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Archive for October 2012

Think Spot

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Think Spot 29th October 2012

“From the time the traffic lights took to change, God changed me forever”

As I entered the room at the invitation of a young couple eager to share their new faith with their close friends I was confident through God this would be a night to remember. I had that wonderful assurance that He was going to move in saving power that night as I explained the commandments one by one.

Very quickly she made up her mind to repent and asked me how she could become a Christian. I spoke of the cross and its significance. How Jesus had kept the commandments and how he could remove our breaking of the law having suffered our consequences and forgiving us in the process. Also I explained about Him giving to us His robe of righteousness to wear as a gift when we stand before His Father. She knelt in submission and deep repentance and through faith received the joy of the Lord into her life. I looked towards her husband and he looked at me and said “That's not for me.” Strange as it may seem I knew this would happen so I said quietly to him. “I know you are not ready for this yet but it will happen soon.”

I think to myself that maybe when he approaches any traffic lights now that are red if his mind does not go back to that eventful day when God spoke and he responded, “Now is the day of salvation if any man hear his voice and respond he will be saved” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Remember today is the day of salvation another day may not come like this one. Pharaoh, hardening his heart, thought he could keep putting the day off and kept changing his mind. Eventually the day came when he presumptuously thought he would come off best yet again but instead God hardened his heart and his opportunity was gone forever. When God sent the mighty wind to drive back the waters of the red sea to allow Israel to cross safely onto safe land he pursued as ever thinking “I am in charge here”. What happened? God caused the winds to change direction and as far as puny man was concerned “One puff was enough” and Pharaoh was finished forever.

Joys Prayer

You are the Almighty God who cannot be contained in anything or in any given place for You are far above all and have all power, all knowledge, you see everything and everybody. You truly are an awesome God, yet you think about us. You created us for your glory and although we have all strayed from your chosen pathway for us.

Help us to recognise the moment when you are confronting us and drawing us by your love to respond and to see clearly the relationship you desire for us to have with yourself. That we are incomplete and unfulfilled apart from You. To say “NO LONGER” to the sin that draws us away from you such as the pride and stubbornness of Pharaoh. You have said “Humble yourself and in due season you will be exalted” May it be so for your name sake… Amen

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Luke Looks Back 19

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Study 19 - Luke 15:1-32

The Joy of Recovery

This chapter contains two marvellous double parables. The first is that of the lost sheep and the lost coin; the second that of the prodigal son, the loving father and the unhappy elder brother.

Please do read Luke 15: 1 - 10.

There is one obvious problem with the story of the lost sheep: would a shepherd really leave 99 sheep in wild country? Probably not. But a flock of that many sheep would need more than one shepherd so he would not be leaving them alone. It is important to note that the one who went searching was the owner and therefore comparatively rich.

Question 1: Sheep are smelly animals. What is suggested by the carrying on the shoulders? And by taking it home and not back to the flock?

As so often Jesus is emphasising that he is interested not just in the smug posh people who thought they alone mattered but the ordinary people, the country people, the working people. He is taking the sheep home to show that everybody is welcome in his Kingdom.

Question 2: What are the similarities and deliberate contrasts that make it reasonable to call this (v 1-10) a double parable rather than two separate parables?

Most of the verbal contrasts are obvious. But don't miss the careful balancing of a story about a man with one about a woman. This is typical Luke. All too many parts of the church world-wide have not come to terms with the way Jesus treated women on equality with men. The two parables are set in a strictly male world and a strictly female world yet they carry the same message. They go together hence I call them a double parable.

Question 3: How does the double parable answer the 'mutterings' of v 2? What was the main contrast between the world in which Jesus lived and the one he is describing? What does this contrast say to our present day situation?

It answers the mutterings by contradicting the ideas on which they were based. The posh people were not interested in the other people. They did not see everybody as their neighbour. We need to look at our own attitudes and those of our church very carefully and very honestly to make sure we are not like those people.

The second double parable is perhaps the greatest short story ever told.

Please read 15: 11 - 32.

