to follow Jesus. Our forgiveness is free, though it is not cheap, and it was obtained at immense cost, but it is free. God's grace has done it; Jesus has paid the price of my guilt, and I am free. I am free, my sin is gone, and I am free. This is why we sing, and celebrate, and tell anyone who will listen we are free. We are free.

Secondly, it is a freedom to follow; it is a freedom from a past that might constrain and choke and hold. This may take time to experience fully, yet it is an ultimate promise of healing and hope. We will be free. We have a freedom to follow. We have a freedom to conform our lives to Jesus. This might sound counter-intuitive to some, but the more closely I have followed after Jesus, the more free, and more like myself I have always found myself becoming. This is a freedom to follow, to be more like Jesus, and yet the more like me, the best me, I will become in this process.

Give thanks for your freedom, give thanks for the one who bought it for you, because He loves you. And if your freedom seems a long way off, give thanks that it will one day come. "For It is for freedom that Christ has set us free."

 

14th September 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Have you had discussions with a friend or family member about your faith?  They have this habit, don’t they, of coming up with all sorts of arguments, which may take us into all sorts of intellectual ideas.  Then you share with them a personal experience where God’s Word has spoken directly into your need or a time when there was a clear answer to your prayer or that time when against all the odds you have been healed from a sickness.  There is no way your personal experience can be denied.  After all, you know what you have seen.  You know what happened.  There can be no doubt.  Whatever theoretical arguments are put forward you know what happened.

That’s how John started his letter to a church which was questioning their ideas a bit after a number of their members had left them over some doctrinal issues.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched. ( 1 John 1:1)

He had first-hand experience of who Jesus was and had done and nothing could move him from what he knew.  This was what he was sharing with these Christians to encourage them and build them up. He knew what he was talking about.  Mind you, he did not stop at his personal experience. He explained about the significance of what he had seen and heard because he had had the privilege of first-hand experience of the Word of Life, Jesus who had given his life to gain forgiveness for his and our sins.  For him, the exciting thing was that this meant that he had fellowship with God, Himself and his readers could also share this. Then he went on to show how this affected the lives of those who believed in this same Jesus.

This is a pattern we can consider as we talk with our non-believing friends.  If we start with vague, philosophical or theological ideas it will often lead into intellectual arguments which can take us into even more vague and abstract directions.  If we start with things that we know, because we have experienced them and then go on to explain what these things show us about God and what He has done for us, we stay in a very practical area.  We have not had the privilege of living with Jesus for 3 years like John did, but

  • We can share our own experience of Christ in our lives
  • We know we have peace with God through forgiveness of sin through Jesus’ death
  • We know the differences this has made in our lives
  • We have the teaching of Jesus in the Bible
  • We know how this impacts our lives.

These are the things that we can share with others and if they are real, the reality will speak to others and help them towards the truth.  If we have question marks about any of these things, stop for a minute – look back and see what you have known God do in your life – remind yourselves regularly of this – thank God for it – tell others about it.  If you feel there is nothing God has done in your life you can share with others, pray about it and have a word with one of the ministers or pastoral care or small group leaders.

If you would like to know more of what John said in his letters why not join in the Zoom Bible study at 7.30pm on Thursday this week.

 

13th September 2020

Today listen to Gill Barber reading Ephesians 3: 16-21 here. Gill has also provided this prayer:-

My prayer for us as we worship together, yet separately, is that we continue to grow in our understanding of just how much God loves us and how much that love is to be extended to all we meet so, Father, I pray for all who worship as members of your Body, both as part of Queen’s Road Baptist Church and worldwide.  I thank you for all my brothers and sisters in Christ and I pray that you would grow in our hearts a deeper understanding of your love for us, your forgiveness, grace and mercy that you extend to us that is completely undeserved.  I pray that you will prompt us to extend that same forgiveness, grace and mercy to all those we live with, work with and are in contact with in everyday life.  Let us be known, Father, as ambassadors of your love.

Lord I also want to pray for a greater understanding of your immeasurable power to do even more than we can even dare to ask or dream for in our world today, both in our daily and our special needs.  Please forgive us for our lack of expectation in what we ask of you when we know that the power you used through Jesus when he was living on earth is that same power available from you through your Holy Spirit living within us.  Help us not to doubt you but to lead us on to expect to see you at work in your world, both in our lives and the lives of others.  We praise you Father for all you do in and through us, developing us into better disciples for you.  We pray we can be more open to you so you can use us more powerfully in your world.

We ask these prayers in and through the name of Jesus, our Saviour, Amen.

