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Archive for July 2016

Prayer of Trust

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A Prayer Of Trust - Psalm 62

Psalm 62

1 My soul rests in God alone. My salvation is from him.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress-- I will never be greatly shaken.
3 How long will you assault a man, would all of you throw him down, Like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence?
4 They fully intend to throw him down from his lofty place. They delight in lies. They bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly.

Selah.

5 My soul, wait in silence for God alone, for my expectation is from him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress. I will not be shaken.
7 With God is my salvation and my honor. The rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
8 Trust in him at all times, you people. Pour out your heart before him. God is a refuge for us.

Selah.

9 Surely men of low degree are just a breath, and men of high degree are a lie. In the balances they will go up. They are together lighter than a breath.
10 Don't trust in oppression. Don't become vain in robbery. If riches increase, don't set your heart on them.
11 God has spoken once; twice I have heard this, that power belongs to God.
12 Also to you, Lord, belongs loving kindness, for you reward every man according to his work.

Introduction

I wonder what you trust in? We all know that you can't trust the London Underground, unless you are trusting them not to be on time. And you can trust the bus, but only to come in a group of twos or threes after you've waited for them for half an hour. You can't even trust modern technology! The latest computers used to do your work, more often than not will break down just when you need them most. Then you have to trust your computer manager to fix the problem for you. And you can't even trust him to fix the problem because some part is broken, so you have to call out the repair person to come and replace the part that is broken. And wouldn't you know it? He's had to go to the doctor, because he's got some problem with his knees and has had to go have emergency surgery, and all the other repair people are far too busy to fix your computer so that you can get the urgent report out to prove to your boss, that he can trust you!

Trust in the world today, is a missing ingredient. The one thing that most people today will say they trust in, is themselves. The world says to trust yourself, don't rely on anything else. The world says that all other things are totally unreliable and the only object you can trust is yourself, because you know what you can do, and you should only ask for help if your really desperate for it.

It is like a refreshing breath of clean air, that we come to Psalm 62. Living in a world which cynically says trust only yourself, Psalm 62 reflects like a mirror the thoughts of God to our minds and hearts. When God says "Trust me!" - he is totally trustworthy.
This man, King David knew that God was like that. Through out his life, except for when he sinned, he trusted in God. David trusted God when he hid in the mountains and caves from Saul, Absalom and all others that were after him. Psalm 62 tells us that David's only hope, honour, refuge, rest and salvation was in God. This Psalm contains phrases that can be found in other Psalms such as Psalm 18 or even in 2 Samuel 22:1-51 where David sung and prayed when he was in trouble and need rescuing. In these 12 verses of Psalm 62, we can see the things that David trusted in God for throughout his life.

David trusted in God for his salvation (both physically and spiritually) (vs. 1-2, 5-7). He did not trust in anything or anyone else (vs. 3-4, 9-10) and knew that God would show His justice and mercy to both himself and his enemies (vs. 11-12). We know from the book of 1 Chronicles that Jeduthun was one of the Chief musicians appointed by David to lead the music (1 Chronicles 16:41; 25:1-3). We don't know exactly when Psalm 62 was written, but it was probably written while he was under extreme pressure as indicated in v.3). However it seems to impress upon us that David is growing in confidence as he writes the thoughts of his heart, and the secret of finding rest and trust in God alone. It has the style of being written in a great hurry; of a prayer waiting for God to answer and of a conviction that grows renewed, firmer and ever deeper. David goes progressively from trusting God for his life; to trusting God to show mercy and justice to him and his enemies.

Psalm 62 can be divided into 3 topics, all based on trust, with 2 positives and 1 negative..
1. God's trustworthy salvation.
2. Not trusting in ungodly desires and objects.
3. God's trustworthy justice and mercy.

In each section, there are some questions for you to meditate upon and answer. Then you can share with your spouse or a close friend and pray over any issues together.

1. Gods trustworthy salvation. (vs. 1-2; 5-8)

Q1. From where does David's salvation, rest, refuge, hope and honour come from? Why do you think that David attributes these to God, and how can we be seen to be doing these same things?
Q2. Why do you think that David thought of God as his rock of salvation? Do you think that as David had hidden in rocks and caves from enemies that this would have been on his mind when he wrote these words? We know today that Jesus Christ is the rock of salvation, but why do you think that God can be described and trusted as a rock of salvation?


2. Dont trust in other things for hope, salvation, honour, refuge or rest (vs. 3-4, 9-10)


Q3. What do the ungodly take delight in and why? What is suggested that godly people do not desire?
Q4. Is it only the ungodly who are hypocrites (v. 4). How can Christians be hypocritical, and if so, is it because of lack of trust in God?

3. Trust in Gods justice and mercy (vs. 11-12).

Q5. At first glance, v. 12 suggests God's justice, but is it also about God's mercy? How can justice and mercy be combined like that? (Refer to Romans 2:6)Q6. How is God strong and loving towards you today?Finally, if you are not a Christian and after hearing this would like to become one, then it is very easy.If you want to turn to God there is no need for delay. He is ready and willing to take you as His own right now. You only have to ask Him to forgive you and to give you help on the journey ahead. It is a partnership between God and yourself - a relationship. The act of deciding to change course in mid-life, is what is called conversion, or deciding to be a Christian. When you place your faith in Jesus, becoming utterly dependent upon Him, you turn to God. You don't need to do or change anything to become a follower of Jesus!

