February 19th 2023: Graham John

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Mark 8:1-10 The Feeding of the Four Thousand

This miracle may initially seem like a carbon copy of the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 recorded in Mark chapter 6, but it is not. There are sufficient differences in the details to make it clear that Mark is talking about a different event. He is not repeating himself.

One important detail is the composition of the crowd; the people who benefitted from the first miracle were predominantly Jews, whereas those who benefitted from this second miracle were predominantly Gentiles. Mark makes this clear by mentioning a few geographical features. Jesus is not in the land of Israel. In chapter 7 we read that left the land of Israel and made His way to Tyre and Sidon. Here, He is still travelling in Gentile lands, lands considered unclean by Jews. In Matthew’s gospel we’re given a parallel account and strong hints that Jesus is still in foreign lands. When Matthew reports the reaction of the crowds to some of the miracles Jesus did there, he says the people glorified the God of Israel. That wouldn’t be said of Jews, they worship the God of Israel anyway. The Gentiles didn’t worship the God of Israel until they met the Lord Jesus. Jesus is still on this extended missionary tour, in Gentile lands north of Israel. Christ’s interest in the Gentiles must have encouraged the first readers of Mark’s gospel. We believe it was written and read first in Rome and the Roman countries.

Compassion and Concern:

The first thing we learn from this passage is the compassion and concern of the Lord Jesus to reach out to Gentiles, to reach out to the non-Jews. Jesus says here, ‘I have compassion on the crowds.’ (Mark 8:2a). He has compassion on the crowds, to reach out to unclean Gentiles, as the Church has stretched out and expanded around the world. Christ commanded the apostles in the Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations. This, of course, extends all the way down to include us – unclean Gentiles of the 21st century.

Jesus is willing to feed both Jews and Gentiles. It reminds us, as Paul puts it, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).

As far as salvation goes, the old boundaries, including national boundaries, have been done away with. Both Jews and Gentiles, if they are to be saved, must depend totally on the Lord Jesus Christ, who has mercy on them. Whoever we are today, wherever we come from, whatever our background, we can come to the Lord Jesus today in our spiritual longing. We see Christ’s concern to reach out to sinners. The gospel call is ‘whosoever will.’

The Lord Jesus is still the same today. He has the solution to all our sins. All we need to do is trust in Him, cast ourselves upon Him, and depend totally on that atoning blood that was shed for us at the cross of Calvary.

 Maybe you stand outside of the Kingdom today, maybe you don’t belong to the people of God. You can’t offer Him any previous merits, yet you too may come to the Saviour with a sure and certain hope that He is willing to do for you what He has been doing for two millennia – taking, receiving and welcoming new friends from among the godless Gentiles. Here is the Saviour who goes into the unclean lands, touches them, delivers those oppressed by the devil, feeds the crowds with just a few morsels – just as He did a few chapters earlier, among the Jews, the 5,000.

The invitation of the gospel here has its root in the compassion of the Lord Jesus. His compassion is mentioned most, out of all His feelings. His compassion is mentioned frequently. It’s the foundation of our salvation. We see compassion and concern for the unclean Gentiles.

The contradictions in the faith of the disciples:

In this situation, the disciples feel perplexed. Had they forgotten how, just a few weeks earlier, they fed the 5,000? They were involved in that miracle. So how could the disciples, who had been remarkably used in a similar miracle, be so completely out of depth here? What’s the problem?

May be, we shouldn’t be too hard on these disciples. How many times have we forgotten the mercies of the Lord? How many times have you been like these disciples, contradicting yourself, irregular in your following the Lord Jesus? This is most understood by those who have had lapses in their faith. The Lord reveals Himself to us, answers our prayers, reveals His compassion and love. He is still transforming us. Once we promised Him unfailing allegiance. A month or few weeks pass and we are drawn into trying circumstances, finding ourselves questioning, ‘Is there a God in heaven?’ Or we find ourselves planning and arranging our own deliverance, as if the Lord wasn’t carrying us up, bearing us up. Or we find ourselves anxious about a situation, as if we had no friend in Jesus, as if there was no mercy seat, as if there was no throne of grace to go to. Subconsciously, may be we find ourselves asking, ‘How can God possibly help in this situation?’ In other words, we are just like the disciples.

We are just like the disciples, they are just like us. We’ve let down our God, we have failed to be watchful, we haven’t trusted in His daily care. We’ve allowed doubts to enter in. It’s not just us, we see this in those who crossed the Red Sea. In the desert they start to complain – after a miraculous deliverance. They cry out, as if the Lord hadn’t proved His presence. Even Moses starts to falter later on when they cry out for food. He feels the burden of leadership.

After we’ve already experienced God’s blessings, we soon forget. We fail to allow the beam of light from the past to enlighten the present. People of faith use the deliverance of the past to change the present. David uses past deliverances to fortify his present troubles, “And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” (1 Samuel 17:37). Faith uses the ammunition of the past in present day challenges. Do you and I rely on the Lord’s deliverances in the past? Or are we unused to trusting in the Lord in this practical, everyday way?

You shouldn’t shun the opportunities that God gives us to prove Him. Think of the widow who threw her last mite. That was an act of faith born of a lifetime of trusting God, seeing how He rewarded those who trusted in Him. The Lord, who noted her service and sacrifice, would reward such faith. She trusted Him in the past and she trusted Him for tomorrow.

As Christ calls us to take His gospel to the dark, pagan world outside, we might feel cry with the apostle Paul, ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ We feel our inadequacy so often. Our resources are so diminished, yet Christ is in the habit of multiplying our insufficient means again and again and again, like the loaves and the fish. He uses weak, frail disciples to turn the world upside down.

A complementary way of viewing this incident:

Augustine, a great man of God, suggests another way of looking at the words of the disciples, which complements what we’ve already said. He says that the perplexity of the disciples arose not through any unbelief in Christ’s power, but from their doubts as to whether Christ was willing to exercise His power among these idol-worshipping Gentiles. This corresponds with stories in the book of Acts. Years after Christ had ascended, after the day of Pentecost, God had to almost force-march the church into evangelising among the Gentiles. No-one had a vision for the Gentiles. No-one. No-one prayed with a burden for the Gentiles. No-one. Despite the great commission, there are doubts as to whether God could work among the Gentiles, whether He wanted to!

The Saviour will feed these unclean, pagan nations with His words, with His gospel. He will draw them after Himself. He will lead them to belong to a greater community than they presently know – whether they were Jews or whether they were pagan Gentiles. He will lead them to belong to a kingdom that will endure, a kingdom that will never go into exile, a kingdom that will never be improved upon, never replaced – the Kingdom of those who have been washed by the precious blood of Jesus. Sinners were now being renewed by the transforming work of the Spirit of God, submitting to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus went to the outcasts, the rejects, the despised Canaanites, the Gentiles. We have to follow His example, to further His mission field, to build His Kingdom among the Gentiles. That is our roll. Christ’s compassion is mentioned for our benefit. We hesitate. We hesitate to walk in Christ’s ways. We should remember, when we doubt, our Saviour is full of compassion. He will remember our sins no more. He will supply all your truest needs. No-one has ever found the bottom of His well.

When we are weary, as we often are, we should remember our Lord’s compassion. He knows what it is like to live in a world like ours. He has been here. He has stepped in our shoes, into a world that weighs us down, a world that makes us feel frail and feel our tiredness. He never forgets. We forget often, His grace, his mercies, His compassion, His love. He never forgets His forgetful people. His compassions fail not, they are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness.  

May 22nd 2022: James Sibley

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Ruth chapter 3: Finding Rest

We are going to consider what it means to find true rest. What does it mean to rest in your everyday life? Is it to do nothing? I can only have restful rest if I can fully switch off. For rest to be restful, you have to know that things are being taken care of. True rest comes from a settled security, knowing that things are ok, things are taken care of.

As we look at rest in this chapter, let’s recap what has taken place. The book of Ruth opens with Naomi and Elimelech, her husband and their two sons in Bethlehem. There’s a famine in that land. Whether rightly or wrongly, they go to the land of Moab to look for food. While they are there, their two sons get married to women from Moab. In time, Elimelech and both of their sons pass away. So, we are left with Naomi, Ruth and Orpah, her two daughters-in-law. In time, Naomi hears that the famine has stopped in Bethlehem, her homeland. She makes the decision to return. She sets out on her journey with her two daughters-in-law following after her. She then decides to send them back, telling them that there is no point in them coming with her. Orpah returns back to her homeland in Moab. Ruth, after whom the book is named, decides that she wants to leave her homeland, wanting to commit her future to her mother-in-law, as well as to Naomi’s God. She says in chapter 1, “You God shall be my God.”

In chapter 2, these two widows are in a very vulnerable position, with no-one to help them, no-one to look after them. In that time and culture, it was a difficult position to be in. We see that Ruth seeks to go out to find food and sustenance for Naomi and herself. God’s sovereignty leads her into the fields of Boaz. As the harvest goes on, she is able to collect lots of food. This leads to where we are now, in chapter 3.

