Jul 24, 2014

Creation Book Corner 24 July 2014

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Claire's Creation Book Corner

24 July 2014

Our Christian faith is about much more than turning up on Sunday mornings or growing our churches. Each and every one of us is called to make the world a better place. The only trouble is, if only we all knew how!

With 7 billion people on this planet, human life is complicated and very very large. What can one person do to make a difference?

Some individuals, like Martin Luther King, can make a big difference to an entire country. But most of us are not called by God to act on such a large scale - because small scale makes a difference too. When large numbers of people choose to do the good they're capable of, the world becomes a much kinder place.

Lots of people nowadays are talking about how Twitter and Facebook have changed our outlook. With these social media we can watch and communicate with those in power in an unprecedented way. It's an amazing thing, but also far too seductive.

As a Christian have you ever wasted hours of your time being indignant online because you think it's going to help a cause of social or environmental justice? I have.

I've no doubt that making a noise for justice online is a good thing and that for some people it is a special calling from God ... but for the rest of us it's a lot of effort in an arena where we may not be at our most effective.

This week I've decided to try something different. I've realised that my main power to make a difference rests not in how much noise I make online, but in which corporations I vote for with my money.

When I buy food from a farm that genuinely loves animals, that is a powerful vote of support for animal rights. In my opinion it's worth more than a hundred tweets or Facebook posts.

So, I've decided to try an experiment. For two months I'm going to stop making a noise for social and environmental justice online. I'm going to put all that campaigning energy into making shopping choices that support justice for all Creation.

I've got quite a big task ahead of me. Among other things I've got to cut down on the amount of packaged food I buy and check carefully whether animal products are ethically sourced. Whew! I feel exhausted just thinking about it!

But the question is. What are you going to do?

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Jul 23, 2014

Ask Dave - Question 8

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Question 8

 

What Happened In 2013 on the WOW USA trip?

(as interviewed by Mrs Heidi Trotman)

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Jul 22, 2014

POD - Psalm 91

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Psalm 91


91:1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

91:2 I will say of Yahweh, "He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust."

91:3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence.

91:4 He will cover you with his feathers. Under his wings you will take refuge. His faithfulness is your shield and rampart.

~

91:5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day;

91:6 nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that wastes at noonday.

91:7 A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you.

91:8 You will only look with your eyes, and see the recompense of the wicked.

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91:9 Because you have made Yahweh your refuge, and the Most High your dwelling place,

91:10 no evil shall happen to you, neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

91:11 For he will put his angels in charge of you, to guard you in all your ways.

91:12 They will bear you up in their hands, so that you won't dash your foot against a stone.

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91:13 You will tread on the lion and cobra. You will trample the young lion and the serpent underfoot.

91:14 "Because he has set his love on me, therefore I will deliver him. I will set him on high, because he has known my name.

91:15 He will call on me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him, and honor him.

91:16 I will satisfy him with long life, and show him my salvation."

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Jul 21, 2014

Think Spot 21 July 2014

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Think Spot - 21st July 2014

G'day! Welcome to Partakers Think Spot at the start of new week on Monday the 21st July 2014!

God's love in the Bible is seen as unfailing, everlasting, intimate, sacrificial, unbreakable, all-conquering, personal, great, immeasurable and all-knowing. This is seen supremely in the Cross of Jesus Christ, when He died for the sins of the world. Supreme love overcoming all that is not love. Even when great acts of evil are committed in the world, love is all around. Love continues despite such acts.

How are Christians to respond to this love of God?

The apostle John writes in 1 John 4v15-16 - If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so 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.

Our motivation as Christians is to love and to be love. This is a love, which is sacrificial and self-less. It is tough love which is of service to other people.

Loving and serving others, are the primary ways of showing you love God! It is easiest to love your friends. But Jesus commanded that his followers also love their enemies (Matthew 5:43-45)! Now that is very radical and can be difficult! We see constantly in the media and elsewhere, that regards our enemies, we are to be confrontational or at best to just ignore them!

