google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html 2016 January

Archive for January 2016

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God, the Church and the Internet

  • Can God interact on the internet?
  • Who?
  • What?
  • Why?
  • How!
  • John 17:13-19
  • Romans 12:3-8


Preached at Poulner Baptist Chapel, 1st February 2015...

Symptomatic of human history has been the development of different technologies. Each generation seems to have had a great leap forward in some way! Think of the wheel, the printing press, the wireless, the combustion engine and the silicon chip! One of the developments that I am sure that you have noticed is the internet. Everything is on the internet now it seems – increasingly so at a government & banking level! Everybody here has used it – either directly or indirectly. The internet is here. It isn’t going to go away and it will continue to develop and expand.

Likewise, the church is here too. It also isn’t going to go away (at least at a universal level) and it also will develop and expand. So let’s tonight look at what this internet is, why the Church should be using it and lastly how the church can use it for the glory of God. By using it, I do mean more than just a website with the latest information, events and sermons on it!

Before we continue, however, I must warn you, that alas, I have to talk about what I do – much as I don’t like to talk about myself! That is probably the best place to start as we can then quickly move on! In the last 7 years I have had about 4 million individual folk from around the world visit my website to read. There have been close to a million listeners of the audio and video. During 2014 I probably had communication with about a million people, either directly or indirectly. The world is my parish. If I can do it, anybody can! And those numbers are small compared to some folk!

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 18: John 4:48
Signs and wonders


In this, verse 48, “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” He was not speaking exclusively to the royal official and worried father for the ‘you’ is plural. At first the words sound like a rebuke, but Jesus went on to heal the boy that was so ill so his intent was more subtle than that. These words are used quite often by big meeting preachers to justify their claimed miracles and command people to believe. But that is not the intention of these words either and a sometimes very dangerous use of them.

It is much safer and wiser to take these words of Jesus as a comment on what happens, neither particularly encouraging or discouraging those who would rely on signs and wonders. It is important to note that exactly the same phrase is used in the Bible as a pointer to deceptive practices to be avoided (Matt 24: 24; 2 Thess 2: 9). But, positively, this episode is described as a sign in verse 54, the second one performed in Cana of Galilee. Jesus heals the boy. The NIV translates the crucial sentence as “your son will live” when it should more literally be “your son lives”. The action of Jesus is strong positive and instantaneous. So is that of the man. We are clearly meant to understand that he came to a strong, positive and totally valid faith as a direct result of this particular ‘sign and wonder’.

What should we make of this somewhat ambiguous situation? Surely this is actually the danger in signs and wonders – they focus attention on what Jesus can do for us, rather than on who he is. The royal official had a considerable advantage over us: he had met Jesus and could assess who he was. He knew both what Jesus could do and who he must be.

Who was, and is, Jesus? The Son of God; the Saviour of the world; the Lord of Glory; the Judge of the ages. Is that enough to be going on with? Of course we need to become convinced of these things which are not automatically obvious. And that is where the Resurrection comes in. Peter said, (Acts 2: 32, 36)“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. … Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” Paul’s comment on that was (1 Cor 15: 20), “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,”

We are but human. We are quite capable of believing something today and its opposite tomorrow! Make sure your faith is grounded not on your subjective experience of the things that have happened to you or other people but on the objective facts of the word of God. The former may have brought you to faith as it did the royal official but work hard to transfer your true grounding to the latter, to his written word, the Bible and its sure testimony to the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Resurrection of Jesus that is the one and only sure, unmovable foundation for your faith and for mine. All other possible logical bases for our faith are secondary and derivative.

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

29th January 2016

We pray together and when Christians pray together, including across the internet and from different times, different nations, different churches and different denominations - that reveals Church unity!

Grant, Almighty God,
that since under the guidance of thy Son
we have been united together in the body of thy Church,
which has been so often scattered and torn asunder, —
O grant, that we may continue in the unity of faith,
and perseveringly fight against all the temptations of this world,
and never deviate from the right course,
whatever new troubles may daily arise:
and though we are exposed to many deaths,
let us not yet be seized with fear,
such as may extinguish in our hearts every hope;
but may we, on the contrary,
learn to raise up our eyes and minds,
and all our thoughts,
to thy great power,
by which thou quickens the dead,
and raises from nothing things which are not,
so that though we may be daily exposed to ruin,
our souls may ever aspire to eternal salvation,
until thou at length really slowest thyself to be the fountain of life,
when we shall enjoy that endless felicity,
which has been obtained for us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son our Lord. Amen.

Amen.

