October 27th 2019: Chris Benbow

chris benbow Oct19Have you ever wondered, ‘God, what are doing?’ We all live our lives and sometimes things go spectacularly wrong. We wonder why everything is a mess. Where is God then? We ask, ‘God, what are you doing?’ We see on the news wall to wall coverage of news which confuses us. Brexit. What is going on! Perhaps, it’s another situation in the Middle East. We may look at Syria and exclaim, ‘Where is God in that?’ Maybe it is not so much an international situation but a personal one. We have all experienced crunch points. We have all been through them, are going through them or will go through them. So often we wonder, ‘What are you doing God? Why is this happening?’ If you’ve ever wondered this question, you’re not the first to wonder that.

Let me re-introduce you to a man named Habakkuk. He was a minor prophet. The book of Habakkuk is only three chapters long. May be our spiritual pride boasts how quick we can find Habakkuk. He is a ‘minor’ prophet because of the length of the book, not the prophet himself. The book is equally rich in teaching.

Who is the man, Habakkuk? He was an Israelite, a prophet. Habakkuk was living in Israel in the waning years of the Syrian empire. The Assyrians were a nasty bunch.  The Israelite nation is ruined by Assyrian oppression. Good news is mocked, evil is celebrated. Habakkuk is saying, ‘God, what are you doing?’

“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
    and you will not save?”
Habakkuk 1:2

Habakkuk has been calling on God but nothing is happening. The good guys are losing and the bad guys are winning. If sin bothers you, it bothers the Lord a whole lot more. Habakkuk stands in ruins, seeing his leaders take bribes, seeing destruction around him. The law is paralysed. He wants justice. He asks what the Lord will do. The Lord Almighty answers, saying, ‘You don’t even know the half of it! There are plans in motion you have no idea about,

“Look among the nations, and see;
    wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
    that you would not believe if told.”
Habakkuk 1:5

Habakkuk thought things were bad but God says, ‘Just wait till the Chaldeans come!’

For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,
    that bitter and hasty nation,
who march through the breadth of the earth,
    to seize dwellings not their own.
They are dreaded and fearsome;
    their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.
Habakkuk 1:6-7

You can almost see Habakkuk thinking, ‘I wish I hadn’t asked now!’ In the ancient world the king was the most powerful person, yet these strong, reckless Chaldeans laughed at kings (Habakkuk 1:10). That’s not the answer Habakkuk wanted to his prayers – more evil, pagan conquerors. How can a good God send a bad thing? Hurting can be unpleasant but for a greater good. The Israelite corruption caused a lot of pain. The scalpel was the Chaldeans. Habakkuk doesn’t like what he is hearing.

We read of Habakkuk’s second appeal to God (verses 12-13). Habakkuk’s argument is why punish a less wicked nation, Israel, with a worse kind, the Chaldeans? Why is mankind left to his own wickedness? The Chaldeans prided is their strength. Habakkuk wants to know how long the judgement will last for. He finishes his appeal by awaiting God’s reply. He goes to the watch tower (Habakkuk 2:1). His argument is this: why punish the evil of Israel with a greater evil, the Chaldeans? The Lord answers. “The righteous shall live by his faith,” (Habakkuk 2:4). We don’t know what God is always doing but we trust God. God sees everything perfectly and we cannot understand that picture from the bit we have.

The Lord continues by proclaiming a judgement – five woes. That’s a lot of trouble! The Lord is in His holy temple. Israel has sinned. God had judged this by using the Chaldeans. The Chaldeans have sinned. God will judge them too. Israel will answer to God for its sin, the Chaldeans will answer to God for their sin too. We all stand before God to give an account.

How does Habakkuk respond? He reveres the Lord. He pours out his praise, his adoration for who God is (Habakkuk 3:2-6). Isn’t our God a great God! Habakkuk’s problems haven’t gone away. He still has questions but he’s beginning to realise a little more about who God is. He finishes his book by saying, ‘God, I don’t know what you’re doing but I know you are good, righteous and holy.’ (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

Ultimately, everyone will give an account. We know, “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). We know, “The righteous shall live by his faith,” (Habakkuk 2:4).

