October 15th 2017: Ian Middlemist

Ian March 26th 2017I John 3 ‘Blessed Assurance.’

Assurance of love is essential. Our Heavenly Father needs to discipline us for our good that we might share in His holiness and be assured of His great love for us. ‘See what kind of love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is it did not know him.’ (I John 3:1). God wants His children to feel His arms of love around them.

I john 3-1

– An important question to ask: Am I a Christian?
– Vital love
– A central perspective.

An important question to ask: Am I a Christian?

The enemy of our souls tries to drive a wedge between us and God. The devil’s work and our conscience can condemn us as we compare ourselves with to others and to the Word. It is right we compare ourselves to God’s standards. It is right we love others but this can be hard. We may have difficulty praying for others.

For many the question ‘Am I a Christian?’ may seem ridiculous. They may answer, ‘Of course!’ It’s a vital question to ask. Be careful how we ask and answer it. We also need to meet it head on.

The creator God is here, we proclaim, as a church. There is one true God, all powerful, who created everything and is intimately involved. Why is it then that there is so much suffering? Why do so many people feel disconnected from God – not basking in the wonder of who He is? Why do we not always feel Christian? Perhaps we should ask ourselves what is a Christian? A Christian is a child of God. It is not someone who is generally good or goes to church. A Christian is a child of God, therefore it is someone who can call upon Him as ‘My Father.’

From the New Testament we know that a Christian is someone who is in Christ, someone who has entered into a wonderful, mysterious union into Jesus, clothed with Christ. We are intimately united with Christ. Faith has brought us into Christ.

People can be:

  • Unsaved and know they are not in Christ and are not bothered about this. They will be in Hell.
  • Be saved but not know they are saved. May be they don’t experience it all the time.
  • Be saved and know they are children of God. This is blessed assurance.
  • Not be saved but they seem to believe they are. This is false assurance. We do not want people to think they are going to heaven when they are trusting in themselves rather than Jesus.

In response to the question, ‘Am I a Christian?’ if I am I know I have the love of God in me, I am a child of God. To help you and encourage you there is to be a love in the heart of the believer. ‘By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him.’ I John 3: 19). 

I John 3-18

‘By this’ refers to the previous verse, ‘Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.’ (I John 3:18). There is to be this love in a Christian. It is defined in terms of direction:

  • It is not love towards cars, jobs, wives, husbands or me. Here is the grace of God displayed – it is love directed towards Jesus Christ, a love towards the person of Jesus. God sent His Son to live a righteous life on our behalf. When Christ willingly hung on the cross and suffered in agony He was thinking of you. Therefore, it’s Jesus we love because of what He did for us. Now we can put our trust in Him and now we can love Him. My love is not what it ought to be. The key thing Peter was assured of was that even when he failed, he could still say he loved Jesus. No matter how great our failings, we can still say we love Him.
  • There is a love for righteousness.
  • There is a love towards other Christians – not just certain Christians, a love for all of them. It’s testimony to God’s saving grace we can say we love the church.

Central Perspective: We must be convinced of God’s great goodness. ‘For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.’ (I John 3:20). We are assured of God’s great love towards us. It is not based on my love, my understanding or my feelings. Whenever our conscience condemns us, when the devil condemns, we turn to the greatness of God. Our hearts condemn us but God is greater. He knows all things. Don’t put your trust in yourself, trust in Him. Listen to what He says about you. He is always aware of us, where we are, what we feel, our thoughts. But He also knows we are His. He sent His only Son to die for you, to clothe you in righteousness. Be assured, God is greater than our hearts. Are you able to say, ‘Yes, I love Jesus?’ Be confident in Him.

 

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October 8th 2017: Dave Evans

Dave Evans-Oct 17Mark 14:32-42

When going through a difficult time, some people may say they are experiencing their own ‘personal Gethsemane.’ The truth is, we are treading on holy ground – a unique experience. Only the Saviour ever experienced Gethsemane. Thousands shared the experience of crucifixion, the intense physical suffering. But what no film, no description can truly convey is the suffering our Saviour endured in those hours of darkness. There is nothing like it recorded in human history. We can learn something of the mystery of our Saviour’s experience through the Holy Spirit.

