July 7th 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards - July 2019“Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12).

Duties neglected, even little ones, often bring great downfalls. This can certainly apply to our consideration of the fifth Commandment. This Commandment is central to the well-being of society. God’s command to honour parents is the foundation for society to live in harmony. One of the characteristics of a declining culture is disrespect – for one another and those in authority. At the root of this decline lies the rejection of the fifth Commandment. Learning of respect lies within family with children honouring their parents.

The position of this Commandment is it’s the first of the second tablet. The first four Commandments show man’s relationship to God. The second tablet shows man’s relationship amongst ourselves. This Commandment brings forth all the others that follow, it leads on to those that follow. It is the priority for the second tablet.

There’s a promise that comes with the commandment. Paul notes it is the first Commandment with a promise, a promise not to the individual but to people as a whole, a nation (Ephesians 6). It is talking to society. Here is the cornerstone for a stable society in the Promised Land. The people are instructed how to live in the Promised Land; if you want to prosper then honour your father and mother.

In the Bible the term ‘father’ is used to denote the elderly in general, those in authority and those who are fathers. It is used as an expression of respect. It denotes giving someone the honour they deserve (1 Peter 2:13, Leviticus 19:32, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). Most catechisms teach that we honour, be loyal, to our father and mother and all those in authority over us. It is the basis not only for respect within the family but, having learnt respect for a mother and father, then having respect in church and for those who are older. So Christians are to honour all those who are above them, in church, work and the wider world. You may feel that they do not deserve our respect but we are to honour them as God has ordained them. Acts 24-26 Felix was an adulterous, greedy man. Festus was of a more noble character but had little time for true justice. Agrippa had an incestuous affair with his sister. These characters do not win respect yet Paul respectfully addresses all three of them. We are to respect the rule of the law, including those who carry out the law. The only time a Christian can go against this is when a believer is called to do something contrary to God’s law.

Children’s actions should never be excused when they show rebellion. Adults, parents in particular, are to lead from example, for children learn best from imitation. This Commandment lays the foundation for the Bible’s teaching on respect throughout society. But the main teaching is that children are to honour their parents, treat parents as those who carry weight in their lives.

In what ways do we honour our parents? “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:3). We are to have a deep reverence for parents that comes from a right fear and true love of them. We should never belittle our parents either in word or action. Don’t make jokes about them or speak in a derogatory way. Place weight on their advice and wisdom. In addition, children are not to answer back to their parents. In Biblical terms it is a shameful thing to do. Teenagers can be disrespectful. They ‘know what’s best’! This may be true in the realm of technology but not in the realm of life. Young adults, as they gain independence, are supposed to remember that their parents carry weight. Older adults care for elderly parents, esteem them for all they gave and did for them.

Children are to be obedient to the parents (Ephesians 6:1). Children are to obey their parents teaching, especially as they are based on the Bible (Proverbs 1:8). Children are to obey their parents’ commands with a willing heart. Did not the Lord Jesus Christ obey His heavenly father in saying, “Not my will but your will be done.” In perfect obedience He went to the cross. He offered Himself up as the atoning sacrifice, He took on our sins, including the sins of disobedience, to our heavenly Father.

It is important children are taught that they should be only told once and that is that. Rules are set and to be obeyed. Parents, of course, must not be unreasonable in their demands (Ephesians 6:4). Parents are not to be tyrants but to be loving.

We must care for our parents. This Commandment is spoken mainly to adults. The nations that surrounded Israel practised euthanasia, the elderly were left to die. But the Israelites were to honour their fathers and mothers, to care and provide for the elderly. Even in Jesus’ day people were trying to make deals so they could not pay for their mother and father’s care (Mark 7:9-13). But think again. Our blessed Lord, as He hangs upon that cross, in agony of body and soul, what does He say? He looks at Mary and commends her to the care of John, and says John is to take responsibility for Mary. Even in His dying breath the Saviour does not forget to provide care for His mother (John 19: 26-27).

Today we see the fragmentation of the extended family that has led to the increase of pressure on social services. But as Christians we are to care for our elderly families, the church and community. It is a sign of Christ’s Lordship over us that we value, respect and care for our elderly family, neighbours and friends. The only one greater duty to parents is our duty to the Lord. There is no doubt we show our love for the Lord in the way we care for parents.

Some may have suffered, to various degrees, at the hands of their parents. They may have had very difficult relationships with parents. And that’s not easily forgotten or easily forgiven. And so I say, if that’s you, we understand. Ask the Lord to help you to forgive. Ask the Lord to give you the strength to honour your parents, even though they have hurt you. Ask the Lord to help you keep this Commandment for His glory and your good and for the good of your parents. Remember how disobedient you have been to you heavenly Father, remember, in so many ways how you’ve offended Him. Yet He has only done you good. Ask your Saviour, who suffered on the cross, to help you honour your father and mother.

June 30th 2019: Ian Middlemist

Ian Middlemist-November 2018John 8:1-11

The first time you picked up a Bible, as you opened the pages you thought you were studying it. You were encouraged to get into the Bible. But notice, as you grow older as a Christian the Bible is studying you, revealing truths about yourself. The Bible examines you. The book speaks about you. It was written over 2,000 years ago but is scans us inside and out. God knows breathing out this Word, every sin, every thought, every word, everything I have done. There is nothing we can hide from Him. God deals with guilt on the basis of grace and truth.

