May 25, 2015

Think Spot 25 May 2015

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Think Spot 25 May 2015

What we say, as well as what we don’t say, as Christians is very important. The Bible is very clear on that.

1 Peter 2:1 “Therefore rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind.”

James 4:11-12 “Brothers do not slander one another...who are you to judge your neighbour?”

The definition of slander is words falsely spoken that damage the reputation of another or an abusive attack on a person's character or good name or to attack the good name and reputation of someone.So next time you go to say anything negative about someone or to criticise their actions, think again, you might be disobeying God and breaking a command.

James 3:3-8 powerfully shows how a small thing such as the tongue is able to cause much damage. He says that the tongue is a world of evil that corrupts the whole person ...and is itself set on fire by hell.

Christians are very good at gossiping but disguising it as prayerful concern. We pass on a juicy bit of information about someone and then ask the person to pray about the situation. As Christians we should not pass on any information about anyone else unless the person concerned has asked us to. It is not our place to do so even if it is for prayer.

However, sometimes it is also what we don’t say that causes problems. We stay silent when in fact we do need to give that word of love, encouragement, rebuke or kindness. Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook can be fabulous sites if used properly. How often to we stay silent when we should say something kind? We get a message from a friend and we don't reply to it.  How often do we say something when we should stay silent instead of slandering, complaining, gossiping or bickering?

Prayer


Now, a prayer to help you into this new week. Father, we thank you for words. We thank you that we can communicate words of life to other people. Help us to use words wisely as we interact, communicate and deal with other people, especially our loved ones and work colleagues. May the Holy Spirit, guide, rebuke and counsel, as we use the amazing gift of words to us, as we seeks to live a life worthy of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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May 24, 2015

The Practice Of The Presence Of God - Brother Lawrence - 11

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The Practice Of The Presence Of God:

The Best Rule Of A Holy Life

(being Conversations and Letters of Brother Lawrence)


G’day! Welcome to Partakers! Today we continue our Sunday series, where we are reading from a book by Brother Lawrence “The Practice of the Presence of God”… This book is available for you to freely download at various websites!


Letters - Letter 7


At the age of nearly fourscore exhorts his correspondent, who is sixty-four, to live and die with God and promises and asks for prayer.

I pity you much. It will be of great importance if you can leave the care of your affairs to, and spend the remainder of your life only in worshipping GOD. He requires no great matters of us; a little remembrance of Him from time to time, a little adoration: sometimes to pray for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, and sometimes to return Him thanks for the favors He has given you, and still gives you, in the midst of your troubles, and to console yourself with Him the oftenest you can. Lift up your heart to Him, sometimes even at your meals, and when you are in company: the least little remembrance will always be acceptable to Him. You need not cry very loud; He is nearer to us than we are aware of.

It is not necessary for being with GOD to be always at church; we may make an oratory of our heart, wherein to retire from time to time, to converse with Him in meekness, humility, and love. Every one is capable of such familiar conversation with GOD, some more, some less: He knows what we can do.



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May 23, 2015

The Normal Christian Journey of Faith - Part 02

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The normal (Christian) journey of faith
Chapter 2: The Beginning


One day – perhaps long ago, perhaps soon to come – we became, or will become, a Christian. That is a great day for all of us and for some, living in difficult countries, it can be a dangerous day too. It can also be a very misunderstood day. It is fundamentally important that we realize that it is a day when two persons are involved – not just one. We, the human individual involved, are the one that we talk about as having decided to follow Jesus/be born again/give our hearts to the Lord/or whatever way we express it. True enough; but not the whole of the story - not even the most important part of it. God, the Lord, is involved too, particularly in the person of the Holy Spirit. We commit ourselves to following Jesus. The Holy Spirit commits himself to being with us, staying with us, empowering us, so that we can ‘walk in step with the Spirit’ as Paul puts it.

As you may know there is a problem here, which has been argued over in the church for centuries. It is this: ultimately - did we choose him or did he choose us? The labels that have been given to this argument, going back into history, are Arminian or Wesleyan, and Calvinistic. I do not intend to try and make any statement about this except for the wise words of an old landlord of mine. He suggested, very imaginatively, that there is a great triumphal arch that we have to pass under as we approach heaven. If we look up we shall see inscribed on the outside of the arch is “Whosoever will may come!” (He tended to speak in King James version language!). If we pass under the arch and we look back and up we shall see inscribed on the inside of the arch the words “Chosen from before the foundation of the world!”. We shall never be able to add those two statements together as a logical whole yet both of them are profoundly true, thoroughly Biblical, and believing them is of great importance for us.

