Feb 13, 2016

Gems in the Gospel of John - Part 20

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 20: John 5:pb
Law or Mercy

We read that, “The day on which this took place was a Sabbath”. Jesus presumably carried out this healing on the Sabbath that they prized so highly, quite deliberately. Had he wanted to he could easily have returned the next day and done it then. But he didn’t; he seems to have chosen to do it on the Sabbath quite deliberately. Why? He didn’t do things like this accidently; he had a purpose – what was it? All the rest of this chapter, and much of the rest of the book follow on from this one act.

Jewish thinking of those days had come down to three main points to identify Judaism and – as they thought – the people of God: circumcision of males, obedience to the food laws, and strict keeping of the Sabbath as a day of rest. Both most of the food laws and the details of Sabbath keeping were defined by the religious authorities. So this was very much their territory and they reacted strongly to what Jesus had done; “the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

Jesus had two clear purposes in what he did. The first was a general one: he wanted to remind them that, in the words of Micah: “what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” It is easy to miss the full meaning of those words. They say that the way to worship and serve the Lord is to treat our fellow human beings well. That is not what other religions say. They want us to carry out specific rituals directed towards their view of god. According to them we are to live certain ways, dress certain ways, pray in a prescribed format the correct number of times a day and so on. And the Jews had fallen into that trap; and many of them remain in it to this day.

Jesus says “no, that is not the way to worship and serve God the Father”, loud and clear. What really matters are relationships and we express our relationships with the Lord God very largely by our relationships with other people. That idea goes right back a long way. Of the ten commandments only the first four are concerned with us and God, the remaining six are about how we relate to other people.

Jesus’ second purpose is to announce loudly and clearly to his time and culture that he is different. He makes the rules; he has made the rules, though they did not recognize that, so he is above and beyond the often rather silly rules that they have constructed out of the Bible ( the Old Testament). He is God, walking this earth in disguise as it were. He is going to set up a new people of God in a new Kingdom, his Kingdom. That is going to cause a lot of problems in Jerusalem, particularly, and bring him to the Cross on which he would die as the one and only Son of God and true, faithful Israelite.

We will explore something of the implications of this second point – who Jesus was, and is, in following studies. The first point: the importance of relationships, all relationships, with God and other people, is there for us all to think about, take on board, and struggle with all our days.

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Feb 12, 2016

Friday Prayers 12 February 2016

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

12th February 2016

We pray together and when Christians pray together, including across the internet and from different times, different nations, different churches and different denominations - that reveals Church unity!

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Amen

(A prayer of Sir Francis Drake)

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Feb 11, 2016

Thursday - Testimony - Dave

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Dave's Story

"Why am I a Christian?"


The Apostle John, writing in 1 John 5v9-12 - "We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."

Why Is It So?

A testimony is an assertion offering firsthand authentication of a fact. For the Christian Disciple, classically it is generally expressed as how they became a Christian Disciple. But I think it is more than just how, and should expressly include why you are a Christian Disciple. I wonder what is your testimony about how you became a Christian Disciple? When was the last time you thanked our God for your testimony? Have you even thought about your testimony of how you became a Christian Disciple? I am sure you have all heard kids in the supermarket yelling out "Why?" to their parents. We all have, I am sure, questions we want to know the answer to. Why? The question I am often asked is "You are a Christian. Why is it so?" My father, was and remained throughout his life a convinced agnostic and in the few conversations we had about religion and Christianity, he could never understand why it was, that I could not just admit that I would never know if God existed or not, far less a God who was personally interested in me. My reply as ever, was that the very question "Why is it so?" needed to be answered, in order for me to be satisfied.

Why I am a Christian?

Now I could say that at the age of 12, we moved to a town on the coast of Australia, and was invited along to a local youth group and several weeks later, gave my life to Christ and became a Christian. Of course that is partly true. I can't even claim to be a Christian because I was raised in a Christian country. Australia was and is probably the second most secular country on this planet. Sure Australia has its moral base grounded in historic Christianity, but for the latter part of its history, Australia has been thoroughly secular and non-religious. Even if I had been raised in a country such as England, with Christian parents, that would also, only be partly true and I could have rejected Christianity as many people do. The reason that I am a Christian is not because I chased God, but rather He chased me. Unknown to me at the time, God was chasing me and following my every path with the urgency of a lover after the beloved, just as described in the Song of Songs 2:2-14.

God had been pursuing me

This piece of poetic Scripture speaks about the love that God has for his people, and the energy He puts in to calling his people to Himself. He is always reaching out, for all to return to His arms. As for me, it wasn't until I was a 12 year old that I heard that I needed to accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Before that I didn't know I had to do anything with this Jesus. Jesus was only a curse word for me at the time. That or was just someone or something that the RE teachers bored me with at school.

We are primarily Christians, not because we come to church services or just happened to have been born in a supposedly Christian country. We are primarily Christians, because God first chased and harried us into His arms. We are Christians, if you are one, because God first loved you. And as a tremendous lover, He beckons and calls people all the time to respond to His call, and back to Him.

