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Archive for November 2014

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Study 7 : Job 29-31

Job’s self-assessment.

 

 

We now come to two long speeches: the first by Job, summarizing his thinking, is 3 chapters long; the second by a new guy, Elihu, is 5 chapters long.

Job cannot have been an old man when the disasters struck him. However long he lived (another 140 years according to the last chapter) he was only middle-aged for he had time to have another complete farming career and a considerable family. But much of what he describes in these chapters is remarkably similar to the common experience of an old person in western culture. Up to about 100 years ago most people in the world only lived in one or two or three places their whole lives long, often one as they grew up and just another subsequent to marriage. Consequently as they grew old they would be surrounded by people they had known for a very long time: family, friends and acquaintances. For many today things are very different. Education and job opportunities take us to live in many different places. Sometimes parents demand a weekly visit but that tends to be a disaster, as it leaves one not really belonging in either the place of residence or the parent’s home area. As a result of this mobility we will often enter old age and retirement surrounded mainly by strangers. The situation Job describes in a totally different culture and for very specific reasons is extraordinarily like that which may be your experience, as in part it is mine, or as it may be yours at some future date.

JOB 29: 1 – 6.

Assuming you are or have been married and had a family you will remember that it was great fun when you were in your prime and they were growing up. We then did all sorts of things: building sand castles, playing with toy trains etc. that we now have no excuse to do!

JOB 29: 7 – 25.

Our experience would have been, in detail, very different from Job’s yet it probably had much the same effect. We probably had a job, which gave us status. We mattered. We were somebody. Even if we had no very exalted role, not in charge of anybody else, we still had a position in some firm or organisation or in the family. We may not have realised it at the time but we drew strength from that sense of significance. But, if like me you are old, you will find it easy to relate to what Job says next.

JOB 30: 1 – 15.

What a magnificent phrase that is: “God has unstrung my bow”. Job no longer has the strength, or the will, to pull the bowstring back far enough to send an arrow far enough to matter. I used to pride myself on my ability to run upstairs two, or even three, steps at a time. No longer. Now an old man I go up sedately one step at a time. That is my equivalent to having my bow unstrung.

Question: if you are getting older – what is your equivalent to the unstrung bow: loss of strength or beauty or what?

More significantly, with retirement often comes a great loss of status. (More in Western societies than in those of the Third world where there is usually some role even the aged are expected to fulfil). No one now looks for your advice; no one looks up to you as someone that matters.

Question: that is not true in all societies. How good is the one in which you live at using the advice and gifts of old folk?

If circumstances mean that you, an older person, no longer live where you spent most of your working life then it may well feel as though you are being mocked by younger people as Job was, even when they are being polite to you.

JOB 30: 16 – 41.

Old age commonly brings aches and pains in joints and muscles! Job thinks of these as the work of God “tossing me about in the storm”. We think about such things in a very different way but the experience is just as real; my right ankle, left knee and left shoulder all ache! It is indeed like being tossed about in a storm.

Unfortunately Job’s final chapter is a bad note to end on, here it is: JOB 31: 1 – 40.

Each of us will have a different life story to tell. As we get older we tend to reminisce more and more, telling the old stories of what has happened to us and what we have done. Family and friends may get fed up with stories of the “good old days” if we tell them too often, and they may not have been all that good. It is easy to fail to realise how much the world, and probably our society has advanced during our lifetime.

In our society, and many others, loneliness coming from the mobility of our lives or the smallness of our family can be the curse of old age for many. It probably was not Job’s problem although the depth of his grief will have tended to isolate him from other people.

The element in the equation that is not considered in the book of Job is the role that the company of the Lord’s people should play in the life of those in distress or in old age. In Job’s day they were the people of Israel – but Job was probably not an Israelite – and in our day it is the local church. Sadly, because of the extreme individualism in modern Western society, it may not be very good at supporting the struggling. Even when it tries it is usually a case of one individual helping another rather than any sense of a corporate action supporting an individual. Other cultures in other societies often do these things much better.

Job has succeeded in summarizing very accurately most of the problems of old age. I, for one, can relate to his mutterings very easily (I am now 80 years old). The trouble is that in all these 3 chapters there is very little positive at all. We have to wait until Elihu has had his say and the Lord speaks out of the storm clouds before we get any positive encouragement. Every good doctor makes a careful diagnosis of what is wrong with a patient before he prescribes a treatment or picks up his scalpel. This is the diagnosis – particularly if you are in your later years.

This has been a strange study to write. There is very little that is positive here. But it is important to think about the situation we, or other people, are in. that is diagnosis.

Question: can you think out what might be the cure for you? For others?

