Archive for August 2016

SALT - Carol

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Interview of less than 3 minutes with a Christian answering 6 questions.

Today we hear from Carol!

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WISE - Faith

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Faith


People always say that faith is blind! However the Bible says that faith is a total confidence in God’s faithfulness, which leads to reliance, trust and total obedience to Him (Hebrews 11v6). We see this faith in the Godly obedience of those around us and from the Bible and church history.

Faith in Salvation

For salvation, faith is a voluntary change of mind and heart in the sinner in which the person turns to God, relying on and accepting His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ.

  1. Mind - recognition of your need of salvation. Acknowledging Christ’s death on your behalf and your need of forgiveness.
  2. Emotional (Heart) – your personal assent to the gospel. You ask yourself, “What must I do to be saved?” and then you agree to make salvation a part of your life.
  3. Will - Personal trust in Jesus Christ.

Now as a follower of Jesus, you are to continue having faith in Him. Four things at least you are to have faith in Him for:

By faith - He is praying for you

Jesus Christ is making intercessions for His followers (Romans 8:34). He knew the disciples troubles (Mark 6:48), just as He knows your troubles now. He feels your cares and knows what you are going through (Hebrews 4:14-16).

By faith - He will come to you

Ever felt like God is far away? Well you aren’t alone! King David often felt God was far away and unconcerned. However he also knew God would ultimately rescue him. Jesus always comes to you through difficult times, although He may not come in the time you think He should come, because He knows when you need Him most.

By faith - He will help you grow

When the disciples were in the storm and Jesus came to them walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33), the purpose of this incident was to show that Jesus would be leaving them soon, so they had to learn to trust in Him when He wasn’t physically present. Peter wrote later on in his life, “for the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers” (1 Peter 3v12).

By faith, He will see you through

At the same event, Jesus said “Come” and Peter went with Him. This must have encouraged the other disciples, for upon seeing Jesus’ power they worshipped him. Whatever troubles you are undergoing are temporary, and Jesus will see you through.

By faith, you have salvation. By faith Jesus is praying, will come to you, grow you and help you through troubles. By being obedient to God, you are showing others your salvation and showing that faith, is not blind, but active!

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SALT - Beverly

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An interview of less than 3 minutes with a Christian answering 6 questions.

Let's go!

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David's Final Prayer

1 Chronicles 29:10-20


Introduction

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

Originally 1 & 2 Chronicles were one book. It was the final book of the Jewish Canon, probably written by Ezra and was also known as the "the events of the days", "the things omitted" which would suggest that Chronicles were to be regarded as additional to the books of Kings and Samuel.  It's a book which was written for those from the nation of Israel who are now in exile, to remind them of their spiritual heritage - the journey & history of Israel as a nation.

For us though, not least I, it issues certain challenges to us all.I will be reading from the Authorised Version. It's the 400th year anniversary this year and as I read, you will see how much of its language has entered into our language today. Its influence on the development of English language is remarkable.

Here is the great king David!

Now here to Chapter 29, we have King David in his final days before handing over the crown to his son, Solomon.  David is no longer the shepherd-boy who slew Goliath. He is at the end of his life. He wanted to build the temple himself, but God told him in 1 Chronicles 28:3 "You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood."

The building of the Temple was to be ultimately achieved by his great son Solomon to do!

What has happened so far?

So what has happened so far, according to the Chronicler? In the previous verses before our reading, we see how David has given publicly a great deal of wealth including gold, silver and other personal possessions for this building - the great Temple. This was to serve as an active encouragement for others to also give generously!  Not only of their material possessions, but also as we read from 1 Chronicles 28v21, their talents and craftsmanship as well! 
This house of God would be a community effort - King & pauper alike, giving generously and honestly!So here is David, a man, who despite his many faults, is described as a man after God's own heart. Israel's greatest king, saying this prayer of intimate praise & adoration to his God in front of the assembled throngs.  This prayer, like his gifts of gold etc., could be said, to be David's legacy to the nation of Israel, to Solomon and by extension also to us.

1.  WOW factor of God! (v10-13)

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

Verse 10 sets the scene "Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever."  God is their father!

He is everlasting! Before Israel was, He is and always will be! He was to be their God and they were to be His people.  God takes care of them as a father does His children - giving generously, protecting them and always being available for guidance & wisdom.

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

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

God's greatness is vast, incomparable and unfathomable.  God's power is that of a warrior: almighty, overwhelming yet alluring; and all power comes from Him to every dependent creature.  God's glory is the exuberant and ecstatic magnificence of His very being!  Victory shows God as an all-conquering hero: transcendent and supreme, to whom all creatures and creation are subject. His victories are irrefutable and undeniable. His uncompromising majesty symbolises a dignity, regency, splendour and awesome magnificence!

