google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html 2014 May

Archive for May 2014

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The Spirit Explodes

Part 15 of 22
Excitements at Philippi!
Acts 15:36–16:40.


by Roger Kirby

This is the beginning of what is usually labelled the Second Missionary Journey.

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Read Acts 15:36 – 41.

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We do not know why John Mark had left the little group of missionaries to return to Jerusalem. Of course it turned out that the most important thing he would ever do, writing his Gospel, was still some distance in the future. It is also clear that Paul forgave him enough to have him working with him and then to be anxious to be visited by him when in prison.

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Question 1: What about a bit of guesswork? What reasons might Mark have had for going back to Jerusalem that he thought were good reasons and Paul did not?

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I think these must almost certainly have been family reasons. Perhaps he had heard someone was dying, or perhaps he had left a pregnant wife behind and wanted to be near by as she reached the time to give birth. Family events like these are still difficult for people working overseas with the Gospel.

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Read Acts 16:1 – 5.

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Question 2: Why did Paul circumcise Timothy just after it had been agreed that non-Jewish Christians did not need to be circumcised?

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With mixed race parents Timothy’s status must have been ambiguous. Was he a Jew or not? If he was going to work amongst them it would be best if the ambiguity was removed. In doing this Paul was following his usual policy of not letting any practical thing stand in the way of people accepting the good news of Jesus.

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Read Acts 16:6 – 12.

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This is an interesting passage. As I read it Paul had a policy of deciding what to do next on the basis of common sense, only following spiritual guidance when he was forced to do so.

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Question 3: Would you agree that this is a good way of proceeding?

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There is distinct possibility of disagreement here. I guess it depends on our personality types and our faith and church background how we approach the question of what we should do next. My argument is that the Lord has given us brains and he means us to use them! I think relying on feeling we have a small voice telling us what to do after prayer is susceptible to too much personal desire creeping in. You may disagree; think about it.

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We do not know who the man of Macedonia was. The most common guesses are Luke himself, or Alexander the Great. Who ever it was Paul was quite sure this was the word of the Lord to him and immediately obeyed. It was a comparatively short voyage from the port of Troas, on the shore of modern Turkey, to Neapolis in modern Greece. But for Paul and his companions this was not a journey from one country to another but just a slight extension of their travels within the Roman Empire. They then go on to the important Roman settlement of Philippi.

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Read Acts 16:13 – 15.

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Lydia must have been an important woman, perhaps a widow, trading in the cloth that was only worn by the Imperial family.

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Question 4: What does the fact that she was baptized mean?

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The Holy Spirit must have come upon her. The fact that her household, presumably family, servants and slaves, were all baptized is recognition that their culture was very different from the strictly individualistic culture of modern western society. Theirs was a pluralistic culture where her dependents would unquestionably accept her decision as being theirs as well and would expect to receive the Holy Spirit as she did. Their action was no less meaningful even if we find it a bit incomprehensible.

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Once again Luke draws attention to the positive role a woman played in the early church.

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Read Acts 16:16 – 40.

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Luke is almost teasing his readers when he has the jailer cry out “what must I do to be saved”! Biblically that sounds more like a theological question than the intensely practical one it is here. As we noticed in the story of Peter’s escape from prison jailers who lost their charges were liable to the death penalty themselves. Paul needs no second invitation. He immediately tells the jailer about Jesus in sufficient detail to convince him of the truth of what they said.

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Question 5: What is the sequence of actions that lead to the joy of the jailer?

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An act of physical rescue, instruction, baptism and caring fellowship. We may assume that the gift of the Holy Spirit fitted in there somewhere. Luke is instructing us in the story he tells.

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A much harder question to answer is this:

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Question 6: Why did Paul and Silas not say they were Roman citizens before they were beaten and avoid a very painful experience?

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It may have been for the simple reason that they could not make themselves heard in the hubbub of the crowd. But it may perhaps have been for the sake of the brand new little church. They did not want it to be dependent on the authorities for its continuation. After the beating they should not have received the local believers were in a position of superior honour in relation to the authorities and not beneath them. They could spend time encouraging the believers before acceding to the authorities request and leaving the city.

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All of which is a good illustration of how to obey the instruction of Jesus in Matthew 10:16: ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.’