If we look at the setting, our Saviour is coming to the end of three years of ministry. Judas has left the upper room.The Saviour and the remaining disciples go across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus then left most of the disciples at the gate whilst He, Peter, James and John entered the garden. We then have a sudden change, ‘He began to be troubled and distressed.’ (Mark 14:33). We are given a glimpse into our Saviour’s soul – the human Jesus expresses His deep concern to His disciples, ‘Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”’ (Mark 14:34). On every side our Saviour is shut in by distress of soul. He has anguish of soul. The three disciples must have been amazed at what was happening after seeing His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. Here, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Incarnate Son of God is now bowed down in deep distress. You almost feel things can’t be any more heart-rendering than they are. But then ‘He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.’ (Mark 14:35). After only a few steps it seems He is crushed to the ground, pressed into the dust. This anguish lays hold of the whole being of Christ.

What is happening? Why is this experience laying hold of the Saviour? Turn to the Saviour’s prayer in verses 35-36, ‘And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”’ (Mark 14:36). Jesus prayed if it were possible the hour might pass from Him. It’s surely at this point we try to enter into the mystery of the hour. It’s clearly a reference to His death. Jesus always knew He was coming to die for His people. Now He prays to the Father asking for release. What is going on here? His depth of agony doesn’t leave any space for pretence. Does it show an element of weakness? Is He weakening when others have stood firm and given their lives for the gospel? No! He did not fail. As Judas and the authorities came He left willingly. The intense agony of Gethsemane can be explained as we consider verse 36. Jesus prays this prayer which had so much meaning for every Jew. ‘Take this cup away from Me.’ The picture of the cup can refer to joy, ‘I will take up the cup of salvation,’ (Psalm 116:13). But more often, it’s a symbol of judgement and of God’s wrath against sin (Isaiah 51:7, Jeremiah 25). Also in the New Testament, Revelation 14 speaks of the ‘cup of His indignation.’ Here lies, surely, the explanation for the Incarnate God lying crushed in the Garden. He begins to experience the sufferings He alone could endure on the cross. The two thieve endured the physical suffering. What we could not see on the cross we see here – how awful sin is. Our Saviour here looked at the sin which He was to bear on the cross for others, He saw it in its deformity. He sees the wrath of God. His holy soul recoils. That’s what the Saviour experienced here in Gethsemane. He began to experience the cup of wrath, the separation of fellowship with His Father. He begins to experience Hell that He will experience on the cross. He begins to see Hell as His companion as others desert Him. He begins to experience the full horror. So He prays, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”’ (Mark 14:36). But He receives no answer. Heaven is silent. If He didn’t go to Calvary then the cup of wrath would have been drunk by all of mankind. The debt was so great only God could pay it. The life of this one man was so precious it was able to pay the debt. The cup must be drunk to its last drop. Jesus began to experience the eternal sufferings of His people if no-one had died in their place.

The wonder of the experience is having prayed that the cup might be taken away, He goes on to say, ‘Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.’ (Mark 14:36). Jesus came in to the full eternal agreement with the Father. Hebrews declares He learned obedience by the things He suffered. He proved His absolute obedience. Our Lord’s prayers were heard, even though heaven was silent. The Father heard in heaven His Son’s prayers. In three days’ time He answered Him gloriously and raised Him from the dead, triumphant. Now we can sing,

Up from the grave He arose;
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

The glory of the gospel is that faith in Christ brings us to a God of peace, a God of grace in this life and the glory to come. Christ delivers the way, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6). We have a great encouragement here, we have a Saviour who knows what it is to go through life’s darkest experiences. Death is conquered and is but a step to glory. Come in repentance, seek Him. You have a Saviour who has died for you.

