Apr 25, 2014

Friday Prayers

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

25th April 2014

We pray together and when Christians pray together, from different nations, different churches and different denominations - that reveals Church unity! Come! Let us pray together!

Order of Prayer Service

Opening Prayer

1 John 1:8-10

Confession

Lord's Prayer

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Prayers for those facing challenging situation

Prayers for those grieving & in despair

Prayers for those imprisoned

Prayers for Churches Worldwide

Prayers for the world

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Time for your own prayers

The Creed

Benediction

Closing Prayer

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Apr 24, 2014

Thursday with Tabitha - Hosea

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Thursday with Tabitha


4. Hosea by Tabitha Smith

If you have ever felt that God is distant, disinterested, and aloof from his creation, or youve thought that God is a cruel, heartless God who punishes his creation harshly, then the book of Hosea has truth for you. This short prophetic book contains heartrending descriptions of Gods feelings for wayward Israel. It is one of the parts of the Bible that most vividly demonstrates the intensity of feeling and the depth of emotion in the heart of God.

 

Hosea prophesied during the latter half of the eighth century BC. This was one of the most turbulent and difficult times in Israels history, just before the captivity to Assyria. The nation of Israel went through six kings in about 30 years. There was violence, political intrigue and great instability.

 

Hosea primarily writes to the people of Israel, whom he sometimes refers to as Ephraim. His main concern is the way that the Israelites have turned away from worshipping God and instead started to worship Baal.

 

Baal was a false god of the region of Syria and Palestine. He was thought to control agriculture, rainfall and fertility. Practices involved in the worship of Baal included human sacrifice and mutilation of the body; incest, sex with animals, the use of shrine prostitutes and drinking alcohol in excess.

 

At the start of the book of Hosea the prophet is called to do something extraordinary. God asks him to marry an unfaithful wife. The events that unfold in Hoseas family will become a vivid image of the events occurring in Israel. Hosea marries a woman called Gomer and she bears him a son.

 

After this she has a daughter and another son but the wording of the text suggests that these two children do not belong to Hosea. Gomer has been unfaithful to him. The children are given names that mean “not loved” and “not my people”.  In this way, Hoseas illegitimate children become a picture of Israel, a child that will not be shown mercy and does not belong to its father. However, even at this tragic point, there is a promise of the mercy and love that the Father will show. God declares that in spite of this terrible unfaithfulness, he will show mercy and love again to Israel and Judah.

 

In chapter 2 God expands on the image of the unfaithful wife that was introduced in chapter 1. Israel has strayed from God, turning to worship Baal. She has taken part in pagan worship ceremonies and she has not acknowledged the way that Gods hand has graciously provided all of her crops, wine, oil, silver and gold, which she now uses in the worship of Baal. God declares that he will punish Israel and expose her adultery.

 

But even in the next breath he expresses his desire to heal her, and restore her and draw her back into a loving relationship with himself:

In verses 19-20 God says:

I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.

I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.

And in verse 23 he says:

I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one'. I will say to those called 'Not my people', 'You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.' "

The language God uses is tender, affectionate and merciful. Israel will be his beloved bride again.

 

To complete the real-life metaphor, Hosea is instructed to go and love his wife again, even though she has been unfaithful to him. The fact that he has to buy her back suggests that she may have fallen into slavery. It costs Hosea to take Gomer back into his house. Hosea promises his faithfulness to Gomer and asks her to be faithful to him in return. This is powerful picture of love in action. It is love that is not based on warm glowing feelings but on commitment, intention, and faithfulness. This is love that hurts.

 

In the remaining 11 chapters of the book, Hosea continues his prophecy from God with a series of vivid pictures about unfaithful Israel. She is described as an adulterous wife, a disinterested mother, an illegitimate child, an ungrateful son, a stubborn heifer, a silly dove and a half-baked cake that is unfit for eating.

Hosea also paints a picture of Israel as a luxuriant grapevine that looked very promising at the start but then went bad. Another image likens Israel to grapes or new figs found in the desert – a wonderful discovery that then turned rotten.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking and tender passage comes in the first part of chapter 11. God describes Israel as a small child, a little son, who God himself called out of Egypt. God taught his child to walk, comforted him, kissed his wounds better and led him with kindness and love. But the child did not recognise the Fathers love and care and rejected the Father in favour of idols.

 

In spite of this painful rejection, God cannot abandon his child. In verse 8 God exclaims, ‘how can I give you up, O Ephraim?

 

The book closes with an impassioned plea for Israel to turn back to the Lord and enjoy the blessing that this change of heart would bring.

 

As Ive read Hosea, Ive been drawn to the image of Israel as Gods bride. God pledged his covenant faithfulness to his bride but she was unfaithful. As we move into the New Testament we discover a new image of the church, the new covenant people of God, as the bride of Christ. This image culminates in the glorious wedding feast of the Lamb in the book of Revelation. The church, now perfected and redeemed by Jesus, is presented to him for eternal union in the new heaven and new earth. Jesus has loved his bride, the church with the same complete commitment and devotion that God showed his original covenant people.