Chapter 3 opens with Naomi now turning to Ruth saying, My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?” (Ruth 3:1). Naomi wants to find rest for Ruth. The harvest is drawing to an end. Whilst their most immediate need for food has been met, there is still a question mark over their situation that Ruth and Naomi find themselves in. What are they going to do when the food runs out? Where would their long-term security come from? What if another famine came? What would they do?

Previously in the book it was Ruth who had taken the initiative but now Naomi steps in, looking to find rest for her daughter-in-law. Now that the harvest is drawing to a close, they are able to direct their energies elsewhere, to this deeper need, the need of rest, the need of long-term security for themselves.

Before, when Ruth was working in Boaz’s fields, they had a brief interaction. But it seems that no further meetings had taken place between Ruth and Boaz. We often like to romanticise the book of Ruth, of their eyes meeting across the field as they progressively fall in love. But that doesn’t seem to actually happen in reality; it seems they haven’t communicated since that first interaction. Boaz gives no indication of realising what is about to unfold. He doesn’t seem to realise that he was able to offer Ruth and Naomi long-term security. It might be that Ruth was still in mourning. The text does not make this clear.

Naomi makes this proposal, “Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.”  And she replied, “All that you say I will do.” (Ruth 3:2-5).

Naomi’s proposal is to get Boaz to resolve their situation by providing for Ruth a home and a family. The way that Naomi has planned for this to happen is for Ruth to sneak into the threshing floor, to uncover Boaz’s feet and then for her to wait and see what Boaz would say. Ruth readily agrees to this plan, which might be a little bit surprising because this is a bold plan. It’s a potentially dangerous plan. It’s a reputationally risky plan.

The threshing floors in those days were places where all the people who had land would go and thresh out their crops. They were owned by the whole community and the times of threshing were community affairs. We see Boaz there, eating and drinking with the other people. With eating and drinking, no doubt lots of dodgy activities took place. Remember, this was the time of the Judges, when so many people were far away from the Lord. They were doing what was right in their own eyes. It is safe to assume that these things took place at the threshing floor as well. It would have been easy for a man like Boaz to take advantage of a woman like Ruth, putting herself in such a vulnerable position.

Is what Naomi was doing foolish? No. Naomi has seen enough of Boaz, of his kindness and generosity that he showed to Ruth and herself to know that she can trust him, to know that Ruth can trust him. Naomi has come to recognise that God is at work in that situation, that God has been leading them to where they are. So, in reality, this is a bold act of faith, trusting that God is in control and trusting that Boaz will seek to do the right thing.

Ruth follows Naomi’s proposal; she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do, So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” (Ruth 3:6-9).

Ruth follows Naomi’s’ proposal almost exactly. But instead of just identifying herself as Naomi told her to, and then waiting for Boaz to tell her what to do, Ruth, through her actions and words, makes a proposal of her own. When asked who she was, Ruth says, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” (Ruth 3:9). She uncovers his feet and asks him to spread a corner, or the wing, of his garment over her. No doubt, Boaz would have understood this for what it was – a request for Boaz to redeem her, to marry her. This also refers back to chapter 2:12, where Boaz says to Ruth, “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Boaz said that to Ruth in chapter 2, now Ruth says to Boz, in chapter 3, ‘You cover me with your wings, with the wings of your garment.’ Ruth is asking Boaz to be the answer to his own prayer, to provide safety and security for her and her family.

As Naomi knew, these guardian redeemers had a moral and a legal obligation to step in and help family members who were in trouble, through buying their land, through marrying them and raising up a family through them. Ruth waits, no doubt with baited breath, for Boaz’s response. How would he respond to such a brave proposal, from one coming from a foreigner, from a widow, from someone who had nothing, in a vulnerable position? Well, he responds, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.” (Ruth 3:10)

Boaz responds, as he so often has, with words of blessing, talking about her kindness and her character. He responds with a promise, “do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask.”  The message from Boaz is that the rest which Ruth and Naomi are looking for is coming.

But there’s a problem here, “And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.” (Ruth 3:12). But Boaz reiterates the promise, “Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.” (Ruth 3:13).

This matter will be taken care of. Boaz promises that it will be taken care of. Ruth knows that this matter will be resolved. She can trust Boaz. She lays down to rest for the night, knowing that when morning came, this would be taken care of. When morning came, Boaz even made sure that Ruth’s reputation was protected, making sure she left before it got light, making sure that no-one knew she has been there in case they thought anything untoward had taken place. So, Ruth leaves in the morning, returning to Naomi.

Ruth could have returned battered, bruised, abused and with nothing but instead Boaz sends her home with a promise and a pledge to that promise, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” (Ruth 3:15-17). Ruth tells Naomi how it went, showing that Boaz had promised that he would resolve the situation, showing her that he had sent her back with a gift to share with her mother-in-law. What is this gift? A pledge, a promise, a tangible reminder of the promise that Boaz has made that he will resolve their situation.

Seeing all this, Naomi knows that her plan has worked, that God has been faithful. And so she says, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.” (Ruth 3:18). At this point, the chapter comes full circle. The chapter starts with Naomi saying to Ruth that she must find rest for her, and it finishes with her telling Ruth that Boaz will not rest until the matter is resolved. Rest is coming because Boaz will not rest until it is sorted.

Now, to us. I’m sure that some of us here this morning are in verse 1, seeking rest. We are aware of our need for rest. Not just the kind of rest that a good night’s sleep will provide, or even a nice holiday. We are longing for the kind of rest that comes only from being settled, being secure, having a firm foundation on which to live our lives. Some of us are feeling like life, that satisfaction, are slipping through our fingers. Here is a message that Ruth points us to – apart from Jesus, no true and lasting rest can be found. Rest is only found in Him. He says, “Come to Me, all who are weary, all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

How does Jesus give rest? He is gentle and humble of heart. His heart for His people, His welcome, in the way He deals with our sins and our guilt, providing acceptance and forgiveness and love, give rest. It is in the hope that he gives us of life eternal. Only this, which only he can give, can give us true rest. Only knowing, that no matter what happens, even if we die, we will go to heaven and be with Him. Only that can give us this kind of rest in this life. The curse of sin is toil, but the blessing of Jesus is true rest. This is rest – to know we are loved, we are forgiven and accepted, to know that it is not about our performance, trying to win His love, rather it’s about Him, His love for us, what He’s done for us.

Another thing that gives us rest is knowing that Jesus does not change as we change. In our sufferings and in our struggles, He is always the same. He is constant in His love for us, constant in His presence with us, constant in both His power and His goodness. He is working in us, working for us. Apart from Christ, there is no rest. Apart from Jesus, we are all in judgement, stuck in sin. Apart from Jesus we have no solid foundation to live this life and no hope in death.

How can we find rest in Jesus? How do we get the rest that Jesus offers? We just come to Him. He invites us through His word to come to Him. Here’s the great difference between Jesus and Boaz – did you note the elaborate preparation that Ruth underwent before she went to see Boaz? She washed, she put on perfume, put on her best clothes and then she went. We don’t need any elaborate preparation to come to Jesus. We don’t need to sit and work at making ourselves beautiful before we come to Jesus. All that He requires is for you to feel your need for Him. He gives it all. We just go to Him, come to Him with our needs, with our thirst, with our hunger, with our sickness, with our sin, with our burdens, with our weariness. All of this we bring to Him, for Him to deal with, for Him to give us rest.

We find more than rest in Him, we find that He makes us lovely, pleasing to Him. One day we’ll be glorified in heaven, with Him. Do you desire rest? Do you feel the weight of weariness? Come to Him. Trust in His life, in His death, in His Resurrection. All of these He did for us so that we can know true rest, rest that comes from forgiveness, acceptance and hope of life eternal.

Ruth didn’t know exactly how rest was going to come to her. This passage ends with still not knowing whether Boaz or this unnamed man will redeem her. Even though rest is coming, there are still so many things that remain uncertain before her, whereas for us it is clear. This rest is only found in trusting Jesus Christ. This life on earth has many uncertainties but in all of this we can be certain of one thing – that Jesus Christ never changes. A firm foundation never changes.

We have rest in Christ – not the full rest of heaven – that is still to come. One day we will know true and full eternal rest, free from sin, free from suffering. But until then we know the rest that comes from His gentleness with us, and the love and acceptance that he gives to us. So, we need not fear. This has all been dealt with. As sure as the Lord lives, He will bring this to completion. The writer to the Hebrews says, ‘Our forerunner Jesus is in heaven, so we will go there to be with Him.’

In Jesus we have rest from trying to do things in our own strength. We can turn to Him. Some of us can find ourselves feeling exhausted in our Christian life because we forget our justification. We forget that our standing before God comes from Jesus Christ. Rest only in Him. God declares us righteous because of what Jesus did in His righteous life and in His death on the cross. That alone is our standing before God. Jesus has already died for our sins. That should bring rest to us.

Life will not be easy but in Christ we can find rest. Rest is a conscious part of your walk with God, coming to Him for rest. We can do that as we come to God in prayer. Unload yourself to Him. Pray, and in your heart, cast your cares onto Him, as Peter says. Ask Him to spread His wings over you and to give you rest and security in the midst of life’s storms. In all of this, remember that just as Boaz sent Ruth back to Naomi, full, so Jesus has not left us empty on earth alone. He has left us with the Spirit, with the Comforter, with the one who reminds us of our adoption as God’s children, as a deposit and a pledge of the life to come. The Spirit is within us to prepare us for eternity, to remind us that’s where we are heading, and to bring our progress in the Christian life to completion.