How does He chase us with His love? He chases each person differently, just as each Christian testimony is different.

Take for instance the Apostle Paul in Acts 8 & 9. God chased him through Paul's mind and his religious upbringing and education. Paul had known about God from his childhood. Paul was a righteous Pharisee who saw persecuting these ‘Christians' as his religious duty, so that he may somehow find favour with God. As Paul was gloating over the death of the martyr Stephen, God was pursuing Him, probably raising doubts in Paul's mind as to why Stephen would say at the point of death "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and forgive them for what they do" (Acts 7v54-60). Surely doubts must have been raised in Paul's mind as he approved of this death (Acts 8v1). Paul was also wrestling with his conscience. Externally he was a righteous man, a Pharisee of Pharisees.

Yet when he internally examined himself and his heart, he found himself failing regarding covetousness, which is the last of the Ten Commandments. Then finally, Jesus himself makes a sudden and dramatic appearance before Paul and confronts him directly, "Why are you kicking against me? Why are you rejecting my advances?" (Acts 9) Paul's conversion to Christianity is often described as being sudden. But the only thing sudden about his conversion was this climatic appearance of Jesus.



Just as that was true of Paul, it is true of me, just as it is true of all those who profess to call themselves a Christian Disciple. I am a Christian Disciple not because of anything I have done, but rather because He first chased me, and because He first loved me. Jesus himself said "I came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19v10).

If you are a Christian today, it is not because of anything you have done. It is because of the events at Christmas and Easter that you are a Christian, when God entered this world as a human baby and took all the necessary steps so that all people could have the choice to be His people or not. In my more smug moments I used to congratulate myself for being a Christian. How proud I was that I, was a Christian and that God was a jolly lucky God that I had decided to follow Him. It was during one of my less self-deluded moments, that I examined myself and I found God pricking my conscience and correcting me, and I read the New Testament "For the Son of Man came, not to be served but to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mark10v45).



For more to think about please do ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.



Q1. What were the events leading up to my choosing to be a Christian disciple which symbolize God running after me?


Q2. How am I, as a Christian Disciple, continuing to listen to God's voice?
Q3. Will I be ready to give my testimony the next time somebody asks me as to why I am a Christian?

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Feb 10, 2016

WOW Word - God of Love

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WOW Word 33

God of Love


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

1 John 4:16 We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

We live in a world that is in love with love. Love, according to some people, is what makes the world go around. In the Bible, God’s love is revealed. The Apostle John in 1 John 4 does not simply say that God loves, but rather that God is love.

How is God love? How is God's love revealed today? How is that relevant to you?

Play or download the audio below to hear Alphy the WOWChurch cat explain more and how this affects you as a Christian in the 21st century!

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Feb 9, 2016

POD - Psalm 24

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Psalm 24

1 The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it.

The world and all its people belong to him.

2 For he laid the earth's foundation on the seas

and built it on the ocean depths.

3 Who may climb the mountain of the Lord?

Who may stand in his holy place?

4 Only those whose hands and hearts are pure,

who do not worship idols

and never tell lies.

5 They will receive the Lord's blessing

and have a right relationship with God their savior.

6 Such people may seek you

and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob.

Interlude

7 Open up, ancient gates!

Open up, ancient doors,

and let the King of glory enter.

8 Who is the King of glory?

The Lord, strong and mighty;

the Lord, invincible in battle.

9 Open up, ancient gates!

Open up, ancient doors,

and let the King of glory enter.

10 Who is the King of glory?

The Lord of Heaven's Armies-

he is the King of glory.

Interlude

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Feb 8, 2016

Think Spot 8 February 2016

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Think Spot - 8 February 2016

I wonder what your last week was like! I know for me it was full of trial and yet with a deep-seated trust that God was in control, despite the events and discouragements I was undergoing! So, whether it was a week for you to forget or a week for you to remember, we now enter a new week! Do you claim to trust God?

One of the natural outcomes of trusting God is joy - often an unspeakable joy that bubbles within you! A joy resulting from overcoming all that life throws at you, and overcoming those hurdles! It involves taking a daily commitment to follow Jesus Christ and not just a one off. It takes commitment, not comfort, to throw off hindrances and barriers. True joy results from being willing to allow the Holy Spirit to work in you, transforming you into the image of Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God the Father.

All of these things being done daily in your life lead to what I am convinced is the key to the reality of a successful Christian life - that key being joy. As you grow closer to Jesus, living in peace, trust and obedience, then your spiritual life will be your natural life and your natural life be your spiritual life! Your joy will abound and shine a light giving people a reason to ask "Where do you get all your joyous hope from?". You will then be able to· share Jesus as your source of joy. A joy that is anticipatory, expectant and true! Joy comes from putting Jesus first, others next and then yourself! Go practise it this week!

