May 28th 2017: Jae Hyun

Jae-Hyun - May 17

Many people in the world do not realise they are loved. The main point of the whole Bible is God’s love. ‘Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8).

1 John 4-16 esv

‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.’ (1 John 4:19).

All love is from God. Hosea also speaks of this.

What is the character of God’s love?

  • God’s love is for sinners.

God wanted Hosea to tell Israel how much God loved them. God wants Hosea to marry Gomer, an adulteress, which he did. They had children. However, she left him for another man (Hosea chapter 1).How do we know Gomer left Hosea? We are told Hosea had to ‘Go again’ and bring her back,  ‘And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.’ (Hosea 3:1). The Lord still wanted Hosea to go again to Gomer. Israel repeatedly sinned but God loved them. Gomer gave an opportunity to a lover to love her. She should have resisted temptation. We should resist temptation too, we shouldn’t give any opportunity to Satan.

‘Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness.’ (2 Peter 1:5-6). There are lots of temptations in our lives. Satan wants us to sin. The enemy, the devil, looks for someone to devour. Eve gave an opportunity to the serpent. Joseph didn’t give in to Potiphar’s wife, that’s why God blessed him. Satan is always offering opportunities to make us sin and depart from God. But God loves us, even though people depart from Him. The Prodigal Son left home but the father did not give up on him and was always waiting for him to return. This is God’s love. This story tells us God never gives up on us. God is unchanging.

  • God is love in action.

Hosea had to buy Gomer as if she was a slave, ‘So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.’ (Hosea 3:2). We were all born sinners. When we were slaves of Satan, God sent us His only son, Jesus Christ. He bought us for Himself when He died on the cross to save us. 

1 john 4-9 esv

‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him’ (John 3:16-17). To save us, God shows us His love in action.

After Hosea bought Gomer back he told her, ‘You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.’ (Hosea 3:3). Just as Hosea married Gomer, a slave, we are sinners too. God commanded Hosea to marry an adulteress to show how much He loves Israel, ‘And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.’ (Hosea 2:19).

Jesus is our bridegroom. All Christians are the bride. To be the bride of Jesus Christ is a great, great blessing. ‘And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.’ (Revelation 21:2). God’s love never changes. He shows His love by His actions.

  • God’s love is a great grace.

‘For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterwards the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to His goodness in the latter days.’ (Hosea 3:4-5). The culture will slowly perish as Israel departs from God, but the Israelites will come back to the Lord. How? They knew God will forgive. This is the  great grace of God’s love. We must repent, say sorry to God, of our sins so we can be forgiven because God loves us. God’s love is a steadfast love, a great grace. 

Ephesians 2 8-9 esv

What a difference between other religions and Christianity; in other religions people have to do good things. We do nothing, God does everything for us! God loves us.

God is love. Know it in your heart. Remember, God’s love never ever changes. God is ever with us. No matter what troubles we have, He is with us in all circumstances. Sometimes we forget because we are weak, but as believers we should know God loves us all the time. Right now. We must love God because He loves us. Jesus Christ died on the cross even though He had no sin. God is love in action, God’s love is unchangeable, God’s love is a great grace.

May 21st 2017: Mike Viccary

 Isaiah 25 – 26.6

Mike raised three points:
            saved at Calvary
            saved on the day
            saved when He returns

Isaiah is one of the books of the Bible which is just amazing. It is packed with references to the Lord Jesus Christ, packed with gospel references. Isaiah is a prophet who had a ministry. From chapters 13-23 he is giving messages to all the nations roundabout. In chapter 24 he has this word to whole world, a message for today. The earth is doomed for destruction. Peter picks this up in 2 Peter 3.

In Isaiah 25:1-5 Isaiah is praising God for what the Lord has done, ‘O LORD, you are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.’ (Isaiah 25:1)

In verse 7 Isaiah looks forward to what the Lord will do, ‘And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people. And the veil that is spread over all nations.’ Our salvation is in Christ on the cross. The Lord has come for salvation. He also came to divide those who would follow Him from those who won’t. The second coming is for final judgement. It will declare judgement for all. He is also coming for salvation.

‘And it will be said in that day: “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9). This is a pivotal verse on which Isaiah 25:6-12 is balanced. We can say when the Lord returns, “Behold, this is our God.”

