August 20th 2017: Dave Norbury

John 20: 19-32

Dave-Norbury-Aug 20th 2017The Guardian states that 20,000 messages a day hit us – via email, television, radio etc. They have one single message in terms of spiritual life, ‘We live in a one floored bungalow, there is no heaven and no hell. God keep out.’ Therefore, it is not unusual that there are times when we begin to doubt. Here, in John chapter 20, we have Thomas, always associated as ‘The Doubter.’ We are labelled by the things we can’t do. This is very sad. Doubt is something we all get. Thomas had serious doubts, ‘So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hands into His side, I will never believe.”’ (John 20:25). The truth be known, the disciples had doubts. There are at least three times in the book of Luke when Jesus said He would rise on the third day, yet none of them were reminded of this or understood it. Sometimes we doubt God can get us through difficult situations. Doubt can riddle us, it is real.

Doubt is a leap of faith into something else. Many doubt God’s existence when so many people say there is no God. If you don’t believe there is a God, you believe in something else. If there is no God there is no purpose in life – ultimately you become dust and that’s the end of it. We ought to help people explore what they do believe in.  

What happened to Thomas? ‘On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.’ (John 20:19-20). The disciples were in fear of the Jews. The Bible is honest about it. God understands. However, they were glad when they saw Jesus. If Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, then the truth of Christianity is real. Christ died for our sins and rose again. We have a risen Saviour!

Thomas was not with the disciples. We do not know why he wasn’t there. The disciples tell him they have seen the risen Jesus. Then Thomas makes the remarkable statement, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hands into His side, I will never believe.”’ (John 20:25). Thomas expresses his doubt in a very clear way. How would you react to that? The Lord Jesus did not condemn Mary, Peter and John for their doubts. If we have doubts, Jesus doesn’t condemn us, He wants to help us. That’s exactly what He did with Thomas. The disciples were with Thomas for eight day, yet he did not believe them. They may have been frustrated with Thomas. Isn’t God wonderful to give us the example of Thomas? When Jesus came, He didn’t say ‘Thomas, I’ve been waiting for you for eight days!” No, He said, ‘Peace be with you.’ The Lord Jesus is full of grace – kindness we don’t deserve. Then He went straight into the problem, giving Thomas the evidence he wanted, ‘Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”’ (John 20: 27).

The greatest blessings are in the valleys, the storms of life. Jesus gives Thomas all the evidence he needs. ‘Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). This is the greatest statement anyone can ever make. Thomas is a wonderful example of what the Bible is written for – whatever difficulties you are facing, go to His Word, meet Him personally in His Word. Absorb God’s Word day and night. ‘Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delights is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”’ (Psalm 1:1-2).

Listen to the voice of God, not the messages around you. He will meet you in your doubts, He will strengthen you. Trust Him, He will make you safe. (Psalm 3).  

August 13th 2017: Peter Gleave

Peter-Glave -August 2017Luke 5:1-11 – Jesus calls the last disciples.

In 1869, Thomas Huxley, an avid supporter of Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, often gave speeches on the subject. After one of his speaking engagements, Huxley was in a hurry to catch his train to his next engagement. He took a horse-drawn taxi and assumed the driver had been informed where he wanted to go. “Hurry!” Huxley exclaimed. “I’m almost late. Drive fast!”

The driver sped away. After a while Huxley looked out of his window and realised they were travelling in the opposite direction to the train station.

“Do you know where you’re going?” Huxley asked. The driver shouted back, “No, but I am driving very fast!”

There’s no use in driving fast if you don’t know where you are going. We need to spend time away from the business of the world, and spend time knowing what Jesus wants us to do. Put the brakes on and slowly walk beside the seaside.

Imagine you’re in this passage of scripture; it’s a warm sunny morning, a gentle breeze sounds around you, the Sea of Galilee lies before you, with its pebbly shoreline.  To the other side of you, six miles away, lie the mountains. Take in the scene, where there is a crowd following a man, pressing in on Him. We move in and start to listen to what He has to say. We need to see what God has to say to Penuel Chapel, to you and me and other churches.