This scripture passage speaks powerfully to our situations. The Scribes and Pharisees judged the woman according to the law, which clearly condemned her. All of us, like this woman, have been caught in an act of sin and stand condemned in front of God’s holy law. To be caught in the act of adultery meant that the act had to be witnessed, to be actually seen going through the physical movement that could be capable of no other explanation. A compromising situation, such as leaving a hotel room together, would not have been good enough in a Jewish court. It was very likely the Scribes and Pharisees had set a trap to catch this woman so that they could catch Jesus in the horns of a dilemma and get rid of Him. There was a clear motive. Either Jesus would have agreed the woman should be stoned or Jesus would have shown her mercy and would be soft on sin, not upholding the Law of Moses. It was a deliberate trap. They only brought one sinner to Jesus. Why was the man not brought to Him? You can’t commit adultery alone. Maybe he was on the side of the Scribes and Pharisees? We don’t know.

All of us, like this woman, have been caught in the act of sin. We have all had the humiliating experience of getting caught doing something we know was wrong. No matter what the sin, it is always embarrassing. This woman was not only caught in the act of adultery but then dragged into the temple, of all places! All the people would have examined her like a piece of meat. Worse, they accused her in front of Jesus. They were pushing for the ultimate punishment – the act of execution. Even if we manage to keep our sin hidden from others, before God all of our lives are laid bare, ‘And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account,’ (Hebrews 4:13). He knows every simple thought we secretly entertain, every swear word, every hatred – not letting go of those who have wronged us, sin we commit when we’re alone, when we’re away in another city, He knows it all. The reality is every single one of us is caught in the act by God.

Religious people are just as guilty of sin as openly immoral people. We tend to look on the woman in the story as a great sinner and overlook the fact that the Scribes and Pharisees are just as evil, even more so. Clearly, they didn’t care about this woman at all. They could have held her in private custody but they didn’t. She was just a pawn. Their concern is not for holiness in society but to get rid of Jesus. Even more serious, these religious leaders were sinning against the sinless Jesus. They weren’t concerned about God’s honour, but in all they did they sought to kill and get rid of the Son of God. What could be worse? They weren’t using scripture to judge themselves, just pointing the finger against the woman and Jesus. Religious people are just as guilty of sin as openly criminal people are. Paul builds such a case in Romans, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,’ (Romans 3:23). Who do we identify most with in this passage – the adulterous woman or the self-righteous Scribes and Pharisees?

If God is full of love and grace how can He show mercy to sinners and uphold His justice? Nowhere in the story does Jesus condone this woman’s sin, but He shows grace. He applies God’s law and truth to them. The Scribes and Pharisees came armed with the law to test Jesus. Jesus responds by stooping down and writing in the ground with His finger. This is the only place in the Bible where Jesus actually writes anything. What did He write? No-one knows. When He says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” (John 8:7) He wasn’t saying judges need to be sinless. Rather, Jesus was applying what He taught in Matthew 7. The Scribes and Pharisees were hypocritical and were sinfully using this woman and Jesus to condemn her.

The starting place for receiving mercy is to be convicted by God’s holy law so that you are able to say, with the apostle Paul, that you are the chief of sinners. Jesus gives the law to the self-righteous but offers grace to broken sinners who repent. The law reveals your sin but the law cannot offer grace and forgiveness. We can infer by Jesus’ gracious words to the woman that He offered her grace. Are we gracious and show compassion? God’s justice is upheld. He can be both gracious to sinners and uphold justice at the same time. Jesus was a sacrifice for sin so that God’s justice could be satisfied, ‘It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus,’ (Romans 3:26). His death satisfies God’s wrath on our behalf.

The only sinless person in the temple that day who would have legitimately thrown a stone at the adulterous showed mercy. Trust in Jesus.

God’s grace then is the basis of a holy life. Jesus said to the guilty woman, “Go, and from now on sin no more,” (John 8:11). He doesn’t say, ‘Go your way, sin no more and I will not condemn you.’ There’s nothing you can do to make yourself righteous. Her pardon was the motivation to change. There’s nothing you can do to obtain justification. God grants forgiveness as a free gift, free grace becomes the motive for living in holiness. ‘What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?’ (Romans 6:1-2). God’s amazing grace is the greatest motive for living a holy life.

I was guilty. I was condemned before Him. But rather than condemning me, the Son loved me enough to die in my place and offer a full pardon. Since it cost Him so much, I want to please the One who love me and sacrificed Himself for me. There are no conditions. Just grace available to every sinner whose been caught in the act.

June 23rd 2019: Paul David

Paul David - April 18God is unchangeable. One of the names of God in the Old Testament is Yahweh. It speaks of the unchangeability of God. We vary from day to day, year to year. God is always the same. The temptation for us is to think of God in our terms. This is wrong. God is not a created being; He has always been. God cannot change. God is perfect (Psalm 50).

Because God doesn’t change, His purpose and His will don’t change either. His plans are the plans He has always had. He is all powerful. There is a certainty about God’s plans. We change our plans when we have new information. Sometimes we change our plans when we don’t have the resources. Sometimes plans change because we don’t have the strength to carry them out. Sometimes we change plans when we lose interest. Other times the world may change around us and change our plans for us. None of these things apply to God, He never changes His plans, ‘Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand’ (Proverbs 19:21).

‘The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations’ (Psalm 33:11).

The following verses may seem to contradict what has just been stated:

‘And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.  So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”’ (Genesis 6:6-7).

‘The word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the Lord all night.’ (1 Samuel 15:10-11).