July 14th 2019: Mike Viccary

Mike Viccary - July 19Jeremiah 13: 1-11

The prophet Jeremiah is often overlooked, which is a terrible mistake. Remember, when Jesus asked, ‘Who do people say I am?’ some thought He was Jeremiah. Perhaps because the message of Jeremiah is so intertwined with the message of Jesus, a message full of compassion. Maybe that is why Jesus is compared to Jeremiah because of his compassion. When we are to present the truth we can’t escape sin. David, in Psalm 8, asks the question ‘What is man?’ We have to recognise our condition, our state. Even as Christians we wrestle with sin.

Jeremiah prophesied in some of the most turbulent times in Israel. The Assyrians, Babylonians and Egyptians were all vying for attention. Jeremiah’s mission is told in chapter 1:9. In essence, he is to build. He can’t build unless he takes the rubble of our lives and restructures. The opening chapters of Jeremiah are about repentance. We mustn’t skate over warnings – we’re here because Jesus died on the cross. He came to give us beauty for ashes. If you sin you face judgement. But Jesus is alive.

There are many images in this chapter. Every bottle is filled with wine. It was a place of plenty. Yet we must not focus on wrong things. The Lord instructs Jeremiah to get a sash, like a kilt that fitted around the waist and went down to the knee. It was a very useful garment and covered the main areas. It is described as linen. Linen is especially used for covering tables and precious garments (Revelation 18:16). It is used for angels’ clothes. Our Lord and Saviour was wrapped in fine linen. In Revelation 19:18 we read the Church is arrayed in fine linen, it is splendorous.

‘For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen’ (Jeremiah 13:11)

Jeremiah was not really a priest but a prophet. Prophets weren’t finely dressed, so it would have been a shock to people to see Jeremiah dressed in linen. The sash was not to be put in water, showing it was a brand new, fresh garment. The reference to clinging reminds us of Genesis 2:24 and the relationship between Adam and his wife. It is an indication that the people of God are to be intimately connected with their God. God is invisible, so how can He be made known? He dressed Himself with His chosen people.

Why was the sash discarded? Jeremiah wore the garment but he was then told to hide it. He travelled 700 miles north to the Euphrates. This is significant; it was where Judah was to be taken into captivity. Jeremiah was then told to recover it. Unsurprisingly, it was ruined. Why did the Lord do this? What were the chief sins of this time? ‘This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing’ (Jeremiah 13:10). The people were guilty of two main things: they refused to hear God and followed their own ideas. Do we sometimes refuse to hear Jesus’ words?

The people were puzzled by Jeremiah. They thought they were still doing things God wanted them to do (Jeremiah 7). They loved the temple. We can say we love fellowship, the scriptures, but do we love the words of Jesus? We are influenced by science, by our culture. Are we being transformed? (Romans 12:12). What are we doing to remove ourselves from worldly thinking? It is very easy to be influenced by thinking of the old flesh. We are told to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of might, to deny ungodly and worldly lusts. The call for us is to get the Word into our minds and hearts so it is life. Putting God first can be a struggle. Get on your knees and eat the words (John 6).  Do we hear God so much that we want to change things?

The people followed the dictates of their own hearts.  God wants you to hear what He wants to say, to walk with Him. How do you stop following the dictates of your own heart? Read and devour the scripture (Hebrews 4:12). Judah was to face exile. The ones who were the clothing of God were now going into exile. They had the law, the tabernacle, priests. They were supposed to be the light of the world. But now they were ruined. They had not heeded Solomon’s wise words. Man, born of Adam, could never do what God intended us to do (Deuteronomy 26:16-19, Jeremiah 13:11). Judah had blown it. Is there no hope? Praise God, the second Adam came down and took the form of a human person, Christ is the true image of God.

Lesson to be learned:

Adam couldn’t do anything about his sin. There is hope because Christ came in my place. We have the hope of Christ. Those who put their trust in Him, He gave the right to become the Children of God. We now adorn God. We are to listen, hear and give ear. Look at the compassion of the Lord. It is so important we spend time humbling ourselves before the Lord, listening. Do not be proud. Pride stops you from listening. Humble yourself. The Lord Jesus Christ came as a humble servant.

When things go wrong, a lot is down to our sinful actions. To be clothed with Christ is to look to Him. In our lifestyle we are to seek to call upon the Lord to be more like Him (Romans 6:4). We are called to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh, a walk worthy of the Lord. Let’s listen to Him and walk in His ways.

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).

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).