In the last days of his earthly life, Jesus had to experience the pain of loving those who would betray, desert and deny him. Johns gospel poignantly says, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1).

 

Jesus demonstrated the kind of resolute, faithful, steadfast love that would hurt so badly it would cost him his life.

 

So what do we take away from the book of Hosea? I think primarily it is a powerful reminder of the intensity of the love of God for his people. That includes us. If we are unfaithful to him and put other things in a higher place of importance in our hearts, this hurts God. The human emotion of having been cheated on by someone we love is only dim shadow of the effect of our unfaithfulness on Gods perfect heart.

 

I think Hosea can also draw us into deeper wonder at what Jesus did for us on the cross. If we marvel at the love Hosea showed to Gomer, and what it cost him to buy her back whilst she was still a slave, how much more should we be floored by the love that Jesus showed for each one of us on the cross, giving everything he had to buy us back for God, whilst we were still dead in sin!

 

Last Friday was Good Friday and Christians around the world remembered the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. After the grief comes joy and on Sunday we celebrated Jesusresurrection. Each Sunday is a commemoration of Jesusrising on the first day of the week. Each time we celebrate the Lords supper, the breaking of bread and the sharing of wine, we commemorate what happened on Friday.

 

Easter week may be over for another year, and of course we continue to celebrate each Sunday, but I think it is good to spend regular time thinking about the trial and the suffering of Friday. In doing so we remember what our freedom cost our Father, as we gather at the feet of our broken bridegroom, who loved us to the very end. 

 


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Apr 23, 2014

WOW Word 17

Alfie brings you a WOW Word

WOW Word - Your Cross

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Today Alfie talks about the WOW Word - Your Cross!

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Luke 9:23-26 Jesus speaking “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

What is the response of a Christian to be to these words of Jesus? As followers of Jesus Christ we are commanded to count the cost of following Him. That is how we carry our own cross for the sake of Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to be number one in the life of all those who choose to follow him! Jesus wants supremacy over everything in our lives, including family, friends, and possessions! Alas, that’s a cost too high for some! Play the video to see Alphy talking about a man who couldn’t give up something to follow Jesus and the consequences he faced because of that!


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Apr 22, 2014

POD - Psalm 130

Psalm 130

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

1 From the depths of despair, O Lord,

I call for your help.

2 Hear my cry, O Lord.

Pay attention to my prayer.

3 Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,

who, O Lord, could ever survive?

4 But you offer forgiveness,

that we might learn to fear you.

5 I am counting on the Lord;

yes, I am counting on him.

I have put my hope in his word.

6 I long for the Lord

more than sentries long for the dawn,

yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

7 O Israel, hope in the Lord;

for with the Lord there is unfailing love.

His redemption overflows.

8 He himself will redeem Israel

from every kind of sin.

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Apr 21, 2014

Easter 2014 - Easter Monday

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Easter 2014 – Easter Monday

Responding To The Easter Events

Our response to the events of Easter?

Today is Easter Monday! We have looked at the events of Easter! Jesus dead and buried! Jesus resurrected – raised to new life physically and with a new glorious body! WOW ! Alleluia!! - But so what? What is our response to this to be?


Our first response if we are followers of Jesus is that we are to love. Love not just in words but also in action.. Love God and love others. What kind of love? It is to be a practical, self-less, giving and sacrificial love. 1 John 3:16 states: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Jesus told all his followers to take up their cross if they were to follow Him as His Disciple (Luke 9:23). Are you as a Christian Disciple willing to take up your cross and do all you can do to love others?


There is a price to pay for true followers of Jesus Christ! Followers are surrender completely to Him in all aspects of life! Followers identify with Him in suffering and death and follow Him obediently, wherever He leads. Followers are to take up their own cross in order to show that they are followers of Jesus Christ – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.


The Cross is a choice

The cross is God’s solution to the suffering, evil, troubles and sin of the world. Only by Jesus Christ going to the cross have evil, sin, suffering and satan been dealt mortal blows. The cross provides the victorious solution. The cross is not a symbol to be merely placed around the neck on a chain, to be worn as a lapel pin, or as a item statement of fashion. The cross is not meant to portray Jesus as some form of sadomasochistic ‘tragi-hero’ as some people try to make it out to be. The cross is God’s solution to the problem of evil, sin, suffering and pain, as much as the wise of this world would love to think that it is not.


The cross is a choice. You can choose to deny the cross and say it doesn’t matter. You can say that it is an irrelevance and that is your right. God will not force you to accept the cross and love him. If He did, He would have created Adam so that Adam would automatically love him and not given him free will to rebel. That way the cross would not have been needed. But such is the enormity of the love of God, that each person, including you and I, have a choice to make – follow Jesus and take up your own cross and be an overcomer for Him. God will not force you to accept it, but he will keep on calling you back to the cross. Calling sometimes in quiet ways and at other times, much more loudly. You can deny the cross and its meaning and when Jesus Christ comes again in judgment, you will find that He denies you entrance into His glorious kingdom. When Jesus comes again, everyone will know who He is and bow down to Him. But only those whom He knows, will be granted access into everlasting life.