You can show this joy by singing, laughing, smiling, shouting praises to God, lifting hands in worship', and crying, but that is only the external part of joy. True joy also incorporates an internal joy. Real joy is when you can believe in: the mountain top when you are in your deepest valley. Abundant joy is being surrounded by darkness and still believing in 'the light'. Anticipatory joy is when amidst total confusion you still believe God has a plan of love for you. It was this type of joy that Jesus had, when in the garden praying, the night before he was betrayed, when full of mixed emotions and anguish he said "Not my will, but yours, Father!"

As sons and daughters of God, we have many reasons to be full of joy. Yet how often we forget! Here are some reasons for joy!

  • Psalm 51:8 & 12 - Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me-now let me rejoice. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

  • Jeremiah 15:16 - When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven's Armies.

  • Luke 15:8-10 "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won't she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbours and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God's angels when even one sinner repents."

  • 1 Peter 1:8-9 - You love Jesus Christ even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

Do you desire to be' overflowing with joy today and this week? Go into this week with a joy that is anticipating and expectant! Do you need to hand over to Jesus a particular area of your life' where Jesus does not fully reign and have control?

I pray that the Father will reveal more of Himself to you, as you daily seek His face, overcoming all hindrances to living a successful and joyful-Christian life. May the Holy Spirit who lives within you, if you are a Christian, continue to transform you into the image of the Son Jesus Christ, and all to the praise and glory of God the Father. Amen.


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Feb 7, 2016

Sermon - 2 Chronicles 6

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Solomon the Wise prays to God, Dedicating the Temple!

2 Chronicles 6v1-21

What is the story so far?


As some of you know, I like history, reading it and reflecting upon it. It is one of reasons that Youngmi says I am from the 17th century and sometimes apparently I act as if I am still there, locked in my monk’s cell! History is important though, not only to learn the lessons from it but also as Christians, the Bible shows how God has acted in human history.

I wonder if anybody here remembers that 5 years ago we looked together at 2 Chronicles 7, where God responds to the prayers of dedication we have before us tonight… Let’s have a brief recap of that amazing chapter of Scripture.

A brief recap of chapter 7.

From the first 3 verses of chapter 7, we read the Chronicler regaling one of the many great WOW moments of the Old Testament. The time when the glory of the Lord came down like fire and filled the temple to overflowing! The people fell down in worship of a great God, who was their God! This was followed by a great scene of abundantly joyful sacrificial worship to this God!

That must have been some prayer eh! Well, tonight as you may have gathered, we go back to looking at those prayers. Not in an exhaustive way, but to discover together what we can learn about God and His relationship with those who are His and seeing how this is relevant to us some 3 millennia later. During the intervening period, I wonder if Solomon had wrestled in his mind over what he prayed… Let us wrestle together now, in these prayers of his, albeit briefly. This is a key passage, a link if you like, between the Covenant that God made with Solomon’s father, David, including the building of a House for God, the Temple, and the glory of the Lord filling the Temple in 2 Chronicles 7. This reflects I think, the necessity and vitality of prayer in the unfolding of God’s will for humanity. The story is also regaled in 1 Kings 8 but with some nuance as you may expect.

A Covenant Making God

Down through history, the Bible reveals that God has made Covenants with humanity. A covenant is an important way to describe the progress of the relationship between God and humanity through the Biblical story. A covenant at the time of the Old Testament was a solemn commitment between the two covenanting parties to fulfil all the promises and obligations of the covenant. Covenants were common in all kinds of life, and not just between God and humanity. The idea comes from the sort of agreement commonly entered into in the ancient area round Israel between a high king, and a sub king or clan chief.

It is easy to see how a covenant is a good way to describe the relationship between God and humanity. God, who promises to protect and help the human with faithfulness, and the human who promises to worship and honour God with faith. The Covenants between God and humanity have several things about them regarding the relationship.

In these Covenants between God and humanity, God always took the initiative – sometimes by complete surprise. God has made certain commitments and has given His solemn promise to fulfil His end of the bargain. God waits for a response from humanity. God does not coerce or force but waits for humanity to take the responsibility of replying and acquiescing to God's covenantal promises through obedience, faithfulness and worship.

There are Covenants made in the Garden of Eden, Covenants made in history with Adam, Noah and Abraham, but we will fast forward to the Covenant between God and Moses before going onto His covenant with Solomon’s father, David.

The Mosaic Covenant

Why look at the Covenant made between God and Moses? We do so because there is a connection between that Covenant and the prayer of Solomon we are looking at tonight. Indeed the very Ark of the Covenant contained a gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and two tablets of stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. Charles Spurgeon commented “One is struck, with the fact that the language of Solomon is far from new, and is full of quotations from the Pentateuch (where the Mosaic Covenant is fully explained), some of which are almost word for word.”

This covenant is between God and humanity, in this case with the particular nation of Israel. It commences with the stipulation “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5). This covenant was to Israel in order that those who believed God’s promise, could know how to live righteously. Israel’s task was to bring the knowledge of God to all the world so that blessing might come to all humanity. In this, however, they were to fail and only when Jesus came as the perfectly obedient Israelite was it to become possible that all the world should be blessed.