(A prayer of John Calvin)

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POD - Psalm 42

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Psalm 42


1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
so my soul pants after you, God.



2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?



3 My tears have been my food day and night,
while they continually ask me, “Where is your God?”



4 These things I remember, and pour out my soul within me,
how I used to go with the crowd, and led them to God’s house,
with the voice of joy and praise,
a multitude keeping a holy day.



5 Why are you in despair, my soul?
Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God!
For I shall still praise him for the saving help of his presence.



6 My God, my soul is in despair within me.
Therefore I remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon, from the hill Mizar.



7 Deep calls to deep at the noise of your waterfalls.
All your waves and your billows have swept over me.



8 Yahweh will command his loving kindness in the daytime.
In the night his song shall be with me: a prayer to the God of my life.



9 I will ask God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”



10 As with a sword in my bones, my adversaries reproach me,
while they continually ask me, “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you in despair, my soul?
Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God!
For I shall still praise him, the saving help of my countenance, and my God.

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Think Spot - 25th January 2016


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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Sermon - 2 Chronicles 7

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God pays a visit to Solomon!

2 Chronicles 7v11-22


Introduction

You may remember, from a month ago, we looked at David's final recorded public prayer in 1 Chronicles 29. We saw that David's God oozed greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty from all aspects of His very being! All of which are essential attributes of who He is: unchangeable and permanent. We discovered that this God is a God who gives and gives abundantly! The temple was yet to be built but the gifts from the King and the people had come in! People were waiting to start! Not only to build it but to serve within it! We came to the conclusion that we should pray not just for what God can give to us but also what we can give and do for our God! Giving not just money and goods, but our talents and imagination! Because from that, the community we live, work and worship within could be transformed to God's glory!



But now the Chronicler has moved on in his story! The remnant of Israel you may remember has returned from exile and the Chronicler is giving them an abridged version of history! The great king David has died, and his son, Solomon, is now on the throne. Solomon has had his first encounter with God and received the gift of wisdom! In Chapter 6, Solomon has prayed a great prayer to His God!

Here, in our first reading, from the first 3 verses of chapter 7, we hear the Chronicler regaling one of the many great WOW moments of the Old Testament, when the glory of the Lord came down like fire and filled the temple to overflowing! The people fell down in worship of a great God, who was their God! This was followed by a great scene of abundantly joyful sacrificial worship to this God!



In the passage before us tonight, v11 to v22, the temple is now complete. Solomon is now probably sleeping in his palace. It has been 13 years since he prayed that prayer in chapter 6! No doubt, during those 13 years, many times has Solomon wrestled in his mind over what he prayed... Then, one night God Himself turns up.

Here the Chronicler reveals what God said to Solomon.

The original readers/hearers are a remnant of the great nation of Israel, just returned to their land after being in exile! Probably wondering what happened, because under Solomon, the nation of Israel reached its pinnacle! Asking themselves questions like: Who is our God? Who are we, Israel, as a nation? Why are we in the situation we find ourselves in?

The Chronicler is putting across his own theology as he writes this book of Chronicles! His theology, however, is consistent with the writings of the rest of the Old Testament and indeed the New Testament! So what does the Chronicler wish to convey to the remnant about this God from this encounter with Solomon?

1. A God of all History

The first thing I see, from this passage, is that their God is a God of history! All human history is covered beneath his throne - the past, present and future!

a. God of the past!

He is the God of Israel's past! God throughout history had made covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and here, God reminds Solomon of the Covenant that He made with Solomon's father, David! This covenant promised 3 things!

That there would be:

  • A land forever
  • A dynasty without end
  • A perpetual kingdom

b. God of the present

But not only is He a God of the past, He is also a God of the present! He has heard the prayers and accepted the temple as a place of worship - v12 "I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices." He is the God of the present because He is speaking to Solomon in Solomon's present! Visiting Solomon, probably while Solomon is snoring his head off!

c. God of the Future

So God is a God of the past and the present, but also a God of the future! And because God is the God of the future, all things are under His control! Even v13 "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people", shows the God of the past, present and future being in control.


The Lord God says in this speech to Solomon, "I will..." several times! "I will hear!" "I will forgive!" "I will heal the land!" "I will open my eyes!" "I will establish your throne!" But not only of these humanly beneficial things but also Gods says in v20 "I will uproot you from here and send you into exile!" All in the future tense!

And in v16 "I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there." Their God, who is the God of all human history - past, present and future - is from everlasting to everlasting!

Nothing in the future is set rigidly! God may know what is going to happen but He also knows all that may happen as well! We see this through the tension of "If you do this, I will do this!" God is all-knowing, far beyond our human capacity and capability!