This is where the idea of a reflection that I mentioned earlier becomes really important to understand what Jesus was saying - or rather the importance of what he did not say. Both parts of the double parable are reflections. The first goes like this:

a. son lost

b. sin - everything lost

c. rejection

d. change of mind - inadequately

e. acceptance

f. repentance - everything gained

g. son found

Question 4: Is what I have just said correct? I said it started with the son being lost and ended with the son being found. Should it rather be "the father's loss" and "the father's gain"? And I might add, if so, might that change the title of the story - a question we will leave until we have looked at all the story.

One commentator makes the following frequently overlooked points about that society and culture:

  • A man was expected to give an oral will only when dying, as Jacob did in Gen 48 so the boy was effectively asking his father to die!
  • To break with convention like that would have merited a beating.
  • It was undignified for an elderly man to run. He wouldn't! But this one did.
  • The father's kiss of welcome and greeting outside the local village stopped the villagers mocking the despised son as they would naturally have done otherwise.
  • A calf was killed. A sheep would have done.
  • The elder son would have been expected to act as the reconciler in the family dispute.

Question 5: Was the father properly even-handed to his sons?

That is as hard a question to answer as any. I think it will depend on who we are how we answer that one. I would say - doubtful. But it is only a parable.

The second part is nearly a reflection:

a. elder brother comes

b. he is told his brother has arrived

c. his father attempts reconciliation

d. he complains - how you treat me

e. He complains - how you treat him

f. his father attempts reconciliation

g. he is again told brother has arrived

h. ????

The second part of the parable is incomplete - we do not know how the elder son responded. That is made very clear by looking at the structure, the reflection. And that leaves us with some major questions to answer.

Question 6: Who is the story addressed to? Why is it left open like this? How would they have responded? How would we have responded?

At the beginning of the chapter we are told that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were muttering about Jesus and he told them these parables. It was clearly left open to make them think how they would have finished the story off and what the implications of their ending might be. How would we have responded? I think the only possible answer to that is 'with difficulty'.

Question 7: This double parable is almost always called the parable of the prodigal or lost son. But is that the right title? After all only the first half is about him. What should it be called?

The first part should surely be called something like the parable of the Forgiving Father. The second part might be the parable of the Unforgiving Brother. But then you may have other, equally good ideas.

One final question remains which I will try to answer myself. It is this: do we always hear most about the prodigal son because the message of the second part of the parable is a lot harder for established Christians to take? I think that is a distinct possibility. It is nice and comfortable for all the Christians listening to hear someone preach about the prodigal son because it does not affect them. But thinking about the elder brother, the person who is already religious but fails to show his faith in his attitude to his younger brother, is not so comfortable for them. Oh, yes, younger brother had been a bad lot and had squandered the inheritance so there were plenty of good excuses elder brother could give for his attitude. But Jesus left his story deliberately unfinished to make his listeners, including you and me, wonder about themselves.

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Glimpses 55

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Glimpses 55 -

Life from the Faroe Islands

This is the story of Life, from the Faroe Islands sharing about her encounter with Jesus, how he saved her physically and spiritually and what she wants to do with the rest of her life after graduating from University - fighting injustice.

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Think Spot

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Think Spot 22nd October 2012

Immediate Action required

David's words in Psalms 51 & 32( verse 4 especially) very clearly reveals to us the state or condition of his sinful heart as he goes into graphic details regarding his extreme pain and suffering he went through following his adultery with Bathsheba and making her pregnant.

In addition, his evil plan to get Uriah her husband to come home on leave and arrange for him to spend time with his wife to make it appear he had made his own wife pregnant. (2 Samuel 11) When he couldn’t get Uriah to lie with his wife he then added to his wickedness devising a plan whereby Uriah would be placed in the hottest place in the next battle so he could easily be shot at and killed by Israel's enemies. Then he would have it said Uriah was the father of the child to be born to Bathsheba his wife. That was David's plan but he had reckoned without God. One year later God sent Nathan the prophet to convict him of his grievous sin with Bathsheba as well as against her husband Uriah.

