Jun 272013
 

Just like usMy daily bible readings have brought me to the life of Elijah in 1 Kings 18 & 19. Elijah suddenly appears out of nowhere in chapter 17 as he boldly addresses the king and declares “there will be no dew or rain until I say so”. Wow, that is impressive! He goes on being impressive: performing the miracle of the continually replenishing jars of oil and flour with the widow at Zarephath; then the “one man against 400 – altar stand-off” where he confidently challenges the prophets of Baal to see whose god is the best. He mocks their efforts as they get ever more desperate to prove a god who only exists in their imagination, and to compound it all pours jar after jar of water onto his sacrifice and confidently stands back as God shows up in full pyrotechnic glory.

Does this type of story ever make you feel insignificant? Elijah seems to be a member of a different species, perhaps a secret agent angel parachuted down by God to get the job done. Has God given up using imperfect men and women now, who blow it time after time? Actually, no. As the story unfolds we see that Elijah was a man just like we are (James 5:17).

We shouldn’t rejoice in his weakness, which can be quite a temptation, but should rejoice in the fact that God treats us all with amazing grace. We can, like Elijah, experience amazing times with God, enjoying His presence or when ministering for Him. God blesses us and we feel great. But what happens when, shortly after, fear takes hold or disappointment occurs?

Ahab and his wife Jezebel issue murderous threats and Elijah is suddenly running scared. He runs to the middle of the wilderness and asks God to kill him. What happens next should be a comfort to all of us who struggle with fear, depression, doubt and anxiety, or simply feelings of inadequacy. God provides food and water for Elijah, leads him in the right direction and then gently speaks to Him through a whisper which suggests real gentleness and care.

God wants to do the same with you. You may have reached rock bottom and the end of your abilities, but in that place of vulnerability God will prove to you His wonderful grace as you submit again to His will and allow yourself to be lifted up by Him.

 June 27, 2013  Posted by at 10:56 pm Grace, Sanctification 1 Response »
Jun 132013
 

MephiboshethI am currently following a bible reading plan which takes me through the whole bible in a year, reading a few chapters each day. Just recently I came to one of my favourite stories in the Old Testament and it is a wonderful picture of the grace that we have received.

The main part of the story is in 2 Samuel 9. I will briefly outline the situation:

King Saul has failed as Israel’s king and David has been chosen to take his place. Saul is jealous of David and is determined to kill him. He pursues him for a long time and even though David has two clear opportunities to kill Saul, he refuses to do it as he doesn’t want to touch God’s anointed king. David waits for God’s timing to receive his promised position as king. Saul’s son Jonathan is best friends with David and is fully committed to him, refusing to help his father in his pursuit.

Eventually David becomes king after Saul and his son Jonathan die in battle. Even though Saul was his enemy, David wants to show kindness to a member of Saul’s family, namely Mephibosheth (Jonathan’s son, Saul’s grandson). Mephibosheth is summoned to the king’s palace.

Now Mephibosheth is crippled, being lame in both legs. He has to be carried everywhere and is totally dependant on others helping him. In an extraordinary act of grace, David gives him all of Saul’s property and states that he shall always eat at the king’s table.

Later on in the story we see that Ziba (Mephibosheth’s servant) spreads a false rumour about Mephibosheth to David, resulting in Ziba receiving a substantial part of his master’s estate. In 2 Samuel 19 we see Mephibosheth vindicated, but he never seeks revenge. He doesn’t care that half his estate has been handed over to Ziba. He is just happy that his king, David is back and he can share his meals with him again.

This is an amazing picture of what King Jesus has done for us. We were not able to help ourselves (spiritually crippled), we were in essence enemies of the king. But Jesus sought us out, determined to show kindness to us. King Jesus has now given us full access into His palace where we can enjoy food, shelter and protection for the rest of our lives (and into eternity).

Let us never lose the wonder of how far away from God we were (even further than Mephibosheth) and how now, through no effort of our own, we have been brought right into the king’s presence. Let’s be like Mephibosheth, who even though he lost material possessions, it really didn’t compare to the joy of spending time with his king.