How you think of the cross, ultimately has relevance to you and affects your reality. You can accept the cross as your personal substitution, personal propitiation and personal redemption. That way you have peace with God. The cross of Jesus Christ thoroughly epitomises God’s glory, and if there were any other way that God the Father could restore people into relationship with Himself, then surely He would have done it that way. But there was no other way – Jesus Christ, as the Son of God who was simultaneously fully God and fully human, died on a Roman cross. He took on the sins of the world, paying the greatest price, so that you can be restored into a peaceful relationship with God the Father. That is for all people, of all nations, ages, generations, statuses and gender. The cross is amazing love in action and is ignored at great peril. Let us go forward in hope and faith, choosing deliberately not to boast in anything else, save only of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The wisdom of God as exhibited on and in the Cross of Jesus Christ, is foolishness but only to those who don’t accept it.


But it is more than that for the Christian!


Luke 9:23-26 Jesus speaking “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.


What is our response to this to be? As followers of Jesus Christ we are commanded to count the cost of following Him. That is how we carry our own cross for the sake of Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to be number one in the life of all those who choose to follow him! Jesus wants supremacy over everything in our lives, including family, friends, and possessions! Alas, that’s a cost too high for some! Here is one man who couldn’t give up something to follow Jesus!


Let’s call him Basil. Basil runs up to Jesus! Basil wants eternal life, and he wants it now! So Basil asks Jesus about how to get it. He has fully kept the commandments listed by Jesus. However! However when Jesus said to Basil that in order to follow Him, he would have to give up all his wealth and possessions in order to have treasure in heaven and eternal life, Basil leaves disconsolate and shattered. Basil couldn’t do it!


It was a step too far for Basil. He wanted his riches and also everlasting life, but Jesus said he couldn’t have both. He remains the only person that we know of, who left Jesus’ presence sorrowful. That was due to Basil putting his trust in himself, his riches and wealth alone. Now riches, in and of themselves, are not necessarily wrong! The life of Basil, this rich young ruler, reflected a life of absorption with his own self-interest and self-importance! Basil was not willing to make the sacrifice required to follow Jesus. He couldn’t count the cost of following Jesus– it was too high a price for him to pay!


What have you given up in and as a result of your decision to follow Jesus? Making sacrifices to follow Jesus is all part of the WOW factor of Jesus. Jesus demands that He is number one and supreme over everything else in your life - yourself, family, others and material goods including money and possessions.


How is this done? This is done by consistently ensuring that your works and words match your lifestyle and that no hypocrisy can be found, or indeed will be found. It means standing up for God in the face of adversity. It means loving others even though they hate you. In the UK, we aren’t systematically persecuted. We are marginalized, ridiculed and ignored but some of our Christian family around the world who daily face death simply because they chose to follow Jesus. They are carrying their cross for Jesus!


What about us in the UK? For example if we as Christians were known by our self-sacrificial love of all others, then Jesus whom we claim to love, follow, worship, and adore would be seen. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote "When Jesus Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. ... Discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Jesus Christ, nor is it hero worship, but intimacy with Christ." (The Cost of Discipleship). Bonnhoeffer knew that as a Christian, a person has to take up their own cross in following Jesus and count the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.


He goes onto say: "Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. ... The Christian disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry." (The Cost of Discipleship)


Finally, let’s look at 1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for others.” Jesus told us to take up our own cross if we are to follow Him as His Disciple. How is that possible? If we try to do that in our own strength and wisdom, we will fail. If we do that using the power and strength of the Holy Spirit within you, then you will succeed at following Jesus’ command. Are you as a Disciple of Jesus Christ willing to take up your? What a difference that would make to the community where you live!


Jesus still meets people today

To those that have responded to Jesus and are following Him, Jesus still meets with them. How does He do this?

Jesus walks with us, wherever we go and in particular in the darkest periods of our life. Just as he did with the two people on the road to Emmaus, he walks with those who proclaim to follow Him (Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-32). Jesus speaks whenever the Bible is faithfully preached and read from, just as He opened the eyes of those on the Emmaus road when He explained the Scriptures (Luke 24:27). Jesus meets us in the Communion or Lord’s Supper, with the bread and wine, which symbolise His flesh and blood as an act of remembrance of what He did for humanity.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, it show that we as Christians have also risen from the dead! Our old nature is dead and our new nature is alive! In the sacrament of baptism, Christ’s death is symbolised in our going under the water bodily, just as His resurrection is symbolised when we are raised up and out of the water! WOW! Jesus Christ – dead, buried and raised to new life! The Christian – dies to self, buries their old sinful nature and raised to new life in Jesus Christ with a new nature, ready to serve the risen Jesus! WOW!

More than that, His resurrection was not merely coming back to life. Jesus had raised people back to life during his ministry. But those people would go on to die again. Jesus was not like that, because he had new and glorious body! And we too will one day have new bodies! WOW!

