News, wit and wisdom from our church ministers, department leaders and members of our church.
Note: The views expressed by individuals within this blog are their own!
We live in a difficult world. It seems every day brings issues and problems. Look at the news, a struggling economy, Ukraine, rising fuel, energy and food prices, etc.
A question we are often asked in troubled times is 'Is God good?'
The resounding response of the Bible is yes!
You are good, Lord. (Psalm 25:7)
Good and upright is the Lord. (Psalm 25:8)
You, Lord, are forgiving and good. (Psalm 86:5)
God is good - good in skill and good in heart.
Do you suffer from small thoughts about God?
In an effort to see Him as your friend, have you lost His immensity?
In your desire to understand Him, have you sought to contain Him?
The God of the Bible cannot be contained. He created order out of chaos. With a word He called Adam out of dust and Eve out of a bone. He consulted no committee. He sought no counsel. He has no peer:
I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me (Isaiah 46:9).
From the tiniest microbe to the mightiest mountain, He sustains everything by the mighty power of His command (Hebrews 1:3). God has authority over the world and He has authority over YOUR world: Your sleep patterns. Your eating habits. Your salary. Traffic on your commute. The arthritis in your joints. God reigns over everything. He is never surprised and He has never, ever said "How did that happen?"
God's power is unsurpassed and His heart is unblemished. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle (James 1:17 MSG). God is merciful and mighty, God has no hidden agenda or selfish motive. His love is perfect and He forgives with a perfect forgiveness. God's goodness is a major theme in the Bible.
A glimpse of God's goodness changes us.
God's unrivalled goodness undergirds everything we say about prayer. No wonder the psalmist said, Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).
We may try and fail in our own strength but our toughest challenges are simple to God. Before you face the world each day, turn your face to Father God. When the alarm clock goes off. Roll over and sit up. It does not matter if your face is pillow creased and your hair is messy. You haven't come to look at you. You have come to look at God. Don't underestimate the power of this moment. At the start of your day, open the door to God in prayer and welcome His strength, His truth, His love into your heart.
Father, You are always good. You love me and care for me, and you will be with me in all I do today. You are good! An arch of Your eyebrow, and a million angels will pivot and salute. Every throne is a footstool to yours. You have no questions, second thoughts, or backward glances. You consult no clock. You keep no calendar. You report to no one. You are good all the time! (Max Lucado)
Is the world different because you prayed?
In one sense, no. Wars still rage, traffic still jams, and problems will still happen around the world. But you are different. You have peace. You've spent time with your Heavenly Father and you know He is good!
In 1913, Constance Penswick Smith (a vicar's daughter from Nottinghamshire) read about the American Mother's Day, celebrated on the second Sunday of May. She decided something similar with a more Christian basis was needed in Britain.
Her plan was to relaunch the Mothering Sunday of the liturgical church calendar, which had fallen out of wider observance and the 'Movement for Mothering Sunday' was born. By the late 1930s, services celebrating motherhood were being held in almost every parish church in the country.
The historical Mothering Sunday had very little to do with mothers. It had probably been observed since pre-Reformation times, on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Its purpose was to draw the congregations of 'daughter churches' of a specific area back to their 'mother church', a large church or cathedral. Constance thought that the celebration of church unity should still be an important part of the day. She felt that if Christians are members of one family, then the 'church' is logically viewed as the mother.
The idea of 'mother church' convey the notion of a spiritual home. Churches are places for nurturing followers of Christ, providing teaching, discipleship, and opportunities for growth. Jesus spoke of his disciples as 'my mother and my brothers' and of them having priority over his biological family.
This view of mothering could make services more significant for those who might otherwise stay away from church: those who have lost their mothers, or who would dearly love to be mothers but can't. For them, Mothering Sunday can be excruciating.
Constance's aim to honour mothers was laudable - but the original meaning of Mothering Sunday can help us to reflect on how our church is a place where we radically care for and minister to one another, whatever our age, gender or role.
As we all know too well, life often confronts us with unexpected or painful circumstances. Sometimes these situations leave us feeling fearful, discouraged, and frustrated. Consequently, we may question whether the Lord truly is reliable.
During such troubling moments, we can rest on this essential truth: The Lord is perfect in His love. Consider 1 John 1:5 God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.
In other words, everything our heavenly Father does is righteous. And if He is a God of love, then it is impossible for Him to mistreat any of His children. We can be assured that whatever He places or permits in our lives is good and that His motives are perfectly pure.
Jesus demonstrated this deep care for us when He offered His blood on the cross - there exists no greater display of love than giving one's life for someone else (John 15:13). Our sin debt could be paid only with a flawless sacrifice (Deuteronomy 17:1).
Christ, the perfect lamb, was willing to die in our place so that we could have an eternal relationship with the Father. If God gave us His Son - the most precious and amazing gift possible - to take care of our greatest need, then we can trust Him to provide for all areas of our life.
When difficulty arises, remember how much God loves you. He proved this by willingly giving His Son to take the penalty for your sin.
Even when circumstances are painful, you can be confident that you are held in the capable and caring hands of your heavenly Father, because of His love.
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)
The Bible is the written Word of God. How we view the truth recorded in the Bible is crucial. In the Bible, God has chosen to unfold for us His nature, character, plan and purposes.
The Bible reveals where we have come from, our purpose in life and our ultimate destiny. Billy Graham said, "Millions of people today are searching for a reliable voice of authority. The Word of God is the only real authority we have. His Word sheds light on human nature, world problems and human suffering. But beyond that, it clearly reveals the way to God".
The message of the Bible in 4 points:
- God created you
- God loves you
- God sent Jesus to die for you
- God is going to send Jesus again to bring believers back to Him
The Bible provides the believer with practical instruction, encouragement, warning and wisdom. God has chosen to unveil His power, integrity and love in His inspired Word.
Some of the many descriptions used by the prophets, writers and psalmists recorded in the Bible describe God's Word as:
"honey in my mouth" Ezekiel 3:3
"spiritual food for the hungry" Job 23:12
"perfect and trustworthy" Psalm 19:7
"more precious than gold" Psalm 19:10
"a lamp for my feet" Psalm 119:105
"true and righteous" Psalm 119:160
"a joy and delight to my heart" Jeremiah 15:16
"a fire that burns in my heart" Jeremiah 20:9
"renewing my mind" Romans 12:12
"Sharper than a two-edged sword" Hebrews 4:12
We need to apply God's Word to our lives daily. The Bible is life-changing, and while the truth of God's Word does not change, our understanding of the truth does. Martin Luther said "I use Scripture as a lighter to kindle the fire in my heart". Often a verse or a passage becomes clearer when lit by the light of other verses or passages on the same subject.
When The Holy Spirit opens our hearts and minds to the Word we experience it as a living Word. Our faith is based on the truth revealed in the Bible and our every thought, word or action needs to be in line with God's Word.
"God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts." (Colossians 3:12-15 NLT)
Years ago, some missionaries felt that God wanted them to take the message of the Gospel to a group of Eskimos. When speaking to the Eskimos the missionaries struggled to find a word in Inuinnaq (the language of the Eskimo) for forgiveness.
The word that came closest had twenty-four-letters issumagijoujungnainermik and can be literally translated "not being able to think about it anymore."
Only God has the power to fully forgive us. God forgives, and chooses to forget our Sins. In Hebrews 8:12 God says "I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins."
When God forgives us, it's not like He is pretending that nothing happened, to forgive requires an acknowledgement that something wrong has been done that requires forgiveness. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, when we come to Him in repentance our sins are forgiven.
How can we who have been forgiven refuse to forgive?
Dare we ask God for forgiveness if we refuse to forgive?
What is our motivation to forgive?
We are simply demonstrating what God has done, and continues to do for us. Because of Jesus sacrifice for us, God looks beyond our sin and sees someone worth forgiving. And that's what we've been called to do as well.
Because we are forgiven, we are called to forgive. If we want to be obedient disciples of Jesus then we must choose to forgive.
"I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry." (Psalm 40:1)
Practicing patience is hard work! This is especially true when we are waiting upon the Lord, who keeps to His own timetable. But believers who trust God to deliver are richly rewarded with the desires of their heart.
A person's willingness to wait reveals the value of what he or she desires. No one goes wrong waiting for the Lord to send His best in His perfect timing. Of course, believers don't receive everything they request. At times God simply says no. In other cases, He adjusts our desire to match His own.
In our humanness, we can't possibly know all the details of a situation. So we ask for what we think we need, based on our limited information. A submissive heart accepts the omnipotent Father's gentle redirection. When the awaited object of desire comes, it may not look like what the believer originally requested, but it will be exactly what he or she needs.