The phrase ‘This mountain’ is used three times. What does this mean? Turn back to Isaiah 2:2, ‘Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.’ The mountain is the Lord’s house.

‘You shall have a song as in the night when a holy festival is kept, and gladness of heart as when one goes with a flute, to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the Mighty One of Israel.’ (Isaiah 30:29). The mountain of the Lord is where the Lord dwells. Isaiah also uses the phrase ‘My holy mountain / hill.’ It’s also in the Psalms, ‘Yet I have set My King on my holy hill of Zion.’ (Psalm 2:6). ‘I cried to the LORD with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill.’ (Psalm 3:4). The mountain is where God is.

Another theme in Isaiah is the banner. This is also in John 3:14, ‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.’ This refers to Jesus’ death on the cross. In Numbers we read the story of the Israelites being bitten by snakes. In order to be saved they had to look at pole / banner / standard. (Numbers 21:4-9). The pole is fixed firmly into the ground. It reminds us of the crucifixion. ‘And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.’ (Isaiah 11:10). This is a reference to where the Lord will be found.

On that mountain the Lord will do three wonderful things:

There will be a feast, ‘And in this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees.’ (Isaiah 25:6). What Christ did on the cross is our meat and drink. Our very life depends on us feeding on what Christ has done for us. In this mountain the Lord will make a feast for all people – it’s open to everyone, no-one is excluded. When you read this verse in Hebrew it is very lyrical, it bounces. The food described is the best – abundant and full. It is 100% distilled wine served with choice pieces. When we think of the death of the Saviour at Calvary, this is our feast.

Even more remarkable is the death of death. Death is not what we were made for. Christ’s death brought life. Death is separation. God is all about community. ‘He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken.’ (Isaiah 25:7-8). Here we see the consequences of death. Death is sorrowful, horrible. We die because of sin. We die because we rebel. Death is a rebuke to us. God will destroy death. God is rich in mercy. IN verse 8 there are four really impressive statements of what God had done:

  • He will swallow up death forever. On the cross Jesus swallowed up death. The veil in the temple is torn from top to bottom;
  • He will wipe away tears from all faces. God is right in the midst of our tears. When you are suffering, He is right with you;
  • He will take away rebuke
  • He will bring restoration, He will bring life.

For the Lord has spoken. This gives us certainty. From Isaiah’s point of view, this is what will happen because God has spoken.

Isaiah 25:101-12. God will deal with the problem of sin. Moab will be trampled. Moab was the son of Lot. Lot’s name means ‘covering.’ Moab is Isaiah is castigated for pride. Here we have a picture of pride. Moab is the offspring – just like his father Lot chose the wrong way. Moab chose to follow Lot. In verse 10 we read of the ‘hand of the Lord.’ This is Christ. He will do everything that needs to be done, ‘For on this mountain the hand of the LORD will rest, And Moab shall be trampled down under Him, as straw is trampled down for the refuse heap.’ (Isaiah 25:10). Verse 11 speaks of the Lord, ‘And He will spread out His hands in their midst as a swimmer reaches out to swim, And He will bring down their pride together with the trickery of their hands.’ (Isaiah 25:11). A swimmer pushes everything behind him. Pride will be swept aside. Pride is the beginning of sin. Pride turns to lies. The Lord spreads out His hands, just as Christ did on the cross, when all pride was dealt with. In the death of Christ He can deal with all of the things we wrestle with. ‘The fortress of the high fort of your walls He will bring down, lay low, and bring to the ground, down to the dust.’ (Isaiah 25:12). God will trample on sin. There is such richness in the book of Isaiah.

May 14th 2017: Ian Middlemist

Ian - March 17Joshua 2

What are two men of outstanding reputation doing in a harlot’s house? Our Saviour also had an encounter with a woman of adultery, when she was presented before Him for stoning. Jesus, in a supposedly no-win situation was filled with grace and truth and dealt with this most difficult situation. Her accusers were not prepared for Jesus’ response, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her.’ (John 8:7). Was our Saviour reminded of His great, great, great …. grandmother, Rahab – a most unlikely of women brought into the house of God?