March 3rd 2019: Gareth Edwards

20991230_1910562232550470_632853575_oExodus 20:4

It is not enough we should worship God alone, we should also worship in the right way. The Bible is full of instructions how God is to be worshipped in our lives, especially corporately. Worship of God is far too important to be treated to man’s imagination, which is fallen and inclined to false worship. It is God Himself who declares the way He is to be worshipped. This declaration is found in the second Commandment.

The Roman Catholic Church includes the second commandment as part of the first commandment and splits the Ten Commandments in to two to make up the ten. The use of pictures and symbols is then permitted if they are said to be of the true God. To Roman Catholics, this is a continuations of the first Commandment.

Along with all Protestant churches, there should be no idols that represent God because any representation of God will be a misrepresentation. It will distort the truth concerning God. Why?

God is unique in His nature. There is nothing in the whole universe like God. Isaiah 40:18. People have tried to explain the Trinity as being like three states of water or a shamrock. However, all fall short of Biblical truth and is therefore blasphemous. You cannot make a true representation of God because He is unlike anything you have ever known or imagined.

Secondly, God is Spirit. John 4:24. He is not a spirit like angels, He is Spirit. God has no form or shape and is invisible to human sight. So it is that in Deuteronomy 4:12 Moses only heard God’s voice. When we read man was created in God’s image we’re often tempted to reverse this and create God in our image. We shouldn’t think that God is like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It might be a glorious piece of art but it is rotten theology. God is altogether different from us in nature and character. We are in His image in that He created us for a relationship in the spiritual realm. God is Spirit, He is not physical.

Thirdly, God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. He cannot be restricted and restrained and subject to human control. In the Old Testament we see time and time again God is not a tribal God. Psalm 22:27-28. The nations create idols and rituals around these idols. That’s the way in which human mind work. But Jehovah, the one true God, is a God above influence and control. He cannot be contained in time and space. He is omnipotent and omnipresent.

So this commandment tells us it’s blasphemy to create an image of God. No image can be used as an aid to worship God. They are misrepresentations and distractions and will lead to false worship of God.

There are those who would encourage us to imagine and visualise what God is like. Now of course we must think upon God. But to imagine and create an image internally of God is just as bad as creating an external image. No man has seen God. He cannot be dreamed about. You cannot have an image of His shape or form. These are equally idolatrous.

By nature, man exalts himself and brings God down. Many today seek to bring God within reach, within control. God does heal. Praise Him. But He’s not at our beck and call and under our influence. Others make Him human in His character and attributes and more like us. This is called the domestication of God – to bring Him under our control – all a direct breaking of the second Commandment.

At least twice in the Old Testament the children of Israel turned symbols into idols of worship: 1 Samuel 4 – they turned the Ark of the Covenant into some sort of talisman. They used a symbol of God’s mercy and grace and turned it into something to be worshipped in itself. In Numbers 21 we read of the bronze serpent. In II Kings 18 Hezekiah smashed the serpent because it had become an idol.

Man’s great weakness is he wants something to see or touch to aid his faith. Symbols of salvation are abused and become a snare, a cause of idolatry. It’s for this reason that the cross is absent from our buildings. It’s not the focus of our devotion. The Lord of Calvary is the focus of our devotion, not the cross on which He died.

Man wants something tangible to worship. It’s not only ornate Catholic cathedrals, but some today who turn worship into a show of lights and music, intoxication that whips up an atmosphere. God is mentioned but it is the experience of atmosphere that is worshipped, not God. Our desire must always be to go past symbols to substance of worship itself.

If we’re not to worship God by symbols or images, how can we worship God in keeping with the second Commandment? Worship Himself in our lives – in His Word and in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s revelation of Himself; everything we need to know about Him is given to us there, the glory of His character is displayed before us. It is possible to know Him personally in repentance of sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In plain black and white, it’s all there.

How are we to worship God? By immersing ourselves in His Word, by being a living testimony to His glory. That’s what the Saviour meant when He spoke to the woman of Samaria. Worship in Spirit and truth. The only way to worship God that is not idolatrous is to be Biblical, not to speculate, but know what He says in His Word. We need to know what is pleasing to God and acceptable to God. We worship God when we encounter Him in His real and living Word. Open the scriptures and prayerfully seek to know Him in His Word. God reveals Himself to us in the scriptures. It’s not we only learn about Him, but the Holy Spirit allows us to meet with God in His Word. The Bible is central to everything we do.