This Mosaic covenant covered the three areas of life:

  • The commandments were given so they would know how to relate socially to God correctly (Exodus 20:1-17)
  • The judgments were given in order that they could relate socially to each other properly (Exodus 21:1 - 24:11 and in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy)
  • The decrees dictate their religious life so that God could be approached by humanity on His terms (Exodus 24:12 - 31:18, and in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).


The Mosaic Covenant was never meant as a means by which humanity could achieve salvation with God. It was given so that they could realize the helplessness of their own efforts, and their need of God's help as well as expressing their devotion to the Lord. Yet they still failed to bring blessing to other peoples. Galatians 3:22-24 explains that the Law was only a protective fence until through the promised Messiah, when humanity could be made right with God through faith. That Messiah we know to be the man Jesus Christ. More later though.

The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:4-17)

Now we fast forward to the Covenant which was in place as Solomon dedicates the Temple to God and is mentioned here. This covenant that God made with David, Solomon’s father. Three great things were promised:

  • A land forever (2 Samuel 7:10);
  • A dynasty without end (2 Samuel 7:11, 16)
  • A perpetual kingdom (2 Samuel 7:13, 16)


Through the Covenants we see a God who is willing to interact with His creation and bless it. When first century Christians such as the Apostles Paul, Peter and John checked and thought over all the events surrounding the life of Jesus Christ, they searched their Scriptures (our Old Testament). It was as God the Holy Spirit illuminated their minds, that they wrote down and passed on the whole range of Old Testament promises which were fulfilled in God's Messiah and the world's hope - Jesus Christ and Him alone. That is why it is important for us as twenty-first century Christian Disciples to read our Old Testament as well as the New Testament. For by reading the Old Testament, new light is shed upon our own understanding of the New Testament. One of the fundamentals of understanding the Bible, is to let the Bible interpret the Bible.

There is one more Covenant of God which we are to look at tonight, but we will see that shortly! We press on with these prayers of Solomon.

There are 3 prayers here.

  • v1-2 are opening words of praise to God
  • v4-11 are the 2nd prayer
  • v16-41 are the 3rd prayer.


We won’t go into any great detail tonight, you will no doubt be glad to know. We will get to about verse 21 I think. But with a very general overview, let’s look together and see what we can learn together from the wise man Solomon about God and about prayer. Charles Spurgeon said that “It is worthy of remark concerning this prayer that it is as full and comprehensive as if it were meant to be the summary of all future prayers offered in the temple.”

Part 1


1. Verses 1 & 2 - Solomon acknowledges God’s presence in the cloud

Here we see that Solomon acknowledges God’s presence in the cloud. The cloud of God’s glory has a long association with His presence. Solomon knew that the presence of the cloud meant that God dwelt in the temple in a special way. It was to be a special place to come and meet with God. It was symbolic of God living with His people.

2.Verses 3 to 9 – Solomon blessed the people and blesses God.

Here we see that Solomon blessed the people and blesses God. Solomon knew, affirmed and recognized that the completion of the Temple was the fulfilment of the plan of God and not of Solomon himself or indeed of his father David. God’s plan. David and Solomon were merely the human instruments, they were God’s arms and legs, but the work was affirmed to be God’s alone! God’s actions or work have confirmed His words, His promises! God’s hands were at work building the Temple as He guided and strengthened the human workers who contributed themselves to its construction.

Solomon recounts how their ancestors had escaped from Egypt in the Exodus 500 years hence. This shows its importance to the people of Israel at the time! Their minds were singing “If the Lord can bring us out of Egypt and rescue us, He will help us establish ourselves as a nation and build this Temple in order to worship Him. “

God is faithful to His promises. Down through the ages God has been faithful and keeping His part of the Covenant that He made with people. Later when we come to conclude we will see together briefly the promises of God for the Christian, including us today almost 3 millennia later.

Solomon now issues a statement concerning his father, David! Why David was not to build it. Though David, the mighty King had done extensive preparations for it, he didn’t actually complete it. The completion was left for his son, Solomon. Why? Because of God’s ideal of rest for his King and for his people. David had fought many wars and battles. It was part of his rest in God not to build the Temple. Solomon was spared the emotional turmoil of war, so could dedicate his energies to building the Temple – the House of God.

3. Verses 10-11 - Solomon presents the finished temple unto God.

And with verses 10 to 11, we see that Solomon presents the finished Temple to God. Solomon recognized that being the successor of his father David to the throne of Israel was significant. He then places the Ark of the Covenant, in its resting place in the Temple. The Ark of the Covenant was a physical representation of God’s promised presence with His people, the nation of Israel. It was a wooden chest clad with gold containing a gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. Solomon speaks of a God who fulfilled with His hands what He had spoken with His mouth. God had said what He was going to do, and then went and did it.