Nathan told David “God's eyes have seen your wickedness in murdering Uriah one of your soldiers making an evil plan to have him placed in the firing line of the enemy with the objective of him dying and then stealing Bathsheba to be your own wife and making her pregnant. You have forgotten God's omniscience in all you have said and done.” You and your family will suffer over this but you will be forgiven “

Nathan the prophet had come to David and David's sin's were laid out before him and he becomes convicted over his sin and is prepared to repent after a year of agony being under conviction. The psalms are graphic and explain the pain and suffering his soul goes through until he admitted his crimes before God and repentance takes place. The details in Psalm 32 and psalm 51 of David crying out to God and seeking forgiveness are frighteningly real and graphic and deserved hell. However he was promised forgiveness but there would be sad consequences which follow such sins.

He had suffered for 365 days and nights of being bereft of Gods blessed presence , unable to sleep, but did not seek forgiveness at any stage during that year. Instead he suffered a grieving and angry God as he said “I felt His heavy hand upon me............day and night I was wasting away until I confessed my sins and you forgave me and the joy of your salvation was restored to me!”

No doubt some nerves and remembrances in your own life have been touched of things we all have done and deeply regret and maybe also there have been consequences we have had to face up to. However we acknowledge it was our own fault and we cannot blame God. Others may have been involved with the error of our ways but it is so important for you to come clean and not try to hide your sins as David had attempted to do for such a long period.

If you have been hiding sin remember the eyes of God are everywhere and He sees all. You cannot hide anything from God as Adam and Eve attempted to do . Loose words spoken are careless and can cause so much harm even before any wrong action takes place. Guard your mouth, your eyes, your ears and your feet from going where you should not tread.

The same question may be applied to you today as Adam and Eve had to face. God after their disobedience. The Lord called to Adam “Where are you ?” Not, where are you hiding but Where are you spiritually with me? Why have you departed from our close fellowship we enjoyed when I came down and met with you each evening? “

Repentance is neither optional or easy but an essential action we must take. We live perilously until we do. The best and only way to a restored relationship is heart repentance with God. Immediate action must be taken!

You will like David suffer indescribably soul discomfort if you continue in your sin until you turn back to God. Remember, God's pressure on you is in love He wants you restored. He is only a prayer away but it must be real, genuine and from the heart and mind repentance with a view to stay away from that temptation once and for all. . You cannot fool God and I can assure you that you will not sense that rest in God until you do it honestly. I speak with others from sad experience but I can tell you the relief that comes to you and the joy in restored service to God is far beyond describing. Oh what a wonderful understanding God we worship and adore, praise His wonderful name and the joy in knowing Him. Remember Immediate action must be taken!!

Joys Prayer.

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father,

we all have sinned and come far far short of the glory of God but we are aware that sin separates us from the love of God and the beautiful fellowship we can enjoy with you when we walk in obedience to your will for our day to day lives. Wr pray for all who are walking in darkness and havn't seen the light of God in the face of Jesus Christ that they may see and believe. Also we pray for backsliding believers that they will see the foolishness in recognising your heavy hand upon them and not relenting. Lord break them down and bring them to that place of humility and repentance that they may enjoy one more that sweet communion with you Lord. In Jesus name, Amen

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Friday Prayers

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

19th October 2012

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 of Aethelwold of Winchester (908-984AD)

May God the Father bless us!

May Christ take care of us;

May the Holy Ghost enlighten us all the days of our life!

The Lord be our defender and keeper of body and soul,

both now and for ever, to the ages of ages.

Amen

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Think Spot

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Think Spot 15th October 2012

"You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart" Jeremiah 29:13

Recently in our local church we discussed the subject of Commitment. It was interesting to note as people spoke what their idea of commitment was and the various hindrances to such an ideal relationship with God.