 

 

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

28th November 2014

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


Order of Prayer Service

Opening Prayer

1 John 1:8-10

Confession

Lord's Prayer

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Prayers for those facing challenging situation

Prayers for those grieving & in despair

Prayers for those imprisoned

Prayers for Churches Worldwide

Prayers for the world

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Time for your own prayers

The Creed

Benediction

Closing Prayer

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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POD - Psalm 14

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Psalm 14

14:1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

They are corrupt.

They have done abominable works.

There is none who does good.

14:2 Yahweh looked down from heaven on the children of men,

to see if there were any who understood,

who sought after God.

14:3 They have all gone aside.

They have together become corrupt.

There is none who does good, no, not one.

14:4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge,

who eat up my people as they eat bread,

and don’t call on Yahweh?

14:5 There they were in great fear,

for God is in the generation of the righteous.

14:6 You frustrate the plan of the poor,

because Yahweh is his refuge.

14:7 Oh that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!

When Yahweh restores the fortunes of his people,

then Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad!

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Think Spot - 24th November 2014

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G'day and welcome to Partake! Welcome also to Monday and our Think Spot together!

We have the start of a new week! Its Monday! How and in what circumstances are you trusting God? How did Jesus Christ trust in the Father? Jesus knew that the Father was going to bring Him back to life after his death on the cross. Jesus trusted the Father in this area of His life, just as he did in all aspects of his life. How are you doing? Do you have concerns and areas of your life where you need an assurance that God the Father will help you?

Here are some simple steps which may help you maintain a trust in God.

  1. Pray, casting all anxiety on God. He cares for you because you are His personal concern (The great apostle Peter, one of Jesus' closest friends wrote this in 1 Peter 5v7 "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.")

  2. Accept and thank God that His peace has filled that area (Another great apostle, Paul, wrote this in Philippians 4v7 says "Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.")
  3. Learn to be content whatever your circumstances are, resting in God (Paul goes on in Philippians 4v11-12 "Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.")
  4. Allow the Spirit to control your mind for life and peace (and again from the pen of the apostle Paul, this time in Romans 8v6 "So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.")

  5. Trust God to fulfil your every need (Matthew records these words of Jesus in Matthew 6v32-33 "but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." )
  6. Obey and follow God's commands to love God and love others (Jesus is recorded in Matthew 22v37-40 "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.")
  7. Finally, be prepared to be obedient to the Father, in supplying the needs of others you meet and therefore showing you love God and other people! One way to show you are trusting and loving God is to be the answer to the prayers of somebody else and showing that love to them! Ask God to show you, how you can help somebody else in need this week and showing your love.

Go in peace this Monday, into this week, knowing God is worthy of your trust! God will take care of you, but not always in the way you expect!  Expect Him to allow circumstances and situations to arise where you are to trust Him fully! He will help you if you ask! After all, He knows you better than anybody! And don't be afraid to help somebody else because by doing that, you show you are loving and trusting in God!

Father, I pray that You would help us to trust in You and that You would supply our needs, calm our concerns and help us to love You and others more fully. 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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A God of Joy and His people

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A God of Joy and His people



Some of the words and phrases we commonly use come straight from the book of Leviticus. Words such as jubilee and scapegoat are commonly used today. And what husband hasn’t offered a form of guilt offering to his wife!

Leviticus does have important things to tell us about sin, obedience and holiness. Perhaps most importantly it tells of God dwelling with His people.



Leviticus 16:1-10

The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the LORD. The LORD said to Moses: ‘Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.

‘This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: he must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash round him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

‘Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats – one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.




1. Day of Atonement

  • The Tabernacle / Tent of Meetings
  • The Offerings!
  • The Blood!
  • The High Priest - Aaron!
  • The Scapegoat
  • The people! 

Atonement done!



2. Life worship


  • Leviticus 18:1-5 - Be Holy!
  • Leviticus 19:9-18 – Be Good Neighbours!


3. Reading Leviticus today!


So what is the best way for us in the 21st century to read these ancient laws of Leviticus? Is it just to simply ignore them or are we to slavishly follow them? Perhaps the best way is to simply let Scripture interpret Scripture and see what the New Testament says about the Leviticus laws. Take for instance the food laws. We know in the New Testament that all food is now permissible, whereas under the Old Testament, certain foods were not permitted to be eaten. In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter had a dream in which all food was declared clean!

It is also wise, not to see them as merely a list of “not do” statements, but also as “do statements”. Rather, we should see them as a love letter from a God who wants to save His people from distress and anxiety in order to give them a life of peace, unity, health and a joyful life in all its fullness.