This was not the first time Jesus had met the disciples, He had encountered them before (John 1 & 4). It is perhaps surprising then that these men, who Jesus has already invited to follow Him, where still at their business – fishing. We too can distance ourselves, tending to our everyday business and being too busy for God. If the disciples were to answer Jesus’ call they needed to make God their number one priority. Not even family, or work in Church should be more important than God. He has to be our number one priority. We don’t need to give up work or family, but in thought we should prioritise God and make Him first in our choices.

Jesus got into Peter’s boat and the boat was pulled a little further out. ‘He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon (Peter), and asked him to put out a little from the shore.’ (Luke 5:3). Now Jesus had Peter’s attention. Has God been trying to get your attention recently? God wants you in a position so He can speak to you and you can focus on Him, draw closer to Him.

We need to hear Jesus and see Him. What better way is there then seeing Him in the scriptures? Read, search, and study the Bible. What is God trying to teach us today? Look in the scriptures, it will help you become better fishers of men. Each of us can bear testimony to the fact the scriptures are life-changing. We need to study, study, and study some more – in personal life and essential Bible study with others. Be prepared.

One way of reaching out to the community is to participate in projects such as the ‘Community Bible Experience’, in which, a church buys a little gospel for members of the community, inviting them to later discuss what they have read. This is a great way to engage with a community.

Peter lends his boat to Jesus. He used what He had and gave it to Jesus. God will bless all we do in His name. Jesus says to Peter,

Luke 5-4

Peter may have wondered why Jesus, a carpenter, was telling him, am experienced fisherman, how to do his job. However, because Jesus had asked him to do this, he did so. I wonder, has God said something to you that is counter-intuitive – something which doesn’t seem to make sense to you? Perhaps it could be to try some evangelism that in the past didn’t work. Remember Peter’s response,

Luke 5-4-5.jpg 

There was a certainty that didn’t rely on Peter’s skill but on the Master.

Has God called you to a specific evangelism in Roch? If so, then do it. Be encouraged in faith, believe God will provide all you need for a great catch. It’s not our work that changes hearts and convicts, but the work of the Holy Spirit. We’re called to do the fishing, to let down the nets. Because God says so, we will let down the nets in Roch. Against all the principles of fishing, the disciples caught so much. Imagine you evangelise and the nets are so full. Jesus sent the fish to where the boat would be. God is all-knowing and in control. If God determines to fill your nets with men, women and children, it’s a reality waiting to happen. He wants you to be where the fish are.

Such was the catch, the disciples signalled their partners to help them. “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that there nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them.” (Luke5:6-7). Spreading the news in the deep waters of Roch village is a job for all partners. All of you have a job. Maybe you’re not called to be a preacher or evangelist, but you’re called to use your gifts – whether it is knocking on doors, leafleting, praying, etc. You’re needed to serve God here in this church, in this community. Your role is just as important as everyone else’s. Be obedient and faithful.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” ” (Luke 5:8). Peter became aware of his own sinfulness. He recognised Jesus, not just as Master but as Lord. The closer we are to God, the more we realise our own sinfulness, the more we have a desire to serve him. Peter could have been so preoccupied with the wealth of fish, but he was no longer focused on fish, but on the new Lord of his life – Jesus. He now realised who Jesus was and where he stood in that relationship. Have we got a sense of the presence of God, so that everything else become insignificant and Jesus become central?

Then Jesus says something unusual to Peter, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” (Luke 5:10). What fear had Jesus detected in Peter? Possibly the fear of not having enough money to pay the bills if he gave up his job to follow Jesus. Possibly not being good enough for Jesus, that his sins precluded him from future service? What fears do you have? You may have fears and failures but Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid”. If you repent, Jesus can take all your fears and failures and restore you and commission you. What will you do today- will you answer Jesus’ call, make Him the Lord of your life?