Even more recently I was listening to a series on the Law of God and its place in our lives. I was pleasantly surprised to hear a seasoned pastor give his thoughts on what the law should mean to the christian today under grace. He said “we should not shrink away from the law saying Its too frightening, too high for me to attain but rather treat it like a friend.. “Really” you may say “I thought I was now under grace and do not have to look at the law anymore to attempt to be saved in the keeping of the law.”

True, but wait a minute, “Hasn't it any other usage? Was it only given to shut our mouths from saying I can live perfectly (Romans 3) and keep the law to satisfy God and enter heaven that way” The Bible says “The Law is good” and if its good then we should be trying to live by the law for the glory of God first and foremost, our own spiritual health and the spiritual health of others shouldn’t we? We have received the Holy Spirit to strengthen and encourage us to do so. But to what degree will He help us? What standard do you set yourself each day? Are you really wanting to be fully committed or keep saying to yourself “well we cannot do it so I will just struggle along and keep on saying sorry when I fail trusting the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse me anew each time.”

Today we find, there are countless enticements that pull us away from a fully surrendered life. It is my firm belief, that, second only to salvation, the fully surrendered life is the most important aspect of the Christian life...to truly know God: “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart” Note the word “all”.(Jeremiah 29:13). Sadly, very few of us ever experience this close relationship with God. This isn’t meant to discourage, but to convict. Conviction is a wonderful gift from God used to turn the heart back to Him.

The puritans used the phrase, “The same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay.” In the same way, we can allow the word of God to soften our hearts, or we can resist and become hard as stone. How many can truly say like Jeremiah, “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (20:9). How many have truly experienced Jesus’ words in John 7:38, “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’.” How many can truly relate to “times of refreshing” found in Acts 3:19, “Repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” How many really understand what John the Baptist was referring to when he cried, “After me will come One Who is more powerful than I, Whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize (overwhelm) you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11).

Those who hold Christian beliefs often embrace one of two extremes when it comes to the power of the Holy Spirit. I read recently and its quite true “At one extreme are those who embrace pure emotionalism and hysteria—“if it’s odd it’s God” ... all weird behaviour is excused. The other extreme resembles a cemetery. There’s no living, vibrant spiritual life taking place. The church is dead, cold, and lifeless. Talk of the Spirit’s power is either dismissed or ridiculed. Both extremes are wrong and offer a false impression of genuine Christianity.” The writer is absolutely right isn't he? May we be encouraged from Scripture to seek the Lord with all our hearts and ask to be filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit's “living water” so that we spill over and cannot keep it to ourselves to both proclaim Christ and to live lives which shine for Jesus. Think about it.

Joys Prayer

Gracious God and loving Heavenly Father ,we bow humbly before You The Lord God Almighty thanking you so much for putting up with us when we say 'more of self and less of You' in our lives. May we desire with all our hearts to want to live totally committed lives before You and live consistently to your praise and glory. Help us not to be nervously looking at the Law of God and help us to see it as a friend. If we say we are on the victory side then help us to show to others outside the church as well as new believers that we are truly victorious and that God is powerfully working in our lives. Help others to view us as different in such a way as to see we have a confidence in God and for us Jesus is surely alive! Our prayer is for them to desire to know God too.

Amen

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Luke Looks Back 18

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Study 18 - Luke 13: 10 – 14:35

The Great Reversals

We read Luke 13: 10–17.

Question 1: In these verses how do the Lord, and Luke, heighten the contrast between the woman before and after? By emphasising the ‘bent’ and the ‘straight’, we may well be meant to see these as metaphors for sin and righteousness.

We read Luke 13: 18–21.

Question 2: The two small parables about the mustard seed and the yeast) say something obvious about size. What else do they say? Growth is a major factor in both little parables. And the fact that birds could perch in the tree suggests there will be unclean – non-Jewish people - in the Kingdom. What sort of tree Jesus had in mind is not clear; mustard seeds do not normally grow into a tree. Was Jesus, with his great sense of humour, deliberately suggesting that the impossible would happen? Yeast too is unclean, with the same suggestion.

We read Luke 13: 22 – 35 . Isaiah 25 & 60 provide the background for the first story here. There we read: On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;

Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations— their kings led in triumphal procession.

Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land for ever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendour. The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.

The Jews of Jesus’ day were inclined to forget the bit about ‘all nations’ and think they were the only privileged people who would see the Kingdom. Jesus is saying that the situation will be much reversed if they are not careful – as they weren’t.

We read Luke 14: 1 – 14.

Question 3: Why does Jesus not say something like ‘If you come back tomorrow I can give you proper attention and not offend anybody.’ Instead of (Luke 14: 3 – 5)? Jesus is using the situation as a teaching opportunity. He is saying that the human situation, demanding the healing of the man, is more important than the religious duty of keeping the Sabbath. At first glance Luke 14: 7 – 14 reads more like advice than a parable. There are two hints that it is a parable: the word translated ‘honoured’ near the end of v 10 is the same one usually used for ‘grace’, so it is literally ‘get grace’; and the saying in v 11 is obviously like Luke 13: 30, which refers to the kingdom. Question 4: Necessarily, some are Chief Executive Officers, bishops or head teachers. How does the teaching (Luke 14: 8 – 11) apply to them? They must be careful not to exalt themselves. If others exalt them that is alright. Once again Jesus is emphasising the importance of motive in all that we do. Other people can not see our motives but we know what they are, if we think about them, and the Lord knows anyway. Jesus breaks the accepted social conventions of good behaviour (Luke 14: 4, 7, 12).

Question 5: Why does Jesus do and say things that so offend people? Does this give us as ambassadors of the gospel a licence to offend people? Jesus places the rules of his Kingdom above the social conventions of his day. He wants people to understand that. We should only offend people for the same reason and then not if we can avoid doing so.

We read Luke 14: 15 – 24.

The background to the implied question in 14: 15, who will be at the great feast in heaven, is interesting. Isaiah clearly thought Gentiles would be present in his prophecy of that event that we have already looked at. Jews of the time of Jesus could not accept that and suggested things such as - that the angel of death would be present to destroy the Gentiles, forcing the believers to wade through the blood to reach the banquet! Jesus is being asked for his opinion.

Question 6: People don’t buy fields or houses without seeing them, oxen or motorcars without trying them out (Luke v14:18-19). What is Jesus suggesting by his imagery? People make excuses for not doing what they know they ought to do. That is true here in our world. It is true even when the decision taken here in this world has implications in the age to come. Curiously, the third excuse (Luke 14: 20) is much better than the others! (Deut 24: 5)

We read Luke 14: 25 – 35.

Question 7: There are 3 conditions here (Luke 14:26, 27, 33 and in 18, 20) for discipleship: renouncing family ties, being prepared for suffering and forsaking possessions. Which is the hardest, which the easiest of these? The answer to that question is up to you. Even allowing for the fact that the ‘hate’ of Luke 14:26 is another example of exaggeration for effect few are prepared to renounce family ties as completely as this suggests. To do so seems to run counter to all other NT teaching.

Question 8: When I was at university, a long time ago, the Gospel sermons on a Sunday evening were expected to include a section on ‘counting the cost’. It did not appear to lessen the number of converts. How does that compare with what you hear as the preaching of the good news? That was a tremendously good thing to do and fully in agreement with what Jesus taught in these verses. That has been the second successive long passage with many small episodes, stories and parables. Since you have got this far – well done. The next study includes the parable of the prodigal son so it is rather easier to understand what it is all about. Look forward to it!

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WOW Factor of Jesus

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Jesus Christ, the most extraordinary person who ever lived, who never wrote a book but has more books written about him than any other subject! History is split into BC and AD in honor of him! Jesus Christ, the God-man, who gives a WOW factor to anybody who will bow the knee and serve Him.

Here in this short video, I introduce my own WOW factor about Jesus.  Jesus who promises salvation and how He still challenges and loves people today.

You can download a copy of this video by right mouse clicking here and saving...

I also have a seminar, WOWJesus, which I would also love to bring to your church or group. Contact details are below and at the end of the video. I look forward to hearing from you and how we can work together. Thank you.

