Sunday, 29 March 2020

Abiding

If we want to be fruitful, stay and finish the meal that the Lord has given us until He says we are done

As we started this year our fellowship was considering what we should do in our Tuesday evening meetings. Our usual pattern in these meetings is to have bible studies looking at a book or theme. Because this year is a 'year of transformation' we thought that we should have a series of studies looking at the gifts of the Holy Spirit with a working title of 'Equipping us for Transformation'.

Our plan was to start with a discussion about people's desires for the areas of witness that the Lord had placed them in ('ministries') and how the gifts of the Holy Spirit might empower them for what they had been called to do. However, when it came to the discussion night we realized that there is an absence of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Western Church and our Pastor who led the discussion started with the question: "why are the gifts not more in evidence when the promise of God's word is that 'these signs shall follow them that believe'"?

We had three quite amazing weeks as the Lord has opened us up following the discussion which quickly turned into a time of repentance and confession. (Repentance had been a theme present in our weekly early morning prayer meetings in the weeks preceding these conversations). It was like the Lord was saying "if you are serious about this, I will show you the way".

What has followed have been times of starting to open our hearts and sharing about our inner thoughts and fears and releasing these to the Lord. Two of the women in the fellowship shared key scriptures in John 15 and 1 Corinthians 13 which have overturned our original intentions. John 15 is the chapter in which Jesus talks about "abiding" and 1 Corinthians 13 is the well-known "love'' chapter.

In John 15 Jesus points out that without Him we can do nothing but if we abide in Him all things are possible. "If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you will and it shall be done for you". The word "abide" in the New Testament comes from the Greek word "meno" (continue, dwell, endure) it signifies being part of and continuance (remaining). I thought that it sounds very like the continuing dependence of a baby in the womb - continuing in the mother and dependent upon its mother until born. The baby is not only within its mother’s womb but connected by the umbilical cord upon which it is dependent for its life and sustenance.

Jesus chooses the example of a vine - He is all the vine and as branches we are connected to Him being both part of the vine and connected to the root for our vital sustenance. We cannot live apart from the vine but if we are a part of it, we must reveal this by sharing its very essence and baring fruit. By being the whole vine Jesus unreservedly identifies with us and we have a responsibility to Him not to mar the character of the vine by not representing Him as we should.

The second scripture in 1 Corinthians 13 is the one regularly read out at weddings and generally thought of as the 'love' chapter. In the context of our original intention however it quickly becomes a powerful comment on misusing God's gifts:

1 Corinthians 13:1-2Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing”.
So, then our heart attitude and motives are a vital factor in using any gift. Without love our efforts may be loud and even sacrificial and busy, but according to scripture are in fact the equivalent of an off-putting noise! We can have lots of fruitless activity that does not come from the heart of the Lord but from some other place in our own ambitions or motives.

So, if I was to summarize the Lord's message to us it seems to be this: “If you want to do this My way and be equipped to bear fruit you must first abide in Me and continue to abide in Me. Abiding changes your hearts and roots you in My love and joy''. John 15:7 ''If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” ... In other words, I will give you the gifts that you need and when you use them in love you will be fruitful for my glory not yours. John 15:8 “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so, you will be My disciples”.

Now we are starting to be in lockdown because of the Corona virus, it makes me wonder if this is not an opportunity for the church itself to stop all of the doing for a while (in terms of running its programmes and services etc.) and abide. I am sure that there will be plenty of chances to show the love and compassion of the Lord and bear fruit for His glory over the coming weeks and months and no doubt begin new activities - but if all that we do is not based in abiding and therefore without the Lord at the centre it will be fruitless. Worse if it is without love it will be like a tuneless cymbal. Is this time for the church to examine itself and “reboot”?

The word “abide” also appears in the old testament for example in Psalm 91:1-2

''He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”

 Psalm 91 has now been taken up as being very relevant to where we are across the world with Corona virus and the promises contained in it:

Psalm 91:9-12  Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. 12 In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

The meaning of the old testament word for “abide” (kwlty“he shall pass the night”) is similar to the new. It “denotes a constant and continuous dwelling of the just in the assistance and protection of God” (Bible study tools). There are 2 references to abiding in Psalm 91 which reflect our passage in John 15: “you have made the Lord… your dwelling place” and “His angels… keep you in all your ways”. Both of these reflect Jesus’s words about abiding not being an option for us to see the Lord’s intervention in our lives and bearing fruit for His glory.