If you are not yet a follower of this Jesus, then start following now! You may not have another opportunity to do so! If you don’t know what to do then contact us here at Partakers and we will help you!! Thank you.

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Apr 20, 2014

Easter 2014 - Easter Sunday

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Easter 2014 – Easter Sunday

Risen and Firstborn from the Dead!


So far in the Easter story, we have seen that Jesus has been crucified and he is dead. He is buried within a sealed and guarded unused tomb. Or is he? Let’s look at what the historical Gospel accounts say!

Let us first look at the sequence of events over the period of time after Jesus death till He ascended. Now remember, the Gospels are documents which have recorded historical events. All four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, tell us that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried within a sealed and guarded tomb. What do these four Gospels say happened next?


The tomb is empty


  • Two Marys watch the burial: (Matthew27:61, Mark 15:47, Luke23:54-55)
  • Roman soldiers guard the tomb and place an official Roman seal upon it: (Matthew 27:62-66) 
  • Women prepare burial spices then rest: (Luke 23:56)
  • An angel rolls the stone away: (Matthew 28:2-4)
  • Women arrive at dawn with spices: (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-4, Luke 24:1-3, John 20:1)
  • Angels appear to women: (Matthew 28:5-7, Mark 16:5-7, Luke 24:4-8)
  • Women dart back to tell disciples: (Matthew 28:8, Mark 16:8, Luke 24:9-11, John 20:2)
  • Peter and John investigate the empty tomb: (Luke 24:12, John 20:3-9)
  • Peter and John go home: (Luke 24:12, John 20:10)
  • Mary Magdalene weeps by the tomb: (John 20:11)
  • Mary sees two angels: (John 20:12-13)

Jesus’ appearances


  • Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene: (Mark 16:9, John 20:14-17) •
  • Jesus appears to the other women: (Matthew 28:9-10) •
  • Women report to the disciples: (Mark 16:10-11, John 20:18) •
  • Guards testify to the priests: (Matthew 28:11-15) •
  • Jesus meets two people on the Emmaus Road: (Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-32) •
  • Jesus appears to Simon Peter: (1 Corinthians 15:5, Luke 24:34) •
  • 2 report to disciples in Jerusalem: (Luke 24:33-35) •
  • Jesus appears to the Disciples less Thomas: (Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-24) •
  • Disciples report to Thomas: (John 20:25) •
  • Jesus appears to the Disciples and Thomas: (Mark 16:14, John 20:26-29) •
  • Jesus appears to seven people: (John 21:1-14) •
  • Jesus questions Peter 3 times: (John 21:15-23) •
  • Jesus appears to 500 people: (1 Corinthians 15:6) •
  • Jesus appears to James: (1 Corinthians 15:7)

Evidences for the resurrection


OK so Jesus is resurrected! What evidence do we have for Jesus resurrection to new life? As you read the Gospels and the Book of Acts, notice the changed attitude of the disciples after seeing the risen Jesus. They changed from defeated, cowardly people to victorious, brave people. Nobody who could have produced the dead body of Jesus, did so. Their silence is as significant as the preaching of the Apostles. Or take the multiple appearances of Jesus to various numbers of individuals and groups of people at, various times of the day and in differing circumstances. This shows that Jesus’ resurrection was physical in nature! Some people say Jesus’ resurrection was spiritual in nature but not physical. But the amount of people that saw Him physically afterwards dispels that particular myth. What about the current tangible evidence - the survival and inordinate growth and impact of the early church and that the church is still growing 2000 years later. If there was no bodily resurrection of Jesus’ would people really have risked persecution and death for knowing a lie? One or two people maybe, but not hundreds and thousands!

Dealing with Doubters

Yet people still doubt. Let us say Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. Surely the authorities, both Jewish and Roman, would have produced his dead body in order to quench this new movement! But they didn’t, and the reason they didn’t is because there was no body to produce! Would the disciples have really risked death for telling and maintaining a lie about the risen Jesus? They were beaten, confused, defeated and dispersed men until they saw Jesus truly did rise from the dead. After seeing Him, they were transformed and victorious people.

I have had people say to me that somebody (even the disciples) stole the body. Hardly likely! If the body had been stolen, for what reason or purpose? How would they have got past the Roman Guard and moved the stone a great distance from the tomb? This very reason is what the Jewish authorities tried to perpetuate by way of a bribe, in Matthew 28:11-15 “Now while the disciples of Jesus were going, behold, some of the guards came into the city, and told the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave a large amount of silver to the soldiers, saying, “Say that his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him and make you free of worry.” So they took the money and did as they were told. This saying was spread abroad among the Jews, and continues until this day.”



Then we have the swoon theory. Jesus didn’t die but merely fainted and recovered consciousness in the tomb. Even the sceptics disagree with this theory, one of whom said “It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to His sufferings, could have given to the disciples the impression that He was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life”.

