June 28, 2016

POD - Psalm 7

podintro.gifPsalm 7

(as read by Richard A)

A meditation by David, which he sang to Yahweh,
concerning the words of Cush, the Benjamite.

7:1 Yahweh, my God,
I take refuge in you.
Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me,
7:2 lest they tear apart my soul like a lion,
ripping it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.
7:3 Yahweh, my God, if I have done this,
if there is iniquity in my hands,
7:4 if I have rewarded evil to him who was at peace with me
(yes, if I have delivered him who without cause was my adversary),
7:5 let the enemy pursue my soul, and overtake it;
yes, let him tread my life down to the earth,
and lay my glory in the dust.


7:6 Arise, Yahweh, in your anger.
Lift up yourself against the rage of my adversaries.
Awake for me. You have commanded judgement.
7:7 Let the congregation of the peoples surround you.
Rule over them on high.
7:8 Yahweh administers judgement to the peoples.
Judge me, Yahweh, according to my righteousness,
and to my integrity that is in me.
7:9 Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end,
but establish the righteous;
their minds and hearts are searched by the righteous God.
7:10 My shield is with God,
who saves the upright in heart.
7:11 God is a righteous judge,
yes, a God who has indignation every day.
7:12 If a man doesn’t relent,
he will sharpen his sword;
he has bent and strung his bow.
7:13 He has also prepared for himself the instruments of death.
He makes ready his flaming arrows.
7:14 Behold, he travails with iniquity.
Yes, he has conceived mischief,
and brought forth falsehood.
7:15 He has dug a hole,
and has fallen into the pit which he made.
7:16 The trouble he causes shall return to his own head.
His violence shall come down on the crown of his own head.
7:17 I will give thanks to Yahweh according to his righteousness,
and will sing praise to the name of Yahweh Most High.

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June 27, 2016

Think Spot 27 june 2016


Think Spot - 27th June 2016
Be Authentic

"Such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present." (2 Corinthians 10:11)

For those of us who engage in social media, writing letters or emails to people or as we talk to people on phones are we the same person then as when we are with people face to face? Is your behaviour with people when not physically with them the same as your behaviour when you are physically with them?

That is how the great Apostle Paul was with people - the same in their presence or away from them. That is what he urged his readers, the Corinth church, to be like... God wants the same from us - authenticity and relying on Him to help us be authentic Christians living in what is often an unauthentic world...

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Sermon - How not to be a Chocolate Christian

Have you ever noticed that chocolate melts under pressure & heat? If you haven't, take a piece of chocolate and hold it between your fingers! It will soon melt! If you are a Christian, you need to be active in your local church so that you don't melt under pressure and you will remain firm in your faith! Otherwise you will be a chocolate Christian who easily gives up under the stress and pressure of every day life! At a church local to where you live, you are needed regardless of who you are! Perhaps this is you?

  • Interested observer but not a committed Christian
  • Not bothered
  • Not good enough
  • Just want to be left alone
  • Don't know how to be involved
  • Don't know why being involved is important
  • Too busy

But why should you be involved?

Why? You have talents to be used!!

When Jesus said to His apostles "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14v12), it was through the promised Holy Spirit (John 14v17), and the impartation of Spiritual Gifts that His words were fulfilled. The reason that the Holy Spirit imparts spiritual gifts to Christians is so that the body of Christ is built up (Ephesians 4v12), for the common good of the church (1Corinthians 12v7, 14v12) and "so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 4v12).

These three reasons signify that God wants Christians to be active in service and not still like stagnant water. That is why we have been given gifts and if these gifts are not used for God's purposes, then they are utterly useless and meaningless. And the gifts are not just the supposedly spectacular gifts but also the supposedly mundane! Cleaning is as much a spiritual gift as preaching is!

As we are not to neglect our gifts, or let other Christians neglect their gifts, we are to fan the gifts into flame (2 Timothy1v6). Much like blowing on embers and stirring them up will restart the flames of a fire! To do this, as Christians, we are to employ the gifts faithfully and by asking God to continue their development, strengthening and for opportunities to use them! Seek gifts that build up others, commands Paul (1 Corinthians 14v1-12). Ask God faithfully for gifts that give opportunity for service to God and others!