Love and serve everyone

How is it possible to love our enemies? It is only with the help of God and His abundant grace towards us! We depend on the Holy Spirit who lives inside all Christians to empower and guide! To only love those who love you is what is expected by people everywhere as normal behaviour. But as a Christian, you are to do more! You are to be seen to love more than other people. You don't have to like others as friends, but you do have to love them as fellow human beings!

Go!

Go into this week, being prepared to show your love of Jesus Christ, remaining close to Him and serving other people generously with abundant grace-filled love!  By loving and serving others, you become God's arms and legs in a physical world.  One of the greatest limitations you face in loving and serving other people is a severe lack of imagination! So as you go into this week, ask God to expand your imagination to love and serve; as well as asking for the opportunities to do them. Loving and serving are hallmarks of an authentic Christian life.  Love continues even amidst chaos and turmoil all around. Go and be part of the continuing of love.  Thank you.

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Jul 20, 2014

Serving in God’s Orchestra of Joy

Instruments in

God's Orchestra of Joy!


Introduction

We look today at an aspect of being instruments in God’s orchestra of joy - obedient service!

So, please turn in your bibles to Leviticus 9:22 and let us witness together a scene of great and exuberant joy!

The first seven chapters of Leviticus talk about the different offerings or sacrifices that the nation of Israel was to make to God. Then in chapter 8 we see the beginning of the priesthood and the joyful work of Aaron and the priests. Their main role of service was to act as mediators between a holy God and the people of Israel, particularly in the role of making those offerings and sacrifices. In fact, they were the ultimate multi-taskers, as they seemed equally adept as butchers, doctors, teachers, quality assurors and public health inspectors! The passage we have in front of us tonight shows the culmination of this priestly ordination.

1. Great joy!

Read Leviticus 9:22-24



Israel was a nation, chosen by God, to be His people and to be a shining light of God’s glory to the world around them. This nation, God’s treasured and precious people, however, way back in Exodus 19, refused to be a nation of royal priests. Instead they preferred being represented by Moses and Aaron. So Moses and Aaron have gone into the Tent of Meeting or Tabernacle to meet with God. This was where Moses and Aaron would meet with the Lord during the travels to the Promised Land. The whole nation is waiting for them! So Moses and Aaron, as we just read, come out, give a blessing to the people and God’s glory appeared to the nation!

WOW! That must have been some blessing Aaron gave! Whatever his words were in v24, they were words that invocated Almighty God’s power, presence and peace to be with and upon His people. No wonder the people fell on the ground with their noses in the dirt as an act of joyful worship and praise to God!!

The burnt offering and fat portions on the altar were consumed in a great fire emanating from the manifestation of the glory of God! So amazing was this sight that a tremendous wave of exuberant joy overcame the people and they all fell with their face in the ground! There was probably a mixture of amazement, surprise and reverent fear! That must have been a tremendous sight to behold! Falling face forward was a characteristic method of showing total surrender and submission to a king or master. Here it is adopted by the Israelites as symbolic surrender to their God! The infinite, almighty, majestic and glorious God, was living and being worshipped by His people. This God was a holy God and these people were to be His people.

So there is tremendous joy in the nation of Israel and this is evident in their spontaneous act of submissive, voluntary worship and expressions of thanks to their Almighty God. Moses and Aaron had followed God’s guidelines obediently and the nations true joy was in evidence. Not just joy as an emotion, but true joy as evidenced through sacrifice, praise and testimony!

Now it would be very nice to just stop there, but the story continues! The Bible is an honest book! Just as the celebrations were concluding and the priests were taking up their sacred roles, something happens!

2. Great tragedy!

Read Leviticus 10:1-11

These two men, Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron the High Priest, start their duties. They take their pans, fill them with hot coals from a fire, place aromatic incense on the coals and offer this to God as an act of worship. The fire from the glory of the Lord comes out, engulfs them and they die. What happened? They hadn’t followed the strict guidelines as given by the Lord and had therefore violated all the instructions given to them. Strict regulations were required by sinful humans to be in and work in God’s holy presence!