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

30th May 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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Thursday with Tabitha


9. Obadiah by Tabitha Smith

This week we’ve reached the little book of Obadiah. He was the most minor of the minor prophets, in that his book is the shortest! In fact, it’s the shortest book in the whole of the Old Testament with just one chapter, containing 21 verses.
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Obadiah means “one who serves Yahweh”. We’re not told anything else about the prophet himself. In the course of the prophecy, the fall of Jerusalem (which happened in 586 BC) is referred to as a past event and the fall of Edom (which happened in 553 BC) as a future event. So it is likely that the book was written between these events.

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To understand the background to Obadiah, we need to head back to Genesis, to the account of the brothers Jacob and Esau. These two non-identical twins were born to Isaac and Rebekah. Even from their birth, they showed signs of not exactly getting along. Esau was born first, all red and hairy, and Jacob followed after him, grasping his heel. They grew up to be very different. Esau was a skilled hunter, favoured by his father, whilst Joseph was an introverted man who preferred to stay with his mother in the proximity of the family tents.


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Jacob famously tricked the hungry Esau out of his birth rite and later stole his father’s blessing by disguising himself as his older brother and fooling the elderly, blind Isaac. So Esau swore revenge on his brother and fully intended to kill him. Rebekah helped Jacob to escape and he fled to the territory of his uncle Laban. There he met and married his wives, Leah and Rachel. Esau, who was also called Edom, married several wives, including an Ishmaelite woman (that is, a descendent of Abraham’s first son by the slave girl Hagar).

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Jacob and Esau did meet again some years later, and much to Jacob’s relief and surprise, Esau didn’t kill him on the spot but appeared to have forgiven him. Jacob still didn’t trust him though, and he took his family off in a different direction to avoid having to be in close proximity to his brother’s family.


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Jacob had 12 sons by his two wives and their two servants. His 4th son, one of Leah’s children, was Judah, and from his line the tribe of Judah came into existence. From Esau’s line came the tribe of the Edomites.


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The Edomites lived in the hill country of Seir. This was a mountainous region about 1500m above sea level. Their territory appeared to be impenetrable and they felt quite safe in their high dwellings. In Numbers 20 we read that after the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites asked the Edomites for permission to pass through their territory along the King’s Highway. The Edomites refused, adding to the tensions between these two tribes. However, in Deuteronomy 23:7-8, God commanded the Israelites that they should not hate an Edomite in view of the brotherly connection between the two tribes.

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Edom was defeated by king Saul in the 11th century BC and subdued again by king David 40 years later. Edom became a vassal state of Israel but it was never completely de-stroyed.


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Fast forward to the time of Obadiah, and we find that the tribe of Judah, the sole remnant of the original 12 tribes of Israel, had been conquered and the capital city of Jerusalem had fallen to the Babylonians. During the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, some of the Judeans had tried to escape from the city and flee into the surrounding coun-tryside. The Edomites, rather than helping their neighbours and brothers in the time of their distress, sided with the foreign invaders and handed over the fleeing Israelites to the Babylonians. Psalm 137:7 recalls how the Edomites gloated over the destruction of Jeru-salem:

Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem, how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare, down to its foundations!”

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The main theme of Obadiah is the judgement of the Edomites for the way they betrayed the people of Judah during the Babylonian invasion.


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The first 15 verses of the book are addressed to the people of Edom. God scorns the pride and arrogance of the Edomites, who say to themselves, “who will bring me down to the ground?” (v3), referring to their perceived safety in their high mountain region. But God will bring them down and they will be punished for their evil deeds. The prophet mixes both past tense and future tense verbs when describing Edom’s fate. This is a technique that can be found in prophetic writing, when future events are sometimes described as if they had already happened.


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God’s message through Obadiah is that Edom will be completely destroyed, with not a trace left behind. The main charges against Edom are found in verses 12-14: "But do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; do not boast in the day of distress. Do not enter the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; do not gloat over his disaster in the day of his calamity; do not loot his wealth in the day of his calamity. Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off his fugitives; do not hand over his survivors in the day of distress."


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The judgement is summarised in verse 15: "As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head."

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The final part of the book relates to the people of Jerusalem. God promises that he will preserve a remnant of his people who will survive the exile and reclaim the land that is theirs, according to his plans and promise. To the devastated people of Judah, this would have been an incredible promise of hope. It seemed, to all intents and purposes, that their future was doomed and that God’s promises to Abraham had come to nothing. But God promises that Judah will become like a raging fire once more, whilst Edom is reduced to stubble. Judah’s time of judgement for her own sin would be over, and then God would judge her enemies.


