Sunday, 17 January 2021

Help in Times of Trouble

We may look back in wonderment at our busy pre-covid lives. But we long to see people embracing God’s values, in His Kingdom.

Source: Pinterest
I guess that during lockdown we have thought of the angel coming to Gideon on the threshing floor (Judges 6). He brought news of salvation, physical and spiritual, from God. Like Gideon, we may feel our small everyday contribution is not going to make a difference, but that is where God sent His angel.

Simeon met Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem, as they were going about their duties and he recognised God’s salvation prepared in advance (Luke 2:22-32).

Lockdown has brought a routine of following rules, doing the ‘right thing’ and being considerate of others. We should not belittle this or grow weary. As believers, we are following God’s requirements: ‘..to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8).

God promises to be: ‘..an ever-present help in time of trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). I was reminded of this a few weeks ago, in another lockdown, overhearing a conversation in a hardware shop between a tradesman and the shopkeeper, along these lines: ‘What are we going to do if these measures don’t work? It will be God-help-us!’  ‘Well, yes, if ever we have needed that, it’s now!’

Some individuals are looking to God and turning from reliance on the distractions that the world offers. I remember visiting the model village at Babbacombe, near Torquay. One of the model buildings that stuck in my mind was the ‘Lord Ellpus Hall’.  We may look back in wonderment at our busy pre-covid lives. But we long to see people embracing God’s values, in His Kingdom.

Author: Mandy Windridge

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Sunday, 10 January 2021

The Belt of Truth

The more that we share our lives with Jesus, and the more that we trust Him and His word, the more that truth becomes our way of life too. If His truth is in us and we trust Him day by day, then it makes a difference in our lives

Pilate, a roman governor well-schooled in politics, asked Jesus at His trial 'What is truth'? Watching the sad pantomime of the American election last year, I guess that we can understand what he meant – for many people truth is not about what is really going on; it’s about how they present what’s going on, and if they find that still doesn’t help them achieve their goal – they lie…

Jesus, on the other hand not only undertakes to tell us the truth about what is going on (in the bible He is called 'The Faithful witness') but is THE TRUTH behind everything? The well-known scripture from John 14:6 says 'I am the way the TRUTH and the life'. So, what does this mean?

The book 'Peace Child' describes early encounters between some Christians and tribes in the far East. The people that they met were one generation away from full-on cannibalism. Their moral values were such that the highest honour was given to those who could befriend someone, play them along for a while (the longer the time the higher the honour) and then betray, kill and eat them. The problem was of course that no one could trust each other and so they needed some rules to enable life to continue. Two important rules were: 1) That you couldn’t betray a possible future or present mother-in-law (or the tribe would die out in a matter of years) and 2) If another tribe gave you a 'Peace-child' (literally one of their children to become a member of your tribe), it was taboo to harm anyone from that tribe whilst the peace-child lived.

Well of course the message that the Christians were able to announce was that Jesus was our 'peace-child' – forever - and therefore the lying and treachery didn’t need to carry on. We may look at this as a story about people with primitive beliefs but if we examine ourselves and our own society, we see that truth is indeed hard to find and lies and treachery are easy to find. Experience has taught us that trust based on 'speaking the truth to one another in love' (Ephesians 4:15) is not what we expect – people are very often after something. There is a famous phrase from a government enquiry. When a high official was asked if he was lying, he said 'No, I was merely being economical with the truth'!

Well it is very difficult to have trust without telling the truth. If you find out that someone is lying, trust tends to disappear like a puff of smoke. This is why when Paul is describing the armour of God in Ephesians 6 he starts with 'Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist'… He knew that the stability of a roman soldier’s armour was his belt. His fighting ability – the very core of it – was about the belt being in place and properly fastened. It provided a means of ensuring that he was mobile and none of his clothes or weapons would trip him up. It provided an anchor point for weapons that he might carry with him and it shared some of the weight of his breastplate carried by his shoulders down onto his waist. If you look at the picture of a roman soldier with his traditional belt in place, you will see that it also afforded some protection for other vital tackle – and thereby his ability to father children!

So, all in all, Paul knew what he was doing when he started with the belt of truth – without it our Christianity falls apart! We believe in the truth – we believe the truth of the gospel – we are persuaded that God has shown us the true way to eternal life through the bible and His Son Jesus Christ. Without that belief it says that it is impossible to come to God (Hebrews 11:6). The Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth – has been given to us to reveal all truth to us. Here Jesus is not only speaking about just reading the bible but that the Holy Spirit wants to reveal how that is relevant to me and you – today. He wants us not only to believe in the truth but through trusting him that truth becomes part of us. The more that we share our lives with Jesus, and the more that we trust Him and His word, the more that truth becomes our way of life too. If His truth is in us and we trust Him day by day, then it makes a difference in our lives.