So, we can rest in Jesus because He did not rest until the work of dealing with sin and death was done. The good work that he has started within us, He will bring to completion. So, rest. Stop striving. Stop struggling. Rest in Him.

April 3rd 2022: John Scanlon

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Luke 19:1-10

I’ve never been to Jericho, but it must have been an interesting city. It is mentioned quite a lot in scripture: in Joshua 6 we read of the walls of Jericho falling down, of David saying, “Wait at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return.” (2 Samuel 10:5), in the New Testament Parable of the Good Samaritan. We cannot say how many times the Lord Jesus went to Jericho. We know this was His last visit to Jericho. The people might have listened more if they knew it was His last visit. We are very much in the same position. Opportunities pass us by. We do not know our day of visitation.

Here is the Lord Jesus walking into the city of Jericho. He has been hailed with a peal of praise as He has just healed Bartimaeus, whose sight was restored by the grace of God. As He entered the city the place was full of people full of anticipation at the great day of Pentecost, all hoping to glance a glimpse of the man who had healed Bartimaeus.

We are all familiar with the story of Zacchaeus. Luke has faithfully recorded highlights of what was being carried out, for there was so much going on. As John tells us And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20: 30-31).

Luke tells us of a blind man who cried out for mercy and Jesus restored his sight. This is itself a great miracle. If Jesus had any intention of entering Jericho unannounced, this man and his gratitude had changed all that. As Jesus now enters Jericho, he would touch only one man – a tax collector. So, the crowd gather. Then someone comes along who wanted to see what was taking place. He sticks out from the crowd. He tries to push though to find a place but nobody gives way to him. This man is Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus. We all know him. All that we know is recorded in these ten verses. He is a tax collector. He is a Hebrew. His name, Zacchaeus, means pure. Maybe, when his parents gave him this name, they hoped he would grow up pure. But he was crooked, the biggest rogue in the city! He had made loads of money and was chief among the tax collectors.

We all want to have more, but there is no satisfaction in this. Zacchaeus didn’t just want to be first, he was first. He was wealthy. Many people want to be rich, but it can be very lonely at the top. Zacchaeus had power, he had influence, he had wealth. It reminds us of one of the churches in Revelation. The word of God goes on to say in spite of all he had, Zacchaeus wanted more, He wanted to see Jesus.

Zacchaeus was arrogant, but underneath all that veneer there was a heart that sought reality. He was a soul needing to be redeemed. He couldn’t remain happy. He realised late that the true things of life are not material. Perhaps, he thought he would find a new life if he found Jesus.

But Zacchaeus had two problems: he was too small, and the crowd was too big. He couldn’t see Jesus. He was a little man in a big crowd. He couldn’t see over the crowd, he couldn’t see through the crowd, so he couldn’t see Jesus. I have heard of unbelievers who have been given a Bible and upon reading it ask, ‘Why does this book tell us different stories to what people preach?’ In other words, people don’t practice what they preach. Their own lives do not reflect the love of Jesus as much as they should.

How many Zacchaeus’ are out there and want to see Jesus, but can’t see because we get in the way? We are told to walk in the light, but not in someone else’s light, casting a shadow, when they themselves are looking for Jesus.

Zacchaeus must have been made of stern stuff. If there wasn’t a way through or a way over, then there’s a way round. He couldn’t see Jesus, so he ran further and found a sycamore tree. He waited for Jesus to come. When Jesus came, He looked up and saw him. That wasn’t part of Zacchaeus’ plan. It wasn’t what he was hoping for. We need to be careful when we are looking for God, for before you know it, He finds you. You can find yourself alone with God.

In no time at all, Jesus looks up and sees him. It is as if the whole of Jericho was waiting to see what Jesus, the son of a carpenter, the Son of God, would say to the biggest rogue in the city. Everybody was waiting. You could almost hear what they were thinking, ‘Go on Jesus, let him have it! Tell him what a terrible man he is. Condemn him for his wickedness and greed.’ What kind of people were these inhabitants of Jericho? They had just heard of a blind man being healed. They stood waiting, expecting to see more. They were anticipating entertainment. What they were about to witness was a miracle – a man who had been obsessed by world wealth about to be transformed. The love of money would be replaced by the love of Jesus Christ.

Jesus does not confront Zacchaeus. He lets him off the hook and simply says, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” (Luke 19:5b). What about sin? What about repentance? What about conviction? What about restitution? There is no mention. Jesus calls him by name and invites Himself to dinner. There is a chief sinner in Jericho who needs to be saved. Jesus did not come to condemn. He seeks him in love and a miracle takes place. We need more of the Spirit of God. When Jesus preached the gospel, He administered grace to the hearer and He moves in the love of God. Most times, when Jesus went fishing, He came home with a catch.

The crowd called Zacchaeus a sinner. We are all sinners. If were are not lost, we will never be found. Zacchaeus says, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” (Luke 19:8). I shouldn’t think he would have had much of his wealth left after that.

Salvation is more than an external transaction. When people are truly saved they are a new creation, new creature in Christ Jesus. They have a new set of values. Their priorities change. Their very reason for living changes. Zacchaeus revealed by his testimony that a transformation had taken place. He began with an act of benevolence in giving half his goods to the poor. Then he showed his willingness to make restitution to those he had wronged. He has learnt that to have your sins forgiven is more valuable than gold. Zacchaeus found forgiveness of sins. A free gift. There is a price to be paid for it; it is Jesus doing the paying. The Lord said, “Today salvation has come to this house, becausehe also isa son of Abraham;for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:9-10).

For as much as Zacchaeus was a son of Abraham, this wasn’t what the crowd had told him. They called him was a sinner. The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. We are told that it was Zacchaeus doing the seeking, who sought Jesus. But we know it is God who is seeking the lost. The Son of God has come. He seeks diligently and when He finds, He saves. Who did He come to save? The word of God tells us He came to save the lost. There is something final about the word ‘lost.’ There is hope for the sinner, for Jesus has come to seek and to save. It doesn’t matter how lost a person is, or how immoral or deceitful he might be, because God in Christ, has come to seek the lost and to save them. That has got to be good news!

January 2nd 2022: Ian Jones

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Matthew 22:1-14

We all get excited about a wedding. Today, a lot of time and money is spent on weddings. It is an important day of celebration with the bride and groom. In this passage of the wedding feast, Jesus was in the Jerusalem temple area speaking to the Jewish leaders. There were only a few days to go to His crucifixion. He tells them this parable to make them think very carefully about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, by comparing it to a wedding feast – an ordinary event they would have been very familiar with, as well as us here today.

It is one of only three parables Jesus told, known as the judgement parables, concerning their rejection to Jesus and their misunderstanding of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. The King sends out servants with wedding invitations.  We need to know this is a first century wedding. This is a royal wedding. This makes a difference. Messengers were sent out initially to say to expect a wedding to be soon. Then, when everything is ready, messengers were sent out again to say, ‘Come. Everything is ready.’ You would be expected to attend. You would have been forewarned, so would be expected to clear your calendar.

Because Jesus has told us this is a royal wedding, it is even more important for the guests to attend. The King’s only son was getting married. To be invited would be a great privilege. It would be unheard of not to attend a wedding of that status. You would want to tell everyone you have been invited. We can understand the king’s frustration that the guests were not willing to come (verse 3). He thinks there must be some misunderstanding, so he sends the servants out again (verse 4). He will try to entice them to the wedding. The shocking thing here is found in verse 5, “But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business,” (Matthew 22:5). It was shocking that the people have no respect for the king and the prince. Worse still, some seized his servants and killed them (verse 6). How awful! The king was seeking to invite them to the wedding and laid on wonderful things for them.

What will be the king’s response? “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (Matthew 22:7). What does all this mean? When the chief priests and Pharisees heard this, they knew Jesus was talking to them. The king in the parable is God, the son is the Lord Jesus Christ, and the servants were prophets who were sent out with God’s word and treated so badly. Jesus acknowledged their sinfulness will not go unpunished and the city would be burned. We see this happen in AD 70.

We are told everything was ready. The wedding feast was to continue. How would this happen when there were no guests? The servants were told to go and invite anyone they could find. The banquet will go ahead. What honour will be if all are invited? Great honour. Everyone there will be looking for the king and prince. They will want to be there celebrating. There will be great honour.

Here we see the gospel call that goes out everywhere, inviting everyone to come to Christ, to come and rejoice. This is what the kingdom of Heaven is like. We see the goodness of the king, those who rejoice in the son, in the wedding. Those who will be there don’t come because of the position they have achieved in the world. They come because they have been invited. What a wonderful picture of the Kingdom of Heaven, likened to a wedding feast, a joyous occasion. It will be full of people, full of guests, looking to the king, rejoicing. It is not surprising some have linked this to the marriage feast of the Lamb.

