Thought For the Day

It's always quite hard to squeeze a message on to the back of our monthly leaflet so here is a slightly extended version with some extra teaching about this months subject.

December2017 The Perfect Gift

All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" - which means, "God with us."
Matthew1v22-23

This is the time of year when I often get asked by family the dreaded question; "What do you want for Christmas?"

It's always a difficult question because there are plenty of things I would like, but how much are they willing to spend? However even when thoughts of cost are removed, what do I really want or need? I enjoy building models so this year when asked I said that I would like a really good LED desk light so that I would be able to see more clearly what I am making. It sounds a bit boring, but it is something that would allow me to work inside rather than in a cold garage, so for me would allow me to get more done. On the outside it's just a lamp, but to me it opens up a whole host of new opportunities.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3v16

When God sent Jesus as the perfect gift for all mankind he did not arrive as everyone expected. The Jews at the time wanted a leader who would lead a revolt and push the Romans out of the country giving them freedom. They wanted someone who would change their world so that they would be happier in it. Sadly we still try to do the same today. We are looking for that gift or item that will change things and make life suddenly so much better.

We have the same with work, with finances; if we just had more all would be well. If only some changes took place with my friends, family, neighbours; then my life would be great. So often the gift we want is something to change the world around us so that we will be happier in it. We wonder why God will not change the things around us to the way that we want them to be.

When we look at the life of Jesus we see a man who by worldly standards had nothing and was treated badly by all around him, yet had total peace in his life. It was an example of what God wants in each one of our lives, he wants to give us a peace that the world can never bring, a peace that is not swayed by the things of this world or the emotions of life, that does not get rocked by the things that surround us because we are firmly rooted in God. In a relationship with our Heavenly Father that holds us firm not matter what is happening in our lives.

When God sent Jesus, he sent the most expensive gift he could send, a life to be given in our place; not just to free us from sin, but to open up a whole new spiritual life. Like that desk lamp, it is not a means to an end, for when the light of Christ comes into our lives we can finally see to do the things that God has laid out for us. We finally see the new life, new direction, new way of thinking that God has in store for us. A way that will bring true satisfaction no matter what the world throws at us.

Jesus may not look like an exciting present, but he came to open up a whole new world of opportunities for us. Is he a gift we will accept, or just cast aside as we look to the latest thing the world has to offer? He is the perfect gift, we just need to really appreciate what we need for true peace in this life and the life to come.

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
Romans 5v15

 

November 2017 Passport Control

Just as a man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgement, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Hebrews 9v27-28

As I flew in from Poland a couple of days ago, I watched as a young girl pushed her way ahead through the crowd as we waited at passport control. It was quite amusing to watch as she got to the front of the queue and was suddenly called forward to the check point, only to realise that her Father had her passport! All that rush to get to the front only to be pushed aside to wait until her passport caught up with her. Her embarrassment was plain for all to see, but once her father had caught up all was well, but it shows how easily we can think we know what is happening and that all is well when in fact we have forgotten to make sure that we are qualified for the next step.

As I write this I am about to leave for a funeral, for many a time of sadness and loss: it is a time when we think about our relationship with the deceased. Did we treat them well? Did we part on good terms? However, it is also a time when we come face to face with our own mortality; it is a time to think about what happens after our mortal bodies pass away: What comes next and am I ready for it?

As the verse in Hebrews says, we will all die, and after that we will face judgement! That spiritual passport control that decides if we will be granted a welcome into heaven or be left outside to perish in hell. What will that judgement be decided on? Is it about how good we have been? Have we attended church enough? Have we been a nice person?

As I entered the UK , passport control did not ask if I was a nice person, they did not ask if I travelled a lot or had a house in the UK . All they checked was my citizenship, my passport that showed that I had a right to come into the UK .

For the Christian, his citizenship is in heaven, he is a citizen through faith in Christ Jesus and his death on the cross. His goal is to live the ways of the kingdom, not only in the future, but right now in this life. For whenever I travel, no matter what country I am in, my citizenship is always British and my behaviour reflects on my home country.

In the book of Philippians the apostle Paul says:

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.
Philippians 3v17-20

As I attend the funeral today, no amount or praying will change the judgement for our dear sister: Her judgement will be on what she did with Jesus Christ. Did she accept him as her Lord and Saviour? Had she fully trusted in him for the way of salvation and turn her life to serve him? Or did she live for the things of this world with no thought or care for the future?

All of us will face the judgement at some point, it is the only test that is crucial to pass in life, yet so often the test we fail to think of or prepare for until it is too late.

 

October 2017 A Wayward Son

There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.
Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.
Luke 15v11-14

This parable is always one that I find very uncomfortable to read, it shows how easy it is to move from doing things God's way to following the world!

This young son had been working for his father for many years, yet had never really appreciated what he had. His eyes always looked to the horizons, looking at the life that others had and the more he looked at it the more it become the focus of his attention; until the time came when his desire for the ways of the world exceeded his love and loyalty to his father.

We read that he asked for his share of the estate, at first we might look and say that it was his, so why shouldn't he be able to use and spend his belongings as he wanted. However, at that point the estate belonged to his father; it would only pass to his sons when the father died. So in asking for his share of the estate, he is basically declaring his father as dead to him. His love for his father and his ways had grown so cold that he just wanted to take his inheritance and go.

It must have been heart breaking for the father to have that said to him, yet he let him go. For sometimes we have to allow our children to experience loss so that they appreciate what they have.

Sadly we do exactly the same thing today, for the heart of man is constantly being drawn away from God, from the eternal benefits of serving God to the short term gain of worldly excitement. We assume that everyone is having a great time when in fact everyone is looking for the very thing we already had. That empty space in our lives that can only truly be filled by a relationship with God, everything else is just a cover, a substitute for the real thing.

Even sadder is the way that the things we chase after suddenly take hold of us, our lives become a slavery to trying to keep up with the latest technology, the latest fashions. Before we know it these things that we sought after have taken over our lives, they cease to be something that was an occasional pleasure and become things that totally rule our live. We drift from being in control to the one being controlled as we find we are trapped by the directions we have taken.

When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.'
Luke 15v17-17

The hardest bit about coming to our senses is that after a time we just think this way of living is normal, for we realise that everyone else is going in the same direction. How could it possibly be wrong? Coming to our senses can take a long time; instead we sit and complain about our lot, we blame others, the government, the system, even God gets put in the firing line. We refuse to come to our senses and admit we have gone the wrong way!

Turning back to God is not easy, for this young man to return to his father meant losing everything he had, the life, the friends, but also his pride. He would have to stand before his father and ask for forgiveness and admit his failure and disobedience. Turning back to God is the same; it is not a moment of pride, but of shame, of confession of our lack of love and desire for our Heavenly Father. It is a turning to His ways rather than ours, for as we come to Him we admit we are lost and bound up in sin without Him. It is what repentance is all about. Turning back to the ways of God and leaving the ways of the world behind. It is not an attempt to bring bits of the past with us, but an admission that all we need and the life direction we need to take is now in the hands of our Heavenly Father whom we are now asking to have mercy on us.

Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.
Luke 15v23-24

One of the greatest parts of this parable is the joy the father had in receiving his son back from the clutches of worldly death. The father, rather than rebuking him and dismissing him, wrapped his arms around him and welcomed him back with great joy and celebration.

So it is when we turn away from the slavery of this world and turn back to our Heavenly Father. Jesus said:

"In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Luke 15v10

September 2017 - What is truth?

For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. “What is truth?” Pilate asked.
John18v37-38


I was listening to a funny story a few weeks ago about a mother who was telling her child off for lying. She insisted the child told the truth no matter what the circumstances. As she finished rebuking the child she said she was busy and that if anyone phoned the child was to say she was out!


Truth is something we say we want to know and live by, but would often rather ignore. We complain when someone lies to us, yet ignore our own lies and sadly when it comes to deceiving us, lying to us: the person who does it most is ourselves. The Bible says:


The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17v9


And this deceitful heart has consequences, for as Jesus said:


For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
Matthew 12v34


So why do we lie and ignore the truth?


Well I think if we are honest we all know the answer to that one! We do not want to face up to something, be it the consequences of our actions or just looking for an excuse not to do something we don't want to do, so we lie to get away, to lead others on a false course so they will not see the truth of our involvement; We do it to escape the blame.


However, the strangest lies are the ones we tell ourselves. I have never been a fan of the dentist and so when a few years ago I damaged a tooth, my initial reaction was to just ignore it, to lie to myself and convince myself that if I just ignored the problem it would go away. I wasn't just lying to myself, I really wanted to believe the lie I was telling myself, I did not want to admit the truth and get the required treatment. Sadly the time came when I had to recognise the truth and go and see the dentist.


We do the same things with God. We have His words in the Bible, one of the statements Jesus made constantly was "I tell you the truth…" It was often a truth that people did not want to hear, indeed they tried to silence him by sending him to the cross, yet the truth still speaks out today and it is very simple.


We might not like it, but the truth is that we are sinners, all of us. We might think we are doing well by the standards of this world but the fact is that by God's standards we have fallen short by a long way.


The Bible says:


For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3v23


We might not like that truth, but that is the truth according to God. We can lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that we are a good person, that people like us and trust us, that we have done good things. However, we deceive ourselves because when it comes to eternal things; it is not others or ourselves that will judge us. It is God and it is His standards we will be judged by. He has made those standards very clear; more than that He has told us the penalty for not meeting those standards.


Again the Bible teaches us:


The wages of sin is death.
Romans 6v23


When the Bible talks of death in this verse it is not talking about the day we drop dead. It is talking about eternal death, separation from God; A place of torment that is called Hell. Not for a few weeks or months, it is eternal, it never ends. For man in his sin cannot stand before a Holy God, we need to be freed from our sin, something that we cannot do in our own strength, for if the penalty for sin is death and separation from God, how can we pay the penalty and be with God?


The answer is found in Jesus who was sinless, yet was willing to pay the price for our sin on the cross and take our place. For God does not want to see anyone perish, instead it says:


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3v16


The price for our sin has been totally covered by Jesus. Again it says:


The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 3v23


In Christ we are set free from sin and death and adopted into the family of God, a family of love and life, both now and for eternity.


God has made a way to set us free, but of course we have to take that step of faith and believe the truth that He speaks, humbling ourselves and accepting the gift of Jesus. It is not easy, for the voice of this world cries out against the ways of God and tries to deceive us into thinking the situation is not as bad or as urgent as the Bible says. So instead of following Jesus and the truth we follow a lie. As it says:


For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
2 Timothy 4v4-5


Despite the arguments of the world there are not lots of ways to God, there is only one way and that is through Jesus, accepting the forgiveness that comes through him and walking in his ways. There are not lots of ways; there are not different options for different people. There is only one truth and only one way. Jesus!


Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14v6


August 2017 - A Walk of Faith

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he earnestly rewards those who seek him.
Hebrews11v6

Faith is a subject that many struggle with, many will say they believe in God, but faith is much more than believing; Faith is putting that belief into action. Faith is something that is done, an action based on a belief because we trust in that thing or person.

A simple example of faith is when you turn on the lights. You believe that if you switch the lights on, they will work, and your action is a trust that it will happen. You have a belief that the electricity company is producing electricity, you believe the power lines are all working as they should, you believe that all the fuses in the house are set correctly and that the light is wired to the switch. You believe it so much that when you want to see in the dark your step of faith is to switch the lights on. It is a step of faith because you have trusted in the unseen, you haven't inspected the wiring or phoned the power company, you just trust them to get on with their job and fix any problems. If you had no faith in the lights working you would not even bother going to the light switch, you would just light a candle instead.

Many years ago I worked in an area of Sierra Leone and at the time the electricity hardly worked. In the house I stayed at they didn't even bother trying the lights, they just lit a candle instead. They had lost all trust in the power company's ability to generate electricity and their actions displayed that lack of trust. By not turning on the lights they showed faith, but in a negative way, they showed a trust in the failure of the electricity and acted accordingly.

So we see that our actions are determined by faith, it can be a positive faith or a negative faith that we would call unbelief or doubt, either way our actions are the outcome of our faith.

The same type of thinking accompanies our spiritual beliefs. As the verse in Hebrews says, if we do not believe in God we will not even bother seeking Him. However, even if we believe there is a God, how we perceive God, how we think of His character and His instructions effect how we act before Him.

Faith in God starts at the simplest level; we must believe that he exists! If we do not believe that He exists we will never seek Him. Like my friends in Sierra Leone, we will not even bother trying the lights, so we will not even bother trying to find the Lord.

Once we believe there is a God then our actions, based on our belief display what we think about God. If we think He is of no relevance, that He can do nothing in our lives so it is pointless seeking Him, then we will continue in our belief, but not bother seeking Him. If however we believe that God can be found and that it is worth the effort, that He does reward those who seek Him, then the Bible urges us to seek Him out.