It is only natural that if the truth is in us and part of us then we will tell the truth – just as Jesus did – even when its hurts. It hurt Jesus in two ways. First it hurt him because when He told the people around Him the truth they were not at all pleased – they spread rumours about him, they physically abused him, made his life very difficult, persecuted Him, and of course in the end, they killed Him. Sometimes this is the impact that the truth that we tell and the truth in us will have on others and they will not like it and will treat us badly.

On other occasions Jesus told the truth to someone sadly because He knew that it was in their best interests to know that something was wrong but that it would hurt them to put it right. He told a rich young man that he needed to sell his possessions to get the freedom that he was looking for and he was very sad. He told Peter that he would deny Him and that upset Peter greatly. Are we courageous enough to pray that the Holy Spirit will speak the truth that we need to hear into our lives so that we can put it right?

The belt of truth also guards our private parts. This is difficult territory – it’s about Jesus ruling in the area of our sexuality, being true to the husband or wife that God appoints for us, not lying, not cheating and being open with them. Yes, God’s truth does not stop at the bedroom door – He will not tolerate promiscuity, exploitation nor abuse, nor condone selfishness, cruelty nor causing mental or physical harm to another person. Some get away with this now because it is done behind closed doors, they will need to give an account before God of it if they want to become His children or on the day of judgement, The Spirit of Truth commands that we confess our sins before the Lord to receive forgiveness for and freedom from them.

Lastly, there are times when even when we know the Lord, we can lose our way. We know when this is happening for a number of reasons, usually because we have put too much confidence in the flesh – our truth or experience and not His. Forsaking the truth will mean that our testimony suffers. Men will see and know that we have not followed or compromised what we believe. It is painful but the Spirit of Truth shows us the way back – by confessing our failings to the Lord and telling the truth to others about how we went wrong. Peter found a way back from his denial and how God used him!

Author: Chris Pearson

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Saturday, 26 December 2020

God's Got It Covered

This day proved to us that, even when we're unaware of what's coming, God knows and has it all in hand.

One of the things we learn about and utilise when we know the Lord is how we can lean on Him and reach out to Him when things go wrong, or even right!

I had an eye opening experience a short while ago. It caught both my husband and I off guard but we were totally in awe of how God had us covered!

My husband received a text message from our pastor in the morning asking if everything was okay and that God had really put it on his heart to pray for our family. He sounded genuinely concerned! To which my husband replied, “Yep, all great this end thanks!” What we didn't realise was that things were going to become very difficult for us later that day. But God knew this and He was starting to put things in place right from the morning to make things a little more bearable for us.

At 4:30pm our 2 year old, Elijah, suddenly started to show signs that he was in pain. He was crying, kicking his legs and rolling around on the floor. Whilst totally caught up in being clueless as to what's going on with him, how to help him or how severe our next step should be (ambulance?) my phone starts to ring. I can see it's our old neighbour but I'm really not in a position to answer her call at this point. A few minutes later, Elijah has calmed down so I drop her a quick message to apologise for missing her call and fill her in as to why. She advised me of a number we should call to get further medical advice. We were totally unaware of this number and it really felt like God put it on her heart to contact us at the exact time that she did so we could receive our 'next step' instructions. This call was very out of the blue. We're terrible at keeping in touch!

Upon making the call we were quickly advised to take our son to the children's emergency hospital, downtown. This filled me with dread for so many reasons. The main one being the fear of what was wrong with Elijah but also, I hate driving into the city at night, and parking in the city always seems impossible to successfully pay for! Thankfully, the drive was uneventful. Found the hospital. Found the right place to park. By this time, Elijah was fast asleep from the drive which was great as we all know you have to wait ages in hospitals! Praise the Lord, there was no queue and we waited for around 5 mins before we were seen!

While we were there, my son woke up and the pain started all over again. It got worse and worse to the point where he was screaming and clinging on to me for dear life. It really broke my heart. Thankfully, the doctor and nurse could see what was happening and quickly dosed him up on painkillers and antibiotics and sent us on our way.

After the stress of the evening and the emotions this brought about my brain felt like it flat-lined. I could just about function but I couldn't think straight.  So when I try to pay for my parking ticket and the machine keeps declining my card I start to panic. No cash. The place is deserted. This is my only payment method! Argh!

But God saw this coming. I start walking back to the car. How that'll help I don't know! But then I heard footsteps behind. It was a lady with her daughter who'd also blatantly just come from the same place as us judging by the huge plaster on the poor tot's head! I try to string a sentence together to tell her of my situation. I don't really know what I expected and I'm not sure I made a lot of sense either! But bless her, she understood and offered to pay for the ticket for me. Thank you Lord for that lady!  (I'm never parking downtown again!!