Waiting patiently on the Lord is an awesome witness. When He responds, others see the reality of God, His faithfulness, and the wisdom of our commitment. In addition, our own faith is strengthened. Fools rush to seize their prize. But wise believers know that blessing will come in God's good time.
The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel. After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what He had done for Israel. (Judges 2:7,10)
God has handed to each of us a torch to carry for Him. That torch is the light of the Gospel, the knowledge of God and His ways, and the Word of God. It is put into our hands and our hearts by the Holy Spirit and the fire is ignited so that we may burn as lights in a sin darkened world. Each of us are to let our light shine that all men can see Jesus in us and then we are told to run with it and to pass it on to the next generation so that we will not forget God.
How could a nation that had experienced all of the miracles that God had done for Israel, and had seen the presence of God in the pillar of fire and cloud, and had known the power of God in such greatness, not pass along the torch of the knowledge and love of God to their children?
It seems so impossible that the very next generation after Joshua's generation, would completely forget God and not know about anything that God had done in the past. Could it be that Israel failed to talk about God in the home? Were they so worldly minded that they failed to even teach their children that God existed?
I think that Joshua's generation tried to turn around. God honoured them, but the damage to their children was already done. Though the words of their parents praised and honoured God, the children saw their actions. Actions speak louder than words.
We can talk about Jesus, claim to know and love Him, and say that we are serving Him, but are our actions proving it to be true. The next generation will learn from what we do more than from what we say. Are we passing the torch?
We can't allow the light of the gospel to be extinguished. We must do everything we can to be a torchbearer and then to try to pass that light on to the next generation as well.
Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice - the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don't copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
The Apostle Paul lived at a time when sensuality, the pursuit of pleasure, and rebellion against God were prevalent. In response, Paul wrote letters urging Christians not to follow the ways of the world. Like those early believers, we are to pursue godliness by:
Presenting our bodies to God. Submitting ourselves to God requires a definite decision to give Him control and a daily commitment to remain under His authority. Our mind, will, emotions, personality, and physical body are to be turned over to our heavenly Father (James 4:7). To truly live a holy and godly life we must willing surrender to Him.
Becoming living sacrifices. The Christian life is built around the concept of sacrifice. Jesus left the perfection of heaven to live among sinful people to reconcile us to God. He offered up His life as payment for our sins (1 John 3:16) and brought us into His family. As Christians, we must follow His example. Paul called it a living sacrifice, because it is an ongoing act of daily commitment to God.
Life is full of options. Many decisions involve a choice between following God's way or our own. As Christians we must be willing to sacrifice our own desires and embrace His will. A life of godliness is characterised by a heart and mind focussed on the things of God. Although we will live imperfectly, we should seek to obey His will and please Him.
Today, commit to becoming more like Jesus, the One who willingly gave Himself as a sacrifice for you.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord's favour has come" Luke 4:18-19 (NLT)
When we grasp the power of Jesus words in Luke 4:18, this truth brings change and transformation. The power of the cross is not found in what we do, but in what has already been done for us.
Jesus came so that we might, through Him, be made whole. Not by following the rules or meeting expectations of man, but by resting and trusting in the power of our Almighty God. It's not our strength or power that transforms us. Yes, we can make some changes in our lives, but real change only occurs when we open our heart to His tender touch, that is when real transformation occurs.
There is nothing we can do to earn God's love. Jesus' statement proclaims His love to us today. We come to Him with baggage and hurting hearts and His love changes us and compels us to trust Jesus to heal and transform us. We can sense when He is active in our lives, teaching us, redirecting us, healing us.
A hurting heart can send us down paths we may regret, searching for something or someone to ease our pain. Jesus invites us to stop running and rest in Him, expectant of His healing touch. When we allow The Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us He can move us in new directions and He can lead us along new paths.
The truth of Luke 4:18 is ours today to hold close, for Jesus came to heal our hurting hearts, Jesus came to set us free, Jesus came to bring Healing and Wholeness. Trust your Saviour, He is willing and able to do the miraculous in your life today.
It's Sunday morning, the service has ended, the tea and coffee has been served and people start heading toward the car park. In every church, in every location where there has been a service, listen closely near the exit doors and you will hear it:
"I didn't get anything out of the sermon."
"I didn't get anything out of that service."
"The worship was all right, but I didn't get anything out of it."
Have you heard that sound? Have you said it a few times yourself?
Let me remind you, we are not supposed to 'Get anything out of the service'.
Worship is not about you and me, not about getting our needs met, not about a good performance from the preacher or the singers or the musicians.
The focus of our worship is the Lord, 'Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name." (Psalm 29:2)
God calls us to be church to worship Him - our focus is to be on what we give Him - not what we get. We are here not there to "get' we are here to "give'.
We are here to give glory to God.
We know that, we should know that, we say we do that. How many times have we said, "...for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory"?
How often have we sung, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow..."?
Glory is His right. He is worthy of worship. This is the theme of the final book of the Bible. "Who is worthy?" (Rev. 5:2) "You are worthy...for you were slain, and have redeemed us" (Rev. 5:9). "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain" (Rev. 5:12).
Jesus told the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, "Those who worship God must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). That is, with their inner being, the totality of themselves, their spirit, not just their lips or their bodies going through the motions.
And in truth, the revealed truth of how God has prescribed worship to take place. He is not pleased with 'just anything' that we claim as worship.
If my focus is on myself, getting my needs met, my learning something, hearing a sermon that blesses me, my being lifted by the singing - then Christ has no part in it. It's all about me and I am ignoring the biblical concept of worship - giving God His due in all the ways He has commanded.
We must balance our worship between spirit (the subjective part: body, soul, emotions) and truth (the objective aspect: all that God has revealed in His word). Worship is something we do, not something done to us.
Don't leave church blaming your failure to worship on the singing or the sermon, you are in charge of the decision whether you will worship, no one else.
Bow before the Lord, offer Him your praise, and give Him your all.
Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, "You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32)
Learning about the elements of the Christian faith is an essential part of our daily lives (we can't live out what we don't know and understand), but real discipleship goes much deeper than just learning about God and how a Christian should conduct their life. The core idea of discipleship relates to becoming the disciple of someone.
True disciples seek to actually become like the master they are following. To become a disciple of Christ, we need to learn the things associated with the life and ways of Jesus, and actually work to conform our lives to Him. Discipleship is more about who we become than what we do. Doing emerges from being, not the other way around.
Being a disciple of Jesus is an on-going process, evidenced by a deepening faith and a changed lifestyle. Disciples seek a stronger personal relationship with God and have a deep desire to live in fellowship with Him.
True discipleship is demonstrated by putting aside sin and putting on Christlikeness. To grow in spiritual maturity, we must study the Bible to understand what God says is right and wrong. As disciples, we need to learn the ways of God and live by them.
Do you strive for holiness in your daily life?
Do you live in a way that demonstrates that you are truly a disciple of Christ?
Discipleship takes effort. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ requires more than learning Christian things, it requires becoming like Jesus.
What does becoming like Jesus mean?
We can't provide salvation for others, but we can, as Christ did, point people to God. We can witness to the lost, help the down and out, and make other disciples.
Being a disciple is more than just going to church services. Of course, we need to worship and we need to learn. These cannot be neglected if we are going to learn the things we need to know to do God's work in this world.
To be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, you need to be a participant - not a passive observer. Your priority should be to become active in doing the work of God based on His leading.
Are you faithful in developing your spiritual life?
Are you willing to put more effort into your discipleship?
What do you need to do to take it to the next level?
Are you willing to share the truth of who Jesus is with those who need to know Him as their Lord and Saviour?
What will you do from this point on in your life to become a true disciple of Jesus?
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me." (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NLT)
When thinking about God's plan for your life, it is very easy to have the attitude: "it's all about me."
Yes, it's true that God cares about every intricate detail in your life - Jesus said that even the hairs on our heads are numbered! We can mistakenly think that God's plan is always going to be a "feel good" plan with the intent to make us happy.
The message in these verses from Jeremiah is actually very different. These words are for a group of people who are being held captive in exile far from their homeland.
These words are to let them know that although they are not where they would have expected, nor where they would have asked God to place them, God has not forgotten them and He still has a plan for their lives. Even in the midst of a difficult situation, God wants them to know and have faith in His plans.
In the preceding verses, we see that a big part of God's plan is for them to "work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile" (Jeremiah 29:7). God wants His people to know that His plans are not just to benefit them personally.
