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Archive for August 2016

WISE - Faith

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Faith


People always say that faith is blind! However the Bible says that faith is a total confidence in God’s faithfulness, which leads to reliance, trust and total obedience to Him (Hebrews 11v6). We see this faith in the Godly obedience of those around us and from the Bible and church history.

Faith in Salvation

For salvation, faith is a voluntary change of mind and heart in the sinner in which the person turns to God, relying on and accepting His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ.

  1. Mind - recognition of your need of salvation. Acknowledging Christ’s death on your behalf and your need of forgiveness.
  2. Emotional (Heart) – your personal assent to the gospel. You ask yourself, “What must I do to be saved?” and then you agree to make salvation a part of your life.
  3. Will - Personal trust in Jesus Christ.

Now as a follower of Jesus, you are to continue having faith in Him. Four things at least you are to have faith in Him for:

By faith - He is praying for you

Jesus Christ is making intercessions for His followers (Romans 8:34). He knew the disciples troubles (Mark 6:48), just as He knows your troubles now. He feels your cares and knows what you are going through (Hebrews 4:14-16).

By faith - He will come to you

Ever felt like God is far away? Well you aren’t alone! King David often felt God was far away and unconcerned. However he also knew God would ultimately rescue him. Jesus always comes to you through difficult times, although He may not come in the time you think He should come, because He knows when you need Him most.

By faith - He will help you grow

When the disciples were in the storm and Jesus came to them walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33), the purpose of this incident was to show that Jesus would be leaving them soon, so they had to learn to trust in Him when He wasn’t physically present. Peter wrote later on in his life, “for the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers” (1 Peter 3v12).

By faith, He will see you through

At the same event, Jesus said “Come” and Peter went with Him. This must have encouraged the other disciples, for upon seeing Jesus’ power they worshipped him. Whatever troubles you are undergoing are temporary, and Jesus will see you through.

By faith, you have salvation. By faith Jesus is praying, will come to you, grow you and help you through troubles. By being obedient to God, you are showing others your salvation and showing that faith, is not blind, but active!

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SALT - Beverly

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salt,partake ministries


An interview of less than 3 minutes with a Christian answering 6 questions.

Let's go!

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David's Final Prayer

1 Chronicles 29:10-20


Introduction

Tonight, we delve into the book of 1 Chronicles and this great and perhaps last public prayer of the great King David!  It is a fabulous piece of Scripture, I am sure you agree, that tells us a lot about God we as Christians claim to know and love, as well as how we are to respond to Him.

Originally 1 & 2 Chronicles were one book. It was the final book of the Jewish Canon, probably written by Ezra and was also known as the "the events of the days", "the things omitted" which would suggest that Chronicles were to be regarded as additional to the books of Kings and Samuel.  It's a book which was written for those from the nation of Israel who are now in exile, to remind them of their spiritual heritage - the journey & history of Israel as a nation.

For us though, not least I, it issues certain challenges to us all.I will be reading from the Authorised Version. It's the 400th year anniversary this year and as I read, you will see how much of its language has entered into our language today. Its influence on the development of English language is remarkable.

Here is the great king David!

Now here to Chapter 29, we have King David in his final days before handing over the crown to his son, Solomon.  David is no longer the shepherd-boy who slew Goliath. He is at the end of his life. He wanted to build the temple himself, but God told him in 1 Chronicles 28:3 "You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood."

The building of the Temple was to be ultimately achieved by his great son Solomon to do!

What has happened so far?

So what has happened so far, according to the Chronicler? In the previous verses before our reading, we see how David has given publicly a great deal of wealth including gold, silver and other personal possessions for this building - the great Temple. This was to serve as an active encouragement for others to also give generously!  Not only of their material possessions, but also as we read from 1 Chronicles 28v21, their talents and craftsmanship as well! 
This house of God would be a community effort - King & pauper alike, giving generously and honestly!So here is David, a man, who despite his many faults, is described as a man after God's own heart. Israel's greatest king, saying this prayer of intimate praise & adoration to his God in front of the assembled throngs.  This prayer, like his gifts of gold etc., could be said, to be David's legacy to the nation of Israel, to Solomon and by extension also to us.

1.  WOW factor of God! (v10-13)

I get a wow factor of God reading this! Look how David talks of God!  You can tell that David has had a vibrant and intimate relationship with this God - the God of his youth and his old age. He piles up the metaphors! He speaks of God personally: thou, thee, you, yours, our, I, my.  David praises God for who God is!

Verse 10 sets the scene "Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever."  God is their father!

He is everlasting! Before Israel was, He is and always will be! He was to be their God and they were to be His people.  God takes care of them as a father does His children - giving generously, protecting them and always being available for guidance & wisdom.