That there is this 2 person aspect to what happens when we become a Christian is clearly expressed in the common Biblical term ‘covenant’. A ‘covenant’ is an agreement, a will or a testament, between 2 people. The origin of the term is in an agreement between 2 kings, as is seen in the book of Genesis. In the rather strange Genesis 14 we read about a war between 2 sets of kings, 4 of them against 5 of them. To call the guys involved ‘kings’ is to suggest they were more important than they deserved. Abraham is able to go out and defeat the 4 kings with only 318 men of his own. So ‘clan chiefs’ or ‘local warlords’ might be more accurate descriptions. To give themselves any strength at all they had to work together. They were in covenant with each other. And it was that idea of ‘covenant’ that the Lord God uses in the next chapters to express the relationship between himself and Abraham. So it is with us. When we commit ourselves to following Jesus we enter into covenant with the Lord God, and, more importantly, he enters into covenant with us

This has some significant implications. We cannot decide to be Christian this year, but not in 5 years time when the commitment does not suit us so well. God is involved. Of course we may appear to walk away from this commitment, but what will God think, say and do if we try to do so? The writer to the Hebrews warns us “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” And goes on to point out that when the Israelites, travelling through the desert, thought they could give up on God he punished them for 40 years, thus warning any who would think they could give up on God in the present day that there may be implications.

To set out to follow Jesus is a life-time commitment. Probably few of us who have started out on that track took that fact adequately into account at the time. But we need to do so now and settle down to our life with Christ, which we will discover is a deeply rewarding way to live anyway.

Of the various words I used to describe the event of becoming a Christian the most Biblical one is to be “born again”. But we need to be careful here. In common language the phrase has come to mean not much more than “start again”. So in our present day language middle-aged men buying a motorbike after not having had one for many years get called “born-again bikers”. But the word used in John’s gospel means either of 2 things with equal force: “born again” or “born from above”, and bikers are never “born from above”! As we set out to follow Jesus we receive this new birth from above, from heaven, from the world of the Lord God, from the world of spiritual realities.

Many words are used in the Bible to describe what happened. Perhaps the most important are the words ‘righteousness’ and ‘justification’. Unfortunately they are rather difficult words, easily misunderstood in the English language. In the Bible they both come from the same basic roots in both Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek. In English ‘righteous’, or ‘righteousness’, sound the easiest to understand. But unfortunately there is no equivalent verb. If there was it would probably be ‘righteous-ify, so we might say we have been ‘righteous-ified’ instead of ‘justified’ – but there is no such word.

I’m going to invent it for these notes! Then what does righteous mean? It sounds like being right and is sometimes used that way in the Bible. Paul said that he was ‘as for righteousness based on the law, faultless’ clearly meaning he had always been a good boy! But there is a deeper meaning hiding in the way Paul usually uses the word. It is about being accepted by God. Of course, to be accepted by God implies that you have been a good boy or girl – but we haven’t – so how do we get to that stage where Paul says ‘This righteousness is given through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ to all who believe.’ The answer is in that word: ‘given’. It is not something we have earned but something, a status before God, that we have received because of, and only because of, what Jesus did on the Cross.

On the day that we became a Christian we were probably a mass of excited emotions. We knew something very important had happened but we didn’t quite know what. Well, here it is. Because we stated that we believed in Jesus – even if we didn’t know very well what it was we believed about him – a great transaction had taken place: God had granted us the status of being accepted by him, of being ‘righteous-ified’, or justified.

Yoiks, hooray and hallelujah!!!

So what?


There is nothing we must rush out and do as a consequence of being righteous-ified. The whole force of righteous-ification is that it is not something we do, or have done, but something that has been done to us. To be sure as a result of being righteous-ified we shall set out to live differently, to think differently, to bend our wills in a different direction –and all that is what I am going to try and offer some help and some suggestions about in the rest of this series of studies. Perhaps for the moment the most important thought to cling on to is that you are “born from above”. Something totally magnificent, totally unexpected, with no equivalent in this world has happened to you – if you have set out to follow Jesus. Think on it!