2. A God Who Lives!

So a God over all human history - past, present and future. So what else is there here about this God? This God is also a God who lives and lives dynamically! This God is not like the gods of Israel's neighbours - a mere inert block of wood, bone or stone to be lumped about, put on a pedestal, have many copies made, bowed to impersonally and chanted manically at. No! This God of Israel is a God who lives! This God lives and wants to live with His people! God is a God who exhibits His life in at least 3 ways from this encounter with Solomon!



a. A God who is Personal!

This God is personal! Fourteen times, the Chronicler uses for God the personal pronoun "I" and fourteen times, he uses "me" or "myself." Twelve times, he uses the word "you" - on a single individual basis as well as a collective "you" on the basis of the nation itself. This God is personal to the individual Solomon, the King of Israel, but also personal to the nation of Israel. The Chronicler is intimating that no other nation had enjoyed a dynamic, robust and intimate relationship with their God, like Israel does! Our God is personal the Chronicler cries out!
Because He is personal, it cries out that He lives! This God wants to be intimately involved with the people and nation He has chosen for Himself.

Read through with me as I share some of these with you and hear how intimate and personal this God is!


Listen for the ‘I'

"I have heard your prayer; I shut; I will forgive; I will heal; I have chosen; I will establish; I have covenanted; I have given; I will uproot; I will reject; I will make

This is a personal God! Listen for the ‘my'

chosen this place for myself; among my people, called by my name; seek my face; my eyes will be open; my ears attentive; my Name may be there forever; my heart will always be there; an object of ridicule for my Name,

Now listen for the ‘you', ‘their', themselves' and ‘they'

you walk before me faithfully; humble themselves and pray; You do; Your father David; You observe; Your royal throne; their wicked ways ; if you turn away and forsake; you and go off to serve other gods; they have forsaken the LORD and they embraced other gods!


This is a personal, living and dynamic God wanting a personal and dynamic relationship with His people! Not some mere impersonal piece of wood, metal or stone like the gods of the surrounding nations to whom people babble!



b. A God who is Responsive!

This personal God is also responsive! This God, the Chronicler writes, has responded to the worship of the people when at the beginning of this chapter, His glory filled the temple to overflowing! Their worship was pleasing to Him and He acknowledged this with fire! WOW - v1 "the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple!" That must have been an awe-inspiring moment when their living God did that! So awe inspiring that they continued in worship by singing and offering sacrifices!
This God responds to His gathered people!

But this God also responds and appears to the individual, in this case, their King and leader, Solomon and with a personal answer to Solomon's own prayer we read in chapter 6!
Here in v17-18, God confirms Solomon's anointing as King and leader of Israel! He reminds Solomon of the importance of the Temple in the life of Israel and as a symbol of commitment to the Covenant of David. This is a direct response to Solomon's prayer we read in 6v16-17. God is personally committed to the line of David.

Now that's all very well when things are going swimmingly and Israel is being obedient, following the commands and ordinances of their personal God! But what happens if they choose not to obey or serve him rightly? God administers judgement, but v14 offers a way back - of humble repentance. However, if they continue to sin and are not repentant, well that leads us to another part of God being responsive - God judges! And not unjustly or recklessly but with justice!

c. A God who Judges and Restores!


In v13 we see that disasters can be sent by God! Droughts and plagues can be used by God to bring people ultimately back to repentance.

In v19-23, we see what happens if Israel abandons their God and continues in their sinful ways (v19)! God abandons them because they first abandoned Him and went away to embrace other gods - gods of non-personality! Then God uproots them from the land that He had given them and rejects this very same Temple which He chose Himself to be a place of prayer and sacrifice. That's the reason Israel was to go into exile, away from the land of promise.

But if God is the God who judges and does these things, He is also the God who enables restoration! When evil befalls Israel, natural, social or political, it is because of their disobedience and God must judge it or He would be a pretty impotent, capricious, spiteful and fickle God if He didn't! So while God maybe the author of disasters, He is also the agent of restoration!



3. A God Who Expects!

This is a personal God of all human history who lives! This God judges disobedience but offers a way back through repentance. Part of His being personal is that this is a God who expects!



a. God Expects His People to be Holy!


How is this? Why does He judge? Because God is holy! He is of utter moral excellence and perfection. There is and can be no stain of sin and He must be totally separated from sin. Holy is what God is!! This holiness of God is seen in righteousness, which is holiness in action. God's actions conform to His Holiness. Justice deals with the ab­sence of righteousness. Sin must be dealt with deal with it He will and must!