Verse 11 is perhaps the central verse of this prayer: "Thine, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all."

The whole emphasis is on the LORD God! Greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty - all are yours O God - throughout the earth and the heavens! Yours is the kingdom! Not ours, but yours, O King! For they are attributes of a king!

God's greatness is vast, incomparable and unfathomable.  God's power is that of a warrior: almighty, overwhelming yet alluring; and all power comes from Him to every dependent creature.  God's glory is the exuberant and ecstatic magnificence of His very being!  Victory shows God as an all-conquering hero: transcendent and supreme, to whom all creatures and creation are subject. His victories are irrefutable and undeniable. His uncompromising majesty symbolises a dignity, regency, splendour and awesome magnificence!

These things: greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty are essential attributes of who God is: indelible, immutable, unchangeable and permanent.  God is a King in greater splendour than any of the excesses of King Louis XVI.  If you don't know about Louis, go look him up and the scale of extravagance!  This God is a mighty King to be exalted above all things and He is to be held in His rightful place: high and lifted up!As for the kingdom, whose is it? Is it Israel's? No! Is it David's? No! It is God's and His alone! His Kingdom is of total magnificence and greater than the Roman Empire to come!  Even greater than the British Empire, which was never to see the sun set on it.  Jesus is probably quoting here, in what we call the Lord's Prayer.  So David's words resonate down through history.In this context however, David uses kingdom to symbolise the fact that the building materials, the amassed wealth, did not belong to Israel, but rather they were God's alone!  God's kingdom shows His universal influence, authority and universality.

Everything is God's! Its all His! Nobody can say they own ultimate possession of anything! The only reason, to paraphrase David, "we have this amassed wealth to build the Temple is because we have the leasehold to it!    God owns the freehold, its all His and because of His generosity we can build Him this house!And not only these material possessions, but also the imagination, ingenuity, craftsmanship, skills and talents - well they all came from God as well, so you craftsmen, bless God because God has blessed you with skilled hands to work on His house! Your strength is ultimately from His unlimited resources of strength!"

This is no impersonal statue or idol like the surrounding nations. This is the living God, awesome in all things yet willing to be involved in a personal relationship.  This is the God, who through the Levitical Law, wants to live with His people of joy, to be their Living God!   This God is the light of all things good, bright and blessed. He is the greatest of the greatest, truly incomprehensible yet also knowable.  David is in utter adoration of this great God! I wonder if David knew that this physical Temple itself was only ever going to be a temporary building until the coming of the Messiah - when God would no longer dwell in a house made of gold and stone but rather live in human hearts.

It is out of His wonderfully glorious grace that the Lord God Almighty gave the gifts in the first place and the cheerful sacrificial response from His people in gratitude to Him was remarkable! All these things were given willingly - the possessions, the gold, the silver, the skills, the power and strength - all in service of the great God of Israel, the great Father of Abraham, Isaac, Moses and the other patriarchs.Surely, this is a God worthy of all praise, worship and life commitment! Each person praises differently and in different ways, so let's rejoice when we see other people praising God differently to our own style.

2. David - its all Him (v14-20)

That's the wow factor of God: a God who is abundant in greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty.Now let's look together at David himself! All the attributes of praise, given here by David to God, could with a great deal of justification, be said about Israel, or even David himself.  They were at the time a strong nation and David quite rightly still on the throne. Israel's greatest King - full of power, might and majesty.  But no! What does David say in v14?

"But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee."

Its all about God for David! He would say that I am only here because of Him! David has been reflecting on his whole life - from the time he defeated the Philistine armed only with a sling and stone. He sees his past failures, the utter depravity of those but also his repentant heart before a holy God.
The end of verse 14 again, "All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee", and this resonates down through history, in churches worldwide as the offering prayer.David exhibits great humility before God, and sets an example for his son, Solomon and the other people of Israel, to follow.

And then in v15 "For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding"

David acknowledges that Israel were only tenants in the Promised Land - on a leasehold agreement. They were a nation of sojourners travelling a journey, from their foundation as a nation onwards. It is like David was saying to the Lord: "We are here temporarily but You, O God, are here permanently. What an amazingly generous God you are, giving with such exceeding grace to us."  David confesses they are but transient and aliens in the land God had given them.  It is an image tying them to their patriarchs as they wandered in the wilderness, living only on what their God provided them with, as they looked for the Promised Land.  It is also an image of an acknowledgement that all life is supremely dependent upon God and God alone. God was to be their God and they were to be His people - to be shining as a light to all nations as God's representatives.

Here is the mighty King David, bowing in humility before a great God whom he adores, serves and worships.  He knew that his whole life had been one of dependence upon God for all things, and David was exhibiting this before his people.  David's prayer was that the people of Israel would continue to depend on God but also exhibit that dependence and show how God supplied them graciously.

