Sunday, 23 April 2017

How do I know If I am a Christian?

We have amazing rest and peace in knowing the debt of our sin has been paid. There are plenty of things I sometimes lie awake at night worrying about, but my eternal salvation is not one of them. Jesus says it, and I trust it.

Source: Audrey Mabley
If your life is anything like mine it’s full of activities, appointments, and a never-ending to-do list. Yet underneath these things, we feel something more — a deeper longing for a peace and greater purpose. Surely life is about more than rushing from activity to activity? In their search for peace and a greater purpose, sometimes people have heard of God and Jesus from the Bible but aren’t sure where to begin, what Christianity is or what it means to be a Christian. Perhaps you have experience with family members who are Christian or you visited a church in the past. Maybe you attend a church now but you question if what your church teaches is Christian. You actually start to wonder: ‘how do I know if I am a Christian’?

Who Are Christians? - People sometimes assume that being a Christian means; going to church, reading the Bible and being a good person, however, whilst all of those activities are important to a Christian life, none of those are what makes a person a Christian. In Acts 16:25-28, which takes place after Jesus’ life on earth, His followers Paul and Silas were in prison. They were singing hymns and praising God despite their awful circumstances, then suddenly there was a huge earthquake causing their chains to be broken. When the jailer realized, his prisoners were about to escape, he prepared to kill himself but Paul and Silas cried out to him, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here’. This is what happened next in Acts 16:30-31 ‘Then he (the jailer) brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household’.  This Bible account gives a clear answer to the question, ‘What should a person do to be saved’? The answer is the one given by Paul and Silas; ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’.

Source: Pinterest
What did Jesus do for us? - Jesus was a man who lived over 2,000 years ago in what is now modern-day Israel. Jesus was fully man and is also fully God. He lived a perfect life then suffered and died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin — my sin, your sin, and the sins of everyone who has ever lived in the world. Amen. After three days Jesus rose from the dead (this is celebrated at Easter). Jesus ascended into heaven and reigns in heaven with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. God is also present among all believers because of the work of the Holy Spirit who gives Christians faith and we can trust God for salvation after we die.

What do Christians believe? - Christians believe that the Bible is God’s Word. Christians however do not believe the Bible contains the Word of God, but that the Bible is the Word of God. This means that Christians do not believe that some parts of the Bible are true and some parts are untrue, but rather we believe that the whole Bible is true. Christians also believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the He is part of the Trinity, which is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As Christians we worship all parts of the Trinity as equally one God.

Following Jesus -  While Jesus was on earth He was the greatest teacher, and Christians follow the teachings of Jesus. However, it is important to make a strong point of clarification here; many times, when you ask people; ‘What does it mean to be a Christian’? they will say, 'I’m a Christian because I try to be a good person’. A Christian however is someone who trusts in Jesus as his Saviour and trying to be a good person will never get you into heaven. The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23 ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. It is sin that separates us from God. God is perfect, and when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, it is our sin that separated us from God (Genesis 3). It is only because of the saving work of Jesus that we are able to find salvation. The good works of a Christian life are important and Jesus spoke of them often. Other places in the Bible explain how a Christian is supposed to live, but the distinction is that these works are not to earn salvation. One of the clearest Bible passages about the role of good works in the Christian life can be found in Ephesians 2:8-10 ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them’. This makes Christianity different from all other religions, which usually teach that people need to work to earn salvation by their own efforts. Christians trust that salvation is a free gift from God.

Peaceful Assurance - People often wonder, ‘how can I know for sure that I am a Christian? I believe, but I have doubts. How do I know for sure I’ll go to heaven when I die? One example is the gift of incredible, life-giving peace, a peace that goes far beyond anything we can humanly understand; Philippians 4:7 ‘And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’. Any religion or system that attempts to rely on good works or our own self-righteousness, can and will leave us feeling doubtful, because none of us can be good enough for God. We will forever attempt to make amends, try harder, and hope for the best. This is not the case with Jesus! We have amazing rest and peace in knowing the debt of our sin has been paid. There are plenty of things I sometimes lie awake at night worrying about, but my eternal salvation is not one of them. Jesus says it, and I trust it.