‘When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it’ (Jonah 3:10)

These verses, and some others, imply that God has changed His mind about something. Are we to believe God made mistakes and changed His plans? No. These verses speak of God figuratively.

The Lord tells Samuel He regretted making Saul king, but we later read, ‘And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret’ (1 Samuel 15:29). God is described as ‘regretting’ to make things clear to us, showing His displeasure in a ways we would understand.

God’s actions towards the Ninevites changes but His plans did not. If you’re a Christian there has been a change of action, but not a change of plan. God is unchangeable. His plans are unchangeable. ‘God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19).

God’s emotions are unchanging. Yet we read that our Lord Jesus Christ was moved to tears (Matthew 9), felt ‘righteous anger’ (John 2, Mark 3), and rejoiced (Luke 10). He was a ‘man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53). Our Lord is God but He also became man. It is beyond our understanding. The passions He experienced refer to His humanity. As God, our Lord Jesus Christ was unchangeable. He became man for our sake and experienced joy and anger. His passions were pure. It is fundamental to our faith that God is unchanging. His character is one of complete stability. He is unmutable.

What does it mean to us? The Lord Jesus Christ is our great example as a man. There are things of God we are able to emulate, to copy, ‘For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy’ (Leviticus 11:44).

There are things we cannot copy, for example, being unchanging. We need to stand firm in faith, but no-where in the Bible does it say we are not to change. We are to become more holy because God is holy. We are to grow in grace. If you’re a Christian you’ve been through a major change and continue to change. We are not what we were but are on the move, to be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When you read the Old Testament you read of prophets, sacrifices, circumcision. These seem very remote to us. We may also have trouble relating to characters. But the connection is not with characters but with God. We should relate to the entire Bible. It’s about God and His dealings with humanity. We have the same God and relationship as Abraham did. We are all saved by the same faith and stand on the same promises and have the same eternal life. Because God is unchanging we can absolutely rely on Him. Society changes, people change. People are inconsistent but God has perfect consistency.

Because God doesn’t change His standards don’t change. He gave the Ten Commandments 3,000 years ago. They still represent God’s standard and character. When God tells us what is good and bad it is true. Actions which offended God in the Old Testament are still the same actions which offend Him today. Actions which pleased Him then, still please Him today. He doesn’t need a sacrifice of two pigeons but a repentant heart (Psalm 51).

God will be our judge. You want consistency and fairness in a judge. His standard has always been perfection. We are guilty. However, we can rely on Him because He has a rescue plan. Salvation is always found in the Lord Jesus Christ, in His sacrifice at Calvary. If you’ve put your trust in Jesus Christ, that is guaranteed. God’s love is eternal, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you’ (Jeremiah 31:3). This was spoken to Jeremiah 2,500 years ago, yet it still the same today.

‘For I the Lord do not change’ (Malachi 3). He is a covenant-keeping God, ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness’ (Lamentations 3:22-23).

God wants us to live in His presence – that’s always been His plan. Nothing can prevent it, it’s His plan, ‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God’ (Revelation 21:1-3).

June 2nd 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards-June19Exodus 20: 8-11

Our great grandfathers called it ‘Holy Sabbath,’ our grandfathers called it ‘The Sabbath,’ our fathers called it ‘Sunday.’ Today, it’s referred to as the weekend. The fourth Commandment has increasingly become ignored as Sunday becomes just another day of the week. Previously we learnt that Sunday is a holy day devoted to specially to Him, a day of rest, a day free from the rest of the week, a day in which we can enjoy fellowship with God. It is a day of blessing; God grants us the benefits of His presence.How can we make the best of this special day, maximum its benefits?

  1. Sunday is a day for reflection.
    2. Sunday is a day for renewal.

    Sunday is a day for reflection:

The first word of this Commandment is ‘Remember.’ Most commandments begin with a negative, ‘You shall not’ but this one begins with a positive call, a call to reflect on the past. It points back to the rest of God after six days of creation.

In Exodus 16 we remember that the Israelites were not to collect more manna than they needed for that day. They were to depend upon the Lord each day for their daily needs. The exception was the Sabbath, when they were to collect no manna at all but collect two days rations the day before.

We are to remember that God rested on the seventh day, to remember that God declared that manna was not to be collected. Later, when Moses reiterated the Commandments, they remembered how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. So another purpose of the Old Testament Sabbath was to reflect on God’s dealings with them as their Saviour. He is Creator, Provider and Saviour who brought them out of captivity in Egypt.

The New Testament Sundays have the same purpose, ‘On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight’ (Acts 20:7). A central part of the Sabbath was to remember the Lord’s death in partaking of the bread and wine. When they gathered, they listened to the Apostles’ teaching, reflecting on who God is and what He has done. The Sabbath remains of great importance as a day of rest from the business of life, set apart to praise God’s name as we reflect on who He is, what He has done in providing all our needs.

We are to set aside Sunday as we remember God and His goodness to us. It is a day to praise and thank Him. If we don’t guard our Sundays we will soon forget about God. There will be a rapid decline in zeal for the work of the gospel. Keeping the Sabbath is essential to our spiritual health.