October 1st 2017: Mike Viccary

Mike Viccary - Oct 2017

Isaiah 27:1

‘In that day the LORD with His sore and great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, even Leviathan that crooked serpent; And he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.’ (Isaiah 27:1).

‘There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.’ C.S. Lewis.

‘In that day.’ This phrase is frequent in Old Testament prophets. We hear it four times in Isaiah 27. In verse 1 it speaks of punishment, in verse 2 it refers to the song of the vineyard, in verse 12 it refers to a great gathering (the return from exile) and in verse 13 it is associated with the great trumpet. The phrase ‘In that day’ often refers to both Christ’s first and second coming. Here, the chief emphasis from these verses refers to the second coming.

Looking at our text in Isaiah 27:1, it gives two characters: the Lord with his sword, Leviathan – the dragon serpent.

We shall look at the verse under three headings:

  1. Leviathan defeated and judged
  2. By the sword of the Lord
  3. Application

1.Leviathan defeated and judged:

We shall consider:

  • Identity – who is Leviathan?
  • Character – what is he like?
  • Destiny – what will happen to him?

(a) Identity: who is Leviathan?
He is not a chaos monster of any myth. He is described as being wreathed, twisted in flesh, a serpent – the serpent who deceived Eve in Genesis 3:1. He is also described as a dragon (reptile in the sea). In Revelation 12:3 we read of the ‘great fiery red dragon with 7 heads.’ Compare this with psalm 74:13. In Job 41 he is described as a ‘vast sea creature.’ Leviathan is Satan, the Devil.

(b) Character: What do we learn of this creature?
He has four features:

  • He is vast (Job 4:1). You cannot defeat or tame him on your own. Perhaps Job was a little too self-sufficient? Job 1 starts with Satan attacking Job and Job 41 has God telling Job that he could not defeat Leviathan. A.W. Tozer states, ‘I’m not afraid of the devil. The devil can handle me – he’s got judo I never heard of. But he can’t handle the One to whom I’m joined; he can’t handle the one to whom I’m united. He can’t handle the One whose nature dwells in my nature.’
  • The devil is a fugitive, a fleeing serpent. The idea of a fugitive suggests homeless, restless, roaming, cast out. We see this picture in Job 1 and in reference to Satan being cast out of heaven (Revelation 12.9). He is not at peace but a restless, roaming rogue – a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). Having rejected God, rebelled and intent on setting himself up in opposition to God, he has found that he is like a fugitive with no place to rest.

‘The devil is no idle spirit, but a vagrant runagate walked that never rests in one place. The motive, cause and main intention of his walking is to ruin man.’ Thomas Adams.

  • The devil is a twisted serpent. He is a deceitful thief, subtle, cunning, proud, accusing, tempting, a liar and murderer. In contrast, Christ is upright, the Lord our righteousness, He is truth and light.
  • The dragon in the sea. The statement of Isaiah 27:1 is very clearly linked to the description of Satan in Revelation 12 and 13 – the dragon who is in the sea is Leviathan. This is complex. The imagery is very important. In Revelation we read that the sea represents all the people in the world. I John 5:19 tells us that the world lies in the sway of the wicked one.
  • Destiny: What will become of Leviathan?
    We come back to Isaiah 27:1. This creature will be punished and will be killed. He will be held to account so that judgement can be carried out. He will be killed, cast into the lake of fire and separated finally from the goodness of God. He will have no more power, influence or effect (Revelation 20:10).

  1. By the sword of the Lord.

This is a theme that runs throughout scripture.
First, a flaming sword was guarding the way back in Eden after Adam and Eve were ejected (Genesis 3:24). It was protecting divine things.

Secondly, there are a variety of places where the pre-incarnate Christ appears with a drawn sword (theophany, Christophany): Numbers 22:23 (Balaam / donkey), Joshua 5:13 (Joshua outside Jericho). In all these instances God is protecting truth and attacking anything which would ruin divine truth

Thirdly, we have texts which indicate God’s stated enmity against all evil, sin and wickedness – pictured as swords and fighting. Deuteronomy 32:39-42. God will kill and has a sword to reek vengeance on His enemies and which will devour flesh. Compare with Ezekiel 21, especially verses 14-16.