The most important question - When Jesus was on earth, He had the following conversation with his disciples; Mark 8:27-29 ‘Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, Who do people say I am? They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets. But what about you? he asked. Who do you say I am? Peter answered, You are the Messiah’. The disciples were responding to the local town gossip. Some people said Jesus was John the Baptist (who had already been beheaded at this point — so in other words, was Jesus a ghost?), some people said Jesus was Elijah (a prophet of importance, believed to impart wisdom in Jewish tradition), who had come back to earth as foretold, and some people said Jesus was a new prophet. Then Jesus asked the disciples the most important question, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ This is the same question Jesus is asking you and I today and is the most important question you will ever answer in your life, because the answer will determine how you spend eternity. Peter’s answer was an example for us because he proclaimed with great faith; ‘You are the Christ’.

When we say, ‘Jesus is the Christ’, we are also saying that He is ‘the anointed one’ and ‘the King chosen by God’. The titles of ‘Christ’ and ‘Messiah’ are therefore meaningful ones because we see the whole Bible, and in fact all of history, coming together in the person of Jesus. The Bible is a collection of books written by different people yet each book was divinely inspired by God. The books of the New Testament tell of Jesus’s life and the beginning of the church on earth. The books of the Old Testament point to the Saviour, or Messiah, who is to come. Here we see Jesus as the fulfilment of that promise. Christians trust in Jesus as the Messiah, both the King and Ruler of the world and the King of their lives. Amen

This article has been published with the kind permission of the author. You can find out a little more about Sara and her ministry by visiting her website at the following (Link)

Author: Sara Borgstede

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Sunday, 16 April 2017

Step inside the empty tomb

We miss so much when we don’t enter fully into God’s marvelous works. The people who get most from the Christian life are those who ‘step inside’. Christianity is not a faith for ‘peepers’ – Get Inside!

Source: Connie York - blogger
John Chapter 20 records the details of the first Easter morning marathon. Mary Magdalene, who was first to reach the tomb of Jesus, came ‘running’ to Simon Peter and John, having seen the stone removed from the grave and announced news of ‘Removal’ not Resurrection. The first message from the empty tomb was false – someone had nicked the corpse! There was no conspiracy theory here - the first Easter Sunday hunt was for a corpse! Then we meet the next two runners with John getting to the tomb before Simon Peter. Imagine winning the race but staying outside the tomb. ‘He bent over and looked in… but did not go in’. John was a ‘peeper’ which typifies many believers today who ‘peep’ into the scriptures, ‘peep’ into worship, ‘peep’ into service, ‘peep’ into prayer and ‘peep’ into commitment. But then in John 20:6, Simon Peter arrives and ‘went into the tomb’; ‘Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there’. He went past the ‘peeper’ and saw more! Then finally in John 20:8, John ‘also went inside’; ‘Finally, the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed’

We miss so much when we don’t enter fully into God’s marvelous works. The title of a Beatles song ‘Step inside love’ comes to mind here: The people who get most from the Christian life are those who ‘step inside’. Christianity is not a faith for ‘peepers’ – Get Inside! In this wonderful Easter week ‘Step inside’ and spend some time in the empty tomb and…

Smell the Fragrance: There’s no smell of death, just the strips of linen loaded with 34 kilos of spices filling the air with beautiful fragrance.

See the grave clothes: Take a good look and see how they’re arranged. A body has obviously passed through them, they are undisturbed and unoccupied!

Breathe in the air of Resurrection: The breath of the risen Jesus is in that empty grave, let it fill your lungs and thrill your heart!

Soak up the truth: Step inside and revel in the truth that the tomb is empty not because of removal but because of RESURRECTION!

That truth means: Jesus IS the Son of God; Your sin HAVE been paid for; The Scriptures ARE true; Satan IS defeated; Death HAS been conquered and Jesus WILL come again!!! Amen

STEP INSIDE! Easter is not about a missing corpse but about a RISEN SAVIOUR! Hallelujah.

He’s ALIVE – to answer your prayers
He’s ALIVE – to heal your body
He’s ALIVE – to fulfil your destiny
He’s ALIVE – to banish your fears
He’s ALIVE – to meet your needs
He’s ALIVE – to build His Church

Heaven invites us; ‘Come and see’, or to STEP INSIDE LOVE!  Nine times Jesus gave us an ‘EMPTY’ promise and on that first Easter Sunday He delivered it in style!

That’s my Jesus!

Author: Alan Hewitt - AOG UK National Leadership Team  

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Sunday, 9 April 2017

Who am I?

God will never disown you, desert you, dump you, because you cost too much! His love doesn’t increase when you’re more spiritual or decrease when you’re distant!