Attendance at church services is so important. It is the best means of fulfilling the purpose of the day. Of course, we can reflect on our own, but it is best done in the company of the Lord’s people. We hear the Word of God preached and we reflect deeply upon Him. We are to be as devoted to the teachings of the Apostles as the early believers were. It is the heart of the worship of God. It is in the Word was encounter our risen, glorious Saviour. It is in the preaching of the Word that we remember the Lord Himself and grow in our love for Him. As we come together around God’s Word we encourage one another. We come to remember the Lord’s death until He comes, by sharing in the bread and wine, to remember His sacrifice at Calvary. It is important we are present when church gathers around His table to remember His death until He comes. The best way to keep the Sabbath holy is to come together to honour God and give maximum benefit for our souls. It is a priority for our spiritual health.

 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:8-11).

Sunday is a day for renewal:

Exodus 31: 12-18. There are two things about the Sabbath:
(i) it is a day of renewing commitment. God says people’s obedience to keeping the Sabbath holy was a sign of their Covenant commitment. God will be their God, they will be His people. A sign of their commitment was to be the sharing of His day. If they broke the Sabbath, they broke the terms of the Covenant, they no longer regarded themselves as His people. That is why the penalty for breaking the Sabbath was to be death. We might think this over-the-top, but what was involved was a clear renunciation of God, a bold act of treason and rebellion. It was an incredibly serious thing. However, when the people kept the Sabbath, it showed renewing of this commitment to the Covenant.

The Sabbath is a day in which we renew our commitment to God in keeping it holy. Being bold enough to say or show commitment to the Lord’s Day is a reflection of our commitment to the Lord. If we renew our commitment to God Himself only as far as it suits us, we are not committed at all. Of course, there are occasions when something crops up that keeps us from church – demands that need our urgent attention. Jesus understands this. Our commitment to the Lord’s Day is a testimony to the world that we put God first. There is no doubt, people can tell what our priorities are by the way we behave. It applies to the Lord’s Day as it applies to anything else (Eric Lidell).

(ii) Sundays are a day for renewing the soul. Exodus 31:12 links observance to the Lord’s Day to holiness, sanctification, ‘And the Lord said to Moses,  “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you’ (Exodus 31:12-13). Sunday has a role in increasing the holiness of God’s people. Sundays spent in the presence of God, in fellowship of other Christians, is the best preparation for the week ahead. God equips us to serve Him in the days ahead. Sundays are important to our spiritual growth and serving the Lord. Sundays are most spiritually profitable. Ensure maximum spiritual benefit.

So we are to look forward to Sundays and delight in praise and fellowship with God’s people. Know the delight of the Lord’s Day with the Lord’s people and the Lord’s Word. If we want to grow as Christians, to be sanctified, to be better servants, we will keep the Lord’s Day and make the best use of it and be present in services and encourage one another. The Lord’s Day is a day of reflection, a day set aside, given to considering the greatness of God as our Creator and Provider and Saviour. It is a day to renew our commitment to the Lord, who committed His all to us in dying on the cross for our sins. It is a day for spiritual renewal, in fellowship with one another as we praise the Lord and encourage one another. It is a day to cherish and look forward to. May the Lord so encourage us. Have joy in knowing the Lord’s presence, worship His majesty and splendour in the company of His people.

May 26th 2019: Gerald Tait

Gerald Tait-May 19Titus 2:11-15

Looking for Jesus without anxiety

The Song of Solomon speaks of the first and second coming of the Lord Jesus. It is written in poetic language. Jewish boys under 13 were not allowed to read it. But it tells a story. King Solomon had a vineyard in Baal-hamon (Song of Solomon 8:11). In those days, a landlord went to collect rent once a year. Solomon and his courtiers went to collect rent and he spotted the most beautiful Shulamite lady. He wanted her to love him because of who he was. He went away. He laid aside his royal splendour and took on clothes of a shepherd. He and the Shulamite woman met regularly. He courted her. Several times he went dressed as a shepherd to woe this young lady. They fell in love. There came a day when a special carriage of gold, lined with cloth, was prepared for the king’s wedding day. Imagine that feeling when the king came for his bride. So this love story was developed.

We know about the first Advent of the Lord Jesus. This story fits in with that. The king went looking for his bride. Now, we live in courtship times. Jesus came as the good shepherd looking for you and I. He came in disguise, just as King Solomon came in disguise (Philippians 2). He came to get a bride. You are part of that story when you come for the Lord Jesus.

We get our weddings all wrong. The bridegroom comes first and waits for the bride. Biblically, the bride should be there first. The Lord Jesus went through the heart of Calvary so you and I could become part of His bride.

How does the bridegroom come? Jesus comes as a bridegroom, not as a judge. He has forgotten our sins. He is coming as a bridegroom. That’s a relief! Christians won’t stand before the great judgement seat of God, but we will be tested. The test is only a test. God will look for the best in us, He wants to reward us. Salvation is a gift, rewards are earned, a future attainment.

What do we do in this courtship time? The Shulamite girl was questioned what her love was like. She testified how wonderful he was. We need to testify about Him. Just tell people what God means to you, how precious He is and how going to Christ is so important.

How will Jesus come? The same way as He went (Acts 2). He will so come in like manner in the clouds. Matthew states, ‘Something greater than Solomon is here’ (Matthew 12:42). We look for His glorious appearance. We have an amazing blessed hope. ‘We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’ (Hebrews 6:19-20). Jesus had gone into heaven itself. He has gone first. We are secured. Look forward!