All these laws were to lead ancient Israel to be a holy nation. Holiness was about being set apart for a purpose and making wise, conscious decisions about what was right or wrong. It involved being obedient to God and keeping His decrees and regulations. Being holy, involved having a lifestyle, which was contrary to the cultures surrounding them. To be holy was a lifestyle choice of worship, to reflect their holy God. They were called to be loyal! Called to be distinct! Called to worship! What has all this got to do with us? Where does the Day of Atonement and these laws fit into the life of a Christian in the 21st century?



4. Today

Hebrews 2:14-18

  • Holy Barrier
  • Holy People!
  • Declared Holy!


Lets now, quickly compare the Levitical Sacrifices and Jesus’ Sacrifices!

Levitical Sacrifices:

Performed repeatedly by earthly priests who stood.
Their work was unending as they laboured on earth and their sacrifices could never take away sin.

Jesus’ Sacrifice:

He offered one sacrifice.
Jesus now sits at God’s right hand in power and glory with His earthly work complete.
His sacrifice achieved its goal of fulfilment and made his followers holy! 
At the cross of Jesus Christ on Calvary, the Old Covenant was fulfilled and the New Covenant ushered in!
This New Covenant assures those who follow Jesus Christ have:

  •  Forgiveness!
  • Peace!
  • Reconciled to God
  • Declared right and just before God!
  • Cleansed from sin!  
  • Free from the slavery to sin!
  • Intercedes for us!
  • Given the Spirit to dwell inside!
  • Granted direct access to God the Father, through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit 

5. Live Holy!


As a Christian, the Holy Spirit is living inside you, changing and transforming you into the very image of the holy one, Jesus Christ. Your transformation into that image of Jesus Christ, is the greatest evidence, not only of the work of the Holy Spirit but also of you being a Christian living an obedient life to God.

As a Christian, you are no longer an enemy of God but a friend of God and belong to God! As Christians, we are to live a life of obedience to God – casting off all that hinders and seeks to stop us. And if we fall into disobedience, we can confess our sin to the Father, through the name of the Son and in the power of the Spirit and get right back up again, knowing we are forgiven – totally amazing!



As Christians, we are called to be joyfully obedient to the Lord, serving Him in every aspect of life! In doing so, our whole lives will be acceptable worship to God and not just at a Sunday meeting. Our worship is to be a lifestyle of conscious decisions, reflecting our devotion to a God with whom we are to be in a dynamic and intimate relationship with. This lifestyle will affect the way we work, rest and play!



As instruments in God’s orchestra of joy, we are to be loyal to Him – the joy giver! We are to obey with joyful, effervescent vigour and reflect a living God to a society out there, which is in darkness. They will know we are Christians by the way we act – actions of obedience to God, signified by the love we have for each other and them. Love in action by supplying people’s needs, both on an individual and church basis.

We are called to follow God and not to succumb to the temptations, which seek to mar our relationship with the God who lives inside us. Let's go willingly to obey and serve the Lord with faithful obedience!



But if you are not a Christian here tonight, then please do make yourself known to us afterwards and we would love to talk to you about becoming a Christian. While you have breath, it’s not too late to start this life of joyful obedience to a loving God and enter into a living and dynamic relationship of true Joy with Him. Don’t leave it so late that you incur God’s judgement for your sins and have everlasting separation from Him and others! God does indeed love you and He is calling you to come into a dynamic relationship of true joy with Him today. Take the opportunity today – come and follow Jesus Christ. He is calling you to respond!


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Study 6 : Job 26-28

Glorious Wisdom.

This study falls into 2 parts. First there are the chapters after number 23 and up to chapter 28. But I am going to skip over these. They do not add a great deal to what we have already thought about and, indeed, appear somewhat muddled. So much so that many scholars think they have got scrambled somewhere between Job and us. Two bits are worth reading. The first is as much for amusement as anything else! Job has already called his friends “miserable comforters” and he now unleashes a real blast of sarcasm against them in 26:1–4..

 

Much more positively Job once again states that nothing will make him give up his faith in the Lord and his righteousness. Theses are words worth hearing in these days when so many are prepared to give up their faith and thus their integrity for the thinnest of reasons.  Hear that in 27: 1 – 6.

 

But then the steady progression of argument between Job and his friends is suddenly interrupted by a beautiful poem in chapter 28. At first sight it seems to cut across the main argument of the book and not to be about the same sort of things at all, but in fact it takes us back to and reminds us what the whole book is really about. This is indicated by the last verse of this chapter repeating the main points of the very first chapter of the book. The argument in this chapter 28 is so subtle we reach v 12 before we are told what the subject of the poem, and therefore of the book really is. Though even before we learn that we can still understand the writing as an extended metaphor of all the to-ing and fro-ing that has occurred so far. Here are those first 11 verses of chapter 28.