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May 22, 2015

Friday Prayers 22 May 2015

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

22 May 2015


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!



May God the Father,
And the eternal High Priest Jesus Christ,
And the indwelling Holy Spirit
Build us up in faith and truth and love,
And grant us our portion among the saints
With all those who believe on our Lord Jesus Christ.
We pray for all saints,
for kings and rulers,
for the enemies of the cross of Christ,
And for ourselves
we pray that our fruit may abound
and we may be made perfect
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen

Based on a prayer of Polycarp (AD 80 – 167)

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May 21, 2015

Issues - Individualism

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 Partake - Issues

Individualism


The Apostle Paul writing in Philippians 2:3-4 "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

And finally, the Apostle Peter writing in 1 Peter 5:5-6 "All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."

Individualism

Contrast those values to those of the twenty first century society, where morality can be summed up in this kind of attitude: "The more you care for others, the more they will care for you."  So look after the interests of others and you will also be looked after. In other words everyone is on level parity and there is total equality within society.  In some of the more narcissistic and cynical parts of society, there is no other, the order is "me, me and more me and I am far more important and higher than anyone else".  Individualism is where the individual's importance is placed higher than all others and is imbued with self-reliance and personal independence.  Even when help and compassion are offered, so often there are strings attached and hoops to be jumped through. If you do this, we will do this for you. 

And sadly, it is not just within society that this exists, but also within the church and amongst Christians.

It is as if we are denying the basic rule of compassion and mercy, which dictates that we are to be serving others, because they are also humans created in the image of God, loved by God and so should be loved unconditionally by those who proclaim to be God's people - the Church. Denying that basic need to others is pure unadulterated selfishness and places others below our own selves. Individualism within the church, lends itself to hypocritical behaviour and attitudes, which are inconsistent with Scripture and behaviour.  Individualism, where you as an individual are placed at the front of the queue, is not loving others and not considering others higher than yourself.  It certainly could not be construed as serving other people to always place your own desires above all others. There is an old acronym JOY - Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.

Relationship

The basic aspect of love is that it involves relationship, so therefore there must be more than one person involved.  God is love, and is a trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  If God were not Trinity then God could not also be love. The church community is meant to be a radical community of service and love, which is a reflection of the Trinitarian God.  Being part of a radical community of service and love would mean the Church going back to basics.  The Church needs individuals to be living radical lifestyles of devotion to Jesus Christ, engaging with the culture, counting the cost of discipleship and reflecting true humanity.  But being an individual in community involves much more than merely being an individual in isolation.  Christians are to be involved within communities, and not as isolationists.  So what does a radical Christian community of individuals look like?

Creative Community

Firstly, the church needs to be a community that is seen to be radical by the surrounding society.  At Pentecost, the church began when the Holy Spirit filled the Disciples (Acts 2v4).  This momentous occasion started the Discipleship process of how Christians were to live as God's people.  The hallmarks of this community were commitment and transformation.  This community was radical. It was where people's lives were being changed as the Holy Spirit filled them.  Instead of being a withdrawn people filled with fear of retribution from the Roman government and Jewish leaders, they became a people filled with boldness and joy.  The New Testament church grew by being a radical community imbued with radical individuals engaging with others. The very existence of the church today is proof that Jesus Christ really did rise from the dead, for if He did not, those who were His disciples would have disbanded and gone back to their old lifestyle and the Holy Spirit would not have come.

Creatively Radical

If we want the church of today to grow then we need to be building a strong community of faith.  A community, which involves joining together isolated and solitary individuals and where people are imbued with love, valued and are showing care to each other, in particular the frail, elderly and young, with what the theologian Jürgen Moltmann calls a "creative passion for the impossible." 

An inherent human need is the need to belong, and by fulfilling relational needs, the radical Church community will become relevant to the people within it.  It will then also become relevant to those who are on the outside and looking in. For example, by using virtual reality, digital space and social networks, the housebound and geographically isolated peoples can also be included and cared for.

This involves improving present societal conditions, rather than remaining a conservative community, which merely repairs the status quo.  In doing this, today's church will be emulating characteristics of the early church (Acts 2v44-45).  As individuals Christians were added to the church, discipline helped ensure that the community was being seen as a holy community.  We see in the early church as recorded in the Book of Acts, that to be excommunicated from the community for gross sin, was a severe punishment. 