May 18th 2019: Thomas Kitchen

Thomas Kitchen-May19Haggai 2:20-23

Sometimes we read unintentional funny mistakes; a church noticeboard read ‘Our God resigns’ instead of ‘Our God reigns!’ Do we think our God reigns? Does He reign over everything? It may seem like a silly question, but many Christians who say God reigns supreme, when it comes to day to day living, it appears that God doesn’t reign at all – it doesn’t make a difference to their lives. Things are getting worse and worse in our land. Doctrine is becoming washed out until it is not the Word of God. Christians are faced with danger and powerful enemies. This is what Zerubbabel faced. It was a bleak situation. We read in Haggai 1 the Persians were still ruling. People were side-tracked from God. They were called to build a temple with clean and holy hearts (Haggai 2:10-14).

Zerubbabel was given a message (Haggai 2:20-23), a clear message, to trust in God, the sovereign God.

God has a definite plan for history (verses 21-23). We see the use of a personal pronoun for God (NKJV). There is no uncertainty about what God is going to do. He has a plan which will be fulfilled because He is sovereign. His sovereignty doesn’t depend on His people, but rather His command and rule. So why do we retreat into a corner with enemies around us? We know He is sovereign, but we are live another week thinking things are going terribly. But God has a perfect plan which will come to pass. He is in control. There is no need to be afraid because God is with us and is in control.

God’s plan is carried out according to His choosing (verse 23). God chooses Zerubbabel, not Zerubbabel chooses God. God elects His people; there is nothing in us at all that makes God choose us, we are all sinful wretches. He chooses us because He is God, because of His goodness and mercy. God even chose Zerubbabel to cop-operate. He willingly followed God as a servant because God chose Him. We are dead in sin. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts us. A dead person cannot wake himself. God first gives life. Regenerations comes before faith. It is He who tells us He is sovereign: ‘But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9).

Was Zerubbabel ignored? For after all, Joshua was the one who would be crowned (Zechariah 6:9-13). No, great things were promised to Zerubbabel; he was chosen as a leader of God’s people. He isn’t called governor but ‘my servant’ (like Moses, David, Daniel and Jesus Christ). This is a title of honour in terms of Christian living. And, of course, we are all servants. God has chosen us to obey and work for Him.

What is the signet ring all about? (verse 23). It’s exciting! A signet ring was a ring a king used to stamp his authority. It was put in hot wax to seal letters. No-one could steal it or use it under a false claim. Zerubbabel was as precious as a signet ring for a king. He was given this exalted position because God had chosen him. He was in God’s own hands, the King’s hands. God has promised us He will never leave us or forsake us. He still has the authority.

God’s plan centres on Jesus Christ. Everything in the Old Testament points ahead to Jesus’ incarnation and death (Luke 24:27). Zerubbabel, in his own way, points to Christ because he is a type of Christ. Why? He led the remnant, the small group of 50,000 people, out of Babylonian exile. God has chosen a small number of His own people for Himself. As Zerubbabel led the remnant out of exile, a terrible place full of sin, so Christ has led us from the tight grasp of sin. He has chosen and led us, everyone who trusts in Him. Secondly, Zerubbabel built the temple, so Christ is building the greatest temple, the church. Thirdly, Zerubbabel was chosen to be God’s signet ring, so Christ is a signet ring that seals every promise and purpose.

Zerubbabel was a sinful man but Christ is a sinless man who came under the authority of God, His Father, who came in authority Himself as God’s Son. The cross is stamped in His authority, as is His Resurrection and coming again. Christ is the greatest signet ring.

We read in Haggai 2 this will happen ‘in a little while.’ To us, a little while may be a few hours, weeks or years. However, to God it is different (Psalm 110, Revelation 19). The promise is not fulfilled in Zerubbabel’s time or in Revelation. But it will be fulfilled!

What is the application of this passage of scripture? God’s servant should be encouraged to trust Him and do His sovereign will, no matter how much sin we see in the world. God reigns and we have to trust His promises, what He will do in the future. He gives us the strength to build His Church, whatever He calls us to do. God’s promises last. He is the Lord of hosts. It is a greatly encouraging book. Are you going to accept the call? Is He reigning in you? ‘And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee’ (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

May 12th 2019: Lawrence Mitchell

Lawrence Mitchell-May 2019Luke 20

Whose child are you? Who is your father, in a spiritual sense? Who do we belong to? Do we know we have a Father? The Hebrew people were known as the children of Israel – they believed and testified they were the children of Abraham. Believers are children of the Resurrection, ‘Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection,’ (Luke 20:36). What a verse! What a statement! It gives us great power in our living and testifying, as we speak of a wonderful Saviour. We are not just children of the Cross, but children of the Resurrection.  Paul said, ‘That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death,’ (Philippians 3:10).

Jesus met with people who said they were children of Abraham. Jesus disagreed because they didn’t live as the children of Abraham. The Lord Jesus had been speaking to them about His Father. They didn’t understand Him. Sometimes, some of our friends are not worshipping in chapel today. Loved ones will be out in the world. You know the devil will cast you down. He is the accuser of the brethren, asking why do you witness? Loved ones may not be following in the Saviour, but we look to God’s promise that they may one day. It is a wonderful promise.

The people sought to kill Jesus, there was hatred in their hearts, yet there was no hatred in the heart of Abraham, so they could not be children of Abraham. The people heard the Saviour but did not want to follow Him. Many today look to a great preacher, like Billy Graham, leaning on a man instead of leaning on the Lord. Abraham is our father but Jesus had very strong words to say to the people. There are many people today deep in sin, the devil is at work. He is the father of lies.

But the good news of the Bible is that believers are children of God, equal with the angels. What a blessing to be a child of God. By the very presence of God and knowledge of God we know angels rejoice in heaven when just one person gets saved. We are equal with angels because we are children of God, children of the Resurrection.