However, once you have made that decision, you leave behind your spiritual isolation and rebellion against Him. As you live each day, becoming more involved with Jesus day by day, you will find yourself changing. You will stop doing those things that separated you from Him. You will find yourself doing things that please Jesus and develop your relationship with Him. How do you develop this relationship? Sin, or what alienates you from God, controls your rebellion against Him in your attitudes and your activities. God asks that you accept his guidance and management of your life. His point of view and His strength become your point of view and your source of strength. You turn your mind, will and heart to Him for all you do.

If you want to become a Christian there are three simple steps to follow: Firstly, admit that you have done wrong against God and His ways. Secondly, believe and trust in Jesus Christ. Call on Him, receive, trust, obey and worship Him, recognizing Him for who He is and what He has done. Lastly, confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.

Once sin has been confessed, and Jesus is believed in and trusted as Saviour, then you are a Christian. Now you are ready as Peter writes in the Bible, "to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3v18). Welcome to the family of God. God has chosen you; Jesus has paid for you and He has put His mark within you through His Spirit. Like King David and countless people today, you are trusting only in God for your salvation!


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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 40 - John 9:39
Who can see?


This verse is one of the most remarkable things Jesus ever said. Here it is, ““For judgement I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

It is very reminiscent of the episode in the book of Numbers (Ch. 23) where Balaam and his donkey encounter the angel of God with a drawn sword in his hand barring the way. The joke in that story is that the famous Seer could not see what his donkey could see. We may well ask of this comment of Jesus – who could not see, and who could see? Who, in John’s mind and therefore in his selection of stories about things Jesus said, is it that cannot see?

The answer, I think, is not that obvious. There are two basic reasons why people start to follow Jesus. One, the one preachers like the most, is that someone comes under conviction of sin, deep moral sin, and turns with a leap of faith to the Savior on the cross who died for our sins. What the preachers often forget is that a jump of faith from next to no knowledge of things spiritual is rare; more commonly the people who react to that sort of call to repentance and thus to conversion have a background in Sunday School or regular church attendance that has brought them to that point.

The second reason folk come to faith is from a general feeling that there must be a better way to live than the one they have been living and that following Jesus promises to be that better way. That is why this previously blind guy came to faith. There is no hint of him being conscious of sin, or being in any way sinful beyond the usual average sort of sinfulness we are all guilty of. He comes into contact with Jesus and clearly is not only healed of his blindness but deeply attracted to this guy who has healed him, even before he knows who he is.

And this is the common position of most of the people John tells us stories about. Nicodemus was exploring what this new teacher was saying, presumably from a feeling of inadequacy he had about the standard teaching of the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem; the woman by the well seems to have been happily living with her rather unethical lifestyle until she met the man who seemed to be pointing her to something better; only in the story of the cripple by the pool of Siloam is there any hint of sin – when Jesus tells him to go and sin no more.

The Pharisees that Jesus was implicitly condemning thought that all that mattered was being morally good. Tales were told by some Rabbis that there were different types of Pharisees: some walked with exaggerated humility, some were so anxious not to look at a woman they kept their heads bowed and ended up walking into walls, some were only seeking material rewards, some were frightened of punishment and so on.

Jesus said, “For judgement I came into this world,” implying that it was, and is, his very presence in the world that led to an automatic judgement through people’s reaction to him.

Of course, not everyone in the world has met Jesus or heard about him. How those people will be treated in the final judgement is not all that clear in the Bible, partly at least because we cannot tell to what extent all the frequent talk about hell fire and other undesirable ends is metaphor and which is to be taken as real actual fact. But it is no concern of ours how, and who, will be judged in that sort of way. Our job is to be concerned about ourselves. What really matters is that we should follow Jesus, ourselves, now. We have been blind, now we see.

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

29th September 2016

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

Today we are praying for all those grieving, regardless of the reason. Come! Let us pray...

A prayer for those grieving

Father God,

be the strength for all those

who are grieving and mourning

the loss of loved ones.

~

Father God,

we pray that those in despair

will be helped and

where there is darkness

there will be light.

~

Amen


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Think Spot 25 July 2016

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Think Spot - 25th July 2016

Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Are not those simply amazing words? Not just anybody could say them. If the person who said them couldn't actually fulfil that promise, that would be one of the biggest hoaxes in all of history. But Jesus Christ is no hoax! He remains the only person in all of human history who is able to fulfil those words and live up to the promises he makes. He is totally trustworthy.

We don't like to ask for help. We are trained as children to be independent and not to rely on anybody else for anything ever. But this is contrary to what Jesus is about. To rely fully on ourselves for all things is to walk by sight and commit the sin of pride. To rely on Jesus and ask Him for help in all things is to walk by faith and with humility. True independence and freedom comes from being dependent on Jesus Christ and not being held back by anything or anyone else, such as family and our own wealth and possessions.

How are you doing at the start of this new week? Maybe you are feeling desolation and regret caused by decisions made sometime in your past. Give them up willingly to Jesus and don't keep trying to take it back like a security blanket! Are you feeling abandoned and lonely? Let Jesus encompass you in an embrace of compassion and let the Holy Spirit comfort and counsel you. Or perhaps are you feeling tired, burnt out and burdened?. Let Jesus give you the strength to endure! Give the burden to Jesus and let Him take the weight for you. Maybe you need to make a major decision and don't know what to do. Seek the wisdom of Jesus in making that decision. He will help if you ask. That's all part of Jesus being Jesus.