Rahab’s Faith
:

The two spies went to a harlot’s house – a place they wouldn’t be expected at. Rahab was to give the spies two things: shelter and key information for their report to go home with. Rahab was not a gentle woman, she was a prostitute in a heathen land surrounded by godless men. How could anything good come from there? She had no husband, no children. Her request was for those of her father’s household; none of her family lived with her. But look at what the Lord had brought to her in His grace and mercy. He had done great things for the Hebrew people by His almighty hand. She has two representatives of the Lord in her house.

The Lord of the Church has granted to us to be ambassadors, just as the spies. Our great mission, our greatest privilege, is to bring the message of the greatest Saviour – the Saviour’s blood shed on the cross for us, to set us free. Tell others! What a privilege Rahab had to have the two of God’s men visit her. What a privilege Roch has to have Penuel here. The church is still existing, thriving, in this world.

Surrounding Rahab was a hostile environment. Jericho had stood for hundreds of years. It was thought ridiculous that it could fall. But nations rise and fall at the Almighty’s finger. Surrounded by her way of life, her walls, her culture, Rahab found God, ‘I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.’ (Joshua 2:9). How could she have thought that? It is quite staggering. She states God is universal. How did she know? We’re not told. It’s 100% against her nature, her culture. She believes in a new God, one who is diametrically opposed to the gods of Jericho. She is not just changing her perspective, she is doing something way more profound – she is passing from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Jesus. Faith is the pivotal thing which changes everything. Rahab didn’t perish, ‘By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.’ (Hebrews 11:31).

Faith Works:

‘And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied a scarlet cord in the window.’ (Joshua 2:21). Rahab demonstrated her faith by her works. She didn’t go with the spies, she had to remain where she was after she declared her allegiance to God. She lived in Jericho. It was a dangerous time. The king of Jericho was setting himself up against God (verse 3). How many times in history have men done that? Rahab is the only person in the New Testament who is paralleled with Abraham, ‘Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? (James 2:21).

A person is justified by works, not faith alone. In James, Abraham had faith and it was demonstrated. Rahab had faith and it was demonstrated. Faith comes at a cost. We live in a world that stands against Biblical teaching in so many ways. Rahab stood alone in faith against the culture she lived in. How does our culture influence us? Daniel is another example of an Israelite living in a godless land. Rahab stood for the unseen against the seen. Her culture was materialistic, all about walls. But she tied the scarlet cord to the window the second the spies left. She was standing for Christ. Just as the scarlet blood of the lamb was painted on doorposts in Egypt. Trust in the unseen God. To be a member of the city of light requires faith. The oppressor of our souls is not our master anymore but he is not far away. Now he is our enemy. We will be attacked because we’re living in enemy territory. But Christ is our master, He is our Saviour. We must resist the enemy. Our identity is in the kingdom of light.

The New Testament is not embarrassed by Rahab. She is an ancestor of Christ.
Joshua tells us that Rahab lives in Israel to this day. She lived then as a citizen, now she is one of the Israelites. She married among the people, just as Ruth did.

In the Gospel of Matthew we read of the royal line of the Saviour (Matthew 1:4-6). Scripture is not ashamed of Rahab. In having been unfaithful to the creator, is not the whole human race a harlot?  Jesus Christ did not come from a sinless human line. We all need a Saviour. Even Mary needed a Saviour, ‘My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.’ (Luke 1:47). All the men and women of the ancestral line of Jesus needed a Saviour. Rahab didn’t stand with the people of God as an unclean harlot, she was a harlot cleansed. Is she any worse than you and me? Not at all. With the little she had she believed against all the odds, against everything she knew, her culture. We have so much – testimonies, churches, books – and yet people still do not believe. We all deserve the terrible judgement of the walls crashing down on us. Jesus stood against the walls of Jericho, as judge. But He also stood mighty to save Rahab. We should ask God that we can stand fast. We’re thankful for the faith of Rahab. She proved her faith. It’s hazardous to trust in Jesus in an age like ours, but if we believe, even surrounded by threats from the evil one, we have the Lord with us.

May 7th 2017: Paul Daniel

Paul Daniel-May 2017.jpg1 Thessalonians 1

Evangelists go into all the world to tell people about the gospel. In 1 Thessalonians the people were going into all the world. 2,000 years ago their message is still the same message we’re being told today.