 June 13, 2013  Posted by at 8:48 pm God's family, Grace, Salvation, The gospel 1 Response »
Mar 292013
 

EasterI’m taking a short break from my series on ‘Law and Grace’ as we find ourselves in Easter week. I want to offer some thoughts at this very special time in the Christian calendar.

I love Easter week and I try to take some time aside to meditate and think again about what Jesus has done for us. It’s just the same when I am taking bread and wine; a moment to pause and wonder again at Christ’s sacrifice.

My thoughts this week are from Hebrews 12:2:

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Fix our eyes on Jesus

What a good idea to fix our eyes on Jesus. It would seem the obvious thing to do wouldn’t it? But we get so easily distracted with the busyness of life, even church life, that we can forget about the centre of our faith. Our prize, our goal, is Jesus. He is the one we long for, the one we love, the one we want to please. Every week is about Him but especially this week when we remember His sacrifice.

He is our pioneer, our example. He has gone before and paved the way. He has shown us the way forward and He is still in the process of perfecting our faith, making us more like Him.

The joy set before Him

What was the ‘joy set before Him?’

As He proceeds to the cross, what possible thing set before Him could bring Him joy in the anguish and brutality that He was about to endure? What is it that will help Him endure such suffering and heartbreak on the cross, the shame of being nailed up, naked and alone?

Partly He did it because He was obedient to the Father. It was the plan and will of God that Jesus should do this. It was the only rescue plan and He suffered it willingly. Jesus wanted to demonstrate just what the father is like, He wanted to show the compassion and perfect sacrificial love of the Father. The joy he received was from doing the fathers will. But it was also from knowing He was on a rescue mission. He loves us so much that the joy of restoring our relationship with Him compelled Him to act.

That’s right, the joy that carried Jesus through was rescuing you!

He loves us so much that He willingly suffered agonising pain so that we could be rescued and spend eternity with Him. He considered you worth it.

God is so passionate about you. He was thinking about you before time began (Ephesians 1:4), He is thinking and praying for you now (Hebrews 7:25) and one day in the future He will bring you into His kingdom to spend eternity together with Him (Revelation 21:1-4). Past, present and future.

Joy for us too

For me, this means that whenever I go through trials and difficulties, I can call on the same joy that Jesus has because:

  • He has gone before me
  • He has won the victory over every work of the enemy
  • He is with me
  • He knows what I am going through
  • He won’t let me go
  • He has promised to carry me through to the end
  • He has RISEN!!

I don’t know about you but I think this is very good news!

 March 29, 2013  Posted by at 8:50 am Resurrection No Responses »
Mar 072013
 

Large Group of Happy People standing together.In last week’s blog I talked about the fact that as Christians we have been adopted into God’s family. I started listing some of the benefits of being adopted into His family.

 

The benefits we looked at last week were:

(1) We are able to speak to God

(2) He takes care of our needs

(3) He gives many good gifts

If you missed it or want to read it again, click on the link here.

This week we will look at another 3 benefits:

(4) He gives compassion, care and protection

God cares and provides for us, not just physically but also emotionally. God provides in every area where a father should provide for his children. He provides completely where earthly fathers never can.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

You, Lord, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked, (Psalm 12:7)

The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. (Lamentations 3:31-32)

(5) God disciplines His children

Hang on a minute, what’s that doing in this list? Even though discipline is painful at the time, God disciplines us because He loves us. It is for our good, so that we can grow in righteousness and holiness.

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” (Hebrews 12:5-6)

(6) Inheritance & ‘sonship’

We have an everlasting inheritance.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3-4)

Another interesting term from the bible is the word “sonship”. This is a term relevant to men and women. “Sonship” as used in the bible is a legal term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture. This is the inheritance we gain as ‘Sons of God’.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’  So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)

Meditate on these truths and verses over the coming week and let them change your whole outlook on life. As a child of God you have an amazing position which should affect how you relate to God and others.