The main purpose of this parable is found in verse 14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” The gospel is still our main means of filling the church. We are reminded of the importance of calling, going out, even if few are to be chosen. We preach without discrimination. Everyone is invited to come to Christ, to come as they are, to come in response to the gospel. We also need reminding, even if we can build the church, there is still the refining process that goes on in church. There will still be believers and unbelievers.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.” (Matthew 22:11). What does it mean by the king coming in to see his guests? He wants to see them. Wonderful! The guests, at the same time when He comes in, they see him. Everyone wants to see Him. Everyone is looking forward to that moment. The church may have many things that attract our attention today – being with other Christians, singing hymns, loving to hear scripture being read, the preacher, having fellowship with other Christians, the tea, coffee and cake – but most of all, our hearts cry out for God’s presence among us. We want the King to come in, we want to feel His presence among us. We call Him to come amongst us. We want the King to come in amongst us and bless us. We look back to times in our history, to revival, we want to be blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. We desire the gospel to be preached and the Lord’s blessing among us.

It is very sad to be in a church where God’s presence has gone out, a dead church. We desire to see the King, to see His favour. When the King comes in and the light grows stronger, hidden things are revealed. One individual hasn’t got a wedding garment, “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.” (Matthew 22:11). Did it really matter? After all, he’s in the wedding feast. We see the King’s response. He notices him. He goes and speaks directly to that one individual, “And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.” (Matthew 22:12). ‘Friend.’ This is the way the guest may appear, as a friend to the king. But he was no friend at all.

What is this wedding garment? A particular item of clothing that makes a person suitable for a marriage feast. If you attend a wedding, you have a certain code of dress. If you went to a wedding venue, you would instantly recognise who was part of the wedding party because you would see by the clothes that they were wearing, that they were wearing those that were suitable for a wedding. It would set them apart. This is what we can see here.

There are many things we could say theologically about the wedding garments, but for simplicity’s sake, here this morning, I want us just to focus on that thing which separates us from any other person outside. That garment which separates us. To be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, to be seen to have a holy life.

Why was this individual in then? He didn’t need to come in. To get in you would have had to put on a wedding garment. That would have been the rule of the day. You didn’t come in with your own clothes that would not have been suitable for a wedding. You wouldn’t have been able to afford special clothes as people would today, so you would rely upon the king providing suitable clothing for you to join in and celebrate this important occasion. Here, it is important to recognise that for this man to come in, he would have had to push by those people who were offering the garments. He would have known he was the only one not to have a garment on.

Going in to a shop today, you have to out on a face mask. Yet, perhaps you will se some that haven’t got a face mask. You might ask the question, ‘How is it that you haven’t got a face mask?’ There will be some who will say because of medical reasons, which we have no problem with. There will be many in a church that may not have a wedding garment on because they have come in and the Lord may be working on their hearts, they are yet to be saved. We haven’t got a problem with that. But this individual could be likened today to those who we may ask, ‘Why are you not wearing a mask?’ and they might say, ‘We don’t want to, I don’t think I have a need to. I reject that system. I reject it all.’ Here is a man of a similar kind. This man has come in, but he has no regard for the king’s son. He decides not to honour the king’s son. He comes in defiance. He wants to come as he is and not change. It’s the spirit of today’s age – I don’t need to obey the rules. I don’t need to look towards God’s word. I don’t need to accept God’s word.

This man doesn’t want to obey the king. He is a rebel who goes against the king and everyone else. So, it is not surprising that the king will come straight to this one individual and deal with him. The king calls him a friend because that is how he may appear, because he is there. But he is no friend of the king. He is asked how he has come in. There are many today who think they will be saved by looking to their own way, their own thoughts. They may say that they don’t need to come to Christ the way you say. They think that when they get to heaven, they will say their reason and God will accept them. Well, here we see an example of what it will be like for a person of that kind.

As he stood before the king, this man was speechless. He had no words to say. That’s what it will be like for everyone who comes in an unappointed way to the king in whom they think they may get away with it. There will be no getting away with it. If we do not come through the Lord Jesus Christ, in faith to Him and repentance towards God, and clothed in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be treated no differently to this man. He was speechless. He had nothing to say. He knew he was in the wrong at this moment. Worse still, he does not repent. There are no tears, no cry to the king to ask for forgiveness or mercy. This is a man who is resentful of the king and the son of the king. He has come to rebel. Sadly, these are many today in that position, going to a lost eternity. I have seen some who have rejected Christ all their life, yet even on their deathbed will not cry out to God, so hard has become their heart. They will not even repent in a moment of this kind.

The king responds by saying, “‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.” If we were to look at the Greek language here, the encouragement to us would be the servants were sent out to bring them in, with different servants to those called to bind him hand and foot and cast him out. These were different servants. The servants of the king were called to do what was required because the king would not have anyone spoil that occasion. That’s how it will be in heaven; there will be no sin. No-one will come into heaven but the appointed ones. Outside there will be darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Friends, the place described here is not a place you would want to go. There is a warning then for us. In this New Year, let us desire the gospel to go out, God’s blessing to be found in the church, for us to be defined and to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ, and others to be saved.

September 12th 2021: Pete Hilder

Matthew 6:19-24

Everyone has opinions, whether it’s morals, politics, films, tv or books. We look for reviews, for holidays, purchases online. As Christians we are to review things, for example, at the end of the day in prayer, at the end of the year. Covid pauses us to review and reconsider our time and money, our commitment. There are all sorts of things we review and assess. Maybe we go to church and review the service over lunch or review the minister! But God has a different plan when we come to worship Him. He wants to review us, to assess us, to look at us and tell us about what He thinks. Maybe you’ve come this morning to have a look and see what you think. God has come and He is going to have a look at you and tell you what He thinks.

In this passage of scripture there are three pictures, three reviews or assessments, which God brings before you and which Jesus brought to the hearers of this sermon on the very first occasion, and He desires to do so again this morning.

There are three questions for each picture. He wants to know where you are, how you are and who you are living for.

The first review: Jesus, the doctor
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Jesus is ready and waiting for us. He is the greatest doctor who wishes to review us and our health. He has a question for us. If you went to a doctor and he asked, ‘Where is your heart?’ you’d be worried! But our heart can be in many different places. Is your heart in a good place or a bad place? You can know because your heart is where your treasure us.

What is your treasure, your most prized possession? Is it your bank balance, job, status, family? Where do we spend our time and energy? Jesus is telling us there is a danger – our heart could be in the wrong place. There is a danger to us of hell, judgement, being destroyed. Dr. Jesus is concerned for physical and spiritual health. He identifies a couple of dangers for us. Your heart could be in a place of danger and destruction if it is placed in the wrong place. The other danger is our heart could be stolen. Jesus is offering us something different – placing our treasure in heaven.

Jesus has not lost one of those who have entrusted themselves to Him. He wants us to place our hearts in a safe place, in heaven, to entrust ourselves to Him. He is already preparing our inheritance. Jesus is 100% reliable and true. His concern is full and true. His way is a way of life to the full.

The second review: Jesus, the optician

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23).

This time we have the review of the optician. The greatest one who we need to see is Jesus, who is available at all times. How healthy are your eyes? Your heart is important but so are your eyes. That first time you need glasses, you put them on and you’re amazed. Suddenly the world opens back up again. The eye is the lamp of the body. It has great purpose – to shine light. Jesus says it is possible that your lamp is a lamp of darkness. We have many different ways that things enter us. We can be very careful about what we put into our mouth to eat.

How careful are you with what you let into your eyes? Are you filling your eyes with things which are darkness? God’s Word is a testimony of Him. The light of God’s Word is granted to you. God’s concern is so many of us are filling our lives with not seeing Him. So many are in darkness, they choose the darkness. You have a choice when you see an optician – whether to listen and act on what they say or not. Jesus, the optician, is perfect. He has seen the impact of those who reject Him (Genesis 3:6). Sin came into the world through the eye. The same happened with Lot’s wife; she looked back and longed for the world. Job made a covenant with his eyes.

God wants us to have life to the full. But without receiving Jesus Christ as Lord, we face the outcome of death. Solomon wrote, “The eye is not satisfied with seeing (Ecclesiastes 1:8). But Jesus contrasts those very words saying, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6). Jesus wants us to enjoy the blessings which are there for those whose lives will be filled with light. What are you filling your life with? We should be filling our lives with Jesus. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8). Fill ourselves with these things, the gifts that are there for those who follow Him.

The third review: Visiting the Master
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24).

The thought of this puts a shudder down my spine. This is a picture of more than just your master in work. It is a 24/7 commitment. Who is your master? There are two but you can only have one – God or money and possessions. Materialism is one of the great ‘gods’ of our age. We find ourselves not living for God, the Master, but living for someone else.

A squirrel will be busy storing up treasure – nuts for what is to come. Winter. Imagine that a squirrel comes to your garden, bored with collecting nuts and instead collects pebbles to store. What happens when winter comes? He dies. He hasn’t followed his maker’s design. We have a winter – a time of judgement. Maybe the squirrel decides to collect nuts and pebbles. What happens when winter comes? He still dies! The first commandment states we are to have no other gods, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3). These are testing words. Are our hearts wholly devoted to the Lord our God or are we storing up other treasures, serving other masters, filling our lives with darkness? God is not that cruel boss who is looking to pick all your faults. His concern is to bless us, to draw us back. We thank Him that He calls us back again. Jesus promises, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7). He calls us to build our life on the rock, to have life for eternity.