If God were not Holy, He could not and would not be God! If He were to cast aside his Holiness even for the briefest of times, he would cease to be God!



b. God expects obedience!


Not only is God holy, writes the Chronicler, but His people must also be holy and be seen to live rightly! God expects obedience! Israel was to be a nation of light reflecting their great and living God to the surrounding nations! They alone had the law of the Lord and they were to live rightly and obediently before God and the surrounding nations! They were to worship this living God and Him alone! In v17, we see the request to walk with God alone and follow His decrees and commands - the law of Moses! In v19-20, as we saw earlier, there was the penalty for idolatry and abandoning this living God!



c. God expects prayers of repentance


Now you may be saying, yeah right, Dave... If God is just, and of grace, He will provide a way out of these judgments! But you know what! He does! The people can be restored! How can this be? Verse 14 is the key! This is a key of grace: "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

How does He restore? Through the humility and repentance of the disobedient! Even when this great Living God is angry! Prayers by the disobedient, consisting of humility and repentance are necessary, in order to enable God to forgive and heal the destruction of sin and disobedience.

In 6v32-33, we can see that anyone who acknowledges God's name and authority may pray with utter confidence that God would hear their petitions. Seeking God's face with humility is the key.

What is repentance? It is a voluntary change in mind, in which the person and nation turn from a life of disobedience to living a life of obedience to God. It is done firstly in the Mind or the Intellect, where it is recognition of disobedience and guilt before God. Then, there is also at an Emotional level, exhibiting genuine sorrow for disobedience, a bit more difficult for us men!

Finally it's also an act of the Will - a decision to turn back to God from disobedience, self-pleasure and self-centredness.

And what is humility? Humility is where total trust is placed in God alone, and He has priority in all aspects of life. Humility is a lack of pride and of total commitment to God.

This is a living and holy God, who expects His people to be holy, reflecting His holiness and being prepared to make themselves nothing in order to be restored and for their disobedience to be forgiven.

Conclusion

What an awesome and great God this is! This is the God who is the God over all human history - past, present and future! This is a God who is personal and responsive! This is a God who is holy, commands obedience and yet accepts humble repentance! What a great and Almighty God! Not only those things but He is a God of grace! How do we see that?



This chapter from Scripture, 2 Chronicles 7v11-22, could well be a summary of all 1 & 2 Chronicles, if not the Old Testament and indeed all of Scripture! Some say that grace is missing from the book, just as some say that grace is missing from the Old Testament itself! But as we have hopefully seen, one aspect of God that shines through this passage is that He is a God of grace, with a message of grace as exemplified in v14! "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."



But so what? What are we to do with and for this God?

We are to be personally and collectively obedient to Him. Following closely to the leading of the Spirit and following our leaders, the pastors, elders and deacons as they seek to follow this great God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said "You can only learn what obedience is, by obeying."

Lets be an obedient people. How do we do that? By loving God! How do we show we love God? By loving others, for as Jesus said, this sums up the whole Law!.

The community out there, which we are a part of, is looking at us. We have this fantastic new building, and I can guarantee you, that there will be some people out there, just waiting for this adventure of ours with God to fail. Let us not allow that to happen.

One of the key areas of obedience concerns idolatry! Now we may not go off to other gods and worship them, as Solomon and ancient Israel did. But we can set up false idols of our own, both as individuals and collectively. Calvin wrote that "What is idolatry? It is to worship the gifts instead of the great Giver?" This is a beautiful building! But let us not worship it and consider it so sanctified even for a moment, that it becomes our idol of worship. Let us be thankful to God for the gift and allow Him to use it for the benefit of the whole community and not just for our own sake. Let each of us ensure that God takes first place over everything in our individual and collective lives. Let us worship alone our great living God who gives abundantly, rather than commit disobedient idolatry by worshipping the gifts of the Giver.



Then finally, let us hold our leaders up in prayer that they will be, collectively and individually, obedient to God! As Adam shared this morning, old hairy legs satan likes to stick his nose in and try to get leaders like Adam off track. Many churches have built new buildings, only for them to lie wasted shortly after, due to personal disobedience of the leadership. Lets not be one of those.

The church I attended in Australia before coming to the UK, 21 years ago this coming Saturday, was very much like PBC is now! Growing, vibrant and they had just finished building a new church building! Everyone was excited and looking forward to the future! I am not going to say specifically what happened, but within 2 years that church was practically empty. In fact it is still going but it hasn't recovered to the way that it was. The leadership were found to have committed both personal and corporate disobedience and when it became public; it decimated the church and made it a public mockery. Those people who were in leadership are now restored back into a right relationship with God, but they had to find humility the hard way.