Why? We are dependent on each other

As Christians, we are dependent upon each other, just as one part of the human body has dependence on another part. That is why we serve each other and use the gifts generously given by God. As all Christians have gifts, we have a responsibility to discover and develop them (1 Timothy 4v14)! God has called Christians and equipped them with spiritual gifts, and they are not to be neglected! You are a member of the body of Jesus Christ the church! If you are not being active that means the Church body is affected aversely! Its like a part of your body failing to do as it should!

Why? Improve your serve!

They are opportunities for Christians to serve other people. Some gifts like teaching, helping or leadership quite possibly are enhancements of natural abilities whilst others like faith, healing and miracles are from the Spirit's empowerment alone. In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus intimates that those who follow Him, will be judged according to all that they have been given stewardship of! This includes things such as Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12v1-10), acts of service (Galatians 5v13) and material possessions (2 Corinthians 9v6-8)! These are used to accomplish three other items of Stewardship: mission, message and people.

Why? To follow Jesus

The Christian life is not to be static or inactive - it was never meant to be! The Christian life is to be dynamic! It is to be active. The word servant is key in Scripture. It is used at least 500 times in its various derivatives. When a Christian serves, God's honour is released. This is done because service shows the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ to those being served and to those watching. That is to be our motive for service. Serving is never to be about what you and I can get out of it. When that is the motive, God is not glorified. God's glory, honour and supremacy are to be the goal of a Christian's life. Spiritual growth comes from serving rather than being served. This is because what ever is given in service of God and others, your faith grows and Jesus Christ gives back even more. Jesus speaking in Matthew 25v15-30 tells of the rewards for faithful service and the penalties for being faithless. Serving others is a sign that you are trusting in and having faith in God. It's a visible aspect of your invisible faith. Service is the outward expression of your inner beliefs. Serving is an outward expression of your inner faith - an external working out of your inner salvation. Serving God and others is the mark of a spiritually mature (or spiritually maturing) Christian and through service, the greatest servant of all, Jesus Christ, is reflected in our lives. "For Jesus Christ, came to serve and give his very life for others" (Mark 10v45). As Christians we are to be as Jesus Christ (Romans 8v28; Philippians 2v5) and to serve. Yet if we are honest, we sometimes feel incapable, just as Moses did (Exodus 3). When the church is built up, unity will inevitably prevail and be built up.


So if you find you are currently inactive in your local church, then please go and make yourself available to serve there! Ask your pastor or church leader how you can help out! By doing so, and submitting yourself to the Holy Spirit who indwells you, the lives of other people could be changed for God's greater glory because of your acts of service and worship.

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 36 - John 8:23, 28 & 58

No fewer than three times in this chapter John records that Jesus used the personal name of God, ‘ego eimi’ in Greek. John has them carefully lined up, two in rapid succession, then the third one later at the end of his discussion with the group of leading Jews he has been with for some time. In fact that third one brings the discussion to a rapid end.

Let me imagine something of what the reaction to what he said must have been of one of his hearers? It must have gone something like this: first he said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Our typical hearer will scarcely have noticed that his reply included the words I AM. As we noticed before the words he used could equally mean ‘It’s me’ or as they are translated in the NIV ‘I am he’. So all that happened was that they said to him, “Who are you?” Good question. It has been asked over and over again ever since. The answer is much the same as it has always been, I am who I have always told you I am but you are listening but not hearing.

So the conversation continues and Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.”

Again there is the phrase ‘I am he’ in the middle of that statement, a little more obviously this time. Whether our typical listener will have thought that an odd thing to say is hard to say. We might imagine him turning to his neighbour and saying something like: “did you hear what he said there? ‘lifted up’ sounds very like what Isaiah said about the servant ‘my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted’. I find that a bit much to take. He is getting well above himself. He thinks he is going to be high – does that mean sitting on a throne? - and being exalted! And then he sneaked in the phrase I AM. I don’t like it – I don’t like him. Things are getting a bit much.”

The conversation goes on for some time, another 30 verses in our Bibles, with the crowd and Jesus getting more and more at cross purposes with each other. The crowd is clearly understanding less and less of what Jesus is telling them or, perhaps, accepting less and less of what he is saying. They say he is demon possessed; he says they belong to their father the devil. They probably argued more forcefully in those days than we are prepared to do these days, but that is strong stuff. Then we are told that Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

That does it. He has quite clearly said that he was around before Abraham and then uses the critical words ‘ego eimi’, I AM, of himself so he is saying both ‘It’s me’ and I have the name of God.