How different can these two scenes be? In the first passage we looked at, fire represented God’s presence and spoke of His love, warmth, purity and blessing upon His people. Here though, the fire represents a different aspect of His presence through his active holiness and therefore danger and judgement.

Who were Nadab and Abihu? They were Aaron’s eldest sons and had received a privileged upbringing. They had seen God working from close quarters. When Moses went up Mount Sinai to speak with God and receive the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments, they were there. They had just spent the previous week in training for their new jobs as priests in service to God. No doubt they had witnessed at close quarters, the fire we spoke of earlier in Leviticus 9v24. So they were not only important people, but also experienced.

Yet in spite of all this, they did what was contrary to the guidelines given them. They were disobedient. We don’t know why they did it. It could have been old hairy legs satan whispering in their ears “Go on. You have a go now. Your dad did it, didn’t he? So can you. Don’t worry about those guidelines God gave you. it will be alright tonight, my sons. You felt good and happy, didn’t you? Trust yourself.”

It could have been pride, jealousy or impatience that led them to disobey the strict guidelines, or in light of 10v8 perhaps too much wine! Perhaps they were caught up in the excitable fever of the joyful occasion and wanted joy like a drug! What may have seemed right to them, most certainly wasn’t right to God. Perhaps they thought they were doing God a big favour by zealously embracing their roles as priests and wanting to offer as many sacrifices as they could! We will never know!

But we do know, that regardless of the reason for doing so, they actively disobeyed God. They chose to do it! Not only was it a fragrant disobedience but also a flagrant disobedience. In offering a “strange” or unauthorised fire, they had disregarded God’s instructions for the timing, place or manner. They had been set apart and dedicated to a life of serving God and His people and had now paid the ultimate consequence for their disobedience. Their disobedience is referred to again in Leviticus 16 in the regulations for the annual Day of Atonement. Regulations probably given to ensure that this never again occurred! Aaron, their father, was silent – stunned I would imagine! He has seen at firsthand, that in a life of true joy, God requires obedience over sacrifice. Aaron and his remaining sons were not to mourn or appear to be sorrowful. This was to signify the seriousness of Nadab and Abihu’s disobedience. To us this may seem harsh, but Aaron and his remaining sons had to prioritize service to God over commitment to family. This was symbolic of Joy – Jehovah Over Yourself. Aaron and his other sons had to remain engaged in priestly duties and responsibilities. Other members of the family were allowed to mourn however.

3. A God of Judgement

Now today, in the 21st century, we have a problem. We are quite comfortable with a God of love, peace, joy and kindness. In the movie Crocodile Dundee, Mick Dundee announces that “Me and God – we’d be mates”. If that is the limit of our vision of God, then may I suggest that our vision and opinion of God is too small? Perhaps our God is too nice and too comfortable. Yet a problem seemingly remains. How on earth can a God of love, peace, gentleness, kindness and joy act like this against two of his dedicated servants, Nadab and Abihu? Is not that a God who is at odds with himself?

The first thing we can say here about God is that while He is most assuredly a God of love, kindness and peace, He is also a God of judgement – a God who judges. That is plainly evident from this passage. We need to acknowledge him as a great lover, but also as a terrifying Judge. Not just a friend, but also a Judge! The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us that it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God who is a consuming fire! Remember also, that God always prefers obedience to sacrifice.

We all have, I am sure, at some point liked to think of God as being all love and never judging. People say: “It will be alright in the end, because the love of God conquers all.” Well, that love involves judging! The judgement of God is unbiased. God shows no favouritism and He is always just and right. It is a reflection of His mercy, that nobody can claim God is unfair. But God is not merely a God of mercy, peace and love but also as we have seen, He is a God who judges and administers justice impartially in accordance with His mercy, peace and love!

4. A God of Wrath!

Not only is He a God who judges but He is also a God who has great wrath – it is an essential, permanent and indelible part of His character! His wrath may be slow to burn, but it is still anger and wrath! The holiness of God requires that He punish sin through His wrath! What sort of God would He have been if He had not done what He did to Nadab and Abihu? What if He had said, “That’s ok boys, you will get it right next time.” Then He most would certainly be seen as a capricious, unjust, fickle and hostile being.

