July 21st 2019: Thomas Kitchen

Thomas Kitchen -July 2019Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.’
Hebrews 12:1-2

The race in Hebrews is a spiritual race, a very important race. It doesn’t matter how old or young, how rich or poor you are, there is to be one word we say to ourselves when running this race for Christ, “Run!” With this race we should all want to run. Here are three point to get our running gear on:

  1. Run with humility.

We are surrounded by ‘a great cloud of witnesses.’ Who are they? Why should we care? Have a look at Hebrews 11 – it’s all about the great men and women of faith who loved God and had exceptional amounts of faith. If we’re to run with humility, there are great men and women of faith we can look up to, be inspired by. This cloud of witnesses has already run this race before us and done so successfully. It’s not to say these people did no wrong. We’re all perfectly capable of falling into sin. We can’t run without God’s help. May be you know people who run the race who have suffered affliction because they’ve loved God more than the world. We must be humbled by these people but we need to remember they did it in God’s strength. Strive for faith. When we’ve been given the faith that we need, we need to use it. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, ‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’ So why would physical beings care for unseen things? Because God planted it there is the first place. We know we have a righteous God who knows all things and is completely sovereign. Faith is obeying God despite the outcomes, the consequences. God uses things which we may not have expected for growth in our faith. When living in the now it’s easy to say, ‘I’ll trust you Lord no matter what I face.’ But we must be prepared for suffering. Faith is about trusting God, and when we realise just how powerless we are, we realise how powerful humility is.

The world doesn’t value humility but it’s a great thing. We’re to be humble running ‘our’ race – not anyone else’s. We should serve God with all our heart, no matter what hurdles are ahead. We have worldly thinking. Sometimes, that thinking penetrates our thinking. We can long for gifts others have. But God glorifies Himself by living within us – Psalm 34. Do you boast in the Lord? We’ve got our own race to run, not someone else’s – we can’t change lanes. If we keep looking at other people and what they’ve got, we’ll trip up. That’s not to say we’re not to encourage one another. We can doubt God. We need to build each other up, support each other with scripture, with God’s words, not our own.

  1. Run with endurance.

This is a lifelong race. Sometimes, we can get ahead of ourselves. We can be so busy, for example, reaching out in the community, that we can neglect to pray or read the Bible. Sprinting is not a good thing if there are hills and valleys. The Christian life is full of joys and sufferings, full of ups and downs. Some people are regularly tested and others don’t suffer so much. It’s unwise to charge ahead; you won’t be prepared for a trial and will panic and lose control. How can we show this endurance? How do we acquire it? We can pray, read God’s Word, discuss God’s Word with other Christians, discuss joys and difficulties with other Christians. There should always be time set aside to worship and adore Him. We can’t worship Him if we’re running around. Proverbs 4. Always keep God’s Word and promises in our heart, in front of our eyes.

Lay aside every weight. Sin is a big factor in this endurance run. Sin keeps holding on to us to the very end. The following poem resonates with us:

The Yipiyuk
In the swamplands long ago,

Where the weeds and mudglumps grow,
A Yipiyuk bit on my toe …
Exactly why I do not know.
I kicked and cried
And hollered “Oh”—
The Yipiyuk would not let go.
I whispered to him soft and low—
The Yipiyuk would not let go.
I shouted “Stop,” “Desist” and “Whoa”—
The Yipiyuk would not let go.
Yes, it was sixteen years ago,
The Yipiyuk still won’t let go.
The snow may fall,
The winds may blow—
The Yipiyuk will not let go.
The snow may melt,
The grass may grow—
The Yipiyuk will not let go.
I drag him ‘round each place I go.
This Yipiyuk that won’t let go.
And now my child at last you know
Exactly why I walk so slow.

Shel Silverstein

The Yipiyuk is sin and it will not let go. We thank God sin is only on our toe. Our sinful flesh is still struggling to come out. Sin will never leave us till we reach heaven.

  1. Run towards Jesus:

So how can we run with endurance? ‘Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated’ (Hebrews 12:2). I love this verse. When you begin to read the chapter and see all you have to do, you can despair. But verse 2 tells us we look to Jesus. Everything we have, our growth and faith, is because of Him. The reason we are saved is because of Him. He is everything – which is why we must run towards Him. Jesus had to run this race too. He finished the race perfectly. He humbled Himself and became obedient even unto death. Jesus saw the reward of regaining His people and was able to overcome suffering. ‘Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed’ (Hebrews 12:12-13).