Not only for David but also for the Chronicler too!  He was recording this for the people of Israel when they were in exile.The Chronicler reminds the people in exile to be utterly dependent upon God for all and everything. For the Chronicler, the building of the Temple was more a matter of the heart, and built upon the faith of God to supply. This faith was expressed in the building made of gold, silver, wood and other metals.It was due to God's generosity alone the Temple would be built and nothing to do with David and his people.  It would have been a tremendous temptation to be filled with boastful pride about it.  It was a test of people's hearts to see if they really did love their God.Then in the final words of this prayer, we see David praying for unreserved and enthusiastic giving from the people. He changes from acknowledgement to petition.In verses 18-20, David exhorts an outpouring of generosity from his people, from a heart filled with thanks - a heart acknowledging total dependence on God for all things - a heart & life of loyal obedience to Almighty God. 

Solomon also was to be wholeheartedly obedient and devoted fully to God. A heart filled with peace with God, a life totally devoted to Him, exhibited with joyful giving. That's what David was praying for his people and for his son Solomon. Its also what the Chronicler was expecting from the people in exile as he recounts this to them. It was to be a community effort of devotion and obedience to an almighty God, on whom they were dependent for all facets of human life.  Everybody giving what they could - out of riches or poverty.

3. So what?

Firstly, we saw the wow factor of God: a God who exudes greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty.Then we saw David's utter adoration and dependence upon the God that he knows intimately.So, finally, what does all this have to do with us?How often do we receive from our God, but not thank Him for it? We are to be thankful for every good gift that is given to us. We offer praises and thanks to Him, for who He is and for His generosity and grace towards us. 

Tonight's bible passage was a superb piece of thanksgiving. When was the last time you thanked God for all the things He has given you?  How can we put this thanks and praise into action? Lets see quickly!

Firstly, I am convinced there are enough wealthy Christians sitting in churches in the West, who could make significant donations and virtually eradicate a lot of the poverty in the developing world and indeed their own countries. This would be active Christian giving on a radical scale. In biblical stories, such as this from 1 Chronicles 29, its always those who had the most, gave the most as an example to others of God's generosity. After all, God owns it all anyway and it's only given as a loan from God and not a transference of ownership.

As Christians, we are to desire to mature spiritually - growing in adoration, obedience and commitment to God. Perhaps the greatest indicator of today, concerns our giving. Giving is to be done whole-heartedly and cheerfully. It is also not so much about how much is given, but how much is left after giving and the attitude behind it. God looks beyond that which is given to the motive and attitude behind it. All our money and possessions belong to Him anyway, as we have seen, so giving is to be in response to this. Our money and possessions are a leasehold agreement not a freehold one. Giving done willingly is also not done to boost our own egos or for the feel-good factor, but rather to bring glory and honour to God as a thankful response to His giving all things to us.Many prayers seemingly go unanswered because God is waiting on people to be obedient to Him, in order to answer the unanswered prayers of others. .We are to be generous with everything we have, not just in the area of money but with our very lives. We all have time, information, knowledge imagination, gifts and talents.  All these too are to be given back to God .  That may well take radical action to do, but radical giving is what we are called to do. God has given everything so that you and I may live and have life, so by caring and giving, we will reflect that. Let's be radical church together and encourage others to be likewise.

But, as we have seen, it's not only about giving money and resources. Giving is also to include skills, information, imagination and knowledge.  Remember, the priests and craftsmen were waiting to give in the building of and service within the Temple.Churches, particularly these days, need to capture the imagination of those looking for a church home, and get them involved.  Involvement in such a way that it builds up commitment to God and a growing adoration of Him.  If people are involved, they will stay. It means training them up, to be fit for service within the church.  If training for service doesn't occur, then commitment and dedication to God is likely to be diminished.  If the same people do the same thing year after year, that local church will eventually die out. Each local church is only one generation away from closing its doors permanently.Giving, as we saw in tonight's passage, is also a community affair.  This Church is to be a community, both within the church and outside of it, where the strongest members support the weakest members.

But, as we also saw tonight, it is not just for leaders to give! Giving is to be for everyone! Every church has a fantastic array of knowledge, wisdom, possessions and imagination. Let us share that with people outside the church. Who knows what our caring and giving will do for them as it reflects the glory of God!Too often, we are found turning a blind eye to the suffering of others where the necessities of life are in sparse existence. Too often we neglect to give up our personal space, time, imagination, information and money generously to help the poor and needy in our local, national and global communities.By doing this giving collectively, we will show our faith to be real and practical.  There are people out there in our local community just waiting for somebody to give generously to them.  We need to be seen to be radically giving to all - of our money, our possessions, and also our time, imagination, knowledge, practical help, care and love. 