It may well be that you are being overwhelmingly tempted to sin against God, another person or even yourself? You cant resist for too long if you do it in your own strength, because you will eventually succumb to it. But if you ask God to help you overcome the temptation, He will do it - if you allow Him control and use your own self-control! After all, self-control is one of the evidences of the Holy Spirit working in you!

We all get those feelings of regret, desolation, abandonment, loneliness, despair, burdened and temptation. Feelings are important, because they are part of the human experience and if we didn't have them, we would be merely mindless androids. But feelings can also be very misleading. As Christians, we have to take it by faith that Jesus is there for us through those times. Because you are lonely, doesn't mean you are alone. Because you are tempted, doesn't meant that you have already committed the sin. Take it by faith that Jesus is answering desperate cries for help and is helping you. Take a few seconds now in this short silence to hand over these things to Jesus and ask him to help you.

Or it may just be that you are starting the week and you are feeling great and enjoying your dynamic relationship with God! Then keep going and letting Jesus be your strength, your wisdom and your help. But don't keep it to yourself - that would be selfish! Go to others you know who are in need, helping them where you can with an encouraging word or helping to supply their need. Be the practical and imaginative answer to their prayers.

Go into this new week, confident that Jesus is able to help you in every situation you face. Ask him to come to you, and He will - just as He has done for countless millions.

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Obedience of Ruth

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Obedience Of Ruth

There are perhaps two reasons why we study about people in the Bible - to learn how not to do some things like being deceitful, and how to do the right things like this mornings example Ruth. So this morning we are going to look together at the book of Ruth and discover who Ruth was, what is her story and how we can learn from her as we seek to live a godly and righteous life in Britain in 2010.

Perhaps the key verses for the book of Ruth, which would help us summarise this short story are as we read in Ruth 1:16-18:

But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."  When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

The book of Ruth is a cameo story of love, devotion and redemption set in the black days of the Judges. It tells the story of a pagan woman giving up everything to cling to the people of Israel and to God Himself. Shows her faithfulness when the nation was faithless.

4 Aspects of Ruth's Obedience

Doesn't that sound a nice lovely story and wouldn't it be good just to leave it at that, and not learn more about the character of Ruth. The greatest thing about Ruth, that we are going to learn about is, her obedience. Indeed elsewhere in Scripture it says that obedience is better than sacrifice. The story of Ruth as we have seen celebrates the gentle beauty of love and loyalty between individuals, and it shows the positive power of obedience to God for both personal fulfilment and wider blessing. By committing herself to Naomi, as well as to Naomi's God, Ruth found satisfaction in service. Instead of losing her identity by her voluntary and complete submission, Ruth's place in Israel and history is confirmed. There are four things about her obedience, that we living in 2009 would be wise to copy as we seek to follow this God with obedient lives that are worthy of Him.

1. WOW! obedience.

Firstly, her obedience is surprising - it has a wow factor to it! The harmony between Ruth and her mother-in-law is even more appealing when we consider the two unusual facets that could have driven them apart.

  • Firstly, Mahlon, the natural connecting link between Ruth and Naomi was dead (Ruth 1 :3-5). Nothing specific is mentioned about the way the two women got along with each other while he was alive during those years in Moab. Instead, the story begins with the development of their relationship after Mahlon's death and at the time of the women's departure for Judah.
  • The second part of this wow, is that could have driven them apart was that Ruth was from Moab. A brief review of the history of this neighbouring nation proves that its land and people were clearly off limits for the Jews. The founding father Moab was the result of Lot's incestuous union with his older daughter (Genesis 19:37). Though Moab was not on the list of nations to be entirely destroyed by the Israelites under Joshua, its worship of false gods were offensive and troublesome (Numbers 25). Judges 3 relates that Eglon the king of Moab, received power from the Lord to punish Israel for eighteen years. When the people of Israel again cried out to God, the Lord raised up the judge Ehud, to kill Eglon and defeat Moab, to bring peace for eighty years.
The story of Ruth as we have heard already, is placed at the time of the Judges. Elimelech's decision to take his family into Moab to escape the famine in Israel probably occurred at a time when Moab was subdued, or at least not hostile towards Israel. However, God, had told the Israelites not to marry into the surrounding nations or join in their worship of false gods. The fact that Naomi's sons chose Moabite women shows that they ignored this instruction. It also indicates the attraction of foreign influences to the Israelites, which God wanted them to stay away from. But we also see mercy in grafting into his line of blessing one Moabite because of her faith and obedience to Him.
Naomi had two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. In view of their position as Moabite widows, it may seem that Orpah's decision to return to her own mother's house was more natural than Ruth's when Naomi announced her determination to go back to Bethlehem in Judah. We could even argue that Orpah, after politely offering to accompany Naomi, was acting in accord with her mother-in-law's wishes by remaining in Moab with her own people. Ruth, however, clung to Naomi and refused to leave her. But Orpah's obedience was shallow, as her offer to go with Naomi was done out of duty not of love, and Naomi probably saw this and declined Orpah's offer. Ruth however, remained to finish her story and claim a place in the genealogy of David and also of Jesus (Mt 1 :5).