It is very interesting that the rest of Matthew 6 is about anxiety and worry. So often, when we are taken up the things of this world, we become anxious and worried. God has presented to us everything, the way to live, to have peace, to store up treasure in heaven. Jesus states it very clearly at the end of this chapter, “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:32). Amen.

August 22nd 2021: Peter Gleave

Luke 9:10-17 ‘You Give them something to eat.’

This miracle is so important, so important that it is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels. Therefore, you and I really need to take note what Jesus wants us to learn from it. The disciples arrived back from their mission trip and come to Jesus to tell Him all about what they have been doing. It seems to have gone well. They preached the gospel, they healed the sick and they cast out demons. They’ve done the very thing that Jesus wanted them to do. Even Herod, the King, was stirred into wondering who this Jesus was.

When you and I go on mission, there’s a mission taking place this week here in this church, we are used by the Lord. Very often we’re on the mountaintop. We are really excited about what God has been doing and allowing us to be a part of. The disciples came back and reported to Jesus, very excited.

 Such times are often followed by tiredness. Many pastors taken Monday off because, having preached on Sunday, they get excited in the pulpit. After, they get tired physically, emotionally and spiritually and take Mondays off to rest. Jesus knew this and says, ‘We’re going to rest and recuperate. We’re going to get into a boat and we’re going to go to across the lake, to the north-eastern corner and we’re going to have a time of rest at Bethsaida. There’s a nice, quiet spot and we’ll have some time together.’

It is part of our mission, as we go out and do what Jesus wants us to do – sharing the gospel and meeting the needs of the people – there are times when you and I need to rest, relax and recuperate. As part of that resting, it is absolutely vital that we spend time with Jesus alone, that we spend time talking to Him in prayer, that we spend time reading His Word and allowing Him to speak to us. The psalmist reminds us, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ There are times when we need to be off mission and we need to be resting, relaxing and recuperating in God’s presence, prayer and studying His Word. To give out, it is necessary to take in.

Sadly, we can get stuck in either one of two extremes: some don’t rest from mission and they risk burning out, some do nothing but rest from mission and risk missing out. Neither extreme is right, neither extreme is good for us. We need to get the balance right and ask ourselves, ‘Have I got the balance right between mission, and resting and recuperating, spending time with Jesus?’

Jesus and His disciples landed. They got to the shore and pulled up. The disciples were getting out of the boat and already there was a crowd of people there. The crowd had heard about Jesus. They were running from village to village around the northern part of the Sea of Galilee. By the time Jesus and the disciples got there, there was a huge crowd waiting for Jesus, wanting to know more about what He was talking about. They got people who were ill and wanted Him to heal them. They had heard all about what he had been doing, they wanted to know more about Him. The disciples too had been out, and no doubt the word had spread even further. People were, no doubt, excited about what the disciples had said and so they wanted to know more about this Jesus.

I wonder, what would you do with such a great opportunity? You’ve gone off to rest and relax and suddenly there’s a great crowd there. What would you do? Would you perhaps send them away? Would you, maybe, wait for another day?

In verse 11 we find that Jesus welcomed them. He spoke the gospel to them. He told them how He could make a difference in their life. He also healed those who needed healing. Jesus did exactly what he had sent His disciples out to do: twofold ministry – to share the gospel and to meet people’s needs.

We are called to do exactly the same. Imagine, if you sat in your garden, resting and relaxing, and 890 people came to you needing to hear about Jesus. They bring with them all their physical problems, their cancers, their difficulties, their debt, their incurable diseases, their depression, their anxieties, their addictions, their guilt of past sins.

If you live in Roch, that’s pretty much the reality of the situation you’re in. Because, on your doorstep there are 890 people in Roch in need of hearing about Jesus. I’m pretty sure that every one of those 890 people will, at some time, have a physical need that they need help with. Do you send them away or do what Jesus did and meet their needs?

Over the last eighteen months, Covid has caused a lot of people to ask questions about what life is all about. Many are affected by it physically and spiritually. People don’t want the isolation anymore. Young people are depressed because they can’t go out and live life as they want to. Families are suffering economically because the loss of work and furlough and all sorts of different things. Of course, 2,000 years ago there was no NHS on the shores of Galilee. There were great physical needs in that crowd, alongside the spiritual needs that they come to Jesus with. I want to suggest to you that very often, if we can meet the physical need of somebody, we get the opportunity to share the gospel and meet their spiritual needs as well.

So, do you continue to sit chilling in the garden, or do you prepare to do something about the 890 people on your doorstep? How do we get the balance right between not resting from mission and risking burnout, and doing nothing but rest from mission and risking missing out? Ask yourselves, when was the last time you met the physical needs of someone in Roch? When was the last time you shared the gospel with someone in Roch? If it’s been a while, maybe you’re at one extreme, spending too much time resting and relaxing. When was the last time you went along and spent time with Jesus alone? When was the last time you purposely spent time with Him reading the scriptures and talking with Him? If it’s such a while since that happened, then maybe you’re doing too much of mission and not spending enough time with Jesus.

I know we have all got family responsibilities, we’ve got work, we’ve got leisure time to include, but Jesus sent out these disciples with a great urgency. There is an important imperative for you and I to include these things in our daily lives. Jesus has commissioned us to go out urgently with the gospel, to meet people’s needs and to share the truth about Him. It has got to take priority in our daily lives.

I’m going to suggest to you the answer to the balance problem is that every day we should be spending time with Jesus alone, and every day we should be spending time meeting the needs of people in our villages and in our homes and around us, sharing the gospel with them and meeting their physical needs. If we do that, we’re probably going to get the balance right.

Jesus ministered for a while out there. The people came with all their diseases, and it was there He met their needs. In the late afternoon the disciples wanted to send the crowd away; they were in a remote place with no food. At first, it might seem reasonable. But did they really think Jesus didn’t already know they were in a remote place, or not know the people’s needs? Did they not realise that Jesus knew the vast crowd was likely to get hungry? Had they forgotten that it was Jesus who had given them authority and the power to go out in the first place, to share the gospel and to heal people? If they thought this through, they must have realised that Jesus, the Son of God, who they had witnessed do other miracles, would in fact, be able to meet the needs of this great crowd.

Maybe you think in a similar way of the 890 people on your doorstep? Maybe your response is similar to the disciples? Maybe it’s a practical, thoughtful response – we can’t meet the needs of 890 people when we have only got a few members? We’ll pray that the Lord sends along some more workers and then we’ll go and do it? Or maybe you’re tired and weary and think, ‘Well, they’ll still be there next week, or next year.’

Whatever the disciple thought, they probably weren’t expecting the reply that Jesus gave them. This is what He said, “You give them something to eat.” In the Bible, the Greek emphasis is on the word ‘You.’ Having this practical mindset, the disciples started to respond to Jesus’ command. They found a boy with five loaves and two fish and told Jesus. They said, ‘We could go and buy some food.’ Philip calculated that if they were going to go and buy food, it would have taken eight months wages, and all they would have got was a bite, which was hardly worth having.

They had completely forgotten the mission they had been on and reported back to Jesus earlier that day. Let’s not be too hard on them. The disciples had had seen Jesus heal individual people but never witnessed a miracle they were about to see. Let’s not forget how like them we are. Sometimes we forget the blessings we’ve experienced and where they come from. We forget that God has blessed us in the past in our churches. We forget that 199 years ago this church was planted in a village where there was no church. After nearly two hundred years, the work has been ongoing.

We forget God has been meeting our needs week in, week out, throughout our lives, both as individuals and as a church. Consequently, we turn to ourselves for answers. Friends, Jesus knows the scale of the problems. He knows the issues that you’re facing. He knows all the issues for you personally and you as a church. Jesus has the power and authority to give you what you need to feed 890 people in Roch. You, yes you, give them something to eat. When we don’t look to Jesus and start to look inwardly, we become inadequate and ineffective. We need to remind ourselves that when we work in Jesus’ authority, miracles can happen. God’s kingdom can be built here in Roch.

This miracle has its roots in the Old Testament – when God rescued His people from Egypt, out of captivity, and took them to the wilderness. There, where there was no food and no water, He fed them daily for a long time. Never once did He let them down.

God’s chosen people had their needs met every day. Now Jesus was going to do exactly the same for this for 5000+. He was also going to meet the two-fold need of the disciples: spiritually, He was going to remind the disciples of who He was and physically He was going to feed the twelve of them too, as well as all the thousands of people who were there. God is a God of provision. On this day, at a remote place, Jesus was going to identify Himself as God. He was going to remind those of a Jewish ancestry to look back and see how God had provided for His people in the desert and how He, too, today, was going to do the same thing. Jesus was going to remind them that He is one with God. He was going to provide their daily food, right there, right then.