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The final words of the book, in verse 21, declare that “the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” The promised land of the Old Testament foretells the reality of the greater promised land, which is the coming kingdom of God. Matthew’s gospel in particular speaks of this prom-ised kingdom, which Jesus ushered in during his time on earth. The whole of the Bible is the story of this ultimate kingdom, reaching its climax in the book of Revelation. The king-dom of God is already here, but it is not yet fully here. That won’t happen until Jesus re-turns.

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In chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews, the writer recounts the names of the men and women of the Old Testament who trusted in God’s promises to them regarding the coming kingdom.

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He then writes in verse 13-16: “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.


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This city is the new Jerusalem, the heavenly kingdom. Jesus used several metaphors to try to help his listeners grasp the nature of the kingdom of God. He described it as a tiny mustard seed which grew into a huge tree, or as a tiny amount of yeast which could make a whole batch of dough rise. From tiny, seemingly in-consequential beginnings, something great grows. When all seemed lost to the exiled people of Judah, God says “just wait and see what I will do”. And the glory of the final kingdom is made all the greater by the trial of the journey.

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You and I are invited to be part of this coming kingdom of God. No matter how small and insignificant we might feel in the great plan of God, and no matter how dire our circumstances seem to be, we can be assured that God’s kingdom is coming and we can be part of it. It is surprising and mysterious, hidden and yet revealed, wonderful and awesome. It is something new, something different, something glorious. It is possible for the wisest brains to miss it completely whilst little children understand and embrace it.

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God is doing a new thing and he invites us to come and see. The prophet Isaiah recorded God’s words to his exiled people:

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)


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Some 700 years after Isaiah, Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem and declared:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)

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Even the seemingly obscure prophecy of Obadiah is part of Jesus’ great story. It’s all about him. Between the lines of prophecy about Edom and Judah we see the greater picture of God’s redemption plan and his justice, mercy and grace. When the risen Jesus walked on the road to Emmaus and explained to the amazed disciples how the Law and all the prophets spoke about himself, I like to think that he said a bit about Obadiah.


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We’ve got four more books to look at before this series draws to a close, and there are lots more interesting things to come as we look at Haggai, Zechariah, Joel and Malachi. Join me next week if you can!

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Peace

The world we live in, wants peace! The world is unified around the concept of peace! However, the peace the world wants requires the manipulation of circumstances. God's peace, and peace with God, however, comes regardless of circumstances.

We look in this video at the following things!

  • How can we define true Peace?
  • Look at a short history of Peace!
  • Look at peace with God, other people and with ourselves!
  • How do we maintain peace within?

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Think Spot 26 May 2014

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Think Spot 26 May 2014

Philippians 2:4,21 "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ."

Listen to and/or download the mp3 file to hear this challenge to the Church in the 21st century! It will help you into this new week and see your Christ-light shining out!

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God - So What?

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God - so what?

Ezekiel 36:22-28


Introduction

Good evening. Glad you could be here. For the benefit of those who were not here this morning, let me quickly recapitulate. We saw from Ezekiel first vision in Chapter 1 several things about God! We discovered that God is holy; that God is universal in presence, power and knowledge. We also saw that God is mission-minded and that He is personal!

The Context - Story of Ezekiel from Chapter 2 onwards...

  • a. Symbolic Actions (4v1-5v17)
  • b. Vision of Jerusalem (8v1-11v25)
  • c. Symbolic Actions (12v1-20)
  • d. Prophecy Concerning Israel (12v21-24v27)
  • e. Prophecy Concerning Foreign Nations (25v1-32v32)
  • f. Salvation for Israel (33v1-39v29)

1. A God who is holy (Ezekiel 36v22-23)

2. A God who gathers (Ezekiel 36v24)

3. A God who cleanses (Ezekiel 36v25) and operates (Ezekiel 36v26)

4. A God who indwells (v27)

5. A God to live for (v28)

Conclusion - What about you?

What about you? If you are already a Christian here tonight, then it is not because of anything you have done. It is because of the events at Easter that you are a Christian, when God took the necessary steps so that all people could have the choice to either follow Him or not. We are primarily Christians, not because we come to church services or just happened to have been born in a supposedly Christian country. We are primarily Christians, because God first chased and harried us into His arms. We are Christians, if you are one, because God first loved you. And as a tremendous lover, He beckons and calls people all the time to respond to His call, and back to Him.