It’s not a popular subject these days in our churches! Most churches mumble when it comes to bible passages such as this! While most sections of our society, and indeed parts of the church, view God as a doddery benevolent being, sitting benignly in the sky in His rocking chair and mildly ‘tutting’ when people disobey His commands. But God is not a benevolent Grandfather figure and neither is His wrath or anger unwarranted, immoral, cruel, fickle, spiteful or capricious! God’s wrath is always to administer and mete out a divine loving justice, which corresponds to God’s innate and essential characteristics and attributes of light, perfection and holiness. That’s the picture given by all the Bible writers. When we speak of a perfect God in human terms, whether that is His being a wrathful judge or tremendous lover, it reflects the imperfect limitations of our humanity. We were made in the image of God and not the other way around!

Secondly, God’s honour was at stake! He is both zealous and jealous for His own honour and name! He can only act within the confines of His own characteristics and attributes! He must always work out of His immutable holiness! God was passionate about living at the centre of His people and there was no way He could allow renegade priests to disobediently defile His dwelling place!

Nadab and Abihu were punished because they worked in His immediate presence as illustrated by verse 3 “Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honoured.” If God had not punished them, then that would have made God out to be a hypocrite and a liar, acting contrary to His own essential nature and He would be seen as an impotent God with seemingly multiple personalities. This story illustrates that Nadab and Abihu had to serve as an example, which is why we have the story.

Thirdly, Nadab and Abihu broke the guidelines, given by God on how to enter into His presence. They took the wrong fire, went at the wrong time and were ill prepared for such an occasion. They entered a place of God’s holy presence in a sinful and disobedient state. People full of sin can never enter into a place where God resides, because God is uniquely holy, sinless and perfect without fault or defect.

Nadab and Abihu chose, for whatever reason, either intentionally or unintentionally, to break God’s guidelines in how, where and when to offer a sacrifice. There is no indication, however, from the Biblical text that they were eternally separated from God at their death, as in judgement of their sins. But rather it seems they were judged according to what they did with their abilities, talents and gifting as ministers in His service.

5. So what’s all this got to do with us today?

So what’s all this got to do with us today in the 21st century? Over and over again in the Old Testament, we see that the nation of Israel were to be a people of service separated out for God! Under the terms of the covenant God made with them through Moses, that was the core of God’s agreement with them. It commenced with the stipulation Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me (Exodus 19v5)”.

This covenant was with the nation of Israel in order that those who believed God’s earlier promise to Abraham could know how to live a life worthy of being God’s people: to live a life relating socially to God and to other people. It was also to show how humanity could approach God on God’s terms alone and not on their own conditions! God was and is a perfect and holy God! His people, Israel, were to be a holy and separated people of service and to reflect God’s glory and greatness to the other nations!

This covenant was only in place until the Messiah came and made the perfect sacrifice. All the Old Testament Covenants pointed towards the time when the Saviour Messiah would come – God would come Himself to save His people! The Mosaic Covenant was never meant as a means towards salvation. It was given that they could realize the helplessness of their own efforts to save themselves and their need of God's help. One day, there would be a New Covenant between God and humanity and this Mosaic covenant would be fulfilled!

6. New Covenant?

So what is this New Covenant? Four primary features are:

  • · God will write His law on the hearts of people.
  • · God will be their God, and they will be His people.
  • · God will indwell people and they will be led by Him
  • · All sins will be forgiven and removed eternally

This new covenant was and is sealed only through the perfect sacrifice of the God-Man Jesus on the cross. His blood ensures the truth of this New Covenant. His death pays the penalty for the sins of all people who choose to say yes to God and follow Him. This New Covenant finalizes what the Mosaic Covenant could only point to: the follower of God engaged in a dynamic relationship of Joy with a God who loves them.