Got home. Got Elijah to bed. The next challenge was that we had to pick up a prescription for his antibiotics. It's 10:30pm on a Saturday evening and most places are now closed or working at reduced hours because of Covid (boooo!). Also, where we live, we need health cards to collect medication. Do you think we knew where these were?! My husband prayed about it and found them almost immediately!

I was warned by the doctor that the next 24 hours could be a bit worse for Elijah before we see an improvement. Well, praise the Lord this wasn't the case! He recovered a lot quicker than we expected, albeit a bit fearful at times.

This day proved to us that, even when we're unaware of what's coming, God knows and has it all in hand. He got the ball rollin' right at the beginning of the day by prompting someone to pray for us.

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139 : 1-6 (NIV)



Author: Sam Tarplin 

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Saturday, 19 December 2020

The Government of Messiah

He is exceptional, distinguished and without peer. The one who gives the right advice. He is available to each one of us now!!


For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over His Kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness, from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isa 9:6-7


Background

Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amos wrote this around 700 BC. He was writing and speaking mainly in Jerusalem. He was calling the nation back to God, and to proclaim the future of God's salvation through Messiah.

During times of gloom and despair, like the world has experienced the last year, it is a great message of hope to ALL, who will put their trust in Jesus. When we wholeheartedly trust and follow Him. He will bring us through.


JESUS is the Father's Gift to Us

"For unto us a child is born" The "Us" is the Hebrew Nation, and believers of all nations. The apostle John tells "He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him (Jew or Gentile) Yet to all who did receive Him to those who believe in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God. 

John 1:11-12


Wonderful Counsellor

He is exceptional, distinguished and without peer. The one who gives the right advice. He is available to each one of us now!! He only communed with His heavenly Father. Romans 11:33-34


Mighty God 

For the Lord your God is a God of gods, and Lord of lords. A great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality, and accepts no bribes. Deuteronomy 10:17 


Everlasting Father

He is timeless, He is God our Father. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

Jesus is the Father Eternal who watches over His own. He said “I and My Father are one.” John 10:30

Also we have the trinity. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.


Price of Peace

His government will be one of justice and peace. Whatever is happening in the world, Jesus is still seated on His throne! Not until the Kingdom of heaven is established on this earth though, will there be lasting peace.

However, as Christians we can have peace now with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1


God’s gift to the World

God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever should believe in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

This portion of the prophecy was fulfilled when the Virgin Mary – brought forth her first born Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger. Luke 2:7

Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree.

1 Peter 2:24


The rest of Isaiah’s Prophecy

This will not come to pass until Messiah returns to earth. It is imminent. “You must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him” Matthew 24:44

What a great day that will be! When He carries the government on His all powerful shoulders!

This Child will become Israel's deliverer. Their King. Only then will the world know a righteous government! But about the Son he says ”Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever; and righteousness will be the sceptre of your Kingdom. Hebrews 1:8


On His Return

His government will not become stagnant, but there will be no end to the increase of His government of peace, no end to it’s growth. Jesus will sit on the throne of David, in Jerusalem 

See Psalm 122. At the moment, Jesus is sat down at the right hand of the Father, but when He returns He will rule with fairness giving the world a government of peace, justice and righteousness. The Bible also says 'To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne' Revelation 3:21


Conclusion                                                                                  

Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the sceptre of Your Kingdom. Hebrews 1:8



Author: John Yates


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Saturday, 12 December 2020

God's Solutions OT & NT

What about now, in these days? Our mainstream “churches” follow practices even though we know that some of these are expressly forbidden in the Bible.

Exodus 24:9-10, 17-18

Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity … 17 The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18 So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

Exodus 32:1, 3-4

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him”… 3 So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a moulded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

Reflection:

Exodus 24 tells us that the Elders of Israel saw an amazing sight on mount Sanai - they had a unique and glorious revelation. It was clear, it was awesome and it was fearful. Indeed, God’s promise in Exodus 19:6 was: 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”.  They had witnessed the reality of God with their own eyes, they had experienced His deliverance at the Red Sea and they had received His promise for the future. Despite all of this, not long after in chapter 32, when they felt that Moses’s return from the mountain was overdue, we find Aaron it seems, colluding with the wishes of the people to make a replacement god. They made their own image and corrupted their way before the Lord. 

There are two things that I want to talk about from this story. The first is that we must wait for the Lord – to do something without him will bring disaster. The second is the danger of forgetting. We can forget even the most powerful experiences, or things that the Lord has taught us and in so doing build other altars or cry for more signs of God’s deliverance or His presence with us.