Source: Cherie Burbach
The Apostle John writes in 1 John 3:1 ‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’ Read that again and note the ‘we’! If that doesn’t make you say ‘wow!’ you need to keep reading it until it does!

So many Christians live a lifetime without discovering who they really are. It’s so tragic because a victorious Christian life actually depends on it! Christians are first and foremost Children, we are not merely supporters, followers, devotees, comrades, workers, ministers, labourers……We are children of God!. God is not merely building a workforce but a family and you’ll never function properly unless you understand that it’s from the position of being a child. Adults can easily lose the wonder of what it means to be a child! Brennan Manning wrote ‘The two pivotal words in the teaching of Jesus are both ‘A’ words – Amen & Abba’.

Source: Crosspoint Church Online
When Jesus spoke of His Father as ‘Abba’ (a colloquial form of address used by Jewish children to their father) He opened up possibilities previously unknown, the new dawn of incredible generosity and blessing. Romans 8:15 states; ‘By Him, WE cry, ABBA Father’. In no world religion, would it be thinkable that a human being could ever call ALMIGHTY GOD, ‘Daddy’!  Receiving Jesus – the One & Only – gives US the power to call God – ‘Daddy’! I love how Max Lucado describes this blessing: ‘The Christ of the galaxies is the Christ of your Monday mornings. You have a Friend in high places. Does the child of Arnold Schwarznegger worry about tight pickle jars? Does the son of Nike founder Phil Knight sweat about a broken shoelace or trainer? If the daughter of Bill Gates can't turn on her computer, does she panic! No, neither should you, your God has walked your streets, He knows your name, He loves you more than you'll ever know’. You’re not merely a friend of God; you're a Child of God! We are to live in His embrace and be eternally secure in His love. This fact should take our breath away – that ‘in Christ’ we are accepted by God just as much as Jesus is!!!

Why is this so important to understand? Because it’s only when you know how much God loves you that you can really begin to love God. 1 John 4:19 ‘We love Him because He first loved us’. God will never disown you, desert you, dump you, because you cost too much! His love doesn’t increase when you’re more spiritual or decrease when you’re distant! One of hardest things is to accept that you are an object of God’s delight.

Jesus is not a subject; He’s not something you can say, ‘I get that, what's next?’ - well, there is no next! He is the ultimate! We can never move on from Jesus, there is nothing else worth moving on to! Let your thoughts today focus on the truth that you through Christ are a child of a Heavenly Father who is ‘crazed and drunk’ with love for YOU!

Author: Alan Hewitt - AOG UK National Leadership Team 

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday, 2 April 2017

Cast your cares on the Lord

All of us have things that we need to deal with in our lives, but ignoring them, holding onto them or even trying to run away from them will certainly not resolve them

Source: Prophetic Light
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if life was so simple that we didn’t experience difficulties, hardship, sorrow, disappointment, grief, sadness and all of the other things that challenge us as part of our day to day lives? God knew that we would experience all of these things, however in His Word He shows us what we should do at these times; Psalms 55:22 ‘Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken’ and 1 Peter 5:7 ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’, Amen. Jesus, whilst talking to His disciples just before He was arrested told them that they too would experience troubles; John 16:33 ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’. Notice that Jesus does not say ‘if you have trouble’, but, ‘you will have trouble’. If we expect the World to be anything but challenging in our lives then we would be living in false hope because, the Word of God clearly tells us to expect these situations and circumstances throughout our lives.

So, we accept that we are going to encounter difficult times in our lives however it is the manner in which we deal with them which will determine what impact we allow them to have on our lives. Sometimes we may let things consume our thoughts and to dominate our lives, to a point that other parts of our lives become affected such as relationships with family and friends, work, sleep, our health etc. We hold onto things that have happened in the past and just won’t let them go, things that are denying our freedom to be able to move on. Why do we continually hold onto things that only serve to prolong our pain? Why do we allow our minds to be consumed with things from the past that make us unhappy, anxious, worried, frightened and often lead to us feeling unwell? Why do we keep living in the past, when the past is where it actually belongs? All of these are distractions which take away our freedom to love, serve and glorify our Father.

Source: Year 27
All of us have things that we need to deal with in our lives, but ignoring them, holding onto them or even trying to run away from them will certainly not resolve them. We could run to the other side of the World to try and outrun our problems however the reality of this is that the only thing that would change is the destination. We may enjoy our new destination for a few days or weeks but it is only a matter of time before whatever it is we are trying to run away from re-emerges back into our lives.