If we want to come to God, our next struggle is the sin in our lives. If God is a holy God, how can we come to Him in our sin and have any kind of relationship with Him?

It is here that we see why Jesus dies on the cross. In our sin there is no way to come to God, so God made a way through Jesus. For when Jesus said:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14v6

Jesus was showing that through his death on the cross he had paid the penalty for our sin so that we could be free and share in his righteousness before God. However, once again a step of faith is required. Do I believe Jesus died for my sin or doubt and not act on it? Or do I believe and trust and take a step of faith towards God, trusting that I can come to Him cleansed through the blood of Jesus?

This is a picture of the ongoing Christian life. Seeking the Lord, seeking His direction and then taking a step of faith to walk in that direction; to believe what God has said and the consequences of our actions, for better or worse, and act in faith accordingly.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10v17

If we want to know the direction that God wants us to go in, if we want to know His ways, then we need to be listing to what He says and reading our Bibles. For the Bible is not one of many ways, the words of Jesus are the only way. If there had been other ways through which we could get to God, then Jesus would not have died on the cross for our sin. He would have shown us another way. However, because there was no other way, Christ died for us. That can be a hard step of faith for us to accept, but if we will accept it and act on it in faith, then we can know God as our Father.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
Hebrews 11v1-2

The great men of God of history are those who have listened to God, believed what He has said and acted accordingly. For them their final reward will be those great words:

"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things: I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master's happiness.
Matthew 25v21

Do we want to join those great men of faith?


July 2017 - How Can a Man be Righteous?

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Psalm 89v14

Righteousness is a foundation of the personality of God, it means that God is "morally correct" in his dealings with man and means that he does not cheat, take shortcuts or show favouritism. Combined with justice it means that we have a God who means what He says and does what He says. His words and actions are in total agreement and just in every way, it means that we can trust God to keep His word and promises, but it also means that the justice and judgments He speaks of will also be upheld.

The problem with God being perfectly righteous is that it shows the flaws in our own lives, it shows our sin and displays to us how far we are from God's standards. It is why the Bible says:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3v23

We can fool ourselves and tell ourselves that we have been good enough and that we are without sin, but again the Bible tells us plainly:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1v8-9

We may be able to fool others, in the stupidity of our pride we may even fool ourselves, but God knows the motives of our hearts. When He gave the Ten Commandments as a guide to our lives they only showed us more clearly how often we fail.

So the question has to be asked:

How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure?
Job 25v4

The usual solution man comes up with is that we will do "good things" to make up for the bad we have done. Yet those good things are what are expected from us, they do not cover over the sin of our lives. Doing the right thing for a day does not make up for the disobedience of the previous day. God's standard of righteousness would be perfection every day, a standard we just cannot keep. So how can a man come before a righteous God? How can we come to know Him?

Well the easiest way would be for God to just forget our sin existed, to just wipe it away. However if God did that he would no longer be righteous and just for the Bible tells us clearly, "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6v23) and that penalty has to be paid. We need someone to pay the penalty who has not committed any sin. As we look around us there are many "good" people by the world's standards, but no one who could pay the penalty by God's standards, so God himself paid that penalty by sending Jesus to die in our place.

For when we see Jesus dying on the cross he is paying the penalty our individual sin deserves. So often we don't think our sin is serious, we haven't murdered or stolen, yet we have missed the first and greatest commandment:

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment."
Matthew 22v37-38

The truth is that we have all rebelled against God and his kingdom, put simply our sin is "anarchy", rebellion against the king and hence it carries the highest of penalties.

Thanks be to God, who as a loving Heavenly Father does not wish to see anyone perish, but all to come to know Him for who He is. To be set free from our sin so that we can be righteous before God, and that is what he accomplished by Jesus dying on the cross. He paid the penalty for our sin so that the just and righteous requirements of God have been met, but at the same time Gods love, forgiveness and mercy have been poured out on us in Christ.

Of course this only matters if we have a heart after God, a desire to know Him and the new life He has for us. God gives us free will and we have the choice to come to Him through Jesus or reject His offer of life.

The Bible tells us plainly:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Rom 6v23

The gift is there if we will humbly come before God and accept it and the new life he sets before us. What will you choose?

May 2017 - Repentance

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
Matthew 3v1-2

Repentance is a word that seems to be out of fashion in the church today or at least misused. Today it is something that we often like to ignore, a part of the gospel that might put people off coming into a relationship with God, instead we should just focus on Gods love for us.

Well Gods love for us is amply demonstrated in Christ, we see Jesus dying on the cross for our sin, God has certainly not held back in His desire to show love for us. However, Gods love was far more than just words. God in His love acts for our benefit.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15v16

So often in our dealings with God we want a one way love relationship, a love that God gives to us while we give nothing back. It is not a demonstration of our love for God, rather a demonstration of our selfishness, of our single minded desire to put ourselves front and centre. Our idea of a relationship with God is to have him as a bolt on to our current life. It is as if we want everything the world has to offer, but we want to add on a spiritual insurance policy of Jesus as Saviour. Repentance is either ignored or reduced to a simple "saying sorry" with a desire to be wiped clean to start all over again.

It is nothing new, it's an issue that has always existed between God and those who call themselves His people. For as we focus on our self and our needs, our hearts harden towards God and we cease to show Him the love He deserves, indeed we often put God into a position of some kind of spiritual servant whose only role is to make sure we are happy and blessed. Our hearts are hardened towards the needs of a loving God.

Repentance is when we turn from that selfish self centred way of life and turn our hearts towards God. It is far more than a set of words or a prayer. It is a turning of our hearts towards God.

God says of repentance: Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God...
Joel 2v13

For repentance is an act of turning our heart and lives towards the ways of God and putting him in His rightful place in our lives. It does not mean that we live a perfect life and never sin again, if only that was true, but it is a conscious heart desire to turn towards Gods ways that is from the inside out. It is a change of heart direction that takes place not because we are forced to, but because we have a heart desire to please a God who we claim to love. For without repentance there is no love from us towards God.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but world sorrow leads to death.
2 Corinthians 7v10

Repentance is when we see the harm we are causing God and change our ways. Just saying sorry is like a man beating his wife, only to buy her some flowers, before beating her again. Repentance is when the heart changes and the actions change. For if there is no change, there is no repentance.

John the Baptist said to those coming to him:

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
Matthew 3v8

In modern English "Actions speak louder than words".

One of the great things about God is he never changes, many think that once Jesus died on the cross that somehow God changed, yet the message of repentance is a message we are to preach until Christ's return. It was a message Jesus preached:

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Luke 5v32

He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and ride from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Luke 24v46-47

Notice that Jesus talks about forgiveness and repentance as part of the same message; he does not separate the two. Indeed Jesus was quite blunt on the subject:

...But unless you repent, you to will perish.
Luke 13v3&5

When Jesus sent out his disciples, the message they gave was the same:

They went out and preached that people should repent.
Mark 6v12

Repentance was central to the ministry of Jesus and after his death and resurrection it was still a central focus of the gospel message.

When the Holy Spirit touched the hearts of those listening to Peter on the day of Pentecost he did not tell them to pray, he told them to repent (Acts 2v38). It was an act from the heart that defined itself in the action of baptism. They had turned their hearts to God in repentance and now followed in the footsteps of Jesus, following him in baptism as a symbol of the heart change within.

Only a few verses later we read of another gospel message being preached and again the climax of the message is about repentance.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
Acts 3v19

Repentance was not an extra to salvation and forgiveness; it was an essential component that showed the heart change towards the Father in the hearts of those listening.

When Paul spoke of repentance in Hebrews 6v1 he spoke of it as a basic foundation of any Christian's life, an elementary teaching, of repentance from acts that lead to death and a turning to God. For in repentance we lose the sin and ways of this world, but we gain a closer walk with the Father, we gain a closer understanding of the walk of Christ, we are putting off the ways of this world and clothing ourselves with Christ.

We can kid ourselves with simple words, we can offer false hope to others with a repentance free gospel, but without repentance we will surely perish for without repentance we have no heart towards God no matter what our words might say.

 

April 2017 - Ten Commandments

When we think about what is important to God, the ten commandments are the things that usually come to mind, the ten simple rules that god handed to Israel.

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

"You shall have no other gods before me.

"You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

"You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

"Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. ?Honour your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

"You shall not murder.

"You shall not commit adultery.

"You shall not steal.

"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. "You shall not covet your neighbour's wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbour's house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.? Deuteronomy 5v6-21

So when Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, you would expect him to quote one of these commands, so imagine the confusion when Jesus quoted another scripture that appears a bit later in Deuteronomy 6v5.

?Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?? Jesus replied: ?? Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.? This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:? Love your neighbour as yourself.? All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.?
Matthew 22v36-40

For the Jews at the time had fallen into the error that so many of us fall into today when we think of God, we reduce pleasing God to a set of rules with the idea that if we obey the rules all will be well. The relationship with God falls aside and instead we create a dead religion based on nothing more than some simple terms and conditions. It would be like getting married to someone purely as a legal obligation, without any relationship, a technical marriage with no love or heart in it; Going through the motions in a cold mechanical way with no desire for one another.

When God gave the commandments he said:

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
Deuteronomy 6v6

These commandments are to be obeyed out of our love and relationship with God, not as a way of earning our way to Him. They are to be lived out as a symbol of the love and relationship we have with God the Father. Without that relationship they become nothing more than five heartless laws that if obeyed keep society materially safe.

God has always desired us to love Him in the way that He has always loved us. He was willing to invest everything to have a relationship with us, even giving Jesus on the cross. A gift given that we could be set free from the bondage of sin and come to Him in love and without fear.

Our hearts guide our lives; they drive us in the direction we want to go. If our heart is set on God, on knowing Him and loving Him in the way He asks, then our hearts will lead us to a relationship with Him. Without that heart, at best we will be left with an empty religion, a set of heartless actions.

Yet if we will turn our hearts to God, crying out for Him to save us from our sin and reveal himself to us, the we can enter a relationship like no other; a relationship with God himself.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3v20

 

March 2017 - What is a Christian?

The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
Acts 11v26

This month we are looking at what it means to be a Christian. It's always an interesting question that tends to come with a whole load of different answers about morals and religion, denominations and services. Yet the real meaning is a follower of Christ, but what does that mean?

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me."
John 14v6

In this simple statement Jesus really starts to sum up the basics of what a Christian is.

First Jesus is the way; his life was the perfect example of real Christian living. It wasn't just his words but his actions that spoke to the people around him. However, Jesus was much more than just an example to follow; through his sinless life he was the only one who could offer his life as a penalty for sin for others, for each one of us is born into sin and continues to sin. So for the Christian, the route to God is through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, admitting our sin before God and accepting the forgiveness that can only come through Jesus Christ. It is recognising that Jesus in not "a way" to God, he is "the way", the only way. No one is coming to the Father, any other way.

That sort of statement is often hard for us to accept, we like to think we are good enough, that we have done enough to earn our way to God, yet for the true believer there is the acceptance that the only way to forgiveness of sin is through the blood of Jesus and that alone. It is not Jesus plus my good works, it is salvation through Christ alone.

So were do the good works fit in?

If we have come to know God through Jesus Christ then our lives should be transformed by that relationship, if they are not transformed we have to question if there is a relationship. As we come to know the Creator of Heaven and Earth we can only offer our lives in thankfulness and submit our lives to him. Not doing these things because we have to, but because we desire to live in the way that God wants. It is living the Jesus way.

Another part of the Christian life is the truth, the fact that Gods word is truth, the Bible. It is so tempting to only pick the bits of the truth we want and to leave out what we don't like and then try and alter Gods word by adding in the things we want. Yet God is an unchanging God. He does not change according to fashion or the whims of society. Jesus himself had regular conflicts because of the truth yet he never watered down the word of God or added in ideas to make it more acceptable, for is he had he would have been lying and the truth would not have been in him. Do we want to know the truth, no matter how hard we may find it, or would we rather just follow a lie made up to keep us happy. A man driving the wrong way down a road may have his pride saved by agreeing with his direction, but the fact is that without the truth he will never get to the destination he is aiming for.

The final part of Jesus statement was that he is the life. Through Christ and his death on the cross we start to experience real life, spiritual life. Jesus likened it to being 'born again' as a whole new spiritual world opens up before us. This life through relationship with God gives us a joy, a hope and a peace that overcomes the things of this world. The direction that God gives us through His word again save us from being slaves to sin and the ways of this world and set us free, no matter what circumstances surround us. As Jesus put it: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10v10).

The problem with Jesus words is that even when we know the truth, we still have to decide if we are going to follow him in faith. Many people great and small heard his words, yet only a few decided to follow him. Those are the ones they called Christians.

 

January 2017 - Peace of heart

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46v1

As I look back at 2016, I see times of great joy, times of sadness and times of sorrow and pain. However, the things that I notice about all these events are that they are all things I never expected to happen and good and bad, the Lord has got me through them all.

