Archive for February 2015

The Big Story - Part 4

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Big Story - Act 3 - Scene 2 - the LORD reveals himself

with Roger Kirby

The next major action in the Biblical story is the return from Egypt of all the descendants of Jacob/Israel 400 years after Joseph took them there. What are most interesting are not the details of their history but the way in which God, the LORD, reveals himself to them. He does this in 3 ways:

  1. he tells them his name;
  2. he carries out many overt acts demonstrating the power of his activity on their behalf;
  3. he stations himself in the middle of his people to travel with them. That is knowledge, action and presence.



1. Knowledge. When Moses, seeking authority for what he had just been commanded to do, asks what God’s name is he gets 3 answers. In Exodus 3: 13 – 15 we read: “Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name? ’ Then what shall I tell them?’.

God said to Moses,

  1. “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
  2. ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites,
  3. ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers —the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob —has sent me to you’”.

The third one identifies him as the same God of their ancestors hundreds of years earlier. The first one, perhaps given undue prominence in English Bibles by being printed in capitals is difficult to understand. The important one is the second one; I AM, as this is the one that Jesus used to declare his own status, as we shall see later. Disclosing his name like this was a major step forward in the relationship between the Lord and his people.

2. Actions. The sequence of miraculous events carried out in Egypt through Moses as the human agent, established the uniqueness, the power and the authority of the Lord beyond question. (One example is in Exodus 7: 8 – 13) “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle, ’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.” So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said”. These demonstrations of miraculous powers were then followed by the two miraculous events that constituted redemption out of Egypt: the passing over of the first born sons of Israel while those of Egypt died on one terrible night and the crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of the pursuing Egyptians.

3. Presence. Perhaps easily overlooked is the statement of Exodus 13: 18 – 22. “So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people”.

This developed into the formal structure of the ‘tent of meeting’. Exodus 40: 34 – 38: “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels”.

The Israelites were instructed to camp by their tribes in a square round the tent (Numbers 2: 1 – 2) “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: “The Israelites are to camp around the tent of meeting some distance from it, each of them under their standard and holding the banners of their family”. This symbolically indicated the centrality of the Lord amongst his people, Israel.

Thus were established 2 apparently contradictory facts about the Lord: unlike all the gods (=idols) of the surrounding nations. He was invisible and he was the God with whom they could have the closest of relationships – no distant, silent, unknowable God was the Lord.

So we read in Deuteronomy 7:7–11 “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him. Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today”.

And above all there is the Shema, Deuteronomy 6: 4, 5, “Hear, O Israel:The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength”, words which the faithful Israelites were later taught to say as their declaration of faith every day.

Note that I am not listing the giving of the Law on Sinai as a major part of the Big Story. The people of Israel did not become the Lord’s people by keeping the Law; they kept the Law because they were the Lord’s people.

So what?


The sequence is exactly the same for us though it must be updated in the light of the story of Jesus. First we need some knowledge of God. There is plenty to be heard and read about him on this website though it is better by far to read it for yourself directly from the Bible, if you have one. Second, we need to experience the action of the Lord on our lives. This is when the Holy Spirit comes to us and turns us round to walk in the Lord’s way. The immediate results in our own lives may not be very obvious, but then what was going on in Egypt probably wasn’t very obvious to the ordinary, average Israelite, who had been making bricks without straw, until they actually crossed the Red Sea and saw the Egyptians drowned. Third, we need to recognize that from the moment of our redemption the Lord, Christ, the Spirit, is at the very centre of our lives. From then on ‘your life is hidden with Christ in God’, or as one paraphrase puts it ‘Christ is the secret centre of your life’!

The presence of the Lord in the middle of his people was of fundamental importance for them. Be sure that the presence of the Lord in the middle of your life is of fundamental importance for you!


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Partakers Friday Prayers!

27th February 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!


Prayer of Abandonment - Thomas Merton


My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please You.
And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this
You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust You always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear,
for You are ever with me,
and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Amen


From Thoughts In Solitude by Thomas Merton


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Way of Wisdom

with Regina Sanders

Perspective and Praise


Welcome to The Way of Wisdom. I am Regina Sanders your host and I am so honored that you have decided to be with me today. Today's Scripture comes from Revelation 5:11, "I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands."