We are to be strengthened if we’re to run this race. From where do we receive this strength? Philippians 4:13, Ephesians 6:10, Psalm 46:1, Isaiah 40:29. It’s all about God, it’s all about Jesus Christ. The world may say we need to look inward, to see inward strength. We don’t have strength, it’s all about Christ. And this is why we want to run the race. Not just will we be saved from sin and death, but we will be rewarded, we will see our Saviour at the finish line. It will make all our suffering worthwhile. Everything that has led up to it will be for our God. Ask God to strengthen you, ask Him to heal our frail, dislocated limbs.

Run with humility, run with endurance and run towards Christ. Remember also to grow, to seek to become like Him who has saved us. Revival must begin inside the church. Be signposts to Christ.

‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing’ (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Paul has fought, he knew very well he was in a race. We too need to keep the faith. Great people have gone before us. Will you be great for God? It’s not an easy calling. Are you going to be great men and women of God?

 

April 21st 2019: Easter Sunday: Gareth Edwards

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

January 21st 2018: Alan Davison

Alan Davison - sept 17

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.
John 6:27

So many activities in church revolve around food, when we look at the Scriptures a lot of what Jesus did revolved around food. It was an intimate occasion when people would speak with one another, when they would have fellowship. Jesus accepted various invitations to eat at people’s homes. Food is also used metaphorically in our language e.g. we ‘chew’ over ideas, we ‘ruminate’ over ideas. Perhaps it is not a surprise Jesus uses food as a metaphor to get across a spiritual meaning. There are repeated references by Jesus that He is the bread of life. People misunderstood what Jesus is saying. In today’s focus verse Jesus talks about 3 types of food: perishing food, preserving food and provided food.

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.

Perishing food

Jesus is speaking metaphorically. It’s a rebuke to the people who are listening to Him (verse 26). The vast majority had a fixation on food and its physical pleasure. Many must have been fed on the hillside the previous day and wanted more. Possibly they fed on the highest quality food they had ever experienced. They wanted physical food. This is not what Jesus meant. We do labour for food that perishes, it’s a necessity for life (Genesis 3:19). However, Jesus wants the people to stop thinking about their stomachs and focus on eternal destiny (v.28-29). The crowd still think they can do something, that their own labour will get them into heaven. Jesus was fulfilling Old Testament scripture: Isaiah 64:1-6.

Prevailing food: ‘Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.’

The first food Jesus mentioned was perishing food, it goes off, it won’t last. Prevailing food just doesn’t last, it endures for everlasting life. It does something wonderful for the people who receive it. It prevails because it achieves something. This food that prevails is different food for different people at different times in their lives. Today, a balanced diet means different things to different people. Different people have to have different diets, depending on what they need. Professional sports people have tailored diets which meet their needs; rugby forwards have different diets to rugby backs.

This also parallels our own spiritual lives. Paul said as you grow in faith you need solid food as you develop and seek godly lives. What is spiritual food? Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” (John 6:51). The people were shocked. They did not understand. They hadn’t seen the spiritual implications (verse 52).

Jesus wants us to rely on Him. His care will continue throughout our lives, supplying everything we need as we grow in faith. Jesus is directing people away from themselves, not to rely on their own work. Jesus, on the cross, paid the penalty of death on our behalf. God’s wrath is dealt with. We also see God’s love, the glorious transaction, we receive His perfect righteousness in return.

Provided food: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

His life, His righteousness. Jesus is going to give us the food we need. Jesus wants us to desire this food. We don’t work for it, this is grace, undeserved favour. Salvation is by grace. It’s all of Christ and nothing of me. Reject the food that perishes, reject our own works. Jesus Himself is the food that prevails, provided at such a great expense to Himself. He is the only way we can be good enough to stand in the presence of the Father. Give thanks to our Saviour.

 

October 22nd 2017: Andy Christofides

Andy Christofides-Oct 2017One life, what’s it all about?

For our Mission Sunday morning service Andy spoke on three points about heaven:

Where is heaven?
What’s it like?
What’s the key to the door? How can I be sure of going there?

Where is heaven?
In 2010 55% of people in the UK believed in heaven. 95% of people in South Africa believed in heaven. Belinda Carlisle once sang that ‘heaven is a place on earth.’ It’s not! People tend to believe it’s ‘up there somewhere.’ It’s not so much ‘up there,’ it’s a real location. The Bible explains heaven is the unreached presence of God. Sometimes, a little bit of heaven impinges on earth. The shepherds on the hillside saw and heard an angelic choir as God burst in. Heaven appeared briefly when the disciples witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration, then disappeared again. There will come a time when the trumpet will sound and His glory will appear. Heaven is the immediate presence of God.