Somebody asked me during the week, "If Solomon was the wisest man on earth, how come he fell into idolatry?" The answer I gave was not because he had so many wives and girlfriends. Nor was it, as suggested by a certain member of this congregation here tonight, the number of mother in laws. I think it was because he became proud, forgot not just who he was in God's eyes but he also forgot who God was! That led him to forsake the God of His youth and commit idolatrous acts.



Let's go from here, willing to be obedient to this great God, remembering who we are and who our God is. This great God we love and serve who is the God of all human history - past, present and future. This Almighty God, who is living, dynamic, personal, and responsive: who both judges and restores. This is a God who is holy and expects His followers to be holy, living obedient lives and being quick to seek repentance after disobedience. Let's go out into our community this week, being His voice and light, confident that our living God is within us, as we engage actively and passively with those who don't know this great God!

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 17: John 4:26
You are … ( I AM …)


That the resurrected Christ made himself known first to a woman (John 20: 11, 14 – 16) is relatively well known and often commented on. That he made he made his true nature known first to a woman, this woman, this unnamed, unknown, member of a despised race is much less well-known and seldom commented on.


He said to the woman (4: 26), “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” The translations here tend to be a bit misleading. To make better sense in the immediate story of the two words ‘I am’ the only ones in the original Greek, they have added a third word, called a predicate, ‘he’, to give ‘I am he’. Again it is well known that Jesus described himself seven times with different substantial predicates: ‘ I am the bread of life’, ‘I am the light of the world’ , ‘I am the gate’, ‘I am the good shepherd’, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ and ‘I am the true vine’. What is not so well known is that Jesus said ‘I AM” without a predicate on another seven occasions. This is the first of these.

When Moses asked the Lord God what his name was at the burning bush he was given three answers. The third was “The Lord, the God of your fathers —the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” which identified him as the right God, the one that their ancestors had been worshipping all those hundreds of years they were stuck in Egypt. The first name they were given was the mysterious one ‘I am who I am.’ The second one is the most useful one and the one that we are interested in here ‘I am’, somewhat hidden in the answer “I am has sent me to you”. The words ‘I am’ in Hebrew are closely related to the personal name of God, YHWH, which we vocalize as Yahweh. This is the name for God used by Isaiah when he wrote in 43: 10 and other places, ““You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he” where again a ‘he’ has been added to what should read simply ‘I am’.

So what?


Jesus says very clearly to the woman is ‘I AM’ or ‘I AM God’. Whether she fully understood what he was saying we do not know – she may have done so since the Samaritans only used the first 5 books of the Bible and she will have been very familiar with just about every word of, at least, the story parts of those books. Later in John’s gospel when Jesus said to a crowd at 8: 58, ““Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!” their reaction was, “they picked up stones to stone him” so they clearly understood the implications of what he had said.

Jesus was part of the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit. He had temporarily

“made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant … he humbled himself” as Phil 2: 6 – 8 says. But he was still fully divine, still part of the Triune God, “the Word was God” and would be again as Thomas realizes when he calls him, “My Lord and my God” (John 20: 28). He had only allowed his divine nature and attributes to go into temporary eclipse so that, as the writer to the Hebrews says, (2: 16 – 18) “For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

What a wonderful saviour we have!




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Alphy the WOWChurch Cat has a new book out! Alphy the WOWChurch Cat is on an adventure! In this book, his adventures take Alphy to explore the Lord's Prayer - perhaps the most misunderstood prayer of all!! What will he find? You will have to read to find out! Come and discover with him!Check the preview video out and the Amazon links...

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Think Spot 18 January 2016

Matthew 5:9 records Jesus speaking these words "God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God."


All over the world, people share a common desire for peace! But what is peace? The peace the world wants varies from the peace the Christian knows. The world sees peace as the absence of conflict and people being generally ‘nice' to one another. Peace in the Christian context goes further, saying peace is perfect harmony with God, other people, circumstances and self. Therefore perfect peace will not come until Jesus Christ comes again, and takes Christians to be with Him.

That doesn't give us as Christians a mandate to sit around not doing what we can for peace, because we are commanded to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), our God is a God of peace (1 Thessalonians 5:23), and the Kingdom of God is about peace in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Peace is to be our business! In a world full of conflicts, such as conflicts between nations, conflicts between neighbours, conflicts even within families and conflicts within and between churches, Christians are to be peacemakers!