When I was younger, in my more smug moments I used to congratulate myself for being a Christian. How proud I was that I, Dave Roberts, was a Christian and that God was a jolly lucky God that I had decided to follow Him. It was during one of my less self-deluded moments, that I examined myself and I found God pricking my conscience and correcting me, and I read the New Testament "For the Son of Man came, not to serve but to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mk10v45).

So... If you are a Christian here tonight, go show and tell the transformation that the all-powerful living God has performed in you. If like me, you are a Christian today, our sins were forgiven through Jesus' death on the Cross. That is when we had our "bath" as it were. That is the point when we were justified before God and we are declared His child. Having been justified already, we don't need a bath anymore! But we do need the equivalent of a foot-washing daily and or every time we take Holy Communion and a cleansing of our sin when we confess it before our God and repent.

If you are not a Christian here today, then God is actively pursuing you. I, of course, don't know the circumstances in which He is, but I do know that He is. He wants all people to be followers of Him. That is why He is gathering, cleansing, and indwelling His people. If you would like to know more about the Christian faith, then please don't leave here tonight without talking to somebody about it.


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The Spirit Explodes

Part 14 of 22
Who are the people of God?
Acts 15:1–35.


by Roger Kirby


Who are the people of God? That is and was indeed the question. About 4 weeks ago we heard about the problems that arose over the question of what the people of God could eat. As a result of a vision, Peter understood that there were no foods that the people of God could not eat. That was the second of the 3 requirements; circumcision, food laws and Sabbath keeping, that had come to dominate the concerns of the serious Jews who thought of themselves as the only true people of God. Now we come to the first of these and the most important – circumcision.
 

This was a very critical question. Reluctance to be circumcised as adults would affect the willingness of non-Jewish men to become full converts and follow Jesus completely. It affected the role of women, who, not being subject to circumcision, would forever be second-class citizens in a kingdom for which that was the badge of entrance. Since not being circumcised would mean that followers of Jesus would no longer belong to Judaism they would not enjoy the freedom from harassment and persecution because they did not worship the Roman gods, that the Jews had enjoyed since the days of Julius Caesar.

Much was at stake, as some former Pharisees, now seeking to follow Jesus, correctly realised. They wanted Jesus’ followers to constitute a sub-group of Judaism. We read Acts 15:1–11.

There was therefore a profound theological disagreement between the Pharisaic believers and what was happening far away from Jerusalem. The fundamental underlying question was ‘how do we know who are the people of God in this new situation?’ or ‘what are the marks of a Christian?’. Before we go any further you need to think very carefully what the answer to the following question is in your place and culture. We have already come across this question and its Biblical answer. But what is the practical identifier where you are?

Question 1:  What are the marks of a Christian?

Your answer – very obviously. I hope you are able to give the same answer as Peter gave when he said: ‘God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.’ Possession of the Holy Spirit is the true mark of the Christian.

Next we are going to read the speech of James. This is the point when James, the brother of Jesus, appears as the leading person in the central church of Jerusalem. Presumably Peter was, from this point on, off on his travels of which we know nothing in comparison to the fairly full knowledge we have of Paul’s journeyings. Notice too that the discussion was going to take place in front of ‘the whole assembly’ and later ‘with the whole church’. This fundamentally important decision is taken by all the believers, not by some small selected group with authority over everyone else. The speech of James follows very closely the approved rhetorical pattern that we used 2 studies ago.

We read Acts 15:12–21.

The introduction: Acts 15:13b.

The narration, including a quotation from Amos 9:11-12 using the Greek LXX:8–18.

Question 2:  Why did James quote from scripture?

The written word of God stands beyond dispute. The opinions of men and women, even when they claim the guidance of the Holy Spirit, never stand beyond dispute. Interestingly James quoted from the Greek translation of the original Hebrew because that version fitted what he wanted to say better. Today, no single version in English, or any other language, stands beyond correction as the only valuable translation.

The proposition to be argued: Acts 15:19–21.

But there is no final exhortation since this is a communal decision.

Much the most interesting part of this is the proposition in v20. There are 2 possible ways of understanding this.