There is one other thing to add into this story for the moment and that is something that was given at one of our early morning prayer meetings mentioned above. This was a picture of many tables in a room with food on them. Christians were milling about the tables tasting whatever they fancied but the Lord was waiting at the first table where there were unfinished meals. He was asking why people were seeking out food from the other tables when the meal that He had provided was unfinished. 
The implication was that we don’t finish what the Lord gives us we just move on to the next theme of the month, shiny initiative, interesting idea or ‘new thing’. He is saying “if you don’t finish the meal that I have given you it will not lead to you absorbing it and then being able to use it for the benefit of others”. If we want to be fruitful stay and finish the meal that the Lord has given us until He says we are done - and we will absorb the word, it will become part of us and change us to be more effective for Him.

Similarly with abiding – it's not something that we can start and stop when we like – for it to have any meaning and God’s promises to have effect and for us to bear fruit we must continue at the table we must “dwell'' (continue) in the secret place of the most high to abide (continue) in the shadow of the Almighty.



Author: Chris Pearson 

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Sunday, 22 March 2020

Examining Motives

We can think we are generous. We may give things/time/money to the poor and needy. But what’s our motive? If we don’t do it out of love there is no point.

1 Corinthians 13

Paul was writing to the Corinthians because unfortunately, the diversity among them had dissolved into discord and rivalry. Members of the church had divided into contentious groups. Instead of being enriched by their differences their community had become fragmented. (1 Corinthians 1 v 10). Some took one side and some another.

Paul’s ‘love chapter’ was not written to celebrate the fact that they were unified in love or complimenting them that they already had it. It comes in the middle of 2 chapters talking about the gifts of the spirit as an intervention to instruct them on how to put right what was not yet happening. They had missed the point. They had the wrong motive for having the gifts. They wanted gifts for the sake of having gifts instead of for the good of other people. Paul is trying to draw the attention back to love. 

The word used in this chapter for love is ‘Agape’ love which is more of a “doing” than a “feeling” word. It requires action. It requires us to make a decision. It requires us to demonstrate our love in some practical fashion. Agape love is feeding the hungry—giving a drink to the thirsty—welcoming the stranger—clothing the naked—visiting the sick and the person in prison. It is always wants the best for people, no matter what. 

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.”
Paul does want the Corinthians to desire the gifts but he goes to great lengths to put that gift into perspective. In Corinthians 14 v 11-13 he says that speaking in unintelligible tongues does not benefit the church unless it is interpreted. 
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
If someone has the gift of prophecy but does so for their own glory or without doing it for the good of others it is useless. 

The world is exploding with information and knowledge. Yet many of our most basic problems are not being solved, because the world is looking for more and more knowledge, when it is love that the world needs. 
We may have faith but do we love Jesus enough? Christianity should be about experiencing the love Jesus has for us and learning how to love others like He loves us.
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”
We can think we are generous. We may give things/time/money to the poor and needy. But what’s our motive? If we don’t do it out of love there is no point. 

Matthew 6:1-4 talks about the fact that if someone is giving to be honoured by men they already have their reward.
“Though I give my body over to hardship”
It is reported that many Christians in the early church developed a martyr complex, wanting to die for the faith so they could become famous like the martyrs before them. Many deeds can look sacrificial on the surface but are really the products of pride.
Selfless love is patient, kind, not proud or boastful, not rude, not self - seeking, not provoked to anger, does not keep a record of wrong, does not rejoice in righteousness but in the truth.The Greek word used for ‘patient’ is ‘long – tempered’. It means we should not be quick to retaliate. We should bear with others’ imperfections, faults, and differences. We should give them time to change, room to make mistakes.
The Greek word used for ‘kind’ comes from their word ‘useful’. A kind person seeks out needs and looks for opportunities to meet those needs without repayment. He is forgiving when wronged. He has an ability to soothe hurt feelings, to calm an upset person, to help quietly in practical ways. Luke 6:33-36 talks about the fact that it is no good at all just being kind to those who are kind to you. Anyone can do that!

Being ‘jealous’ means to ‘eagerly desire’. This can be positive if we desire good things but can be really destructive when it is on account of greed, selfishness or covetousness. Envy killed Abel and enslaved Joseph.
Being proud or boastful is the other side of the coin. It is trying to make others jealous of what we have. The person who boasts tries to impress others of his great accomplishments in order to make himself look good. But love is not trying to build up ourselves; love is trying to build up the other person. Love is humble. Love doesn’t need to have the limelight or attention to be satisfied with what he is doing, or to be satisfied with the result.

‘Behaving rudely’ in Greek is literally ‘acting inappropriately’. Love does not seek to cause problems, and it does not belittle others. It does not needlessly offend. The ill-mannered person is communicating that “it’s all about me.” The loving person chooses appropriate actions and responses that help other people.
‘Self-seeking’ is the root of many problems of the human race. It is the opposite of love which is self-sacrificing. In Romans 12:10 and Philippians 2:4 Paul communicates the importance of putting the interest of others before ourselves.