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WISE - God of Love

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A God Of Love

We live in a world that is in love with love.  Love, according to some people, is what makes the world go around.  In the Bible, God’s love is revealed. The Apostle John in 1 John 4 does not simply say that God loves, but rather that God is love.  Remember that God is the Holy Trinity, three persons in one. The Trinity is a living, vibrant community of love, and every activity of the Trinity, is an expression of love.  God loves because that is His very nature. Throughout the Bible, God’s love is described as an unfailing, everlasting, intimate, sacrificial, unbreakable, conquering, immeasurable and all-knowing.  How is God’s love seen?  It is seen in two ways.

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Firstly, it is shown supremely in that He has given His Son to be the Saviour of the world, so that if a person takes up that opportunity, they can know and enjoy God in a personal relationship.  God had only one Son, Jesus Christ, and He sent Him on a rescue mission to seek the lost and to reconcile people to God.  This is love in action.  The lover dying for the ones He loves.

Secondly, God’s love is shown when Christians love. As a Christian, you are a child of God, so you should want to be like your Heavenly Father, by showing the world your love for others and your transformed character.  The Christian Church should be a community of love, for this is how the world sees God

If people see Christians that are not loving and kind, rightly or wrongly, the whole Church is branded as a bunch of fakes and hypocrites.  Worse still, God is seen at best as nothing more than a distant uncaring irrelevant figure.  The love between Christians is seen as a visible showing of the invisible God.  The very character of the church should always be to reflect God in all aspects.  The ultimate example of showing people God, is for you as a Christian, to love and be love.  People should be seeing God’s love, through your love.  For as Jesus said, “All men will know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another” (John 13:35).

His love releases us from the things that so easilyentangle our daily walk with Him.  The more you hold onto His love, the more you will desire it and the more it will be revealed in your daily life.  Your love in action today, reflects God’s love in action on the cross.  Go and love - to the glory of God!  Maranatha!

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Think Spot

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Think Spot 8th October 2012

When God shuts the door - what then?

The apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy were travelling through Asia on their second missionary journey they tried to go into Bythinia to the North but were hindered by The Holy Spirit, (we are not told how) so they tried to go in another direction but again it was negative but The Holy Spirit was gradually pushing them towards Troas a sea port. Why? Because there they would find a positive response to their daily enquiry, “where next do you want us to serve you Lord?”

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During the night a vision was given and Paul both saw and heard a person from Macedonia in Greece beckoning them not once but continually saying “Come over into Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9: )Doors had closed at first and then opened through a Divine interruption of sleep. And now having been so assured Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke joining them (16:10) they set a “straight course by ship” (16:11:) (straight suggests the weather conditions were made perfect by the Lord who provided directional winds for their sails) and soon they were on the shore at Neapolis and from there they travelled into Philippi. After several days in Philipp-i where they had time to pray for fresh openings and opportunities they were then led by The Holy Spirit to three people from completely different ethnic backgrounds. One was a Greek, another was an Asian and the third a Roman. They and their households on hearing the gospel repented, believed and trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation. The first church was established in Europe because God had a man who was ready both to be used and guided to where God wanted Paul to serve Him.

Now then, each morning Joy and I go into a local heritage centre having prayed for similar opportunities to talk to people about Jesus Christ. We seem almost to be given an adventure a day as we fully trust The Holy Spirit to guide us to whom God wants to address and He gives us words also to speak as each occasion presents itself more often or not unexpectedly. But we are there ready for Him to use us and our different gifts and He doesn’t disappoint us.

Maybe God is wanting to do that with you. Are you willing? Are you reading His Word for daily guidance and cleansing? Are you giving Him listening time in order to hear His voice clearly directing you. Look up Proverbs 3:5-6 two of my favourite verses. Memorise them, hide them in your heart and they will then be ready to put into practice and your daily experience and ultimately the results will be for His glory for which we live don’t we?. Bye for now have a day to remember and at the end of it don’t forget to give thanks to God.