Here, the Lord’s Table is situated under the Word of God, so the pulpit is central. This is where God is known. There is one and only one authorised image of God. Colossians 1:15, Colossians 2:9. Jesus Christ is God’s revelation of Himself in human form. John 14:9.

If we want to know anything of God, we see it in the person of the Saviour. We serve Him, declare His glory and desire, by the Holy Spirit’s work, that we would be more like Jesus. The only way to be Christ-like is surrender. Worship God as we encounter Him in His self-revelation found in the scriptures, in the Lord Jesus Christ. Emmanuel, God in our midst. We worship God as we not only learn about Him in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ but as we come to know Him in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. As that happens we become more transformed by the Holy Spirit.

The second Commandment is so very important. It is the fundamental basis on which other commandments rest. We are not to worship false gods but worship the one true God, in the right way, in spirit and truth. There are to be no images, no imaginations or ritual aids to worship. These are only distractions. True worship is found in the living Word of God. May God truly reveal Himself to us in Scripture, may we truly worship Him in Spirit and truth.

February 24th 2019: Thomas Kitchen

Thomas Kitchen Feb 2019Genesis 1:26 – 2:4

What does the word ‘holy’ mean to you? Some may think of the Bible, holy book. Others may think of how God calls us to be holy. For a lot of people today, ‘holy’ is an unnecessary word and the negative phrase, ‘holier than thou’ springs to mind. But the Bible talks about holiness in a wonderful, hugely positive way. We see in this passage the holiness of God.

We see before this passage of Scripture how the world came to be. There was nothing, then God speaks, then the universe comes into being. God starts with creating light, water, land, the moon and stars. He starts filling the earth with birds, fish, animals and humans. All of them, including us, are spoken into existence. At the end of each of the first five days God describes what He has made as ‘good.’ At the end of the sixth day, which includes the creation of mankind, He describes this as ‘very good.’

In chapter 2 we read that the seventh day was not a creation day but something is set up by God – a day of rest. From the word ‘rested’ comes the Hebrew word ‘Shabbat’ meaning ‘Sabbath.’

We enjoy naming our own children and the names given to other children. The vast majority are based on names they like. In Biblical times names were chosen for meaning. Adam means red; he was born from the dust; his name comes from the Hebrew word ‘ground.’ Noah means ‘rest’ and speaks of how he and his family found refuge during the flood.  Names give us background, facts about a person.

In Genesis 2:4 we read of two names for God – Elohim, one God, and the first translated name LORD, YHWH in Hebrew. Jews never speak the name YHWH (Yahweh), it is far too holy to utter, ‘In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens (Genesis 2:4).

What does Yahweh mean? Moses saw God in the burning bush, ‘God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.”’ (Exodus 3:14). Yahweh is crucially linked to the phrase of Exodus 3.

‘In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens (Genesis 2:4). On the surface this verse looks uninteresting but when we begin to peel back the layers it is truly fascinating. It is like an underground mine, where you don’t find great jewels straight away, you have to work for it. Let’s dig!

People ask ‘who made God?’ Was He created by someone even more powerful? God is not made of matter, ‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ (John 4:24). Everything we see has been created (Psalm 90:2). The bible is the way of Word of God. He has no beginning and no end. He will to cease to exist. He is outside of time. We will be forever worshipping Him when we get to heaven. It will be glorious, outstanding, worshipping and praising Him in sinless bodies. Jesus Himself says He is God, He is eternal. Our Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is omniscient. He knows all. He doesn’t develop because He’s always been sovereign. He doesn’t need to grow or develop. When our situation changes here on earth, may be the news of cancer, we don’t know what a day brings. But God does. We bring our changing situations to a constant Father.

In Yahweh we see His absolute independence. To be independent on earth you have to learn, to be taught, given advice, learn from mistakes. But God has never been counselled, been given advice or made a mistake. He’s never needed anyone. Isaiah 55. Without God we are useless, worthless. God created us for His glory, His pleasure. We can enjoy Him too. First God, then Man. That’s always been the order Scripture lays before us. But we try to change it – first Man, then God. Some pretend He doesn’t exist. Christians don’t want to get rid of God but, in changing situations, we try to do things ourselves. But we should first get down on our knees and pray to God.