Fourthly, in contrast to these images which portray judgement in graphic, we have statements connecting the sword with the Word: Isaiah 49:2 He has made my mouth like a sharp sword, Revelation 1:16, ‘Out of the mouth went a sharp two-edged sword (c/f Revelation 2:12, 16). Hebrews 4:12, The Word is a two-edged sword. Ephesians 6:17, the sword of spirit, the Word of God.

I do not think we realise how powerful God’s Word truly is!

Fifth, we read of a clear connection between God’s sword and man’s action. Judges 7:18 & 20.

Sixth, we read wonderfully of the Lord being our sword. He is not just a shield but a sword for us. Deuteronomy 33:29, ‘Who is like you [Israel] a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help and the sword of your majesty.’

Seventh: The sword of the Lord is against sin, of unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). But listen to these words:  “Awake o sword against my Shepherd, against the man who is my companion,” says the Lord of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered.” (Zechariah 13:7) He has experienced the sword on our behalf. God enacts vengeance by the Word of God.

Let us look then at the text. The sword is described in 3 ways:

Severe (NIV – ‘fierce’). It is unrelenting. It will not stop and it will not be short, it will reach to every act of wrongdoing.
Great. Infinite. There is nowhere where this sword cannot reach.

Strong (NIV ‘powerful’). It is able to meet any opposition. Only God’s sword can defeat Behemoth (and Leviathan). Job 40:19 – only the one who made the creature can do so.

All sin, all wrongdoing, all evil, all rebellion – all will be judged and ‘executed’ by this sword.

According to works we shall be judged! Revelation 20, 17, 13.

Who can escape the sword?

Thanks be to Jesus Christ who has taken the sword for us (Zechariah 13:7) and who has worked well.

There are only two options – obey or rebel. Isaiah 1: 18-20 2Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord . . .”If you are willing and obedient you shall eat the good of the land. But if you refuse and rebel you shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. We should much rather allow the surgical knife and scalpel of God’s Word cut us and charge us than that the sword of God’s vengeance against us and rebellion devour us.

With regard to Leviathan, the dragon’s serpent, the proud rebel wandering this earth, there is nothing left but destruction.

  1. Application:

(a) You cannot fight Satan alone – this is where Job failed (perhaps). You need God, His Word and chiefly dependence upon Him in prayer. Samuel Chadwick writes, ‘Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisom, but he trembles when we pray.’

Corrie Ten Boom wrote, ‘When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians the devil rules. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy.’

(b) Remember where you are – we are in this world where we will experience tribulation. It is the realm of the enemy’s ‘rule’ or influence for the whole world under lies under the sway of the wicked one. From this we need to remind ourselves that we are:

– Citizens of heaven translated from darkness into the kingdom of the Son (Colossians 1:13).

– ambassadors for Christ in enemy territory.
– In a fight and war.

(c) Remind yourself that Satan is a fugitive defeated and on death row. He may be reeking havoc and destruction but he cannot operate outside of the sovereignty of God (Job 1).

(d) Have Christ always in view. Meditate on Him and His beauty. The world takes on board the twisted and evil nature of Satan and so we need to good antidote to the effects of the world – feast on Christ.

(e) Do not underestimate the power of God’s Word. Combine this with much prayer. There are 2 equally disastrous attitudes people adopt – either prayer and no study or study and no prayer. We need both.

(f) Some ‘pointers. ‘Draw near to God, resist Satan and he will flee from you (James 4:8)

Appeal to the Word of God.
Flee (worldliness), follow (right, godliness), fight (keep hold of life). 1 Timothy 6:11.

 

September 28th 2017: Harvest Service – Andy Millership

Ruth 3

Boaz was a farmer, a straight forward man. This passage refers to him as a kinsman redeemer. What does it mean? A kinsman is a relative. In the culture of the time there was a provision from God for His people; God instructed His people that if a woman lost her husband and had no son to look after her, a relative had this responsibility – making sure the inheritance was carried on. There was always someone there.

Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, had lost her husband and two sons. Ruth, her daughter-in-law, had decided to stay with Naomi and offer the support she could give. Ruth’s husband has also died. Not only was one widow looking for someone to take care of her, but two widows sought help. Naomi thought of Boaz for Ruth. There may have been others, but Boaz was first to come to her mind. In chapter 2 Boaz helps Ruth out. Ruth worked her way around the edge of the harvest field. Boaz told his workers to let her have more.

Naomi has decided that Boaz is the man who needs to take on the responsibility of being a husband for Ruth. She tells Ruth to go to the threshing floor, to be sensible and virtuous. Ruth does as she is told, letting Boaz be her kinsman redeemer. Naomi’s plans are carried through when they marry.

What qualities did Boaz need to be a kinsman redeemer?

  1. He had to be related by blood to those people he would redeem. In verse 2 we are told he was a member of the family.
  2. He had to be able to pay the price of redemption. Boaz wasn’t short of a few bob, he was quite well off. He had a number of fields and could afford to look after them
  3. He had to be willing to redeem her. We read in verse 11 that he was willing. There were people younger and more qualified than him but he was willing.
  4. He had to be free himself. He couldn’t be in the service of another man. He had his own place, with his own workers. He more than made the grade. Naomi was right – what an ideal man he was!

What has this to do with us? Why are we here? To praise God for His provision, to worship Him. Anything more? More than anything it’s the desire and prayer of many people that each one here would come to know what it is that is so wonderful about our Saviour Jesus Christ. We need Him. Without Him anyone who stands alone is in a terrible, vulnerable, hopeless situation. Some may be insulted by this. It’s not an insult – it’s the truth. Even if you feel it’s OK to be in church, or you’re a kind, good, friendly person who does wonderful things – it’s not enough. The Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All. Every single one of us gathered here. Every single person who has ever drawn breath, bar one, has sinned. We have offended God who is just and holy because we are not yet pure and holy. God demands a price. It is not one we can afford. There is nothing we can do that will pay that price. We need someone who can step into the breach – a kinsman redeemer who can take responsibility for us. There is only the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

  1. If He is to be our kinsman Redeemer he has to be related by blood to those He will redeem. What an awesome thing that is! He stood at the beginning and every thing that has been made came from Him. It’s an unimaginable thing that He should set aside His majesty so He could redeem us. He became like us. What humiliation – to take on a frail, weak body so He could be one of us, part of our family. He made the necessary sacrifice.
  2. He had to live His life on this earth as a man, suffering. He had to live without one slip. Because of His perfection, His sacrifice met the price of our redemption. He was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet He was without sin. How often do we sin? How long is there between our sins? All of His life Jesus was without sin. Every moment of every day, when the Pharisees were looking to trip Him up, not once did He do anything wrong.
  3. Amazingly, He had to be willing to redeem. If you think you’re not for God, then you’re against Him. If you don’t accept everything about God then you are His enemy. Yet Christ was willing to redeem. How could that ever be? Jesus Christ laid down His life for His enemies. Amazing! He died so willingly for me and for you.
  4. He had to be free Himself. He was all His life, ‘Yet without sin.’ Perfect. He was the perfect sacrifice. Even though He died, He rose again. Death can’t keep Him, He’s perfect. He can’t be kept in the grave.

He met all the criteria as our kinsman redeemer. It points to a life-changing reality. Boaz was the ideal kinsman redeemer for Ruth. Ruth knew this. She had had to ask Boaz to take responsibility for her. She asked him to redeem her. Do we recognise our need? Without Jesus we can’t be saved. You have to go to Him and ask Him for forgiveness. Think of what He has done for you – given up the glory of heaven and born as a weak, feeble human being, suffering alone. Then He went to the cross and was killed for you. If you go to Him He will never turn you down – He is our perfect kinsman redeemer. Ask Him to save you. He will say yes. Then you will know what it is to be cared for by one who loves you.