Who are the children of the Resurrection in the Word of God? Peter denied the Lord and was far from the cross. Sometimes we fail to testify. But the Resurrection made a difference in the life of Peter. Not only did he believe in the Resurrection, he preached not only Christ and the cross, but the Resurrection itself (Acts 2:31-32). Peter was a child of the Resurrection. This did not go down well with the people who rejected him. But 3,000 were saved and another 5,000 later on because of the power of Christ.

Paul preaches with authority, power and love. Now he doesn’t deny Jesus, he knows Him. Another child of the Resurrection was Stephen. Stephen began talking about the children of Israel. Peter began by talking about the man, the Lord Jesus, but finished with the Lord, the Resurrected Lord. Stephen, in a similar way, speaks of Abraham and others but then comes to Christ. The people became angry, as the Jews were towards the Lord Jesus Christ. Stephen was martyred. He saw the Saviour standing at the right hand of God. When Stephen entered heaven, Jesus stands to welcome him home because he was a child of the Resurrection.

The kingdom of God welcomes you because you are a child of the Resurrection.

May 5th 201: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards-Jan18Exodus 20:8-11

The American actor of the early twentieth century, W.C. Fields, was not a nice man. He was an alcoholic, an ardent atheist who was very anti-Christian. So it was a great surprise when a friend walked into his dressing room and saw him reading the Bible. Fields, embarrassed, claimed he was ‘just looking for loopholes.’ Of all the verses examined for loopholes, those we are looking at here are probably high on the list. This Commandment, ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8) is most contentious: what day shall be observed? What should and shouldn’t be allowed? Today we shall hear part 1 of a 2-part study.

  • The Sabbath is a holy day
  • The Sabbath is a day of rest
  • The Sabbath is a day of blessing.

The Sabbath is a holy day. God set apart one day in seven to be a holy day. It is God who established a pattern of a seven day cycle with one particular day set apart, consecrated, holy, for Him. God requires we set apart one day in seven in which we seek Him and worship Him. During their time in Egypt the children of Israel had been used to a ten day week and not one of those ten days was set aside for the Lord. Even before the giving of this Commandment, God re-establishes the creation cycle of one in seven. This is then enshrined in this Commandment. In the Old Testament the people observed this day on the last day of the week but in the New Testament it began to be observed on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), in commemoration of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 16:2). Nevertheless, whichever day it was , it was a day set aside by God in which man was particularly to worship Him, to acknowledge in a special way one day in seven (Exodus 31:12-13).

In the New Testament the title of the Lord’s Day was introduced (Revelation 1:10). The Sabbath is a holy day. God has given us six days to do all the necessary things in life. Only one is set aside to worship Him. We are to worship Him in all that we do, on all days – in our job, home-life, church life, worship Him every day. But He is to be particularly honoured and worshipped on the Lord’s Day.

However, there is a problem. People are increasingly reluctant to give Him one day. Perhaps I can be a little provocative and say it is the Lord’s Day, not just in the morning, but also in the afternoon. It is particularly appropriated to attend church gatherings and to remember the Sabbath day and to keep it holy. If you can’t attend services for the Lord’s people, the day is still the Lord’s. It is not the Lord’s half day, it is the Lord’s Day.

We should be prepared for the Lord’s Day. Good practice is to go to bed early Saturday night so you are refreshed, alert and ready in body, mind and soul, having prayerfully sought the Lord, even before coming to a church service.

The Sabbath is a day of rest. It is very important we understand what the term ‘rest’ means here. We are to imitate God, who after six days of creation, paused to rest on the Sabbath. This doesn’t mean God was tired, for He never tires. Neither does it mean God entered into an inactive state, for He was still sustaining all He had created by His power. God rested. Having seen everything He made was very good, He ceased from His labour to enjoy what He had made. Likewise, we should cease one day in seven from all labours so we should enjoy God. Don’t make a mistake in thinking ‘work’ means paid employment. No. What is referred to is all those activities which stop us from worshipping.

The Sabbath is not a day of inactivity but a day full of worship and activity for God. The Sabbath was provided as a gracious means for everyone to draw near to God. To take advantage of the day instead of pursuing everyday pleasures brings great blessings (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Sundays are not meant to be a day of laziness, leisure and lie-ins. Sunday is meant as a day of enjoying God. It is not for catching up on the backlog of work, DIY jobs, being on the golf course. If it is, then you are too busy and need to look how you are use Monday to Saturday. If we can’t give Sundays to enjoyment of God then we are in real trouble spiritually. Tell me what you are doing on a Sunday and I will tell you what your future will be. Sunday is a family day but it is not to be spent on the beach but with the Lord and His people – the whole family praising the Lord together in church services, in the company of the Christian family we belong to.

The Sabbath is a day of blessing. It follows on that the Sabbath is meant to be a day of blessing (Exodus 20:11). God’s intention always was that this day, consecrated to Him, would bring great joy and blessing (Psalm 92). Unfortunately, later generations forgot the joy of the Sabbath and turned it into a legalistic nightmare. By Jesus’ day the Pharisees had 1,500 rules. This is why Jesus attacked them. The Sabbath should be observed in the right way for the right reasons. It is meant to be a day of rejoicing (Mark 2:27). The blessings and joys of the one day in seven also points to the Sabbath rest, fellowship with the people of God. It speaks of heaven.