With that in mind, here are some thoughts on what the Bible has to say on peace, to help you this week be a peacemaker:

1. Peace with God

  • Justified by faith (Romans 5:1-2)

  • Christ is our peace between God and man and between men (Ephesians 2:13-18)

2. Peace with others

  • Live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:17-20)

  • Do everything possible which leads to peace and mutual encouragement (Romans 14:13-19)

  • Be a peacemaker - a sign of real wisdom producing a harvest of righteousness (Matthew 5:9, James 3:17-18)

3. Peace within/circumstances

  • Peace is a gift of God (John 14:27, 2 Thessalonians3:16)

  • Worldly peace requires manipulation of circumstances, God's peace comes regardless of circumstances

  • We have peace in troubled times - an untroubled, unfearful heart and mind (John 16:33)

Go in peace this Monday, into this week, knowing that the God of peace lives inside you if you are one of His children! Yesterday churches around the world celebrated the feast of Pentecost - the coming of the Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus. If you desire peace with God, with others and in all circumstances, ask this Holy Spirit who lives inside you to help you! If you would not consider yourself as one of His children, ask Him to help you become one!


Father, I pray that this week we will do all we can to be peacemakers and make a difference in world in conflict. 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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Sermon - 1 Chronicles 29

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David's Final Prayer

1 Chronicles 29:10-20


Introduction

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

Originally 1 & 2 Chronicles were one book. It was the final book of the Jewish Canon, probably written by Ezra and was also known as the "the events of the days", "the things omitted" which would suggest that Chronicles were to be regarded as additional to the books of Kings and Samuel. It's a book which was written for those from the nation of Israel who are now in exile, to remind them of their spiritual heritage - the journey & history of Israel as a nation. For us though, not least I, it issues certain challenges to us all.

Here is the great king David!

Now here to Chapter 29, we have King David in his final days before handing over the crown to his son, Solomon. David is no longer the shepherd-boy who slew Goliath. He is at the end of his life. He wanted to build the temple himself, but God told him in 1 Chronicles 28v3 "You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood." The building of the Temple was to be ultimately achieved by his great son Solomon to do!

What has happened so far?

So what has happened so far, according to the Chronicler? In the previous verses before our reading, we see how David has given publicly a great deal of wealth including gold, silver and other personal possessions for this building - the great Temple. This was to serve as an active encouragement for others to also give generously! Not only of their material possessions, but also as we read from 1 Chronicles 28v21, their talents and craftsmanship as well! This house of God would be a community effort - King & pauper alike, giving generously and honestly!

So here is David, a man, who despite his many faults, is described as a man after God's own heart. Israel's greatest king, saying this prayer of intimate praise & adoration to his God in front of the assembled throngs. This prayer, like his gifts of gold etc., could be said, to be David's legacy to the nation of Israel, to Solomon and by extension also to us.

1. WOW factor of God! (v10-13)

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

Verse 10 sets the scene "Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever." God is their father! He is everlasting! Before Israel was, He is and always will be! He was to be their God and they were to be His people. God takes care of them as a father does His children - giving generously, protecting them and always being available for guidance & wisdom.



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



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

God's greatness is vast, incomparable and unfathomable. God's power is that of a warrior: almighty, overwhelming yet alluring; and all power comes from Him to every dependent creature. God's glory is the exuberant and ecstatic magnificence of His very being!

Victory shows God as an all-conquering hero: transcendent and supreme, to whom all creatures and creation are subject. His victories are irrefutable and undeniable. His uncompromising majesty symbolises a dignity, regency, splendour and awesome magnificence!

These things: greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty are essential attributes of who God is: indelible, immutable, unchangeable and permanent. God is a King in greater splendour than any of the excesses of King Louis XVI.

If you don't know about Louis, go look him up and the scale of extravagance! This God is a mighty King to be exalted above all things and He is to be held in His rightful place: high and lifted up!

As for the kingdom, whose is it? Is it Israel's? No! Is it David's? No! It is God's and His alone! His Kingdom is of total magnificence and greater than the Roman Empire to come! Even greater than the British Empire, which was never to see the sun set on it. Jesus is probably quoting here, in what we call the Lord's Prayer.

So David's words resonate down through history.

In this context however, David uses kingdom to symbolise the fact that the building materials, the amassed wealth, did not belong to Israel, but rather they were God's alone! God's kingdom shows His universal influence, authority and universality.

Everything is God's! Its all His! Nobody can say they own ultimate possession of anything! The only reason, to paraphrase David, "we have this amassed wealth to build the Temple is because we have the leasehold to it! God owns the freehold, its all His and because of His generosity we can build Him this house!