Let us show our relevance to our local community and not be seen as just a curious gathering of people meeting on a Sunday.If you have ideas of how you can help the church here at PBC in anyway, then see the elders or the Pastor and talk to them about it.So if I could summarise all this up in one sentence, it would be something like this

"Ask not only what your God can give to you,

but what great things you can do and give to your God."

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 44 - John 10:16–18
Other flocks – the Gentiles.


Jesus goes on from talking about himself as a Shepherd to give a very clear, if not very long, indication that he knew that his word would go out through all the world. By ‘other sheep not of this sheepfold’ he clearly meant those who were not of the ancient people of God, the Jews. Us! The Gentiles (though perhaps a few ethnic Jews may hear or read this. If so – welcome.) This is perhaps the clearest indication we have in all the Gospels that Jesus knew his words and their effects would spread through all the world. Because he only had a man’s body he was limited to how many people he could actually contact and influence himself. After his death and resurrection his people would be able to do ‘greater works’ than he could do because they would spread through all the world in ever widening circles.

There was an explosion of activity after his death and the giving of the Holy Spirit all across the then known world. An Ethiopian returned to Ethiopia with the Good News; the apostle Thomas almost certainly reached south India with it; Paul probably reached the furthest western end of the Mediterranean area, to Spain, with it; and these are only the ones we know about.

What does it all say to us? The divide between Jew and Gentile that was the subject of what Jesus actually said is not likely to be of much significance to us. But what about all the other divides that people are so good at making between themselves and other people who are slightly different from them? The most obvious difference is between black and white and all the differing shades of brown in between. The divide between rich and poor can be just as deep if less obvious. Between accents. Between ethnic backgrounds. Between those who live one side of the tracks and those who live the other side. Between this cultural background and that one – even sometimes between generations. Between those who wear these sorts of clothes and those sorts. We have many, many ways of dividing people up and, to its deep shame, the Christian church has sometimes been at the forefront in drawing the distinctions. Yet all are clearly wrong in the eyes of Jesus. He said he had other sheep from the other side of a very deep divide. He promised to bring them in, that they would listen to his voice, and be part of his one flock. We might say, in a common English idiom, that ‘that is all that matters’. Particularly at the end of the day ‘that is all that will matter’.

The clear challenge to us is to accept all manner of people into our fellowship and friendship. If you live in a situation where there are long held and deeply rooted divisions among people that is not easy. I was going to go on to say that it is easy for those of us who do not face those particular problems to talk like this, but I wonder. Do any of us live in situations really free of divisions? Or is it just that some of the divisions are much less obvious, more subtle, harder to see? Think carefully about it – for yourself, where you are, not for other people.



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Partakers Friday Prayers

for the Persecuted Church Worldwide

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!


Prayers for the Persecuted Church


Sovereign God, we worship you and acknowledge that you know all of those who suffer in your name because they follow you. We remember those who are imprisoned for their faith and ask that they would join with the Apostle Paul to see that even though they remain captive, their chains have furthered the gospel, not frustrated it. May they inspire and embolden their fellow believers to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. Amen

God of all comfort, for those who are tortured both in body and mind, give them the grace to endure and to see their suffering as part of following in Christ’s footsteps. Merciful God, for those asked to pay the ultimate price; who are martyred because of their love for you, may they truly know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Amen

Father God, for those who are widowed and orphaned may they know the comfort that comes from your promised presence even when they walk through the valley. May they be strengthened by your Spirit, enabling them to rejoice with the psalmist as they proclaim that the LORD will not abandon them in death. Amen

Heavenly Father, we ask that you would make us ever mindful of our brothers and sisters around the world who need us to stand with them as they suffer in your name. Teach us what it means to overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony; we pray that we would not love our lives so much as to shrink from death.

We ask these things O Father, through the name of Your Son, Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us.
Amen


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Issues - Universalism

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 Partake - Issues

Universalism

John writes in John 1v1-5, talking about Jesus "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."

Jesus talking about Himself John 14:2, 6: "Trust in God; trust also in me. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 17:1-2 "O God, Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him."