No longer would human priests need to mediate between God and humans, because Jesus Christ, the full visible manifestation of God, would fulfil that role as mediator and all people would have access to God through Him! Amazing stuff! You and I have instant access to Almighty God. We can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence and assurance because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. God no longer dwells in a Tent of Meeting, the Tabernacle or the Temple made of stone – He now lives in each believer – immediate access guaranteed! Amazing and yet how often we don’t avail ourselves. But it is more than that, because as royal priests of this New Covenant, for that is what we are, we too are called into a joyful life of obedient service of God!

7. Called to service!

Just as it was for Aaron and the Old Testament priesthood, when we serve and minister, God’s honour is released. This is done because service is to show the beauty and glory of God to others. Serving, service and ministry are never to be about what we as mere humans can get out of it. When that is the motive, God is neither honoured nor glorified. God’s glory and supremacy is to be the ultimate reason for service! God is both zealous and jealous for His glory and honour to be upheld! Nadab and Abihu could testify to that I am sure!

As Christians, as part of our life of true Joy, we are called to serve and minister. We are called to exhibit and show our true Joy - just as Aaron and his family were called into a lifetime of obedient service to Jehovah God. Their JOY motto was to be “Jehovah Over Yourself”. For us, true joy is to be “Jesus Over Yourself”. Each of us here tonight is called to perform a unique serving and ministerial function.

Showing love, serving each other and giving to others are a practical outworking of our joyful obedience to God. The ministries of Nadab and Abihu were cut short and hallmarked with disobedience. Our ministry, and all Christians have one, is to be hallmarked by obedience borne out of love for God and Him alone. Devoted obedience to God borne out of a desire to see God glorified, regardless of what other people may say or think.

And we are not left alone to serve in our own power! We would most certainly fail if that was the case! God Himself has lovingly equipped all those who follow Him, to serve! God the Holy Spirit, who lives inside each believer, has endowed each Christian with gifts, talents and abilities for that purpose - service! This is so that the whole church is built up and “that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” God wants you and I to be active in service – life long service hallmarked by loving obedience to Him, which reflects our joyful dedication to Him, to His praise, honour and glory!

8. Judged for our service!

Finally, just as God’s judgement was upon Nadab and Abihu, the Bible also tells us that all those who follow Jesus Christ will be judged according to what they have done, with what God gave them. That includes any spiritual gifts, talents and abilities we have! This judgement will not be for salvation, because if we have decided to follow Jesus Christ, judgement for our sins has already fallen on Him, when He died on the cross.

Of our sinfulness we have been set free and declared innocent! If we here tonight, have accepted God’s free offer of salvation by grace alone, through Jesus Christ alone, then we are declared right with God and in a joyous relationship with Him. Again, it is amazing! However, our belief and faith are to be visibly manifested through joyful obedient service of, and to, God!

This judgement is not for your salvation but for your rewards! As followers of Jesus Christ, God will ask you and I, to give an account of ourselves, and we will be judged according to what we have done. The quality of our work will be tested and our motives exposed – either we did things for God’s glory or we did them for our own glory. We will give an account of the opportunities and abilities entrusted to us as instruments of God’s orchestra of joy.

Conclusion!

For those of us who would call ourselves Christians, the Bible is very clear – you are called to lovingly and obediently serve in some capacity. A life of true Joy is seen in obedient service to the glory of God the Father, through God the Son Jesus Christ, in the power of God the Holy Spirit who lives in you. Tonight, if you are engaging in either intentional or unintentional acts of disobedience, then you need to turn your life around to one of utter obedience to the God you profess to follow.

As a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit within you, as a seal of your salvation. Your body is the temple where God now resides! You can’t hide from Him, so you may as well choose to be obedient to Him in a life of joyful service, exhibiting that true Joy and the hope you have in Him! Just as joy followed Moses and Aaron’s obedience in Leviticus 9, so too can it be for those of us willing to lovingly serve obediently!

But if you are not a Christian here tonight, then please do make yourself known to us afterwards and we would love to talk to you about becoming a Christian. While you have breath, it’s not too late to start this life of joyful obedience to a loving God and enter into a living and dynamic relationship of true Joy with Him. Don’t leave it so late that you incur God’s judgement for your sins and have everlasting separation from Him and others! God does indeed love you and He is calling you to come into a dynamic relationship of true joy with Him today. Take the opportunity today – come and follow Jesus Christ. He is calling you to respond!