And not only these material possessions, but also the imagination, ingenuity, craftsmanship, skills and talents - well they all came from God as well, so you craftsmen, bless God because God has blessed you with skilled hands to work on His house! Your strength is ultimately from His unlimited resources of strength!"

This is no impersonal statue or idol like the surrounding nations.

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



It is out of His wonderfully glorious grace that the Lord God Almighty gave the gifts in the first place and the cheerful sacrificial response from His people in gratitude to Him was remarkable! All these things were given willingly - the possessions, the gold, the silver, the skills, the power and strength - all in service of the great God of Israel, the great Father of Abraham, Isaac, Moses and the other patriarchs.

Surely, this is a God worthy of all praise, worship and life commitment! Each person praises differently and in different ways, so let's rejoice when we see other people praising God differently to our own style.

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

That's the wow factor of God: a God who is abundant in greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty.

Now let's look together at David himself! All the attributes of praise, given here by David to God, could with a great deal of justification, be said about Israel, or even David himself. They were at the time a strong nation and David quite rightly still on the throne. Israel's greatest King - full of power, might and majesty. But no!

What does David say in v14? "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee."

Its all about God for David! He would say that I am only here because of Him! David has been reflecting on his whole life - from the time he defeated the Philistine armed only with a sling and stone. He sees his past failures, the utter depravity of those but also his repentant heart before a holy God.

The end of verse 14 again, "All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee", and this resonates down through history, in churches worldwide as the offering prayer.

David exhibits great humility before God, and sets an example for his son, Solomon and the other people of Israel, to follow.

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

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

It is also an image of an acknowledgement that all life is supremely dependent upon God and God alone. God was to be their God and they were to be His people - to be shining as a light to all nations as God's representatives.

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



Not only for David but also for the Chronicler too! He was recording this for the people of Israel when they were in exile.

The Chronicler reminds the people in exile to be utterly dependent upon God for all and everything. For the Chronicler, the building of the Temple was more a matter of the heart, and built upon the faith of God to supply. This faith was expressed in the building made of gold, silver, wood and other metals.

It was due to God's generosity alone the Temple would be built and nothing to do with David and his people. It would have been a tremendous temptation to be filled with boastful pride about it. It was a test of people's hearts to see if they really did love their God.



Then in the final words of this prayer, we see David praying for unreserved and enthusiastic giving from the people. He changes from acknowledgment to petition.

In verses 18-20, David exhorts an outpouring of generosity from his people, from a heart filled with thanks - a heart acknowledging total dependence on God for all things - a heart & life of loyal obedience to Almighty God. Solomon also was to be wholeheartedly obedient and devoted fully to God. A heart filled with peace with God, a life totally devoted to Him, exhibited with joyful giving. That's what David was praying for his people and for his son Solomon. Its also what the Chronicler was expecting from the people in exile as he recounts this to them. It was to be a community effort of devotion and obedience to an almighty God, on whom they were dependent for all facets of human life. Everybody giving what they could - out of riches or poverty. 

3. So what?

Firstly, we saw the wow factor of God: a God who exudes greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty.

Then we saw David's utter adoration and dependence upon the God that he knows intimately.

So, finally, what does all this have to do with us?

How often do we receive from our God, but not thank Him for it? We are to be thankful for every good gift that is given to us. We offer praises and thanks to Him, for who He is and for His generosity and grace towards us. Tonight's bible passage was a superb piece of thanksgiving.

When was the last time you thanked God for all the things He has given you? How can we put this thanks and praise into action? Lets see quickly!

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



As Christians, we are to desire to mature spiritually - growing in adoration, obedience and commitment to God. Perhaps the greatest indicator of today, concerns our giving. Giving is to be done whole-heartedly and cheerfully. It is also not so much about how much is given, but how much is left after giving and the attitude behind it. God looks beyond that which is given to the motive and attitude behind it. All our money and possessions belong to Him anyway, as we have seen, so giving is to be in response to this. Our money and possessions are a leasehold agreement not a freehold one. Giving done willingly is also not done to boost our own egos or for the feel-good factor, but rather to bring glory and honour to God as a thankful response to His giving all things to us.



Many prayers seemingly go unanswered because God is waiting on people to be obedient to Him, in order to answer the unanswered prayers of others. .

We are to be generous with everything we have, not just in the area of money but with our very lives. We all have time, information, knowledge imagination, gifts and talents. All these too are to be given back to God . That may well take radical action to do, but radical giving is what we are called to do. God has given everything so that you and I may live and have life, so by caring and giving, we will reflect that. Let's be radical church together and encourage others to be likewise.