How are we doing at worshipping as we work for the Lord? Are we workers primarily and then click a switch to engage worship mode as we come here on a Sunday? Or do we consider ourselves God worshippers as we work? God wants worshippers before workers. In God’s mind, the only acceptable workers are those who have learnt the art of worship. Do you consider all you do as acts of worship to God? Everything you do as acts of worship to God? Because that is the kind of people God wants and desires, the kind of people who worship Him in Spirit and in truth and in all aspects of life – not just for a couple of hours on a Sunday. With those thoughts, let’s take a break now to sing to this amazing God we love, serve and are to keep our vision upon – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Part 2. Solomon’s prayer.


Verses 12-14 - Humility before and praise unto God.

.Here in verses 12 to 14 we see that Solomon stands before the altar of the Lord. Solomon did not dedicate the Temple from within the Temple itself because that would have been the wrong place. That was where only the Priest could go, so Solomon stands outside, raised up so that the throngs of people could see him. Before the altar, spreading out his hands in an act of symbolism - reaching out toward heaven in a gesture of surrender, openness, and ready reception.

Here Solomon recognizes that God was and is completely unique in all facets of being and expresses it. The false and pretend gods of the nations around Israel could not compare to Him in any way.

Verses 15-17 - Solomon recognizes God as the maker and keeper of promises.

Solomon commences now to thankfully praise God, because God has kept all His promises that He had mad in the past. Have you done that in your prayer life? Speaking out thanks for what God has done for you in the past?

He continues and calls upon God to keep the promises that He has now made. We are, as His people, to take on board God’s promises, take them to heart in faith, and then boldly and reverently call upon Him to fulfil the promises. Again, is that part of your prayer life? God promises and we are to appropriate, take hold of them and proclaim them, taking them on board in our life by faith, knowing that God fulfils the promises that He makes to people.

Verses 18-21 - Solomon asks God to dwell in this place and honour those who seek Him here.

Solomon now asks a question in this prayer! How often have you and I asked God questions as we pray, rather than just listing off our demands. God would reside in the Temple but not to the exclusion of other places. While God would have a special presence in the Temple, He would not be restricted to it. Solomon asks God to listen to His people as they pray and worship in this Temple dedicated to Him. When God hears the prayers made in the Tempe, Solomon implores that He would forgive His people and probably the greatest answer to prayer that they could expect.

Conclusion - Promises of God for the Christian

After such a prayer, how can we conclude? What are the challenges and comforts we have seen from this passage of Scripture? This Temple was destroyed about 400 years later by the Babylonians. It is long gone. What about David’s Covenant though? Was that ever fulfilled?

Remember David’s Covenant which we looked at briefly earlier on? Was that ever fulfilled? We can say that it has been! It was fulfilled gloriously in the coming of God, in the man Jesus Christ. When the great God did indeed come as a human being in the person we know as Jesus Christ. It is historical fact.

2 Samuel 7:12 predicted the birth of Solomon as David's successor to the throne, with his role being to establish David's throne forever (2 Samuel 7:13). We see this link to the man Jesus Christ, through the genealogies to both Joseph: who had a legal right to King David's throne (Matthew 1:1-17) and to Mary: who had a blood right to King David's throne (Luke 3:23-38). The land is the whole world, now potentially the sphere of the rule of Jesus (Romans 4:13); the dynasty was, through Solomon, eventually to be the eternal son, Jesus (Matthew 1:1, 6, 16; Luke 3:23, 31); the Kingdom is the kingdom of God, now established, and ever growing in the world in which we live. (Matthew 11:12)

All of which were fulfilled gloriously in the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus the Messiah, the Saviour. Jesus Christ – fully God and fully human. Not just for the Jews but for all people of every race and language. Really that should make us go WOW in awe of our God. Our God is the God of history and has stepped into history as a human being.

The New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Luke 22:15-20)

We see all this in what is called the New Covenant. Four features of this covenant are:

  • Regeneration – God will write His law on the hearts of people. (Jeremiah 31:33)
  • Restoration - God will be their God, and they will be God's people. (Jeremiah 31:33)
  • Promised Holy Spirit – God will indwell people and they will be led by Him (Jeremiah 31:34)
  • Justification – Sins will be forgiven, removed and remembered no more (Jeremiah 31:34)


This new covenant is sealed only through the perfect sacrifice of the God-Man Jesus on the cross. His death ensures the truth of this New Covenant. His death pays the penalty for the sins of all people. That is why we are to say yes to God and His New Covenant. This New Covenant can be contrasted with the Old Covenant, the Mosaic covenant that we looked at earlier, (Jeremiah 31:32; Hebrews 8:6-13) because this New Covenant finalizes and makes possible what the Mosaic Covenant could only point to: the follower of God living in a righteous life conforming to God's holy character.