 March 7, 2013  Posted by at 9:37 pm Community, God's family, The Church No Responses »
Jan 242013
 

If you have been around churches for any length of time you will know that there has been a lot of confusion through the years over water baptism. This week we are going to look at what the bible says about this very important subject which could be described as one of the first steps of discipleship.

Jesus was baptised

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

Water baptism must be important because Jesus was baptised Himself. He was the last person who needed to be baptised because He was sinless. There are various reasons for why Jesus chose to be baptised but principally it was to identify with us as sinners and as an example for us to follow. As He was baptised He was looking ahead to His own crucifixion and resurrection.

Jesus will not ask you to do anything He was not prepared to do himself and asks all his followers to be baptised as we see in His command in Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is for believers.

It does not make you a Christian, it is for those who have already committed their lives to Him and decided to follow Him.

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. (Acts 2:38)

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.(Acts 16:31–33)

Baptism is a public declaration that you belong to Jesus and have submitted your life to Him. When Jesus was baptised He was identifying with you. When you are baptised you are identifying with Him. There is a wonderful connection, what happened to Jesus happened to you as well. As you get into the water you are showing everybody that your old life is dead. As you are submerged under the water you are declaring that your old sinful life is being buried. It is a funeral for your old life! As you come up out of the water you are being raised from your old life by God’s power (the same power that raised Jesus from the dead) raised into a new life with Him.

Next week I will be looking more into what baptism actually is. If you haven’t been baptised, why not seek God this week about what He wants you to do. If you have any questions or anything you want covered next week, please put a comment in the box below and I will do my best to answer it.

 January 24, 2013  Posted by at 7:11 pm Baptism, Confession, Discipleship, Repentance, Resurrection, Salvation No Responses »
Oct 102012
 

God understandsHave you ever questioned God or asked where He is when you have faced dark times? It can be so easy to accuse God of being distant, of not caring or not understanding what we are going through.

The bible reveals that God does care; that He cares passionately about us and has taken personal responsibility to show us the full extent of His love. He is a God of action and at a specific point in history He stepped physically onto this earth as a man, experiencing all (and more) of the hurt and pain that afflicts us.

As I was looking through ‘The gospels’ this week it struck me again all that Jesus went through, from physical right through to emotional pain, heartache and abandonment. Meditate in wonder as I list some of the challenges and hurts that Jesus faced for us, because He loved us, because He wanted to sympathise and share with us.

Born in a cattle trough in a third world country in poverty, His parentage was immediately questioned having been born out of wedlock. His parents had to flee with Him to another country because a contract was out on His life (from the richest man in the land). His father died early but not before Mary had quite a few more children (at least 6), leaving Jesus in a single parent family with the responsibility on Him as the eldest son to provide for them. He lived in a peasant village which was seemingly despised across the country. During His ministry He was homeless, misunderstood by His own family, thought of as mad, accused of being a drunkard, a glutton and a friend of prostitutes and tax collectors.

During His final days He was abandoned, rejected and betrayed by His closest friends. He was slowly tortured with large nails driven through His hands and feet after being mercilessly beaten up and whipped until the flesh on His back was lacerated. A nail-like crown of thorns was driven into His skull. As He hung there with the shame of nakedness, jeered at and reviled, He then suffered the greatest pain of all, being abandoned by His father in heaven with whom He had intimate fellowship from all eternity, as He took on the weight of the whole world’s sin.

You can be sure that whatever you are going through at the moment, God has walked that path Himself. No-one would go through all of that if they did not love and care for you passionately. So if you are thinking of running away from God, turn around and run to Him instead. He understands.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

 October 10, 2012  Posted by at 7:43 pm Uncategorized 1 Response »
Aug 302012
 

community fishing 2I don’t think we get evangelism quite right in our churches. We tend to think of evangelism as something that evangelists do. They love telling people about Jesus, they seem to be quite good at it so we tend to let them get on with it. If we do have somebody who shows an interest we often wait until the next outreach Sunday and invite them to come along to listen to our evangelist speaker. Or we wait for the next Alpha course to begin and pack our interested friend off to have a meal and discussion with another evangelist. I am not knocking evangelists – they do a fantastic job! No, if this is your mentality then I’m knocking you! This mentality is basic laziness. (And before you get indignant, I include myself among the lazy ones!).