These things: greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty are essential attributes of who God is: indelible, immutable, unchangeable and permanent.  God is a King in greater splendour than any of the excesses of King Louis XVI.  If you don't know about Louis, go look him up and the scale of extravagance!  This God is a mighty King to be exalted above all things and He is to be held in His rightful place: high and lifted up!As for the kingdom, whose is it? Is it Israel's? No! Is it David's? No! It is God's and His alone! His Kingdom is of total magnificence and greater than the Roman Empire to come!  Even greater than the British Empire, which was never to see the sun set on it.  Jesus is probably quoting here, in what we call the Lord's Prayer.  So David's words resonate down through history.In this context however, David uses kingdom to symbolise the fact that the building materials, the amassed wealth, did not belong to Israel, but rather they were God's alone!  God's kingdom shows His universal influence, authority and universality.

Everything is God's! Its all His! Nobody can say they own ultimate possession of anything! The only reason, to paraphrase David, "we have this amassed wealth to build the Temple is because we have the leasehold to it!    God owns the freehold, its all His and because of His generosity we can build Him this house!And not only these material possessions, but also the imagination, ingenuity, craftsmanship, skills and talents - well they all came from God as well, so you craftsmen, bless God because God has blessed you with skilled hands to work on His house! Your strength is ultimately from His unlimited resources of strength!"

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

It is out of His wonderfully glorious grace that the Lord God Almighty gave the gifts in the first place and the cheerful sacrificial response from His people in gratitude to Him was remarkable! All these things were given willingly - the possessions, the gold, the silver, the skills, the power and strength - all in service of the great God of Israel, the great Father of Abraham, Isaac, Moses and the other patriarchs.Surely, this is a God worthy of all praise, worship and life commitment! Each person praises differently and in different ways, so let's rejoice when we see other people praising God differently to our own style.

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

That's the wow factor of God: a God who is abundant in greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty.Now let's look together at David himself! All the attributes of praise, given here by David to God, could with a great deal of justification, be said about Israel, or even David himself.  They were at the time a strong nation and David quite rightly still on the throne. Israel's greatest King - full of power, might and majesty.  But no! What does David say in v14?

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

Its all about God for David! He would say that I am only here because of Him! David has been reflecting on his whole life - from the time he defeated the Philistine armed only with a sling and stone. He sees his past failures, the utter depravity of those but also his repentant heart before a holy God.
The end of verse 14 again, "All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee", and this resonates down through history, in churches worldwide as the offering prayer.David exhibits great humility before God, and sets an example for his son, Solomon and the other people of Israel, to follow.

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

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

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

Not only for David but also for the Chronicler too!  He was recording this for the people of Israel when they were in exile.The Chronicler reminds the people in exile to be utterly dependent upon God for all and everything. For the Chronicler, the building of the Temple was more a matter of the heart, and built upon the faith of God to supply. This faith was expressed in the building made of gold, silver, wood and other metals.It was due to God's generosity alone the Temple would be built and nothing to do with David and his people.  It would have been a tremendous temptation to be filled with boastful pride about it.  It was a test of people's hearts to see if they really did love their God.Then in the final words of this prayer, we see David praying for unreserved and enthusiastic giving from the people. He changes from acknowledgement to petition.In verses 18-20, David exhorts an outpouring of generosity from his people, from a heart filled with thanks - a heart acknowledging total dependence on God for all things - a heart & life of loyal obedience to Almighty God. 

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

3. So what?

Firstly, we saw the wow factor of God: a God who exudes greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty.Then we saw David's utter adoration and dependence upon the God that he knows intimately.So, finally, what does all this have to do with us?How often do we receive from our God, but not thank Him for it? We are to be thankful for every good gift that is given to us. We offer praises and thanks to Him, for who He is and for His generosity and grace towards us. 

Tonight's bible passage was a superb piece of thanksgiving. When was the last time you thanked God for all the things He has given you?  How can we put this thanks and praise into action? Lets see quickly!

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

As Christians, we are to desire to mature spiritually - growing in adoration, obedience and commitment to God. Perhaps the greatest indicator of today, concerns our giving. Giving is to be done whole-heartedly and cheerfully. It is also not so much about how much is given, but how much is left after giving and the attitude behind it. God looks beyond that which is given to the motive and attitude behind it. All our money and possessions belong to Him anyway, as we have seen, so giving is to be in response to this. Our money and possessions are a leasehold agreement not a freehold one. Giving done willingly is also not done to boost our own egos or for the feel-good factor, but rather to bring glory and honour to God as a thankful response to His giving all things to us.Many prayers seemingly go unanswered because God is waiting on people to be obedient to Him, in order to answer the unanswered prayers of others. .We are to be generous with everything we have, not just in the area of money but with our very lives. We all have time, information, knowledge imagination, gifts and talents.  All these too are to be given back to God .  That may well take radical action to do, but radical giving is what we are called to do. God has given everything so that you and I may live and have life, so by caring and giving, we will reflect that. Let's be radical church together and encourage others to be likewise.