Solomon asks in verse 18 “But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple that I have built!” In Solomon’s direct context, he was talking about the Temple which he was dedicating to God. In the overall context of the Bible, however, God did indeed come and dwell on earth. Not just with humans, but to be a human. Jesus Christ, the God-man. God keeps His promises and Jesus Christ is evidence of that. Oh that is so easy to forget when we are undergoing the trials of life. In what way does God keep His promises to us today?

Five quick statements.

  • By faith, He is praying for us. God the Son, Jesus Christ is making intercessions for Christians (Romans 8:34). He knows our troubles and He feels our cares and knows what we are going through (Hebrews 4:14-16). Isn’t that simply amazing and oh how easily we forget.
  • By faith - He will come to us. Have you ever felt like God is far away? Well you aren’t alone! Solomon’s father, David, often felt that God was far away and unconcerned with his life. Just a cursory look in the Psalms will reveal that. However he also knew that God would ultimately rescue him. Jesus always comes to us through difficult times. Although He may not come in the time we think He should come, because He knows when we need Him most.
  • By faith - He will help us grow - Once, when His disciples were in the storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus came to them walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). The purpose of this incident was to show that Jesus would be leaving them soon, so they had to learn to trust in Him when He wasn’t physically present. One of those disciples, Peter, wrote later on in his life, “for the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers” (1 Peter 3:12). How are you growing as a follower of Jesus? Not only in your knowledge but also in your transformation and development? As we are being transformed by the power of God the Holy Spirit into the image of God the Son, Jesus Christ, it is to the praise and glory of God the Father. Our transformation reveals God at work.
  • By faith, He will see us through - Again, when the disciples were in the storm, Jesus said “Come” and Peter went with Him. This must have encouraged the other disciples, for upon seeing Jesus’ power they worshipped him. Whatever troubles you are undergoing are temporary, and Jesus will see you through. For various reasons 2015 for Youngmi and I started out as if it could be our annus horribilus. Yet it became our annus mirabilis instead as we saw God at work each day throughout the year.
  • By faith, you have salvation - if you are trusting in Jesus alone for your salvation. By faith Jesus is praying for you, will come to you, grow you and help you through troubles. By being obedient to God, you and I are showing others our salvation and showing that faith, is not blind, but active. We can be obedient to Him by relying on His strength and wisdom. We are to be faithful to God and show it by being obedient to Him and getting on with the work we have been given, just as Solomon was in getting the Temple competed. Is your work worship or your worship work?


As we go out tonight, let us remember that God keeps His promises, He is listening to your prayers and He wants us to be in a dynamic moment by moment relationship with Himself. This great God wants you and I to be actively obedient to Him in all facets of our lives – our work, our play, our conversations, our worship and our relationships. If you are struggling in a particular area, get trusted others to pray for you and to hold you accountable – that is part of discipleship – part of following and loving God.

Our verse for the year as a Church is Psalm 105:4 “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” That was what Solomon did in the building of the Temple. That is what we are to do as well, as I am sure you are aware. Not only the Church here as a whole, but as individual followers of Jesus Christ. If we try to do it in our own strength we will fail. If we do it in the strength of the God we proclaim to love, worship, serve and glorify then we can – because all glory and honour will go to Him and Him alone.

As we go, are we ready in some way to tell others about this great God we claim is great and sing here in this fabulous building of our love and service? Are we ready to enable and encourage each other in the faith, and not just our friends and favourites, in some way as we see need? Are we actively engaging with the great God throughout each day, worshipping Him in all aspects of life and letting Him have dominion over every aspect of our lives as we put our trust fully in Him and in all aspects of life?

We are to be faithful to God and show it by being obedient to Him and getting on with the work we have been given, just as Solomon was in getting the job done.

As a general observation, most of the Church is scared of that word evangelism. We are not all to be evangelists like the Billy Grahams or Bruce Kitchings of this world, but we are to tell and show others about the God we claim to love and are in covenant with. Let’s go WOW the world, all of it, including our little corner here for God with the news of our God – the God who is outside of time who stepped down into time, into human history, in order that humanity could choose to follow Him or not - to be His children or not. Let’s keep our eyes fixed firmly on our God as we seek to enable and encourage – not just as a church body but also as individuals to all others that we meet. We are the Church on the hill. Let us, both as a church and as individuals, “Look to the LORD and his strength; seeking his face always.” Let’s go WOW for God together, heeding His advice and worshipping Him alone in all facets of life.

Are you tired and in need of comfort from all the challenges you are having to endure? Keep your eyes on God and allow Him to embrace you, comfort and lift you up. Remember that He is for you, He lives within you and you are His child.

Are you too comfortable? In need of a challenge to stop you becoming complacent? Ask God to help you overcome, to empower you and seek His face and wisdom. Ask for His strength to help you do what He has asked you to do?

The God we have comforts us in our challenges and challenges us in our comfort. We have an amazingly glorious God!

Let’s have a minute or two to bring ourselves before God and ask God to help you as only He can. Then I will close with a prayer before we go on to have our final song together.