Our imaginary guy is likely to have said at this point something like ‘hand me that stone!’ with the distinct intention of throwing it at Jesus to knock him down and kill him. But such is the power of the personality of Jesus that he is able to disappear in the crowd and slip away.

John has been hammering away at just one point. I used to have a colleague who liked to say good lecturing was ‘tell ‘em what you are going to tell ‘em; tell ‘em; then tell them what you have told ‘em’. John clearly had the same philosophy.

Have you got it very firmly into your head JESUS was GOD. If not read it all again, and again …

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June 22, 2016

Church Leadership 12 -


Church Leadership

Session 12:

What can God do with a leadership team

that is totally committed to Him?

Welcome to the final session in this series on Church Leadership. I trust they have all been a blessing to you and helpful as you continue on in your walk with God. I want to end on a positive note and look at what God can do when leadership teams are totally committed to Him and united in their service for the Boss – the Head of the Church.

In the book, The Trellis and the Vine (Marshall and Payne (Matthias Media 2009) – ISBN: 978 1 921441 58 5), the writers compare the work of planting, watering, fertilising and tending the vine to that of Christian ministry. ‘The basic work’, they continue, ‘of any Christian ministry is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of God’s Spirit, and to see people converted, changed and grow to maturity in that gospel’.

However, they also acknowledge the essential need to tend and maintain some sort of framework to help the vine grow. The authors put it this way: ‘as the ministry grows, the trellis also needs attention. Management, finances, infrastructure, organisation, and governance – these all become more important and more complex as the vine grows.’ The book provides a balanced perspective on these two sometimes competing demands on leaders.

Let us be encouraged to keep in mind our ultimate goal – to see men, women and children won to faith in Christ. But at the same time, let’s not forget to tend, repair, watch over and maintain the trellis, or the vine will have nothing to grow on.

Today, in our churches, are we achieving this ultimate goal? Are we, on a regular basis, seeing people converted, changed and grow to maturity in that gospel?

Do those of you who are leaders have a vision of what God, by the power of His Spirit and in the Name of Jesus can achieve in His church in your community?

A Senior Pastor asked his leadership team three questions when they were considering the impact of future growth:

  1. Can you see it?

  2. Do you want it?

  3. Are you prepared to do everything it takes to achieve it?

Powerful questions! Do we have such a vision from the Head of the Church that we are gripped by the prospect of many coming to faith in Christ, that we will go to any lengths to make sure it happens? Of vital importance is that the vision is from God – a “God idea” not just a “good idea”. More than once we read in Acts that, after the church had prayed about a particular matter, “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” Incidentally, when was the last time, after you have prayed, “the place where [you] were meeting was shaken. And [you] were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31)?

God gave dominion to the human race and He is longing for us, through redemption and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, to enter once again into that creation purpose. Jesus promises that the power of the Holy Spirit will result in our words having the same authority and wisdom as His own. Just think for a moment of what such a vision means to Jesus. He sees us - His own Body in the future exercising all of this and doing it to a greater extent than He could possibly do in His own human body. So after His resurrection, Jesus commissions the disciples. The promise of Jesus is: 'Your proclamation will be validated by signs and wonders that accompany it.' So those who refuse to believe will have no excuse. They will be condemned. (This raises questions about the nature of our own gospel proclamation in these days – but we don’t have time to discuss that now).

Like the early disciples we are called to go to the ends of the earth and for us, seeing the suffering that there is throughout the world, it is even more imperative than for them, that we should go to the ends of the earth and proclaim the good news of Jesus. Only then will the end come and our Lord return.

We have been placed on this earth to fulfil the destiny that God has for us, that we should exercise His authority and through the exercise of that authority, through His praise and worship and His power in our lives, we should bring down the powers of darkness and see satan's kingdom finally destroyed and the Lord's return set in train.

All this is ours! If that does not produce a 'Wow!' in your spirit then there must be something wrong with you. “Rejoice little flock. It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom” – Jesus said (Luke 12:32).

Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus: “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3: 14 – 21)

I can do more that repeat that prayer for you and the churches where you serve.