September 24th 2017: John Funnell

John Funnell - Sept 17Ruth 1:1-22

The world is changing, and there is all sorts of political unrest. It is much the same as it was during Ruth’s life. She lived during the period of Judges, when Israel had no king. As a people they were fighting to survive against foreign influences, foreign gods and foreign invasion.

You will see the word “Moab” a lot in the earlier verses of our reading. “Moab”, is essentially a word for “Foreign”. Foreign means. “Bad”, “Bad”, “Bad”, “Bad”! But not in a racist way – the entire book is about how Ruth, a foreigner, is welcomed into God’s family. ‘Foreign’ here means ‘away from God and His promises.’ You can almost replace the word ‘Moab’ with ‘away from God.’

So what we see here is a tale of a man called Elimelek who takes his family away from God (which is bad) and away from their identity at the same time in history when God’s people are battling for it. Elimelek takes his family away from his people because of a famine. Essentially, he goes away from God for profit, for worldly gains. And such a decision brings complications.

We are told in these verses that in God’s land there are lots of men, but away from God, the men die. In God’s land there are women getting married and having children, but away from God, women (Naomi, Ruth and Orpah) with no husbands or children. Elimelek went away from God, left His identity and as a result he suffered the consequences for it! Death!

Naomi becomes desperate so she thought best to go back home, back to God which is? …good! As she embarks on her journey we then read ten verses of goodbye. It is like a train station goodbye. Naomi in verse 8 tells her daughters to go, and blesses them in the name of God. The daughters wished to come with Naomi so in verse 11 she reiterates further why they should go from her.

Stay with your people and find husbands.

It would appear Naomi has learned her lesson on leaving her own kin to go to the foreign land. A lesson that cost her all the men in her life!

She obviously did not want her Moabite daughters in law to suffer the same.

V13 the Lord’s hand has turned against me – Naomi says before graciously sending them away in tears.

A touching moment……or is it? If we look at the context we see Naomi is in the mire! We know from Deuteronomy, Israel had provisions for their widows.

Naomi, would have also known the shame that was ahead of her as a returning Jew, who left her people at a time of great need (famine) to go to land of a sworn enemy, Moab for profit.

So, I propose, with the context in mind, that this loving “train station” goodbye is not what it seems. I believe Naomi was in fact preparing for her homecoming! She was concerned that returning with two foreign Moabite women would cause her even more shame? “Naomi’s back and she allowed her Jewish sons to marry Moabites!”

Could this be why Naomi was sending her daughters in law, Ruth and Orpah away? Not in love, but to ease her return back to God? This knowledge changes this dialogue into an argument!Naomi’s tone changes from v6 to a desire to feed her family, to (v12) palming them off on other men!

Naomi is not pleading with her daughters-in-law to come to the God who provides for His people. No! She is clearly trying to persuade both Ruth and Orpah of the many material benefits they will have if they stay in Moab (v9) a new home and a husband!

On Ruth’s insistence to stay, Naomi’s reply in verse 15 becomes a rather coarse and short reply. Naomi clearly does not want her daughters in law, the baggage of her past shameful choices to come back with her.

But as we read Ruth remains honourable and faithful and insists (v16) that She wants Naomi’s God to be her God too! V18 ends the discourse…..“Naomi stopped urging her”. What you have here is a car ride home with a loved one just after an argument.

So how does this argument between two women, thousands of years ago help us today? We are all like Naomi. We have all disobeyed God, gone to foreign lands and done terrible things. And going away from God is always…..bad!

When we realise what we have done is wrong, we then have a desire to repent, so say sorry to God and come back to Him. Often with big ideas of how to make things right by ourselves, we often try to hide our shame, our daughters of Moab, from Him.

But God sees all and knows all and on the cross as He hung naked between two criminals, He took the shame for you, that you deserve for you wrong doing and in His resurrection He beat it!  And if you give Jesus your shame, He can turn those things that once damned you into greater blessings. He can turn a foreign daughter of Moab, Ruth, into a grandmother of Christ Himself!