God has given us work to do. We mustn’t think we can do it on our own. We need help and guidance from Him, not the other way round. Yahweh has absolute independence.

We see His absolute beauty. God is holy, pure, perfect and sinless. It’s us who brought sin into this world. We are inherently sinful. Scripture reminds us that God speaks through creation. Before we even knew of the Bible, God spoke to us through creation. How strong must God be if we see the strength of the mountains? How powerful, how awesome is our Creator! Jupiter’s great red spot is a storm. It’s three times bigger than the earth! On a clear night we can see part of the Milky Way. Of all the stars we see, these are only 0.0000002% of the galaxy stars! There are 2 trillion galaxies – that’s 285 for every person! If we travelled at the speed of light to the next major galaxy, it would take 2.5 million years! This gives us some idea of the scale of our God, of the universe’s beauty. It shows the beauty of Yahweh. He is so far above us. The rolling hills, the proud mountains, rushing rivers, all point to Him.

‘So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation,’ (Genesis 2:3). Day seven is a consecrated as a day of rest. It is sanctified – to be holy. This holy day has been established by one person, the only person, our God.

In the name Yahweh we see His absolute commitment. It is not until Exodus 3:14 that God reveals His name properly, ‘God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.”’ (Exodus 3:14). This is His name forever, to all generations. In all of Genesis chapter 1 we see Elohim, God. Now we see LORD. The relationship between God and man. The relationship was completely tarnished when Adam and Eve sinned. The closeness became an infinite gap. The only bridge to get us across is the bridge of the Cross. God never wanted to turn us away but He had to. But then He sent His Son to redeem us. He had a plan. We can pray, sing, spend time, love Him, worship Him.

Do we have at least some idea of who God is? He is so vast, so wonderful. Yahweh, the LORD, I am. We also have to thank God for His plan. He will keep His relationship covenant with us. We have to come to Him as we are; we can’t make ourselves holy on our own. Let’s thank and praise our great God, who doesn’t let us down. Glory be to Him!

February 3rd 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwrds-Feb 19

‘You shall have no other gods before me.’ Exodus 20:3

The first four commandments are about our relationship with God and lay the foundation for the remaining six, which refer to our relationship with others. To be right with God is our first priority, it gives the basis on which we can be right with others. Even within the first four commandments there is a logical progression. The first commandment acts as a cornerstone on which the rest are constructed. ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3) is the prime directive for life.

Each of the commandments is expressed as a negative, ‘You shall not.’ The purpose of the commandments being presented in negative language is to underline a positive. The first commandment tells us that we are to worship God alone. God is demanding an exclusive commitment to Him alone. All must be put aside (verse 5). The Lord speaks about Himself as being a jealous God. He will not share us with anyone or anything else. God is jealous for His people. They are His, they belong to no other. He is jealous for all His creation. Therefore, the devotion of our lives in worship belongs uniquely to God (Isaiah 42:8).

Why is this so? There are no other gods. He is the only supreme God (Isaiah 44:6). There are no other gods, but men invent them. When men refuse to worship the true God they make false ones. They have a natural desire to worship. If they refuse to worship the one true God, they will worship a lie (Romans 1). There are no gods – just the foolish rebellion of men (1 Corinthians 8:4). God expects the exclusive worship of our lives. He alone is deserving of worship.

He alone has done all. The Ten Commandments are set against the context of God saving Israel against tyranny (verse 2). They were to worship God not only because of who He is, but also because of what He has done for them. For them and for us there is nothing better than to spend our lives in the worship of the one who gave us life in the first place, and whose grace has brought us spiritual life through the death of His Son at Calvary.

It’s unjust and ungrateful that we should give away our worship to anyone but God. It is He who gives us life, He who gives us our daily blessings, He who gives us new birth and eternal life.

What are the implications of the fist commandment?

  1. The Almighty is God alone, therefore we should render to Him alone the adoration and worship of our lives. This is the very purpose of our existence – to fulfil a calling to worship God and to give to Him the unadulterated commitment of all we have. The Westminster Confession begins ‘The chief end of man is the glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.’

Psalm 144:15. There’s nothing more worthwhile then the worship of the triune God in every part of our lives. It is a particular grace and blessing of God that we come together to enjoy worshipping Him. That’s the purpose of this day, a day set apart in which we come together to glorify His name and to enjoy Him. Did you come this Sunday morning to have the privilege of worshipping God and to enjoy Him, to meet with Him? The songs and sermon are the means to the end, to enjoying God.