The first comes from the fact that it follows quite closely what was required of any Israelite or foreigner living in Israel according to Lev 17. Thus the Gentile converts far away from Jerusalem were being required to live in the way considered appropriate amongst Gentiles living in the land of Israel.

Question 3:  How would this relate to what Paul says in Romans 15: We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.  Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up? How does it relate to us?

In this context the strong are the ex-pagans and the weak are the Jewish believers as is clear from the preceding chapter. Paul was saying that it was important that the Jewish converts should not turn away from following Jesus because they found the eating habits of the ex-pagans unacceptable. There are some lands where eating pork, from pigs, is unacceptable. We should not needlessly offend people who have been brought up to think that. In all societies we cannot be too careful in our business dealings, for instance. Those who are not Christians are often only too happy to remember when they thought a Christian did not show maximum honesty in a transaction.

The second possibility is that it comprises a requirement that they should have nothing to do with the activities common in a pagan temple: eating meat sacrificed to idols and not prepared in the way Jews did, and indulging in the general promiscuity often indulged in in temples.

In all probability we should read this not as an either/or but as a both/and. Obeying this would prevent there being two different standards of behavior for converts from the Jewish faith and converts from the pagan world and ensure that the ex-pagans did not slide back into the appalling behavior common in the cities of those days.  That it was important there can be no doubt since Luke uses his usual device of telling us 3 times: here, again later in this chapter and in chapter 21.

If we take it that whatever is given primary value in place of God is an idol we have.

Question 4:  What idol do we have the most difficulty in avoiding?

Another one for you to think about and answer yourself. Don’t forget that shopping malls and shopping centers look remarkably like temples!

We read Acts 15: 22 – 35.

Question 5:  The letter said ‘it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us’. How did they know the mind of the Spirit? How do we know the leading of the same Spirit when we are so liable to add in our own desires to what we think he wants?

I think in those early days of the church they had a sharper and more accurate understanding of what the Spirit was saying. We cannot expect to be so secure in our understanding. We must rely even more heavily on the statements of scripture to guide us. When we need guidance as private individuals we must rely too on the Spirit-filled wisdom of our friends. We are all weak creatures too prone to wanting our own way. Those who are most sure of what the Spirit is saying to them are very often the most dangerous!

And so the future of the infant church was assured. It had been a critical moment. Was the church to be a subset of Judaism or was it to be what it had always been intended to be: the vehicle by which the blessing promised to Abraham would come to all peoples on earth. To our great delight they got it right under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And here we are, where we were always meant to be.

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

23rd May 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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Prayers for those facing challenging situation

Prayers for those grieving & in despair

Prayers for those imprisoned

Prayers for Churches Worldwide

Prayers for the world

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Time for your own prayers

The Creed

Benediction

Closing Prayer

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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Thursday with Tabitha


8. Habakkuk by Tabitha Smith

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This week we’ve reached the book of Habakkuk. There’s an awful lot of wisdom and truth packed into the three short chapters of Habakkuk’s prophecy.

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As a brief recap to the historical context, Judah was under the control of the Assyrians at this time in history. The Assyrians were still powerful but their grip on the empire was showing signs of weakening and there was a growing awareness of the rising threat of the Babylonians. In Judah there had been a succession of very evil kings including Manasseh and Amon, and then a brief period of spiritual revival under king Josiah. Generally, the people of Judah were not following God as they should have been. They had been distracted by the pagan nations around them and they were joining in with idol-worshipping practices. Their false prophets were claiming that there was no need to worry because God would not judge his own people. So the nation was living in a state of spiritual blindness.

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We don’t know much about the man Habakkuk himself. The way he writes his prophecy is unusual. It reads like a personal diary or journal and it takes the form of a conversation between Habakkuk and God. The intended audience was the people of Judah, but they are not directly addressed. The time of writing was around 620 BC so Habakkuk was a contemporary of Zephaniah and Jeremiah.

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The book opens with Habakkuk crying out to God with a desperate question. The Message translation says it like this:

“God, how long do I have to cry out for help
    before you listen?
How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!”
    before you come to the rescue?
Why do you force me to look at evil,
    stare trouble in the face day after day?
Anarchy and violence break out,
    quarrels and fights all over the place.
Law and order fall to pieces.
    Justice is a joke.
The wicked have the righteous hamstrung
    and stand justice on its head.”


~

So Habakkuk asks the age-old question - God, why don’t you do something? Why are the bad guys getting away with it?