As The New York Times recently concluded, we live in "the age of big data." This reflects the growing capacity and speed of computers and the growing importance of the internet. Data now is exploding, more than doubling every two years. In his recent book on big data, Christopher Surdak explains that the world's yearly data traffic will reach 1.3 zettabytes by the year 2016. ("If a zettabyte of data was burned onto data CDs, the resulting stack of CDs would be 4.1 million kilometers high.")


Today, computers "talk" to each other, exchanging information. This (theoretically) can make life easier and better, but also raises serious concerns about privacy. More about our lives can be known, and possibly misused. When overwhelmed with these statistics, believers should remember that we serve a God who is much bigger than any computer or data. We see His bigness in Revelation where we see a picture of the vastness of Heaven and a great celebration. How many were there? "Myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands." As far as John's eye could see, there were living creatures and angels.


This provides important perspectives for our lives. First, when we praise God, we are adding our voice to this myriad of myriads. We also need to realize that all of these people went through the struggles of life. They clearly realize that God is greater than any person, organization, or computer. He alone is worthy of praise. This vastness reminds us that God already knows everything about our lives. Even better, He loves us, and we can trust Him.


Today, praise and worship God the Father, and give Him thanks. Praise and worship Jesus, for He is worthy. Join the vast throngs of Heaven. Right now!


Please pray with me this Prayer: Father, I praise and worship You. Thank You that You know everything about my life. Help me to be pleasing in Your sight. I trust You! In Jesus name.
Amen.


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Think Spot - 23rd February 2015

Someone watches over me

In 600 BC a tyrant ruled that land we know as Iraq. His name was Nebuchadnezzar. He built a huge golden idol of himself and commanded all the people to bow down to it. Three young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused and were thrown into a fiery furnace. You can read about that in Daniel 3 of the bible!

What we do know from this story is that the three young men survived. The tyrant Nebuchadnezzar didn’t survive as he was sent mad and lived like a donkey and his successor was killed; the writing was on the wall!

We all face trying times but the Good News is that there is always someone who watches out for us no matter what the situation. God is sovereign. That is: He is in control although we may not always see or understand that at the time. For those who put their trust in Him He promises to be with them and protect them. The apostle John puts it this way: “you, dear children have & will overcome because the one who is with you is greater than the one who is in the world” 1 John4:4.

If times are hard for you, or for somebody you love, remember God does care and loves us so much that He died for each of us. That’s what Easter is all about. Go into this week knowing that God loves you. God cares for you. God wants you to be His child.

The REALLY GOOD NEWS is tyrants and their idols come tumbling down but God’s LOVE endures for ever. Have a WOW week!

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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 start a 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!

Brother Lawrence was alive in the 1600s and this book of his details about how a person can benefit from the steady and soothing connection with God and to God. We have much to learn in the 21st century from this 17th century brother in Christ and that is what we hope each of us will gain from these conversations and letters recorded for us.

Brother Lawrence gives open advice and we will see his passion for spiritual concerns as he went about his work in the monastery - in the kitchens and as a cobbler. In these recordings, we see how he rejoices in the mundane duties, his persistent prayer life and was well known for his kindness, sympathy and willingness to help all others. So with that said, let us start with this fascinating book!

Conversations - First Conversation


  • Conversion and precious employment.
  • Satisfaction in God's presence.
  • Faith our duty.
  • Resignation the fruit of watchfulness.

THE first time I saw Brother Lawrence was upon the 3rd of August, 1666. He told me that GOD had done him a singular favor, in his conversion at the age of eighteen. (The audio continues the conversation...)

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Big Story - Part 3

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Big Story - Act 3 - Scene 1 - Israel - Abraham

with Roger Kirby

All right – I know I have got it wrong! Abraham came before Israel, but he was part, the first part, of the story in which Israel was the major player so I stick by my heading.

Amazingly God’s original plan had not worked out. God had created a perfect world, so perfect that he said it was ‘very good’. Into it he had put a man and a woman and, because they were made in his, God’s, image they had the power of self-will and decision making. And it had all gone wrong. Mankind was unable to relate to God because God was holy and pure and they were neither. What could God do about it – working within his self imposed limits that it would be done through human beings?