We were made to know God. When we sacrifice our lives for His glory we experience what it means to be truly human. This commandment is for our blessing.

  1. What fools men are. They will worship everything and anything rather than the one true God. There are those who will worship idols – the gods of man’s imagination. Romans 1:21-23. God declares men either worship Him or waste their lives in the pursuit of imaginary gods. Those who reject Him come under His curse. Malachi 2:2.

Men, in their sin, reject God and are rejected by Him. Our nation is under the curse of God. The lives of our friends and family members are under the curse of God because in their sinful rebellion they do not worship Him. They have gods of their own imagination and creation. There are those who will think they are so intellectually complete that they think they are wise and can look disdainfully down on us. Were we once not with them – devoted to other gods? Did not God, in His grace and mercy, have compassion on us and open our eyes to see, open our ears to hear and open our hearts to know Christ? How gracious God has dealt with us. He has called us to Himself. Will we not pray for our friends, our family, the people of Roch, of Wales, Europe and the world, that God will have mercy upon them as He has mercy on us? Their greatest need is to know Him, to know that there is but one God and that He is to be worshipped for who He is and what He has done. Will we not tell them, preach to them, by the lives we live, declaring here is the Lord Almighty, and you must know and worship Him, have your sins forgiven? Man is a fool until God’s grace comes.

  1. You cannot worship God half-heartedly. He demands our all (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30. He’s unwilling to share this with anyone else. This doesn’t mean we can’t serve our community and others. What it means is it’s shaped by our desire to glorify God in all that we do. In our love for our family, to do a good job of work, primarily our deepest desire in doing all of these things is that He will be glorified. In all we do we are to have a single-minded dedication to the Lord which puts Him first, above all else. We must guard against doing anything in the name of the Lord which, in fact, we are doing for ourselves, for our own praise. That is a denial of the first Commandment. We cannot play games with God. This is the most serious business, the worship of the Lord Almighty. Because it is so serious we need the help of God, God the Holy Spirit, when we fail in this duty, which we so often do. We need to know the saving grace that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh gracious God, grant to me the strength, the faith, the desire to honour you in all things. You are worthy to be praised.

November 18th 2018: Alan Davison

Alan Davison Nov18Joshua 18: 1-10

Humans have a desire for a peaceful life. Yet as a race, humanity is fascinated with war. But there are times when we just need to get on with life. Joshua here has to manage the mundane. But there’s more going on here then first glance. We may feel our lives are mundane but we serve a great God.

Here, in this chapter, deciding on the allotment of the land seems mundane. But to the Jews this was exciting as they saw the fulfilment of the promise of God to Abraham in Genesis, generations beforehand. In the beginning of the section in 13:1 Joshua was told he’s old but there was an awful lot to do. This was followed by a list of lands to be divided as an inheritance. God will drive the people out so the Israelites can occupy it. In chapter 18 we might think this is slightly confusing, ‘The land lay subdued before them’ (Joshua 18:1). There was peace, yet 7 tribes had not received their inheritance. This parallels with Christian life. The Israelites did occupy the land but pockets of resistance existed. We have been liberated yet still have sin in our lives.

‘So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given to you?”’ (Joshua 18:3). The Israelites had been slack; God had given land but 7 tribes had not occupied it. Joshua galvanises the people into action. He knew exactly what to do.

‘And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD. And there Joshua apportioned the land to the people of Israel, to each his portion.’ (Joshua 18:10). ‘Before the Lord’ is a significant phrase. The Israelites were to worship God alone. They were in Shiloh. This was important. Why? Because until now Israel had been a nomadic people but now Shiloh is set aside for the tabernacle. It was their spiritual home (Deuteronomy 12:8-11). The prophecy was now fulfilled, the tabernacle was settled in Shiloh. It was here that God would meet with His people through His chosen mediator – now Joshua. Shiloh was geographically central and now spiritually central.

God’s will is to be obeyed. When Joshua commissioned a survey, it was simply a necessary act for him to do the will of God. Joshua is doing what God required of it. Joshua is also motivating the people to do the task, to live holy lives before God – just as pastors today lead their team. The people complained. They were looking to their own strength not looking to God. Joshua stands firm. When we obey God’s will then He will supply us with the strength to do His Will.