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June 20, 2016

Think Spot 20 june 2016


Think Spot - 20th June 2016

Yesterday in the UK & USA it was Fathers Day - a day to honour our fathers... My father has been dead now for 23 years. I still remember the phone call I got from my mother saying he had passed on. What is the best way that I can remember my earthly father? The best way I can keep the memory of my dad alive, is to show love to others. After all, he loved me at my worst (and that was pretty bad, albeit a long time ago)! Sure it can be risky, but it pays off more than it doesn't...

A similar picture to the love that God has for me - sacrificial and practical...

‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ John 13:34-35

Christians are commanded to love others - all others and without exception... We are to love others as God loves - sacrifically and practically... As we love other people practically, God's love is shown and revealed...

Go into this new week, to love others. If you don't know how to love a particular person, ask God to show you and tell you - He will do so if you ask!

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June 19, 2016

Prayer of Anger

A Prayer of Anger - Psalm 94


(Reposted in memory and response to the events and aftermath of the killings in Orlando, Florida recently . A lot of people are still seemingly angry...)

I believe that I would be right in saying that most of us here have prayed. Whether in joy and happiness; or in sadness and grief; in need or in want; in praise or in worship or in confessing sin, or in other ways we have prayed. But how many of us have prayed in anger, following the example of the writer of Psalm 94. Have any of us prayed out of anger to a God who is a judge? Have we cried out in anger to a God who punishes evil? By anger I do not mean that short burst of temper when something happens to us against our will. The kind of anger that rises when somebody does something against you, and you retaliate against them.

No, the type of anger I am talking about is the anger we should feel inside us that occurs when we see injustice being done; when we see sin being done to assist in the systematic abuse of other people. The sort of anger that the church should have felt in Germany during the 2nd World War when the creatures of the Nazi regime held mock trials of so-called criminals such people as Dietrich Bonhoeffer for opposing the ungodly views of the state.

The type of anger we should feel when we face today on our television screens when we see the pictures of the innocent victims of war in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Iraq or any region where people abuse people for the sake of their own power and glory. The sort of anger that should make us cry tears of sadness and humility when faced with the utter poverty of the families living on the streets in the cities of the world such as New Delhi, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paolo. George Bernard Shaw once described poverty as the greatest of crimes.

That deep seated anger that should be amongst us as Christians when we see the oppressed and the poor being used and abused by those who are in positions of power to help them. We are all quite comfortable with the God of Psalm 93, the God of majesty, strength and magnificence who is from everlasting to everlasting. The God who is mightier than the greatest seas! The God whose glorious holiness covers his house eternally!

Yet something, somehow, makes us uncomfortable about praying to God for justice. Perhaps our view of God is too small. For sure our God is a God of mercy but he is also a God of justice. Our God is a God of love, but He is also a God of wrath. His written word affirms all these things.

So the writer of the Psalm calls and prays to God for justice to be done. That He, the judging God might be glorified. Has the writer made this up? No, because God has described Himself as Judge and Avenger (Genesis 18:25; Deut 32:35). How many of us here, have prayed for justice to be done? Perhaps we should pray on occasion for burden of injustice to be lifted off the poor and oppressed peoples of this world. But, before we go any further on this thought, let us consider together 3 things about Psalm 94.

1. Whom is the writer praying to (Vs. 1-3)?

The obvious answer to this question is God. But what sort of God is He? Let's look at all the various descriptions given to us about God in this Psalm. A God who avenges (v. 1). To avenge is to seek revenge on behalf of somebody else. Here God is asked to avenge for the poor and innocent against the wicked and guilty people A God who judges (v. 2). To judge is to decide which is right and which is wrong.
Here God is asked to judge the wicked and guilty people for their wrong doing. A God who created and creates (v. 9), disciplines (vs. 10, 12); teaches (vs. 10, 12). A God who knows all things (v. 11) through omniscience. A God who relieves (vs. 13), assists (vs. 14, 17, 18), loves (vs. 18) and supports (vs. 18). He is a God who consoles (vs. 19), and who is incorruptible (vs. 20). A God who is strong and dependable (vs. 22) and a God who is a refuge (vs. 22). But he is also a God who repays and destroys (vs. 23) evil men for their wickedness. Is your vision of God still too small?