 

12th September 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

CONNECTION LOST

When I last changed my computer (Apple iMac, naturally!) I opted for the “Magic” keyboard and trackpad. They’re not really magic, just wireless – operating by Bluetooth and getting rid of some, at least, of those pesky wires that used to clutter up my desk.

Just this morning I got the dreaded message on screen: Connection lost. It’s annoying when you’re in the middle of something important and have to break off and restore the connection. This time it was the trackpad that had gone AWOL.

The problem is that you need power to use Bluetooth and the power you need is battery power. The computer helpfully gives you lots of warning in advance that your batteries are running low but it can be ages before they finally gives up the ghost.

I had charged up a set of rechargeable batteries and in they went. But after about five minutes up came the message again. Connection lost! The batteries had failed to recharge sufficiently.

So out it came, my trusted old friend, a wired mouse.

In the long years I used that mouse it had never lost my connection to the computer. I pondered the reason. The mouse needed power just as much as the trackpad. So why did it never fail?

The reason was that it was relying on a much more dependable source of power, the computer itself, which in turn was powered by mains electricity.

As you think about your walk with the Lord and your prayer life in particular do you ever sense a message registering in your brain: Connection lost?

If so, could it be that you’re depending on your own limited spiritual ‘power’ and somehow you’ve taken over responsibility for your connection with God?

As I thought about this I remembered these words from an old hymn.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Recent studies in Galatians have reminded us that it’s possible to begin with faith in God and relapse into faith in our own efforts. Paul didn’t hold back: ‘Are you that stupid? Having begun with the Spirit’s power, do you think you can reach the goal under your own power?”

Father in heaven, thank you that your wisdom, strength and power never fail. Help us to live connected to you, receiving from you, depending on you, every moment of every day. Every moment of this day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

11th September 2020

From Miranda Shieh

Make Him Lord

The words Jesus is Lord is widely used and referred to within the Christian community. We sing it in songs we make declarations out of it but what does it really mean in our individual walk of faith?

The word Lord meaning, one having power and authority over others, is linked to Jesus throughout the scripture. The Lordship of Jesus was at the very heart of the sacrificial and redemptive work on the cross of Calvary. It is also the most important truth in relation to the Christian experience.  When we come to Christ, we are in effect recognising and receiving Him as our Lord and Saviour (Romans 10:10). Paul had this to say;

 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die we die to the Lord, Therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living (Romans 14:6-9).

For, as children of God, whether we live or die we are to live as Christ’s and that sounds challenging. Thank God that we do not have to live it in our own strength.

Also notice that according to Scripture the Lordship of Jesus is already settled.

For God had exalted Jesus and given Him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every Knee should bow of those things in heaven, and of those things on the earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

The Name of Jesus is sovereign overall and there is no room for debate. The question is have you wilfully allowed Him access into every area of your life? Could it be that a large part of the defeats, discouragement and despair in our Christian life, are a result of our attempt to live life in our own strength and power? For there is coming a day that every knee shall bow down to that Name. It is not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’. A bowing down in every area of our lives to that reality that Jesus alone is the King of Kings and Lords of lords. Praise God.

But what does it really mean to us in our daily walk of faith?

As children of God, positionally and spiritually, we are already seated together with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6). We are therefore in that place where there is no rivalry for His throne.  It is living moment by moment in faithful submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But remember that, it is going to be a challenge in the world we live in. That challenge of bringing every area of our lives under the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ. Jesus knew this and that is why He had these words of encouragement for us; that we live in the world but we are not of the world (John 17:16). Those words is a game changer. So if we are not of this world but citizens of heaven, how are we expected to live our lives and who are we to report to?

Scripture also reminds us that we can do all things only through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). For it can never be by our might or our power but by His Spirit (Zachariah 4:6). That is why we pray for God to strengthen us with might by His Spirit in our inner man so that we can live as Christ’s cherished possession on this earth (Ephesians 3:16).

We also pray that, may our spirit soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

 We thank God for the assurance that, when the Lordship of Jesus is settled in our life, all other issues are settled. For unless Jesus is Lord of all, He is not Lord at all. For it is when Jesus becomes Lord of our lives that we can with joy fulfil our duties, obligations and responsibilities. For until then, there will be no peace or joy for the wondering soul until Jesus’ Lordship has been settled.

So the question is, is Jesus Christ Lord over your spirit, soul and body?  Is He Lord over all the inward and outward expressions of your life?  God is faithful and He is able to keep that which has been committed unto Him.

Part 2 will look what it means to say that Jesus is Lord.

 

10th September 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

Do you believe that God has a plan for your life?  Do you ask Him to lead and guide you?