2. Witness in obedience.

Secondly there is a witness in obedience.  Ruth did more than merely remain with Naomi; she was in fact her main support, both during their journey and after arriving in Israel, even though she was a stranger in Bethlehem. News of her faithfulness obviously spread quickly as it  went before her into the fields of Boaz. When she asked why as a woman not from Israel was being treated so kindly, Boaz replied because of her support and friendship of Naomi You can see that in Ruth 2:11. Though directly attracted by her outward beauty and manner, Boaz was already -aware of her reputation for loyal love and service. We see this when Boaz tells her, "All my fellow townsman know that you are a woman of noble character" (Ruth 3:11).
Here we see the powerful testimony and witness of Ruth's relationship with Naomi. Her unselfish devotion to one person, characterized by her obedience, made her appealing to another person and to a whole community. However, Ruth did not abuse -or flaunt her obedience as long-suffering, but held it in her heart as love. She was not looking for praise or pity, and she seemed genuinely surprised that her service of Naomi had been seen and recognized. Not once did she complain about the leadership of Naomi or her own circumstances. Instead of bitterness there was beauty, in her attitude as well as on her face. Ruth found her obedience fulfilling. Her immediate and ultimate rewards far outweighed anything she could have anticipated.  Her obedience was a wow surprise but it was also a testimonial witness that had gone out before her.

3. Wholeness of obedience.

But just how did Ruth's obedience come to have such a tremendous impact on those around her? It all started with a personal commitment, a permanent decision that brought her peace and provided her with direction for all that followed. On the border of Moab, Ruth had told Naomi of her commitment (Ruth 1:16-17) as we read earlier. Ruth's commitment was absolute. Rather than constraining her, this new commitment gave her new purpose and opportunity to develop her character. When they arrived in Bethlehem, Ruth volunteered to pick up the leftover grain (Ruth 2:2). When she returned to Naomi, Ruth shared her grain with Naomi and told her about her day. Then it was Naomi who sensed God's direction and gave Ruth detailed instructions as to how to approach Boaz, which Ruth obeyed perfectly (Ruth 3:1-6). Ruth 4:17 indicates that after Ruth's future and family were secure, Naomi was included in the household redeemed by Boaz, for when the neighbours noticed how much she cared for Obed they said "Naomi has a son." Truly the deepest love, trust and respect were at the centre of Ruth's & Naomi's relationship, bringing both of them mutual fulfillment.
As Ruth obeyed Naomi, so she obeyed Boaz, both at their first meeting and later at the threshing floor. She won both the admiration of Naomi and Boaz as much by the quickness of her unquestioning responses as by her completeness in carrying out commands. Ruth won respect because she offered her respect in the form of obedience.  Her obedience was total and complete.  Not through coercion, but by love and adoration.

4. Worship by Obedience.

Then finally, Ruth's obedience was also worship.  How is this? The result of Ruth's obedience was Obed, the child fathered by Boaz as kinsman-redeemer, the one would inherit the family land and name in place of Naomi's dead husband and sons. Obed in Hebrew means "worship". Is not obedience really the outward action that derives from the inner response of faith love, and trust practised in regard to individuals and God? Jesus said "If you love me, you will obey what I command!" (John 14:15). Ruth's acts of obedience throughout this her story, are also practical acts of worship of the God she had made her own by faith.

So Ruth's obedience has four factors to it: the wow factor, the witness factor, the wholeness factor and finally the worship factor!

Conclusion

Let us ask God to work in us, changing our weak attempts at obedience into acts of divine worship. We find delight in serving the Lord, instead of indulging in resentment over sinful leaders. The result will be inner freedom and release from bitterness, and also a powerful story to those in authority and to onlookers as well. Just as too Ruth's obedience of Naomi, moved Boaz and all Bethlehem, the Holy Spirit will enable us move others (Colossians 3:23-24). While we obey others we can joyfully remember that it is God alone who is worthy of complete obedience. When our confidence in Him is reflected in our submission to others we become living stories to our trust in God's perfect plan. If we follow the example of Ruth, perhaps someone will notice our stories and find the witness, the wholeness, and the worship in our lives of obedience and praise God because of us. And, remember this from 1 Samuel 15v22 "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams."So go from here and be obedient to our awesome and holy God! Through obedience to Him as revealed in Scripture, you will be growing and changing into the very likeness of Jesus Christ whom you follow. Through obedience, you will be able to enduring and be persistent in your Christian lifestyle and evangelism. So much so, that people will ask you for the reason for the hope you have and portray.

Finally, you may well be here tonight but are not yet a follower of Jesus Christ. If that is indeed you, please do not leave here tonight without making yourself known to one of the leaders, or to me, and we will gladly talk more about this Jesus to you.Thank you.


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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 39 - John 9:38
A journey to faith


This chapter 9 contains the wonderful story of the blind man’s journey to faith. It gives us one of the best of all the stories of the Gospels rated as stories and he stands out as one of the most interesting people of all those that Jesus met. It is too long a passage for me to read it all out so do find a Bible and read it for yourself.