Last year my wife and I went on holiday to Malta and on the return journey, at the airport check-in counter, we were politely informed that we had very slightly exceeded the excess baggage limit. How this happened, I have no idea however the young lady behind the counter suggested that we should take some items out of our suitcase and put them in our hand luggage. I could not see how this would be of any benefit whatsoever as effectively we would be taking exactly the same weight onto the plane, but that is a story for another day!  My wife and I proceeded to root through our suitcase, in full view of a very excited queue behind us (what other excitement can there be standing in a check-in queue?), and we tried to ‘discreetly’ transfer some items from our suitcase into our hand luggage. I can’t speak for my wife but I was quite embarrassed and it was not the greatest moment of my life.

In hindsight, the whole event in the airport made me think about ‘excess baggage’, not in relation to luggage but more about the type of baggage that we carry around inside us. Image a scenario where we turn up at an airport check-in, where no suitcases or other luggage allowed, however all of the ‘baggage’ that we are carrying inside is going to be put through an airport scanner and displayed on a screen behind the counter for everyone to see, and weighed. Firstly, how embarrassing would that be and secondly with all of that extra weight it is unlikely that the plane would ever be able to get off the ground! This is exactly the problem that we can create in our lives. We weigh ourselves down so heavily with all of the burdens of our lives, especially the past, that we never give ourselves the chance to ‘fly’ or move on. If, on the other hand we were to hand our situations onto Jesus and allow Him to deal with it then we will find rest; Matthew 11:28-30 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’. Amen.

You can listen to the wonderful hymn, ‘And can it be’, written by Charles Wesley, at the end of this article. The words are amazing particularly where we sing ‘My chains fell off my heart was free, I rose went forth to follow thee’ and ‘Bold I approach th' eternal throne, and claim the crown, through Christ my own’. In Christ, let us be bold and confident to know that ‘we are the head and not the tail' (Deuteronomy 28:13) and ‘we are more than conquerors’ (Romans 8:37), we can release the chains of the past that imprison us in the present and deny our future and claim back freedom in our lives.  We need to take responsibility ourselves and not look at others, that is between them and God. We need to leave the past where it belongs, we need to look forward rather than back and only then will our chains fall off and our hearts will be free so that we can rise, go forth and follow thee. We can then, with confidence, boldly approach the eternal throne and claim our crown through Christ our own. Amen.

Author: Gary O’Neill

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Sunday, 26 March 2017

Influencing others - The impact of a faithful Pastor

Jesus’s life and example influenced and continues to influence others it is worth remembering that the things that we do, and the things that we say, also influence others.

Source: Faith and Health Connection
I was 6 years old and it was 1949, just a few years after the end of the Second World War. It started as a very ordinary day. I’d been down town to Tamworth with my mum doing a collection for the Salvation Army self-denial week however, things were about to change. On the way home when we got to the bottom of the hill where we lived I found that I couldn’t walk any further. When my mum realised that I wasn’t just playing up she gave me a piggyback all the rest of the way home. Later when were home, I used the potty and noticed that I was passing blood, much to my parents’ dismay. They called for the doctor and he thought I had got meningitis so he called for an ambulance. At the time we lived in a row of cottages with a shared courtyard and the ambulance pulled up right into the yard. I remember crying as the ambulance men came in to take me to the hospital and I remember my friends coming into the yard to wave me off which would be the last I saw of them for 10 months. Initially I was taken into Tamworth General Hospital and I was there for 2 months, after which a specialist from West Bromwich (the big hospital) came to see me and decided to move me to his hospital; were I was treated for the next 8 months.

I guess many of you would have seen pictures of the old-fashioned cots with the old metal bars; well I was in one of those for a while. At the time everything was scarce but I knew that God was with me, He was always with me. I was very blessed to have praying parents, family and church and I believe today that it was their prayers that bought me through. I was found to have Nephritis (a disease of the kidneys) and I was in the big hospital for a while when they took me on a trolley to see the doctor. I’ll never forget it, as this was the first black man I had ever seen and he was the doctor that examined me for my tonsils. He had a big light on his head and he said ‘right we’ve got to get these out’. I think it was the same day that they took my tonsils out because they discovered that it was the poisoned tonsils that were affecting my kidneys. They realized that they hadn’t asked permission from my mum and dad so they sent a policeman to my home. You can imagine my mum and dads thoughts as they saw the policeman at the door - they thought the worst; but he’d only come to tell them that I’d had my tonsils out without their permission. It must have been quite scary however phones in homes were rare in those days and it was often the police that delivered important messages.