What sort of things do you think we should ask God about ?  Just the big things like a job or should we ask him about everything?

My own personal view is that whilst God has given us a brain in order for us to make decisions for ourselves, He loves for us to depend upon Him. Proverbs 16:3 reminds us to, ‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your paths.’

We are not designed to be independent from God and the promise of the Holy Spirit is that we would not be orphans! John 14:18. The Holy Spirit is both our guide and counsellor, always witnessing within us the way of the Lord for the big decisions in life and the everyday things too!

Nothing is to big or too small for God to be involved with, whether it be praying for a parking space or deciding about a career. God longs to be involved especially because we learn to trust Him, and  we grow in faith and patience as we commit all of our ways into His hands.

John Wimber wrote two books , Power Healing, and Power Evangelism. I heard that he was going to write another book on Guidance entitled Power Steering!!

With much love,

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

9th September 2020

Our Word for the Day is from Robert Whale who explains why John 1:1-18 is so inspirational to him and then reads the passage. You can hear it here.

 

8th September 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Galatians 4

Some people are not fans of the apostle Paul, and at times I can understand why. If we look at Galatians 4, we can see what could easily be construed as rudeness. Paul arrives in Galatia and he is suffering with suspected problems with his eyes (vs14-15), which some think is the thorn in the flesh mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:7. Yet despite this, the Galatians embraced him, they listened to him and responded positively. In fact, more than that; they look after him to the point that he says this: if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. For many people, to return mercy and care with stern criticism is staggeringly rude, yet the reality is that in challenging them as he does, Paul sets a higher value on them than they do on themselves.

They have lost their way, and given up the joyous freedom of the Spirit with miraculous healing, prophecy, divine wisdom, favour and power for dull rituals and human wisdom. They have replaced the grace of Christ for slavery to the law. As Liz said, though, Paul was not anti-law, rather he wanted to challenge their seeking to earn their salvation, which they could never do. This is what so troubles Paul, that he feels he must intervene with strong words, so that they can return to the joy and freedom that they once knew. These are not the words of someone who is rude, rather someone who is a friend: Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses (Proverbs 27:6).

On Sunday, we were challenged to think about where our treasure is. For Paul, it was Jesus, and His gospel. This is upon whom, and what, he placed the highest value. This presents a twofold challenge for us: having started with grace, have we settled into dull attempts to earn what is given freely? And secondly, if we see someone stray from the path, will we speak words that might seem sharp to win them back? It's one of the real challenges of friendship, will I speak the truth to someone who needs to hear it, and equally, when a friend speaks challenging words, will I listen to what they say? Let's pray for the grace to listen and to speak.

 

7th September 2020

From David Depledge

Messy Lives

Isaiah 61:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,

because the LORD has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour

and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion--

to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendour.

Often life is neither pretty nor easy. In fact it can get to be awfully messy. That was the situation of the Jewish Exiles in Babylon. In this passage of scripture in Isaiah looks forward around 100 years to when the Israelites were captive in Babylon as he had prophesied they would be in Chapter 39. They are addressed as the oppressed, the broken hearted, captives, prisoners and people who mourn.

To a greater or lesser degree we can identify with the Exiles. There are times we feel, for example

  • oppressed by the expectation of others;
  • broken hearted because of loved ones who are no longer with us, either through break down of relationship or because of death
  • captive to credit card debt or to alcohol
  • prisoner to over full diaries

I dare say you can think of many other examples

  • There are times when our lives are cluttered
  • There are times when we lose hope, have dreams shattered
  • At other times our lives are a mess of emotions, perhaps in chaos and
  • Occasionally our lives are disasters – perhaps we have made a huge mistake.

The Lord did not abandon His people during their exile nor does God abandon us in the messiness of life. Into those situations God speaks a word of hope, often through his people.

God's presence is experienced and God's love is demonstrated when his people allow that presence and love of God to flow through them to people in need. If his people are in a secure relationship with God through Jesus, we hope and pray that those who are struggling will recognise any help we deliver is from God.

If they are not Christians, if they do not recognise that help delivered comes from God, does that mean we should not be helping them? I don’t think so. God still loves them and wants the best for them – we should be generous with sharing his love. Sometimes that will involve sharing faith verbally, on many other occasions it will not be a time when a person is in a position to hear and respond.

For most of us reading this, our lives have been touched by God. We have heard the good news. We have been given the strength and ability to endure with God's hope and encouragement when we have been oppressed. Our broken hearts have been comforted and we have been set free from fear, sin and death.

Or have we? Honestly, is that our experience ….. and if not, why not?