What is it God was doing 2,000 years ago and what is it we can do now? Paul gives the Thessalonians praise; he’s thankful for them. It’s just a lovely letter. ‘Remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Paul and his companions always thanked God for the Thessalonians in their prayers, they knew they were Christians and could see how God was working in them and through them and continued to do so.

People all over the world knew about the church in Thessalonica. They once worshipped idols but turned away to worship the living God. They believed Paul’s message. Their eternity was changed forever. This is true of us today if we’re Christians. We once had idols but now we live for Jesus, putting our faith and trust in Him.

Often in Christian ministry we forget God’s power. It is so infinite and has no end. It takes people who are dead and makes them alive. The Thessalonians were spiritually dead but when God came in person they had new life.

The Power of Beginnings:
People in Thessalonica went about their daily jobs. When Paul arrived (Acts) he preached about Jesus’ death and His resurrection. Why did Paul want to preach this message? On the road to Damascus Paul (then known as Saul), was persecuting Christians, but on that day God worked in power. Saul’s dead spiritual state was brought to life. Before Paul, others were preaching the good news of Jesus, even before that Jesus Himself preached the good news. Even before that there was a time before Jesus walked this earth and people preached the good news – the Old Testament prophets, kings, exiles, Elijah, Joseph and other men in other stories. Go back even further to Adam and Eve, when the created world was ‘very good.’ But then Adam and Eve turned from God and sinned. Even though God made the world and it was very good, that one sin brought death and destruction.

Going back to the very beginning, God knew we would sin. He had a plan before the foundation of the world, when Father, Son and Holy Spirit would come together. God knew you and I would sin. ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). The power of beginnings is love. Before the foundation of the world, knowing what we would be like, God loved us. Love is powerful, it permeates time, it evokes passions. Right at the start, this gospel came to the Thessalonians because it had a beginning. Despite who we are or what we’ve done, God loves us. We fail God everyday but He still loves us. Jesus died on the cross for our sin. God demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son to die on a cross for His people.

The Power of the Message:
‘And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:6). The Thessalonians welcomed the message with joy. Paul didn’t tell the people to try harder, or to have a fresh start. He came with a message so powerful it was going to change their hearts and lives. The Bible is full of history, poetry, songs, narrative. As we open the Bible we see a message of truth, of relevance, that matches our deepest needs, that meets us where we are. The Thessalonians received the message with joy because it met their needs. It’s so powerful.

The message gives us forgiveness. Our sins are forgiven. It cleanses us. We can enter paradise and meet God who will provide everything we need. It’s a message that will change people’s lives for eternity.

There are many messages we may hear, but they can never satisfy us like the message of the gospel. Jesus died so we could have our greatest need met by Him; sins forgiven so we can be welcomed into heaven to be with Him.

The Power of changed Lives:
The Thessalonians not only received the message with joy, but they lived out the message. ‘For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:8). They were serving the living, true God, using their time and energy to serve Him. His power had changed their lives. The Thessalonians work was reported everywhere. The message was being lived out. When we live the message out, others start to see, others start to hear. As we see the Thessalonians, we see changed lives. They worshipped a true and living God. They prayed to the true, living God who answered their prayers, a God who gave them everything they needed. They had fellow brothers and sisters who all had similar needs and anxieties, who helped and supported one another, who worshipped together. Their changed lives were reported throughout the world. God was acting in power, giving a message that could change people’s lives.

What do you want for your church? A refurbished vestry, more people to sit in the pews, more money for various projects, to do something different this year that you’ve never done before? This is all good and right. But a greater desire is that God will come and work His power and will take the dead and bring life. That’s what happened in Thessalonica – people had died in trespasses, in sin, but God came and worked in Paul and others, and raised the dead to life. We are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Let us be joyful people serving the living God. As the Thessalonians did this, others saw and heard.

What do you desire? Pray for God to work in power, for when He works in power the world is turned upside down.