However church discipline is not primarily about punishment, but rather a formative and corrective service as part of Discipleship.  Church community discipline is foundational to the making of Christian Disciples, because it concerns the community's spiritual health, and strengthens the bonds with the local community.

Committed Community

The church must be a community of committed individual Christians, willing to radically follow God in lifestyle and behaviour.  Being holy for the Christian means radically exhibiting love for God and others.   It is by being seen as different from the surrounding society, that the church community will grow.  Often when prayers are said, it is within the perception of the individual pray-er of what the answer to that prayer will be!  It is as if the answer is there, we are just waiting for God to confirm our presupposition. 

When, in fact, prayer is to be where God is answering the prayers in His own way and timing - often unexpectedly!  By the church community and Christian individuals thinking and acting creatively, many more people would be seeing God in action.  Instead of independence, one of the prime hallmarks of being a follower of Jesus Christ is the need to be dependent on others as well as being dependable. This is imbued within the story of Jesus Christ washing His disciples feet.

Transformed Community

The Church community is to be actively engaged in radically helping people to be transformed and not merely happy.  Transformation is a powerful witness to the power of God and shows the relevancy of God and His people.  The best way to show this transformation is for the Church leadership to set the example, and show a way forward.  Good leadership has good accountability to each other and to the whole Church community.  If the church leaders are displaying a transparent life of creatively loving God and others, then the individual Christians within those churches will also seek to be transparently loving God and other people.  The media love to report when a Church and/or Church leader has done something inherently wrong

Finally, Jesus recommends that those who follow Him be wise like serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10v16b).  This means that we are to be skilful and shrewd in making decisions that are characterised by intelligence, patience and shrewdness. 

Additionally, we are to be gentle and harmless, like doves.  This would make our church leaders and us accountable to live a life of integrity worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1v27). This is a life, which is seen to be as holy and blameless.  In order to do this, we need to depend on the Holy Spirit for strength and caring for others is a vital necessity for you and I.  By relying on the Holy Spirit who indwells us, we are therefore perpetually connected to Jesus Christ, who is after all, the Head of the church community who are His bride.

The antidote to individualism is the continual creation of radical communities of transformed individual Christians, willing to be totally devoted to God, and each other and being sustained by the Holy Spirit who indwells, empowers, comforts, transforms, sustains and guides! 

By being radical communities thinking and acting creatively, we will be reflecting a creative Trinitarian God, and the Church will fulfil her bridal mandate of faithfully serving Jesus Christ, in submission to God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus in Matthew 5v43-45 gloriously explains how to do this: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." And then to verse 48 "In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."

Now that is the key to radically transformed communities and the antidote to individualism!

For more to think about please do ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them.  Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. What in my life could I change, so that the focus is away from myself and onto helping others?



Q2. How can my church and I reflect the Trinitarian God by being creatively loving, transforming and serving?



Q3. How can I help my church be more relevant in the community where it is located?

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May 20, 2015

Way of Wisdom - 20 May 2015

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Way of Wisdom

with Regina Sanders

Sovereignty


Today we are going to look at sovereignty. What is sovereignty? It can be defined as authority as we see in Psalm 103:19, Isaiah 17:3, and Daniel 11:4. Let's look at these Scriptures:



"The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all," Psalm 103:19

"But as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out toward the four points of the compass, though not to his own descendants, nor according to his authority which he wielded, for his sovereignty will be uprooted and given to others besides them," Daniel 11:4

"The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, and sovereignty from Damascus and the remnant of Aram; they will be like the glory of the sons of Israel," declares the LORD of hosts, Isaiah 17:3

Sovereignty is a state of being rather than an activity. Leadership is a passive expression of human dignity which has nothing of its own except that which it receives from the other six emotions. On the other hand, sovereignty manifests and actualizes the character and majesty of the human spirit. It is the very fiber of what makes us human. When love, discipline, compassion, endurance, and humility are properly channeled into the psyche through bonding - the result is sovereignty. Bonding nurtures us and allows our sovereignty to surface and flourish.


Sovereignty is a sense of belonging; knowing that you matter and that you make a difference, that you have the ability to be a proficient leader in your own right. It gives you independence and confidence. A feeling of certainty and authority. When a mother lovingly cradles her child in her hands and the child's eyes meet the mother's affectionate eyes, the child receives the message that I am wanted and needed in this world. I have a comfortable place where I will always be loved. I have nothing to fear. I feel like a king (or queen) in my heart. This is sovereignty, kingship.