What God has done before, God can do again. What God has done before in Roch, He can do again. What God has done before in your life, in your church, God can do again. It doesn’t rely on you, it relies on your willingness to give what you have. You may feel as if you’ve only five loaves and two fish, and nothing else to give. But what Jesus wants is for you to give your all. He wants you to give yourself. He wants you to commit your time, your talent and your treasure to Him. He wants you to give all to Him.

The Lord wants you to give what you have, to yield what you have. We may feel that we don’t have the resources to meet 890 people’s needs. The truth is, we don’t. But God does. He simply wants you to surrender all you have to Him, which, of course, He gave you in the first place. Your time, your talent, your treasure is only what God gave you in the first place, and He wants to take it and to use it.

When the disciples had surrendered to Jesus all that they have, in the Master’s hands it became something much more. Picture the scene: He organised the people into groups of 50, sitting on fertile land. In front of all, He takes what was there, five loaves and two fish, and looks up to heaven, give thanks and breaks the bread. In looking up and giving thanks to God, Jesus acknowledges the source of power, God Himself. When we look up, when we give thanks, when we acknowledge the source of power and authority by which we do the work of God, we don’t look inwardly. Look up.

Jesus kept breaking the bread and the fish, and He kept on giving it out. He distributed it to the disciples. They gathered round and they went on to give them something to eat. You give them something to eat. He kept on giving and He kept on giving. From these five loaves and two fish He just kept on multiplying.

Jesus could have done this entirely on His own, but He chose to involve the disciples in this miracle. In exactly the same way, in His kindness, He chooses to involve us in mission. Why? Simply so that we can experience the joy of service for the King of Kings, so that we can learn the lesson that the disciples did about trusting in the Almighty, and about the power of Jesus in meeting the needs of the people.

There is enough in the gospel for every one of the 890 people who live in Roch village. Jesus died for every single one of them. His blood is sufficient to cleanse and to save them all. God has already shown that He is prepared to give His power and His authority to you, for you to be able to give them something to eat. What He wants is for you to surrender all.

Whatever this church needs to reach 890 people, God will provide – workers, a pastor, finance, skills, talents, abilities, youth work, even an extension to the building. God already knows what the needs are, He knows what the issues are. He has the means to more than meet them. What He wants is for you, yes you, to give them something to eat. He doesn’t want our excuses, He doesn’t want what we don’t have, He doesn’t want us to be burned out, He doesn’t want us to be missing out. He wants what you do have. No matter how small in your eyes, He wants it willingly, completely, unreservedly given to Him.

There’s an opportunity this week. There’s a mission taking place in your church, doing the very thing we’ve talked about. Support it. Pray for it. Get involved. Do whatever you have to do to reach those children in this community, starting tomorrow. Apart from that, you’ve your own mission, spending time everyday looking for opportunities to meet someone’s physical need and their spiritual need, but equally spending time with God alone in order that you can do that.

This is your 200th year of service of your church in this village. I want to set you a challenge. Just think about this for a moment. Think of your 200th anniversary next year. Just imagine if every one of you brought one other person to Christ as their Saviour. The church would be doubled in size by this time next year. There’s a challenge for you – to go and evangelise and try and point people to Jesus; every man, woman and child in this community.

Imagine 890 people on your doorstep, grouped together in the street. Imagine going to them with the bread of life, knocking on their door to show them and to tell them about your love for them and about the love of the Saviour for them, how you want to meet their physical needs, and then getting the opportunity to meet their spiritual needs and tell them why you are doing it – because you love them because the Saviour loves them. He wants them to have life in all its fullness and that He is more than able to meet all their needs in this life and the next. Imagine, it happens so often that you’re bringing people to know Jesus into this church on a regular basis, to the extent that you have to start a building programme to make the church even bigger. It’s entirely possible.

Make sure you balance your time right, spending time with Him. Make sure you spend your time right by speaking to people about the gospel, meeting their physical needs. Don’t send them away. Keep going. Give all that you have. You, yes you, give them something to eat.

August 15th 2021: James Gleave

Luke 9:1-9 ‘Take Nothing for the Journey.’

As we have read Luke chapter 9, there is a lot to think about as we consider our own personal mission. John Wooden’s famous quote reminds us that ‘failure to prepare is preparing to fail.’ It is a quote that athletes plaster all over social media, alongside photos and videos of intense training. Preparation for a task is undeniably really important. Alexander Graham Bell knew this really well when he said, ‘Preparation is the key to success.’

When I think about what it means to be prepared, I think about making sure all the right things are packed, that I have got everything with me that I need to be well-prepared for a wide range of potential situations. For example, prior to driving down here on this holiday, I spent time counting out my T shirts and my socks. I made sure I was appropriately stocked for the duration of my stay. A few weeks ago, when I was camping in the Lake District, preparation involved making sure that me and my friend had means of storing clean water and cooking the food that we were going to buy. It meant making sure that we had a good mix of clothes, so we were prepared whatever the weather was going to do during our time there.

So, when I read these first few verses of Luke chapter 9, and this command to ‘Take nothing with you for the journey,’ it doesn’t sit well with the way that I’ve come to prepare things. In fact, one thing I do every time I go anywhere, whether it’s for a weekend or a week, is pack at least one extra shirt. So how are we to understand and interpret this morning’s command ‘to take nothing with us for the journey’ and what does it mean practically for us today?

The command, ‘Take nothing for the journey,’ as you might expect, is not quite as black and white as it might seem. Because whilst not taking the physical items that you and I might consider essential with them, the disciples do take some really important things with them as they start out on this mission for Jesus. We are going to look at each of them in turn this morning. We’re going to think about how they had companionship, command and calling with them, all of them provided by God Himself.

Firstly then, companionship. Jesus calls the 12 together. This band of brothers who follow Jesus and support His ministry, know each other just about as well as anyone else on the planet. They are, in essence, a little church family of believers all gathered together around the love of God.

Companionship is incredibly important, isn’t it? It is something that lots of us have found very difficult in the last 18 months with the isolation and separation from other people. We are social creatures, and for the most part we enjoy being around people and having relationships with other people. This is true across all aspects of our lives and is certainly true when it comes to our faith. We enjoy being around like-minded people. It makes exercising our faith more comfortable. It’s one of the reasons that things like Christian Unions are so important because it gives opportunity for like-minded people to come together to support each other.

In Mark we also read the same story that we read in Luke chapter 9. But Mark records it in chapter 6 in a bit more detail. He tells us that after Jesus brought the disciples together, He actually sent them out two by two. Jesus, the master teacher, is also a pioneer of that never-failing ‘buddy system. Jesus knows the value of companionship. The value of this companionship is to be a sense of support for the disciples as they set off on this mission. Not many people would understand the disciples mission that Jesus is sending them on. I think we could all agree that it’s a unique one, especially in the context of the time that the disciples lived in, or perhaps more so today. Most people, in the culture of the disciples, got up every morning, put on their sandals and their cloak and they go out to fish or to work on a farm, or perhaps to craft something. I dare say very few get up of a morning to go and witness the raising of the dead, for example, which the disciples had just done earlier in Luke.

This principle still rings true today. Not many people in 2021 in the UK, get up of a morning with a calling to share the message of a guy who walked around 2000 years ago as the Son of God. Not many people in the UK in 2021 believe in life after death, resurrection, miracles, the power of prayer or the significance of prophecy. The list goes on and on. But as we gather here today, there are people who have experienced these things and who share these beliefs.

As a result, it is imperative that we have a sense of companionship and a spirit of togetherness with our brothers and sisters in Christ, because when our ministry is difficult, or when it attracts the wrong sort of attention – as it did for the disciples towards the end of the passage that we read this morning – it’s our Christian family who will be there to relate to us, to understand us, and to empathise with us in a way that other people simple can’t. As a result, this can be a great source of strength, blessing and encouragement to us.

The other benefit of this companionship that the disciples took with them on this mission is that it gives them an opportunity to demonstrate the love that they have for each other as evidence of their discipleship. As they walk around through these villages, ministering and talking, they also have the chance through this companionship to love each other as Jesus of taught them. In doing so, they provide a practical, visual example of the transformative power of the gospel.

I really love thinking about Christian companionship in this way because I can often be quite quick to see church family and Christian companionship as good for being a means to support and encouragement, but I’m less quick to see it as an opportunity to show the difference that Jesus has made in my life. I think it’s something that would certainly serve me well to begin making a conscious effort to demonstrate the love that God has for me in the way that I interact with my Christian brothers and sisters, so that my way of life, as well as my message, are more attractive to those who don’t yet know Jesus for themselves.

You can imagine that the disciples go out on this mission, there will be times when the right physical preparation and the right practical arrangements won’t be nearly as important to them as knowing that they have someone with them to help maximise each unique opportunity, and make sure that their ministry is most effective and supported.

 So, having been brought together by Jesus so that they can take companionship with them, they are then bestowed with command, all power and authority, as it is described in the NIV. It says that they are given power and authority to drive out demons and to cure diseases. Having seen Jesus heal people who simply touched His cloak, having witnessed the raising of a young girl from the dead, the disciples will have known full well significance of this power that they have been given.