2. Why is the writer praying (Vs. 4-7)?

The writer js praying because he has seen the wickedness of mankind and has a deep inner anger against the brutality and evil deeds of the wicked. These people may not be foreigners, since many Jewish leaders were also brutal, for example the evil King Manasseh or the cynics of Isaiah (Is. 5: 18ff).

What sort of things are these evil people doing, and what sort of people are they? Arrogant and boastful (vs. 4), crushing (vs, 5), oppressing (vs. 5), slaying widows and foreigners (vs. 6) murdering orphans (vs. 6).
The people who do this sort of thing are the object of the writer's anger. They are not only content to do evil deeds, but also add hard speeches, boasting, threatening and insulting the saints of God. The insults are used so often that they become a natural part of the language.

That is the idea behind the phrase "pour out" in vs. 4. Words often wound more than swords, they are as hard to the heart as stones are to the flesh; and they are poured out by the ungodly against the godly. According to verse 4, they even talk to themselves, and of themselves, in spiritual arrogance, as if they were doing some good deed in crushing the poor and killing the widows, orphans and foreigners.
Their error is that they believe that God cannot see their doings, and even if He could see, He wouldn't do anything about it any way. These evil people, who grind the people of God with oppression, crush them with contempt claim that God cannot see them, and so therefore reason that there is nothing to stop them from doing their evil works.
There is no limit to the pride and arrogance of these wicked people, as they have lost their senses (vs. 8 ) and lost all common sense. It is natural for them to boast, just as it is natural for godly men to practice humility.
The God of Jacob heard him and led him throughout his life and said concerning Jacob "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm", yet these proud and arrogant people proclaim boldly that God neither sees nor knows what we do.
It is true that those whom God will destroy, He leaves to the madness of their corrupt hearts.
What is God going to do? In verse 14, is the answer to verse 5. The Lord has not rejected his own people. He has not forsaken those who are his. To do this, would go against God's very nature. As his inheritance, God has marked out all those who are his saints. God takes a peculiar interest in their well being and delights in them; He has an eternal covenant with them. I will be your God, and you will be my people. Will God not defend his people?
In verse 14, we have the answer!! The Lord will not withdraw His love or leave people totally on their own against the evil persecutors. For a little while, He may leave them with the design to benefit them, yet he will never utterly destroy them. He will discipline His people, but never destroy them.
In vs. 15, the great Judge will come, the reign of righteousness will begin, justice will be done and then all the godly will rejoice. The vehicle of right will be driven down the streets of evil, and all those upright in heart will follow it in joyous procession. Are we as the people of God today, following the path of righteousness or are we trampling somehow on the poor and oppressed? Are we keeping silent when we should be speaking out? Some governments of this world, have for sometime been using their power to oppress, but the cry of this prayer will bring back righteousness to the throne of government, and then every upright heart will proclaim loudly with joy!