Have you ever contemplated that a Sunday is intended to be a foretaste of heaven? The thrill of His Resurrection power that we know is at work in our own lives?  We should know such blessing of our souls as we gather around His Word, seek Him in prayer and praise. The blessings that we experience on the Lord’s Day are a little bit of what awaits us in heaven. If you don’t like Sundays, you won’t like heaven.

Sundays are to be enjoyed, not in the pleasures of this world, but by experiencing and anticipating the blessings of God that will one day fill our lives. Those who believe Sundays are boring are radically wrong. Perhaps we have forgotten how to enjoy God, failing to appreciate His blessings. Keeping the Lord’s Day is about separating ourselves from normal daily activities to be in fellowship. Blessings of a Sunday can be only known by those who know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and whose place in heaven is secure. They have great joy in their souls not only because they’re forgiven but because they know Him who died for them at Calvary. These are the blessings because Christ has secured them for us. If we value these things then the Sabbath will be special to us. Christ is our Lord and Saviour. The Sabbath – a holy day, a day of rest and a day of blessings.

April 28th 2019: Mike Viccary

Mike Viccary April 19As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving
(Colossians 2:6-7)

How do you become a Christian?
Once you are a Christian, how do you continue to live as a Christian?

Our text nestles in the midst of problems (Colossians 2:4). Paul is concerned some might be deceived. The antidote? Believers can’t miss the wonders of what the Lord has done and the perfect teaching of Christ (verses 9-15). You need no other mediator or philosopher – you need Him. If you put your trust in Him He has wiped all away, all the sin debts you have accrued.

There are three parts to the focus verses (6-7):
1. Being receptive to Christ
2. Being rooted in Christ
3. Being rich in Christ.

  1. Being receptive to Christ:
    Paul’s main emphasis is to knit them together in love. Our main subject is Christ Jesus. If you are a person who is seeking what life is all about, Jesus is the substance. You can only be complete if you’re in Him. Decide in your mind you’re a sinner, turn from sin and trust in Him. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Colossians 1:13). The work of faith is amazing! Someone who has turned from sin is now under God’s rule. If you’re a person who doesn’t know Christ, this world is darkness. But if you’re a believer you’ve been given such privileges (John 3). You are regenerated, born-again.

In Colossians 2:6-7 what does it mean to receive? To accept, acquire, apprehend, appropriate and assimilate. Christ has taken your sin, paid the price. What you not cling to Him, say, ‘I want you Lord’?

To receive is to associate with someone. We see this in Jesus’ life. People wanted to flock to Him, like Zacchaeus. Would you not be a Zacchaeus today? Being in Jesus leads to immense privileges; if you receive Jesus you become part of the family of God (John 1:12-13). We can receive Christ when we receive God’s words. It’s an awesome thing when Christ says, ‘Come.’ So walk in Him. Continually receive in Christ. Are we receiving Christ day by day? Run to Christ. Receiving Christ is now walking with Him: agreeing with Him, having union with Him, being clothed with Him (Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27, Isaiah 61:3). Put on love, mercy, all the righteous gifts God has given to you.

  1. Being rooted in Christ:
    Where are your roots? Sometimes our roots are firmly in this world – career, finances etc. Does your root seek out the water of life or something else? Are you built up in Him? Where do you go when you have difficulties? What does it mean to be rooted in Christ? We are grounded in Him, rooted in the faith. The Scriptures talk about faith. What does this mean? A body of connective truths – ultimately it’s about Him. It belongs as a gift to God’s elect. The faith is something we must be obedient to. We ought to test ourselves to see whether we are in the faith. To experience the presence of God is something we can’t teach but something we can ask for. The apostle Paul wants us to be grounded in Him, therefore, being grounded in the faith. That’s why it’s so important to study. If you love a person you want to hang on their every word. The Word is the love letter from Jesus Christ. If you love Jesus you’ll hang on every word.
  2. Being rich in Christ:
    You should be abounding in Him – overflowing in wanting to know about receiving Christ, wanting to know more about Jesus, what faith is about. Knowing about God does not necessarily mean you have faith. Knowing His name, being able to prophesy and do miracles in not having faith. If your life is not changed, your character is not altered, you do not have faith. God is more interested in your walk of faith. It’s essential to know the doctrines, the teaching of Christ. It’s impossible to be a true believer without wanting to know more and more. Our life is a question of receiving continually from Christ.

If we developed a life of thanksgiving, what a change that would be. If the Christian is thinking about Christ, wanting to know more, thanks will come. What have you got to be thankful for? Forgiveness of sins, the peace of God, my sin problem has been dealt with, a mansion in heaven has been reserved for me, fellowship with God, when you’re praying, knowing you are praying to the creator of the universe, knowledge and understanding, abundant life, new life.

Have you received Christ Jesus as Lord? If so, keep on. Is your source of delight God and Jesus Christ? Do you pay attention to your teachers, the family of God? Do you value what they bring to you? What treasures do you have?

April 21st 2019: Easter Sunday: Gareth Edwards

gareth-e-sept-2016John 20: 1-10

John, in chapter 19, goes to great lengths to establish Jesus really died. He wants people to know Jesus was dead and buried because there as a theory, a doctrine, which taught that Jesus didn’t really die. So John wants to establish once and for all that Jesus most certainly died and was buried. John does this because he also wants us to know Jesus was raised and alive (chapter 20).