Joys Prayer

Gracious Loving Heavenly Father, we thank you that You want to have such a close intimate relationship with us. You want to walk and talk with us as we live out each day. We have duties to perform, work and pleasures to enjoy. We can so easily get so wrapped up with our selves that we forget to ask for your will for our lives. We pray “Your will be done” but do we mean it? May we give each day to you recognising your will is always best. In Jesus name, Amen

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Study 16 - Luke 12:13 – 13:9

Priorities in life

There are at least 12 different parables or sayings in this section. The theme is how we should set our goals and live our lives in view of the uncertainty of this life and the promise of the life to come.

We read 12: 13 - 21.

Question 1:    Why exactly was the rich man such a fool? (You should get at least 4 different ways in which he was stupid.) Here is the story again.

The 4 things I can see in this passage are: He assumed he would still be alive to enjoy the produce from his crops.

He ignored the concerns of other people.

He assumed that "eat, drink ... " would lead to joyful merriment.

He ignored the claims of God on his life.

Question 2:    Isn't having big enough barns for your crops common sense? Isn't it what this world runs on?

Yes! It is what this world runs on. It is all a question of motives - good or bad. The teaching of the parable is summarized in the final phrase:  he worked for himself and was not rich towards God. It is not easy to be consistently rich towards God but that must be our life-long ambition.

Next we read 12: 22 - 34.

These verses are all about worry. A great deal of Western culture is driven by worry; if yours is not Western I have to leave it to you to work out how closely this conforms to your situation. We, in the West, are trained from an early age to think we must have the right toys, the right clothes, the right boy's toys, cars, etc. and to worry if we do not!  We cannot completely opt out of our world. In the words of Jesus we need to be 'in the world' but not 'of the world' (Jn 17: 11, 14).

Question 3:    Some of the Lord's servants rely on 12: 31 but if we all did that who would be the givers through whom the Lord would supply us? How then should we understand this?

We need to balance this saying with what Paul said to the Thessalonian Christians in 2 Thess 3: 10 - 'if a man will not work he shall not eat'. Somewhere between the two sayings is the right course for each one of us.

We read 12: 35 - 48.

This section includes no less than 4 different sayings about masters returning home or thieves breaking in. Most likely Luke has brought together things that Jesus said at different times simply linked by key words or ideas. The first homecoming is in v 35 - 38. The old Syriac and Arabic translations (culturally closer to those days) have the servants expecting the master who withdraws from the banquet (both equally possible translations) thus suggesting a pre-arranged plan for the master to bring food home from the banquet for his servants whom he then serves.

Question 4:    Assuming that is correct, what does this parable teach about the final great banquet (Is 25: 6; Lk 13: 29, 14: 15)?

This is an astonishing picture of Jesus receiving us, his servants, and serving us the good things of the great feast.

Question 5:    In the third and fourth episodes of masters returning (12: 42 - 46 and 47, 48) the emphasis is quite different. What is it?

These two parables, or sayings, with their emphasis on senior servants abusing their position over lesser servants, were probably chosen for inclusion by Luke to make some pointed comments to the church leaders of his day, some 40 years after Jesus said these things. They may well be strong rebukes to some church leaders in our day.

Question 6:    How do you understand the brutal bits (12: 42b, 46b, 47b) in these 2 episodes? Compare 1 Cor 3: 12 - 15. Is it better to shun responsibility in the work of the Kingdom and make sure we are not entrusted with too much? Why, or why not?

These sayings are a warning to all those who work in the church: from preaching, to Sunday School teaching and looking after the crèche, to work hard at our tasks, not to take them lightly and not to forget that we need the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in all that we do for the Lord. Paul said: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
 if we do that we shall not go far wrong.

Read 12: 39 - 45.

The sort of family division mentioned in 12: 49 - 53 is rather alarming. We must never be responsible for the destruction of the peace, except for the fact that we follow Jesus. We must do all we can, apart from denying him, to avoid division.

We read 13: 1 - 5.