I have leant over the years that there is little point worrying about the future because I have no idea what is coming my way. The newspapers and television love to bring fear into our lives by presenting us with endless possible "what if" scenarios because sadly it's far easier to scare people than to bring peace into their lives.

Thankfully Jesus came to bring us peace, a peace that is within and that overcomes the fears of this world. It doesn't mean that the dangers and fears of the world are removed and that we live in some kind of protected cotton wool world, far from it. Instead Jesus showed by his own life and death that God is able to take us through the toughest of situations, if only we will trust in Him, He does it by giving us peace in our heart, a peace that is hard to explain until you have met with and know God for yourself.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14v27

The strange thing is that so often we want the peace of God in our hearts, yet we are reluctant to change direction. Instead we carry on in the comfort of what we already know, even if what we know is uncomfortable. It is like being overweight and knowing we need to get some exercise and change our diet, but are afraid that we may ache a bit or our friends will see us; so instead we stay in front of the television and eat a bit more cake.

Yet for those who are willing to take the step it is a life changing experience. So it is with knowing God, once you get to know Him and His ways you wonder why you didn't get to know Him earlier. God only ever wants the best for those who choose to follow Him and he is always there to help, encourage and carry us through the tough times if only we are willing to go to Him.

It's a bit like a gym membership; you have to go to the gym to get the benefit. So it is with the Lord; you have to seek Him if you want to find Him. I thank God that He is always there for me, if only I will call.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these tings will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6v33-34

I wish you a blessed 2017, a year that is blessed by knowing God through Jesus Christ.

Christmas 2016 - The Value of a Gift

Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matthew13v45-46

I've never been a fan of Shakespeare, I never got the point of the plays I read at school and so became bored. The only exam it would affect was my English Literature O level and so I have a grade that is appropriate to the effort I put in... fail! The fact is I put no value in that qualification so why would I struggle through what I considered to be a boring book and suffer the loss of my time?

Years later I was working in Sierra Leone in West Africa with a mission organisation that also distributed educational books at subsidised prices. In just a few days we sold over one ton of the complete works of Shakespeare, people queued for hours in the hot sun to purchase a copy so that they or their children could do well in the English Literature O Levels! What a difference there was between us, I never saw the value where the children of Sierra Leone did.

Our hearts desire really is the thing that puts the value on anything. Why do certain paintings sell for so much? Because a number of people have set their heart on owning it and will pay whatever they have to get it.

Sadly the same is true with the Kingdom of God. We are approaching Christmas and all sorts of effort will go into buying presents, visiting relatives, making food and watching the films on the television, yet for most God will be on the outside. They may notice Jesus in the crib at a nativity, but the thought of taking the time to worship him is far from their minds, there hearts are set on the things of this world.

We can make excuses that we are too busy, but we could make time if it was our hearts desire. The truth is we just don't have a heart for God.

Sadly this is exactly the opposite of our Heavenly Father, for while we may not have the time for him, he made the time for us. He was willing to pay the ultimate cost of Jesus being born in a stable, living as a man and then dying on the cross for our sins. His heart was set on us; he saw value in us and was willing to pay the highest price when no one else wanted us.

So at this special time of year take the time to see the value of the gift of Jesus and when you really see the value, take the time to worship the one who has given everything for you.

 

October 2016 - Heart Transplants

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, although for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5v7

Organ donation is maybe not the usual subject for a mini sermon, but after spending time in hospital with a man waiting for a transplant, it has been a subject that has been very much on my mind.

The problem we face is that a blood donation is relatively painless; blood is given, but the only real cost is a sharp scratch and the time it takes. Although the donor has given of themselves, they do get up afterwards and go home. However, the fact is that when organs are donated, the donor is usually dead. There are the odd kidney donations when someone donates one of their kidneys, but sadly the same cannot be said for hearts and lungs. The donor, sadly, has lost their life! Yet thankfully, despite their grief at their loss, there are relatives who are willing to allow parts of their loved ones to be donated so that others may live.

That is the real difficulty as we look at transplants; the donor dies that another may live.

As we look at Jesus and the cross we see a similar situation; we, the patient, are dying in our sins and despite our best efforts, the diagnosis is terminal leading to eternal spiritual death and separation from God. That in itself can be a hard diagnosis to take in. With my recent stay in hospital it was easy to make light of my diagnosis, yet the fact was it was a serious situation that humour was not going to take away. Sometimes the diagnosis is so bad we just ignore it, hoping that somehow it will all just go away, yet untreated like most things the situation only gets worse.

To bring us spiritual life, not just now, but eternally, we need a transplant, a spiritual transplant, and that is what Jesus did on the cross. He gave his life to remove our sin that we could be spiritually reborn, having a new life through him.

However unlike most donors, Jesus gave his whole life, everything for us. He was not forced or killed in an accident, he voluntarily layed down his life for us showing us just how much he loves us. As Jesus himself said:

"No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." John10v18

For us as the sick person we need to take steps to receive this spiritual transplant. First we need to acknowledge our true situation, that we are sinners without hope. That in ourselves we cannot remove our sins; no matter how much we try to cover them up.

Secondly we need to realise that the only answer is through Jesus and that the answer, although free to us, came at a great cost. If there was any other way that God could free us from our sins he would have never allowed Jesus to go to the cross, but because there was no other way, Christ died. That is why Jesus said:

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14v6

Finally we need to accept the gift of life, accept the life donation and start to live a life worthy of the gift we have been given. Not to earn the gift, but in thankfulness for all we have received. Like a man getting a new heart, he does not receive it just to lie in bed as he did when he was sick. He wants the new heart so that he can enjoy the new life that the new heart brings. The same is true when we accept the new life that only comes through Jesus.

The question is will we acknowledge our diagnosis and take the only treatment available?

August 2016 - Problems of a sinful heart

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5v19-21

We live in a world that sadly no longer takes responsibility for it's' actions. Whatever the problem, whatever the issue, we always want someone else to blame. Sins big and small; be it anger and jealousy, impurity or fits of rage, all these sins come from the state of our heart. For sin is rarely an accident, we do not act at random but we act from the desires of our heart. A desire that wants to put us first, our desires, our interests, our happiness; our hearts desire!

Only when our heart has desired do we than plan and act on that desire and the greater the desire the greater the force that we will use to get the desire of our heart. For when our heart is truly fixed on something we will use everything at our disposal to get it. Even to the point that we will break the law, create division and hate and even go to war. It is a fact that we find hard to accept, that our hearts can be so evil and deceitful, the Bible tells us:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17v9

One of the great problems is that we are so used to the deception of our hearts we even deceive ourselves. Instead of admitting that the real issue is an attitude of heart we blame others for the influence that others have had on us or the wrong others have done against us. These things however only affect the ways of the world, the ways of the flesh. If our hearts desire is the things of this world then when we lose these things we will react in anger. If however our hearts are not set on these things no anger arises. No jealousy or desire to get these things back.

A simple example is the dustman. I fill my bin with items and he comes and throws them into his truck and carries them away. I have no anger towards the dustman; I feel no loss, for there is nothing in my rubbish that my heart desires. I don't go chasing the dustman up the road asking for my rubbish back because it has no hold over my heart.

Now imagine I drop my wedding ring in the rubbish and the dustman takes it away. Suddenly that black plastic bin takes on a whole new value as I rush out to stop the dustman pouring it into their truck. Maybe I have already missed them and drive frantically after them to see where the truck is emptied trying to get back an item that has real value to me. The same process has taken place, rubbish has been removed but my reaction is based on my heart attitude towards that rubbish.

Even stranger is that our desire for something can increase as soon as we are told we cannot have it. Many years ago I served on a mission ship and on arriving in Liberia the crew was told that we would not be able to go ashore for three days. It was such a strange time for on a busy working week I would often not go ashore for days on end, yet as soon as I was told by someone else that I couldn't do something my heart seemed to do nothing but desire to go ashore.

Sadly this is the way of the world and the way of mans heart that goes right back to Adam and Eve, for Satan tempted them with some fruit from the one tree they had been told not to eat of. They where surrounded by thousands of fruit trees all producing great fruit, yet their desire was set on the one fruit they should have not eaten and so they disobeyed God, entering into sin, no caring about the lost relationship just to get some short term benefits of some fruit. How often have we caused upset, anger, discord and jealousy as we have sought to get what we want at any cost or have had the same thing done to us.

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6v31-33

God offers us a real peace, a real life away from the strife of the world. Not by giving us all the things of the world but by changing the desires of our heart. For if our heart is set on Him and His kingdom, we move outside of the jealousies of the world, it no longer has the hold on our hearts that it once held and we are freed to be at peace with God. Jesus was the ultimate example of this; he gave up everything of this world to die on the cross for the Father and through this surrender brought a way for man to have peace through God.

No matter what your circumstances, no matter how great the struggles or the hold that sin has on us, Jesus died on the cross to allow you to come to God and have a real peace of heart, a peace that overcomes the world and can never be removed. That is the offer to each one of us through Jesus. That desire to be truly fulfilled only comes when the heart is truly satisfied and that can only come through the peace that God gives us.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Colossians 1v19-20

 

July 2016 - Uncertainty in Change

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
James 4v13-14


Many years ago I was being driven through the Philippines when my driver pointed to a cross by the side of the road and asked me what it was. I assumed it was a cross to mark the place when someone had been killed in an accident. My driver turned to me and said I could not have been more wrong, it was in fact the cross on the top of a local church. Only a few years before Mount Pinatubo had erupted burying some of the local towns and the church right up to the roof.

Many years later I had another adventure, riding a motorbike from Worcester up to Nordkapp, the most northerly point in Europe. The journey was 6000 miles and done in 10 days. I spent months making sure I was physically fit enough as well as making sure the motorbike equipment and clothing was ready to deal with the cold and wet weather. I was careful to plan my route and to take into account as many dangers as possible, and when all was ready, I set off. I rode in rain and snow, dodged reindeer and managed to cross unmade roads, a truly amazing experience. I felt I could have ridden around the world. It therefore seemed rather ironic that less than a week later I was air lifted to hospital after being knocked off my bike on my routine commute to work. I didn't see that coming!

Life is like that, plans are made, but no matter how hard we plan the things that catch us out are the things we just couldn't have imagined. As a nation we will face many challenges over the coming months and years, some will cry that it was the wrong way, others that this is the right way, all based on little more than guesswork, for none of us really knows what the future holds.

It's at times like this that we can feel very vulnerable, the certainties that we assumed would never change and so put our trust in suddenly get removed. It's like the very foundations of our world are moving and falling away. Our peace falls away and we start to panic. Who do we trust? Who will keep their promises? Who really knows what's going on?

Thankfully with God He does know what's going on in the world, but more than that He knows what is going on in our hearts. He knows what we need to have real peace, not a peace that is dependent on the world and our situation, but a peace that remains no matter what is going on around us; a peace in knowing that someone has the best in mind for us.

Jesus said:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10v10

God wants us to have a truly fulfilled life, not a life where we are just a passenger, but a life where He is there to guide us and share the journey with us. A journey already walked by Jesus
.
God desires to see us stand firm in this world, to be at peace, sharing His joy. Through Christ He offers to be the foundation of our lives; a foundation that cannot be rocked no matter what circumstances come against us, for God has seen it coming from afar.
Jesus said:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundations on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
Matthew7v24-27


In our lives storms will always come and go, some we may think we can predict, others catch us unaware. God sent Jesus to die in our place and to show us the way to the Father, a way to peace, joy and security, we just need to accept it into our lives.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me."
John 14v6

 

June 2016 - Peace in the Storm

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14v27

When people talk about peace they tend to think of it as being in an environment where there is no tension or stress, no fears or worries; living in a situation that gives total peace, because there is nothing to be concerned about. As such we strive in life to have enough money and goods to be able to hide ourselves away from the world with enough of a barrier to keep our dislikes at a distance.

Sadly of course this never brings a true peace because there is always another thing in the world to be concerned about. Even when we have everything, there is the fear of losing it all! The truth is that the worlds idea of peace can be lost in a moment and in many ways is an unobtainable illusion; what the Bible calls "chasing after the wind".

When Jesus speaks of peace in our lives it is a totally different type of peace, a peace that comes from knowing God and as we grow in that knowledge of God, knowing that He is in complete control and that if we go in the way He shows us, He will always get us through. Rather than focusing on the physical Jesus showed us how to look to the spiritual, to the ways of the kingdom of God. To seek after it and through that receive a peace from God that the world cannot understand.

So do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For the pagans run after these things and your heavenly father knows that you need them. But seek first his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6v31-34

God's peace always starts on the inside and means that no matter what storms this world throws at us, we can have a peace in God that this world can never take away. It's a peace that grows as our relationship with God grows. For as we come to know our Heavenly Father through Christ we realise that He is more than powerful enough to deal with any of the issues we face, if only we will trust Him and hand them over to Him. The problem is that so often we reject God's peace and try to do it the world's way.