God also tells them that He is not removing them from the situation immediately, but He does promise to restore them in the future. God wants them to know they can move forward in faith, because in the eternal picture, God's plans and purposes will prevail.
Today, in the midst of difficult circumstances and situations, God wants us to know He has a plan. He also wants us to know that when we submit in faith to His plan, He will use us to bless the world around us.
The key still remains during both good and difficult times: If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.
The dawn of a new year will soon arrive to bring us into new adventures and experiences in spiritual realms with Christ.
The past year has had difficulty and victory, struggles and rejoicing - yet each day, God has led us through. God has amazed us with His extravagant love and He has carried us through every experience. Our year would have been very different without the Lord guiding our every step!
As we reflect on the year that has passed, let God fill our hearts with praise and expectation for the year to come. Psalm 150 reminds us that all of God's creation praises Him with hope and excitement. The oceans roar, mountains quake, trees wave their hands, and everything that has breath sings praises to God our Creator and the Maker of all things.
Praise God in His sanctuary;
praise Him in His mighty heaven!
Praise Him for His mighty works;
praise His unequalled greatness!
Praise Him with a blast of the ram's horn;
praise Him with the lyre and harp!
Praise Him with the tambourine and dancing;
praise Him with strings and flutes!
Praise Him with a clash of cymbals;
praise Him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
May our heartfelt praise welcome His new tomorrow and His promises into our lives. May our praise for our Lord and Saviour be heard in our church, our homes and everywhere God will lead us in 2023.
In the coming year, seek to enter a new level of praise to our God, because He who sits upon the throne is worthy of all our worship, praise and adoration. May the Holy Spirit help each of us lift our voices and shout, He is Lord and worthy of our praise!
Do you enjoy shopping for Christmas gifts?
How many shops or websites do you search so that you can give gifts to those you love? But you don't mind, do you? You would do it all again. Every Christmas, and every birthday, we can find ourselves in foreign territory. Adults are looking for bargains in toy stores. Wives are searching for the perfect gift for their husbands, and husbands struggle to remember which perfume they bought last year that the wife said was nice. We are at our best when we are giving. In fact, we are most like God when we are giving.
Have you ever wondered why God gives so much?
We could exist on far less. He could have left the world flat and grey; we wouldn't have known the difference. But He didn't. He splashed orange in the sunrise and cast the sky in blue. He filled the world with colourful flowers that smell good too! Did God have to make the squirrel's tail furry? Was He obliged to make the birds sing or the funny way that chickens run? How about the majesty of thunder when it rings? Why give a flower fragrance? Why give food its taste? Could it be God loves to see that look upon your face?
If we give gifts to show our love, how much more would He?
If we love to give gifts, how much more does God, pure and perfect God, enjoy giving gifts to us? Jesus asked, "If you hardhearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won't your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask Him for them?" (Matthew 7:11).
God's gifts shed light on God's heart, His good and generous heart. James tells us: "Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light" (James 1:17 MSG).
Every gift reveals God's love but no gift shows His love more than the gift of the cross.
Jesus came, not wrapped in paper, but in passion. Not placed around a tree, but on a cross, and not covered with ribbons, but sprinkled with blood.
What will YOU give this Christmas?
And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!' (Matthew 25:40)
A recent survey showed that people plan to spend less this Christmas season on gifts than they did last year, and also give less to charities, local churches, or ministries that help the poor. Many people say they are unlikely to even consider giving a charitable gift this year. So while fewer Christmas presents may be sold this year, there will also be less help given to those who really need it.
Retailers, economists, and politicians may be saddened by the news of lower consumer spending this year, but the lower levels of support for the ones Jesus called "the least of these" should encourage us to do what we can to bless those in need. Matthew 25:35-40 is one of the most judgmental passages in the New Testament, it clearly says that how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner, is how we treat Jesus.
But rather than being judgmental of others, why don't you do something about it?
Why not give a "Christmas Tithe" this year? Let's keep it simple: Keep track of all your Christmas spending this year, and then tithe a percentage of that amount to a charity or organisation that directly serves those in need. A tithe is traditionally 10 percent, but you could decide to do less or even more. Christmas is is a time to give more not less.
Why not encourage your family and friends to do the same?
Together we could bring an incredible blessing to the lives of families, children or individuals in need. You could help provide food to the hungry or shelter to the homeless. This Christmas, instead of just giving more things to each other, all of us can tithe a percentage of all that we give to those who need it the most.
Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
In the final weeks of 1914, German and British troops were engaged off and on in battle, as they were stationed a few hundred yards apart. With Christmas approaching, the young soldiers were ready for relief.
It began on the night of Christmas Eve, when German soldiers lit candles on their Christmas trees - not a good wartime move since the enemy could easily spot their position. British soldiers responded by shooting off rockets and building bonfires.
The Germans began singing Christmas carols, inviting the British to join in. One British soldier called out, "We would rather die than sing in German." A German soldier responded, "If we had to listen to you sing in German, it would kill us too." Throughout the night, each camp listened to the other sing.
The following day, hundreds of soldiers left their trenches to meet the enemy in no man's land, where they shook hands and exchanged gifts of food, sweets, and tobacco. Some traded names and addresses.
Meanwhile, a football game was played between the shell holes and barbed wire. Both German and British generals spoke out against the truce, fearing that such fraternisation could sap the troops' will to fight. Of course, it didn't. Fighting resumed the following day.
Eventually, ten million people would lose their lives in World War I. But on this single day, two enemies put aside their differences long enough to practice peace. What a place to begin.
What if we called a truce, at least for this season?
Imagine if husbands and wives would do this. And brothers and sisters. And in-laws. And neighbours. And co-workers. And church members.
What if we made a determined effort to live in peace with one another, even the most contentious among us, just for the season?
If we would try it, we might begin to experience long-term what those embattled soldiers experienced for one day, and what the angels promised the shepherds on that first Christmas night: Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and goodwill towards men.
May God, who gives patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)
Some call him Father Christmas or Santa Claus, his real name was Nicholas. He was born in 280AD and orphaned at nine when his parents died of the plague. Nicholas studied Greek philosophy and Christian doctrine and became Bishop of Myra in the fourth century. He died on December 6, 343AD. History calls him a saint, but he was a bit of a troublemaker - jailed twice, once by Emperor Diocletian for religious reasons, the other for hitting another bishop during a fiery debate.
Nicholas is known for his kindness to a poor man who was unable to support his three daughters or provide the customary dowry so they could attract husbands. He crept up to the man's house one night and dropped a few gold coins through the window so the eldest daughter could afford to get married. He did this twice more for the other daughters. His action on those nights was the seed that grew into the Santa myth with people adding and embellishing the story. The gift grew from a few coins to bags of coins. The window became a chimney. The bags of coins became the girls' stockings, which were hanging over the fireplace to dry.
Over the centuries his acts have been embellished, and his wardrobe and personality have been transformed. As Bishop of Myra, he wore traditional ecclesiastical robes and a mitred hat, Nicholas was slim, with a dark beard and a serious personality. By 1300, his beard had become white. By the 1800s he had a round belly and a basket of food over his arm. Then the black boots, a red cape, and a cheery hat on his head. In the late 19th century the basket of food became a sack of toys. In 1866 he was small and gnomish, by 1930 he was six-foot tall with rosy cheeks and a Coca-Cola in his hand.
Santa reflects the desires of people all over the world - he has become a composite of what we want:
A friend who cares enough to travel a long way against all odds to bring good gifts to good people;
A wise person, aware of each act a person performs, who rewards the good and overlooks the bad;
A friend of children, who never gets sick and never grows old;
A father who lets you sit on his lap and share your deepest desires.
Santa, what we look for in a hero, the personification of our passions, the expression of our yearnings, and the fulfilment of our desires. Yet, Santa can't provide what we really need. He's only around once a year and when he comes, though he gives, he doesn't take away anything. He doesn't take away the riddle of the grave, the burden of sin, or the anxiety of life.
There was One who claimed to come from a different place. There was One who, though He had the appearance of a man, claimed to have the origin of God. There was One who, while wearing the face of a man, was the image of the Creator. Those who saw Him knew there was something different. At His touch the blind could see, at His word crippled legs walked. At His embrace empty lives filled with vision. He fed thousands with one basket. He stilled a storm with one command. He raised the dead with one proclamation. He changed lives with one request.
