google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html 2016 April

Archive for April 2016

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 28 - John6:36-40
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I set out to do this series basically about one verse at a time but here we have a small structure that, being a lover of structures, I must bring to your attention. It is what is called officially a chiasm, but I prefer to call it a reflection for reasons that should become obvious. It is a series of clauses which go ABCB’A’, the second part being a reflection of the first half with some significant changes. Such things are surprisingly common throughout both the Old and the New Testaments. This one goes:

  • Verse 36 A you have seen me and still you do not believe
  • 37 B All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away
  • 38 C For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
  • 39 B’ I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
  • 40 A’ everyone who looks to the Son and believes … I will raise them up at the last day


The 2 outer verses are about seeing and believing – the first negatively, they see and do not believe, the last positively about those who see and do believe. The 2 inner verses are both about what happens to those that the Father has given to Jesus. The central verse explains why Jesus has come down to earth and the consequences, which are that the last 2 verses are both more positive than the first 2.

We cannot see Jesus in any literal sense as they could and the first verse therefore does not make any direct sense to us. But I think we can reasonably change it into the parallel idea of listening and hearing and get the sense that way. You most probably know someone who is very good at listening but doesn’t seem to hear anything much! You talk to them; they give every appearance of agreeing with you; you are sure you have convinced them that what you are saying is right – perhaps some change in the way things are done at work or in church, which they are in a position to make.

But then you discover that absolutely nothing changes. They listened, but they did not hear. So it can be with the way people fail to hear what they are told about Jesus. They read the Bible; they attend church regularly; they enjoy the fellowship; there are all the signs that they are Christians. But nothing really changes in the way they behave; the things they do; the statements they make about faith. They listened but they did not hear, in exactly the same way as the people Jesus was talking to could see him, listen to him, see what he did, but it all made no change in their lives. Be careful. I do hope you are not one of those people who go to a good church to get their regular dose of listening but never really hear anything!

In his second and second last statements Jesus moves on to say that the reason for this is that it is the work of the Father to select those who will truly hear Jesus and follow him. That is both a reason and a promise. If indeed we have set out to follow Jesus we are secure for it was not really our choice but the work of the Father. That does not mean that we do not choose to follow or not. Later on in this chapter we read that many of those who listened to Jesus ‘turned back’. They decided not to follow him. And that is the way it is. From our perspective it is something that we do; from the greater perspective of the Triune God it is something he does. And we shall never be able to make those 2 perspectives meet up and sound the same. Like many of the best things of life: the love of a man and a woman, the things we see beauty in, the joy we can get from many an apparently trivial pursuit; the step of faith is not entirely logical – and none the worse for that.

The second last verse in this structure points out that the true benefit of that is that we are held securely in the Father’s arms and cannot be lost. (Although being frail human beings we always have the potential to walk away ourselves, as most of those listening to Jesus on this occasion seem to have done.) Not only shall we not be driven away in the first place, we are securely in forever, for this life and for the life to come. WOW!

The most important verse is, as usual in these reflective structures, the middle one. All this is possible because Jesus came down to do the will of the Father. We are totally secure in him. Triple WOW!

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Partakers Friday Prayers

29 April 2016


Come and join in praying for the world and yourself, offering praises to God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit!


Order of Service

Opening prayer

Confession

Psalm 65

Prayers for Churches and Christians worldwide

Prayers for others

Silent time (Prayer for your own concerns)

Prayers for the world

Prayer of Benedict of Nursia

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Glimpses 56

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Glimpses 56 -

Donna from Detroit, Michigan

This is the story of Donna, from Detroit sharing about her encounter with Jesus! Come and hear!

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Church Leadership

Session 4:

What does the Old Testament teach us about leadership?”

Part 2


Last time we looked as Moses and Daniel as examples of leaders from the Old Testament – today we’ll consider two more – Nehemiah and Joseph.

I mentioned last time about my management training course in which Nehemiah was the case-study. At the time I was thrilled by the use of the Bible in such a context, but I have to admit having forgotten most of what the teacher said – so I don’t know if I became a better manager as a result. But it did lead me to a deeper study of Nehemiah and his exploits.

We find him in Susa – one of the principal cities of the Babylonian and Persian empires and where we also find Daniel and Esther – as a “cupbearer to the king” (chapter 1:11). He was an exile from Jerusalem and having heard of the state of his home city, he determined to do something about it. We don’t have time to go into the whole story – but you can read it in Nehemiah. We focus on some of the lessons we can learn from him:

  • Although he wanted to get on with things – he prayed and sought God first (1:4 – 11)
  • He planned carefully and got as much help as he could (2: 6 – 9)
  • He assessed the situation before he did anything or told anyone what was in his heart (2: 11 – 16)
  • Then he told the leaders and the people what his plans were and sought their support (2: 17 – 20)
  • He gave the glory to God for the success he expected (2: 20) and for the result (6:16)
  • He mobilised the people at all levels (chapter 3) – and they “worked with all their heart” (4:6).
  • He did not ignore opposition – but dealt with it prayerfully and practically (4: 4 & 5 and 13 – 21)
  • Having done the practical job of rebuilding the wall, he turned, with Ezra, to the spiritual needs of the people (chapters 8 and 9)
  • He dedicated what he had done to the Lord and gave Him the glory (12: 27 – 47)
  • His last recorded words were: “Remember me with favour, O my God” (13:31).