 I think there’s something in that for us to take hold if this morning. You see in our experience as Christians, as we have walked with God through various aspects of our lives, we will know, just as the disciples did, the power and authority that Jesus has. We have seen it in a variety of ways, at different times. When these moments come in our lives, where God sends us out in his power to do something for Him, we need to know to look back on our lived experience of the power of God, in order to have full confidence it, and full understanding of the sovereignty of God. The disciples know what is possible because they have spent time Jesus, learning from Him and seeing what He can do.

Now, as they are sent off into the world, this knowledge and experience which is the combination of their faith and the basis of their confidence, the disciples knew that they were being asked in their own strength was impossible. Perhaps this morning God is asking something of you which seems impossible? But when we go out in God’s strength and God’s power, as the disciples did, we know that all things are possible.

There’s something else significant about the example we see here of God’s power being bestowed upon the disciples. That is, it was specific. What I mean by this can be explained by briefly looking forward to verse 40 of Luke chapter 9. When a man asked the disciples to heal a demon possessed boy, they could not drive it out. What we see from this is that the provision of power and authority given to the disciples in verse 1 of chapter 9 is for a specific purpose. God equips them with all they need for this particular mission. The same may well be true in our experience; when God is asking you to do something for Him you can count on whatever power and authority you need, when you need it. You can count on God to be with you just enough time to carry out specific tasks that He is asking you to do. I think the significance of this is that the disciples can be left in no doubt that what they are doing is through God, and that they have to keep returning to God, to keep relying on Him for anything and everything they need to serve in each new avenue of service that they come across.

Charles Spurgeon once said that without the Spirit of God we can do nothing, we are ships without the wind, branches without sap and like coals without fire, we are useless. This is something that the disciple will surely have realised as they have this power and authority for this specific mission.

So, having been equipped with companionship and command, the disciples then received their calling in verse 2. This calling comes with some conditions. We’ve already referenced the fact they’re commanded to take nothing with them, not even an extra shirt. They are instead to rely on God and His provision through the good nature of the people whose towns they are going to visit.

They are told in verse 4 that whatever house they enter, they should stay there until they leave that town. I wonder how many villagers cottoned on to what was going on with the disciples, and pretended not to be in when they came knocking so as not to be the ones in the village left with these unexpected house guests, with no definitive departure date? Perhaps that’s just the cynic in me. In reality, we can assume that God was at work preparing the hearts of the necessary people and placing them in the disciples’ path at the right time, so that they were unhindered in their mission.

The command to stay in whatever house they entered was also significant; it prevented the disciples from going around looking for better accommodation. They weren’t to go around looking for five-star, all-inclusive hotels. This, combined with the instruction to live simply, i.e., to take no extra shirt, no bread, no money, no bag, meant the disciples would not be with the travelling people who were out to make money unscrupulously. In fact, they were to go out of their way on this mission to avoid any criticism for making money out of their work. As we witness for God, it’s important that we too are easily distinguishable from others around us, and conduct ourselves in such a way as to minimise the risk of any criticism which may distract from the message of hope that we take with us.

Peter writes in the New Testament, ‘Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.’ Perhaps it’s in these moments in Luke Chapter 9 when Peter begins to understand the significance of this as he and his fellow disciples make every effort to be exemplary in their conduct, so as to bring glory to God and win people round to God in the message that they are sharing.

Another more detailed instruction for this mission arrives in verse five. The disciples are told that if people do not welcome them, they should leave the town, shaking the dust off their feet as they go. Whilst they might not have definitive departure date, they certainly weren’t hanging around. There’s a real sense of urgency in this instruction that the disciples receive. I don’t know about you, but it makes me sit up and take notice. You see, urgency is something that I often really struggle with. I get complacent thinking that I’m relatively young and perhaps not in the greatest hurry to share the gospel with everyone that I meet as soon as I meet them. But perhaps I would do well to take something in the spirit of this mission and apply it to my own.

 I think in our culture, as Christians, we are relatively good at being polite, sometimes too polite. We hate the thought of offending somebody. Perhaps, sometimes that makes us a little bit over cautious so as to avoid any risk of doing so. The disciples were not afforded such a luxury. They are told that if they are not welcome, to shake the dust off their feet and leave. It’s a symbolic way washing their hands and responsibility, saying that they’ve done all they can and, basically they should waste any more time on people who don’t want to hear the message, when there are other people who haven’t the chance to hear for themselves.

I’m not suggesting we have quite the same cut-throat approach to our evangelism here and now. I think it’s clear that there were specific time constraints on the disciples which necessitated a more blunt style of mission. I think we’re very fortunate today to have opportunity to build relationships with people and adopt a more long-term approach as we seek to share the gospel.

But just because we don’t have the same time constraints at the disciples had, doesn’t mean that we don’t have any at all. On the contrary, we must be aware that our time on this earth and with the people around us is limited. Our opportunities to share the good news with those around us are numbered. We must seek to strike a healthy balance between urgency and gentleness in our mission, so as to ensure that we can shake the dust off our feet, confident that we’ve taken our message of hope and good news to everyone that God needed us too. As Robert Moffat once said, ‘We’ll have all eternity to celebrate our victories but only one short hour before sunset to win them.’

So then, the disciples set off with very little in the way of physical comforts or belongings but with everything that they needed for the mission. They are joined together and sent out with command, representing God and loving and supporting one another as they do so. They are relatively unhindered by the burdens and the stresses of having to be practically and physically prepared. They are not slowed down by the discouragement of those who reject the message, but rather, in obedience they continued to press on as Jesus had commanded them to.

Bear Grylls once said, ‘Pack the right skills and the right attitude and you won’t need much else.’ The disciples took with them an attitude of faith and trust, packing the knowledge and the skills for this mission that they’ve learned from Jesus Himself. They went on without need for much else besides.

The impact of their mission was far reaching. Not only were people physically healed and able to hear the good news, but as we read, the impact of the mission reached Herod the tetrarch himself, the man responsible for killing John the Baptist. He’s understandably confused by the claims that John has been raised from the dead. His attempts to stop the spread of this message have certainly not worked. In fact, there are now more people spreading the good news, reaching more people, performing more miracles. The disciples’ attitude of faith and the way that they have been preparing with Jesus, has allowed God to achieve some truly incredible things. And as we know, this is only the beginning.

August 8th 2021: John Mann

Mark 7:31-37: A Saving Appointment with the Lord Jesus Christ

The gospels are filled with the miracles of the Lord Jesus Christ, as he confirmed the truth of who He claimed to be and who He is. We thank God for the accounts of the many miracles of Jesus that we read about and learn from.

As Jesus travelled through the area where He was, we read of many miracles. In chapter 5 we read of Jesus travelling through the region of the Gerasenes and we read of the healing of the demoniac who lived among the graves. Jesus healed that man. There is no other mention of anything else done in that particular account, no other incidents there.

 Immediately Jesus gets back in the boat and travels across the lake and there he meets with another two individuals who are in need: Jairus and his daughter who had died, and the woman who had suffered a bleed for twelve years. Jesus deals with them both. The woman is healed and Jairus’ daughter is brought back from the dead. There are no other mentions of other incidents in that particular area.

In chapter 7 Jesus travels another 30 miles, may be on foot, to Syro-Phoenicia and heals a Syro-Phoenician woman. There is no other mention of any other healing here. It seems that Jesus is keeping appointments with people to heal. He seeks out those who need His healing touch. At the same time, we realise these people have to be where Jesus is coming to find Him. They are desperate for answers, they want to find Jesus, only to find that He was ready to meet their need.

Salvation begins with people feeling the need for forgiveness and reconciliation. In loving kindness Jesus responds. He brings forgiveness and healing. The Lord Jesus Christ has called us to Himself. We find in salvation, He has come for us, granted us healing and deliverance from our sin. Have you had a personal appointment with the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you sought Him out?

Jesus is on His way back to the Decapolis. We have to ask ourselves why he would go back. His first visit hardly felt like a needy return. The people pleaded with Him to leave. He wasn’t welcome. Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t leave you when you first rejected Him? Aren’t you so grateful He never gave up on you? Jesus returned because He had an appointment. This should fill us with hope for loved ones who reject Him. He is able to save and to heal. Jesus is still saying, ‘I have an appointment with that person.’

This return visit will be different (v37). It is only the amazing loving kindness and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ can turn ‘Get out of our region’ to ‘He has done well.’ In verse 32 we see another person in desperate need, a man who is deaf and has lost the ability to speak. He lives in an isolated, silent world of his own, relying on others for his daily needs. In their care they take him to where Jesus is. The deaf and mute man must have been confused, wondering where they were taking him. He can see others are excited but doesn’t know why. His problem has cut him off from society.

Here is a picture of our spiritual condition before we know the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you remember a time when you were deaf to the gospel? When your physical ears heard but your spiritual ears were deaf? A time when the gospel went in through one ear and out through the other in spiritual deafness? This results in spiritual muteness, having nothing to say about the Lord Jesus Christ, no time to praise Him, being cut off from God. Our spiritual condition meant we could understand what it was all about. Sadly, in many of our churches this morning, the gospel goes in one ear and out of another. There is a world of difference between hearing and understanding.

The beauty of this miracle is Jesus came to open the lines of communication of our spiritual ears. The gospel is the truth. But in our natural condition we are deaf to its meaning unless we come to Christ. Then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, our ears are opened. We become hearers and experiencers of the gospel.