He is quite a character this blind man. Being able to see for the first time will have been quite a difficult experience. Mark tells us about another man who saw for the first time and says that at first he confused men and trees. Only a day or two later this man John tells us about gets hauled in front of a group of learned men who try to trip him up with their questions. But he is having none of it. He answers back in a very clever but straightforward, blunt and truthful way. He is careful not to say anything that can make matters worse for Jesus. He minimizes the number of things that Jesus did on the Sabbath as much as possible. He does not implicate him in anything he thought to be dangerous.

Through it all he comes to faith. Like many people he comes through a journey taking several days. There is a tendency in many quarters to think that coming to faith ought to happen in an instant, on one occasion, but it is not so for many people. Like this guy we may get there only in days, or weeks, months or even years. Our faith is no less valid for that; in fact it may even be stronger.

We can trace where he had got to on his journey by the things he calls Jesus. In verse 11 he says ‘the man called Jesus’. In verse 17 he says ‘he is a prophet’. In verse 33 he is ‘ this man from God’. In verse 38, having been told that Jesus is ‘the Son of Man’ he says ‘Lord, I believe’.

In it all he demonstrates three of the major things Jesus said about himself. These are: I am the light of the world; I am the way, the truth and the life; and I am the resurrection and the life.

The most obvious of these is the first – with a twist. It is all very well Jesus being the light of the world, but what about us? Is he also the light of the individual believer? Yes, he is, and never more so than to this blind man to whom he gave sight. That will have been light flooding into his life not only spiritually but also very physically. And, of course, that is a picture for us, for you, for me. John has recorded how Jesus brought light to the lives of Nicodemus, the learned man, to the woman at the well, the country woman, to the cripple by the Bethesda pool, and to many people on a hillside in Galilee. But this one trumps them all. No one got more light and made better use of it than this guy.

The second thing this story illustrates is the value of truth. In the often forgotten verses that follow 3:16 John says “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” This guy came to the light, willingly and eagerly. We don’t know what his background was but the way he carried himself after he entered the light suggests it was very good. He pursued the truth. I think we can assume that he was also good at finding the way and the life in the days and years after this encounter he had with the Lord of the Universe.

The third thing is perhaps a little more difficult to see. When challenged about the things he was saying he said, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. … Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” That is he said, “look at the facts; he opened my eyes; you can argue all you like but I know what is what because he opened my eyes.” Ultimately if we are challenged about our faith we too must go back to the facts. Two in particular are important. One is the resurrection of Jesus. It stands there in history, a better attested fact than the existence of Julius Caesar, or 1066 (sorry, those of you who are not British – it is the date of the defeat of the Old English by the Normans, the last successful invasion of these islands by a conqueror). But the resurrection can be challenged and is challenged by many people because it seems so unlikely and happened so long ago. The other fact that stands in our history – if we have set out to follow Jesus – is the effect it has had in our lives.

A lovely story is told of a Welsh miner who was converted and began to follow Jesus. Some of his fellow workers teased him rather mercilessly. One day they asked him in jest, “you don’t really believe that Jesus changed water into wine, do you?” The man’s reply was, “ I don’t really know whether Jesus turned water into wine,; I wasn’t there. But this I do know, in my house Jesus changed beer into furniture.” That refers to the second half of what Jesus said. If we can’t be convincing enough about the resurrection before an unbeliever we can be about the second part. Jesus said, “I am the life” and that ‘life’ can be demonstrated in our life.

Jesus was light, truth and life to the man who had been blind. He is still light, truth and life to us if we let him.


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Partakers Friday Prayers!


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



Watch, O God,
over those who wake,
or watch, or weep tonight,
and give Your angels
charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick ones,
Rest the weary ones.
Bless the dying ones.
Soothe the suffering ones.
Pity the afflicted ones.
Shield the joyous ones.
And all, for Your love's sake.

Amen

Based on a prayer of Augustine (4th century)

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POD - Psalm 125

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Psalm 125

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.
1 Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion;
they will not be defeated but will endure forever.
2 Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forever.
3 The wicked will not rule the land of the godly,
for then the godly might be tempted to do wrong.
4 O Lord, do good to those who are good,
whose hearts are in tune with you.
5 But banish those who turn to crooked ways,
O Lord.Take them away with those who do evil.
May Israel have peace!

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Think Spot 18 July 2016

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Think Spot

18th July 2016

I wonder what you think meekness is. Isn’t meekness, merely weakness? That’s what we are told often enough by people outside the church! Yet meekness is not weakness! Meekness is giving up our personal rights to God alone!


A meek person is one who claims no personal rights of their own, and who is willing to yield all possessions and personal rights to God. A meek person sees these things as being loaned by God for His work and glory. Being meek in all situations takes a strong character, for example Moses (Numbers 12:1-3).


Giving up your rights and all you own to God alone, is talked about often in the Bible. Some of the results of giving up your rights to God can be found in: - Psalm 22:26; Psalm 25:9; Psalm 37:8-11; Psalm 149:4 Isaiah 29:19; Matthew 11:28-30.


As followers of Jesus you and I need to give up our own rights and possessions to Him because:

  • You and I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)#

  • We are instructed to be meek by Jesus (Luke 9:23)

  • It follows the example. of the New Testament church (Acts 5:32)

When we insist on our own personal rights and those rights are violated, the main consequences are anger and anxiety. They occur when we try to control or change something God never intended us to change or control. When we react and resist, we deny God His right to do what; He wants to do. When we get angry and when we worry, these are signs that there are rights God wants us to yield to Him.