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Jul 19, 2014

The Spirit Explodes 22

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The Spirit Explodes

Part 22 of 22 - The journey to Rome – at last.

Acts 27:1 – 28:31


by Roger Kirby


It really is rather puzzling that Luke spent so much space on his precious scroll describing this sea journey from which we, like everybody else, are not going to be able to get much spiritual nourishment.

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There are at least 3 possible reasons:

  1. this sort of exciting sea voyage complete with shipwreck was commonplace in Greek literature and Luke wanted his work to fit the normal pattern to make it as acceptable a read as possible;
  2. this is a ‘we’ passage, indicating that Luke himself was on this voyage and so was complying with the expectation of those days that historical writers should have had some involvement in the events they described;
  3. Luke wanted to set Paul’s journey to Rome and his death there in parallel to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and his death, thus showing how the life of a Christian should imitate that of Jesus.

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Read Acts 27:1–12.

Sea voyages around the eastern end of the Mediterranean in those days were difficult and dangerous. Most ships hugged the coast, putting into a safe harbour every night if they could. The date of the Fast, mentioned in this passage, was variable but it probably fell in October, by which time sailing had become very dangerous because of the autumn storms. Paul was an experienced sea traveller and clearly had as good an idea of what was safe as the sailors and a better one than the centurion. There is a good example of Luke’s accuracy here: Paul suggested there might be loss of life, and there wasn’t. This is presumably a bit of everyday advice rather than prophetic insight. Getting Egyptian grain to Rome was such a high priority that the Caesars promised to reimburse the owners of any ships lost on the passage, hence the willingness of the owner to take the considerable risk of proceeding.

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Read Acts 27:13–26.

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Paul even says ‘I told you so’ which cannot have endeared him to the sailors. But his general sense of optimism based on his certainty through visions that he would reach Rome would have helped everybody aboard the stricken vessel. The Syrtis mentioned is off the coast of Africa so a long way from the course they intended to sail, which is an indication of how panic struck they were.

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Read Acts 27:27–44.

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By this time it seems that Paul was effectively in charge of events. It is easy to imagine that, prisoner though he was, everyone was looking to him for wise guidance.

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Question 1: What was Paul’s attitude to his fellow travellers and the ship’s crew?

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He showed great sympathy to them as fellow human beings. He did not start trying to ‘save souls’ in this dire emergency!

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Read Acts 28:1–10.

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It would seem that Julius, the centurion, had by now given all control over to Paul. There was a widespread belief in paganism in those days (and perhaps in Judaism too – think of the story of Jonah) that those who were guilty of crime would not survive a sea voyage. It is interesting, therefore, that Luke says it was the islanders who thought Paul must be a murderer getting his just deserts from the snake. Those who had been in the ship with him clearly had a very different view of him. By the time they left the island when the better weather came in springtime the islanders respected him as well. The whole episode is a great example of how a Christian should carry him or herself in times of difficulty and adversity.

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Question 2: What, therefore, is Luke suggesting by the way he described this voyage?

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In the eyes of his fellow travellers, perhaps even including some of the less perceptive Christians, Paul was innocent of any crime. To them trial before the Emperor was unnecessary as he had already been judged by the sea and found innocent.

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Throughout the story there is a wonderful blending of natural wisdom on Paul’s part and the open statement of occasional visions from the Lord that directed them all to safety against all the odds.

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Question 3: What picture of the relationships between Christians and non-Christians do the events on Malta place before us?

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There is a remarkable sense of friendship and mutually beneficial relationships presented here. The islanders show ‘unusual kindness’ to the shipwrecked folk, the local big man is friendly towards them, Paul is ready with help to sick people, and the islanders honour the disciples when they come to leave. It is a reminder that although we may think theologically of non-believers as sinners they are also our fellow human beings and we should relate to them as such.

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Read Acts 28:11–16.