3. What is the writer praying (vs.8-23)

a) Help!!!! (vs 16-19). The writer is praying for God to judge injustice, and avenge the oppressed (vs. 2). But not only that, as he is also crying out for help (vs. 16). Who is going to rise up against the evildoers? He obviously needs help, and his friends are not there for him, so he calls out to God for help, The soul is safest and at rest, after calling all others to assist and no one comes, when total trust for help is upon God. Today the church sees error and evil coming into her, and faithful godly leaders seem to be a minimum, and fewer still are bold enough to stand up and defy the enemies of truth. Our great hope is that the God of the Bible is with us, and He will call out his champions to defend Him. Are you one of God's champions? Is your foot slipping, are you feeling weak at this moment in time and need help? Take courage, we feel our weakness, and see our danger, and in fear and trembling we cry out. Our inbred sin is dragging us down and we need help. God, in His supreme mercy and love, helps us and our joy is that His mercy endures forever, and is always available to help us in times of danger to support us. From my sinful and proud thoughts, my thoughts of sorrow, my cares, my conflicts, I will hurry to the Lord. This is a cry of the writer, yet are we the same? The Lord alone is consoling, and yet not only consoling but delighting in me. How sweet are the comforts of God the Comforter, the Holy Spirit? Who without feeling joy, can think about eternal love, trustworthy promises, the coming to earth of the Redeemer in Jesus Christ, the risen Saviour and his next coming again. The little world within us, that is full of confusion and strife becomes calm when we rely upon Jesus to say "Peace be with you!" b) Can a corrupt throne be allied with you? God enters into no promises with those governments who are corrupt, and He gives no help to unrighteous laws. No assistance does He give. They might legalize robbery and violence and then say in defense, it is the law of the land, yet it is still evil and wicked. No injustice is permanent, for God will not set His seal upon it, nor have any fellowship with it, and therefore one day it will fall. An example of this was the slaughter of the Jews during the 2nd World War. The German church in general, allied itself along with the laws and decrees of Hitler, and changed its theology to that of white supremacy. We all know that the plans of the Nazis failed. Or take for example South Africa, which up until recently had a policy of separating whites and others. For a long time the mainstream Church held as its theology that this was true. Since then, the walls of apartheid have fallen, and the church has confessed this sin to God. No evil regime lasts very long. The unrighteous join together, in order to attack the righteous. The guilty join each other to attack the innocent. No crime is too great for them. Yet there is good news. Let the ungodly join together, the Psalmist is not afraid, but sweetly sings that the rock upon which he stands his the Jehovah God, Yahweh who is his fortress and refuge. Firm is the rock of God's love, and in Him we go for shelter. He is indeed a tremendous lover. As if in answer to his own question of verse 16, "Who will rise up for me against the wicked and evildoers", the final verse gives us an answer. The natural result of oppression, against the innocent, the poor, or the righteous is the total destruction of the ungodly. The great God who is judge, will repay their sins, and destroy their wickedness. While the bread and food they have stolen is in their mouth, God's wrath will slay them. God himself, visibly and noticeably, visits them and reveals His own power to them. To go over what we have seen so far. Firstly we have seen that God can be and indeed is both a lover and judge. Secondly we have seen the type of people that the writer faced in his battle against evil. He constantly called upon them to wake up and see sense, and repent of their sins before God destroys them. Thirdly we have seen that we should by faith, read the present in the light of the future, and end the song with a powerfully strong note.

So now what can we say in conclusion.

Firstly, our vision of God should not be too small. We need to acknowledge him as a great lover, but also as a terrifying Judge. Remember, it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). To quote John Stott - "God is not at odds with himself, however much it may appear to us that he is. He is 'the God of Peace', of inner tranquility not turmoil. True we may find it difficult to hold in our minds simultaneously the images of God as the Judge who must punish evil-doers and of the Lover who must find a way to forgive them. Yet he is both, and at the same time." Secondly, can we rightly pray, in the light of the New Testament, for the vengeance of God to come down against the ungodly? No, we cannot, for then we would be no better than those who do not know Him. The vengeance of God has already come down upon one man. One day his judgment will fall, and it is from this terrible event that this man is our deliverer. This man, the Lord Jesus Christ when He died on the cross, for you and me and all our enemies, took upon Himself the full vengeance of God. He took the anger of God upon himself, so that no-one may face the judgment of God without first having the opportunity to turn to Jesus in repentance of sins. We should be praying for the governments of this world that abuse the widows, orphans and innocents of today, that they will see their errors and turn away from them. And not only that, we should pray that the members of these governments will turn to God in awe and wonder to worship Him. One day all men and women will be called upon before God to give an account of themselves to Him. If they do not know this Jesus as their Saviour, then God will cast them from His holy presence. We should also pray that godly men and women will become members of the governments of the world to help protect the innocent and the righteous, that leaders will be raised up, who know God personally to stop the abuse of the innocent. Thirdly, even in the face of abuse and persecution, we should turn to the living God for comfort and help in our circumstances. Too often we rely on ourselves or others for strength in times of trouble. It is God alone who can help us, and it is God alone who will destroy the evil in the world. The judgment of evil, according to Psalms, is a time for universal rejoicing. Ps. 67:4; 96:12-13; Ps. 35:24. Let us rejoice together when good overcomes evil in this world.

Finally, let us pray and cry out in anger against the suffering and evil in this world. And not only pray about it, but do something about it. We, as Christians, should be as light and salt to the world of darkness and evil. What will you and I do about being light and salt to a world where the innocent suffer, the widows and orphans are abandoned and murdered?

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 35 - John 8:18
Two extraordinary statements

The reply of Jesus when he is challenged about what he is claiming when he says he is the Light of the World is quite extraordinary. He says, “I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” His accusers have just said that his witness is not valid because he needs two witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15) and he is not a good witness to himself. His reply is – yes, I do have two witnesses: one is myself, special because of who I am, and the other is God who, of course, you cannot see! No wonder his opponents weren’t exactly convinced by what he said.