What God chose to do was to take a man from whom would come a family, and from that family a nation, and give him the responsibility to turn it all around and make it work. That man was Abraham.

In the same way that God later said he did not chose Abraham’s descendants because of anything in them but simply because ‘the Lord loved them’. I think we must assume there was nothing special about Abraham. We will never know when or why the Lord spoke to him and compelled him to persuade his father to take his whole family out from one of the best and most comfortable cities of the ancient world, Ur of the Chaldees, and trek over a thousand miles to a small hill country area.

The promise the Lord gave to Abraham is of fundamental importance to the whole Biblical story and to the whole world, up to and beyond our present day.

Here it is, from Genesis 12: 1 - 3: “Go …. to the land I will show you.

I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed hrough you.

Here we have

  1. a promise of land,
  2. a promise of many descendants,
  3. a promise of great blessing through him,
  4. a warning that the world will be divided into those who are blessed and those who are cursed through him.

I think, before going any further, I should list what has happened as a result of those 4 ideas. The detail will get filled in as we go through these studies.

  1. the land is no longer Israel. Paul said that ‘Abraham would be heir of the worlds”. Romans 4:13.
  2. the many descendants are not just national Israel, indeed not really national Israel much at all now but us! Paul said: If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:29.
  3. the great blessing has come through Jesus Christ: his life, death and resurrection.
  4. Paul updated the warning when he said in Romans 1: 18, 19: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.”

So all these things said to Abraham more than 3000 years ago are still important today.

But, in fact, it is more than a promise. If you buy a book from a friend you promise to pay. But if you buy a house from a friend something more than a promise is needed. You are into the world of lawyers, legal documents, and a covenant – an unbreakable agreement between the two of you. And the Lord sealed a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15: “The Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram”.

That describes what we would think a very curious procedure, but it was the way they did covenants in those days. It was the way a high king made an agreement, a covenant, with a lesser king. The high king would protect the lesser king from other high kings. The lesser king would provide fighting men to form part of the high king’s army when he needed it – perhaps to defend another lesser king from another high king. The situation between the Lord and Abraham was sufficiently similar for the procedure to be applied.

The fundamental statement on which Abraham and eventually the whole Biblical story is centered is Genesis 15: 6. “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Paul uses it in Romans 4: 9 when he says: “we have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness.” Here faith/faithfulness/believing loyalty is established as the necessary and only prerequisite for a relationship with the Lord God. All other subsequent attempts to add various activities and actions in worship and living are just plain wrong.

The story unfolds with many ups and downs through the lives of Abraham, his son Isaac, his grandson Jacob who had the 12 sons who began the 12 tribes of Israel, and his great-grandson Joseph who, with the best of intentions, moved the whole 12 families down to Egypt. The return from Egypt, some 400 years later, the Exodus as it s called, is the next major event in the Biblical story.

So what?

Abraham is the great paradigm of faith (A paradigm, pronounced paradime, is not just an example of something or even a good example. It is the one outstanding example that all others should copy. So Jesus gave his disciples the parable of the Sower and the Seed as the one great paradigm of how all the rest of the parables should be understood.)

The first outstanding thing Abraham did was to make a journey, a huge journey, particularly huge for a city boy, through wild country, difficult country past bandits galore. He didn’t get it all right. We read in Genesis 12 that he failed to stop in the hill country he was to be given when he should have done. He kept going, eventually reaching Egypt and big trouble.

The writer to the Hebrews says: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

We too have a journey to make – the journey of faith. We too won’t get it all right; we will make mistakes. But if we walk in step with the Spirit of Jesus we shall get there.

The second outstanding thing Abraham did was to obey the instruction from the Lord to take his only son, on whom all the promise of descendants rested, to the hill of sacrifice where he was only stopped at the last minute from killing him as a sacrifice (something far outside what we would ever consider possible). That was a huge test and we may well hope that nothing like that will ever come our way. But to go back to the journey idea – some preachers make it sound as though all that matters is being born again. But we are born to a new life, not to a static state of eternal babyhood. The beginning matters, as a wedding matters, but it is the marriage that determines what the real outcome is. Not for nothing is the Christian life called the Way in the book of Acts; Jesus said follow me; he describes himself as the shepherd who leads where the sheep are to follow. What is the Way you are going?

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