But, as we have seen, it's not only about giving money and resources. Giving is also to include skills, information, imagination and knowledge. Remember, the priests and craftsmen were waiting to give in the building of and service within the Temple.

Churches, particularly these days, need to capture the imagination of those looking for a church home, and get them involved. Involvement in such a way that it builds up commitment to God and a growing adoration of Him. If people are involved, they will stay. It means training them up, to be fit for service within the church. If training for service doesn't occur, then commitment and dedication to God is likely to be diminished. If the same people do the same thing year after year, that local church will eventually die out. Each local church is only one generation away from closing its doors permanently.

Giving, as we saw in tonight's passage, is also a community affair. This Church is to be a community, both within the church and outside of it, where the strongest members support the weakest members. Our leaders here at PBC give demonstrably I think- including their time, possessions, money, knowledge and wisdom.

But, as we also saw tonight, it is not just for leaders to give! Giving is to be for everyone! Every church has a fantastic array of knowledge, wisdom, possessions and imagination. Let us share that with people outside the church. Who knows what our caring and giving will do for them as it reflects the glory of God!

Too often, we are found turning a blind eye to the suffering of others where the necessities of life are in sparse existence. Too often we neglect to give up our personal space, time, imagination, information and money generously to help the poor and needy in our local, national and global communities.

By doing this giving collectively, we will show our faith to be real and practical. There are people out there in our local community just waiting for somebody to give generously to them. We need to be seen to be radically giving to all - of our money, our possessions, and also our time, imagination, knowledge, practical help, care and love. Let us show our relevance to our local community and not be seen as just a curious gathering of people meeting on a Sunday.

If you have ideas of how you can help the church here at PBC in anyway, then see the elders or the Pastor and talk to them about it.

So if I could summarise all this up in one sentence, it would be something like this

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

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

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 16: John 4:7b
You are … ( I AM …


Two people meet up in this amazing story. We will think about the first, the unnamed woman, here and the other, Jesus, in the following study.

No wonder she was surprised by the question Jesus asked, she was a woman – second class citizen in the thinking of those days; she was a Samaritan – long antagonistic to the Jews; she had a somewhat doubtful moral background – having had 5 husbands and now living with a man she was not married to (although there is no word of condemnation from Jesus so she may just have been a very unfortunate lady). On the positive side she was able to carry on a vigorous and effective conversation with a strange man and the village people gave her enough respect to come out to see Jesus at her suggestion.

We must not overlook the fact that Jesus treated women quite differently from that expected by the culture of his day. That is not immediately clear from the Biblical accounts that we have, but that may be because they were all written by men! But there are many easily overlooked hints that women had a considerable role to play in the early church. The news that Jesus had risen was entrusted to women (John 20: 1). As we shall see in the next study the news that he was God came first to a woman – this woman! Junia was an apostle (Romans 16: 7). Phoebe was an important and highly trusted member of the church in Cenchrae (Romans 16: 1). Women participated in the church services in Corinth (1 Corinthians 11: 5). The passages in which women’s participation in the church services are restricted (1 Corinthians 14; 1 Timothy 2) are both rather odd since they appear to contradict things Paul says elsewhere.

It would be nice to be able to claim that Jesus started a trend that has lasted through the 2000 years since but that would probably be overdoing it! Paul said (Gal 3: 28), “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Jesus had already amply demonstrated the truth of that, showing that neither race, nor status, nor gender is of any significance in the Kingdom. To those we should add for our world skin colour and education level. There may not be a clear trend through the many years since but Jesus made a statement that set a target. Only now as with modern sophisticated machinery nimble fingers and a quick mind become more important than brute strength is the equality of women being increasingly recognized.

The sharpness of the contrast John has drawn by his choice of Nicodemus: well known, named, respected, male and this unknown, unnamed, doubtful, female for his two stories close together is a warning to us just how easy it is to slip into an attitude of ‘not one of us’. There is no ‘them’ and ‘us’ in the Kingdom.

The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.



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Partakers Friday Prayers!

15th January 2016

We pray together and when Christians pray together, including across the internet and from different times, different nations, different churches and different denominations - that reveals Church unity!


My Heavenly Father,
I thank You,
through Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son,
that You kept me safe from all evil and danger last night.
Save me, I pray, today
as well, from every evil and sin,
so that all I do and the way that I live will please you.
I put myself in your care, body and soul and all that I have.
Let Your holy Angels be with me,
so that the evil enemy will not gain power over me.
Amen

(A Morning Prayer of Martin Luther)

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