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God comes right back at him with an answer he isn’t expecting. This would also have been something of a nasty surprise to the people of Judah who would have read Habakkuk’s words. God tells him that he is raising up the Babylonians (also known as the Chaldeans) to be his instrument of judgement on the people of Judah. The Babylonians were a nation of awesome and ruthless military power and an invasion by their army would have been an utterly terrifying prospect. God paints the picture of the dreaded and fearsome Babylonians setting their faces towards Judah.

~

Habakkuk replies to God with a sense of disbelief about what he’s just heard. He asks God how he can possibly use such an evil nation as the Babylonians to judge another people who are less evil. Habakkuk then sits and waits for God’s response.  God replies again and tells Habakkuk to write the vision down as a mark of its importance and the certainty with which it will come to pass.

~

In the oracle that follows, God reveals to Habakkuk the bigger picture. He says in effect, yes, the Babylonians will come and yes, they will be my instrument of judgement on Judah. BUT, they will go too far in their punishment of Judah and so they too will be judged and held accountable for their deeds. The Babylonians are described as those who plunder, cheat and kill unscrupulously. They get drunk and take pleasure in the sadistic humiliation of their defeated enemies. Well, says God, they will reap the due rewards of their deeds and they will be judged.

~

In Habakkuk 2:16, God declares to the Babylonians: “The cup in the Lord’s right hand will come around to you, and utter shame will come upon your glory!

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The second chapter ends with the words “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” I imagine Habakkuk sitting, or perhaps lying face down, in stunned silence at the revelation he has just received.

~

In the final chapter we see Habakkuk going on an amazing journey of spiritual growth. God’s words have seized his faith and imagination and he now pours out a dramatic description of the image of God he sees, coming in awesome power and majesty to judge the earth.

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In Habakkuk 3:16 - “I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will wait quietly for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.

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Habakkuk is overcome by strength-sapping, gut-wrenching fear when he thinks about what lies ahead but he chooses to sit and wait for God to do what he has promised.

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So in 3 chapters we have seen Habakkuk go from earnest and desperate questioning of God to a position of awestruck faith and certainty in God’s sovereignty. Habakkuk’s prayer to God has not changed God, it has changed Habakkuk.

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We’ll come back to the very final prayer of chapter 3 in a moment. But what have we learned from Habakkuk so far?

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Firstly, that it is OK to ask God questions and to cry out to God about what we see happening in the world. When we don’t understand we need to ask God to help us. The answers God gives us may not be what we expect!

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Secondly, we learn again that God is sovereign and in control of all the events of history. He is just and good and he will not leave any evil unpunished. Nobody is getting away with anything.

~

Thirdly, we learn that God can use even the most evil people and the most terrible circumstances to bring about his plans. God does not engineer the evil - people are responsible for their own decisions and actions, but God is always in control of the events of history. Joseph summarises this principle well at the end of the book of Genesis when he addresses his brothers: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:19-20)

~

The crux of the book of Habakkuk is found in Habakkuk 2:4 -  “the righteous shall live by his faith”. This verse is quoted no less than 3 times in the New Testament by different authors to illustrate different aspects of the life of faith (You can find it in Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).

~

Habakkuk learns that the secret to finding security and true joy in life is to trust in what God has promised. Faith is not a feeling, it is a deep confidence in what God has said. The writer of Hebrews expresses the same truth in Hebrews chapter 11:1:  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

~

This does not mean that faith guarantees comfort or safety. Faith may have to survive in situations of complete desolation and want. And this is the place Habakkuk is able to reach at the end of his prophecy. In his final prayer he says: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

~

So Habakkuk says, if God never does another good thing for me, and never provides me with any other provision for the whole of my life, he is still absolutely worthy of my praise for the rest of eternity.

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And this is the key for us too. If God never blessed us with another thing in the whole of our earthly lives, Jesus would still be enough to rejoice about for the rest of eternity. We have more than enough to give thanks to God for to allow us to find joy in all circumstances. If we can trust in his purposes, even when we cannot fathom them at the time, we will discover the way to irrepressible hope and strength, which is the essence of joy. It doesn’t mean we’re always happy, or that we cannot mourn and weep when terrible things happen. Distress and sorrow are absolutely appropriate responses to evil and disaster. But joy is a deeper undercurrent that can co-exist with even the deepest sorrow. It is the knowledge, in the depths of our souls, that God is good, there is hope, death is defeated and Jesus is alive. There is purpose and meaning in our lives because we are made to live in relationship with God for eternity.