I think there is a better way. You won’t be surprised to learn (especially if you have been following this series) that the most effective way to reach people is through community. We still need evangelists but if you think of a community as an arrow, evangelists are the sharp arrow point, but the body of the arrow is made up of the rest of the community working together to reach souls for Jesus.

Let’s remind ourselves what the great commission is:

“…Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age…” (Matthew 28 v 18-20).

This command is for every Christian. It is our privilege to be involved in Gods mission and He has equipped us with everything we need. I believe that every one of us should be able to lead somebody to Christ and be able to present the gospel (see my previous post on ‘giving the gospel’). As it says in 1 Peter 3 v 15 “… Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…”. I am not saying we should all be evangelists, rather that we should not negate our responsibility. On the other hand however evangelists are very effective at winning souls, so working in partnership as ‘fishing in community’ we will all be even more effective.

Ok, it’s that time in my blog when I produce another list. I find it much easier to gather my thoughts in bullet points and so in no particular order I’ve gathered a few thoughts about how we can reach our friends and families through community:

  • By praying together. We need to start praying for each others’ friends, families or co-workers. In this way as they are introduced into your community you will be more eager to meet and get to know them because you already have an interest in them.
  • There is no pressure. Jesus wins people, we just introduce them to Him and tell them how great He is. Easy!!
  • We need to be adaptable. The apostle Paul said “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9 v 22). Reaching out to people means meeting them where they are at.
  • There is huge power in testimony or telling your story. In a community we already know each others’ stories, so if we meet somebody with a similar story we can introduce them. (For instance somebody you meet may be struggling with an illness and somebody in your community has already been through the same thing – this can give hope and encouragement and create a real connection).
  • It is really important that people see we are ‘normal’. People have all sorts of strange misconceptions about what Christians are like. When they step into our communities they should see great friendship, interaction and a genuine love and respect among us.
  • It makes a huge difference to the world when they see Christians loving each other with genuine care and concern “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133 v 1). Every person needs good community, it is what God has put into each one of us and He wants His church to model what it should be like.
  • People are not trophies. We need to genuinely love them whether they respond or not. They will see through any shallowness.
  • Throw a party! Jesus loved going to parties and loving people, so much so that the religious people called him a drunkard and a glutton! (Matthew 11 v 19).

Let’s get out into our communities and get involved in the great commission. There is a wonderful sense of security and comfort in doing it together, and joining in the great celebration of heaven when even one sinner repents. Let’s go for it!!

 August 30, 2012  Posted by at 9:03 pm Community, The gospel No Responses »
Apr 182012
 

marathon13As it’s the London marathon on Sunday I thought I would send out my notes from the first preach I ever gave a few years ago at my church. It was on the day of the Hastings Half marathon and I wanted to remind all those watching the race that all Christians are in a race, whether you are a sporty person or not. It is based on the passage in Hebrews 12 v 1

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

(1) Encouragement

Let’s look at the first part of the verse; “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” so what does that mean?

When we see the word ‘Therefore’ it means that a lot has been said before. We are in the middle of a point the writer is making. In Hebrews 11 the writer has been talking about faith. He goes through a list of the great men and women of faith who have gone before. These people have run their races and have proved that God is faithful and reliable. They are encouraging us through their example and perseverance.

It’s great to receive encouragement and you can see in a race how the runners are encouraged by a lot of people cheering for them.

In Hebrews 10:24-25 it says; “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

There are a number of ways we can give encouragement through our church community; Continue reading »

 April 18, 2012  Posted by at 6:32 pm Uncategorized 1 Response »