June 25th 2017: Ian Middlemist

Ian-June 2017 John 17: The Highly Priestly Prayer

We are included in this great high priestly prayer of Jesus. We are just like Jesus because of His calling on our lives.

‘And I am no longer on the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.’ (John 17:4). Jesus was going, but we are staying. Jesus came, the God-man came into the world. The second person of the Trinity entered into this world. He came, but is at home today in heaven. It’s amazing God’s people are still here on earth. The reason for this is that we should be a witness for Jesus Christ in this world. How are Christians to cope in this life? Jesus prayers for them. It is Jesus’ obligation to look after us in this world. This prayer spans all of time. Jesus’ prayers for us today are sufficient to make us stand in this world.

‘They are mot of the world, just as I am not of the world.’ (John 17:16). Just as Jesus is not of this world, so we are not of this world. If you are a Christian, saved by Jesus Christ, you are not of this world. We are different. The Bible defines how we are different. The world has different meanings. The world, also known as the cosmos can mean the universe created by God. It can mean the planet earth itself. If can mean the totality of human existence. Here, in John 17, it means the order of this world, how it thinks in unity against God, alienated from God, opposed to that which is to come – the Kingdom of God. The ruler of this world is the devil, ‘Now is the judgement of this world, now will the ruler of this world be cast out.’ (John 12:31). We should have concern for our neighbours who are living under this dictator’s rule, the devil’s rule. The world is alienated from God, ever since the Fall. The systems of this world are against God.

The world does not want God. But Jesus says we are not of this world. We have been hand-picked out of this world to receive a position in His glorious kingdom. Our whole life is now a compass set towards God. Our direction is set towards God. We will be hated because we have embraced Jesus Christ and the Word of God, ‘I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.’ (John 17:14). If you have any doubt the world hates God, look at the cross, how Jesus was killed. If you’re a Christian you are not of this world, you make Jesus your delight. He is precious. ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.’ (1 Peter 2:6).

We will be hated, just as Jesus was despised. You may not want to consider this, but Christians are rejected because we have Christ as our leader. There will be uncomfortable silences when we mention we’re a Christian, or mention the name of Jesus. It is difficult because people don’t want to hear His name. Every time this happens, be encouraged, don’t stop saying His name. Be reassured you are a follower of Jesus Christ.

‘As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.’ (John 17:18). Just as Christ was sent into the world by His Father, so we are now sent into the world. Jesus did not just appear as an accident, He was sent from heaven. The whole of the Old Testament points to Jesus. He was sent into the world. We know from the words said at His birth He was set apart.

Jesus was sent on a great rescue mission – to achieve our salvation, ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16). Jesus picked us out of the world, He chose us. What a great honour! He washed us. He hung on the cross, He had our names written on His hands. He picked you out to triumph over death and hell. He will work in us that we will defeat sin in His power. In the end He will present us faultless before God. We have been picked out of this world but we are in the world. Some see this as being separated. They see the sinfulness of this world and want to be separated from it. But this denies the truth that there is an inward nature of sin. And what about all the people who need to hear about Jesus? Don’t forget about those around you. Jesus sends us into the world in His power.

Some are happy to compromise with the world. But the church is very different to the world. How can a Christian sing along with songs that are clearly against the church? Or laugh at jokes that are against Christ? They can’t. Psalm 1 reminds us ‘Blessed is the man whom walks not in the counsel of the wicked.’ (Psalm 1:1). We should not compromise. Don’t be ashamed.

‘And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.’ (John 17:19). We are set apart. Just as Jesus was consecrated, so are we. We are consecrated and sanctified. To consecrate is to be set apart. Jesus was set apart by God the Father, so He set Himself apart – for death – so He might save us. To be sanctified is to be made holy, joined with Jesus in His consecration. We are set apart for the work of redemption. Jesus is determined to save those He will save. We are involved in the salvation of others too. He delights to use His church to save others by the preaching of the gospel. We can’t save anyone, only Jesus saves. We can’t open blind eyes. That work belongs to Jesus and Jesus alone. But we are called to bring His redemption message. We are:

Hand-picked out of this world;
Citizens of heaven;
Different – we have a heart for God;
Sent into the world.

‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:19-20).