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The last part of Luke’s ‘we’ passage is first an easy trip by ship from Malta, round Sicily and up the west side of Italy to Puteoli some 200 rough Kms south of Rome. Then something of a triumphal procession for Paul by land, meeting various Christian groups on the way. The ‘we’ passage ends as they reach Rome so Luke presumably left them at that point.

~~

Paul’s treatment in Rome was very relaxed. There is good reason to think that he met up with a high Roman official and was placed under only a form of house arrest with a soldier keeping an eye on him. This all suggests that the documentation about Paul sent from Caesarea did not contain a serious case against him.

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Read Acts 28:17–31.

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Paul’s explanation to the Jewish leaders that he had done nothing, and did not intend to do anything, contrary to their interests suggests that the case against him had been dropped by the Jews of Judaea. He did not intend to bring a counter case of wrongful arrest. What follows is a repetition of events in many cities in the east when Paul started to preach, but without the rioting and general antagonism evident in so many of them. Presumably the presence of the Roman authorities in this great city had a quietening effect on their sensibilities.

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The great unsolved mystery about this final chapter is what happened after the two years of house arrest. Did Luke write another scroll that has since been lost? We have no evidence to that effect. Was Paul acquitted after the two years and go on mission again? That is what an historian called Eusebius thought writing 250 years later. Did he reach Spain as he had hoped? We have no solid evidence of that? Was he eventually martyred in Rome? There is a strong tradition that he was.

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Question 4: Triumph or tragedy? What do you think of what Luke says happened in Rome to summarize his long and vivid account of the acts of the apostles?

~~

There is much more triumph than tragedy here. Luke started off his scroll by emphasising the way that the good news of Jesus was to be taken to the ends of the earth. A necessary step in that direction was to take it to the centre of the earth. The saying is ‘all roads lead to (and from) Rome.’ Even today if you live anywhere in the southern half of Europe you will probably have seen how true that was. Their roads were so well built they still exist in many places. Paul had used them to best advantage for the message of Jesus. Paul must have been approaching the end of his natural life span anyway. He would be happy to die, especially if that was in the service of Jesus. To him it was a triumph indeed.

~~

There was, of course, some tragedy mixed in as well. Paul’s comment to the Roman Christians a little earlier had been “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart … for those of my own race, the people of Israel.” Once again here, in the heart of Empire, the Jewish population was split right down the middle, as it had been nearly everywhere Paul had been.

~~

For one last question think back over the way Luke has described the work of Paul in all these many places he visited. He has consistently described Paul as starting with the Jews and the Gentiles associated with the Jewish faith.

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Question 5: What does that imply for the work of the gospel today?

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It seems to suggest that the right place to start with the preaching and teaching of the gospel is with the nature of God, the Law and our struggles with it. So much modern preaching starts with the benefits of following Jesus as a way to a more satisfactory sense of personal fulfilment. That does not seem to be the place where Paul started. Should we copy him rather more than we currently do?

~~

Luke had given Theophilus an exciting and challenging story to read, as he has us. I hope it has excited and challenged you as you have read or listened to it. His very last sentence captures so well the whole story “he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus – with all boldness and without hindrance!” We, you and I, cannot do anything about the “without hindrance “ bit. The rest we can! Let’s do so. May the Lord bless you in your endeavours to that end.

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Jul 18, 2014

Friday Prayers 18 July 2014

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

18th July 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!

A prayer from St Mark's Liturgy

(From the 2nd century)

O Sovereign and Almighty Lord,

Bless all Your people, and all Your flock.

Give Your peace, Your help,

Your love toward us Your servants,

The sheep of Your fold.

That we may be united in the bond of peace and love,

one body and one spirit,

in one hope of our calling,

in Your divine and boundless love.

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Jul 17, 2014

Creation Book Corner 17 July 2014

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Claire's Creation Book Corner

17 July 2014

Do I sound like an overheated Brit? I feel like one. We're having a very warm summer. You may disagree with mainstream scientific opinion about the causes of climate change, but you can't disagree that it's happening. That's clear for all to see in the Arctic.