 

April 2016 - Parable of the Sower - Thorns

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Matthew13v7

This month we are looking at the seed that fell among the thorns. Jesus later went on to explain what this part of the parable when he said:

The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. Matthew 13v22

Throughout the Bible thorns only have one ending, they are burned (Matthew 13v30), so it is important for us to think about the weeds in our lives as if we are investing our lives into those thorny weeds we need to be aware that they have no eternal value. They will bear no eternal fruit.

However far more important is that the resources of our life that are used up by these thorns could have been used for the eternal things. These thorns hold us back from doing the things the Lord wants us to do, they steal the time the Lord could use to speak to us and to use us for the furtherance of His kingdom and so we are encouraged by the apostle Paul when he says:

...let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12v1

Paul knew that it's very difficult to move forward when tangled up with thorns, especially the huge thorns found in Israel. These thorns catch hold of us and our clothes making it hard and painful to make any progress. The only way is to cut down the thorns and burn them for they have no use. They are not made of a wood that can be made into furniture; they are not even made of a wood that burns at the right speed to burn and cook with. They burn in an instant and provide nothing in return.

We start to understand why Paul said not to get entangled, for like all sin, once we get involved it can be very difficult to break free again. Our spiritual lives are held back until we break free and then comes the real question; "Do we want to be free?" For so often the sin that entangles us is more attractive that Gods ways and instead of breaking free we actually walk into the thorns and allow ourselves to be captured again even though we know the pains of being set free.

The solution that Paul offers is simple, to desire the Lord more than the sin. As he says:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it's shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12v2

Jesus is our example; he never got entangled with the world and its desire. His focus was on the will of the Father and while his focus was on that the things of the world could not creep in and ensnare him.

For us who struggle there is always hope and freedom available through Christ for the only time he became ensnared with thorns was when they made them into a crown and placed them on his head, and even then Jesus was not distracted from the course the father had called him to. He set an example and overcame and through the power of God he is willing to help us be set free for he came to set us free from the bondage of sin and lead us into eternity if only we will follow in his ways.

"When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train." Psalm 68v18

 

April 2016 - Parable of the Sower - Thorns

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Matthew13v7

This month we are looking at the seed that fell among the thorns. Jesus later went on to explain what this part of the parable when he said:

The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. Matthew 13v22

Throughout the Bible thorns only have one ending, they are burned (Matthew 13v30), so it is important for us to think about the weeds in our lives as if we are investing our lives into those thorny weeds we need to be aware that they have no eternal value. They will bear no eternal fruit.

However far more important is that the resources of our life that are used up by these thorns could have been used for the eternal things. These thorns hold us back from doing the things the Lord wants us to do, they steal the time the Lord could use to speak to us and to use us for the furtherance of His kingdom and so we are encouraged by the apostle Paul when he says:

...let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12v1

Paul knew that it's very difficult to move forward when tangled up with thorns, especially the huge thorns found in Israel. These thorns catch hold of us and our clothes making it hard and painful to make any progress. The only way is to cut down the thorns and burn them for they have no use. They are not made of a wood that can be made into furniture; they are not even made of a wood that burns at the right speed to burn and cook with. They burn in an instant and provide nothing in return.

We start to understand why Paul said not to get entangled, for like all sin, once we get involved it can be very difficult to break free again. Our spiritual lives are held back until we break free and then comes the real question; "Do we want to be free?" For so often the sin that entangles us is more attractive that Gods ways and instead of breaking free we actually walk into the thorns and allow ourselves to be captured again even though we know the pains of being set free.

The solution that Paul offers is simple, to desire the Lord more than the sin. As he says:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it's shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12v2

Jesus is our example; he never got entangled with the world and its desire. His focus was on the will of the Father and while his focus was on that the things of the world could not creep in and ensnare him.

For us who struggle there is always hope and freedom available through Christ for the only time he became ensnared with thorns was when they made them into a crown and placed them on his head, and even then Jesus was not distracted from the course the father had called him to. He set an example and overcame and through the power of God he is willing to help us be set free for he came to set us free from the bondage of sin and lead us into eternity if only we will follow in his ways.

"When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train." Psalm 68v18

 

March 2016 - Parable of the Sower - Rocky Places

Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
Matthew13v5-6

It is a sad fact that many who set out to follow Christ soon fall away and a large number who fall do so because they have no root! It's so easy to think about Christianity as being the time spent in church, the time spent ministering to others, the poor, the sick, the needy. However these things are the "seen" activity, they are to parts that grow above the surface.

To continue to thrive above the surface a plant needs a constant supply of water and nutrients and these come through the roots. Roots that are often pushed through tough and difficult soil, but that keep going down until they find the supplies the plant needs. For without them as soon as the sun comes out and the surface of the soil goes dry the plant will quickly wither.

For the Christian that nutrient and refreshing comes through time spent with God, not in the presence of others, but time alone. Time spent in prayer and meditation on the Word of God are the unseen root that supplies the needs of our spiritual lives. Without them we quickly fall away, withering in the heat of spiritual trial.

It would be nice to say I know a short cut to sending down roots, but just like any relationship, it becomes stronger through time spent together and there is no way to short cut time. The putting down of roots may mean we have to miss out on some of the perceived excitement, the greenery that everyone sees. However, it is time well invested, for even Jesus, the Son of God, knew the importance of spending time with God. He made the time, morning, noon or night to find time to spend in prayer, talking and listening, being spiritually watered through his time with the Father. So strong was this root that it meant he could withstand all the trials the world threw at him, even death on a cross.

Jesus didn't say there "might" be trials; he assured us they would come. It's that warning to get the roots down into the father as far as possible so that we would not be those who fall away, but those who stand form no matter how much the sun burns or the storms of life blow.

The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.
Matthew13v20-21

 

February 2016 - Parable of the Sower - The Path

Then he told them many things in parables, saying; "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants where scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop - a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears let him hear." Matthew 13v3-9

This month we are looking at the first part of the parable of the sower; the seed that fell on the path and was taken away by the birds.

Most of the time when we think about a path we think of something covered in concrete or tarmac, but the type of path here is a hard dirt path. A place that has been walked on so many times that the grass has worn out and the earth has become so compressed that it can absorb nothing. A seed landing on the surface has nothing to grip onto; it just sits there until a bird spots it and takes it for its lunch.

When Jesus spoke this parable, those listening at the time would easily understand the analogy, for they would have seen their own seed taken by the birds. However Jesus wasn't lecturing on farming, he was talking about the state of mans heart towards God; our ability to absorb and take in the word of God and for it to produce fruit in our lives.

Hardness of heart is nothing new; Gods constant complaint to the Israelites was that they had hard hearts towards Him. They would claim to be seeking after him but would instead keep walking the same old path they had always walked until their hearts had become so hard there was little God could do to get his word through to them.

As time passed by not only had their hearts become heard but it was so long since any seed had taken root in their lives that they no longer even understood what the seed was. They would cry out to God for him to speak when the answer was right in front of them.

Nothing has changed today, people ask why God does not do things, but they don't see what god is doing right in front of them, our ways so hardened that it we not accept Gods word.

The saddest thing is that when God sows seed into our life through His word, it is for our benefit, he wishes to see a crop raised in us, the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Sprit is love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Galatians 5v22-23

If we will allow God to speak into our lives, soften our hearts towards him and seek him, ploughing up that hardened path and walking in His ways; that fruit can be part of our daily life. A life that can be set us free and given new life in Christ; we just need to allow the Lord into our lives.

 

January 2016 - Religion or Relationship?

If you look the Oxford Dictionaries for the word "religion" you get a few options. "The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or Gods." or "A particular system of faith and worship".

 

For many this is exactly what their religion is, it's about a system of doing things in the hope of pleasing God, but while the "doing" is going on there is no "knowing". God himself remains distant and the worshipper just hopes they have done enough to get to God. It would be like being married, but never meeting your spouse but instead just provide and put things in order in the hope that if you do enough they will want to meet you. An earnt relationship, rather than one based on love.

 

When it comes to God we will never be able to earn a relationship. God is Holy and we are sinners. The Bible tells us plainly:

 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3v23

 

In other words none of us are good enough for God and there is nothing we can do to make ourselves holy enough for God. The prophet Isaiah said:

 

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64v6

 

We can try our best but no matter how many layers of good works we do, no matter how much "religion" we perform, we will always be separated from God by our sin.

 

This of course is not good news for those wanting to earn their way to God, for God wants us to realise our sinfulness, not because he wants to be mean and nasty to us, but because it is only when we get to the point of knowing we can't make a way to God that we start to open our eyes to the fact that God has made a way. It's a way that is by faith and is about us putting our total trust in Jesus who as a sinless man died on the cross in our place. He paid the penalty for our sin that we may be free through him. For God wants a relationship with us because he loves us more than we ever love Him and he would pay the price through Christ for our salvation which he offers to us as a free gift. It is that "free" gift that for so many makes the work of Jesus so difficult for many to accept. We want to do something to pay our way, even if it's only a part payment with Jesus doing the rest. To do that means we don't fully accept Christ's sacrifice, that we consider it lacking and requiring us to finish the work. To come to God through Christ alone requires humility, the admission that Jesus is the only way and that without him there is no hope.

 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2v8-9

 

God has done all the work though Jesus and if we will accept that gift and open our hearts to his ways then he will come into our lives. The religion will be replaced by relationship, a knowing of God. Not knowing about God, but experiencing Him and his personality in our lives. God himself has done all the work and He just invites us in. Not waiting for us to be perfect but making a way in our imperfection. That knowing God, allowing Him to enter our lives will change us from the inside out in a way that no religion could ever satisfy, for true refreshment of our souls comes only though Jesus.


December 2015 - Keeping Christ in Christmas

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her and he ate it. Genesis 3v6

 

There is no greater picture of the spiritual battle we face in Western countries than the battle of Christmas. Christmas, a time when we remember Jesus, the greatest gift ever given to man, but that the world seems determined to move into a dark corner replacing him with all the glitz and glamour of this world. The adverts scream at us from the television, billboards and the internet, a constant barrage of temptations and worldly desires all there to take our focus off of Christ. A time of remembering the joy of a gift given and received is turned into a selfish festival of fleshly want.

 

Those same temptations that fooled Adam and Eve at the dawn of humanity still fools us today as the desires of the flesh outweigh the cry of our spirit. Christ is moved from his position as Lord of our lives and replaced by worldly objects that bring us short term happiness in the flesh that spiritually kill us, taking us away from the freedom a loving Father has given us through Christ, replacing it with a slavery to the things of this world.

 

Just as Adam and Eve got fooled, so we fall for the same trick, instant gain leading to long term loss. For Satan's goal has always been to get our eyes off of Christ, it has always been to get us to bow down to foreign Gods made of gold, silver, wood, stone, plastic and circuit boards. The materials may change over the years but the results are the same.

 

Even the church is not immune from this issue, how often we almost close the church down at Christmas so that we can have a holiday! So that we can have a break from God and get on with all the things we want to do, indulging the flesh while the Father sits on the sidelines looking on. The person who gave the greatest gift is excluded while we selfishly celebrate our love of material things.

 

That does not mean that God does not want us to celebrate the birth of Jesus with our family, but how easy it is for Jesus to be moved out of that central position, for the greatest gift to be passed over for the things of this world. If it's the birth of Jesus we are celebrating, if it's that gift of life we are giving thanks for let us make sure we are giving thanks to the giver of life and that we do not get deceived by the one who only wants to bring us spiritual death.

 

Let us make sure at this year that Christ is first in Christmas!

 

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12v2


November 2015 - Worth Searching For?

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah29v13

It is amazing how often I lose something, but whether I find it comes down to a number of things. The first of which is can I be bothered to look for it, and when I say look, I mean to search, to put some effort in and move things out of the way, to really look.

So often in our Christian life we want God to move in a greater way, but we are not willing to move stuff out of the way to look. It is as if we want the item we are looking for just to appear right before our eyes. As I have learnt so often in life, so often I cannot find the item because it has become covered up with other things, just the general clutter that seems to accumulate around me. God desires to be found by us, He desires it enough to send Jesus to die for us! So after all of that effort He is not going to try to hide himself. The problem is that the clutter of life not only builds up around us, but if we are honest, is more important than finding the Lord. God has ceased to be a priority in our lives if He is buried below the worldly clutter of our life.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6v33

It's easy for us to make excuses about how important all of these other things are, bills to be paid, children to be cared for, work to be done, God knows all this. Jesus walked and lived as a man and knows the cares of this life, yet he made time for the Father, time with his heavenly Father was a priority.