Or perhaps, they all went to the wrong tomb. That’s it – they went to the wrong tomb. Whilst one person may have gone to a wrong tomb, not everyone would have done. Besides, the gospel accounts tell us that people were waiting outside the tomb where Jesus was buried! Surely Joseph would know which tomb Jesus was buried in, seeing as Joseph owned it!

Lastly, Jesus didn’t die on the cross but somebody was substituted for him. This is certainly untenable, given the rigidity and strict record keeping of Roman rule and with the eyes of the Jewish hierarchy watching. This conjecture is a lie of satan, because he knows the significance of Jesus having risen physically from the dead.

Significance of the Resurrection

Now let us look briefly at the significance of the Jesus’ resurrection. We look in the writings of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8: Now I declare to you, brothers, the Good News which I preached to you, which also you received, in which you also stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold firmly the word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers at once, most of whom remain until now, but some have also fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all, as to the child born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.


That was the Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthian church about the Jesus having been raised from the dead – physically! The resurrection of Jesus Christ provided the central theme for the sermons and teaching in the early church (Acts 1:22; Acts 4:33, Acts 17:18). But what significance is there in Jesus’ resurrection?


The resurrection proved and vindicated all Jesus’ teaching and claims as the suffering Servant and attested to His being fully God and the last Judge of all mankind (Isaiah 53:10-12; Acts 2:36; Acts 3:13-15; Romans 1:4). The resurrection, declared God’s approval of Jesus obedient service and the fulfilment of all the Old Testament promises, resulting in forgiveness of sins and salvation being only found in and through Jesus Christ, which was the prime motive for evangelism in the early church (Acts 2:32, Romans 4:24-25). Jesus’ resurrection is a sign of the bodily resurrection for all believers in Him, giving a new attitude to death and transforming hopes (1 Corinthians 15:12-58, Romans 8:10, 2 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Peter 1:3 & 21). As the resurrected King, Jesus now intercedes for us and has perfected the redemption of all those who choose to follow Him (Romans 5:10; Hebrews 6:20; 1 Peter 1:21).


Finally the resurrection of Jesus’ physical body is a sure victory over satan, sin and death. All three are conquered and squashed. Satan is a defeated creature and will do anything to drag people into defeat with him. The power of sin is conquered, and sin’s grip is overcome if you are a believer in Jesus Christ. Finally, as I said earlier, death has been beaten, because those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ will live forever with him – death is not the end but a beginning. If Jesus Christ did not physically rise from the dead then as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 “Now if Christ is preached, that he has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith also is in vain. Yes, we are found false witnesses of God, because we testified about God that he raised up Christ, whom he didn’t raise up, if it is so that the dead are not raised. For if the dead aren’t raised, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all people most pitiable.


Or let me put it in my own words - if Jesus Christ did not physically rise from the dead, we as Christians are the product of the greatest delusional lie and are the most foolish of all people.


Tomorrow, on Easter Monday, we will look at how we are to respond to the message of Easter.


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Apr 19, 2014

Easter 2014 - Silent Saturday

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Easter 2014 - Silent Saturday

It is Saturday. Jesus Christ has been condemned, crucified, died and is buried in an unused tomb. What now? It is the day after. It is the Saturday, which means it is the Sabbath. The Bible is silent about this day. This is the day between the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There isn't a story about the tears shed, the memories shared, the hugs and the hurting hearts. Where are His close followers, the disciples? What of the Jewish authorities? Were they gleeful at the demise of this man Jesus who claimed to be the Messiah? We don’t know.

This is a dark day, a day when Jesus did some of the most precious work ever. This is the day when after his physical death He walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and He carried all of us. Every sin, every tear, every wound - He carried them all and didn't drop a single one.

Harried and harassed, He fought death and washed us clean. From that last breath to the angelic tomb break He fought for us, He carried us.

We used to have to walk through that valley, until Jesus on that dark Sabbath walked it one last time for us. How wonderful! How amazing. How awesome!

Knowing what we know now, we can see this dark Sabbath for what it really is. But how was it for the sisters, Mary and Martha or for Mary, the mother of Jesus and the other Mary of Magdalene and the other women who were waiting to tend to him.

Their time was short on that terror filled Friday and they could offer no proper anointing, no proper farewell. A quick bit of tearful heart broken work before the sun went down. Then a day to wait. The longest, darkest day knowing that He was gone.

Even in the middle of our deepest grief we can find peace. I think these people of Jesus were seeking that peace, together. I wonder how much love they had for each other or how badly they were frightened? I believe that the Holy Spirit quietened their hearts.

I wonder on that dark Sabbath if the members of the Sanhedrin or Pilate and Claudia or Herod were frightened by what they had wrought? Or were they rejoicing that another problem was solved? When did someone find Judas? Did he lay at the bottom of the hill all day, alone and scavenged upon? Possibly. Did anyone mourn that lost soul, besides Jesus?

I wonder about the thief who accepted Jesus at the last moment of his life. Today you will be with me in paradise! That was the promise. What a promise!