Isn’t that magnificent? Just like miners, Job and his friends have been hacking away in the dark hoping to find some precious idea that will light up the gloom that surrounds Job. Neither the lion nor the eagle can get anywhere near what the miners are after. It is only mankind that has any interest in things like this.

 

We finally learn what it is all about in v12. And this is expanded on in the rest of the chapter: first with a great statement of praise of how important it is and then the statement that it is ultimately a spiritual attribute and can therefore only be obtained from the Lord. Here is the rest of this chapter.

 

 

Wisdom is a very important Biblical concept that is much neglected so we will explore it in some detail. The word ‘wisdom’ is used in several different ways in the Bible of which we are interested in three:

  • living well in the practical life of every day, equating to the Way of the NT,
  • God’s knowledge and creative power,
  • the personification of this second meaning of Wisdom, with the NT revealing Jesus is that personification.

There are associated concepts of: the Sage, the Wise Man (or Woman), and the books of Wisdom (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and some Psalms; also Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha).

 

We, like Job, are most interested in the first of these: how can we live well in this difficult world. There is plenty of wisdom, knowledge and understanding all around us. We use it everyday when we watch the TV or go out in a car, but none of that sort of wisdom says anything about the meaning of life and how we can best navigate all the difficult situations, which are an inevitable part of living. In short, that sort of wisdom is not about what I have called living well. To reach that goal, i) in my list, will mean that we have to understand ii) God’s knowledge in Creation and iii) the role of Jesus in imparting wisdom to us. None of this is being wise in any sense of becoming a graduate, or getting a Master’s, let alone gaining a Doctorate, in either a secular field of study or even a Biblical one. No, it is something well within the reach of each and everyone of us. It may be a little old lady, like my lovely, long dead, grandmother, who is the wise person in this Biblical definition of Wisdom. It is all about something difficult to describe but easy to recognize when you meet a truly wise person. It is about living well, living contentedly, making good decisions, fitting into one’s world well, and relating well to other people. We can all do all those things but we can also all fail horribly to do them!

 

Question: of the people you know well, who lives wisely? Try to work out what it is about those people that made them go to the top of your private list of wise people.

 

We cannot live well by accident. Living well doesn’t just happen. We have to think out what our aims and objectives in life are before we will get anything right. It is really sad that so much of western culture refuses to do so. We are like Israel in the time of the Judges when ‘everyone did what was right in their own eyes’. In the ancient world Jewish scribes and Greek philosophers argued about what was the best way to live. We don’t. We just try to accumulate more and better material things, thinking, quite wrongly, that a bigger pile of toys will bring us true satisfaction and contentment in life. They won’t.

Let me reread what the author of the poem said in v12 – 22.  He asks himself, and us, where can true wisdom be found – how can we learn to live well. His answer to his own question is – I can’t find it! I don’t know how to live well. And I am sure we can all say ”amen” to that. Here are those verses.

 

But then he realises what the answer to his question is: it is found in God, the Lord, and only in him. That is what he says in the remainder of the chapter, v 23 – 28. Here it is.

The crucial phrase is “the fear of the Lord” in the last verse, a surprisingly ordinary common phrase in the OT. But it is easy to misunderstand in our translations.  It has nothing to do with being frightened. It means respecting, honouring, obeying the Lord. To borrow, and change slightly, a NT phrase it means to walk in step with the Lord, with Jesus.

 

And we do need to consider the NT here. In the eyes of the NT writers Jesus was the personification of the Wisdom of the OT, Wisdom actually walking this earth along the dusty tracks of Galilee and Judea. OT wisdom says “I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” So the hymn writer was right when he talked of Jesus “flinging stars into space”.

 

Jesus, himself, announced that he was Wisdom. Matthew reports in 11: 19 that he said, in a way very reminiscent of the OT wisdom literature, “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: We played the pipe for you,  and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom (that is me, Jesus) is proved right by her deeds.”

 

Paul hopes that the Colossian Christians “ may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” This is where Wisdom has got to – it has come into full view in the person of Jesus.

 

In Romans 6 Paul says “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” And then goes on in v8 “if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him”.

 

To live with him is to fear the Lord, to use Job’s language. To use more modern language: it is to be plugged in to him so that all his Spirit power and, in particular, all his wisdom can flow into us - you and me - an endless and bottomless resource for living well. We are plugged in if we pray, read, worship and keep the ways and calls of Jesus constantly active in our lives. Wow!

 

Question: Are you plugged in? Do you live well? Do you know this great resource, which will take you through life, living well, even if your life looks desperately difficult from outside? I do hope so.

 

 

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