One writer commenting on these verses says: Jesus' question and answer react to the popular notion that sin is the cause of calamity. If God is responsible for everything and God is a just God, the calamities must be the result of human sinfulness.  The fallacy in that argument is the notion that God is the immediate cause of all events, which leaves no room for human freedom or freedom in the created order, and therefore for events that God does not control ...'.

Question 7:    Do you agree with that statement?

This is a very doubtful argument, theologically. It leaves God as less than sovereign. The problem that led to the question to Jesus is basically the same as that faced by Job and, in the book bearing his name, the only answer given is that God is an unchanging rock for those who love him in spite of all apparent evidence to the contrary. Perhaps the phrase 'the ordinary chaos of life', accepting that God is sovereign but we can have no idea what he has determined, no window into his sovereignty, is a good and acceptable summary of these verses.

Finally we read 13: 6 - 8.

This little parable of the fig tree is based on Is 5: 1 - 7.

Question 8:    What does Jesus add to what that passage teaches? Here is the passage in Isaiah:

He includes a time marker, a year; probably to be understood as a period of grace before Israel would be "cut down". (Which turned out to be nearly 40 years before the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in AD 69, 70.)

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Saturday Special

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Saturday Special

Hi, I'm Jo Royal - I'm an Assistant Pastor in Basingstoke and I love to drink tea, wear Converse and blog! I also love good conversations and often spend a fair amount of time reflecting on the conversations long after they are finished! It is this reflection that led me to the following thoughts that I would like to share with you about Strong Women.

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Last week, this statement cropped up in three separate conversations regarding different women. Strong women. And each time, I cringed.

I used to be a 'strong' woman.

I lifted weights at the gym regularly, practiced Judo weekly, and had a pretty good success rate with arm wrestling.

There's nothing wrong with being a strong woman.

But, this wasn't what they meant, was it?

No, the focus of their strength had nothing to do with their muscles, but their character.

Character can be understood as 'the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual's life which determine his or her response regardless of circumstances.'

Therefore, a strong character can simply be defined as someone with the ability to respond with strength in all circumstances. To remain constant and strong in a world crazed with uncertainty, inconsistency, and irrationality.

A strong character is needed if we are to effectively navigate life's experiences.

If this is the understanding of a strong character, then why does the phrase so often get spat out with disdain and caution when specifically referring to women?

A strong woman?

The term 'strong' when referring to the character of a woman, often carries quite a distinct interpretation.

  • Bossy
  • Opinionated
  • Outspoken
  • Stubborn
  • But only of a woman.

Very rarely does the phrase get used when describing a man. And if it does, then it is usually referred to as a positive character trait.

Is strength in a man a virtue, but strength in a woman a vice?

Is it good that a man displays strength, but a woman conceals it?

Is this what God ordained? Did he create men to have strong character and women to be weak?

Can we read only of strong male characters in the Bible?

What of Ruth? (Click here to see a Partakers study concerning her!) A woman of 'chayil' - (power, strength, resources, effective)

What of Deborah? The prophetess and judge who had to know her own (or God's) mind and speak it.

What of Mary? (Click here to see a Partakers study concerning her!) Who chose to go against the cultural norms of the day, and engage in something she (rightly) saw as more important.

And what of Jael? (Click here to see a Partakers study concerning her!) Who took matters into her own hands, confidently driving a tent peg through the head of an enemy.

And Biblical women weren't strong?

Shouldn't all Christians, whether male or female, aspire to have a strong character?

A character that allows them to follow the will of God, speak on his behalf, and love and forgive in a culture that exemplifies the opposite?

Shouldn't all Christians, whether male or female, demonstrate strength of character that comes from knowing who we were created to be?

Shouldn't all Christians, whether male or female, be encouraged to speak up, and not shut up?

Shouldn't all Christians, whether male or female, be encouraged to stand up for what is right

Shouldn't a strong character in all Christians be celebrated and not shunned or frowned upon?

Yes, even when that strength is embodied in a woman.

And if the idea of this makes you feel uncomfortable, perhaps you ought to ask yourself why.

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