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Feb 6, 2016

Gems in the Gospel of John - Part 19

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 19: John 5:6
A curious question


Jesus asked the invalid man lying by the well “Do you want to get well?” which seems a very odd question. Wouldn’t anyone want to get well? One possible explanation is that this man is a sort of professional beggar; similar to those you can see in some cities to this day. They rely on the charity of passers-by to put enough money in their begging bowl each day to keep them going.

This man must have had somebody to put him there each morning and take him home at night, feed him and keep him reasonably tidy and respectable. He might even have belonged to a family of beggars; some of who even go to the lengths of deliberately crippling their young children to give them the necessary problems to justify their begging in later life. If Jesus heals him he will lose the source of his livelihood and need to do something to earn his living, upsetting the whole pattern of his life that has gone on for 38 years. Would he even be able to walk any distance? His muscles will be almost non-existent after all those years with minimal use. It is a serious step he is contemplating taking. If this is indeed the case it would also explain why Jesus, meeting him later, says, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The word for ‘sinning’ here is not the word for serious moral failure but one that can mean no more than miss the mark or be mistaken, which would fit in with the idea that Jesus thinks he is simply living a poor life which could be much better.

What about us? Does Jesus ever have to ask us if we want to get well? Or are we quite happy living a life at a much lower level that we are capable of? We are ‘born again’, OK, but perhaps talk of commitment makes us cringe away. Jesus said to a man, “Follow me.” But he got some poor answers; the last of which was “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

If we have set out to follow Jesus we must be prepared to follow him wherever he may lead us. There will be no question of ‘do you want to get well.’ We are committed - so we follow him. We are not told about how difficult this man found walking was; did he have a problem with his balance; did his legs feel like jelly under him; did he fall over after a very few steps; what did he say to the people, probably his family, who had supported him and expected a financial return from their work, when he got home that night and had to explain that they would not get any more money from his begging?

Following Jesus is not simply a way of getting an easy ride through life; it may well mean tough things to do, apparently insurmountable obstacles in front of us, a need to keep going, to persevere come what may; to follow his call wherever it may take us.

Keep at it. In the long term it is worth it; and even if it wasn’t he is the Lord of all and it is worth doing for his sake alone. These days we are often encouraged too much to ‘follow Jesus’ purely for the sake of the benefits it will bring us. Yes, it does bring us benefits but if he is, and was, the Creator of the world ought we not to be prepared to follow him for his sake – because of who he is - not because of anything for ourselves. Think about it!


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Feb 5, 2016

Friday Prayers 5 February 2016

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

5th February 2016

We pray together and when Christians pray together, including across the internet and from different times, different nations, different churches and different denominations - that reveals Church unity!

O eternal Father of lights
from whom all good and perfect gifts come,
you who from whom we receive
the spiritual light and all good and perfect gifts,
and for the sake of Jesus Christ,
your beloved child,
master of heaven and earth,
who glorifies your will
and before whom all of us will one day appear to be judged,
and in whose name we must be saved,
for there is only one grace,
that of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and none other.
May the name of Christ be praised, now and forever.
Amen.

(A prayer of Mennon Simons)

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Feb 4, 2016

Testimony - From Skeptic to Salvation

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From Skeptic to Salvation

Hello my name is Richard. I have been asked to record the words of my testimony as I read them out at my Baptism in June 2009. Before I read my testimony at my Baptism, I said a short prayer. I shall start by saying the same prayer now.

Heavenly Father, Almighty God, please hear my prayer. Please give me now the strength, ability, and most of all, the humility, through your Holy Spirit, to say what I want to read out to this congregation, as you would want me to read and say it Lord. Please allow me to keep control of myself, and my emotions, whilst doing so. I stand humbly before you Lord God, and before your beloved Son, Christ Jesus.

Amen.



Before I speak out my Testimony to you, I wish to thank "all of you" for coming here this evening.

I especially wish to thank the fellowship of Poulner Baptist Chapel ( The Church On The Hill ) for all their prayers, kindness and care shown to me over the past months, of what has been, for me, a difficult time.

I praise the Lord for Dave Roberts, for his help and support, and his World Wide connections through Partake Ministries and his wonderful Web-Site. Because of Dave and his Web-Site, I have received, e-mail prayers from Christians all over the world, which have given me great heart and comfort. So much so, that they have made me cry with joy. I think whenever I re-read them they will always do so.

It is due and down to Dave Roberts, that I am standing here today being Baptised.



I wish to give a special thanks to Jeremy Andrews " Pastor " Jeremy from my previous chapel who, through kindness and no small sacrifice to himself, and to his own Church and Fellowship, has come here this evening to Baptise me with Adam. Thank you my Christian friend Jeremy.



As I have said, my name is Richard. I am 62 years of age. For 59 years of my life, I lived with faith " only in myself ".I was at best a Skeptic, at worst an Atheist. I would go right out of my way to test and very strongly argue against anyone I met, who professed to have a faith, in any sort of God. I needed nothing, but my own free will. All my faith was "only" in myself.