Love is not touchy. 
Love does not have a short temper. Some people make everyone around them walk on eggshells. They’re easily offended. They use their temper to intimidate. That’s not love.
Love will put away the hurts of the past instead of clinging to them.  It doesn’t try to gain the upper hand by reminding the other person of past wrongs.
Love is never glad when others go wrong. If someone falls into sin, love doesn’t gloat, it grieves If someone repents, love rejoices. 

However, it does not compromise the truth or take a soft view of sin. It doesn’t allow another person to go on sinning but will sensitively confront and correct because it cares deeply and knows that sin destroys. Love rejoices when it hears of spiritual victories. 
Love protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres
Love doesn’t broadcast the problems of others. 
Love defends the character of the other person as much as possible within the limits of truth. 
Love won’t lie about weaknesses, but neither will it deliberately expose and emphasize them.
Love chooses to believe the best of others. 
Love believes the other person is innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent. Charles Spurgeon once said” “I know some persons who habitually believe everything that is bad, but they are not the children of love… I wish the chatterers would take a turn at exaggerating other people’s virtues, and go from house to house trumping up pretty stories of their acquaintances.”

Love has confidence in the future, not pessimism. It believes the best is yet to come. 
Love keeps on protecting, hoping, persevering. It trusts in God and does not give up.
Love never fails. It will outlive all the gifts. Paul addresses the over-emphasis the Corinthian Christians had on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He shows that gifts are important and should be eagerly sought but without love they are nothing. When we can fully see Jesus (not as in a poorly reflected image), the gifts will pass away, but love will not. 
Paul isn’t trying to make them choose, he is saying all the gifts are good, but he wants to point out that without love as the motive and goal, the gifts are meaningless distractions. 
If you lose Love, you lose everything.



Author: Thelma Cameron 

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Sunday, 15 March 2020

THERE IS POWER IN THE WORD OF GOD

AS YOU DEPOSIT/FEED ON THE WORD OF GOD WITHIN YOU EVERY DAY, WONDERFUL THINGS WILL BEGIN TO HAPPEN IN YOUR LIFE.

ALL SCRIPTURE IS GOD BREATHED, SO THAT THE SERVANT OF GOD MAY BE THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED FOR EVERY GOOD WORK (2 TIMOTHY 3V16-17)

AS YOU READ THIS BLOG, REMEMBER THAT THE POWER DOESN'T REST IN THE MY THOUGHTS OR COMMENTS, BUT IN THE WRITTEN WORD OF GOD.  THE APOSTLE PAUL TELLS US "ALL SCRIPTURE IS GOD-BREATHED" IT'S IMPREGNATED WITH DIVINE SEEDS OF LIFE AND THOSE SEEDS WILL SPRING TO LIFE WITHIN US PRODUCING THE FRUIT OF THE  SPIRIT, AND DELIVERING ON THE PROMISES OF GOD.

LET US VIEW THIS BLOG AS A GATEWAY RATHER THAN A GOAL, SEE IT AS THE LITTLE BOOK THAT WETS YOUR APPETITE FOR THE BIG BOOK, THE BIBLE.  I WANT TO ENCOURAGE YOU TO READ THE WORD OF GOD EVERY DAY.  AS YOU DEPOSIT/FEED ON THE WORD OF GOD WITHIN YOU EVERY DAY, WONDERFUL THINGS WILL BEGIN TO HAPPEN IN YOUR LIFE.

THE PSALMIST WRITES IN PSALM. 1:1-3 HOW BLESS, AND THE JOY OF THOSE WHO DO NOT FOLLOW THE ADVICE OF THE WICKED OR STAND AROUND WITH SINNERS OR JOIN WITH MOCKERS, BUT THEY DELIGHT IN THE LAW OF THE LORD, MEDITATING ON IT DAY AND NIGHT, THEY ARE LIKE TREES PLANTED ALONG THE RIVER BANK BEARING FRUIT EACH SEASON.  THEIR LEAVES NEVER WITHER AND THEY PROSPER IN ALL THEY DO.
NOTE: THE WORDS THEY PROSPER IN ALL THEY DO 

AS YOU RENEW YOUR MIND WITH SCRIPTURES YOUR FAITH WILL GROW, YOUR OUTLOOK WILL ALTER AND EVERY AREA OF YOUR LIFE WILL START TO CHANGE FOR THE BETTER.