April 30th 2017: Norman Rees

Norman Rees - April 17Hebrew 11:8-12:12, focusing on 12:1-3

This epistle, or letter, to the Hebrews was possibly written by the apostle Paul. We don’t know for certain. However, it is the word of God. It was probably written by a Jew who was writing to Christian Jews. The writer says, ‘Look, I know you’re going through a tough time, but I need you not to look back to the Old Testament sacrifices, but to live by faith.’ This is what every Christian in the New Testament did – live by faith. If this was Paul, he would have seen Christ on the road to Damascus. Others lived by faith without seeing Christ. They struggled. They were used to seeing sacrifices. The devil is saying, ‘You don’t believe just faith will get you into heaven, do you? Why not sacrifice again? Why not be apostate?’ (Hebrews 6). This is a test for them and for us. Is our faith in what Christ has done for us on the cross and His resurrection?

We started the race when we were born again. We have to keep our eyes on Jesus. Our Christian life is not a sprint, it is a marathon. It’s a long, hard struggle. Satan will see to that! The ‘cloud of witnesses’ are people cheering on.

Hebrews 12-1 NKJV.jpg

 We are not told who the witnesses are – angels, the Spirit of God? Whoever they are, they encourage us to keep going. God is with us and encouraging us.

Before these people were in the race, in the marathon, there had to be preparation. When people run they are stripped down to the bare minimum, setting aside every weight. Paul says then that the things which hinder us need to be set aside. These things are sins which hinder us – things which take up too much time in our lives and detract from our Christian life. The ‘sin which so easily ensnares us,’ are things we know are not right. We need to set aside such sins.

We need to run with patience, with endurance. God has set the race, Christ has endured for us. It’s a privilege and a blessing to be chosen unto salvation, to have a seal. We have to endure and make sure things do not get in the way.

The Christian life is not an easy life. The devil will see to it we will have a hard time. Don’t despair. Rejoice! Christ has endured before us. We want to see ourselves bearing fruit. Christians in Galatia were getting discouraged. Paul wrote to them, ‘’Don’t faint, don’t get weary – it’s the devil’s work, he’s playing mind games with you.’ God is a God of the impossible. Abraham never thought he would have children in old age. His wife Sarah laughed at the thought. Yet with God all things are possible.

People have prayed for you that you might be saved. God is a great God. Pray for others. The devil attacks our thoughts. He did it with Elijah; Jezebel was going to kill him so he ran. The devil plays mind games.

In Pilgrims Progress Passion wanted everything now. Patience is willing to wait for God to work things out, to patiently endure. Sometimes we want God to get a move on. He is in control.

The people in the marathon are running for a prize. We are still running in the Christina life. Running is the grace of God.  In 2 Corinthians Paul says people run for an earthly crown but this will pass away. Focus our minds on the eternal race. Our prize is in heaven, in glory with Jesus Christ.

Keep our minds focused. Look to Jesus. The moment we take our eyes off Him we’re in big trouble. When we take our minds off spiritual things, look to Jesus. Don’t look to yourselves. We’re all tainted in some measure. We have to look to our Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour. Consider the Lord Jesus Christ, look what He has done. He started us on our race, He knows the state of our race. He knew the state of man was in a damnable position. He gave us hope. We deserved death but Christ was made sin – not a sinner. When He endured the cross, those three darkened hours, separated from the Father, we see one who was willing to suffer because before Him was the Resurrection, accomplishing the work of salvation for you and me. Look to Jesus who endured the cross.

Hebrews 12-2 NKJV

Jesus never became weary. He kept going. We are on a great race of life. Do not look back. Sometimes there’s a temptation to take an easier path. There’s no easy way to heaven. When you’re a backslider, repent, come back to God’s word. God can still use you. Rely on God’s promises. Perhaps there’s a person in your Christian life who has hindered you. In Revelation, when writing to the churches in chapters 2 and 3, John finishes each letter with blessed words to each one, ‘To him who overcomes.’

When you feel like giving up, persevere. Jesus will use you. You will have the morning star, Jesus Himself. Jesus will be waiting with the crown of life. He will give us zeal and energy to carry on. God has saved us. ‘I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s and.’ (John 10: 28-29). We are in His hands. No-one can pluck us from death. We are as safe as those who have gone before us. Where we are, God has put us to live and run the race for Him. Lay aside sin and weights that hinder us. He’s the author and finisher. He started our race. Keep looking to Jesus. The devil gives us much to be discouraged about but, as we sang earlier,

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I fell it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Take my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it from Thy courts above!

(Come thou Fount of every blessing – verse 3)