Healthy sovereignty is always kind and loving. An effective leader needs to be warm and considerate. Does my sovereignty make me more loving? Do I exercise my authority and leadership in a caring manner? Do I impose my authority on others?


Examine the discipline of your sovereignty and leadership. Although sovereignty is loving, it needs to be balanced with discipline. Effective leadership is built on authority and discipline. There is another factor in the discipline of sovereignty: determining the area in which you have jurisdiction and authority. Do I recognize when I am not an authority? Do I exercise authority in unwarranted situations? Am I aware of my limitations as well as my strengths? Do I respect the authority of others? Dignity also needs discipline. A dignified person needs to have a degree of reserve.


Examine the compassion of sovereignty. A good leader is a compassionate one. Is my compassion compromised because of my authority? Do I realize that an integral part of dignity is compassion? Harmony is critical for successful leadership. Do I manage a smooth-running operation? Am I organized? Do I give clear instructions to my subordinates? Do I have difficulty delegating power? Does my organization work as a team? Do we have frequent staff meetings to coordinate our goals and efforts?


A person's dignity and a leader's success is tested by his endurance level. Will and determination reflect the power and majesty of the human spirit. The strength of one's sovereignty. How determined am I in reaching my goals? How strong is my conviction to fight for a dignified cause? How confident am I in myself? Is my lack of endurance a result of my low self-esteem? Do I mask my insecurities by finding other excuses for my low endurance level?

Sovereignty is God's gift to each individual. Humility of sovereignty is the humble appreciation of this exceptional gift. Does my sovereignty and independence humble me? Am I an arrogant leader? Do I appreciate the special qualities I was blessed with?

Examine the bonding aspect of your sovereignty. Healthy independence should not prevent you from bonding with another person. On the contrary: self-confidence allows you to respect and trust another's sovereignty and ultimately bond with him; and that bond will strengthen your own sovereignty, rather than sacrifice it. Does my sovereignty prevent me from bonding? Could that be because of deeper insecurities that I am unaware of ? Do I recognize the fact that a fear of bonding reflects on lack of self-confidence in my own sovereignty? Do I talk to the one with whom I bond and discuss my fears that bonding will compromise my boundaries?

Examine the sovereignty of your sovereignty. Does it come from deep rooted inner confidence in myself? Or is it just a put-on to mask my insecurities? Does that cause my sovereignty to be excessive? Am I aware of my uniqueness as a person, of my personal contribution? Take a moment and concentrate on yourself, on your true inner self, not on your performance and how you project to others; and be at peace with yourself knowing that God created a very special person which is you.


This series that we have done the last several weeks has been a lot of self-reflection. I am sure you may have noticed how many times we have asked questions which contain, "I," the purpose of this series has been to help us apply God's word to our lives and to help us see ourselves as God sees us. I pray this has been a blessing to you.




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May 19, 2015

POD - Psalm 131

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Psalm 131

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of David.

Lord, my heart is not proud;

my eyes are not haughty.

I don't concern myself with matters too great

or too awesome for me to grasp.

Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,

like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother's milk.

Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord

- now and always.

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May 18, 2015

Think Spot 18 May 2015

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Think Spot 18 May 2015

We have the start of a new week! Its Monday! If you are a Christian, Jesus Christ wants to be number one in the life of all those who choose to follow him! Jesus wants supremacy over everything in our lives, including family, friends, and possessions!! Alas, that’s a cost too high for some! Within the Gospels, there is the story told of Jesus’ encounter with a man, who we shall call, Basil. Basil runs up to Jesus and wants eternal life, wants it now and asks Jesus about how to get it. He has fully kept the commandments listed by Jesus.

~

However when Jesus said to Basil that in order to follow Him, he would have to give up all his wealth and possessions in order to have treasure in heaven and eternal life, Basil leaves disconsolate and shattered. The life of Basil, this rich young ruler, reflected a life of absorption with his own self-interest and self-importance!