 

6th September 2020

From Chris Burrell

Psalm 31 (selected verses)

14But I trust in you, Lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’

15My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.

19How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.

21Praise be to the Lord for he showed me the wonders of his love, when I was in a city under siege.

23Love the Lord all his faithful people! The Lord preserves all those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full.

24Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.

How life has changed in the last few months! The changes have made us uncomfortable; it was unwanted, and at times even terrifying.  It has made us anxious and often very confused. Government guidelines constantly changing haven’t helped to settle us. A new way of life seems inevitable.

Yet change can also be exciting… the new ways of being a church family have also brought new opportunities to reach out to a much wider mission field. The internet has given us opportunities to access teaching and ministry from international and local fellowships. We can pray together with folk from any country in the world. We don’t need to leave our homes to engage in Bible study together or to pray together. I have really appreciated the Bible studies we engaged in with Ralph and look forward to being able to begin again soon. I thought prayer on Zoom would be very strange and challenging, but no, more, it was uplifting and so easy to access.

Our times are in God’s hands, he holds every twist and turn of our lives in his hands. He only knows if this will end or just become the new norm. Maybe we should look at change through God’s eyes, as an opportunity for growth and an invitation to trust Him with our deepest hopes and fears.

A Prayer

‘Father, please give us spiritual eyes to see things more like you see them. Give us heavens perspective on our current situation. Open our eyes Lord.’

 

5th September 2020

From Allan Aspinall

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ?   “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34

This passage contains the words that I clung to when, as a result of the breakdown of my marriage, I became homeless, unemployed and felt like everything that could go wrong was going to.

I clung to this promise from God that He was in control of the situation and that I needed to place my trust in Him to bring me through the tough experiences rather than worrying. Worrying would have crippled me mentally and kept me trapped in a downward spiral that could have led to worse things such as the hopelessness as I often see amongst those who are in the same situation. By allowing God to take over and casting my worries on Him and calling on Him he has brought me back to a place of more comfort and I remember daily that I can never repay Him for all He has done for me and the blessings He continues to pour out on me.

Why not read the passage again thinking about the challenges in your life?

4th September 2020

Brenda Parsons reads Psalm 116:1-6 and brings a meditation written by Eddie Askew. You can hear it here.

3rd September 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

When author Lloyd Douglas attended college, he lived in a boarding house with a retired music professor who lived on the first floor.

Douglas would stick his head in the door and ask, “Well, what’s the good news?”  The old man would pick up his tuning fork, tap it on the side of his chair and say, “That’s middle C. It was middle C yesterday; it will be middle C tomorrow; it will be middle C a thousand years from now. The tenor upstairs sings flat. The piano across the hall is out of tune, but, my friend, that is middle C!”

We all need a middle C. An unchanging and still point in a turning world. An unchanging Shepherd. A God who can still the storm. A Lord who can declare the meaning of life!

When we look into Psalm 23, according to David -You have one! The Lord is your Shepherd!

He is Your middle C!

With much love,

 Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

2nd September 2020

From Miranda Shieh

Stay Focused

My son, pay attention to what I say;
    turn your ear to my words.
 Do not let them out of your sight,
    keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
    and health to one’s whole body.       
        Proverbs 4: 20-22

We are at a time when we are needing to hear more from God? How can we stay focused when we are constantly being bombarded with many voices and distractions? The devil, who is the master of all distractions is fighting hard to keep us from hearing from God?

God has promised to keep us in perfect peace when our minds are stayed on Him (Isaiah 26:3). It’s in that place of peace that we hear God’s voice. But there is a part that we have to play and that is staying focused on God, on His Word.

According to scripture, there are some steps we can take.

First, we need to pay attention to God’s Words.  This means giving an undivided attention to the Words of God. For example when someone asks for your undivided attention, it means, you are not supposed to  be thinking about anything else, looking at anything or doing anything else but to focus directly on what that person is saying to you. That is what God wants us to do.  He wants us to shut out all distractions or interruptions; that favourite TV programme or news, to give an undivided attention to His Word concerning our situation.

Secondly, we need to turn our ear to His words. This means to listen or open our ears to what God is saying concerning that situation.  In opening our ears to what He is saying, we are in effect closing it to other voices that are contrary to His word. We should be careful not to tune out God’s Word. Jesus said that the Spirit of truth will guide us into all truth (John 16:13-15). The Holy Spirit knows the answer to our situation but the wisdom and faith to make the right decision comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Not hearing the news or what everybody else has to say.  We need to be listening to what the Spirit of the Lord is saying and God’s Spirit lives in us. For the area of victory we walk in, is tied to what we constantly focus on. And the entrance of the Word in that area will bring light into our situation (119:130). Also, we will receive the measure to which we give our attention to (Mark 4:24). Thank God that His Word is forever settled in heaven.