Most modern societies, particularly in the West, are pluralistic with many cultures evident within any city and country. With the advent of pluralism, comes the widely held belief that all religions, creeds, beliefs and non-beliefs are equal, which all ultimately lead to God and that after death, every person will enter heaven and have everlasting life with God.  That is universalism, and sadly, some Christian churches hold this belief.  However, that is contradictory to what Jesus said in the bible passages I read earlier.  That is not to say that each religion does not have an element of truth within it.  But only one religion is ultimate and absolute truth and that is Christianity. As Christians in the twenty first century we are often informed that Christianity is wrong, and that Jesus Christ can't possibly be the only way to God, even if a God or Gods exist.
Just a scant look at each religion throws up the incompatibility between them. For instance the great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam all profess that there is only one God.  Contrast this against the religion of Hinduism, which has millions of God, or Buddhism where there may well be no God at all! So Universalism could really be just a form of functional religious atheism.
If we were all going to be with God anyway, why would God bother having a plan of salvation as revealed in the Bible? If Universalism is true, why bother with morals or ethics now during this life as each religion has differing codes of morality and behaviour.  Now as soon as a Universalist says that morality is what defines the human (as some do), we can then say well which God, and therefore religion, decides what morality as different religions have different rules of morality!!  Taking it even further we could say why would God bother interacting with His creation at all, if humanity is going to be spending eternity with Him anyway! Why would there even be a thing called death at all, if universalism is true! So why is Universalism wrong? Lets have a look very briefly together, how superior Christianity is to Universalism.

Universalism Denies Salvation by Grace

Universalists inevitably proclaim that it is due to God's nature of love and mercy that everyone will have everlasting life with God. Surely a merciful God will allow all to live with Him, regardless of the path they took in this early life!   However the Bible states that while God is a God of love and mercy, He is also a God of justice and the sins of people need to be dealt with.  That is where God's grace comes in. How does God promise salvation to those reaching out for it? Through His unfailing love, kindness and tender mercy, which is enacted through Grace!  Salvation can be attained by no other means, but only through the combination of God's mercy and grace - God's twin actions working in unison.  Grace is easily defined as: God's Riches At Christ's Expense.  So what about Jesus Christ?

Universalism Denies Jesus' uniqueness being human & divine

That Jesus was a man is not really disputed.  But why did Jesus need to fully human? Firstly, so Jesus death could appease God's anger with us. Secondly so that Jesus can empathize and pray for us.  Thirdly, Jesus exhibited true and perfect humanity.  Fourthly, due to his perfect humanity, Jesus is to be our example to follow.  Fifthly, true human nature is good.  Lastly, while God is both above and beyond, He is not so far removed from us, that He cannot interact with his creation.

But he was more than human, He was also fully God - He was fully divine!  God's salvation plan for humans involved triumphant victory over sin, death and the grave.  However no person could be found that was eligible or capable to do this.  Because of this, God stepped into human history, so that this victory could be achieved.  This God-man would be fully human, so as to live every feature of humanity, including suffering and death.  This God-man would also need to remain fully God, so as to defeat sin, death and the grave.  Jesus, being sinless, was this God-man, consisting as he did of two complete natures, the God nature and the human nature. That Jesus is both human and divine is what makes Christianity truly unique amongst the world's religions.  It is why Jesus' claims to be the only way to God are true and make sense.  It is why universalism is shown to be a fallacy. Universalism is wrong because it makes Jesus Christ out to be either a liar or a lunatic or worse - both.

Universalism Denies Jesus' cross

As all paths under universalism lead to God, why would God have to send Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of the world?  Surely, if all paths lead ultimately to God, then there would be no need for Jesus to suffer the agony of the cross.  On the cross, Jesus died so that all sins - past, present and future sins - can be forgiven.  Salvation is to be found only through God's grace and mercy exhibited by God the Son on the cross.  Moreover, it is only to those who acknowledge Him as Saviour in this earthly life that He will acknowledge before God the Father.

Universalism Denies Jesus' resurrection



The resurrection of Jesus Christ provided the central theme for the sermons and teaching in the early church (Acts 1
:22; Acts 4:33, Acts 17:18). But what significance is there in Jesus' resurrection? The resurrection proved and vindicated all Jesus' teaching and claims as the suffering Servant and attested to his being fully God and the last Judge of all mankind (Isaiah 53:10-12; Acts 2:36; Acts 3:13-15; Romans 1:4). The resurrection declared God's approval of Jesus' obedient service and the fulfilment of all the Old Testament promises, resulting in forgiveness of sins and salvation being only found in and through Jesus Christ, Jesus' resurrection is a sign of the bodily resurrection for all believers in him, giving a new attitude to death and transforming hopes (1 Corinthians 15:12-58, Romans 8:10, 2 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Peter 1:3 & 21) As the resurrected King, Jesus now intercedes for us and has perfected the redemption of all those who choose to follow him (Romans 5:10; Hebrews 6:20, 1 Peter 1:21).