Too often we come to God and tell him that once we have finished dealing with all the hassles of life, then we will have time to spend with Him. Then we will set aside time to really search for God with all our heart. Sadly this too is an excuse we use to justify our time away from God, the truth is that as soon as one event is dealt with another will come along and if something doesn't come along we will seek out something else instead. If God is not a priority today then the uncomfortable truth is that he will not be a priority tomorrow. There is always one more attraction in this world to keep us away from God. Do we even see these things as a burden that is taking us away from the Lord or are they the desires of our heart? We are not forced away from God, we choose to go and we choose to keep going. Jesus has made a way back; he is offering us an alternative way if only we would take it.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11v28

I think the real question we have to ask ourselves is very simple. Is God valuable enough to me to search him out or am I happy to get on without him?

I know when I have lost something that if it's not of any value to me I will quickly give up. How valuable is the Lord to us? Is he valuable enough to move the clutter of our life out of the way and to seek him with all our heart?

We can blame many things, but sadly we need to put the spotlight back on ourselves. What is my eye set on? What is the desire of my heart? The thing that we are seeking first will tell us very clearly!


The Church - Gods family

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. Ephesians 3v14-15

If you have ever been to a family event when you are not part of the family you will know how odd it can feel. People are polite and it can be an enjoyable time but there is always that “knowing” that you are not part of the family and no matter how much you try, you never will be, because no matter how hard you try you have been born into a different family.

With the family of God it can seem the same, you can feel on the outside, you can be around Christians yet you do not feel part of the family, there is something different.

Thankfully with God we all start off outside his family, no one is born a Christian, you cannot inherit a relationship with God from someone else. Only through Jesus Christ can we all be adopted into Gods family and share a common ancestry that comes through Christ. No matter where we have started out from, it is only through Jesus Christ and his death on the cross that we can come into the family of God.

And once in that family we have a new heavenly Father who wants the best for us, who wants to see us develop and grow in him, changing us from the inside to understand his ways and thoughts. Not only do we have a Heavenly Father helping us to understand the family traits that he wants to see in us, but we also have other brothers and sisters who can help to show us the way forward in Him. That is what the church is about. A family of adopted children who have all come into the same family through Christ.

In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. Ephesians 1v5

August 2015 - Taking responsibility

Today we live in a blame culture society, we no longer wish to take responsibility for issues but instead look for someone else to blame for the problems in our lives and in the world around us. We want to be able to ignore all warning signs and instruction and then when things go wrong pass the blame to someone else so that we can feel good about our decisions and direction.

It is why so often we hear people blaming God for the problems in the world and yet we are the first to ignore his instruction. We want everyone else to obey so that life will be good for us, the one who disobeys. We question why God allows things to happen, why doesn't he force the issue, yet with the same voice we say that we want free will, the choice to go our own way. What we are really saying is that we want the blessings of obedience without being obedient and so we continue on our path of destruction.

As we follow the path we take comfort in the fact that so many are going the same way and so we must be right in the path we are taking, we follow the ways of the world as we go with the flow. Yet God warns us:

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7v13-14

Why is it that so few find it? The answer is simple; we don't look for the right path. We do not have hearts that seek after God, but seek after ourselves and our own selfish desires. We don't like the idea of anyone being over us and so rebel against God and his ways.

Yet God loves us so much he has a constant desire to see us return to the right way, to experience the eternal blessings of following in his ways. He sent Jesus to show us the way and to make a way, that narrow way back to God through Jesus Christ.

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14v6

The prodigal son in Luke 15 assumed he knew it all, that he knew the best way to go until eventually his eyes became opened to his true situation.

How we need God to open our eyes to reveal to us the true situation of our hearts, that we may take responsibility for our situation and stop blaming others, but instead coming in true repentance to God who will so willingly receive us.

July 2015 - Who is my heart walking after?

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Psalm 1v1-2

For many, turning away from God is a gradual process; it's something that develops over months and even years. It often starts with the oldest trick in the book where the enemy puts seeds of doubt in our mind just as Satan did in the Garden of Eden, "Did God really say…" (Genesis 3v1). The deception came because instead of listening to what God had said they started to take advice from elsewhere and that advice contradicted the word of God. Unwittingly they had entered "the counsel of the wicked". They had started to listen to ways that would slowly lead them away from the ways of God.

We often do the same, we know what the Bible says but we do not want to do it so we look for someone who will agree with us in our disobedience towards God. We will often find someone who is doing what we want to do and once we find them we join with them in their sin with the justification that everyone is doing it. Before we know it we have slipped from just listening to "the council of the wicked" and now "we stand in the way of sinners." We actually start to identify with those who live in disobedience to god and justify ourselves by them.

Soon however we fall to the next level, we "sit in the seat of mockers". At this point we don't just sin ourselves, but we mock those who are trying to go the right way, we discourage them in their walk and encourage them to join us in our disobedience to God. We cannot bear the thought of others going in a direction that brings conviction on us, so we mock them, hoping that they will join in our rebellion.

This is why we need to keep the word of God, the Bible, close to our hearts. Meditating on what it says, thinking about what is written and why, that we may be guided in Gods ways and experience the blessings he has for those who obey him.

It's a challenge to each one of us, where are we before God? Listening to the ways of this world? Joining in with them? Encouraging others to join us? Or do we have a heart after the Lord, delighting in his ways?

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. Psalm 1v6

June 2015 - Breaking the rules

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Jonah 1v3

To my shame, many years ago I was caught speeding in my car. As I shot up the motorway a police car saw me and pulled me over.

As I sat in the back of the police car the officer showed me the speed they had caught me at and told me I would get some points and a fine. I just smiled and agreed.

The office questioned me as to why I was not upset. I explained that I knew what the speed limit was, that I had broken the limit and as a policeman he was doing his job in stopping me speeding. The only person I could blame for my situation was me. I knew the rules and I knew the consequences and dangers of breaking the rules. As I sat in the police car getting my ticket I was facing the consequences of my rule breaking.

Jonah had got himself in a similar situation, God had given him a set of instructions and Jonah decided to do exactly the opposite, in fact the place he set out for was in exactly the opposite direction to where God wanted him so when he finished up in a storm he only had himself to blame.

The problem is that so often we don't want to accept the blame, we start by blaming the rules and the enforcer of the rules and yet the speed limit was there for my safety and the safety of everyone else. God's rules are the same; they are not there to take life away, as if God was some kind of spoil sport. God knows the outcome of certain ways of life and seeks to protect us not only in this life but eternally. Our eternal safety is precious to him, so precious that he would send Jesus to die for us to make a way by which we can be with him eternally. Of course many of us don't want to take that route; we don't want to live according to God's ways but instead wish to live our way, like a stroppy child we know best.

However for following a different route there is always a cost and God as a God of justice has to enforce those rules. If we want to go our own way there is a cost to page, eternal separation from God, it's a place the Bible calls Hell.

When we stand before God in judgement there will be no point protesting about the rules or the enforcer of the rules, all we can expect is swift judgement and the consequences of that judgement.

God has made a route through Jesus, a way to him both now and eternally. When Jesus hung on the cross God was putting up a signpost showing the way.

Thankfully we can always turn around and follow the way that God has set before us through Jesus; a way out of the storms of life and into a peace that can only come through Jesus.

Jesus answered, 'I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.' John 14v6

May 2015 - Election promises

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the amen is spoken by us to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 1v20

As we go through another general election we listen to all the promises of the various politicians and yet they all have one common flaw. They are all based on what they assume the future will be. They are promises made about things that there is often very little control over.

In 2007-8 we had the global banking crisis, a crisis that had a huge impact around the world and still does to this day. No matter what promises had been made by politicians around the world, in a matter of weeks those plans had been thrown into turmoil by events outside of their control. Those promises are made on the same assumption that I might promise it will snow this winter, it has in past winters, but then again it might not. It is beyond my control, I can plan for snow, but my plans will fall apart if the snow does not arrive and I will have wasted my time in the planning and preparing.

Thankfully when dealing with God we are dealing with someone who has already seen the beginning and the end and knows all the bits in the middle, this is why it is so important to a nation to stay close to God and follow His ways as he really does know what is coming, He knows the future.

When God makes a promise it is not based on a hope or a guess, Gods promises are based on certainty, faith in God is not a hope in a politicians dream, it is based on the certainty of the Word of God, that God himself can back his promises because he has the resources to do so. Not only do we know that God has the resources, but though the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross we know that God has the father heart desire to do so. He loves us so much that He has already paid the cost of our salvation.

If our life is built around the things of this world and their promises then we need to be aware that nothing is certain and that are plans are at best based on a vain hope that we know best. When we give our lives to god, when we live according to his promises then we know that no matter what happens he will be here for us in this short life, but also we will be with him in the life to come.

"Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses." 1 Kings 8v56

April 2015 - Spiritual Poverty

"Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5v3

We live in a world obsessed by material gain, we judge a persons life by what they have, their house, their car, the size of their bank account or income, even the number of children or our worldly position are all looked on as markers of success.

However, when Jesus talked about the Kingdom of Heaven he was not talking about the things of the world, he was talking spiritually, so when Jesus talked about "the poor in spirit", he was not talking about those with little in the physical bank but those lacking spiritually, those who are poor spiritually, poor in their relationship with God.

So how would we know if we are poor spiritually? An easy way is to look at what matters to us, what do we spend our time seeking after? Are we searching for the things of God and his desires and our desire to know him better or looking at how we can get a new car, bigger house, maybe a new relationship? What is it that occupies the centre stage of our life, what are the real heart goals of our life?

When Jesus said "blessed are the poor in spirit" it did not mean he wants us to be poor in spirit but the first stage to fixing any problem is recognising we have a problem in the first place. At a recent health check the nurse told me I was overweight, not really news I wanted to hear because I do not like the idea of going on a diet, but I am aware of the problem and that is the first stage to dealing with the issue. Sadly for so many, they do not even know they are spiritually poor, eyes and desires are fixed so firmly on the short term things of this world that God and eternity are not even thought about, they may be spiritually bankrupt, but they have not yet realised and may not until it is too late.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6v21

Let us be honest with ourselves, where is our treasure? Even for those of us who claim to be Christians, are we really seeking the things of God, are they central in our life or are they moved to the side, a hobby that we participate in when it suits us? It's a hard thing to see ourselves and our heart as so often we deceive ourselves, but if we ask the Lord he will reveal these things to us and he will show us our true state.

You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Revelation 3v17-18

The good news is that Jesus does not want us to stay in spiritual poverty; he wants to lead and guide our lives so that we truly can become rich in the Kingdom of Heaven , rich in him. We just need to open our eyes and cry out to God, setting our heart on Him and allowing him to work in our lives. Jesus died so that we may have a full eternal life, a life of spiritual riches worth far more than the things of this world. It's all there if only we will open our eyes to our true state and reach out for more.

March 2015 - Easter Thoughts

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5v21

As we celebrate Easter we remember the death of Jesus on the cross, but at times it can seem remote, something that is nothing to do with us. However, when we see Jesus on the cross, he was held there not by the nails, but by his love for each one of us. He died there because of the joy set before him, the joy that once again we could have a relationship with God, free from the bondage of sin. Set free with a righteousness from God, a righteousness that we could never earn through our own good works. We could not earn salvation because the cost was too high, the only way they could be earnt was by paying the very penalty Jesus paid for us, death. As the Bible says that is the cost of our sin.

" The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6v23

In faith we trust him to have paid the debt we owed as a ghift given to us free of charge. Faith in Christ means trusting in him to have paid the whole price leaving nothing for us to pay, there is nothing that we can add or that needs to be added for our salvation, Christ was sufficient. Now we live our lives to glorify God not to pay the debt for our sin but in thankfulness for the price that has been paid by Jesus.

Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12v1

Easter is a remembrance of death, but through Jesus it's also a remembrance of the new life that we can have through Christ, we give thanks that God views us with such love that he was willing to pay such a high price for us. All we have to do is accept the free gift in faith.

February 2015 - My ways are not your ways

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55v9

When things don't go the way we expected it's very easy to lose our faith in God. So often we have stood on a promise or a verse that God has given us and we are sure he is going to fulfil his promise, then disaster comes. What we thought we had been promised falls apart before our eyes and at that point we can so easily be led astray by that deceiving voice "Did God really say…" (Genesis 3v1) and before we know it our faith starts to fail us.

So what are the reasons these things happen?

Well God is much bigger than this article, but let's just look at a few things that can so easily cause us these issues.

"Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6v10

So often we do not seek Gods will on a subject at all, rather than "thy will be done" it's more of a "my will be done". We have decided for ourselves what the Lord needs to do, found an appropriate scripture without seeking the Lord at all. Rather than being led of the Spirit we have decided emotionally what Gods answer should be and we then try to force our will on him. Often this is not done in a malicious way, we are often desperate to see God move in the lives of a loved one and we start to think that God is obviously thinking the same way we are, we start to think that Gods thought patterns are the same as ours. We start to make God in our own image rather than realising that our minds need to be transformed so that we can understand his ways (Romans 12v2).