Also, we need not let God’s words out of our sight, but keep them within our heart.  This means that we have to respond to life circumstances with God’s word regardless of the situation or what other voices are saying. Sadly many Christians, do not respond to God’s Word, because it means living a godly life especially when things are going well. As a result, when faced with trials, an attempt to instantly give God’s Word more attention causes people to falter. 

The God we serve is not a God of convenience. He has given us His Word and promised us that it will be life to us when we find it. We must know what His Word says for ourselves in order to appropriate it in our lives. Focussing on His Word will sustain us during periods of waiting for a physical manifestation, as our hearts will be guarded and we will be fully persuaded of His faithfulness. No matter how much we know or how much victory we have walked in, we must always go back to the basics, to His Word, for we can never outgrow God’s Word.

Let’s see an example in Mark 5 of a man who was faced with a difficult situation and how he stayed focused on Jesus. Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, went to Jesus, the Word, because his daughter was at the point of death. The thought of his daughter dying must have been distressing to him but he chose to go to Jesus. On His way to his house, Jesus stopped to attend to a woman with the issue of blood. Jairus had to wait, and during this period of waiting, he received further bad news that his daughter was dead. This was enough to get him discouraged. He had gone to the right person and was assured that help was available and yet the situation appeared hopeless in the physical. So what do you, like Jairus, do during a period of waiting?  Use that time to build and strengthen your faith to see a fulfilment of your vision.

Certain steps were taken that we can learn from to help us stay focused when we need direction in life. First, we have to go to the Word, Who is Jesus.  Jairus went to Jesus and asked Him to come and heal his daughter. We too need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Word, and only speak the desired outcome (Hebrews 12:2). What are you expecting from God?

In verses 35, people were beginning to talk about Jairus situation. Scripture says, overhearing but ignoring what they said, Jesus said to him, do not  be seized with alarm and struck with fear. We have to learn to hear but ignore voices that do not line up with the word of God because voices contrary to the Word of God will create fear, distraction and dampen our faith. Stick to your confession of faith.

Next we need to watch the company we keep.  According to verses 37 and 40 we need to select the people to accompany us in this journey and this means putting some out for the time being to help us focus and to come out victorious. Jesus encouraged Jairus to stay in faith. Jesus only choose people who were ready to stay in faith with him. We too need people who will encourage and help us stay in faith.

God has exalted His Word above all His Name and He is saying, stay focused. Give me your undivided attention, stay in faith and that answer is on its way.

 

1st September 2020

From Iain Colville

Galatians 3 - Word for the day

In chapter 3, Paul begins where he left off at the end of chapter 2, asking whether the foundation of his readers’ faith and spiritual experience is their belief in the Gospel of Jesus, or reliance upon the work of the Law?   He is concerned that the Galatians seem to have taken their eyes away from the crucified Jesus and, instead, are putting their trust in the Law. 

Paul uses the example of Abraham, who “believed … and it was credited to him as righteousness” to remind the Galatians that the path to righteousness and salvation requires faith and belief, not legalistic compliance with the Law.

Again, Paul turns to Abraham (or Abram, as he was then) and the promise given to him and his offspring (or his seed) in Genesis, that through Abraham and his descendants would come the blessing which was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.  That promise, and its fulfilment, was not diluted or undermined by the giving of the law to Moses. Rather the Law was a temporary measure, to last only until the coming of Jesus. Compliance with the Law is not bad, but it doesn’t bring life or salvation.

Paul’s particular focus is that non-Jews were included in the promised blessing given to Abraham and, by having faith in Jesus, we too become “children of God”.  As a result, whatever our human identity, ethnicity, or status, we are “all one in Christ Jesus” and co-heirs of the promised blessing.

So what does this passage say to us today? 

What is our response to the gospel of Jesus, and the grace and promises given to us in Jesus?  Do I truly put my trust in Jesus, ready to follow the leading of the Spirit in my life, or is my focus on following the Law’s commandments?

Have I really grasped the full significance of being a child of God, as Neil reminded us on Sunday morning?  

And finally, if as fellow believers we are all one in Christ Jesus, where does that leave the labels that we (and our society) are so swift to apply to one another? 

 

 

Archive of earlier contributions here (14th March to 20th April 2020) and here (21st April to 31st May 2020) and 1st June to 20th July 2020 here and from 21st July to 31st August here