But Jesus was far from stupid so he must have had good reasons for what he said and have expected his assertions to be accepted as true. There is a problem to unravel here.

It seems to me that the only possible explanation is that Jesus, and what he said and did, were the dominant features of the festival. His was not a minor voice speaking on the fringe of the festival. When he said ‘I am the light of the world’ his voice rang out above all the competing voices. Everyone except the chief priests and Pharisees was accepting him as the number one person in Jerusalem. He was a prophet, perhaps even more than a prophet.

In their culture the two most important things about a person were who their father was and where they came from. Jesus played on that. He said, I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.” And “’the Father who sent me bears witness about me.’ They said to him therefore, ‘Where is your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father.’” They didn’t know either where he came from or who his father was. So he had deliberately drawn attention to the puzzle. In a way that would make him all the more different, mysterious and exciting. What he said had only added to the mystery.

It was a major challenge to follow him; “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” he said. Like Abraham – “Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” He had to take a step into the unknown. He had to leave his comfortable city life and take to camels and tents and a journey with no maps or sat-nav to show him the way.

He had to take a major step of faith. He did so because “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” We too have to take that step of faith into the mysterious unknown because we do not know what the Lord has in store for us. Be sure, however, that it will be rewarding and challenging and a great deal better than any alternative would be. Step out – boldly – and you too will have the light of life.

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Church Leadership

Session 11:

What happens when it all goes wrong?

Welcome to session 11 – probably the most difficult of all to deal with. Sadly, there are, all too often, times when things go wrong in church and I want us to think about some of those today. This is never going to be a comprehensive treatise on these matters – but I hope it will be helpful to those leaders going through difficult times and for those in churches where leaders are causing problems.

There are two main areas that I want to consider – those where the leader has served to the best of his ability but things have not worked out or illness has been a part of the situation – and those where the leader has not acted in a way that befits their office and thus damaged their calling and brought the Name of Christ into disrepute.

I have taken some “case studies” that I have been involved with to illustrate some areas where things have not turned out well – either for the individual or the church concerned.

The Minister was struggling. His sermons, while theologically sound, were more like lectures and his pastoral skills were not the best – and the numbers coming to church were shrinking rapidly. But he really believed he had been called to pastoral ministry. I was asked to talk to him and eventually he accepted that, perhaps, he had misheard his calling and ought to look for something else that would use his obvious teaching ability. In due course, he found a post as a lecturer at a university and, the last time I heard, he was doing well. The church was supportive and sent him on his way with their blessing. But this “knocked him for six” and it took a while for him to recover. If it is not working for you as a leader, seek counsel from someone you can trust and don’t be ashamed to say “I got it wrong”. God is in the restoration business!

Sometimes a church leader is good at what they do, believe they have a genuine calling to this type of ministry – but the rest of the leadership team don’t see it that way. I was asked to “referee” a dispute between the elders of a church and their pastor. Some of the elders had been in the church for a very long time and were strong characters and they persuaded the rest of the leadership team that the pastor was not “vibrant enough, nor did he have an exciting vision for the future”. In the end, I advised the pastor that it was time to go because once you have lost the trust, confidence and support of the other leaders, it will be impossible to achieve what you want to do in God. This sort of activity grieves the Holy Spirit and hinders the growth of God’s people. Incidentally, that church went through a very lean period for some years – but God used the pastor in significant ministry in other churches. The command of Jesus to “love one another” was aimed at all of us – and applies to leadership teams also. Seek God’s face always – and even more so when the course you seem to be taking looks as if it is not one that the Spirit of God would endorse.

It seems to me that stress is more prevalent than it used to be (probably because we didn’t recognise it so clearly back then – we called it a “nervous breakdown”) and “burnout” has become an accepted physical/mental/spiritual condition. Church leaders are not immune from this and I have witnessed the devastating effect that this has had – both in my ‘day job’ and those called to full-time ministry. I am not qualified to discuss the medical details – but I have found a book I have referred to earlier (Freedom to Lead – see session 9) very helpful in this area. A young man was full of enthusiasm for the children’s ministry he was involved in – he worked hard and long and seemed to thrive. He was invited to join the leadership team in his home church, even though most of his ministry was with other churches. Soon he was being asked to do more and more - eventually he succumbed to the pressure and had to come to dead stop and cease doing anything. His family and church were supportive but some others were less so – after all, he had “let them down.” Asking him why this had happened he told me that he thought that, in God, he could do anything and everything – he forgot that he was a frail human being and that he was not superman. He didn’t blame God for this – he now understands the importance of rest, good time management and having the common sense to say “no”. As fellow leaders we need to watch others on the team that they are not getting overburdened and as churches we must not expect too much of our leaders.