How do you yield rights and possessions over to God?

Firstly, identify them! Check where in your life anger and or anxiety exist. Then ask the Holy Spirit to work on your heart, prayerfully considering each area, yielding all to Jesus. When you do that, God becomes responsible for those areas.


Secondly, expect God to test His rights. Having handed them to God, He may allow situations to occur which will deny you these rights, to see if that right was really given to Him. It may be necessary to once again yield that right to Jesus. As you respond to each test, meekness develops.
Go into this week, knowing that God is at work in you! You are to be His servants and you are not your own! You were bought at a price by God! Through the meekness of Jesus Christ’ work on the cross.Father. 

I pray that as we give our personal rights to you, that you give us strength to overcome with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives within us as your children. We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ!

Amen!

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Understanding the Kingdom

John 3:1-18

I wonder what you think the Kingdom of God is.  In the Old Testament we learn of all kinds of different earthly kingdoms. Each one of these kingdoms were doomed to fail from the start, because of the promised commencement of a new and everlasting kingdom. Perhaps by having a brief overview of what Jesus in the Gospels said about the Kingdom will help us understand more about it before we focus on just a couple of aspects. From what Jesus said, we learn that:

  • The kingdom had small beginnings.
  • It advances slowly and unspectacularly.
  • It works in an unseen way, like yeast in dough.
  • It grows side by side with evil and error.
  • The members are drawn from every part, for it is a universal part.
  • When discovered, it is the source of true joy and fulfilment.
  • It requires sacrifice, submission and surrender.
  • It ends in an eternal separation of the good from the evil, of the true from the false.
  • It centres only on Jesus Christ (Luke 9:28-36).

So having seen these descriptions, mainly from Matthew 13, we can now go on to a main definition of the kingdom. We find this ultimate definition in Romans 14:17 'For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.'

This is the experience of salvation. Every believer, all those who trust in Jesus Christ, has entered it and been accepted by Jesus when He died on the cross. So, having described it and then defined it, the next question we ask is how do we enter the Kingdom of God. Well, after such a long introduction, we are going to look at this aspect of the God's Kingdom based on our reading of John 3:1-18.  So, if you haven't done so already please do have your bibles open at that passage - John 3:1-18.

In the passage tonight, Jesus gives three different aspects of the one entrance into the kingdom. To enter the kingdom, a person simply has to follow Jesus. For some people in Jesus' time, such as a lot of the Pharisees and other religious Jewish groups, this was much too simple.  Then Jesus has an encounter with Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee.Nicodemus was initially attracted to Jesus because of the miracles He did. Nicodemus wanted to know more about Jesus and His teachings. Nicodemus himself was the teacher of the Jews, and he had great respect for Jesus the Teacher from Galilee. Now, Nicodemus was a Pharisee, who by definition had to live by the strictest religious rules and regulations. Nicodemus was deeply sincere in his search for truth and God. Nicodemus went to see Jesus at night, not presumably because he was afraid to be seen talking to Jesus, but more likely because he wanted to have a quiet word with Jesus away from the crowds. He wanted to have an uninterrupted word with him, where Jesus could not be distracted. He was a man of high moral standard, had a deep religious hunger and yet blind to basic spiritual truths. Do you not think that Nicodemus is or was just like we are and were today? So Jesus proceeds to give Nicodemus three different pictures of salvation.

1.      Birth (vs. 1-7).

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'

The Lord Jesus began with a word that is familiar with everyone, as birth is a universal concept and experience. Now the word 'again' means 'from above'. So the phrase born again, means to be born from above. Though all humans have experienced a natural birth on earth, if they expect to go to heaven then they must experience a supernatural spiritual birth from God above.
So we meet once more the blindness of the religious leaders of Jesus' time. Nicodemus may indeed have been a representative of the religious leaders. Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was talking about. Jesus, we know, was speaking about a spiritual birth, but Nicodemus thought only about a physical birth. Looking at the church today, however, the situation does not appear any different.

So often "born again", to a lot of people means a family's church history, church membership, ceremonies and so on. Or, as my boss and family insist that it means: raving monster loonies.However, because Jesus was patient, he further explained this new birth. To be 'born of water' is to be born physically" to enter a second time into his mother's womb" but to be born again means to be born of the Spirit. Just as there are normally two parents involved in physical birth, there are two "parents" for spiritual birth: the Spirit of God (John 3:5) and the Word of God (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25). The Spirit of God takes the Word of God, and when a person believes for the first time, the Word gives the life of God.

It should be noted here that Jesus is not saying that new birth comes from water baptism. In the New Testament, baptism is connected with death, not birth; and no amount of physical water makes a spiritual change in a person. Jesus' emphasis here is on believing, because salvation comes through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). The evidence of salvation is the witness of the Spirit within (Romans. 8:9), and the Spirit entered our life when we first believed (Acts 10:43-48; Ephesians 1:13-14). Now, water baptism is a vital part of our Christian life and obedience to Jesus and witness for Him, but it is not necessary for salvation. The one way of salvation and entrance into the kingdom of God, is through faith in Jesus the Son of God, with the outward evidence involving baptism.This birth, like all births, has at least four aspects to it: pain, nature, a life and a future.

