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Archive for October 2012

Think Spot

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Think Spot 29th October 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Joys Prayer

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

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

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Luke Looks Back 19

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Study 19 - Luke 15:1-32

The Joy of Recovery

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

Please do read Luke 15: 1 - 10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please read 15: 11 - 32.

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

a. son lost

b. sin - everything lost

c. rejection

d. change of mind - inadequately

e. acceptance

f. repentance - everything gained

g. son found

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

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

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

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

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

The second part is nearly a reflection:

a. elder brother comes

b. he is told his brother has arrived

c. his father attempts reconciliation

d. he complains - how you treat me

e. He complains - how you treat him

f. his father attempts reconciliation

g. he is again told brother has arrived

h. ????

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Glimpses 55

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Glimpses 55 -

Life from the Faroe Islands

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

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Think Spot

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Think Spot 22nd October 2012

Immediate Action required

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joys Prayer.

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father,

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

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Friday Prayers

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

19th October 2012

We pray together and when Christians pray together, from different nations, different churches and different denominations - that reveals Church unity! Come! Let us pray together!

A prayer of Aethelwold of Winchester (908-984AD)

May God the Father bless us!

May Christ take care of us;

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

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

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

Amen

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Think Spot

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Think Spot 15th October 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joys Prayer

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

Amen

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