Because of our sins, we all shared the same death sentence as those criminals who flanked our Lord. And yet it was because of those very sins that He choose to pay our price for freedom. Jesus did what no one else could do - He saved the world from itself. And, wonder of all wonders, He did it willingly and with love. The ultimate love. The perfect love.

That dark Sabbath was washed in tears, blood and yet it claimed no victory. The temple curtain was torn. The old was passed away. That dark Sabbath was the last of its kind. No more innocent lambs to bleed out, potion out and burn. The perfect Lamb took all of our places, forever!

It is fitting that the dark Sabbath had no words spoken about it. It is fitting because everyone needs to catch their breath from the cross to the empty tomb. It is a huge journey to take, but Jesus no only led the way but He cleared it, filled it with light and love.

Today, as you catch your breath between Good Friday and Easter Sunday think of the quiet darkness of that Sabbath day. Consider what the silence, the tears and the sense of waiting for something amazing must have been like. The world waited, the very creation beneath our feet, just as was beneath theirs, held its breath. Everything was waiting for that light to burst forth victorious!

Shanyn

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Apr 18, 2014

Easter 2014 - Good Friday

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Easter 2014 - Good Friday


Centuries before Jesus Christ, these words were spoken about the coming Messiah.

Isaiah 52:13-14: See, my servant will act wisely he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness—

Isaiah 53:10-11: Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

On this Good Friday, let us look briefly at the events before Jesus crucifixion – His trial and condemnation – going on to looking briefly at his crucifixion, death and burial before finishing with what the Cross of Jesus Christ was all about.

1. What of Jesus?


Jesus was Condemned

Jesus is before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. Pilate gave in and permitted the flogging and mockery of Jesus, in the hope of shaming & appeasing Jesus’ accusers (John 19:1-3). Pilate affirmed Jesus’ innocence after the scourging (John 19:4). Jesus’ refusal to answer stung Pilate into reminding Jesus of his Roman authority (John 19:10). Jesus, however, corrected Pilate’s idea of authority and told him that although Pilate may have power on earth, Jesus’ power reached beyond earth (John 19:11). Jesus knew that his work of bring people back to God in a loving relationship did not rest on the actions of a mere Roman governor. Pilate was more concerned with his own position than he was for justice. In all this, we see Jesus as the true Passover lamb.

Jesus was Crucified

Jesus bearing his own cross, was killed as a common criminal (John 19:17). We read, that Pilate was responsible for fixing the sign “The King of the Jews” (John 19:21-22). The clothes of condemned prisoners were given to soldiers on duty (John 19:23). Even when he himself was in agony, Jesus showed concern for his mother, committing her to the Apostle John (John 19:s.26-27).

In Jesus’ final moments he uttered “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28) and “It is finished.” (John 19:30). The desire of the Jews (John 19:32) to fulfil their rituals was important because the Sabbath fell within the Passover festival. The breaking of legs (John 19:s.32-33) sped up the process of death. The piercing of Jesus’ side, and the flow of blood and water proved Jesus was really dead (John 19:34).

Jesus was Buried

Joseph of Arimithea and Nicodemus buried Jesus. The significance of “in which no-one had ever been laid” (John 19:41) is to demonstrate that the body of Jesus at no point came into contact with the decay of a dead body. But before we leave today, lets investigate what Jesus’ death on a Roman cross two thousand years ago means for humanity today and why He had to die on a cross in the first place.

2. What Has Jesus’ Death Done For All Mankind?


All human beings, in their natural state, are born sinners and have rebelled against God (Romans 3:23). That is what sin is – rebellion and disobedience against God. However, because of Jesus’ death on the cross, God offers forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7), Peace (Romans 5:1) and reconciliation with God, so that we are no longer His enemies (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Through the cross, and only through the cross, we are made just before God (Romans 3:24-26), it cleanses us from sin (1 John 1:7) and makes us right before Almighty God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of the Cross, we have direct access to God (Ephesians 2:18) and Jesus Christ intercedes for us (Hebrews 2:17-18). Because of Jesus Christ’s death on a Roman cross, all those who follow Him have freedom from the power of slavery to sin (Galatians 5:1) and freedom from the power of the devil (Hebrews 2: 14). None of the above things are true if we do not follow Jesus.

3. Why did Jesus go to the cross?


The problem!

The problem is sin or disobedience (active or passive) of and towards God. Sin is what separates humans from God and as a consequence leads to both a spiritual and physical death (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Isaiah 59:2). In the Old Testament, sins were dealt with by blood sacrifices of atonement as coverings for sin (Leviticus 17:11), for without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin (Hebrews 9:22). A blood sacrifice is God's way of dealing with sin.

These blood sacrifices of the Old Testament signified several things:

  • They provided a covering for sin.
  • They showed the great cost of sin.
  • They were an exchange or substitution.
  • They were only always going to be a temporary measure as they pointed forward to Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross.

The Solution!