The One who was born in a stable, died on a hill and 3 days later rose from the grave, is the One who changes the destiny of all who trust in Him. He is not a figment of our imagination, He is the Son of God, He is Jesus Christ, He is the Saviour of the World, God became a man so we could trust Him. He became a sacrifice so we could know Him and He defeated death so we could follow Him.
This Christmas proclaim the truth that Jesus is the true reason for the season!
The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and He saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. (Genesis 6:5)
If you watch the news or read a newspaper today, you will see something is deeply damaged with humanity. Even people who do not believe the Bible would agree that something is wrong and people need help. But how do we fix the problem?
There are two common lies we believe. The first is: "I'm a good person." It's easy to read Genesis 6:5, look at the world and then remove ourselves from the problem. "I'm not as bad as those people - I try to be nice to others, I try to be good!"
For the Christian, because of the sacrifice of Christ and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the power of sin has been broken. A Christian has the ability to reject wickedness and embrace pure thoughts, pure motives, and pure intentions. But, purity is a result of God's grace, not the natural condition of our own hearts. We must remember that while sin's power has been broken, the presence of sin remains.
In Christ, we are righteous before God, but we can still choose to commit sinful deeds, and our intentions are not always pure. We are still part of the problem.
There is a second lie we believe: a change of behaviour will clean up the mess. People may think the world needs a more robust legal system, faster police action, or elections to replace corrupt politicians. Maybe, there is some truth in that, God established law and order for the benefit of people, but the Bible never states the lasting solution for human sin is more law. The Bible teaches what humanity needs is a radical change of heart.
You and I can't change our hearts, nor can any law or system put in place by man. The only way we can be rescued is by a transformed heart, created in us by God. The prayer of the Psalmist in Psalm 51:10 is "Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me."That is what Advent is about - the arrival of Jesus Christ to fix what is broken: the human heart.
We must celebrate the work of The Messiah and the new heart we can have because of His birth, death, and resurrection. We can experience God's promise to His people, "I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." (Ezekiel 36:26)
We will wrestle with the presence of sin in our lives, what we need is not a set of rules and regulations to fix us. What we need is a heart that is filled every day with the love of God.
While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, "Don't be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John." Luke 1:11-13 (NLT)
Advent is about God entering this world in person. In a way that we will never be able to understand, the Creator and Ruler of the universe humbles Himself in order to become one of Earth's citizens. Given the significance of this, it is not surprising that Jesus' birth is surrounded by supernatural events, particularly the appearance of angels.
This first happens in the centre of the great Temple in Jerusalem. The aged Zechariah is terrified by Gabriel's appearance. He is told that his wife will bear a child, that the infant is to be called John and that he will be a blessing both to his parents and to God's people. The child will bring people back to God and - most importantly - make a people who are prepared for the Lord. It is an awesome promise, but Zechariah queries the angel's pronouncement. 'How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well on in years.'
This is not the wisest response, and the angel pronounces God's discipline on unbelief, Zechariah will be silent until John is born. I think there are two lessons here:
Zechariah goes to serve God but instead, God serves him.
With God, we always receive more than we give.
Zechariah is 'righteous in the sight of God', yet when it comes to trusting God, he wavers. Zechariah and his wife may have been praying for years for a child. Yet when Zechariah is told by an angel that his prayer is going to be answered what he in effect says is, "Now, it is all very well of you to say that but I'm really not convinced."
Zechariah and Elizabeth have prayed for a child, but over the years he has allowed doubt to wear away the promise. What makes Zechariah's lack of faith worse, is that - as every Jew knew - there were precedents for God giving a child to the elderly and childless, most notably to Abraham and Sarah, who were the ancestors of all the Jewish people.
Zechariah had forgotten both his own prayers and what God had done in the past. We can often do exactly the same thing. But God does use very ordinary people, with all their flaws and deficiencies.
I find that encouraging and hope you do too.
Our calling as Christians is to imitate Jesus Christ, but what big footsteps He left! The heavenly Father attested several times in the Scriptures, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased (Matthew 3:17).
How can we live up to that?
God does not expect us to be perfect like Jesus. He sees us as children who are still learning. Just like a parent who rejoices over a baby's first steps, our heavenly Father delights in our steps of obedience as we seek to walk with Him.
The goal is growth. When a toddler masters walking, his parents delight shifts to more mature achievements like running. As long as we keep growing in our faith, we will never cease learning new ways to please our Father. He loves us and patiently cheers us on at each new level of maturity.
What is important to the Lord is our hearts. Amidst all our frailties, failures, and temptations, He sees the desires of our hearts and knows how much we love Him and want to be obedient. Even in our stumbling, He helps and encourages us with His Word.
You are far more pleasing to the Lord than you think. Learn to see yourself through His eyes. He is waiting to help you develop into the person He designed you to be.
Search for the Lord and for His strength; continually seek Him. Remember the wonders He has performed, His miracles, and the rulings He has given, He always stands by His covenant - the commitment He made to a thousand generations. (Psalm 105:4,5,8)
Remembrance Day is set aside to remember those who have given their lives for the freedom of others. Sadly for many, the day will pass without them even giving any thought to the real meaning of the day.
Remembering does many things. It brings us back to the reality of what actually happened. It encourages us to see the dedication of those who fought and died. Remembering should stir within us a sense of gratitude and appreciation, and it should strengthen our own resolve to do our part in serving God and others.
Throughout the Bible, God's people are instructed to stop and recall what He did for them. Psalm 105 is a song of remembrance of God's goodness to His beloved ones. It traces His direction, provision and protection through their history and the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses.
As believers in the 21st century, we can look back over a much longer history and see how God's plan has and is unfolding, and observe His incredible goodness to us.
Psalm 105:1-5 shows the natural progression of what happens when we pause to remember - we give thanks to Him and continue calling on Him. We sing of Him and talk with other believers about all He has done. Then we must tell others of His greatness.
When you stop to trace the work of God's hand in your life and in the world around you, these things should just come naturally.
But the key to rejoicing in the past is not in counting the number of good things that have happened, but in remembering that God remembers!
You can rejoice because He never forgets His plan and never forsakes His promises. Even when life is tough and things don't seem to make sense to you, rest assured that He is in control and He is working out His plan. He has your best interest at heart. Knowing this should encourage and strengthen you to do your best to live for Him.
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:22-24)
What makes Christianity different from all other religions in the world?
C.S. Lewis, once said, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace." When the grace of God is active in our lives it brings change and transformation.
Consider the difference that grace made in the life of John Newton, author of the hymn, Amazing Grace. Newton commanded a slave ship in the 1700s and transported thousands of slaves during his lifetime.
Newton showed no compassion for his cargo and chained them below the decks to prevent suicides. 600 slaves were laid side‑by‑side to save space, row after row, one after another, and if a slave became ill during the voyage, he was thrown overboard to prevent any infection from spreading.
Everything changed one night when Newton's ship almost sank. He gave his life to Christ and spent the rest of his days amazed by the grace of God. At the age of 82, it is recorded that he said, "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour."
The Bible says that without Jesus, we are dead to sin. Our only hope is the grace of God. The Apostle Paul wrote, "Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But, when God our Saviour revealed His kindness and love, He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Saviour... Because of His grace He declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life." (Titus 3:3-7)
Grace is the unmerited favour of God. As one writer put it, "The very heart of the gospel is the supreme truth that God accepts us with no conditions whatever when we put our trust in the atoning sacrifice of His incarnate Son." That is why it has long been said that the best way to describe grace is by using the very letters that make up the word: G-R-A-C-E, God's Riches At Christ's Expense.
Our faith teaches us that grace can only come from God. Did you know that grace has a unique purpose of its own? "For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God." (Titus 2:11-12)
Newton's song Amazing Grace, reminds us all about how blessed we are. It reminds us there is only one thing that distinguishes one sinner from another: Grace. And when you think about that, it really is amazing!
There was a watchmaker in the early 1900s who opened a shop in a small village. This village was unique in that eighty per cent of the men were employed at the local mill.
After the watchmaker opened his shop, he noticed that every day, a man would walk by, pause for a moment, take out his pocket watch, adjust it very carefully by the clock in the shop window, put it back in his pocket, and then go on his way.
This went on for many weeks. Finally, out of curiosity, the watchmaker stopped him one morning and said, "I've noticed you always stop, adjust your watch, and then go on your way." He continued, "I was wondering why you need to set your watch every day?"
The man explained he was the foreman of the local mill, and it was his responsibility to blow a whistle at lunchtime. He explained it was important he knew the correct time every day because not only did his whistle signify it was time for the men to stop work for an hour, but many people relied on his whistle to set their own clocks and watches.