ALL SCRIPTURE IS GOD-BREATHED AND IS USEFUL FOR TEACHING, REBUKING, CORRECTING AND TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, SO THAT THE SERVANT OF GOD MAY BE THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED FOR DOING EVERY GOOD WORK (2 Timothy 3:16-17)


Author: Herbert Jean 

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Sunday, 1 March 2020

Freedom from Slavery to Greed and Fear

The warning is to all of us, whatever our fiscal situation, to watch out, to continually be attentive, and to set up a guard against all kinds of avarice and dependence on what we think we have.

Amidst growing anxiety over spreading disease, the world’s financial stability is now under threat.  I quote today’s Radio 4 reporter: 
 “If the world’s financial markets consist of greed and fear, then fear is winning.”
This is indeed an accurate and penetrating assessment of the two main drivers of the global economy, and how much suffering and stress is generated by these two factors in human affairs.  But what does God think of the greed and of the fears that motivate a man?  And what is He going to do about it?  The Bible says a whole lot about moneymore than 2000 verses – and of 39 parables that Jesus told, 11 deal with money.

Greed
When two brothers brought to Jesus an argument about their inheritance, Jesus replied: 
 “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
The word here for ‘greed’ or ‘covetousness’ is the Greek pleonexia, which means literally ‘to have more’.  

Some years ago, one of the wealthiest men in the world was being interviewed and was asked, ‘how much money is enough?’.  His reply was, ‘just a little bit more…’.  The poor man had become a slave to what he thought he owned, though in reality it had taken ownership of him.
Jesus concluded this particular teaching with the words: ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’  (v34).  The warning is to all of us, whatever our fiscal situation, to watch out, to continually be attentive, and to set up a guard against all kinds of avarice and dependence on what we think we have.
  
King Solomon was both rich and wise. In his latter days he penned:  
‘Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.’ (Eccles 5:10). And he also observed:  ‘Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.’  (Prov 23:5). How true!

Fear
With the unrestrained greed of getting it comes the fear of losing it.  Another of Solomon’s proverbs says: ‘The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threat.’ (Prov 13:8).  Growing wealth is often accompanied by growing walls of protection around the owner, and a corresponding growing concern to keep hold of it.
Jesus had much to say about the stuff of daily life that distracts us from serving Him.  In Matthew 6:25 he says:  ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?’  That’s a command – don’t get distracted, fearful and worried, but ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.’ (v33).

This is a call to completely trust the Lord to whom we have given over our very lives.
A final word from Hebrews: 
Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,
“I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you.” 
So we can say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper,
    so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?” (Heb13:5-6)

Money is not a god but a gift from our generous Father who provides for his children who choose to trust in Him. 



Author: John Plumb 

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Sunday, 23 February 2020

Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?

God allows us to go through 'the fire'; which is used to test us as people.

Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?; is an important question that we as Christians are sometimes asked. Over the years I have come to accept, that God is God, and has a higher understanding of things than us. This is a question that we should have an answer for because it would be easy for non-believers to come to the conclusion that God is cruel or enjoys watching people suffer. 

However, this perspective couldn't be further from what the Bible tells us about God. Psalm 103:13-14 explains how God treats His children; 'Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust'

The world is one of seemingly endless crises; war, terrorism, floods, earthquakes etc. It is important to keep things in perspective and we need to understand that in some situations God uses these things to further His purpose and plans in others. God allows us to go through 'the fire'; which is used to test us as people. Are we truly a people worthy to be called of God? The only way to find out is to test our faith and see which way we turn. Do we become closer to God, leaning on Him to get us through tough times and difficult situations or do we become bitter and resentful? 

I would say that it is easier, and a characteristic of human nature to become hard hearted and to blame God at these times. However for those who choose to become closer to God there is a real deep peace that can be found in any situation. James 1:3-4 tells us; 'For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing' and 1 Peter 1:6-7 also tells us; 'In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ'.

There is another important dimension to consider when faced with the question of; Why does God allows bad things to happen to good people? That is; 'The situations of our own making'. If we as humans bring about situations that affect others in a negative way then the responsibility for that lies firmly with us and not God. If we think about the current situation in Syria and Iraq with millions of people displaced by War, I wonder whether this misery was God inflicted or caused by man. I have no doubt that God is in control of these situations and that there is real salvation and mercy on the ground in the midst of turmoil. 

Finally I want to finish with the example of Job who we read in the Bible is a servant of God who is tested severely but still holds fast to his faith. He is a man that has bad things happen in his life but the ending of the book of Job is an amazing restoration. Job 42:12-17 'The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job's daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years'.

Do we have the faith and will-power to trust God in all situations in our lives, both good and bad? Perhaps it is worth taking a few moments to ask ourselves this very question.




Author: Anonymous 

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