People in Greenland, Alaska, Northern Canada, Siberia and far Northern Europe are all reporting big changes in their local environments due to the warming of the planet. There's no land on the very top of the world. Animals that live there rely on the thick sea ice. Polar bears travel long distances across the ice to hunt out food for their young.

Unfortunately there's been overall decrease in the amount of ice cover since 1978. People who live in the Arctic region report that more polar bears are coming into their towns and villages, taking their food and putting lives at risk.

Another animal that's suffering is the walrus. These enormous lumbering beasts have started gathering on land, and crushing each other to death in terrible stampedes because there isn't enough sea ice.

The change in climate is affecting people too. It's becoming more dangerous for indigenous people to hunt out on the ice. The warmer temperatures mean that it isn't as stable as it used to be. Houses are also suffering from subsidence as the ground melts underneath them.

It's a shame that in some powerful countries like the United States, climate change has become such a political topic. Political tensions stop people from recognising that regardless of what's caused climate change, the places most affected by it need our help. That's why many people are campaigning for the Arctic seas to be made into a wildlife sanctuary. If this happens it means that animals there will have the chance to adapt to their new environment without humans making it worse for them.

As it is, now that there is less ice than there used to be, big businesses are making plans to exploit the Arctic. They want to send to send container ships through its waters and drill for oil in the seabed. It will be impossible for them to do that without making the Arctic dirty with oil, fuel residues, sewage and trash. The Arctic seabed is a unique environment and the small other worldly creatures that live on it evolved to survive extreme cold, in isolation from those on seabeds in other parts of the world. They are extremely sensitive to pollution from human activities.

It'd be a shame to lose beautiful creatures such as the polar bear, the walrus and their unusual looking seafloor friends. It will happen if we let money and the accumulation of riches matter more than the protection of the Arctic. Can you and your church community do something to support the call for an Arctic sanctuary?

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Jul 16, 2014

WOW Word 03

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Peace

Paul writing to the church of Philippi :"Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:5-9


Today, Alfie the WOWChurch cat brings us a word about peace! The world wants peace, at any cost - apart from peace itself! These days we only have to look at the clamour of peace to be had between the nation of Israel and the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza! Play the video below to find out the following about peace!

  • What is peace?

  • A brief history of peace!

  • Peace with God!

  • Peace with others!

  • Peace within!

  • Getting and maintaining peace!

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Jul 15, 2014

Pod - Psalm 25

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Psalm 25

25:1 To you, Yahweh, do I lift up my soul.
25:2 My God, I have trusted in you.
Don’t let me be shamed.
Don’t let my enemies triumph over me.
25:3 Yes, no one who waits for you shall be shamed.
They shall be shamed who deal treacherously without cause.

25:4 Show me your ways, Yahweh.
Teach me your paths.
25:5 Guide me in your truth, and teach me,
For you are the God of my salvation,
I wait for you all day long.
 25:6 Yahweh, remember your tender mercies and your loving kindness,
for they are from old times.
25:7 Don’t remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions.
Remember me according to your loving kindness,
for your goodness’ sake, Yahweh.
25:8 Good and upright is Yahweh,
therefore he will instruct sinners in the way.
25:9 He will guide the humble in justice.
He will teach the humble his way.
25:10 All the paths of Yahweh are loving kindness and truth
to such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
 25:11 For your name’s sake, Yahweh,
pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
25:12 What man is he who fears Yahweh?
He shall instruct him in the way that he shall choose.
25:13 His soul shall dwell at ease.
His seed shall inherit the land.
25:14 The friendship of Yahweh is with those who fear him.
He will show them his covenant.

25:15 My eyes are ever on Yahweh,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
 25:16 Turn to me, and have mercy on me,
for I am desolate and afflicted.
25:17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged.
Oh bring me out of my distresses.
25:18 Consider my affliction and my travail.
Forgive all my sins.
25:19 Consider my enemies, for they are many.
They hate me with cruel hatred.
25:20 Oh keep my soul, and deliver me.
Let me not be disappointed, for I take refuge in you.
25:21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
25:22 Redeem Israel, God,
out all of his troubles.

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