Universalism Denies Jesus' authority



Jesus has authority (Matthew 28:18) over all things, all people, all circumstances and happenings. has authority over all spiritual beings, whether angels or demons. Jesus has authority over all nations, governments and rulers. Jesus has authority over all earthly and spiritual authorities. Jesus has the authority. Over all religions, leaders and people - Jesus has the authority and supremacy. This means regardless of what ever the Christian Disciple faces, Jesus is in control.
Therefore, as Christian Disciples, we can obey him without fear of retribution from those who would seek to harm us. We have been given a free will, but as his Disciples, we should choose to exercise our free will to obey him and live a life worthy of him. As we grow to rely and depend on Jesus' authority, we continually gain wisdom, guidance, and power.  Because of His authority, Jesus has authority and supremacy over all things - created, non-created, religious and non- religious.

Either Jesus was who he said he was - God - or he was a liar and a lunatic not to be trusted.  Universalism and Christianity are non-compatible - the Jesus of the Bible and therefore Christianity, is uniquely superior to all other religions and beliefs encompassed in Universalism.

For more to think about please do read John 14:1-6. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1.  How does my life of worship to Christ denounce Universalism?
Q2.  How does the call for me to be a witness for Jesus affect views of Universalism?
Q3.  How have I witnessed universalism in my community or country?



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Think Spot - 22nd August 2016

G'day! Welcome to Partakers Think Spot at the start of new week!

Romans 1:1-5

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God- the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name's sake.

Jesus is Unique

The first word I would use for Jesus is that He is unique - totally unique! Never before and never to be repeated again - ever! Jesus Christ is the standout person from all of history! In all of human history, Jesus Christ is incomparable!Yet in human form, we read that during his earthly ministry he had no physical beauty that would draw people naturally to himself. We read that Jesus' body on the cross was disfigured and tortured beyond that of human likeness. His perfect life, His salvation work on the cross and His subsequent rising from the dead, is what makes Jesus Christ unique - a once and for all lifetime Messiah or Saviour for the entire world! This great God of creation, stepping into His creation as a human, with the purpose of reconciling the world back to Himself! WOW!! Jesus' uniqueness meaning I can have an active and dynamic relationship with God.As you go into this week may your relationship with God be active and dynamic! Go and thank Jesus Christ for his uniqueness which allows this to occur.

Prayer

Father, we thank you for Jesus Christ your Son! We thank you that because of Him, we can enter into a dynamic and active relationship with you! We ask this prayer and give you praise, through your Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives inside all those who are following! Amen!


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A Strategy to Cope

Hebrews 3

1 Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. 2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. 3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5 Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice,8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert,9 where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did.10 That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.'

11 So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.' "12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.15 As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion."

16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

The first thing we do is to consider Jesus or as the NIV here puts it “fix our thoughts”. Now remember, that these are Hebrew believers. I guess we would call them Messianic Jews today. They believed that Jesus was their Messiah, Saviour and Lord. They were obviously coming under pressure from their Jewish friends and leaders to deny this Jesus and return to the fold. They would have been told how great Moses was.

In the previous chapter we read how Jesus is greater than the angels, because He is God, but was made a little lower than the angels when he became a man.


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Gems in the Gospel of John
Part 43 - John 10:11-15
I am the good shepherd


Now we come to one of the most well-known things Jesus said. He compares himself to a shepherd: a good shepherd. From what he goes on to say he uses the word ‘good’ mainly because he is prepared to die for the sheep. This is the first time Jesus has made any allusion to his death in John’s gospel.

We have to be careful here. We may be so used to thinking of the leaders of Christians as shepherds - which is what pastor means - that we tend to think of Jesus here as simply the top shepherd, the boss shepherd, but Jesus is using the imagery here to emphasize his relationship to his people. He even equates his relationship to his people - that is to you and me - to his relationship to his father, to God. That is amazing! Once again we are seeing the difference between their way of thinking, dominated by the significance to them of the small group to which they belonged, and our (Western) way of thinking where the individual is much more important than anyone else or any group of people. We are, of course, fully entitled to our culture and there is nothing much we can do to escape from it but we must make every effort to grasp hold of the full import of this teaching of Jesus. We have seen it again and again in many different sorts of comments and metaphors throughout John’s Gospel.

Jesus says ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ and then goes on immediately to say that he will lay down his life for the sheep. This leads us to some important made up words for the way the Gospel should be presented. First we get ‘Christocentric’ which clearly emphasises that our Gospel must be centred on Christ. Then we get Cruco-Christocentric which says that our Gospel must be centred on the Crucified Christ. This is important. We must not place the emphasis on the Social Jesus by seeking to emulate him in his many good works - important though those are and our imitation of them is; we must not place the emphasis on his work in outreaching to other people which we copy in evangelism; not even on his divinity as that would lead us to try to emphasise his Glory in pageants of glorious worship and praise. No! Our sole emphasis is to be on the great work that he accomplished on the Cross, for our redemption, our salvation, our growth in purity and holiness, and our eventual glorification with him in the eternal kingdom. There is nothing in what he did that we can emulate at all. He alone did those things and achieved those purposes. That may seem to be an almost useless abstraction. Should we not concentrate on doing things to the glory of God and the benefit of his Kingdom? No! Our central core emphasis must always be on Christ and him crucified. We must be Cruco-Christocentric. Only Jesus, his death and the resurrection that validated that death, are to lie at the centre of our thinking and all our activity. Only then will our motivations be right and acceptable to the Lord God.