a. Pain
- Human birth involves pain, both for the parents and for the baby. So does spiritual birth. At Easter we are reminded this of the pain Jesus endured on the cross so that we might become members of the Kingdom of God. Believers in their Christian life should endure the pain of persecution, suffering, and prayer and witness as we seek to win new people to Christ.
b. Nature
- Children inherit the nature of the parents, and so do the people in the Kingdom of God. We take on the divine nature (2 Peter 1 :4). As believers we should naturally have an appetite for the things of God (2 Peter 2:2-3). As believers we should have no desire to go away from the Kingdom of God (2 Peter 2:20-22). As believers we are to feed on the Word of God and grow in spiritual maturity (Hebrews 5: 11-14).
c. Life
- Human birth, involves life and spiritual birth into God's kingdom involves the life of God. John uses the word 'life' about 36 times in his gospel. The opposite of life is death, and anybody not in the Kingdom of God, do not and cannot have God's eternal life in His kingdom.
d. Future
- Human birth involves a future, and we are born again to a living hope, both in the present and the future (1 Peter 1:3). Police cannot arrest a newborn baby because it has no past, and the future is in front of that baby.  When born again into the Kingdom of God, sins are forgiven and forgotten, and the future is bright with a living hope in the Kingdom of God.

Now at this, Nicodemus must surely have had a surprised look of incredulity on his face, because Jesus says 'You should not be surprised at my saying, "You must be born again.'" Nicodemus was a Jew, a part of God's covenant people. His life was an example to all, as a faithful Pharisee. He obviously could not comprehend the thought that a Jew had to be born again from heaven - nothing could be so simple! His natural thinking would immediately have thought maybe a dirty Gentile dog may need to be born again, but never a faithful Jew. No wonder he was surprised!

2.      The wind (vs. 8-13).

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

"How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.

"You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven-the Son of Man.

It is possible that the evening wind was blowing just then as Nicodemus and Jesus sat the housetop talking. The 'wind' in the Bible, signifies the Spirit. When Jesus used this symbol, Nicodemus should have remembered Ezekiel 37:1-14. The prophet Ezekiel saw a valley full of dead bones; but when he prophesied to the wind, the Spirit came and gave the bones' life.
Again, it was the combination of the Spirit of God and the Word of God that gave life. The nation of Israel was dead and hopeless, and in spite of the morality and religion of the people, they needed the life of the Spirit. The new birth from above is necessary to enter the Kingdom of God, but it is also a mystery. Everyone born of the Spirit is like the wind: it is impossible to explain or predict the ways of the wind or the Spirit of God.Nicodemus came "by night' and he was still in the dark! He simply could not understand the concept of new birth even after Jesus had explained it to him. Jesus insisted that Nicodemus' Old Testament knowledge should have given him the light he required (John 3:10). Yet, he still could not see how to enter the Kingdom of God.
What was his problem? Religious leaders would not submit to Jesus' authority and witness (John 3: 11). The religious leaders continued to believe Moses, yet would not believe Jesus (John 5:35-47). "I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?"

3. The snake on the pole (vs. 14-18).

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

This story from Numbers was certainly familiar to Nicodemus. It is a story of sin, for Israel rebelled against God and had to be punished. God sent fiery snakes that bit the people, so that many died. Yet it is also a story of grace, for Moses intercede for the people and God provided a remedy. He told Moses to make a brass snake and lift it up on a pole for all to see. Any sick and dying person could look to the brass snake on the pole and be immediately healed. So, it is also a story of faith, punishment, salvation and faith. The phrase lifted up means to be crucified (John 8:28; 12:13-24) and also be glorified and exalted. John points out that our Lord's crucifixion was actually the means for Him to be glorified (John 12:23). However the cross was not the end of His glory, it was the way He achieved His glory (Acts 2:33).

Much as the snake on the pole had to be lifted up, so the Son of God, Jesus had to be lifted on the cross. This happened to save all people from sin and death. In the camp of Israel, the solution to the "snake problem" was not in killing the snakes, or taking medicine against the poison, or pretending the snakes were not there, or passing anti-snake laws or by climbing the pole. The answer was to look in faith at the lifted snake. Now, the whole world has been bitten by sin (Romans 6:23). God sent His son to die, not only for Israel, but also for the whole world. The Kingdom of God is not just for Israel, or England or even the United States of America. How does a person enter the Kingdom of God? By being born again from above, which means believing on Jesus and looking to Him in faith.

Each of us that are believers have therefore entered into the Kingdom of God and are spiritually living. The difference between living spiritually and being dead spiritually is faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus could well have come to this world as a Judge and destroyed every rebellious sinner; but He came in love. Jesus came into the world as our Saviour, to guide us into the Kingdom of God, and He died on the cross, Jesus became the "uplifted snake".
The brass snake in Moses' day brought physical life to dying Jews; but Jesus gives eternal life to all who asks and trusts in Him. He brings the Kingdom of God for a whole world, Nicodemus eventually entered the Kingdom of God, when he spoke up for Jesus in John 7 and came into a "sunlight of confession" when he identified with Jesus at Calvary bringing the spice to prepare the body for burial (John 19:38-42). He realized that the uplifted Jesus on the cross, was the path into the world-wide Kingdom of God

Therefore lets go over tonight's lessons from the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus. The definition of the kingdom of God is exposed from Romans 14:17 which we also see as the experience of salvation. "For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." The path into the kingdom of God, was defined in the 3 distinct pictures Jesus told to Nicodemus. Firstly in the picture of new birth from above, secondly in the picture of the blowing wind or spirit and thirdly in the Old Testament picture of the snake on the pole.