In a similar way we will grasp onto a scripture that another Christian has given us, but again it is so easy to pass on a verse to someone just to give them a hope and a comfort instead of seeking the Lord for his direction. We need to be careful when we get that word of encouragement, is it from the Lord or is it just someone wanting to see us lifted up? 1 John 4v1 tells us to test the sprits to see if they are from God, it's so easy for someone to become a false prophet when they have been moved by emotion rather than the Lord.

However there is another way that we think God has failed us when in fact he has answered our prayer in every detail. This is when we are looking according to the flesh rather than walking according to the Spirit. God has given us a promise and we in our minds have worked out just how that answer to prayer will look. God has spoken but we have put our interpretation on His word rather than seeking the Lord for His interpretation. The apostle Paul was someone who often prayed for believers to have revelation, for God himself to show them His will and ways in a situation but this requires us to have ears.

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Luke 8v8

So often we miss the answer to prayer because although we have listened to the Holy Spirit we have then translated Gods words in the way we would like to see them played out. We then see what we think is a failure of God when actually we are blind to the miracle, to the fulfilled promise that is staring us straight in the face. In our moment of doubt we walk according to the flesh and step away from God when in fact at that time we need to seek the Lord even more. We need to seek his wisdom, his understanding and the Holy Spirit is the only one who can teach us those ways.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1v5

We are not the first to miss the answer to a promise because we looked in the flesh rather than allowed the father to lead us by his spirit. When Jesus came he was rejected by the Jews, the very people to whom he had been promised, but because they had their idea of how a conquering king who would set them free from slavery would be in their minds, they missed the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who died on a cross to set them free from spiritual slavery. The Jews looked on a short term deliverance where God so often looks on eternal deliverance.

If you have a situation that has not worked out as you expected don't pull away from God, instead get as close as you can, ask for his comfort but also his understanding, ask Him to show you his ways that are so much greater than ours and then you will be able to say that is truly is "a good and perfect will" (Romans 12v2).

January 2015 - A Tree and its fruit

Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them. Matthew 7v20

As a teenager I used to go plumb picking with my brother to earn some money in the school holidays, as we would walk up to a tree the only thing that we looked at was the amount of fruit and how easily we could get at it. There was nothing better than a tree that had branches loaded with fruit that we could get to easily. We didn't care about the size of the tree, we didn't worry about the number of leaves or how old it was, all that concerned us was the amount of fruit.

In our own lives we can sometimes get a little bit confused over what the fruit is, we can look at all the stuff we have, our belongings, our career and bank account and think that those things are the fruit of our lives, but the fruit that God is looking for is the fruit of the Spirit, fruit that has come out of a relationship with God. Sadly so often our lives are filled with branches full of leaves, but there is no fruit. All our effort has gone into being a better looking tree with many branches and leaves, but there is no fruit that anyone can pick from our lives that would lead them to a taste of God. For it is only as we take our nutrients from God, as we root our lives firmly in him that we can produce the fruit that God really wants to see in us.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5v22-23

Sadly so often we disguise our lack of spiritual fruit by trying to hide behind the foliage of this world, the physical successes of life. Adam and Eve did this in Genesis 3v7 where they made coverings of leaves to try and hide what was lacking spiritually. The covering was there to hide the truth from God, but God looks straight at the heart of man, he is not distracted by outward appearance.

If we want to have true fruit in our lives, fruit that will last eternally rather than just a season, we need to be coming to God for his provision and nutrients in our lives as these fruits are heart attitudes. Just as apples grow on apple trees, so the fruit of our life depends on the type of tree, if we want Godly fruit then we need to be a Godly tree and that means being planted in the right place, firmly in Christ. As he becomes the centre of our life, he gives us the resource, the nutrients we need, the spiritual strength to produce fruit at the right time by changing our lives through the changing of our heart attitudes.

However, many of the fruits that God wants to see in our lives often mean that God has to do a bit of pruning in our lives; it can mean that we go through struggles to prove that the fruit is real. A fruit like patience often means that God has to allow us to wait to show the fruit is present, self control only shows itself when we are in a situation where we would lose control and become angry. Just like a good fruit tree, it often takes years of care and work by the farmer to get the best out of the tree. So as we allow God into our lives and obey his ways, accepting his pruning and care, we too will see fruit in our lives that benefits us and all those around us.

I guess the question is, do we want to show Gods fruit in our lives or are we happy to hide behind the leaves of this world.

December 2014 - Christmas Gifts

At Christmas there can often be quite a struggle to buy presents, what do they want? Do they already have one? And of course when we do know what they would like, can we afford it? If only money was no object!

Of course if you are God and you have the power of creation, the ability to just speak things into being then what gift would you give to those you love? How would you go about choosing the perfect present? Let's think about what a gift should really be. A gift is something freely given, it's something that is a token that shows the relationship we have with the other person and the more we know and relate to a person, the more personal we want that gift to be.

When we look around at the world we live in, the wars and conflicts, the poverty and despair we can often think of many things in our mind that God could give to the world to solve our problems, but God knows our real needs and so he sent Jesus, his greatest sacrifice for those he loved.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son… John 3v16

When God gave Jesus he was he was looking at the real problems in our lives and our real needs. Sadly wars and conflicts, poverty and famine and despair are all symptoms of our own inner issues. So often the wars and conflicts of this world are caused through our own sin, our inner greed to have something others have. At the same time poverty is so often the result of the few wanting the resources of the many. They are real issues that start in the heart of man.

To make things even more complicated we all do it, it has become our nature. Romans 3v23 tells us that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". Each one of us has fallen short of the standard set by God and in Jesus God showed us that standard. So often we measure ourselves against others to give ourselves the comfort or p[ride that we are better than others, but Jesus was the benchmark that God sent to show us the true attitude of our hearts. We can try and restrain our action and words, but without a change of heart our inner attitudes stay the same.

For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12v34

God knows that the only way to have real change in our lives is to give us a new heart, to give us a new start and this is what he provided through Jesus. Jesus came and lived among us, he showed us how to live a truly godly life, a life that gave real love and respect to all around, a life that showed how God thinks and acts and Gods real desire and love for each one of us and then finally through the cross, he made a way that each of us could share in that life. How we could be spiritually born again through faith in Jesus.

Jesus declared "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." John 3v3

Jesus offered us a way to have a spiritual rebirth that we might be changed from the inside out. By starting on the inside the overflow of our heart is changed, as we grow closer to God, as he reveals more and more of his ways to us we start to understand his ways, to know his peace, his love, his strength and through these things we start to see the world as God sees it.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12v2

God wants to give us a new start, a new life starting from the inside out. It's the opposite of religion. Religion tries to change the inner person by working on the outside actions, God works the other way. He doesn't ask us to fight to get to him but just to come to him in faith and accept the path and the new life he offers through Jesus.

As the angels spoke to the shepherds on the hills before Jesus birth they praised God saying:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests. Luke 2v14

In that simple birth, that simple gift of Jesus God was offering us everything we could possibly need and want. Peace with God and through a changed heart, peace with each other and peace with ourselves, not only for this life but eternally.

Jesus was the one gift that we all really need to accept, but just like any gift, it needs to be received with gratitude and thanks.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3v16

What and amazing gift of love we have in Jesus.

November 2014 - Hope

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29v11

As I write this they are about to pick the lottery winners, people around the country will be living in hope that today is their day. Yet at the same time they know in their hearts that there is only the remotest chance of winning. Their hope is based on chance, a very small chance of winning, but it would be best to wait until the numbers have been picked before ordering a new Ferrari.

Today that is how we tend to think about hope, it's not a certainty, it's just a chance that something might happen. The more we have a hope in something the more likely we are to act on that hope. When I go out to my car I have a very high hope that it will start. I make no other plans for how I will travel. I expect to get in and go, that's my level of hope in my car. Now with my motorbike it's a different matter, the battery tends to go flat so I often go out earlier and check that it will start and have a battery charger at the ready just in case. Once again my actions are based on my level of hope.

So it is with God, our actions show our level of hope in him. Many have no hope at all, they would not even consider calling out to him in prayer. Others are more like the lottery ticket owner; but don't expect anything to happen. Others as they grow in hope treat God like my motorbike, they do believe he can work in their lives but are not willing to trust him fully, always having a plan "B" on standby. However God wants us to have him as our plan "A", he wants us to learn to put our hope in him more and more and that hope when it's acted upon is called faith.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11v1

Now you may say that you find it very difficult to have faith in a something unseen, in the promises of God, how can you be expected to trust in someone or something you have never met?

However most of us have never met the manager of the Bank of England and yet we believe the promise that he makes on the top of every bank note. A bank note is just a promissory note. It is worth a few pennies, just a bit of paper and some ink. It's only value is the promise on the top "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of…". And yet we display total faith that the shop keeper will accept our money. We don't expect a shopkeeper to do a quick credit check on the Bank of England to make sure it can cover its promise. We act in total faith on a simple promise, if we didn't we would all have a bag of gold under the mattress.

Gods' promises are just the same, they are a promise that he makes but we have to put our hope and faith in those promises and in his existence.

You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29v13

Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11v6

God is there, he exists and we just need to seek him. It's all a matter of hope and faith.

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October 2014 - Ears to hear

He who has ears, let him hear. Matthew 11v15

For me the greatest joy of being a Christian is having a relationship with God himself, to know the creator of the universe, the God of heaven and earth. It sounds almost arrogant, as if I was someone special, and yet through the forgiveness that came through Jesus Christ I am able to have a relationship with God. Not because I am special or have live a sinless life, but because Jesus lived a sinless life and paid the penalty for my sin on the cross and through that forgiveness I can come to God as a Heavenly Father. It is incredible to think that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords wants to spend time with me, but that is the truth. Praise God it's not just me he wants a relationship with, Jesus died on the cross that all of us can find a way to God through him, not by our own abilities, but by a simple act of faith, a trust in the finished work of Jesus. I could never earn my way to God; it is by a simple act of faith, as he has called me, I simply listened and responded to that call. That is Gods grace that is available to each one of us.

It sounds simple so why do more people not hear Gods call?

Jesus summed it up very simply in one of his favourite sayings "He that has ears, let him hear". Let's be honest, very often we don't want to hear. I've noticed that many of us seem to suffer from selective hearing. I know that if my wife shouts out that she needs help with the washing up, then my hearing seems to deteriorate, I become deaf to her call because she is not saying what I want to hear. Yet if she says that she has a bar of chocolate for me, I get a miraculous healing and can hear her from the other end of the garden. So often we do not hear God because we do not want to hear him, we do not have a heart after God, instead we have a heart set on ourselves and what we think our life needs. The things of God are not important to us.

Jesus had the same when he walked this earth, thousands went out to see him, but thousands did not. They stayed at home getting on with business, the things of God where not important enough to drag them away from their daily ways, even for a few hours. However, if we set our heart on finding God and hearing his voice he will speak into our lives.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29v13

Of course it's one thing to hear God speak; the problem then comes with what he has to say. As Jesus taught many heard his words, but still did not hear what he had to say. They wanted to see the miracles and experience great things of God,

but for his words to make a real difference in their lives they would have to act on them and so often we do not want to follow the instructions, we want short cuts. I have this problem with flat pack furniture, I open the instructions and in my pride I think I know a better way, needless to say it never seems to work out. So it is with God, when he speaks into our lives we need to pay close attention to what he says, not my pre conceived ideas, and then when I hear properly obey. Will it mean changes in our life? Of course it will, but the best things come at a cost and the results are worth it.

One group who really struggled with Jesus words where the Pharisees and teachers of the time. They heard the words of Jesus and understood them, but they feared that it would take people away from their teaching, that they would lose their authority over the people. They liked to keep people in bondage to their rules and regulations as it kept them in power (Luke 11v37-52). They hard worked so hard on being religious but even though they heard and understood his words their hearts remained hardened

So how can we hear God today?

I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18v3-4

Young children are so willing to learn, they do not have preconceived ideas and they are willing to accept new things in our life. It's only as we get older and get stuck in our ways that we struggle to accept change. If we want to hear God we need to humble ourselves before God and just call out to him and be open to his response. In the Bible we have the account of Samuel in 1 Samuel 3v1-14, this was the first time Samuel had heard God speak and at first he did not understand it or even who was speaking, so often it can be like this when the Holy Spirit speaks into our hearts, we are expecting something big and spectacular but God just speaks quietly requiring hearing ears to listen.

God is not trying to hide from you, he wants to be found and wants to speak into all our lives, it's just a matter of us having a heart towards him and wanting to listen.