Then will we be good and obedient sheep at the centre of his flock, following his guiding, living the sort of lives as we go in and out to the Kingdom pastures that are the best and greatest of all lives to live. Note here how much in this Gospel the emphasis falls not so much on sin, though it is a consideration, but on the importance of the continuing life that is opened up for the Christian as they set out to follow him. Jesus was always looking forward to his follower’s futures, not deeply concerned about their pasts. His was an orientation to the future not the past. Even to the woman caught in adultery he said “go now and leave your life of sin”. As we saw last time .‘Jesus is the gate’; he is about us going in and out to find pasture - it is our continuing lives that are now the prime concern of our most gracious Lord. To keep them strong we must always centre and focus all our beings on Christ and him crucified. We must be Cruco-Christocentric in everything.

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

19th August 2016

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!

Today we are praying a prayer of Clement of Rome - for those in authority over us.

You, O Lord, have given the authority of the kingdom to them through Your almighty and unspeakable power,
so that we, knowing the estimation and honour given to them by You,
might submit ourselves to them,
in no way opposing Your will;
to whom give, O Lord, health, peace, concord, stability,
so that they may discharge the rule given to them by You without offence;

For you, heavenly Master, King of the ages, give to the sons of men glory and honour and authority over those upon the earth.

Lord, direct their plans according to what is good and pleasing in your sight,
so that by devoutly administering in peace and gentleness the authority which you have given them they may experience your mercy.

You, who alone are able to do these and even greater good things for us,
we praise through the high priest and guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ,
through whom be the glory and the majesty to you both now and for all generations and for ever and ever.

Amen

(A prayer taken from 1 Clement 61.1-3).

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Issues - Culture

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Christians and culture

Cultures from around this world are individual, unique and diverse. At least 20 are represented here in this room. Have you ever noticed how people from different countries greet each other? Those from Latin America, will kiss each other on the cheeks. Australians will shake each other firmly by the hand, punch each other on the arm, say "G'day" and proceed to jokingly insult each other. English people, however, shake each other by the hand limply, take a step back, start to talk about the weather and look for the nearest queue to join! Americans greet each other with a hug, take a step back, talk to each other and once the other person has left, promptly forget the other person's name. Yet other people from other nations say hello by bowing or even by sucking mouths! All these are generalisations!

So we see that from many different cultures from over 200 countries on this planet, there are many differences - rich in variety and stark in contrast! And that is why we have come together - gathered from many different traditions and cultures, to both see and show brief cultural insights. If we were to take a more indepth look into a culture that is different from our own, we would see in it, both likes and dislikes and also similarities.The things that are acceptable to me in a cultural sense, may well shock you, because of your cultural upbringing. Some of what we are as people is because of the culture we were born into and raised within. Take for example, an El Salvadorian wedding, where the husband at the post-service reception places his wife's left leg on a chair, discreetly lift her dress to the upper thigh and proceeds to pull her garter off with his teeth! This is in front of everybody! He then throws the garter to a gathered group of single men, all eagerly waiting to catch it!

Now if you are offended by this, it is probably because of your upbringing in a culture, where at a wedding, which is not the done thing. Somehow I can't see this happening in a Japanese wedding, in case it was deemed offensive, particularly to the guests! But just because something is different from your own culture, does not necessarily mean that it is wrong. Our cultural heritage and upbringing affects our ethics, lifestyle, family values, and worldview and so on.Culture also has a place and a say in our religion. Some cultures insist that you follow a particularly religion out of respect for tradition, whether that is nominal Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism Islam, Zionism, Taoism, Shintoism, Spiritism or any other ‘ism' which is your cultural norm. Sometimes there are severe pressures and penalties to pay if you want to change your religion, say to Christianity from Islam.

Now I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus, was, is and always will be God! So what does Jesus have to say about culture and cultural differences? Jesus kept all the cultural tradition, as a good Jewish man that did not affect his own personal holiness and offend those to whom he engaged in a cross-cultural exchange. Whether it was a Roman centurion; a Canaanite woman; Samaritans; Greeks or other cultures, Jesus was always sensitive to their particular problems regardless of his cultural traditions, taught to him about not touching or talking to foreigners, women, sick and poor people. He continually broke the traditional cultural religious taboos, by doing these things, and that is one of the reasons that Jewish authorities hated him and plotted to kill him.That is ok, you might be thinking if you are not a follower of Jesus. You may well be thinking that I am a Christian because I was bought up in a Christian country and it is your cultural tradition to follow this Jesus.