As we finish, what are we to say. For those of us who are in the kingdom of God: are you growing in your faith and immersing more of yourself into the Kingdom of God. Is your story or testimony of what Jesus is doing in your life up to date, or are you living on past memories, last Easters' prayers and past Sundays' sermons. The testimony of how we are living in the Kingdom of God is vital for our witness in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus commanded us to go and tell, so go and tell the wondrous news of an eternal kingdom - one which will never end! God has promised and He always fulfils His promises.

Now finally, what stops people from entering into the Kingdom of God?  People want to continue to do things against God, and this keeps them from coming out of darkness into the light of the Kingdom of God. This is because the closer someone who loves darkness gets closer to light, the more their evil ways are exposed to the light of God. It is not any intellectual problems that keep people out of the Kingdom. It is a moral and spiritual problem. It would involve a change of lifestyle, of being 'born again' as it was.

What is your reason, for not being yet a believer and follower of Jesus Christ? If for some reason, you are not part of God's kingdom yet, then your opportunity is here. You may not get another chance. You might just walk on out of here tonight, not having entered into the eternal Kingdom of God, and die. It really could be that shocking and happen. Take your opportunity now.  Please do come and see one of the leaders about how you can enter the Kingdom of God this very night!

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 38 - John 9:32
Consequences


The first few verses of this chapter are very interesting as they are one of the two places where Jesus comments on the relationship between sin and suffering, or rather the lack of relationship between them. The disciples of Jesus thought, like most other people in those days, that if someone was suffering as this man was this had to be the effect of sin. Since he had been blind from birth it could not be his sin so whose was it? His parents seemed to be the obvious answer.

No, said Jesus. It doesn’t work like that. In what he went on to say I don’t think he meant that the man was blind just so that the works of God could be displayed in him. Rather he was saying that since he is blind it is possible for those works to be displayed in him.
The other place where Jesus says something which has much the same implication is Luke chapter 13: 1 – 5 where he says that neither the Galileans who had their blood mixed with their sacrifices nor the people of Jerusalem on whom a wall fell suffered because they had sinned.

In all these cases people were assuming that they were being punished for something they had done. In other words that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Or, to put it another way, that cause and effect operate in the moral and social sphere much the same way as they do in the physical. Their misunderstanding is excusable because a great deal of the Old Testament is written on that assumption. But not all of it! Israel, as a nation had to go into exile in Assyria because of the wickedness of the people.

But Job did not suffer because he was a sinner. In fact most of the book of Job is taken up with an argument between Job and his friends. They say look at all these bad things that have happened to you – you must be bad. Job is occupied with saying ‘no, I am not’. We know, but they didn’t, that what had happened to Job was not a punishment, if anything it was a test. In the end the word from the Lord to Job is roughly speaking ‘I know what I am doing, you don’t. How dare you argue with me?’ Cause and effect do not operate in the moral world.

Not much has changed since. The disciples of Jesus thought the same way. So they asked the question, ‘we can see the effect, so who was the cause of this man’s blindness.’ ‘No’, said Jesus, 'it does not work like that.’

Not much has changed since then. Every time someone confronted with someone’s suffering says ‘ they didn’t deserve that!’ or ‘why has God allowed that to happen to them (or me)?’ or something like that they are implicitly assuming that good things happen to good people and bad things only happen to bad people. And what Jesus said and what the whole book of Job is saying is ‘no, it doesn’t work like that!’

Unfortunately the prevalence of that line of thinking, often perpetrated by well meaning folk trying to encourage other people, causes untold damage to the faith of those who believe them and swallow their teaching. We were at a school for the children of missionaries where many of the staff encouraged the children to think their parents were safe on the roads because the Lord would look after them since they were good people. Those staff had a real problem when the mother of some children in the school was killed by a falling stone as they walked one of the nearby paths.

We have to accept, as the book of Job teaches, that the world that the Lord created is a basically chaotic place, or more accurately, as we look at it it is a basically chaotic place. The Lord knows it is not a chaotic place because he controls it, but we do not have any knowledge of what his plans are so, for us, it is a chaotic place. That is a great mystery, but it is far better to recognize that so that, when we get caught on the wrong side of some chaos, we do not despair and lose our faith.

Why the world should be a chaotic world we do not know. The only comment I can offer is, that if we stop and think about it, a completely ordered, controlled world would be a very boring place to live. No sooner do people in the most favored countries and societies find themselves living in a pleasant ordered world than they start going off looking for excitement, a hint of danger, and even some risk on holiday! I suppose some people like a completely ordered boring existence, but certainly not everyone does.

Of course, it is tough if we are on the wrong side of the difficult things of this world but that is the price we must pay for an interesting, sometimes dangerous, sometimes painful world. Jesus makes it very clear that this is our world. We must learn to enjoy it – even when what happens isn’t exactly to our liking. It is quite clear from the rest of this wonderful story of the blind man that he had not lost his strength of character, his wisdom, his spiritual sense just because he was blind.


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Partakers Friday Prayers

A prayer of Augustine

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


A prayer of Augustine

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.

Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.

Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I love but what is holy.

Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
to defend all that is holy.

Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy.

Amen.


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