In 2002 / 2003 my world fell apart. I was left alone to myself. All my lifelong responsibilities disappeared. I became for 2 years a solitary hermit, living in my house, completely alone. It was during this time, alone, that I started to question, :- What my life was about. What was I here for. What was the reason for my being, if there even was one. I wanted, and so needed contact with other people. I needed to talk, to be listened to, and to listen to others. We are not meant to be solitary beings we are social creatures. We so need fellowship with others, like we need food.



After over 2 years of self imposed solitary confinement, I was becoming worried about losing my ability to communicate with others. It was back just before Christmas 2005, I received through my door the usual annual programme of all the Churches in my area, listing all their events, over the Christmas period. I decided to systematically visit all of them. Not to seek faith, Oh No', I'm a Skeptic, an Atheist. I just want to have communication with others.

I visited most of the local Churches over the coming months, and always found people to speak and listen to, but none of the Churches somehow felt right for me, until I visited " Verwood Road Evangelical Chapel", just up the road from where I live, in Three Legged Cross.

Here I felt good, " well better ". I liked the way they did things. It was not a liberal church. It was more leaning towards, a Brethren sort of fellowship, but not too hard line. There was no pomp or high ceremony, no fancy clothes or precious things to see or worship. These were ordinary people, just like me.



Over the next 10 months I visited V.R.C. " on and off " at first, maybe once or twice a month and found that I liked it more and more, so I went more and more. By October 2006, I found that I was wanting to go not only every Sunday but twice on Sundays.

It was at this time that I seriously decided to the best of my ability, to very fully investigate just what this Christianity was really all about. How could so many intelligent, thinking people, believe in it?

For the next 6 months, I lived in the single minded state of total study of the Christian faith. I devoted all of my time to the study of the Bible and many, many books, both for and against the Christian faith.

I prayed and prayed so very hard to God to give me a definite sign - a proof that God was out there and not something made-up in my own mind. I was in heartfelt tears, many, many times, asking for some proof, a miracle even, a certain sign, anything, but no sign or proof came. I was God's for the taking, but both He, and my heart, wasn't ready.



In late March 2007, something happened to turn me completely off Christianity. I went from very serious " single minded seeking " with all my heart and soul, TO - " This Christianity is certainly not for me ".

It is not " at all " important what " event " occurred to cause this absolute turn around. It is only important to understand that it was very strongly driven by " My Own Self Pride ". God knew that it had to be, for Him to use it, to turn this 60 year old Atheist into a Christian. It was during my very powerful, and emotional efforts, to try and take a wrong, and turn it into a right, No matter what the cost, that my eyes were turned back into myself. To see, or to start to see, that all I hated and despised in others, was also, very present in myself. I was no better, than all those that I felt the very strong need to " bring to rights " in my life. It was at this moment in time, of now seeing, just what " I Am ", that my life changed forever.

I was born on Easter Friday, Good Friday, the 4th. April.

In 2007, Three days after my 60th. Birthday, at exactly 12:32 p.m. lunch-time on Easter Saturday, the 7th. April, I at last discovered, that I was nothing, undeserving of my life, A Sinner that so needed the forgiveness of God. This opened my heart to God, and at that very moment, He Came In. It was at this time, that I understood, for the very first time, the Amazing events of Easter, and that Jesus died for me, that I may have life, and live life, to the full.



The next day, Easter Sunday, 2007, I took my first communion with my God.

I would now like to say, that I am not a writer, I agree with " Winnie The Pooh Bear ", when he said.:- "Yes' I know all my letters, but my spelling is wobbly. It's good spelling, but it wobbles, and my letters get into the wrong places!"

I'm not a poet either. I'm a practical man, an engineer. In the early hours of Easter Monday morning, 2007, at 1:30 a.m. whilst I was sat in my back porch thinking " in a daze " about what had happened to me on Easter Saturday, I picked up a pen and without thinking, wrote out the following poem. It is un-referenced, original and un-edited. It is just as it came down to me, 37 hours after finding my faith.

This poem is called :-

The Fellowship - ( Revealed )
I don't know where I'm going,


I don't know where I've been,


I don't know what's in store for me,


But God has hold, to let me see.


For he will surely show my way,


My guide,
to lead,
to change each day.



To give me life, I've never seen,


To serve, to try, to make life clean,


To hold me close, to let me go,

To understand, To love me so.



My God is One, with saviour Christ,


He gave for me, The Total Price.


My heart is found, the Ghost within,


Salvation sealed, Forgiven Sin.



My past remains, but all washed clean,


My future comes, like it's never been.


I cannot say the words I feel,


Of things that are, to me so real.



My sad, sad past, is gone, my futures clean,


For with my eyes, new life I've seen.


This gift of love, that has been given,


Shall remain with me, right through to Heaven.



 I believe that this poem was written with God's help. There is nothing good that can come out of me, from my own self, Self. Any good that may come from me, comes through me, from God. So please just Praise the Lord. ( Thank you.)

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