What is heaven like?
In John 14 Jesus Christ speaks a little about heaven, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubles. You believe in God; believe also in me.’ (John 14:1). Trust in God, give Jesus the same amount of trust. When the Apostle Paul thinks of his troubles, he thinks of them as being light and momentary, not worth comparing to eternal glory. Troubles are very real to us but there’s something coming far better for the believer that wipes it all away. Keep your eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus calls heaven ‘My Father’s House.’ It’s a lovely phrase. It’s a place where families get together – one dwelling place. We are all together, there are no divisions, we all get along. “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2). The King James Version states, “In my Father’s house are many mansion.” It is spacious. All have a place to dwell. It’s a great truth. There are some pretty great mansions on earth with spectacular views, but these are nothing compared to what we will have in heaven.

When Paul writes to the Corinthians he quotes Isaiah, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived – the things God has prepared for those who love Him,” (I Corinthians 2:9). Those who love Him  – that’s the key to entering heaven.

Paul also writes (in the third person, although he is speaking of himself), ‘I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows. And I know that this man … was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.’ (2 Corinthians 12:2 &4). Paul had a glimpse of the third heaven – the dwelling place of God. He saw and heard inexpressible things. What will heaven sound like? The sounds of heaven will be far superior to anything we’ve ever heard.

Heaven is a place prepared for us, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2). Everything is prepared, nothing will be out of place.

Our body is just a shell. I’m an eternal soul. I’m spirit. My body can move. I’m the bit that thinks, communicates ideas, thoughts and soundwaves. When I die my body goes into the ground but my spirit lives on. When Christ returns I get a new body.

Jesus Christ had a physical resurrected body. He could eat and drink. He could appear and suddenly disappear; at the Ascension He was talking to the disciples then disappeared. So our resurrected bodies will be physical, spiritual bodies, able to move around freely, travelling great distances.

Revelation 21 is highly symbolic of something wonderful. It’s a parallel to Revelation 7:16-17, ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘He will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” We will never again hunger or thirst. Eating and drinking will have no side effects. There will be feasting. There will be no sorrows, no painful memories of things that happened on earth. The judge of all the earth will have done right. There will be no sin in heaven.

Isaac Watts writes,

Sin, my worst enemy before,
Shall vex my eyes and ears no more;
MY inward foes shall all be slain,
Nor Satan break my peace again.

Heaven will have mansions of glory and endless delight. Heaven’s gates are always open and light always shines. Heaven is home. It’s there we will be satisfied.

How do we get there?
Thomas asked Jesus “How can we know the way?” To which He replied, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

‘I am’ is ego-centric. Too many people make the fundamental mistake of wanting to reform their own lives. It won’t get you to heaven. Going to church is very good, something you should do – but it won’t get you to heaven. Even going twice to church, attending mid-week meetings, reading the Bible and praying is all great – but it won’t get you to heaven. In every other religion it’s what you have to do. Even in some churches! There are some parents who believe that because they are Christened they will go to heaven. Or they may think that because they have family who believe they are Christians so this gives them access to heaven. Some say they believe in God – even demons believe in God – and tremble!

Jesus is the one who gets you to heaven. He is the door, the gate to the sheepfold. It’s not what you do that gets you to heaven. If you want to get to heaven, it happens through Jesus Christ, He is the only way. He is the only one who has dealt with the problem – sin. Our concern ought primarily to be God. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27). Love God. He is your creator.

When things go wrong people shake their fists at God and blame Him. Yet when things go right it’s all ‘me’. God sent His Son Jesus, the second person of the Triune God, to deal with sin. Why? So we can go to heaven. Why? Because He loves us. God sent Jesus to earth. He lived a perfect life. He met God’s demands. He’s our representative. He went to Calvary, laid down His life. Isaiah foresaw this 700 years earlier, ‘But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.’ (Isaiah 53:5). When Jesus went to Calvary He took on Hell. It’s love. ‘But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8). He died the death for us. Because He did nothing wrong, death is conquered.

Jesus Christ is the only one who has dealt with the problem. All I need to do is rest in His finished work.

Will you be there? If you are not sure, why not? The door is wide open. Faith implies repentance, repentance implies faith. The good news is God wants us in heaven. What do you want for eternity?

October 15th 2017: Ian Middlemist

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

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

I john 3-1

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

An important question to ask: Am I a Christian?

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

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

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

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

People can be:

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

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

I John 3-18

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

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

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

 

How do we respond when people ask us about Jesus?

Matt5.16

What would be the first thing you would say to a friend if they came to you asking about Jesus? Would you say that Jesus is your best friend? A historical figure? A religious leader? As we become more mission-minded, it is an important question to know how to answer.

In Matthew 5:16 we see that followers of Jesus are called to shine their light before others. At the core, sharing our faith isn’t about giving someone a lesson of spiritual laws or a heavy theological explanation. It’s about introducing people to someone they can know personally, someone who loves them, someone who will change their lives forever.