~

It was a step too far for Basil. He wanted his riches and also everlasting life, but Jesus said he couldn’t have both. He remains the only person that we know of, who left Jesus’ presence sorrowful, and that due to putting his trust in himself, his riches and wealth alone. Now riches, in and of themselves, are not necessarily wrong! But for Basil, well, he was not willing to make the sacrifice required to follow Jesus. He couldn’t count the cost of following Jesus– it was too high a price for him to pay!

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What have you given up in and as a result of your decision to follow Jesus? Making sacrifices to follow Jesus is all part of following of Jesus. Jesus demands His being number one and supreme over everything else in your life - yourself, family, others and material goods including money and possessions. Those areas of your life which God calls sinful, but you call it your right, your nature, just the way you are. God wants all of you for Himself! You can hand all things over to Him and if you ask the Holy Spirit to help you, it will be done much easier and with less struggle than if you try to do it in your own strength! Go into this new week, determined to be living for God in all facets of life, and then you will be salt and light for God in your community.

~

Father, I pray that You would help us to trust in You and that You would help us to love You and others more fully, handing over to you those areas of our life which we are keeping our hands on! I ask this through the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives inside all those who have peace with you. Amen

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May 17, 2015

The Practice Of The Presence Of God - Brother Lawrence - 10

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The Practice Of The Presence Of God:

The Best Rule Of A Holy Life

(being Conversations and Letters of Brother Lawrence)


G’day! Welcome to Partakers! Today we continue our Sunday series, where we are reading from a book by Brother Lawrence “The Practice of the Presence of God”… This book is available for you to freely download at various websites!


Letters - Letter 6


To a member of the order who had received from him a book, and to whom he again enlarges on his favourite topic. Encouragement to persevere.

I have received from Mrs. -- the things which you gave her for me. I wonder that you have not given me your thoughts of the little book I sent to you, and which you must have received. Pray set heartily about the practice of it in your old age; it is better late than never.

I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the practice of the presence of GOD. For my part I keep myself retired with Him in the depth of center of my soul as much as I can; and while I am so with Him I fear nothing; but the least turning from Him is insupportable.

This exercise does not much fatigue the body: it is, however, proper to deprive it sometimes, nay often, of many little pleasures which are innocent and lawful: for GOD will not permit that a soul which desires to be devoted entirely to Him should take other pleasures than with Him; that is more than reasonable. I do not say that therefore we must put any violent constraint upon ourselves.

No, we must serve GOD in a holy freedom, we must do our business faithfully, without trouble or disquiet; recalling our mind to GOD mildly and with tranquillity, as often as we find it wandering from Him.




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May 16, 2015

The Normal Christian Journey of Faith - Part 01

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The normal (Christian) journey of faith

Chapter 1: before we begin

This series of studies attempts to say some useful things about how the journey of a Christian life is likely to work out. In fact, there are of course so many ways this may happen that to try and say something useful is quite rash – but here goes nonetheless.

Before I start I need to define what I mean by “Christian”. Many people, in many parts of the world, think of themselves as Christian because their passports say so, or would say so if they had one. They have been born into a Christian family, in a Christian community, so they, and other people, think of them as Christian. But being a Christian in this sense is not the same as following Jesus, consciously, and determinedly. When I say Christian I mean those who have positively decided that they will follow Jesus, owe allegiance to him, and are practicing Christians, associating themselves with other Christians of the same way of thinking.

Not every Christian can identify the moment in which they turned round and set out to follow Jesus. For some it happened so gradually they cannot pin down the time any more than to say that day, or that week, or that month. That does not matter – they have set out to follow Jesus, which is all that matters. Then there are some fortunate few who cannot remember the day when they did not love the Lord even as a young child and they grew up following him from before their days of memory. Great for them and a tribute to their parents!

It would more accurate if as I wrote these notes I used the phrase “following Jesus” rather than “Christian” but it would be intolerably clumsy to keep on doing that so I will say “Christian” and mean “following Jesus”.

Even before we became Christian, in any of these believing senses, certain things will have been true of us. All of us, everyone who ever lived, have a tension within us. This is an essential part of being human and quite inescapable. We are, you are, I am, made in the image of God, but we are also sinners.

We are told that we are made in the image of God in Genesis chapter 1 “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Then Adam and Eve sinned in the famous story of the garden of Eden as recorded in Genesis 3 “the Lord God said, The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil” and Paul, in Romans 5 summarizes what all the Scripture acknowledges with the statement “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned”. That is us.