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Like Habakkuk we will then discover that God can lift us above our earthly perspective and give us a glimpse of the bigger picture. As Habakkuk says in his final words of the book: “GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” (Habakkuk 3:19)
~

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WOW Word 01

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Alphy the Partakers WOWChurch Cat gives a 1 minute sermon!


...you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:11

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POD - Psalm 55

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Psalm 55

For the Chief Musician. On stringed instruments. A contemplation by David.

55:1 Listen to my prayer, God.
Don’t hide yourself from my supplication.


55:2 Attend to me, and answer me.
I am restless in my complaint, and moan,


55:3 Because of the voice of the enemy,
Because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they bring suffering on me.
In anger they hold a grudge against me.


55:4 My heart is severely pained within me.
The terrors of death have fallen on me.


55:5 Fearfulness and trembling have come on me.
Horror has overwhelmed me.


55:6 I said, “Oh that I had wings like a dove!
Then I would fly away, and be at rest.


55:7 Behold, then I would wander far off.
I would lodge in the wilderness.”



Selah.



55:8 “I would hurry to a shelter from the stormy wind and storm.”


55:9 Confuse them, Lord, and confound their language,
for I have seen violence and strife in the city.


55:10 Day and night they prowl around on its walls.
Malice and abuse are also within her.


55:11 Destructive forces are within her.
Threats and lies don’t depart from her streets.


55:12 For it was not an enemy who insulted me, then I could have endured it.
Neither was it he who hated me who raised himself up against me,
then I would have hidden myself from him.


55:13 But it was you, a man like me, my companion, and my familiar friend.


55:14 We took sweet fellowship together.
We walked in God’s house with company.


55:15 Let death come suddenly on them. Let them go down alive into Sheol.
For wickedness is in their dwelling, in their midst.


55:16 As for me, I will call on God. Yahweh will save me.


55:17 Evening, morning, and at noon, I will cry out in distress.
He will hear my voice.


55:18 He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me,
although there are many who oppose me.


55:19 God, who is enthroned forever, will hear, and answer them.



Selah.



They never change, who don’t fear God.


55:20 He raises his hands against his friends. He has violated his covenant.


55:21 His mouth was smooth as butter, but his heart was war.
His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.


55:22 Cast your burden on Yahweh, and he will sustain you.
He will never allow the righteous to be moved.


55:23 But you, God, will bring them down into the pit of destruction.
Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days, but I will trust in you.



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Think Spot 2014 05 19

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Think Spot - 19th May 2014

I wonder what your last week was like! I know for me it was full of trial and yet with a deep-seated trust that God was in control, despite the events and discouragements I was undergoing! Our car had to go in for repair. The water pump had given out again! Aggh! The repairs? Just a little under what we had spare (thanks to generosity of others which had come in that week!) Also I managed to be in severely ill on the Wednesday night through until Saturday.

So, whether it was a week for you to forget or a week for you to remember, we now enter a new week! Throughout Scripture, we are commanded to trust God! One of the natural outcomes of trusting God is joy - often an unspeakable joy that bubbles within you! A joy resulting from overcoming all that life throws at you, and overcoming those hurdles! It involves taking a daily commitment to follow Jesus Christ and not just a one off. It takes commitment, not comfort, to throw off hindrances and barriers. True joy results from being willing to allow the Holy Spirit to work in you, transforming you into the image of Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God the Father.

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

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

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

  • Psalm 51v8 & 12 - Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me-now let me rejoice. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
  • Jeremiah 15:16 - When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven's Armies.
  • Luke 15:8-10 "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won't she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbours and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God's angels when even one sinner repents."
  • 1 Peter 1:8-9 - You love Jesus Christ even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

Do you desire to be' overflowing with joy today and this week? Go into this week with a joy that is anticipating and expectant! Do you need to hand over to Jesus a particular area of your life' where Jesus does not fully reign and have control? I pray that the Father will reveal more of Himself to you, as you daily seek His face, overcoming all hindrances to living a successful and joyful-Christian life. May the Holy Spirit who lives within you, if you are a Christian, continue to transform you into the image of the Son Jesus Christ, and all to the praise and glory of God the Father. Amen.

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