Do not think that you can’t come to God until you have sorted yourself out. Do not think you have to wait to be an adult before accepting Jesus into your life. Do not try to hide your Moabite daughters’ in-law from Him as you prayerfully return!

He will accept you today for how you are – warts and all! Give yourself over to Him completely and He can turn your problems into wonders of grace for His Glory!

This is the Gospel! The good news! That God saves sinners! Of which I am chief!

Ruth in faith came with Naomi – and that faith lead to God’s embrace. As you will see if you read the rest of the book, Ruth is welcomed in and marries Boaz and her identity changes.

She has a child called Obed, who was the Father of Jesse, the Father of David!

Ruth the Moabite – the Moabite! – becomes a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ our Lord as a result of her faith! Imagine what God could have done if Naomi let Orpah came too!

Do not be like Naomi is here and let your past and present sin hinder your relationship with God today. Do not wait until your life is good enough for God, before coming back to Him, because it will never be good enough without Him.

Bring your shame (your daughters of Moab) to the cross and see God Bless you.

Come to Jesus today and instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance.’ (Isaiah 61:7)

Amen

 

 

September 24th 2017 (noon): John Funnell

John Funnell - Sept 17II Kings 4:1-7

The woman had nothing left. Creditors were coming to take her boys as payment for the debt. Think about the poor woman – her husband was dead, she was in debt, her boys were about to be taken.

‘Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”’ (II Kings 4:1). The woman cried out to Elisha – God’s man on the ground. Have you got an Elisha in your life you can turn to? Are you an Elisha? Can someone in the community turn to you in a crisis? As a church we are a family – bound by the love of a family, bound by the blood of Christ. Our churches need to regain the community’s home. We need to become the Elisha of Roch in our work, for our neighbours.  Also, we need to become the Elisha for each other. Have gospel love at the heart of your church. You’ll never need gimmicks, be driven by gospel-centered life, by God’s word. Be a place where people are happy to come to at all times.

The love of God will draw people in. That’s what evangelism is. We don’t offer what the world offers. As a church our priority in our community is to be an Elisha. How should we respond to people who cry out to us? The widow is in the time of greatest need. Elisha asks her what she has. Interesting. He reminds her to look back at how God has blessed her. Initially she says she has nothing, then pauses and says she has a little oil. We too have a little oil. Don’t let the stresses of life control us, cloud our view of what God has done for us. Humanly speaking, the church is dying in Wales – empty pews, people not interested. We must not forget our responsibility to thank God, to thank Him for the little oil we have.                                   

It was only God who could pay this woman’s debt. It was only when she could totally rely on Him in faith that God poured out His grace to her. When we realise we are incapable of saving ourselves, He will pour it His Spirit to you. Whatever doubts and anxieties you carry, God’s merciful Spirit will never dry out, just take your empty jars to Him. Pray in desperation, knowing that without God we have nothing. 

Do your neighbours know you go to church every week? If they don’t know, they won’t come to you in times of need. People have stopped coming to church.  We need to become the Elisha of our community. We must acknowledge the facilities we have, remain responsible for the pot of oil we have.  We must go forward in faith and He will pour out all we need.

2 Kings 4-2

September 17th 2017: Alan Davison

Alan Davison - sept 17John 7:1-24

Time, as a concept, has always fascinated humanity. We want time, yet we rush around, which doesn’t help. Blaise Pascal, the French religious philosopher, mathematician and physicist, once wrote, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” In the 1800’s the theory of evolution gained credence, claiming that anything was possible in millions and millions of years. Lord Tennyson, a Christian, wrote:

            Here about the beach I wandered,
Nourishing a youth sublime,
 With the fairy tales of science
                                                 And the long result of time.

Time is very important in the Bible. In today’s popular culture there is more of a focus on time. For example, there are many television programmes featuring time travel. We often think, ‘If only we had time again we could change things, fix things.’ What’s to say by changing a mistake we wouldn’t end up making a worse mistake?