Some people like to think that there is a dividing line between good and evil people (and they, of course, are on the right side of that line!), but it is not so. The dividing line between good and evil runs through each one of us. Some of us are, hopefully, more on the right side of that line than the wrong side, but it is still there, through each one of us. Failure to recognize that has led to many disastrous moments in history. Politicians have often assumed that people are essentially good so you have only got to put them in the right environment and all will be well. Everyone will live in peace and harmony with everyone else.

Sadly that is not true. It never has been true and it seems to have become increasingly obvious that it is not in the 20th century. Nazis and Communists have assumed that they can make the world work as they want. But they failed and have continued to fail. Muslim extremists fall into the same trap. On the other hand much of the modern western world proceeds on the assumption that progress is happening always and inevitably. That is true of our technology and science but not of our social and spiritual skills where we seem to be going backwards. There is much good in human beings but there is also a strong tendency to evil. This is the base from which we all start.



Why then do we, why does anyone, become a Christian? There are at least three main reasons.

1. From a sense of sin. This is the old classical way to start. Many preachers in this society seem to assume that this is the only way so they pick out the Scriptures that mention sin, or can be bent that way, and preach what they call “a Gospel sermon” whether it applies to the people listening to them or not. It is certainly true, very true, that the purpose of the death of Christ on the Cross was to deal with sin, your sin, my sin. Jesus was both human and divine. He was human so he could substitute for us, dying on our behalf. He was divine so his death was sufficient and effective for all of us. So Paul says in Romans 3:25 “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood —to be received by faith.” But people are unable to understand these words and take them to heart unless they have an idea of God as the pure and holy judge before whom they will eventually have to give an account of their life on earth. If they do not realize that, if they have not been taught that, they will not understand what is being talked about.

2. From a sense of lostness. Peter talks about people being redeemed from an empty way of life (1 Peter 1:18) Many people will feel that the way they are living is empty and is not satisfying and will cast around looking for a better way to live. They want to be good people – drink, drugs, partying, sex, material goods do not satisfy them. They want a reason to live differently, to live the way they want to live but they have a strong sense of needing a reason to break out from their currently unsatisfying life styles. If this is the way they think they are ready to hear a sensitively presented account of the Christian life. Follow me – said Jesus. If they hear that call they embark on a life of faith which is a journey through life – hence the title of this series of studies.

3. From a desire to progress. Unfortunately there is a strong tendency in many churches to present the Christian life as the solution to all one’s problems: practical, social and financial. Some preachers say become a Christian and you will meet all the right people, you will make your fortune, the right partner for you will miraculously appear. I call this unfortunate because such teaching runs directly counter to the whole teaching of the Bible. Jesus is, amongst many other things, our example. He only met the “right” people at his trial; he had no where to lay his head so he did not have a fortune; he had to live a celibate life in a society where marriage was expected. If you are looking for progress in a purely human sense it is a good idea not to become a Christian! Be careful not to believe the false promises of some preachers!

Of these three motives for becoming a Christian 1 and 2 are acceptable; 3 is not. In the New Testament Paul emphasizes motive 1, escape from sin; John emphasizes motive 2, desire for purpose in life; Peter is strong on both.

These are, I think, the main things that lead people to seek to follow the Lord Jesus. There are others: to some are given dreams and visions of him seen in the night; some fear the judgment, some desire not to be left behind when he returns, and so on.


There is something else worth noticing about what often happens to people before they become Christians. God has a lovely habit of speaking to us before we become one of his people. This can be, and often is, in small and scarcely noticed ways that yet can have a major effect on us. For me it was when the family friend who was invigilating an exam that I, a young boy at the time, was taking stopped to pray with me before the exam, which was not something to be expected within the world in which I lived and had a lasting effect on me.

So what?


Whether as you listen to, or read, this you are a follower of Jesus, or not, it is important to get our thinking about who we are and where we stand before a pure and holy God straight. We are made in the image of God but we are sinners in His sight. As a consequence of that we need a better direction in life. Those two facts make the essential and only correct starting point for our thinking.

Secondly we have the opportunity to be the messenger for one of those little events that the Lord God can put in someone else’s way as he did for me through my invigilator’s prayer. Only more than 20 years later did I learn that the wife of the man who prayed with me was ministered to as a young girl by my grandmother. That was a wonderful part of the circle of faith.



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