The watchmaker smiled and said, "That's interesting, ever since I've been in this village, I have set my clock when I heard your whistle."
People tend to do this spiritually also. We look at others and compare ourselves. We adjust our way of thinking by their way of doing things, and the Bible says that if we do this, we are not wise - We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (2 Corinthians 10:12).
Have you ever considered that others may be setting their clocks by what they see in your life?
God made you a unique individual. Remember that He views you from an eternal perspective and He has a unique plan for your life.
Do not be conformed to the ways of this world that is passing away. Always make good use of your time for you do not know how much time you have. Psalm 90:12 (NKJV) says, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."
Set your clock to a higher calling in Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.
I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)
Shalom the Jewish word for peace occurs about 250 times in the Old Testament. Shalom comes from the root verb shalam, meaning "to be complete, perfect, and full." Such peace can be experienced from God's presence in our lives even in difficult circumstances.
Worry can damage the peace in our lives. It prevents us from lying down and sleeping in peace at night and it can keep us on edge during the day. It's true that each day has enough trouble of its own but, through our faith in Jesus, we can find peace and remain in control. This peace comes only from God and is wholly different from the peace offered by the world.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Philippi, and spoke about how to obtain a peace that transcends all understanding; Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again - rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me - everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9)
Just as the saving power of Jesus' death and resurrection makes it possible for us to have peace with God (being made right with Him, Romans 5:1), the indwelling of His life and character through the Holy Spirit's work in our lives is intended to help us learn to abide in the peace of God.
Perfect peace is available when your heart and mind keep focused on God's promise, power, and presence. Trust Him.
Is God good when the outcome is not?
During the hard times as well as the easy?
At some point, we all ask these questions. Do you want to know heaven's most precise answer to the question of suffering? Look at Jesus, He is the definitive answer.
Jesus wept at the death of a friend. He stopped his work to tend to the needs of a grieving mother. He felt the tears of the sinful woman who wept. He listened to the cry of the hungry. He doesn't recoil, run, or retreat at the sight of pain. Just the opposite. He didn't walk the earth in an insulated bubble or preach from an isolated, germ-free, pain-free island. He took his own medicine. He played by his own rules. Trivial irritations of family life? Jesus felt them. Cruel accusations of jealous men? Jesus knew their sting. A seemingly senseless death? Just look at the cross. He experienced it all Himself.
Why? Because He is good. God owes us no more explanation than this. Even if He gave one, would we really understand it? Perhaps the main problem is our limited perspective of God's plan. We are only looking through a tiny keyhole. Out of all His creation, how much have we seen? Of all His work, how much do we understand? Only a fraction.
What is the promise of heaven compared to the difficulties we face in life?
This was Paul's opinion. "Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV).
What if I invited you to experience the day of your dreams?
Twenty-four hours on an island paradise with your favourite people, food, and activities. The only condition: one second of discomfort. For reasons I choose not to explain, you will need to begin the day with one second of distress.
Would you accept the offer? I know you would. A second is nothing compared to twenty-four hours. On God's clock, you are in the middle of your second. Compared to eternity, what is seventy, eighty, ninety years? Just a vapour. Just a blink of an eye compared to heaven.
Your pain won't last forever, but you will. "Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later." (Romans 8:18, NLT).
What is coming will make sense of what is happening now. Let God finish His work. Let the composer complete His symphony. The forecast is simple. Good days. Bad days. God is in all days. He is the Lord of the famine and the feast, and He uses both to accomplish His will and purposes.
Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, He has spoken to us through His Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son He created the universe. The Son radiates God's own glory and expresses the very character of God, and He sustains everything by the mighty power of His command. When He had cleansed us from our sins, He sat down in the place of honour at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
From the very beginning, God wanted us to focus on Him; love Him and be obedient to Him, but what did humanity do? We kept focusing on what we wanted; what we desired; and what we thought - all to the total exclusion of God. God started out by having a personal relationship with Adam and Eve. The Bible states that God would come down to the garden during the coolness of the day and walk with them. But what did Adam and Eve do? They ignored what God had told them, and instead, they concentrated on what they wanted.
God spent the next several thousand years trying to get everyone's attention back on Him, but the curse had already been instilled in us. Humanity became selfish and bitter against God. We ignored the prophets God sent to warn us and just went to war against one another.
What did God do next? He did not just shake His head in disgust and walk off. He decided to take drastic steps. He sent His Son, to be our blood sacrifice. Why did God do this? Ephesians 2:4-5 tells us, "But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's grace that you have been saved!)."
That is why God sent His Son for us - because of His great love for us and His grace, He sent His Son in response to our failure to communicate with God; our failure to listen when God speaks.
Where are you in your relationship with God? Do you hear His voice in your life? Do you regularly open your heart to Him in prayer? When was the last time you spent quality time reading the Bible and praying that God would speak into your situation? Open your ears, mind and heart and hear God speak to you.
Autumn harvests laden our table with fresh fruits and vegetables as reminders of the abundance of God's blessings in our lives. The apostle Paul speaks of another kind of fruit - the fruit of the Spirit. He writes in Galatians 5:22-23, "The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!"
To harvest the fruit of Spirit we must sow it in our lives. Galatians 5:25 tells us, "Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives"
Just as a farmer chooses to work to produce his crop, we must also choose to allow God to work in us and through us.
When we allow the Holy Spirit to fill our lives, we choose to react in a godly manner when people annoy us or circumstances move beyond our control.
We must choose to keep in step with God and surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit instead of allowing our human nature to control us.
There are many circumstances in our lives when we should allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our attitudes and emotions: a disagreement with our spouse; parenting teenagers; annoying people; an unappreciative boss; bad driving; the dishwasher overflowing... What would you add to the list? Whatever creates irritability, impatience, or discontent could be added. The key to any type of adversity is to allow the Holy Spirit to help us. He will help us produce the fruit of the Spirit if we allow it.
With the Spirit's help, we can obtain an overflowing abundance of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and of course, self-control.
Will you join me in seeking a harvest of the Fruit of the Spirit? Dear Lord, teach me to walk in Your Spirit. I want to harvest all the aspects of Your Spirit. Infuse me with Your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When I find myself in adverse circumstances, remind me to keep in step with Your Spirit. In Jesus Name, Amen.
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet God, in His grace, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:22-23)
There is a common misconception that believers should be perfect. Pretending to have our lives in order, many of us wear happy faces and speak words that sound acceptable. At times we are ashamed to admit our shortcomings as if they should not exist. Salvation through Jesus, however, doesn't change the fact that sin is present in our life. When we are born again, God forgives us and sees us as righteous. Yet our battle with sin continues till we arrive in Heaven.
In fact, striving for perfection actually can be a trap that pulls us away from living a godly life. Functioning in this way is a form of relying on our own capability. Jesus said that He came to heal the spiritually sick because they recognised their weakness. With an awareness of our inadequacy comes the realisation of our need for Him.
The world sees successful individuals as powerful and self-sufficient, but Jesus didn't care about these qualities. Instead, He wants people to be aware of their own brokenness. This is the foundation for godliness.
We should accept our neediness and seek God passionately. Doing so allows the following attributes to develop: a hunger for God's Word, faithful service, deepening trust, and decision-making based upon principle rather than preference. Patiently and mercifully, God matures us.
Be careful not to cover up your sins in order to look like a "good Christian." Without recognition and confession of our sinfulness, we are unable to rely fully on God. It is only with this awareness that we can passionately seek Him, obey in His strength, and confess with repentance when we miss the mark.
"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare." (Isaiah 55:1-2)
Have you ever found yourself standing in front of the fridge, trying to find something to satisfy a vague sense of emptiness or discontent? You are not looking for anything specific, but you know you want to fill a longing. Whatever you choose will probably not do the trick, because the empty spot is not in your stomach but in your soul.
Whether the substance is food, career, possessions, or relationships, our souls are continually trying to find satisfaction. But nothing in this world will fill the void. Since we were created for a relationship with God, He placed deep within us a yearning for Him. Though we may not recognise it as such, everyone knows the feeling of dissatisfaction that at times seeps into our souls. Whenever we attempt to find fulfilment with worldly substitutes, disappointment and disillusionment are sure to follow.
There are two possible menus from which we can choose to fill our empty souls. The world's menu is long and full of enticing things that seem to promise fulfilment and pleasure. These could include relationships, prominence, acceptance, riches, or recognition. But God's menu is quite small. In fact, it lists just one "item" - Jesus. He is the only one who can fill the void.