Now let’s think about Joseph – his story fills most of the last part of Genesis. We don’t have time today to go into the details of his life and I assume most of you will know the major elements of his story. So, some summarised lessons from the one who began as an arrogant “Daddy’s boy”, became a slave, spent time in jail but eventually became Prime Minister of Egypt:

  • Even as an arrogant teenager, God was speaking to Him through the dreams he was having. Sometimes if God plants a dream or vision in our spirits, it is better to keep it to ourselves until it begins to come to fruition.
  • The brothers’ action was inexcusable – but it was all part of God’s plan. Sometimes things happen to us – or are done to us by others – that are part of God’s purposes for us, but we can’t recognise that until years later.
  • The Lord was with Joseph – and his employer prospered (Genesis 39:5). Does our employer (or those we serve) prosper because of our faithfulness to God, our integrity etc?
  • He resisted a very real temptation – he ran from it – a real lesson for us. Even when falsely accused – he refused to justify himself (but he was a slave and had no “voice” – remember we said in session 2 that we are Christ’s bond slaves).
  • Twice we are told that the Lord was with Joseph in the prison (39: 21 & 23) – and even the prison “prospered” because Joseph was there. We don’t know how long he was in prison – but we must not let today’s circumstances rob us of what we know of God and His word – He will bring to pass His purposes even if we haven’t got a clue how or when.
  • Even in the prison – falsely accused and reckoning he might never get out – he was concerned for others– “Why are your faces sad today?” We must not let our own difficulties stop us from caring for others and showing them the love of God.
  • Joseph acknowledges that it is God who gives the answers (41:16). We are not here to make a name for ourselves – but to bring glory to God.
  • Joseph didn’t just interpret the dream – he offered a solution to the problem.
  • Pharaoh saw that the Spirit of God was in Joseph (41:37). Do those around us – those we work with, our employer, those we serve etc see God in us?
  • God has his people in high office (41:41 – 44) – don’t be afraid of that if God calls you to it – do the job well and give God the glory
  • The brothers bow before Joseph – and that dream is fulfilled – it took at least 20 years. God will do what He says He will do. Joseph puts his brothers to the test to see if they had learned anything over those years – sometimes we take a very long time to learn the ways of God.


Joseph got to his leadership position by a long and difficult route – but God was with him throughout and he acted with wisdom, justice and integrity. And even though others (in this case those very close to him) would seek to thwart God’s plans for him, Joseph was confident in his God and said to his brothers: “You meant to harm me – but God intended it for good” (50:20).

A prayer: “Thank You, Lord, that no matter our circumstances You have promised to be with us. And thank You that You do keep Your promises and are fulfilling Your purposes for us.”

Next time we will look at the characteristics of church leaders as set out in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus.



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Think Spot 25 April 2016

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Think Spot - 25 April 2016

As Christians we are commanded to love God and to show that by loving other people - all other people including those who are our enemies. I am sure that you have people that you love, and to whom you say that you love and care for. Good!

But please don't assume you know how to show your love and care for them. Ask them how you can show your love and care for them in practise... We are also to love the whole person and to take care of the whole person. We are to care for their whole well-being: their spiritual, physical, emotional, social and mental well-being.

Quite often, we neglect one of those areas. The whole person matters to God. He cares for the whole person. Therefore so must we. How will you refine your love of other people now that you are aware?

Go and love. Love others - all others - an every facet of the other person - spiritual, physical, emotional, social and mental well-being...


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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 27: John 6:29
The work of God in us



Jesus was asked by the crowd, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” They were not starting from the same place we start from. They were Jews; they were already the people of God – or so they thought. They had not realized that the presence of Messiah Jesus meant that things had changed, completely and dramatically. The reply of Jesus relates to that huge change. John did not tell us what Jesus had been talking about on the other side of the lake but we can easily guess. Mark reports his words on another occasion as, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.” And we may safely assume he did not say anything very different this time.

They thought they would be automatically transferred into his Kingdom. “No!” says Jesus. You need to do something - you need to take a positive step into the Kingdom by following me, so his answer was, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

But we need to be careful here. It sounds almost as though Jesus is saying ‘believing in me, that is that I am the Messiah and the Son of God, is all you have to do step into the Kingdom’; or, as he said to Nicodemus, ‘be sure you are born again’ and that is all that matters. But it is not so. You cannot just step into the Kingdom and find a nice seat on a wall or something and watch what happens. You cannot just be born again and stay in the cradle, drink your milk and get your diaper changed for you. You must grow. You don’t have a choice; once you are born you have to grow. If you don’t you are severely retarded – and who wants to be that. If you are born again you are also equally born from above; the power of the Spirit has entered your life and you must grow – just as you cannot opt out of growing physically once you are born you cannot opt out of growing spiritually. And a major part of that is that if you are in the Kingdom you must participate in the work of the Kingdom.

All too often people assume, and are often told, that the first steps: being born again, making a decision for Jesus, giving your heart to Jesus, setting out to follow Jesus; is all that matters and they can now boast of what they have done and they will be ‘all right’ at the last day or when they die. It isn’t quite like that. Only the last way of talking about that first step ‘setting out to follow Jesus’ carries any suggestion that there is work to be done. But there is! Paul says (in Philippians 2: 12, 13), “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

And that is just a bit fuller than what Jesus says here, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

What Paul says is both a promise and a challenge. It is the great promise that God will be in us and undertake the work. The challenge is that we are to work hard ourselves – to be better people, to relate better to and help other people, to spread the Good News of the Kingdom to other people, etc. And we need to be careful about how we do it – particularly that last one about how we handle the Good News. Paul says, referring to the work that he was doing in spreading the Good News and teaching people in the young churches about it, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder. Each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” If we do anything about the Good News, as we all should and must, we must realize our responsibility in making sure it is the real Good News and not some distorted version of it.

We are in the Lord’s army. Not to fight, but to build. Work hard, work well, build straight and high and we shall meet in that grand final day when all is revealed and we will receive the great reward of all our work – being ushered into the immediate presence of the Lord Jesus to hear his ‘well done, good and faithful servant’.


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