In the opening ten verses of chapter 20 we see John’s insistence that He who was dead is alive. This truth became a cornerstone of the apostles’ teaching. This truth is so important that Paul later says, ‘And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:17-20). If the Resurrection is not true, Christianity is untrue. So John takes great care to present conclusive evidence that Jesus rose and is alive. John is like an expert barrister presenting his argument before the jury. His argument is so powerful any counter-argument is simply washed away by the mountain of evidence. The first ten verses describe the initial discovery Jesus was alive. Three points will be made:

  1. This event was unexpected and misunderstood.
    2. John provides us with significant detail that verifies this event.
    3. Belief began to dawn in John’s own heart.

 

  1. One of the things that lends credence to all 4 gospels is the disciples’ utter surprise. We would have expected the disciples to say Jesus rose from death just as they thought He had taught them He would. It would have been quite expected for them to say, ‘Yes, we were in the know. We were expecting it.’ But that’s not what happened. They admit candidly their unbelief. They were shocked at such an unexpected turn of events and misunderstood what had happened. They misunderstood Old Testament prophecies that predicted the Resurrection. Even arriving at the tomb and seeing it empty, they still didn’t understand. Others in the Upper Room were in grief and disarray, utterly demoralised. For Peter, seeing the grave clothes left behind, the penny didn’t drop. He went home wondering (Luke 24:11). It’s the second disciple, in verse 8, who saw and believed.

We have Mary’s words to Peter and John (verse 2). They reveal she and the others believed Jesus’ body was moved by the authorities. The immediate response to the empty tomb was not to rejoice that Jesus was alive, but that it was a conspiracy by the authorities. There was complete misunderstanding. The evidence is misunderstood. You’d have thought they’d have been rightly able to assess, given what they’d been taught. This reluctance to accept the Resurrection is not due to a lack of evidence but stubborn unbelief. Those who don’t believe do so because they don’t want to believe. It is a natural distrust of the human heart to simply refuse to humble yourself because you will not bow in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is God’s grace which opened our eyes to see that Jesus rose from the dead. We believe in the Resurrection because of the glory not because we are clever and have higher spiritual ability. It is not because we are more religious, brought up in a Christian family, having an insight others lack. It’s simply God in His grace has opened our eyes to see, our ears to hear and our hearts to believe.

We need to pray God would open the hearts of those around us that they would believe as we do. Nothing that we do will produce results, it’s only God who saves.

  1. The significant details John gives us. He does so to authenticate his account. He, the second disciple, the one who Jesus loved, includes an incidental note – he’s faster that Peter, he outran Peter. Other details are more significant. The stone was removed from the tomb, the linen cloths were left lying in their place and the face cloth was folded up. All hint at the nature of the Lord’s Resurrection. When Lazarus emerged from the tomb he was wrapped in clothes (John 11:44-55). In contrast, Jesus’ linen cloths were left in the tomb. Lazarus returned with the same physical limitations, but Jesus’ resurrected body could pass through the clothes, leaving them behind.

Why was the stone moved? It’s evident that the stone wasn’t moved to let Jesus out, but to let the disciples in, so they could see for themselves the evidence. Similarly, the face cloth, being placed in such a way, shows a real presence of a real physical being who could take hold of and fold a cloth. What we see is Jesus rose to life with a real physical body but without the old limitations. He was resurrected to a higher place of physical existence. Lazarus was returned to his former life, Jesus was resurrected to a life of glory. Jesus rose physically, retaining His human nature fully, but He was raised as a glorified man. It marks not only a victory over death but a total elimination. The glorious truth is Jesus has smashed death and rendered it powerless. He rose, never to die again (Revelation 1:18). His resurrection life if glorious. He sets a precedence for those who will trust Him as their Saviour. In His Resurrection, they see the pattern of their resurrection, for all those who trust in Him. This event causes us to rejoice in the hope to eternal life. We have the most exciting prospect – as Jesus was after His Resurrection, so will we be after ours.

As Mary, Peter and John gazed in amazement at the empty tomb we should bow in wonder, love and praise. There is total victory over sin, hell and death. The symbol of His glory is not a cross on jewellery, it is the symbol of the empty tomb. The details John gives us shows the nature of Jesus’ glorious resurrection.

 

  1. One of the main themes of John’s gospel is the theme of light and darkness. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night (John 3), showing a reference that he was in the dark. Judas betrayed Jesus in darkness. In John 12:35-36 we see the repetition of darkness. John symbolically tells us Mary made her way to the tomb while it was still dark. Other writers say she arrived whilst it was dawn. Dark reflects Mary’s despair and unbelief. But in verse 8 John, speaking of himself, says he saw and believed. The light of faith dawns to dispel the darkness of unbelief. With Jesus’ resurrection a new day of faith dawns in John’s heart. Has the light of faith dawned in your soul as you see the empty tomb? Have you come out of the darkness of your unbelief? If not, why not? You are called to walk in the light.

Dear Christian friend, you have come to the light, then walk in it. Become more and more like the Saviour. Rejoice that He has not left you in the darkness of sin and unbelief. Look forward to the joy of heaven above, the Lamb. In glory we won’t be taken up with the splendour of our surroundings but the glory of our risen Lord. Walk in the fullness of His bright light and never in darkness again (Revelation 21:22). The light of faith dawned in John’s heart. Has it dawned in yours? If it has, know you will never walk in darkness again. Be a light in this world. Know there is a day coming when you will see the inexpressible glory of the Lord Himself. The Resurrection is but the beginning of the journey into light. Praise be to His name, our Resurrected Lord.