What are you pursuing in life? Have you found the satisfaction you seek, or is there always a vague sense of discontent in your soul? If you will allow Jesus a bigger place in your life and spend focused, quality time with Him, He will satisfy you as nothing else can.
What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem. (Psalm 84:5-7 NLT)
In Hebrew, Baca means weeping. The Valley of Baca literally means the "Valley of Tears".
The Valley of Baca takes its name from the Balsam tree. At a certain time, the Balsam tree weeps its sap, and no doubt, this reminded the travellers of the tears they shed while on the journey.
Baca was part of the desert country, the valley was filled with thorns, wild animals, pitfalls, snakes and many other dangers. There were water wells there, but they were far apart and hard to get to.
It was nearly impossible to travel this valley without facing extreme hardship and suffering.
Everyone in this world has to walk through valleys.
As Christians, we also encounter our own valleys of Baca that we must pass through on our journey.
But, for Christians, when we walk through the valley, we walk through it as a child of the Living God.
here are times when we must walk in the Valley of Tears - but we do not walk it alone.
When we are in the valley, Jesus is with us.
When we are in the valley, Jesus walks with us.
When we are in the valley, Jesus talks to us.
When we are in the valley, Jesus heals us.
When we are in the valley, Jesus carries us.
When we are in the valley, Jesus sustains us.
When we are in the valley, Jesus blesses us.
When we are in the valley, Jesus is everything we need Him to be and more.
There are times when there is no way around the valley, only through it.
While we don't like valleys, it is in the valley that our faith is exercised, and we grow in strength.
Whatever valley you find yourself in God is able and willing to lead you through.
My wife and I have just recovered from our second round of Covid-19. After each positive lateral flow test, we had to wait patiently for the day our tests would be negative. I am sure you would agree that waiting patiently can be hard work, and this is especially true when we are waiting upon the Lord, who keeps to His perfect timetable.
In Psalm 40 King David wrote: I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-4)
A person's willingness to wait reveals the value of what they desire. We must willingly wait for the Lord to send His best, in His perfect timing. Of course, we will not receive everything we request. We are not God, we are only human, and we probably do not know all the details of a situation.
When we pray, we ask God for what we think we need, based on our limited information. We need to pray with a submissive heart and be willing to accept our omnipotent Father's gentle redirection.
Sometimes, God's answer to us is simply "no". In other cases, He will adjust our desire to match His plans and purpose. Yet, God in His grace will provide us with what we actually need.
Waiting patiently on our Lord is an awesome witness. When God responds, others can see the reality of God, His faithfulness, and the wisdom of our commitment. In addition, our faith is strengthened.
Blessings will come as we continue to be gripped by the grace of God.
Extracts from the writings of Charles Stanley:
Do you commit everything you do to God? God's timing is not our timing, if you trust Him, He will help you. "Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust Him, and He will help you. Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for Him to act." (Psalm 37:5,7).
Job was a man who experienced trouble, trial and temptation, and yet he boldly said, "God might kill me, but I have no other hope. I am going to argue my case with Him." (Job 13:15). Even though Job had experienced loss (his children, his wealth, and his health) he did not turn away from God or abandon his faith. Job was steadfast and held on to his trust in God.
Unlike Job, we have The Bible, in which God reveals His nature and promises. God's Word tells us that our Heavenly Father is always good, always just, always faithful, and always trustworthy. When we focus on honouring and following God, we find a consistent peace that carries us through everything.
Life is challenging, we can easily get distracted and allow circumstances to dictate our emotions. But if we operate that way, then when life is good, we are happy; when times are tough, we are frustrated; and when difficulties pour in, we are miserable. Yet, unwavering commitment to our Lord is a cornerstone of our faith. When we are firm on that foundation, we can focus on God.
To hold on to our Lord through any difficulty or temptation, commit to trust and follow Him. Claim His promises: our unchanging Lord and Saviour is committed to caring for you in all circumstances and will never leave or forsake you: For God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you." (Hebrews 13:5) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8). Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7).
Oh, how great are God's riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways! For who can know the LORD's thoughts? Who knows enough to give Him advice? And who has given Him so much that He needs to pay it back? For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory. All glory to Him forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 NLT)
God's thoughts are much higher than ours. We may struggle to always see His goodness when we experience difficult situations. People often ask, If God is good, why do bad things happen? Or, Why is there a hell? God's perspective is superior to ours.
Then Job replied to the LORD: "I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, 'Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?' It is I - and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. You said, 'Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.' I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. (Job 42:1-5).
We should never accuse God of being unjust, nor expect Him to follow our rules, or disregard His goodness.
Sin, suffering and pain began when Adam and Eve doubted God's goodness. The serpent convinced them God was trying to stop them from gaining knowledge. Yet, behind every one of God's restrictions, exhortations, or commands is His goodness. He wants to protect us from the tormenting consequences of sin.
God created us with free will so we might choose to love Him, this means His permissive will can allow bad things to happen. Sin's consequences hurt, but this doesn't diminish God's goodness: For those who love Him, He can bring good out of the worst circumstances, And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.(Romans 8:28 NLT)
When you cannot see God's hand, or discern what He is doing in difficult situations, remember that He cares for you and He is always good. Though you may not fully understand His ways, you can always trust Him.
Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before Him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation. (Psalm 100:1-5 NLT)
Have you ever considered how you pray to our Lord? Some people repeatedly lift up prayer requests yet fail to express admiration, praise, and gratitude. Perhaps they expect God to fulfil their needs and desires without demonstrating any love for Him. But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)
God created us to praise Him. Our worries and concerns are of great importance to Him, but He also wants us to come to Him with a worshipful heart, not an attitude of self-centeredness.
When we praise our Lord, our focus shifts to Him - then we will recall His greatness, grace, goodness, mercy, love, and faithfulness. We are told to praise Him joyfully (Psalm 100:1), continually (Psalm 34:1), corporately (Psalm 108:3), and wholeheartedly (Psalm 111:1). Remember Paul and Silas praised God in the midst of pain and imprisonment (Acts 16:25).
Take some time to reflect on God's mighty work of salvation in your life. Instead of approaching our Lord with a list of requests, simply praise Him for His grace, faithfulness and righteousness. When your heart is full of praise, worries dissipate and you will trust God to provide for your needs in His own timing.
We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes but the LORD examines their motives.
Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:1-3 NLT)
God has plans for each of us and specific work that He has called us to do. This should be good news to us, but often we can feel overwhelmed when we are struggling to manage everything, we think we need to do.
Might I suggest a solution?
There are five areas of our lives we need to balance to help us live according to God's plan and purpose for us:
1. Our top priority should be spending time with God each day. We need to read and think about God's Word, pray, listen for His voice and directions, and simply spend quality time with Him.
2. Relationships are essential to God's plans for us. We should allocate time to family and friends, since Galatians 6:2 reminds us to "Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ."
3. The area most likely to become imbalanced is our work. The Lord disapproves of laziness, but He doesn't want us to be overly consumed with our careers.
4. Taking care of our body is vital, allocating adequate time for rest, recreation, and exercise.
5. The Bible urges us to meet together regularly with other believers for worship, Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25).
These areas all need space in your life, but I can't tell you how each day should look. Ask God to direct your schedule. Seek His guidance, watch for His answers, and make the changes He brings to mind.
In The Old Testament, God promised a day would come when His people would be filled with His Spirit; when they were full of God, God Himself would give His people dreams and visions.
This happened at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came and Peter reminded the people of the promise of God: This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: In the last days, God says, 'I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.' (Acts 2:16-17).
When God pours Himself on us by His Spirit, He stirs up in us dreams and visions of His power, mercy, truth, holiness and, greatness. When God pours Himself into an individual, the inner life is changed; it is filled with God. Do not think that this is something beyond your reach. Do not think that an experience of God is for the spiritual elite. The point of Joel's prophecy is the Spirit will be poured on all people - man or woman, old or young the promise is for you if you are a disciple of Jesus.
But, "all people" does not mean every human without exception. Joel said, "everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved." (Joel 2:32). There are those who do not call on the name of Jesus; they sense no need for Him and no joy in Him. All people means every sort of person in every nation.
What we learn new from the New Testament is that the only way to receive the promise of the Holy Spirit is to repent and accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour so that we can receive forgiveness for our sins. Peter concludes his sermon in Acts 2:38 with these words: "Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
The Holy Spirit helps us to follow the will and purposes of God the Father.
The Holy Spirit helps us to be the people that God has called us to be.
We have been filled with the Spirit of God, and we are living in the last days because every day is one day closer to the return of Jesus. As disciples of Jesus, God has plans that involve making Himself known to the people of this World through us. May each of us be enabled by the Holy Spirit to share the truth of the Gospel with others.
"Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives." (Galatians 5:16-25)
As disciples of Jesus, we can try to live holy lives relying on our own strength, or we can allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us to change and transform us.
Holiness is not a standard too difficult for us to achieve if we follow the Holy Spirit's leading in every part of our lives.
Do not rely on your own strength, allow the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you, and let the power of the Holy Spirit change and transform you.
"My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)
"Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:2-3)
Because of our union with Jesus, our lives have been transformed by God. If we have come by faith to Jesus, Jesus lives in us, He dwells in us, and we dwell in Him.
The way we live our lives needs to reflect the fact that in Christ, God's holiness is our holiness; and our lives need to demonstrate the fact that in Christ, we have already been made holy.
Jesus told His disciples, "You didn't choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name." (John 15:16).
Praying in the name of Christ declares our:
Association with the Saviour. Our relationship with Jesus allows us to approach the Father. You are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God's holy people. You are members of God's family. (Ephesians 2:19). The Holy Spirit within us proves we belong to the Father, who listens to the requests of His family.
Access to the Father. Jesus' death opened an immediate, unhindered path to the Father's presence. When the Saviour offered Himself as the final priestly sacrifice (Hebrews 7:26-28), the temple veil that separated the Holy of Holies from man was torn in two (Mark 15:38). In that moment, access to God became available to all who believe. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. (Ephesians 2:18).
Authority to Petition God. Christ sits at the right hand of God, where He intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25). He says to ask for what we need and gives us authority to enter the throne room at any time and speak with the Father. Everyone who trusts in the Saviour has the right to use Jesus' name.
Agreement With God's Purposes. In the Saviour's name, we can make requests to the Father, but we must agree with His purposes. This means aligning our prayers with His character and will, and making His work the priority - not ours. We can learn to pray in accordance with God's plan by abiding in His Word and letting it influence our thoughts.
Assurance of an Answer. "In Jesus' name" is also a phrase of confidence. It shows we believe that our prayers will be heard and answered.
Enoch was a man who walked with God until the Lord took him to heaven. "When Enoch was 65 years old, he became the father of Methuselah. After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him." (Genesis 5:21-24).
The world today is very sinful. Many people are lost and living in darkness, they walk a spiritually dark path and do not realise they are heading towards eternal death and suffering. Sadly, people claim they don't need help to find the right path and that they want nothing to do with the only source of light, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those of us who have placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour know we need God's power to help us in our walk with Him. We are meant to live our lives in a way that pleases and honours God.
How can we walk with God in the way Enoch did?
We must listen to God.
We need to spend quality time reading His Word and talking to Him in prayer, this is how we receive guidance for our daily walk. Throughout the day we should ask God for wisdom and direction.
We must trust God.
We may not fully understand God's plans or purposes, but we must always trust Him to always lead us on the right path. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take." We might disagree with His direction and think we know a better way, but God's Word tells us to follow God, not our own limited understanding.
We must obey God.
God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. We need to align ourselves with His commands and precepts. If we do not obey His Word then we are not obeying Him. if we are not obeying God then we are not walking with Him. God calls us to do what He says, when He says, and how He says, without obedience, we cannot fully be followers of Christ. We must surrender our will to Him, trust His guidance, and follow Him.
We must seek The Holy Spirit's guidance.
We must be committed to doing whatever God desires us to do in the power of The Holy Spirit. He will always lead us to make wise and godly decisions.
We must love God.
If we truly love the Lord, we will do what He says because we will desire to please and obey Him.
We must forsake sin.
To walk with God we need a clean heart. Whenever we sin in thought or action, we must deal with it immediately and turn from it. We must ask God to reveal any sin in our lives that is causing us to stumble, so we can forsake it and continue walking with Him and enjoying the blessings of obedience.
To walk with God, we need to keep Him at the centre of our lives.
Is God at the centre of everything you do, say or think?
Is God at the centre of your relationships, your finances, your plans?
Do you allow God to be at the centre of every area of your life?
"It was by faith that Moses' parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king's command. It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God's people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king's anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons. It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned." (Hebrews 11:23-29)
Perhaps it is easy for us to believe God is always with us when we are in a season we enjoy. Sometimes we find it difficult to perceive what the Lord is doing in our life. We are limited by the passage of time, the confusion of present circumstances, and a lack of understanding regarding God's goals and His means of accomplishing them. That is why studying the lives of men and women in The Bible can help us understand how the Lord worked powerfully in previous generations.
Examining God's relationships with His faithful followers gives us helpful insights and examples for us today. When we face uncertainty, we can look to Moses' example. His life was unpredictable and full of hardship, yet "He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible." (Hebrews 11:27).
I can imagine if Moses were here today, he would say it was only by the grace of God that he was able to accomplish the things he did in his life. Moses successfully persevered by keeping his focus on God rather than on the events surrounding him. This is a good example of what our Lord calls us to do too. We may pray to be led away from a difficult situation as soon as possible, but God's plan may require us to be led through it by The Holy Spirit. God's purpose is not to make us comfortable, His plan is to transform us into the image of His Son. Endurance in our daily walk and a focus fixed on Jesus will help us become people of powerful faith and trust.
If God calls you to endure pain, hardship, or uncertainty, find encouragement in knowing you are never alone. God is with you and His grace and comfort will carry you through every situation. Trust Him, trust His plan, His purpose and His power.
If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
"Jesus is Lord" is the confession of every Christian because it is foundational to our faith. In order to be saved, the apostle Paul says we must confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9). Such doctrine is central to Christianity, and all who are devoted followers of Jesus Christ believe that He is Lord of all creation and all time.
However, when we say "all", it means us as well. If Jesus truly is the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, then He is also the Master of our individual lives. Christ's sovereign rule is not limited to governing the vast universe; it's also a personal issue. He is Lord of our normal, daily lives - our choices, priorities, activities, attitudes, words, everything.
Paul captured this truth in Romans 14:8 when he wrote, "If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord." The apostle considered it impossible to compartmentalize Christ's lordship. He knew his life belonged wholly to Jesus.
Jesus doesn't want to only be part of our life; He made that clear with His disciples. When we give the Lord just a portion, then we are telling Him there are other things we consider at least as important as He is. Do you know what the Bible calls this? Idolatry.
Jesus never called people to give Him a try. He demanded full surrender: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23). We can't squeeze Jesus into one segment of our life and continue living as we please. If we are truly His, then Jesus is our life.
The Old Testament provides us with many names and titles for God, the New Testament reveals Him most fully. Jesus shocked the religious leaders of His day by claiming that He had a Father/Son relationship with the God whose name they feared even to pronounce.
Jesus invited His followers to call God "Father", He made this name the primary name by which God is to be known to His followers. That's why we can boldly pray the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, "Our Father who art in Heaven".
The Old Testament usually depicts God not as the Father of individuals but as Father to His people, Israel. Pious Jews, aware of the gap between a holy God and sinful human beings, would never have dared address God as Ab (Hebrew) or Abba, the Aramaic word for "Daddy", which gradually came to mean "dear father." Rather than depicting God as a typical Middle Eastern patriarch who wielded considerable power within the family, Jesus depicted Him as a tender and compassionate father, who extends grace to both the sinner and the self-righteous.
The most frequent term for "father" in the New Testament was the Greek word pater. The first recorded words of Jesus, spoken to His earthly parents, are these: "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49). In John's gospel, Jesus calls God His Father 156 times. The expression "Abba, Pater" is found three times in the New Testament, all in prayer. It is the form Jesus used in His anguished cry in Gethsemane, "Abba, Father, everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will." (Mark 14:36)
Today: Praise God for His generous, fatherly love; Give thanks that God is your King and Lord and Father, and ask God to reveal Himself as Father.
So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honour and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people, who live in the light. (Colossians 1:9-12 NLT)
We don't always know exactly how to pray for others, or even for ourselves. In Colossians, we read Paul's prayer for the believers in that church. What is interesting is the absence of many of the requests we might normally make while talking with the Lord - for health, financial needs, or deliverance from difficult situations. Paul's prayer is focused on the believers' spiritual needs, and it's a pattern we can all follow as we pray for others and ourselves.
Often we are impatient in prayer and want God to respond even before we say Amen. In contrast, Paul wasn't burdened by a quest for immediate answers and never gave up speaking to the Lord about the Colossians. He was confident that God would hear, and he also knew that spiritual growth is a lifelong process, not a quick fix.