People took the time to take this deaf man to Jesus. Do you give thanks to people who lead you to the man who could heal you, when Jesus said to you personally, “Ephphatha! Be opened.”

These are pictures of the need of our day. The people had a heart to bring someone to Christ. Are we among the ‘some people’ bringing others to Jesus, or bringing Jesus to others through our testimony, our lives, our witness? We are called to reach our loved ones and neighbours by our testimony. How determined are we to take others to Jesus?

Do we notice how serious these people are? They begged Jesus to heal him (v.32). They believed Him. Are we begging Jesus to save others in our community? They were determined for him to know the healing power of Jesus. Can you imagine the man’s joy when Jesus heals him? Suddenly he hears for the first time. Are you filled with joy when you hear someone has been saved? There is joy for the deaf man and joy for the men who took him to Jesus. Do you thank God for the people who went out of their way to bring you to Jesus?

Jesus took the man aside (v33). Here we see this personal aspect of salvation. We are not forgiven as a group. Jesus wants a personal relationship. He takes us out of the crowd to have a personal appointment with Him. Jesus draws us aside from the company of others, from the distractions all around us. He says, ‘Will you accept me as your own Lord and Saviour?’

Then Jesus does this unusual thing. “Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears. Then He spat and touched the man’s tongue.” (Mark 7:33). Why does Jesus do these strange actions? Jesus deals with each of us according to our own need. We come with our individual fears and doubts. What is the best way to connect with a deaf man? Sign language. Jesus touches the man’s ears and lips. He knows what the problem is, and He knows what the answer is. This would have caused many to resist, but not this man. He accepts the Lord Jesus Christ without turning away.

There are many people who know something is missing from their lives and may come looking to Jesus for an answer, but who are not willing to come without reserve. They want to be healed but not have an intimate relationship with a Saviour. They have missed the opportunity to be saved. But not this man. Whatever Jesus decided to do, this man puts his faith in Him. In this miracle, it is almost as if Jesus is kissing away the problem. We need to place ourselves into the hands of the only one who can heal our spiritual need.

Jesus looked up to heaven and sighed deeply when he said, “Ephphatha.” He has a deep love and concern in his heart for this man as He looks to heaven for his healing. He sighs with the same compassion He has for every one of us. Our healing is His passion. Salvation is the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why He came, that is why He was willing to suffer the scorn, the mocking, the rejection, the beating, the crucifixion and having God’s wrath poured out upon Him – because His passion is to save souls and to make us well. This is what Peter says, ‘He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.’

If you are a believer this morning, it is not through anything you have been able to offer, nothing that you have done, no righteousness of your own. This deaf man had no possibility, not a hope of healing himself. There was nothing that he could bring to Jesus, that Jesus could say, ‘Well, I’ll help you, you’ve gone so far I’ll bring you the rest of the way.’ The man was helpless, powerless and hopeless, just as we are, outside of Christ. There is nothing we can bring whereby we can say, ‘I’ve made a contribution.’

We are totally dependent on the mercy and grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. We can just imagine what the man was saying when he began to speak (v.35). He would be speaking His praise. Jesus came and suffered and died so people like you and me could have our ears unblocked, to have our dead hearts brought to life.

Have you known a saving, personal appointment with Jesus? What words are on your lips?

Sunday Afternoon August 1st 2021: 199th Anniversary Service: John Funnell

Mark 8:22-26 Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida

Jesus came to Bethsaida, a small fishing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, an area where Jesus worked a number of miracles and was well-known. It was no surprise that people came to see Jesus and see this blind man. Notice what Jesus does in verse 23. He gets shown this blind man to heal and takes him out of the village. Jesus is God, author of all creation. He can heal this man there and then, but He didn’t want to cause a spectacle. This man is blind, vulnerable and not for entertainment. Jesus deals with him quietly, lovingly.

How does He heal him? He does it with touch. The word ‘hands’ is used three times. Jesus nurtures and guides him through this ordeal. Jesus uses His saliva (v23) to assist the man. Why spit? To show His love. If you burn your finger in the kitchen or hit it with a hammer, what is the first thing you do? Stick it in your mouth. If your son or daughter is dressed in new school uniform and has chocolate on their cheeks, what do you wipe it off with? Spit? You only use your spit on yourself and your children you love. If I saw toothpaste on your cheek this morning and went to wipe it off, you would think it a bit odd, but you wouldn’t think twice if I did it to one of my children. What we have here is a clear sign of Jesus’ deep-seated love for sinners like you and me –  a love that brought Him down from heaven to this fallen and broken earth, so he could so wonderfully and intimately clean us up. He touched this blind stranger as if he was His own son. Beautiful, isn’t it.

This afternoon, has called you away from your busy lives. He has called you out of the village, away from consumers, away from your worldly distractions and desires. He’s pulled you from your sofa and television to come here, by His grace, to His church. By His Spirit He enters into your heart. He comes to you as if you are the only person in the universe and says, “My child, I love you, and on the cross I gave my all to wash away your sins, so you can see me.”

Jesus takes this man away from the crowd and gives him His undivided attention. He heals him. What does he see? People like trees walking around. Is there any symbolism of walking trees? No. The blind man simply answers Jesus’ question as honestly as possible. Possibly, he saw his friends in the distance. Jesus then restored his sight fully.

The same, unchanging God is asking us to do the same; in the chaos of our busy lives, He is asking us, ‘What do you see when you come to Penuel Church?’ Be honest when you come to answer this question. I’ll tell you what I see. I don’t see trees here at Penuel. I see real people who love Jesus. United, rational, sensible people. People once blind to God but who now see clearly. When I come here, I meet with sincerity and honesty. You are all tangible proof of godly worship.

If you are struggling with your faith, your vision is blurred, look around. You might be small, but you are alive.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” CS Lewis quote.

Friends, you are so blessed to be in this church. Look to Jesus. Be honest with Him. Be clear and real with Jesus and He will guide you.

June 27th 2021: Paul Daniel

2 Timothy 1:1-14

We live in an age of influence. There are more and more celebrities who have an impact on what people do. We are bombarded with advertisements and Youtube channels. Influencers can drive us; they can change the way we look and how we talk. Influencers can change the way we shop. If influencers haven’t got Jesus as king of their lives, it’s going to distract you. This past year we have seen a change in the way we have been influenced. It’s been complicated. We want things to be better than before.

As Christians we need to be thankful of those who have influenced us. Paul is writing to Timothy and reminded him of the influence of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. This morning we should be utterly thankful to those who have influenced us. Paul, in prison, is writing to Timothy in Ephesus. Paul is reminding Timothy as he goes forward, of what he needs to be influenced by, of what is going to shape his ministry in the church and the future. Today we hear so many voices, like the voice of the government. If you listen to too many voices, it becomes confusing. This letter to Timothy is really helpful for us; it has key doctrines of what must always be at the heart of our Christianity.

This letter reminds us of the impact of the Spirit of God. In verse seven we read, “For God gave us a spirit not to fear but of power and love and self-control.” As we have seen this week, the media can break a family, a relationship, in one single image on the front cover. But God sees and hears everything. He can reduce everyone’s lives in a moment, but he doesn’t. He offers his grace. The Holy Spirit brings new life. Our life begins to change. He moulds us to be more Christ-like. His spirit helps as to apply and understand God’s words. We’ve been bought by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and called to live for him.

The beginning of verse 8 reads, Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord.” We are called not to be ashamed, not to be worried about what others think of us. All of us are sinners. We need to be saved by grace. We are reminded in verse nine that it is God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”  There are somethings none of us can do or be able to do, that only God can do. God alone is the one who can rescue us from the Kingdom of darkness and bring us into the Kingdom of light. We can explore the universe and go to the ends of it, but we will never be able to save ourselves from the sting of death. The gift of God is eternal life in our Lord Jesus Christ. The power of God makes it possible to be made right with God.

As we start to rebuild churches and ministries, what are we then to do? To declare that God alone can do what we can never do. In verse 10 we read it is ourSaviour, Christ Jesus who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Jesus Christ has destroyed death. He says in John 14 :6, “I am the way and the truth and the life no one comes to the father except through me.” Friends, are you reminded of that soul single truth this morning? Jesus Christ alone can destroy death.

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

We have to remember what Jesus Christ has destroyed. If you have put your trust in Jesus Christ, when He calls you home or returns, you are free. Why are we here this morning? To gather and worship God. But we are also here for a purpose, we are here to serve. What is God calling you to do? In what ways is God calling you to serve? Paul is writing to Timothy from prison, he is serving his life out in prison. Timothy is living life in Ephesus where people were trying to distract the church. We live in a fallen world, and we are called to serve in a fallen world. There are challenging times ahead. It is the Spirit who empowers us.

Verses 11 and 12 say, “I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I’m convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” Paul makes it clear that contentment requires effort. We have been called by God to live lives that are holy. We are also to be ready to give a defence for the hope that is within us. To have Christian contentment, remember God is with us in all things and in all times.

“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith aunt love that are in Christ Jesus. by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:13-14).