Surrendering to God’s Will. Joshua was not the one who as deciding who had to do what. The primary person involved in choosing the land was God. The casting of lots was revealing God’s Will. The Israelites were accepting God’s choice of land they would be given as their inheritance (Proverbs 16:33). God is sovereign. The Israelites are relying on God’s sovereignty to make the decision. This is a parallel to our inheritance in heaven. We don’t choose. ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2). Where we go in heaven is Christ’s choice alone. We will have a place given to us, selected for us by the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to strive for holiness here on earth. What lies before us should sustain us in our lives in the here and now.

God alone is to be worshipped. God’s Will is to be obeyed. We are to surrender to His Will. Do we trust God enough to do His Will? If we do, we will surrender to His Will. We continue to live on this earth but our ultimate inheritance is in heaven. Look to the inheritance to encourage us in our life now.

 

 

October 21st 2018: Peter Gleave

Peter Gleave-Oct182 Kings 6: 8-23:

Where are you headed this week? What difficulties lies ahead? What does the church look like? Today, the church seems to be more and more marginalised. It is becoming more under pressure. As we reach out, the more we reach out, the more the enemy will try to stop you and distract you. How will we handle it?

Elisha is an amazing character in the Old Testament, an exciting man of God. The Bible is all about Jesus, from Genesis to Revelation. We see Bible characters who are people like Jesus, a shadow of what is to come in Jesus. Elisha points the way to Jesus. There are so many similarities between Elisha and Jesus, but Jesus is greater by far. Elisha means God saves. Jesus is the Saviour who saves. Both began their ministry at the river Jordan. Elisha fed 100 men, Jesus fed 5,000. Elisha foreshadows Jesus.

In this reading we see:
God gives direction;
God gives power;
God gives victory.

God gives direction:

The King of Aram was at war with the King of Israel. The Aramean king had a powerful army. However, the king of Israel had an advantage – he had a man of God on his side, a man who knew everything the King of Aram was doing and gave the King of Israel direction from God. The King of Aram thought there was a secret agent telling the King of Israel all his plans, but he was told it was the prophet Elisha who knew everything he was doing.

As we look forward, we see Jesus gave direction to His disciples and the early church. He told them what the greatest commandments were. He also called them together and told them to go into all the world and tell. Jesus taught them our priority is to love and worship Him and to glorify Him in our lives and to tell others. He also taught them that we are to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. Look around at church this morning. These are your neighbours. We do God a great disservice when we show the world we don’t love each other. Sometimes, we only love people in church and not outside. They too are our neighbours. We are to tell others about Jesus. The direction for our church is to love Him, make Him our priority. This is borne out by loving each other, telling others about Him. This is what Jesus taught His disciples and us.

God gives power.

In the Old Testament Elisha and his young servant arrived in Dothan. The King of Aram told his servants to capture Elisha and his servant. All around him the young servant sees the King of Aram’s troops, horses and chariots. The enemy is all around. He cries out to Elisha, ‘What shall we do?’ Sometimes we experience that when personal problems come. When the enemy starts to attack we can feel a sense of panic. The servant had a choice – surrender or wait to be captured. Not great options! He had nowhere to turn, he felt like giving up, like the enemy was winning. Elisha’s response is, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ (II Kings 6:16). The servant was looking at the situation with human eyes. Elisha prayed for him (v17). Immediately, the servant’s eyes were opened, his spiritual eyes were opened. He can see what Elisha could see all along – all around them was the power of a heavenly host. He saw the power of the almighty God protecting him. Prayer is vital. The power of prayer brings peace.

Jesus prayed. He talked to His heavenly Father. If He did it, we too must do it. We need to soak ourselves in prayer. The power of prayer is available to you and I for all the circumstances we face. Faith begins where man’s power ends. When the difficulties come, use your spiritual eyes, fix your eyes on Jesus, not the enemy. Jesus stands with you.

God gives the victory (verses 19-20):

The enemy comes to capture Elisha and his servant. Elisha prays. Instead of asking for eyes to be opened, he now asks for eyes to be closed – the enemy’s eyes. When they were closed he then took them all the way to the stronghold city of Samaria. They were captured. The King of Israel became very excited. He didn’t know what to do with all the people who have been captured, whether to ‘strike them down’ or not. Elisha told the King that it was God who had captured the enemy, and the king should now feed and water them before sending them back home. Oh what grace! The young servant had had his spiritual eyes opened and seen the enemy captured. Victory had become a reality.