The solution lies not in continual animal sacrifice of the Old Testament because Hebrews 10:4 reminds us that the blood of animals cannot take away sin but was only a veneer or covering. That was why it was necessary to repeat time and time again! It is only through the death of Jesus, that sin is taken away (Hebrews 9:11-15, 26-28), because Jesus is our permanent sacrificial substitute!

Substitution

Jesus died for our sin, the just for the unjust (1 Peter 3:18). That is how God is both just and the Justifier of sinners. That is why Jesus needed to be both fully God and fully human! If he lacked either, it would not be the full substitutionary sacrifice that was necessary to bear the permanent consequences of sin! When Jesus died on the cross, in our place, he bore the consequences of all sin – past, present and future. He therefore became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) and it was His blood as a lamb without spot or blemish (1Peter 1:18-19) that fulfils God’s requirements permanently.

Propitiation

Towards sin and sinful behaviour, God has great fury, anger and wrath (Jeremiah 21:5). Yet as Micah 7:18 “He is slow to anger and quick to forgive”. Propitiation basically means the turning aside of God's anger by the offering of the sacrifice of Christ. God's anger and judgment of sin falls on Christ, instead of us. We need to approach God to appease His anger, in order to accept it (Romans 3:25; Isaiah 53:5; John 2:2, 5:6).

1 John 2:2: He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 4:10: This is real loved—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice (or propitiation) to take away our sins.

Redemption (Ransom) Mark 10:45

Not only was it propitiation, but also an act of redemption! In the time of the New Testament, this word was used to refer to the buying back of a slave - the price paid to buy the slave’s freedom. God paid redemption so that humans can be freed from the slavery to sin (John 8:35 Romans 7:14). The price was paid (1 Peter 1:18-19) and so we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). But it is our responsibility to choose that way! God does not coerce forcefully – He leaves it as a choice for humans to make as individuals.

4. Victory over Satan, death and sin.


As we look back through the Gospel accounts, we see Jesus being tempted and taunted by satan. We see the temptations in the wilderness, satan using the Apostle Peter to try and deflect Jesus away from the cross and satan using Judas to betray him. If Jesus had ever succumbed to temptation, and sinned in thought, word, action or inaction, then He Himself would have needed a Saviour. That is why Jesus is the perfect sacrifice – because he never sinned and always did what He saw God the Father wanting Him to do. Jesus’ death on the cross is the centrepiece of all human history and the focal point of eternity. At the cross, Jesus’ mission is accomplished. At the cross, this God-man, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all sin of all time, so that people can have the opportunity to be restored into relationship with God.

Some people say that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, but rather somebody was made to be His substitute. But this is a lie of the devil. Nobody could have been a substitute or the Jewish leaders would have said so when the rumours of Jesus’ resurrection began to circulate. The Romans kept strict discipline and regimen and nobody would have been able to get in amongst the Roman soldiers and somehow substitute themselves for Jesus. Yes, somebody else carried the cross for Him, but nobody but Jesus was nailed to that cross. Jesus died on that cross and not some substitute.

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Apr 17, 2014

Thursday with Tabitha - Amos

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Thursday with Tabitha


3. Amos by Tabitha Smith

Welcome to the second podcast in this series about the books of the minor prophets. This week we're looking at the book of Amos.

Amos was a prophet during the time of King Uzziah of Judah and King Jeroboam of Israel. His prophecy came somewhere roundabout the year 760 BC, give or take a few decades! At this time Israel and Judah were enjoying an unusual spell of prosperity and political stability. This was especially the case in Israel, where the land was very fertile and abundant crops were growing. The threat from the kingdom of Assyria seemed to have lessened, at least for the time being, so life was pretty good.

Unfortunately the people of Israel and Judah had wandered far from the standards of holiness that God had intended for them. Idolatry was rampant, the rich were getting richer and more corrupt by the day and the wealthy were exploiting the poor. The Israelites falsely concluded that their prosperity was a sign of God's obvious blessing. They were looking forward to “the Day of the Lord” when God would finally crush their enemies.

It is into this environment that Amos was called to prophesy. We're told that Amos came from Tekoa, a small village in Judah, south-east of Bethlehem. He is identified as a shepherd or maybe a sheep breeder. A rather unlikely choice for a prophet on the face of things!

Amos begins his message in chapter 1 with a series of proclamations of God’s judgement on the neighbours of the Israelites. He has words of judgement for Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, the Ammonites and the people of Moab. These people groups were enemies of the Israelites. The charges against them relate to their violence, cruelty and abuse of other human beings, particularly during times of war and conquest.

The Israelites would probably have been nodding along happily until the beginning of chapter 2. At this point Amos suddenly turns his attention to Judah and then to Israel. The judgements leveled against God’s people are of a different order altogether. God accuses them of violating the terms of his covenant with them - they are called to a higher standard of moral and spiritual living than the pagan nations around them.

Amos doesn’t hold back! The sins of the Israelites include oppression and exploitation of the poor, sexual sins, idolatry, misuse of God’s temple, abuse and silencing of the prophets, and empty, ritualistic worship.