Although the Moses story seems a far-off thing it really represents doesn’t it, a repeating pattern for those who declare that they are God’s people – in the bible and through History? A deliverance or revival comes and people’s lives are changed but they fail to remember that the source of it all was the Lord – they quickly forsake His directions and build their own practices and rituals, especially in successive generations. Jesus constantly took issue with the way in which the Jewish leaders misinterpreted and misdirected God’s intentions. They created for the people a God who was a hard taskmaster, who favoured the elite and despised the poor, with little compassion or mercy. No wonder the prophets had declared that God hated their religious practices and even their worship singing, and when Jesus came along, He was hated by the leaders but the common people “heard Him gladly”. The light of the gospel and promise of a nation of priests was a remote memory.

What about now, in these days? Our mainstream “churches” follow practices even though we know that some of these are expressly forbidden in the Bible. (Building images, calling people “Father”, appointing priests when there is only one, lauding it over each other, creating man-made hierarchies, forgetting that “he who wants to lead must become as a little child”, professionalizing worship, making the leaders and “the organization” more important than the flock, creating man-made traditions and worship structures that artificially separate people from the Lord, and indulging in politics. Trying to be “relevant” in the world instead of being obedient to the Lord that called them). 

I knew someone once - a senior manager who I got on well with. He told me that his son had gone to a Christian summer camp and come back a completely different person. He set off in pursuit of the experience that his son had, had and started attending church. Before long they found out who he was and invited him to a meeting about “how to make the church relevant in today’s society” – having been prompted that my friend was there, the chair (a senior cleric), introduced him to the assembled meeting and invited his comments. My friend commented to me that here he was – someone seeking the reality of knowing God – and apparently their best answer was to ask him to help them make the church “relevant” today.

The Bible talks about men trying to build things without having any regard to the original designer. Crucially there is almost no mention at all about seeking the Lord – seeking the Lord until He is found when we cannot mistake Him. The bible says: “and I will be found of you when you search for me with all of your heart” and “He that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him” and “Seek the lord whilst He may be found call on Him while He is near”. Instead we miss a step, forgetting that all of the heroes of faith had their struggles until they met the Lord for themselves. They had to wait for His timing, for His revelation, for His appearance NOT HE THEIRS.

The Israelites and their leaders abandoned waiting for Moses – they decided on the timescale (and the Lord’s revelation) before its fulfilment; they followed their own wisdom and leaders and corrupted their way… “Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it”. After Moses came down the mountain to find the results of the people of God’s failure to wait for him, he interceded for the people and dealt with their sin and new tablets were written.

But the complaints of the people reoccurred as soon as there was trouble. Their anxious, self-centred hearts seemed to easily overtake the fear of the Lord even with His presence actually in the camp. They constantly need reassurances with signs and delivering miracles – even nearly to the point of total disaster. The Lord keeps saying “If they see my glory and my deliverance they will understand, follow me, accept Moses, be My people and be My glory” – BUT it never happens and the offer to be a nation of priests and missionaries is never fulfilled or realized (yet).

In the New Testament Jesus refuses to give the sign that the Jews want (despite the miracles and signs and wonders that accompany Him everywhere). The Jewish leaders were looking for something else; but Jesus said that no sign would be given except that of the prophet Jonah (as dead inside the belly of a fish for 3 days). Isaiah says “The Lord Himself shall give you a sign behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” – Jesus was the sign – He fulfilled it all but they didn’t want to see it. Apparently today we are no different, people constantly clamour for a sign – a new sign, a new word, barely before the last one has finished being spoken! With so many “words” available but so little power evident, we can’t help but wonder what amount of waiting on the Lord has in fact been done?

For practically all of the prophets in the bible they were despised, not believed, cast out, considered cranks, (were admittedly often a bit odd), and suffered all kinds of sanctions for the word that they were bringing. There was a massive cost to speaking “the word from the Lord” and what about this – it was a word that “God’s People” did not want to hear. Is this the pattern with today’s prophesies or has it become a “taught skill” and a “desirable Christian asset”?

So, back with Moses and the Israelites would we be any different than they? Jesus said in one of His stories “If they will not believe Moses and the prophets then they will not believe even if someone rises from the dead to tell them”. Despite all that is said and the patience of the Lord in bringing His word to us, at the end of the Bible in Revelation 3 (Laodicea) we still have a church that can’t see even its own faults and where apparently the Lord is on the OUTSIDE of the church appealing to individuals to let him in. This is despite what Hebrews 12:18-29 says about the difference between the Israelites in the wilderness and us – It is vital that we listen to the message that it carries:

18 For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel

25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.



Author: Chris Pearson 

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