The spiritually open eyes look to Calvary – the victory has already been won. Jesus died for you and me, for all who put their trust in Jesus and confess their sins, God gives the victory. Eyes that are open to this, show us the direction we should go. The victory is won for you and me. Jesus wants us to tell everyone how He can make a difference. Share the good news. It is life-changing news for your friends and neighbours!

Our desire is to be like Jesus. Show others we love God. Summon God’s power so that eyes are opened. Serve God, the victor, in your life, the life of your church and the world. Revolutionise your community!

October 14th 2018: Alan Davison

Alan Davison Oct 18Joshua 7

The Bible is often described as a picture book which contains many accounts of historical narrative. But we also see these pictures as illustrations of Christian life which we can apply to our own lives today. There is a spiritual element to everything.

Here in Joshua 7 we see that sometimes the Israelites did not fully see and understand what was happening but they knew God was sovereign. The fall of Jericho came about as a result of the Israelites simply following God’s instructions. The occupation of the Promised Land now starts to be fulfilled.

Joshua dealt with difficulty. What was it? In verse 2 we read that Joshua sent out scouts to do a recce on the next target – Ai. Joshua is taking on some of Moses’ responsibilities, following what God declares he should do (Numbers 27:21). Sending out scouts was normal for an attack, so Joshua followed the normal procedure. The spies report back that 2,000 – 3,000 men would be sufficient to take the city. Joshua chose 3,000 men, but they were defeated. ‘The hearts of the people melted and became like water.’ (Joshua 7:5). This was the same phrase used by Rahab. I wonder what Rahab would have thought of this attack? Why didn’t this attack succeed? We find the answer in verse 11, ‘Israel has sinned.’ It had stolen and lied. Even if Joshua had sent the entire fighting force against Ai, they would still have been defeated (v.13).

Defeat was certain because there is sin in the camp. God had given the people strict instructions not to take anything from the fall of Jericho (Joshua 6:18) because it would be ‘accursed’. It is a corporate responsibility that runs through scripture. However, accursed items had been taken.

How does Joshua respond to it? Initially, in verse 6, he is shocked and grieved. He and the elders came before the Lord. They recognised the attack should have worked and realise failure has come from God (v.7). Joshua knows God has brought about defeat. Joshua’s concern is for the glory of God’s name (v9).

Sometimes, in our fallen world, life just hurts. We need to turn to God to heal our pain.

God tells Joshua the consequences of sin in the camp (v12). They are ‘doomed to destruction.’ His chosen people, after the glory of the victory of Jericho, are now doomed. The sin of one man now accursed Israel. It is Eden all over again. In order to be sanctified it needs the removal of the accursed thing.

What did Joshua do? He simply obeyed the Lord. God tells Joshua exactly what needs to happen. Achan had coveted what rightly belonged to the Lord, therefore, he and everything that belonged to him had to be destroyed (v25). Achan and his family were stoned and their remains burned.

Achan confessed his sin yet he was still killed. Why? It was not God’s will that Achan died. God had given a warning not to take anything from Jericho yet Achan coveted. When Achan took items, he didn’t confess until the last moment. He continued to seek to deceive, putting himself before the nation. 36 men died as a direct result of his sin. The items he stole were set aside for the Lord’s service. Even if Achan had not confessed at the last moment, his tent would have been searched and the items found. However harsh we consider this punishment (similar to Acts 5), Achan maintained his deception.

In this case Israel was in its initial stage. This sin had the potential to derail Israel. Achan had to be destroyed. Achan’s heart was selfish; he wanted riches for himself, he didn’t care for others. Where are our hearts? Achan’s heart was set on physical treasure but it should have been set on God. Our hearts should be set on heavenly treasure.

Even as Achan’s sin had severe damaging consequences for Israel, his death had consequences for Israel – the sin was removed. The Israelites are told not to be afraid – God is with them. God tells them He has given Ai into their hands (Joshua 8:1). Everyone went to war. God wanted everyone to witness it. The riches were there for all.

Difficulties will afflict us all. We need to come to God and come to Him in prayer. Often we can help the situation ourselves. Everything we do should be based on God’s Word. Prayerfully consider God’s Word. We need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to apply it to our lives.