God had patiently tried to warn his people, by sending them prophets and providing examples of holiness in the form of people like the Nazirites, who took vows of holiness and of abstinence from wine. But God’s people had not listened and now God would judge them. The main message in the book of Amos is this: God’s judgement is universal; Israel and Judah are not immune.

Chapters 3 to 6 expand on the initial judgements outlined in the first two chapters. Even the women of Israel are exposed as people who oppress the poor - God likens them to the fat cows that graze in the fields of Bashan! God is appalled at the nature of the people’s idolatrous worship. The people had started to offer sacrifices in places other than the temple in Jerusalem and they had appointed priests who were not Levites. These things were deviations from the instructions that God had provided for worship. They had even turned to worshipping golden calves and other idols. The Israelites thought that they were offering worship that was pleasing to God but it was actually detestable to him. In chapter 4 God summarises a series of warning shots that he gave to the people, which were intended to bring them back to him, but the tragic refrain is repeated over and over again: “yet you did not return to me”.

In chapter 5 Amos entreats the people to turn back to God, telling them that it’s perhaps not too late. God laments over Israel like a father whose virgin daughter has been raped or become a prostitute.

In chapter 5 God declares the following:

“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.

Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.

Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

(Amos 5:21-24 ESV)

God calls the people to repent and come back to him and seek justice. In chapter 6 further sins are described which include the complacency of the people in the self-indulgence of the rich at the expense of the poor. Chapter 7 to 9 contain a series of visions which Amos has. These visions declare that God’s judgement is unavoidable if God is to be just, which he must. The judgement is imminent. The final vision pictures God standing by the altar of the temple shaking it to its foundations. This is a prophecy about the final downfall of Israel. The prophecy was fulfilled very soon after this. Assyria gained power again and conquered Israel in 722 BC.

After all the serious judgements and the terrifying reality of the impending downfall of Israel, the book of Amos ends on a tantalizing note of hope. Despite the people’s willful disobedience and the depth of their depravity and sin, God is a God of mercy and deliverance. There is a promise of future restoration of the Israelites. God promises to repair the dwellings of David and preserve a remnant of his people for the future.

So what can we learn from the book of Amos? Firstly, we learn that God is always just. God is a God of love and he is mercifully patient but he has to judge sin, otherwise he is not really loving at all.

Despite appearances to the contrary, nobody is getting away with anything. Every human being who has ever lived or who will ever live must stand before God to be judged. And the truth is that none of us can stand before him with a perfect account, with an unblemished record of our own. However, the message of hope at the end of Amos hints at the salvation that would eventually come through Jesus.

God never meant his judgements on Israel and Judah to be the last word. In mercy he preserved a remnant through the line of David through which the Messiah would come. Through Jesus, God has provided the means of our deliverance and restoration. Those who’ve trusted in Jesus’ perfect, sinless record and accepted his payment for their sin (the sacrifice of his own life) will be able to stand before God without fear.

Amos’s message also shows us that the knowledge of God comes with responsibility. Those who know more of God and his standards of holiness will be held more accountable than those who have never heard about him. God chose the people of Israel out of all the peoples of the earth, but not because they were better or more numerous or more powerful. Quite the opposite in fact! They were chosen by grace alone.

God made his covenant with the people of Israel and gave them clear boundaries of ethical and moral conduct and instructions for their spiritual worship. These were for their own protection and their own benefit.

Today, as the new covenant people of God we are no longer required to keep all the requirements of the original old Testament law that God gave to Moses. However, Jesus did not come abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17). Just because we have been freed from the demands of the law we are not simply free to do whatever we want. In fact as Jesus pointed out we are called to go above and beyond the requirements that the old law demanded. Rather than restraining ourselves to proportional revenge on our enemies we are called to love them. Instead of simply giving the bare minimum required we are called to give extravagantly. Jesus teaches us that the standard of holiness we are called to is so much higher than we would think. We should view sin with such seriousness that hating somebody should feel as bad as murder and lusting after another person should be regarded as adultery in the heart.

Amos’ words need to speak to us today, reminding us that God’s standard of holiness is so much higher than we realize. Instead of passing our own judgement on the sinful Israelites we need to look honestly at our own lives and realize just how similar to them we can be. God calls his people to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with him (Micah 6:8). Are we doing that? Do we actively look for opportunities to defend the rights of the poor in our society and our world? Do we think carefully about how we worship God? God is so merciful and patient with us – he calls us to come back to him, to abide in his love, to learn from him and to be his hands and feet in the world we live in.


Tabitha

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Apr 16, 2014

WOW Word 14

Alfie brings you a WOW Word

WOW Word - Christ

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Today Alphie talks about the WOW Word - Christ!

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Our WOW Word today is Christ! The word Christ is the New Testament word for the Old Testament word, Messiah. So we look to the Old Testament first, in order to understand what the New Testament word Christ means! It was appended to His name in the New Testament, as a way of expressing who He was! Play the video to discover what Alphie has to say and/or download the file to take away! Bless ya!

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