The devastation that sexual immorality causes to the leader him/herself, to their families, to the church where they lead and to the wider Christian community is enormous– but it is not the only reason why leaders do not maintain the standards expected of them.

Sexuality is a powerful force and, when not confined to the marital state, can be devastating, damaging and ‘reputation-killing’. Much has been written about this and I don’t have time to say very much here – but leaders must be always on their guard against this temptation.

Then there other addictions that damage the people of God, including leaders, such as gambling, pornography, substance abuse etc.

When discovered, or confessed, there must be an acceptance that that leader has “disqualified” him/herself from office and must stand down immediately. With true repentance, counselling and prayer, such a one can be restored to fruitful ministry after a period on the sidelines. Paul said: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1).

Let me repeat what I said in session 3: “Most of the saints of old got it wrong from time to time – Abraham lied about Sarah, Noah got drunk, Moses lost his temper, David committed adultery, Elijah was suicidal, Jonah ran away, Thomas doubted, Peter denied Jesus, Paul persecuted Christians – need I go on? The amazing thing is that God forgave them as they repented and He continued to use them. All of us, as leaders, are constantly in need of the grace of God as we battle with sin and failure. Praise Him – He is the God of the second (and third and fourth and fifth etc etc) chance as we submit to Him.”

I’m conscious that this has been all too brief and there is so much to be said – but all of us must remain on our guard against the wiles of the devil. Keep short accounts with God, seek help from those you trust and maintain regular devotional times.

Today, I’m going to leave you with a prayer (based on Psalm 31) that I used when I and my family went through a very difficult time.

  • O LORD, we trust in You – may we never be disgraced.
  • Save us because You do what is right. Listen to us and save us quickly.
  • You are our rock of protection – a strong fortress to protect us. For the honour of Your Name, lead us and guide us.
  • Set us free from the trap that has been set for us because You are our protection. We give you our lives. Save us, LORD - You are the God of truth.
  • We trust only in the LORD. We will be glad and rejoice in Your love, because You see our suffering and You know our troubles. You have not handed us over to our enemies but have set us in a safe place.
  • LORD, have mercy, because we are finding life tough - our eyes are weak from so much crying and we are weary from grief. Our life seems to be full of sadness and our days are spent in crying. Our troubles are sapping our strength – provide strength to our bodies.
  • We trust You and we affirm that You are our God. Our lives are in Your hands. Save us from our enemies and from those who are chasing us. Silence their lying lips. Show Your kindness to us – we are Your servants. Save us because of Your love. LORD, we call to You - so do not let us be disgraced.
  • How great is Your goodness that You have stored up for us because we fear You - protect us by Your presence from what people plan against us and shelter us from evil words.
  • Praise the LORD! His love to us was wonderful when we were being attacked. In our distress, we said: "God cannot see us!" But You heard our prayer when we cried out to You for help.
  • We love the LORD, because we belong to Him. The LORD protects us because we truly believe. We put our hope in the LORD and we will be strong and brave.
  • Amen

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June 13, 2016

Think Spot 13 June 2016


Think Spot - 13th June 2016

John 13:34-35 And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples. (Good News Translation)

Romans 12:10 Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. (Good News Translation)

I may forget a conversation after 5 minutes - and often do increasingly... I may come eventually to even forget my own thoughts after 30 seconds... But I haven't forgotten the feeling of being loved and knowing that I am loved by others - and I hope I never do... That feeling/memory is increasingly what I want others to know too - that I hope I have shown that person love in some way...
As Christians we are to show love to people - al people. It is to be a love which reflects the love that God has for people. This is a love which is gives the best to the other person. As we go into this week, show a giving love to those you meet. Ask God to show you how you can do this, particularly to those you wouldn't ordinarily spend time with...

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