But if you are thinking that, then maybe you are also thinking that Jesus is only for Jews and those in the West where Christianity is the normal religion. You may also be thinking that Christianity is not for you because your tradition and culture say that you must follow another religion.I am a Christian because Jesus was pursuing me! True my upbringing in a country which at least is nominally Christian did pay a small part in my turning to follow Jesus Christ. But by becoming a Christian, I rebelled against my parents and against my culture. The main reason I am a Christian, is because Jesus Christ was chasing me. I have decided to follow him - will you follow him or reject him?

You may well reject Jesus Christ as your Saviour and the Son of God because you don't know enough about him yet. If that is your reason then read about him in the Bible. Or you may well reject him because you simply don't want to acknowledge him for who he is. That at least is honest! But please, don't reject him simply because your culture says to stick to your own cultural or national religion. That is just patronising nonsense. Jesus is for all people of all time, all nations and all cultures. Jesus, as we read in the Bible, crosses all cultural boundaries and welcomes all to his searching and outstretched arms. Don't let culture be the excuse for not accepting Him as your God and saviour. Jesus is and always will be the Son of God, the saviour for all people of all nations, languages and cultures for all time. In John 12v32, Jesus said that he will draw all people to himself. So, come. Come to Jesus and start to follow him right now!For those of us who are already followers of Jesus Christ, what does the Bible tell us about culture and following Him.

The Bible tells us to be holy, following Jesus Christ as Lord, and growing in righteousness. It is hard for us, because the Christian life is demanding and yet also exciting! We use all sorts of excuses for sinning; that is doing wrong against God and others.Sometimes we use the excuse that is part of our individual cultural identity to do that, so ergo, it can't be wrong! In some cultures, man can have more than one wife; in still others men treat women as a little lower than slaves or dogs. The Aussie culture is well known for its arrogance, insulting and being rude to all and sundry. Other cultures place emphasis on gross materialism & collecting possessions at all costs.

Yet other cultures and countries, allow indifference to the suffering of the poor and sick in their community, putting their low position in society down to bad luck, kismet or fate.Now we know that all these things are wrong because the Bible clearly tells us they are wrong. The Bible says only have one wife, love and respect each other. The Bible says love one another; don't be rude but be humble and not arrogant. The Bible says take care of the poor and sick in the community. The Bible says don't accumulate possessions for possessions sake. And yet we can use the cultural barrier excuse to try and justify our sins, time and time again.When our cultural traditions cross over the lines of sin, drawn out for us in the Bible, then we must at all costs to ourselves, stop doing them!

Now I am not saying do away with all our cultural traditions - just those that are clearly unbiblical and hinder our path to personally holiness and personal righteousness. Let us follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be prepared to sacrifice your cultural taboos at all cost to yourself and run the race set for you, whilst keeping your cultural differences.So, in conclusion, those of you who are not yet followers of Jesus, don't let your culture and traditions stop you from deciding to follow Jesus and running to those outstretched arms that are waiting for you.

For those of us who are already followers of Jesus and believe in him for our salvation, let us stop using our cultural traditions as excuses for sinning. Repent of any attitude, behaviour or action that causes you to sin.

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Think Spot

15th August 2016

As I reflect upon the life of Jesus as given to us through the Gospels, I see that in his interaction with people he exhibits his loveliness. An example of this is found in Matthew 20:29-34 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" Jesus stopped and called them. "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. "Lord," they answered, "we want our sight." Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

See how Jesus exhibited his loveliness to those two men, through an act of compassion and mercy! Jesus gave those two men great joy in receiving their sight and enabled them to overcome the rejection by the crowd! Those two men could testify that Jesus is altogether lovely and lovely altogether!Jesus is beyond compare for the things He has done and the things He will do. Jesus Christ is altogether lovely in regard to his divinity, humanity, birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, exultation, glorification, grace, protection, tenderness, power, wisdom, vengeance, judgement, majesty, redemption and pardon! Jesus' loveliness means I can have His incomparable inner joy when I feel defeated, dejected and discouraged. Jesus oozes loveliness!

As you go into this week, remember that when you are feeling defeated, dejected or discouraged, that Jesus joy is inside you. Joy is not necessarily loud and obtrusive but also quiet and peaceful. Allow that joy of Jesus to carry you through. Let His loveliness embrace you and allow Him control over your circumstances.

A prayer to help you into this new week:

Father, we thank you for sending Jesus.
We thank you Jesus
that you are altogether lovely and lovely altogether.
We thank you that you are with us when
everybody else rejects, despises, defeats or discourages us!
Amen.


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