But, as we have seen, it's not only about giving money and resources. Giving is also to include skills, information, imagination and knowledge.  Remember, the priests and craftsmen were waiting to give in the building of and service within the Temple.Churches, particularly these days, need to capture the imagination of those looking for a church home, and get them involved.  Involvement in such a way that it builds up commitment to God and a growing adoration of Him.  If people are involved, they will stay. It means training them up, to be fit for service within the church.  If training for service doesn't occur, then commitment and dedication to God is likely to be diminished.  If the same people do the same thing year after year, that local church will eventually die out. Each local church is only one generation away from closing its doors permanently.Giving, as we saw in tonight's passage, is also a community affair.  This Church is to be a community, both within the church and outside of it, where the strongest members support the weakest members.

But, as we also saw tonight, it is not just for leaders to give! Giving is to be for everyone! Every church has a fantastic array of knowledge, wisdom, possessions and imagination. Let us share that with people outside the church. Who knows what our caring and giving will do for them as it reflects the glory of God!Too often, we are found turning a blind eye to the suffering of others where the necessities of life are in sparse existence. Too often we neglect to give up our personal space, time, imagination, information and money generously to help the poor and needy in our local, national and global communities.By doing this giving collectively, we will show our faith to be real and practical.  There are people out there in our local community just waiting for somebody to give generously to them.  We need to be seen to be radically giving to all - of our money, our possessions, and also our time, imagination, knowledge, practical help, care and love. 

Let us show our relevance to our local community and not be seen as just a curious gathering of people meeting on a Sunday.If you have ideas of how you can help the church here at PBC in anyway, then see the elders or the Pastor and talk to them about it.So if I could summarise all this up in one sentence, it would be something like this

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

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

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 44 - John 10:16–18
Other flocks – the Gentiles.


Jesus goes on from talking about himself as a Shepherd to give a very clear, if not very long, indication that he knew that his word would go out through all the world. By ‘other sheep not of this sheepfold’ he clearly meant those who were not of the ancient people of God, the Jews. Us! The Gentiles (though perhaps a few ethnic Jews may hear or read this. If so – welcome.) This is perhaps the clearest indication we have in all the Gospels that Jesus knew his words and their effects would spread through all the world. Because he only had a man’s body he was limited to how many people he could actually contact and influence himself. After his death and resurrection his people would be able to do ‘greater works’ than he could do because they would spread through all the world in ever widening circles.

There was an explosion of activity after his death and the giving of the Holy Spirit all across the then known world. An Ethiopian returned to Ethiopia with the Good News; the apostle Thomas almost certainly reached south India with it; Paul probably reached the furthest western end of the Mediterranean area, to Spain, with it; and these are only the ones we know about.

What does it all say to us? The divide between Jew and Gentile that was the subject of what Jesus actually said is not likely to be of much significance to us. But what about all the other divides that people are so good at making between themselves and other people who are slightly different from them? The most obvious difference is between black and white and all the differing shades of brown in between. The divide between rich and poor can be just as deep if less obvious. Between accents. Between ethnic backgrounds. Between those who live one side of the tracks and those who live the other side. Between this cultural background and that one – even sometimes between generations. Between those who wear these sorts of clothes and those sorts. We have many, many ways of dividing people up and, to its deep shame, the Christian church has sometimes been at the forefront in drawing the distinctions. Yet all are clearly wrong in the eyes of Jesus. He said he had other sheep from the other side of a very deep divide. He promised to bring them in, that they would listen to his voice, and be part of his one flock. We might say, in a common English idiom, that ‘that is all that matters’. Particularly at the end of the day ‘that is all that will matter’.

The clear challenge to us is to accept all manner of people into our fellowship and friendship. If you live in a situation where there are long held and deeply rooted divisions among people that is not easy. I was going to go on to say that it is easy for those of us who do not face those particular problems to talk like this, but I wonder. Do any of us live in situations really free of divisions? Or is it just that some of the divisions are much less obvious, more subtle, harder to see? Think carefully about it – for yourself, where you are, not for other people.



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Partakers Friday Prayers

for the Persecuted Church Worldwide

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!


Prayers for the Persecuted Church


Sovereign God, we worship you and acknowledge that you know all of those who suffer in your name because they follow you. We remember those who are imprisoned for their faith and ask that they would join with the Apostle Paul to see that even though they remain captive, their chains have furthered the gospel, not frustrated it. May they inspire and embolden their fellow believers to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. Amen

God of all comfort, for those who are tortured both in body and mind, give them the grace to endure and to see their suffering as part of following in Christ’s footsteps. Merciful God, for those asked to pay the ultimate price; who are martyred because of their love for you, may they truly know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Amen

Father God, for those who are widowed and orphaned may they know the comfort that comes from your promised presence even when they walk through the valley. May they be strengthened by your Spirit, enabling them to rejoice with the psalmist as they proclaim that the LORD will not abandon them in death. Amen

Heavenly Father, we ask that you would make us ever mindful of our brothers and sisters around the world who need us to stand with them as they suffer in your name. Teach us what it means to overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony; we pray that we would not love our lives so much as to shrink from death.

We ask these things O Father, through the name of Your Son, Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us.
Amen


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