Paul didn't settle for a simple appeal of "Lord, bless the Colossian church." He really cared about the people there, and he focused on what God desired for them - that they would know the Father's will, walk worthy of Him, and be strengthened with His power.
The Lord desires to answer petitions that line up with His will. Of course, we should also talk to our Father about our physical or emotional concerns, but we must not overlook our need for consistent spiritual growth. Through Paul, God has given us an example of an honest prayer that He longs to answer.
When you don't know how to pray for others, let this prayer of Paul guide your requests. Then be patient, knowing God answers prayers in the best way and with the best timing.
Pentecost Sunday, is a day of celebration, a day when we remember how the Holy Spirit came and transformed the lives and the future of the first disciples. This year Pentecost Sunday is also part of the weekend of celebration for the platinum jubilee of Queen Elizabeth.
You are invited to celebrate with us on Sunday morning at 10:30am, in person at Estuary Elim Rayleigh, or online via Facebook or Zoom at https://www.estuaryelim.church or at 6:30pm Sunday evening in person at Estuary Elim Ashingdon.
In many ways, Pentecost is the day when the future shape of the church was born. We celebrate the fulfilment of the promise Jesus made to His disciples in Luke 24:49, "I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven."
The Holy Spirit is an important part of the trinity, but perhaps the least understood.
The concept of a Holy Perfect God we get, the concept of God as Creator makes sense, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, we are comfortable with the concept of Father God.
We understand that Jesus was real, He was born, He lived a perfect life, Jesus willingly went to the cross, and even though He was sinless, He died in our place, as payment for the sins of those who trust in Him as their personal Lord and Saviour, and on the third day - Jesus rose triumphant from the grave, His resurrection, the evidence that He was who He said He was, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, Jesus, we are pretty comfortable that we know, what we know we know.
Understanding the presence and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives today is an area where some of us may feel out of our depth. I would suggest that as Pentecostal people, we can know more about the Spirit than we do, we can draw closer to Him in our everyday lives, we can sense His presence within us, and we can allow Him to work in us and through us, we can experience a fresh sense of purpose.
Our desire should be that we would not just know more about the Spirit but that we would experience Him in our lives as we allow Him to work in and through all of us.
Let me encourage you to allow yourself to be inspired, moved and changed by the Holy Spirit.
He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds, you are healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
Here is a controversial statement "Everyone has faith." Every person in this world has faith in something or someone. Atheists have faith that there is no God. They believe all of the complexities of life and the universe are all accidental. Atheists are blind to the realities of a personal relationship with the wonderful, creator God. Instead of a functional faith in God, they place their faith and trust in random chance and evolution.
Hebrews 11:6 tells us "it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him."
Because of a lack of faith, Jesus left the town of Nazareth, "He did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief." (Matthew 13:58). The problem for the people of Nazareth was not a lack of faith, the problem was their faith was misplaced in other things instead of placed in Jesus.
The world may distract and confuse ideas, theories and empty promises, but Jesus provides the right way, He is the truth and the life. The promises of God assure our future; the fact we are forgiven when we repent and turn to Jesus as Lord and Saviour is true. Our salvation is a past fact, not a future promise.
You can look forward to spending eternity with God and functionally walk in the truth that you can "Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you." (1 Peter 5:7).
Maundy Thursday is the name given to the day on which Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples, known as the Last Supper. The word "Maundy" is derived from the Latin word for "command." The "Maundy" in Maundy Thursday refers to the command Jesus gave to the disciples at the Last Supper, that they should love and serve one another.
This evening at 7:30pm there is an in-person communion service at Ashingdon.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that we need to examine ourselves before we take communion, I would suggest that is something we should do each day and not just before we take communion; we need to be honest with ourselves and honest with God.
It was Victor Hugo who wrote, "I feel two men struggling within me". The apostle Paul also had a realistic view of the tension between good and evil that rages in every soul: "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing... I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:19, 23-24)
Maybe you have grown distant from the Lord, you are still following Him, but not as close as before. Maybe your lifestyle and your conversation are denying the Lord. Perhaps even without examining yourself you know, you are not doing what you should or living for Jesus in the right way.
The day that Christ was crucified was the darkest day the world has ever witnessed. On that day mankind revolted against the love of God, refused to accept Christ as God's Son, and slew Him by nailing Him to a cross. In spite of the awfulness of crucifying Jesus the disciples came to understand that, in the death of their Lord, God had done his kindest work for people.
Why would the sinless, stainless, spotless Son of God have to die? Why did He institute a meal in which the elements were given great symbolic significance as a memory of His death on the cross? To have the correct answer is to have the key to Christianity. To understand Christ's death is to discover the essence of Christianity. To grasp the significance of His sacrificial death is to understand the heart of God's revelation of His love, mercy and grace.
Jesus Christ died on the cross to reveal the evil nature of sin. Not only in our age but in every age, people have attempted to minimise and excuse sin. There are many who deny that there is any such thing as sin. There are others who joke about sin and treat it lightly. Others tolerate and welcome sin in their own hearts and lives.
Jesus died on the cross because of our sin. Had humans not been sinners, it would not have been necessary for Him to die. If sin were not something terrible, dark, and destructive, Calvary would not have been necessary. It is the testimony of the Scripture that Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18). The elements of the Lord's Supper speak to us about the deadly, destructive, evil nature of our sin that required the death of Jesus Christ for our deliverance and forgiveness.
Jesus Christ died on the cross to redeem and save us (Mark 10:45). Jesus was the perfect substitute. He died to ransom us from sin (Mark 10:45). He is the Good Shepherd who gave His life for His sheep. The Sinless One assumed the burden of our sin and suffered in our place that we might obtain His perfect righteousness (1 Cor. 5:21).
Jesus Christ died on the cross to enlist and inspire our service. Because Christ died for our sins, we should be inspired to die to sin and to devote our lives to a life of righteousness, both in our relationship with God and in our conduct toward our fellow humans (1 Peter 2:24).
Next to our salvation, the privilege of Service is the greatest gift of God to humankind (Phil. 1:29; Rom. 12:1). Gratitude for God's unspeakable gifts, through the Saviour who was willing to die and who triumphantly lives again, should cause us to dedicate ourselves in Service to Him.
Next time you partake of the bread, which symbolises Christ's body, and the wine, which symbolises His blood, take the opportunity to examine yourself and rededicate your life to your Saviour.
It was wonderful to see the church filled with guests last week as we gathered to celebrate Megan's baptism.
Yesterday, the youth group had their first outing since lockdown - a joint bowling event with Life Church, Ashingdon. We have gone through a difficult period with the pandemic, and whilst we are not back to 'normal' yet, we can see the green shoots of new life. As followers of Jesus, we have reasons to celebrate, for confidence and for hope. We follow a risen Lord!
Gripped by Grace
I wonder what has your attention this morning? This year's theme for us as church is "Gripped by Grace". To be gripped by something means it really has your attention! As we start this new year let's choose where we place our attention, to allow God's goodness, the riches of his grace to grip us!
This Sunday, 9th January, our morning in-person services will be at Rayleigh. Our morning in-person service at Ashingdon will restart on the 16th January. Our online services and evening services at Ashingdon are unaffected.
AGM MEETING 22 January 2022
This year's AGM meeting will take place at Ashingdon at 3pm on Saturday 22 January. There will also be an option to join via Zoom. All are welcome to attend, however only church members are allowed to vote for those standing for a 2 year term on the Church Board as Deacons. The annual church report has been emailed to all members. If you haven't received this please check your spam folder then let me know - either we need to update our records, or we need to have a talk about membership! After the AGM there will be a fish and chip supper. Please let Andrea know if you plan to stay behind for the food.
UPDATE: IN-PERSON MEETINGS
Following the move to the UK government's 'Plan B', we will now adhere to the following:
Face coverings are compulsory for all in-person meetings whilst indoors, including when singing (unless you are medically exempt). If refreshments are served, you can remove your mask to eat/drink!
Lateral Flow Tests
Please take a lateral flow test prior to attending an in-person activity
If you are leading services, preaching, or in the church band as a singer or a wind instrument musician, you do not need to wear a mask while undertaking these activities. However, you do need to take a lateral flow test prior to attending the service (and have a negative result ...).
We will open the windows to ventilate Rayleigh and Ashingdon buildings prior to services starting. Please come dressed appropriately as it could be colder than normal! Windows may be closed during the service, and will be opened again once the service is over.
Please do not attend in-person activities if you have symptoms of COVID, or a positive lateral flow (or PCR) test result.