The MacGreggor Cottages where I lived in at the time.
1949 saw the beginning of the NHS (The National Health Service in England) and in those days’ children weren’t allowed to have any visitors. Remember, I was only 6 years old and while I was still in Tamworth my mum and dad were able to wave to me through the window relatively easily but when I moved to West Bromwich my mum would have to make the 28-mile journey by bus. She would come every week to the hospital and come up as far as the ward doors and even though they wouldn’t let her in she still did this every week without fail. She was allowed to bring me sweets and fruit etc. which she always did however this had to be shared out among the whole ward. Food at the time was still scarce and that type of food was even scarcer although I did manage get some of it. This went on until I’d been in hospital, probably 9 months, but by this time my mum who was feisty had well and truly had enough. This particular day she said to my dad ‘I’m going to go and see our Elaine and I’m not coming home today until I’ve seen her’. So she came over to the hospital on the bus and went straight to see the matron and told her that she wanted to see her daughter who she hadn’t seen for 9 months and that she wasn’t leaving until she saw me. The matron was very understanding and bought my mum to see me on the ward. I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing my mum walk down that ward. There was a little boy in the bed opposite and I remember saying ‘shut up - my mums here’ (in an excited tone), I hadn’t forgotten her and it was a wonderful reunion.

Although my parents and friends were not allowed to visit, there was one person they couldn’t stop and that was my pastor, he was lovely, I loved him dearly. Every week he made the journey on his motorcycle to visit me. His name was Ernie Harford but I called him Uncle Ernie. He’d come and keep me in touch with home: he’d tell me stories about Jesus; update me on my dog Chappie (who was and old English Sheep dog), tell me what was going on in the church; tell me what my family was doing etc; and so through him I was in touch with home - what a ministry. A little child of six wasn’t unimportant to him and I really thank God for him. He was one of the good folk in my life! He wasn’t just a Christian, I could see God in his life and in the life of his wife, what a lovely couple. I believe they are now amongst the cloud of witnesses that are now cheering me on saying ‘come on Elaine keep running the race’. Hebrews 12:1 ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith’ (Amplified Version).

After 10 months I came out of hospital looking like a pincushion. I’d had that many injections and it wasn’t the sort of injections that you get today; it was the big long needles with glass syringes because that’s the way that penicillin was given. Penicillin was relatively new when I was in hospital and very, very painful when the injections were given. I used to cry when I saw the nurse coming up the ward to give me the injection because I knew I was going to be in pain for a long time afterwards.

As I’ve said before my pastor (Uncle Ernie) had time for me; just like Jesus had time for the children as we see in Luke 18:15–17 ‘Now they were also bringing their babies to Him, so that He would touch and bless them, and when the disciples noticed it, they began reprimanding them. But Jesus called them to Himself, saying [to the apostles], 'Allow the children to come to Me, and do not forbid them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God [with faith and humility] like a child will not enter it at all’. (Amplified Version).

I wonder what it would have been like in bible times to have sat on Jesus’ knee? He would have had the little children on His knee as they surrounded Him: He loved the children and He told them stories - as well the adults. Children were there every time the people met together! Imagine what sort of impression that would have made on the children. What a role model! I was also thinking of the little boy who gave his loaves and fish in John 6:9; he must have been watching Jesus, he knew who Jesus was, he’d probably seen some of the miracles Jesus performed and yet this man who he admired was asking for his lunch. What a surprise that must have been! How blessed he must have been when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish and fed the five thousand (John 6:1-14). After witnessing that miracle I would think that that little boy would have grown up to follow Jesus! Jesus’s life and example influenced and continues to influence others and it is worth remembering that the things that we do, and the things that we say, also influence others. I believe that we should ‘suffer the little children to come unto us’ (Luke 18:16 - KJV) our children are very, very, very, very special. They are part of the church today and they are the preachers, pastors and workers of tomorrow. We should nurture them, encourage them take time to speak to them and hopefully they may look back when they are grown up and just like I did with my pastor; count us as some of ‘the good folks in their lives’.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 ‘Therefore encourage and comfort one another and build up one another, just as you are doing’. Amen.

Author: Elaine Roach

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