Time is a succession of moments. Biblically, time is part of creation, a possession of God. ‘Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.’ (Psalm 90:2). Here we have a mixture of tenses; time is past but God is present because God has always been. This psalm was written by Moses, who understood God made time.

‘Behold, God is great, and we know Him not; the number of His years is unsearchable.’ (Job 36:26). We cannot measure God’s existence because He exists outside of time.

‘”I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”’ (Revelation 1:8). Here we have God’s own words. God Himself declares He encompasses all of time. These are weighty concepts.

God acts in time. We see this most clearly in the Incarnation. Being God, Jesus knew the importance of time. Certain events had to happen at the ordained time of the Father. ‘Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here.’ (John 7:6). Jesus speaks here of the contrast of man’s use of time and his perceived perception of time.

A time to shine. Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in Him, ‘For not even His brothers believed in Him.’ (John 7:5). The Feast of Tabernacles was so important it was mandated that the Jews attend. Jesus’ brothers may have wanted Jesus to attend out of concern that He had lost followers, ‘After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.’ (John 6:66). Perhaps they thought He could gain more followers, potential recruits, at the Feast. However, they may have had a more sinister motive; it was widely known that the Jews sought to kill Jesus. Perhaps His brothers were suggesting He should go, knowing that this would put Him in danger, even resulting in His death. Most Jews in Jesus’ time were looking for salvation from the Romans. Jesus turned down His brothers’ course of action. His time to shine had not yet come.

We see a contrast in Jesus’ brothers who had time to spare. They were not constrained by time. However, the way we experience time has been ordained by God. Jesus did not go to Jerusalem on a whim but when He was supposed to. He rejected his brothers’ advice. Jesus knew exactly what needed to be done, when it needed to be done and why. As others look at us, how do they see we are living our lives? it needed to be done. How do we value our time? The world says, ‘time is money.’ This is certainly true. We are paid for the time we work and pay others for their time. We talk of ‘spending time.’ This suggests we ourselves think of time as a resource to use as we see fit. ‘Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time. Because the days are evil.’ (Ephesians 5:15-16).

‘Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time’ (Colossians 4:5). To redeem something means to buy it back. The Bible tells us we should be buying time – it’s not our own personal property. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 we read there is a time for everything. We need to ask God for wisdom when a period of rest drifts into wastefulness.

A time to stop. We need to wait on the Lord. ‘After this Jesus went about in Galilee.’ (John 7:1). What did Jesus do as He walked in Galilee? From the other gospels we know Jesus did much, such as feeding the 5000, healing a blind man, being transfigured. However, John speaks of Jesus’ brothers being mean to Him. The Feast of Tabernacles lasted 8 days. This incident takes place midway. For four days Jesus did nothing in Jerusalem. It shows us Jesus was waiting for the Father’s timing. He would have been praying, meditating on Scriptures. There was a growing level of opposition which would have been becoming more and more stressful. People sought to seize Jesus. The Pharisees would ultimately succeed in arresting Jesus – but in God’s time.

If Jesus stopped, we certainly need to stop and evaluate. Do we take time to pray, to read the Scriptures? Do we spend time in prayer, to seek His guidance for the week ahead? If we have time to spare we ought to be putting it to use in a way that is pleasing to our Father, helping others, praying. The activities we do require an act of will.

We too will have a time to shine. Jesus rejected His brothers urging to shine in a way they required. However, Jesus would shine, hanging on a cross, suffering, dying. But in Peter’s sermon we see the Father glorified the Son by raising Him from the dead, ‘The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when He had decided to release Him.’ (Acts 3:13).

Each moment we spend on this earth has been gifted from God. Pray to God He will show us the way to use our time. We live in a fast-paced culture, we need to be serious about shining for Jesus. ‘You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’ (Matthew 5:14-16). We are the light of the world, His followers. Our light should shine before men, it’s reflecting from Jesus Himself, pointing to the ultimate light of the world.