The Lord said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by."
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after that came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the entrance to the cave.
Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah".
1 Kings 19v11-13

September 2014 - The church

And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. Colossians 1v18

So often the church is thought of as an organisation, a building, a denomination, a place to be visited for weddings and funerals and the odd Christmas carol service, however Gods sees it as something very different. When God looks at the church he sees a body of believers, a family made up of those who have accepted salvation through Jesus Christ and who now worship him as their Lord and Saviour.

The church is the body of Christ, those who are part of the family of God and this only comes about through Jesus Christ. This is important for us to understand because so often we can think we are a Christian because our family was 'Christian' or we attended a particular church, but none of that makes us a Christian in the eyes of God. Each one of us has to come to God as an individual and accept that Jesus died for our sins and only through him can we know God as our Father and receive eternal life through him.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me." John 14v6

It is important to understand this because although in church we can learn about God and be taught the message of salvation, going to church does not in itself make us a Christian, it is only by us individually repenting and coming to God through Christ that we become a Christian and as we do we become part of the body of Christ, the church.

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. John 3v5-6

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural decision or a husband's will, but born of God. John 1v12-13

When we repent and turn to Christ Jesus called it being born again, a way of explaining the spiritual rebirth that takes place. We are literally reborn into the family of God, the church!

The local church then becomes the part of the family that we belong to, and just like a family when there is a baby in the house, the church is the family that care for that baby as it grows, the church is there to protect, feed and care for the child. Without a family to care for it a baby would soon die if left on its own, so the church has the role of spiritual family while always helping the child to know their new spiritual father in a greater way. It is because of this that churches vary so much as they adapt to meet the needs of those who are in its local family. The meetings that take place, the worship, the teaching are all there to meet the needs of the local family and like all families, no two are the same. This means that some churches can consist of thousands of people in a service in a huge building while others may be a handful meeting in someone's home. Each one though is fulfilling the need as the Lord leads them.

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12v4-5

Now some would say that you do not need to go to church to be a Christian, and this is true, salvation is through Christ alone. However the church is described as a body and if we do not take our place in the body we rob the body of our function and do not fulfil the role that God has given us, we are not caring for the other members of the family. For just like a child, as it grows it not longer just receives from the family, but is expected to give, to help and take up duties within the family. This too is an important part of our spiritual growth that takes place within the church, the family of God. At first we just receive, we have teaching, we enjoy worship, we concentrate on our spiritual growth, but as we grow in the Lord we start to take up our responsibilities towards others within the church, to care for them and their needs, we grow up into parents, we start to use the giftings God has given us for the benefit of others within the body.

Finally don't expect the church to be perfect, it's full of sinners saved by the grace of God, but in a good church, those sinners will have found a relationship with God, they have found the way through Jesus and they will be happy to show you the way and have you as part of the family.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus. Romans 3v23-24

July 2014 - Love and rejection?

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13v1-7

Love, real love, is not love until it is given away. Real love is always aimed at another, it is not about us and our wants, it's about the needs and desires of the one we love. Love always wants the best for the one we love; it puts their needs above ours and gives from the very core.

In the old King James version of the bible the word was translated as "charity" and in some ways that helps us to get a better understanding of the biblical meaning of love. When we give to a charity we give with no hope of getting back, the donation is only for the benefit of the one who receives the gift; the desire is for their benefit alone.

True love is sacrificial; it gives at a cost to self for another. When Jesus talked about love it was a sacrificial love, but Jesus did not just speak about it he demonstrated it by making the greatest sacrifice, the greatest act of love for us.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15v13

This is not the romantic love that we think of these days, this is the type of love of a parent sacrificing themselves for a child, of a soldier sacrificing himself for his comrades. It's displayed in outward acts that do not count the cost to self; this is the "love" that the bible talks about.

The Bible says that love is the greatest (1 Corinthians 13v13), but it does not come without risk. For the greatest threat to someone who truly loves is rejection, rejection from the one they love. When I was young, when a girl no longer wanted to go out with you, we used to call it being "dumped". It summed it up so well, that feeling of everything we are is worth nothing in the eyes of the one we love. We are reduced to mere rubbish, it's a pain that is beyond anything physical, it cuts deep to our very soul. It's a pain that we think no one else can understand; it's a pain that is sometimes so brutal that we never want to love again for fear that we will face that rejection pain again. How can anyone else understand that pain?

And yet God does understand, in His love for us he made the ultimate sacrifice for us at the cross. He gave everything in Jesus, he endured physical and emotional pain, but more than that, he faced the pain of rejection. Even now as we choose to go our own way he faces that ongoing rejection from us.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. John 1v11

He came to those He loved, those He created, and yet we rejected that love. Each one of us has sinned, each one of us needed Jesus to die for him; it is his love for us, his desire to set us free from sin that held him to the cross, that is the amount of love God has for each one of us and yet so often we still reject that love.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3v16-17

Gods love is so great for us that He did not wait for us to love Him, instead he poured out his love for us through Jesus. It wasn't mere words, but real action, real self sacrifice, real selflessness and He continues to display his endless patience with us as we continue to reject Him. You may have felt rejected in the past, you may have been "dumped" and experienced that pain of rejection, but you can be sure that God will never reject you. He has already demonstrated his love for you in Jesus at the cross. When someone has demonstrated that level of love towards you, you know you will be safe in their hands.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5v8

God however does not just want us to stay as we are; He sees in each of us what we can truly be. His desire is to see us grow and experience real life, a life that only comes through knowing God. That's not about having a religion; it's about having a relationship, about knowing God Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth.

No matter who has rejected you, no matter how hurt you feel, God wants to lift you out of the rubbish and give you a brand new life.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10v10

June 2014 - Just for emergencies?

I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me. Psalm 120v1

For many the only time they want God in their life is when something important is happening, "hatches, matches and despatches" (births, marriages and deaths) as my Dad would say. God is only called upon in situations when we feel we can no longer manage ourselves, we treat him as a breakdown service. Outside of these occasions we really do not want him in our life.

When I take my motorbike overseas I do have breakdown cover, but I've never needed it. Before I go away I take the bike to a mechanic who checks everything and services it. Parts that are faulty are replaced and the bike is prepared for what lies ahead and anything of any concern is discussed and my mind put at rest. Instead of worrying about breaking down, I'm then free to get on with enjoying the ride, safe in the knowledge that someone with far more mechanical knowledge has checked everything through. Even better is the fact that I have his telephone number with me so that when the odd issue has arisen I've been able to check it out with a quick call.

This is more like the relationship God wants with us, he does not want us to have to go forward alone, trying to work out if everything is going to be OK and then being unprepared for the emergencies that arise. He wants us to have an ongoing relationship with Him, for us to be able to call on Him at all times, good and bad. He wants us to allow Him to work in our lives, showing us the weak parts that need strengthening and the bits of our life that can lead to spiritual and physical failure.

God knows us far better than we know ourselves, but more than that He knows what is in store for us. He wants to see us reach our full potential, to give us real life, fulfilling life.

The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full. John 10v10

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to give you hope and a future". Jeremiah 29v11

His desire is to help us experience real life, to open our eyes to the spiritual world that is out there, to share his ways with us and for us to be His friend. Can there be any greater privilege in life than to be a friend of God.

As we grown in our relationship with the Lord we realise that God himself wants to be involved in all aspects of our life, preparing us for what lies ahead as He leads and guides us. All we have to do is call on Him.

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145v18

May 2014 - Are you lost?

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. Luke 19v10

There is a bit of autobahn near Duisburg in Germany that has a road junction on it that has fooled me many times on my travels through Europe . The problem is that I keep missing the sign! It's not that the sign is missing or faulty, it's just that the city I want is not mentioned on the sign and instead it lists a different city on the route I want to take. The information is right in front of me, it just doesn't appear in the way I would have done it. These days it's not too bad, as soon as I have missed the junction…again…I quickly recognise the wrong road and know a different route I can take to get me back on course; how different from the first time I got it wrong, I just kept going! I didn't even know I was lost; I was absolutely convinced I was on the right road and it wasn't until I suddenly entered a place called Essen that I realised my mistake. Until that point everything had seemed fine. Everyone else seemed happy with the route, I didn't see the locals panicking; why should they? They wanted to go to Essen , to them it was home, but it was not where I wanted to be. My pride in my sense of direction and ability to learn routes had been my downfall, I had assumed I knew it all when I should have spent a bit more time looking at the map and checking my route.

Spiritually it can be the same, in life we see everyone going in the same direction so we just assume that is the route we should take as well. It often doesn't occur to us that they are not going where we want to go, we just follow the crowd which is fine if you want to go the same way the crowd is going. However if you want to go somewhere else it means you are on the wrong path.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7v13-14

So often when God speaks to us the sign is not as we would expect it to be, Gods ways are not our ways and we can often misunderstand the sign or the message someone is trying to give us. Many years ago I was out on my motorbike and watched a car going round a roundabout that was pouring petrol all over the road. The driver had forgotten to put the petrol cap back on after filling up. I followed him up the road and flashed my lights at him a few times but got no response so I pulled alongside him, but still he just ignored me. Finally I got in front of him a forced him to stop. The driver was quite aggressive; maybe he thought he was going to be the victim of road rage. However, when I explained the reason for pulling him up he changed completely, he went from aggressive to thankful realising that I was actually trying to help him.

As a Christian there is a similar dilemma. If I believe what the bible says and I have a love for those around me, surely I would want to warn them of the danger they are in. The problem is that people can take the warning as a sign of aggression, a sign of superiority, a sign of knowing better when the truth is that I'm trying to share the fact that I've got lost on that same route. Being a Christian does not make me superior to anyone, I'm a sinner just like everyone else. The only difference is that I have accepted the forgiveness that comes by grace through Jesus Christ. I have accepted the free gift of salvation, the fact that he paid the penalty for my sin on the cross. It's not like I have earned anything, there is nothing I can do to earn Gods grace and favour. The life I live for the Lord is out of thankfulness for what God has done for me.

Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12v1

We are urged to live for God out of thankfulness for what we have received, not out of an attempt to earn Gods favour. The problem is that at times Christians can forget the fact they are sinners saved by grace, instead we start to trust in our own good lives. At that point we slip into pride, a sin that God hates; we reject Gods grace and replace it by our own abilities and good works, we become blind to the fact we have once more taken a wrong turn and can often travel many miles before we realise the truth and have to humbly turn round in repentance and get back on the path God has laid out for us. As we are warned in the Bible;

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall. 1 Corinthians 10v12

If you are reading this and you realise you are lost, that you have no relationship with God through Jesus Christ; that you have no idea of your eternal direction; then at least you are already part way to getting on course. You know you are lost! Now you just need to finds someone who can show you the way. That is what the church is for; it's not there to judge people; that's for God to do. You may think your sin is beyond forgiveness, that you are worse than anyone else. The truth is we are all very similar; the same sins grip us all.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 1 Corinthians 10v13

God knows you, he loves you and he wants a relationship with you. He sees the direction you are going in and frantically tries to warn you of the consequences of the route you are taking. It's up to us if we heed those warnings or stick with the crowd.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3v23.

All have sinned, you are not alone. Will you accept Gods path to eternal life through Jesus Christ?

April 2014 - Good enough for eternal life?

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher”, he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Mark 10v17“

This man who came to Jesus wanted the answer that so many want, how do I get eternal life? What must I do? How good must I be? How can I earn eternity? We know from the next few verses (Mark 10v19-20) that he believed he was living a good life and this was in many ways the check up to see that he had done enough.

This young man was looking at how Jesus lived and the teaching he gave and has come to the conclusion that he is a "good" teacher, a good role model for him. Jesus response pushes the young man into thinking about just what he means by "good". How was this man measuring good, especially in respect to his own life?

Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good - except God alone.” Mark 10v18

Here Jesus has challenged the man on who measures what is good. In his own eyes, measuring himself against others, this young man could probably justify his statement by saying he was good. Compared to a murderer in his own eyes, he would be right. However, Jesus takes him to the very heart of sin by stating that only God is good. In this statement he is saying that if only God is good, then by default everything else is not good. In other words, no matter how much effort this young man put in, he would never be good in comparison to God. As Romans 3v23 says:

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God".

In eternity how we measure up to each other is of little consequence as we don't control eternity. In a football match the different supporters can have their view on an incident, but in the end it is the referee who makes the decision, based on the rules of the game. Jesus was letting the young man know that in eternity God is the referee and his decision is final.

In Mark 10v19 Jesus says to the young man

"You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother'."

The young man thinks at this point he can justify himself by his obedience to these commandments, but he has missed the point. These commandments are there to show us how to live, but they are also there to show that we cannot justify ourselves by our own efforts.

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. Romans 3v20

This man was trying to justify himself as holy using what God had given to show him he was a sinner.

Jesus had asked the man about his understanding of the commandments, but there was one commandment that Jesus had left out, the first commandment:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." Mark 12v30

It's the commandment that makes us face the reality of our sin because it shows our heart attitude towards God. The young man who had come to Jesus thought he had everything sorted out in his life, he thought he would be able to justify himself before God because of his actions. In Mark 10v21-22 it says:

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, Then come follow me."
At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth .

Jesus had moved past the external appearance of self righteousness and gone straight to his heart, he had showed him that the things of this world, the things that he was rich in were more important to him than God. He may have done well in the eyes of the world in his fulfilment of many of the commandments, but he had failed on the main reason for keeping the commandments, God himself. The truth was that the man loved the things of this world more than he loved God. He realised that although he thought he was giving his life for God he was only giving up the bits he didn't mind losing. When Jesus asked him to give up his money the man realised what his heart was set on, he knew he was a sinner without any hope of eternal life.

If we are honest, we would all say the same and so we come to the realisation that in our own strength we have no way of obtaining eternal life, instead we will spend eternity away from God, in hell. We would echo the words of the disciples:

"Who then can be saved" Mark 10v26

As Jesus replied

"With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." Mark 10v27

Although Jesus had shown that there was no way for a man to be made righteous through his own ability, he did not say there was no hope. Instead he spoke of a hope that would come through God himself, a righteousness that he would provide and did provide through the death of Jesus on the cross.

Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for mans sin, meaning that the only way to the Father was through his work on the cross. This means that to come to God we need to humbly accept the forgiveness that was made available through Jesus and realise that in his sight our good works mean nothing. As Isaiah the prophet said:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64v6

Our own acts of righteousness are nothing in comparison to the holiness of God, the only thing that can make us righteous enough for God is God himself, which is what he did in Jesus.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and our justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3v21-24

God has done everything we need through Jesus, the questions we need to ask ourselves is:- who we are trusting in? Who is our faith in, ourselves or Jesus? To which one will we trust our eternity?

March 2014 - The cost of running away?

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." Jonah 1v1

Jonah was a man who had experienced God in his life, he was a prophet (2 Kings 14v25), so would be used to listening to God and to acting on his instruction. However like so many of us, Jonah wanted to serve God, but only when God was doing what he wanted God to do. When God called Jonah to go and preach in Nineveh it was a step too far for him. He was happy to preach among his own people, a people he loved and cared for, but now God was calling him to speak to those he did not naturally like, people who he considered Israel 's enemies. Jonah didn't want to see the Ninevites being blessed by his God, he would rather they perished as we see in Jonah 4v1-2.

So Jonah decided to run away from God and sets out for the city of Tarshish , why Tarshish? Well the answer is quite simple; Tarshish was a centre of import and export, a nation of sailors who traded with all the nations around them (Ezekiel 27v12 & 25, 38v13), a place where Jonah could do business and make money. Located towards the western end of the Mediterranean , Tarshish was also about as far away from Nineveh as Jonah could get. So Jonah had totally rebelled against the instruction God had given him, he would run away from his calling and go and make some money instead.

For many who fall away from serving God it's exactly the same, something inside suddenly says I don't want to serve God any more, I don't want to do what God has called me to do! So we run away and straight into the arms of the world. We try to fill the vacuum with new gods of gold and silver, of worldly success and knowledge. Just like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden we replace serving God with the things that are pleasing to the eye and appealing to the intellect (Genesis 3v6). We will blame others or circumstances for our falling away, but ultimately we choose to be disobedient, we choose to run after our own gods and we pay the price for it.

“But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Jonah 1v3

Jonah made the deliberate act of running away from the Lord and on the day he boarded the ship I'm sure he would have convinced himself that all was going to be well, it was probably a nice day, the sea looked great and he was off on a new adventure. OK Nineveh would perish, the word of the Lord would not get preached, but he could console himself with the thought of getting on with a new life in a foreign land and making some money. but right from the start it would cost him. No longer walking in Gods blessing he now started to pay the price of his new life, he would pay the fare, the cost of running away.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.“ Jonah 1v4

All of us have storms in life; some are just the ebb and flow of life, others are sent by the Lord to get our attention and this storm certainly got his attention, but he stayed resolute in his determination to keep running away. While the sailors cried out to their gods, Jonah went downstairs and closed his eyes to the situation and went to sleep (Jonah 1v5). Jonah knew the reason for the storm; he knew it was his sin, his disobedience that was causing the calamity that endangered not only him but all that surrounded him, but he couldn't cry out to God, he couldn't face the Lord because he knew the Lord would tell him to turn around, so he continued to suffer along with all those around him. So often we forget that others often suffer for our disobedience to the Lord and yet still Jonah slept, ignoring a storm that could so easily kill him.

Finally the sailors cast the lot to find out who was responsible and all eyes turned to Jonah, he had already told them he was running away from God (Jonah 1v10) but with so many different "gods" did it matter. Jonah however was not running away from a cast idol, he was running away from the real God.

"The Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land." Jonah 1v9

For superstitious sailors this was probably the last thing they wanted to hear, they now understood the reason for the storm, they could see it was getting worse and they had no idea how to stop it. Only in their desperation do they finally turn to Jonah and ask him what to do and at this point we see the change that has taken place in Jonahs life. Jonah had started on this journey because he had no love for the people of Nineveh , a people who worshipped strange gods. There was no way he was going to give his time and energy for them but now he starts to understand that his life belongs to God and he turns to the Lord in repentance.

"Pick me up and throw me into the sea," he replied, "and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you." Jonah 1v12

Finally Jonah stops sleeping and ignoring the issues of life and addresses the true reason for the storm, it's him, it's his sin, and it's his fault. We can blame so many things but until we will be truthful with ourselves and the Lord the storm just continues. Jonah was waking up to the reality that you cannot run away from God.

Jonah was also learning to love others, he recognised that his sin was endangering the lives of others and he was now willing to give his life to save them. These men were not Israelites and didn't serve God any more than the Ninevites did but finally Jonah was willing to give his life for others, he was starting to learn to see the world as God sees it. Just as Jesus in obedience to the father sacrificed his life on the cross for those who did not love him, so Jonah sacrifices his life in obedience to God that others may be saved.

Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12v1

Jonah was learning what it really means to serve God, it was more than the words that came from his mouth, and it was also the servant attitude that came from his heart.

At this point Jonah has given everything, any worldly goods he had would have been thrown into the sea with the rest of the cargo. Jonah just put himself in the hands of God, even if it meant losing his life and yet God honoured him and saved him, not only did he save him but he restored him to the ministry he was called to and Jonah went in obedience to Nineveh and preached a message of repentance, a message that he now fully understood. God restored him and the people of Nineveh turned from their sin. This wasn't the end of the lessons Jonah needed to learn, the Lord had plenty more to teach him about His ways, but it was a new start going in the right direction.

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…” Joel 2v25

February 2014 - Busy Making Bricks

Exodus 5v9 "Make the work harder for the men so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies."

The Israelites had prospered in Egypt, their numbers had grown and they had been fruitful (Exodus 1v6). Egypt in the Bible is used to represent the world and worldliness. Egypt at this time was powerful and rich and for the Israelites it had provided all they needed to prosper but as always where Gods people start to thrive, the enemy comes in and conflict occurs. The Egyptians had no desire to see the Israelites increase in number and become powerful as they thought they would be a threat to them (Exodus 1v9-10).

At the same time we have to wonder what was happening in the Israelites relationship with Almighty God, the first time we read of them crying out to God in Egypt was once persecution had started (Exodus 1v7). Like so many of us today we don't want to have God involved in our lives until trouble comes, only then do we turn to him for deliverance. This is one of the ways that the world so often draws people away from God by fulfilling the desires of the flesh it dulls the appetite for the spiritual. It's an old trick of Satan's going right back to the Garden of Eden. Man had a great relationship with God with God wanting him to rule over His creation (Genesis 1v26 & 28). But Satan as always wants to have the glory taken away from God and in Genesis 3 we have to account of the fall of man. The serpent didn't walk up to Adam and Eve and tell them to disobey God, he used his usual subtle route, and he offered them something that was appealing to the flesh, intellect and pride. The fruit was attractive to the eye; it looked good, smelt good and at first would taste good. It would give them knowledge and would make them like God (Genesis 3v6). Little did they realise it was knowledge of sin and death, a knowledge that would kill them.

The Israelites had done well but as Gods people he wanted them set apart for himself and the only way that could happen was for them to give themselves totally to Him and stop serving money and we all know that's not easy when the world and its shiny baubles are twinkling in our eyes. So often when problems come into our lives we can think that God has forgotten us but God does not miss a thing. As the Egyptians started to put slave masters over the Israelites they started to cry out to God about the injustice in their lives and yet they had not realised that for years they had been slaves to the ways of the world, it's just now their eyes had been opened. Now instead of making things for themselves they now made bricks for Pharaoh.

Notice when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3v7-8) God does not say "I will make them comfortable in the land of the Egyptians", he said that he wanted to take them completely out of Egypt to the land that He would give them, a land flowing with milk and honey (Gods blessing). It was not enough for God to see the Israelites living in Egypt and doing well at business, he wanted them to be his own separate people living under His provision. How often do we want God to work in our lives, not so that we are set apart for him but so that we are more comfortable in the world we live in?

In Exodus 5v1-9 we see Moses and Aaron going to Pharaoh and asking him to set the Israelites free so that they could serve their God. Instantly we see two things happen. Firstly Pharaoh refuses to obey God, after all as Pharaoh he had set himself up as God. But then he increases the work for the Israelites. His idea was to keep the Israelites so busy they would have no time for God (Exodus 5v9). As always the world wants to keep anyone wanting to serve God captive to the ways of the world. Just like the serpent in the Garden of Eden he dismisses Gods word as a lie (Genesis 3v1) and tries to steal it away from those crying out to God. For the Israelites crying out to God it looked at first as if God was doing nothing, they had cried out for deliverance and things just seemed to have got worse, but God had far more planned for them than they could imagine. He wanted to prove beyond any doubt that their deliverance was a miracle from God, that he would do everything needed to set them free they just could not see it as they looked with worldly eyes at what was happening around them.

Romans 12v2 says "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good pleasing and perfect will."

So often our minds are locked into the thinking of the ways of this world, our ideas of success and failure are all based on the world's standards but God wants to set us free to live His way and that starts by crying out to Him. By telling Him that we want to be free, not that we want our lives patched up but we want to be set free completely. This is what Jesus came to do; his whole life was about setting men free, people where freed from sickness, disability even death during is life; but in his death he made a way for us to be free eternally. He made a way for us to be delivered out of slavery to sin and to be free in him, free to worship God and to bring Him the glory He deserves and as we spend time with Him, as we read the bible and pray our minds start to get transformed so that we start to see and understand Gods plans for our life. Only then do we realise that he has greater things in store for us than we could ever have dreamed.

The question we have to ask ourselves is, for whom are we working? Where is the products (bricks) of our lives destined? Is it for some task master, to build up another's kingdom? Is it for ourselves, to build up our own little kingdom of worldly wealth? Or are we living to serve God to follow Him and lift his name high?

Jesus came to set us free, we just need to cry out to Him in repentance. If we will do that he will come into our lives and set us free. You may think you are trapped but God is greater, the stronger the trap the greater the deliverance.

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" John 8v36

Sunday Service

Sunday 17/12/2017 at 11:00 AM

A time of worship, teaching, prayer and praise with communion. We are currently meeting in room HBG006 in the Hines building which is towards the back of the St Johns University Campus. A map is on the main Sunday services page for both locations....

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Sunday Evening Service

Sunday 17/12/2017 at 18:30 PM

A time of prayer, worship, teaching and fellowship as we seek the Lord together. All welcome. We are currently meeting in room HBG006 in the Hines building which is towards the back of the St Johns University Campus. A map is on the main Sunday s...

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Callow End Bible Study

Tuesday 19/12/2017 at 13:15 PM

Daytime bible study in Callow End held at 10 Alton Park, Callow End. Contact 01905 425976 for details....

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Lower Wick Bible Study

Tuesday 19/12/2017 at 19:30 PM

Our weekly time of bible study held at 58, Canada Way, Worcester. This study is ideal for new believers. Tel 01905 425976 for details or if you need transport....

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Mens Fellowship

Thursday 21/12/2017 at 12:00 PM

Weekly mens fellowship meeting at "The Manor", Lower Wick, Worcester....

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Ladies Fellowship

Thursday 21/12/2017 at 12:00 PM

Weekly Ladies fellowship meeting at "The Manor", Lower Wick, Worcester....

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Prayer Meeting

Thursday 21/12/2017 at 19:30 PM

Weekly church prayer meeting are held at 81 Bromwich Road, St Johns, Worcester WR2 4AR. Contact Simon on 01905 425976 for directions or transport....

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Sunday Service

Sunday 24/12/2017 at 11:00 AM

A time of worship, teaching, prayer and praise with communion. We are currently meeting in room HBG006 in the Hines building which is towards the back of the St Johns University Campus. A map is on the main Sunday services page for both locations....

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