The challenge for Christians is to communicate the gospel in a way people can understand. We undertake the awesome task of explaining eternal truths in different ways that will connect to our community today. Our impact in sharing Jesus in our schools, home, community or workplace is directly linked to our knowledge of those around us and our ability to engage with them. 

As we make an effort to understand the people God has placed around us, we will find better ways to engage with and respond to the difficulties and negative perceptions that many have against religion and Christianity.

When God wanted to connect with humanity once and for all, He didn’t write a sermon, He came to visit us in person. Our job is to be His witness, pointing our community to know God, to relate to Him, and to have lives changed by the power of His love and forgiveness. God is a person to know, not a theory to understand.

It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is at work in us, He will always supply the right words to use in season.  When we are willing to pause and ask God to guide and prompt us, you never know what opportunities will appear.

When we allow the love of God to grow within us, dying to our old self and receiving new life, it flows out to everyone around us too.  Consider the incredible calling of sharing Jesus with those around us, begin to ask yourself – “What are the reasons I should share?” and you will find the love of Jesus will stir with you and completely overcome our fears and obstacle to sharing.

1Peter3.15.jpg

 

 

Contact The Elderly – 10th September 2017

We have had a blessed afternoon sharing fellowship at our monthly Contact the Elderly UK afternoon tea. It was a wonderful time to sit down and chat with senior citizens in our community, who were also delighted to receive cards made by our Women’s Fellowship. Gareth Edwards spoke of the importance of friendship, reminding us that Jesus sticks closer than a brother. Once again a huge thank you to drivers, hosts and bakers of truly delicious quiches, cakes and sandwiches. Looking forward to next month 

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?

New Year’s Day 2017: Ian Middlemist

ianOur New Year’s Day service was led by Ian Middlemist, who preached from John Chapter 13:34- Chapter 14:27. Ian began asking us by saying, ‘Where are we going? Are we heading in the right direction?’. We’ve become very emotionally attached to our homes, which is quite normal, but have we become too attached to the things of this world. In John 14, the disciples were attached to earthly things. Jesus teaches them that he is going and wants them to come with him.

Ian raised three points:

  • Where are you coming from?
  • Do you want to go?
  • How are you going to get there?

 

Where are you going from?

In John 12:27 Jesus is troubled, He says: “Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” Jesus wasn’t asking for an escape route. He came to glorify God. On the night of all nights, when He needed comfort, He comforted His friends, the disciples, who were confused. His disciples had accepted Jesus, they loved Him, but then comes the total confusion of Jesus’ death. They didn’t want things to come to an end. Jesus tells them He is going to die. It’s very difficult to face change. Are you happy?

In John 14:6 Jesus says “I am the way.” Why must there be a way? Why can’t we just stay where we are? Why aren’t we there by nature? Why don’t people know God naturally? Some people may have looked at Christianity and thought it to be too stressful – turning your back on things you love. The Bible tells us a true and honest assessment of our condition; it is an unpleasant sight to behold – we are unclean and we live in a filthy world. We need to wake up to it, we need to be made clean.

Do you want to go?

You can’t stay in the condition you live in. The penalty of sin will fall away to death itself, under God’s just judgement. Our lives are so short. We need to prepare to have a fixed abode in heaven. Jesus prepares his disciples for the glory to come.  You have to uproot. That is the call of the gospel. We need to understand the seriousness of our situation. Our homes are fading, but we are involved in a rescue effort. There is something awaiting everyone, greater than our present dwelling. Look upwards!

In John 11:48 we read of spiritual blindness. The Jews are all in a panic because they think Jesus will lead people astray, the Roman authorities will come and take their place and nation. They were fixed on their spot of land and didn’t want it taken away. Jesus says he is going to prepare a place for the disciples – their homes in heaven. Do you want to go there?  Heaven is the place where the Father dwells and He is the One we need to know and have His eternal safety and security. Jesus calls us out of the mess of our lives, and into our mansions in the sky. Look to Jesus, acknowledge there is a problem and place yourselves in the loving arms of Jesus Christ.

How are you going to get there?

In some ways every human being is looking for heaven, but what they don’t realise is it’s all about God.  That’s when they have problems; they want God to serve them. Knowing God is glorious. Such low, sinful people as us, cannot reach the highest heaven. But God himself has made a way, Jesus is the way to reach God. Jesus prepares His disciples for His departure. It was always His plan that he was going. He came to go. He had to go to the cross and then He would provide the means of cleansing. Jesus is the way. We place ourselves in His care. Let Him take you to God, to the mansions above. Let Him lead you into His presence. The disciples followed Jesus apart from one who rejected Christ. In Acts, we are told the believers were called the followers of the way. Can this be said of us?