We have a great commission. It is for all who believe. All of us are sent in to the world to share the gospel. It is the truth that sets us apart. We are to live holy lives, devoted to Jesus Christ, in the place He has set us. Our holiness is vital to this mission. We are not to be defiled by sin. Not all of us are called to be evangelists or pastors but let us have confidence in Jesus Christ and work where we have been called. We are to serve Christ. Do you realise your calling – the great privilege you have been given? We are ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Christ prayed His followers would have an attitude of mission. Let’s pray He would give us the heart too.

June 11th 2017: Chris Rees

chris rees - june 17Nehemiah 7:1-5

We read in Revelation that nothing will defy the city of God, the new Jerusalem; there will be no lies, no false pretences. ‘But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.’ (Revelation 21:27).

Immigration is a hot topic in our news today. Immigrants come into the country – someone from a Libyan family bombed Manchester. People ask how terrorists of Italian-Morrocan descent were allowed into the country. Questions are asked – who should be and belong in this nation? Emotions arise. There is an undercurrent.

Try and imagine what it must have been like for Nehemiah. The people had come back from Babylon, married and inter-married. As Jerusalem was being rebuilt, who should belong to the city? In chapters 1-6 Nehemiah describes the work of building the walls of Jerusalem. Next he deals with ones who have a rightful place in the city.

If there is one thing we desire, we want God’s house to be filled. However, before this happens, positions need to be filled before God will fill His house.

In Nehemiah 7:1-3 we read that Nehemiah appointed the gatekeepers, singers and the Levites, ‘Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.”’ (Nehemiah 7:1-3). The book tells us of what God has done. God put into the heart of the Nehemiah to make a register of the people. Nehemiah appoints gatekeepers, singers and faithful leaders. It’s a truth of scripture – before you see God fill a place, things needs to be done in order, put in place. Positions need to be filled. God will never fill a place unless He knows the place will be a place of safety and security. God wants you to have safety and security in your life.

God took faithful people, people who can be relied upon. When Nehemiah comes he appoints faithful men who had the fear of God – not fear as in being scared, but a reverence. The gates needed to be shut, things needed to be guarded. When God calls His lost sheep home, when attacks come, the door needs to be shut. God will not save people into a fellowship where there will be falseness of practice. God will not add to a church until things are in place.

Who are the people who are to be in this city?

‘The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt. Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first’ (Nehemiah 7:4-5). The city is large and spacious. There is room. So few enter there. Perhaps we feel that in our country, as Christians, we are few? Places of worship are not bursting at the seams. There is room for people to come and know. There is room with God for all people, no matter what you’ve done. It’s a fantastic, wonderful truth. ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms.’ (John 14:2). With God, there’s room! You may have no room for God; you may be taken up by the concerns of this world, but there’s plenty of room with God.

Who is in this city?

Those who enter this city need to be registered. God put it into the heart of Nehemiah to register people. If your name wasn’t in this book you would be in trouble. You have to be registered in God’s book. You have to be registered as part of the family of God, born in that heavenly city. Psalm 87 speaks of the glorious city of Zion. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said to His disciples, ‘Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ (Luke 10:20). One day the great book will be opened and your name needs to be there. In the book of life is each and every one who has been born of the Spirit, born in heaven.

People filled the city. Lots were cast. ‘Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns.’ (Nehemiah 11:1) Casting lots. It’s a way to fill a church! When they had to have a new apostle, they cast lots. ‘And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven disciples.’ (Acts 1:26).

‘For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ (2 Peter 1:11). God has chosen, out of His loving heart, a chosen people. It’s His house, His home. You have been born from above to enter.

When we look at the culture of the city Nehemiah speaks of, there is a wonderful picture of people giving to the work, ‘Now some of the heads of fathers’ houses gave to the work.’ (Nehemiah 7:70). The city was filled with activity. The people who came knew the love of God and were filled with great ingenuity and work. It was buzzing. We need to work. We are a people of God. ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.’ (Matthew 6:10). Come to this wonderful city, full of giving, full of safety. The chapter begins and ends with the Levites, the gatekeepers and singers. The priests and the Levites – if it doesn’t go right here, it won’t go right in the community. We have a great responsibility. If you’re a follower of Christ, the enemy can’t come in. It’s a place full of song, full of singing, a city of service and security. There is plenty of room! Make your way to the heavenly city, to the glorious Jerusalem.

June 4th 2017: Norman Gilbert

Luke 18:1-8

We are living in a day in which there is much to be despondent about. In this parable of the persistent widow, the Lord shows us two encouragements we really need: we need to pray, we need never to lose heart.

In the previous chapter the Lord has been speaking about the day of judgement and talks of the last days. Believers are living in the last days – we may be in the last of the last days. Jesus is reminding followers we’re living in last days. Now, after 2,000 years, we are closer to that day. When Jesus first came, He came to bring Salvation. His return will bring judgement. He will introduce a new heaven and a new earth. In this particular section Jesus is people to have hope. In Luke 17 everyone was carrying on with life as normal, not preparing for judgement. In the light of the days in which you live, do not lose heart. We need to continue in prayer and not to lose heart.

IN this parable there are two main characters – a judge and a widow. The judge oversees the affairs of a particular city. We are told two things about this man; he had no regard for God and no regard for man. He had no reverence for God, no reverence or concern for fellow man, he was self-centred. The widow lived under the jurisdiction of the judge. She was in a vulnerable position. It was the culture of the day for widows to be taken care of by their family, but she may have had no-one to be concerned for her welfare.

Looking at the context of the parable, the widow needs to address her problems. Her only solution is to go to the judge to seek justice. We are not told what her problem was. Initially, when she sees the judge he had no concern for her problem whatsoever. He was not interested. We then see the true character of the widow. Her complaint was so urgent she kept on coming. She shows great determination. She was tenacious, she wouldn’t be fobbed off. In the modern world, she would probably be continually emailing her complaint, the one resorting to Twitter or holding a placard as she sought justice. The judge then decides he will grant her justice. Why? Not because he had a change of heart because he had pangs of sympathy for her; he wanted to get rid of this nagging woman. She got her result in the end by nagging. Her perseverance won the day, it had nothing to do with the heart of the man.

Looking at the application of the parable we see the purpose of it in verse 1, ‘Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.’ (Luke 18:1). We must always pray and not lose heart. This is the reason for the parable. Jesus’ disciples needed to hear those words; they would go through horrendous times. Throughout history there are times Christians need to be reminded to pray and not to lose heart. We may go through those times when we ask ‘Is there any point in asking God to stem the tide of evil of our days? Is there any point praying for youngsters who are fuelled by credit? We live in a generation of people fuelled by alcohol and drugs, a generation who have been provided for by the previous generation and have become self-centred – people who only know Jesus as a swear word. We have every encouragement to pray for people to find a real purpose and meaning in life, to turn from their old ways and follow Christ, who is all we need.

The parable is a challenge to us to continue to pray, not to lose heart. We don’t need to equate the judge to God. It is a contrast. If a wicked judge can help a widow, how much more will a God who loves His people be concerned for them? God doesn’t always give us what we want. The widow kept on praying. God sometimes has to give us time, give us trials to go through. We need to pray day and night. That’s the requirement. If we don’t pray we have to question where we stand. Prayer is an evidence we are a true believer. It is a time when the Christian communes with their heavenly Father. We have a great advocate who presents our prayers faultless before the Father. Pray at all times, in all situations, in any place. We need to pray at prayer meetings. Some don’t like to pray openly, but God knows our hearts. Prayer is vital for the church of Jesus Christ. The church has to gather together to pray continually, encouraging one another.

But don’t use prayer to twist God’s arm. Pray and then qualify it with ‘Thy will be done.’ Be bold in prayer, but praying that God’s way will be done. Have confidence.

At the end of Luke 17 there is a warning; no-one knows when the end of the world will take place but we need to be ready. At the end of this parable Jesus asks ‘will the Son of Man really find faith on earth?’ The widow did not give up, she continued in faith. True faith endures to the end. We have hard days and easy days. When Jesus returns will He find faith? We must not give in, believing He knows best and leaving everything in His hands. Our God graciously wants to provide for our needs.

May 28th 2017: Jae Hyun

Jae-Hyun - May 17

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

1 John 4-16 esv

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

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

What is the character of God’s love?

  • God’s love is for sinners.

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

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

  • God is love in action.

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

1 john 4-9 esv

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

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

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

  • God’s love is a great grace.

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

Ephesians 2 8-9 esv

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

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

May 21st 2017: Mike Viccary

 Isaiah 25 – 26.6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On that mountain the Lord will do three wonderful things:

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

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

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

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

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

May 14th 2017: Ian Middlemist

Ian - March 17Joshua 2

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


Rahab’s Faith
:

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

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

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

Faith Works:

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

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

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

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

May 7th 2017: Paul Daniel

Paul Daniel-May 2017.jpg1 Thessalonians 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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