Sunday, 29 March 2020


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









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.

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!

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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Sunday, 16 February 2020

What is time?

At the time of our birth, we are given a book with nothing written on the pages.  As we live our lives, hour-by-hour and day-by-day, we are writing an account of our lives in that book until the last moment of our time.  If you could read the pages of your life in that book, would you like what you are reading?

Time – What an interesting and comprehensive word.  We use the word frequently without thinking about it.  Time is a dimension and a form of measurement, and is expressed in many different ways.  For example – What time is it? When will we get there?  Do you remember when…, etc. Again, time is a dimension that has a beginning and everything is measured from that beginning of time.  So, when is the beginning of time?  It is mentioned in the first four words in the Bible; Genesis 1:1 ‘In the beginning, God....’.  Therefore, God created the beginning.  God created the start of time when He said ‘In the beginning, God….’.  There was a period before the beginning, but that is not known or measured in time.  When God said, ‘In the beginning, God….’, that statement started what we know of as time, and everything is measured from that point.  Look at all the events that have happened from the beginning of time - wars upon wars; the lives of millions of people that have come and gone (which does not account for their souls).  Kingdoms have come and gone.  A lot has happened over time.  Wow!  Think about that.  It is mind-boggling.

The next question that comes to my mind is – Is there a record of what has happened over time?  The answer is YES.  The Bible is the most accurate record of the events of time because it records everything from the beginning of time.  No other history book/s starts at the beginning of time, so they do not account for all of time.  Just as a side note, that is my main defensive theme of what I believe in defending (my faith) when talking to others about what they believe.  Their belief system fell on this timeline that started in the beginning.  What I believe is that the Bible is a comprehensive account from the beginning to today.  All of the other belief systems are human concepts that fall on that time line.  As an example – a man conceived the Hindu beliefs concept in about 1400 BC. Interesting isn’t it?  When the man died, so did the reality of the concept, but the concept continued on. The Buddhist and Muslim concepts did the same thing as the Hindu concept.  When the person conceiving it died, so did the reality.  

There is a big difference with Jesus.  When He died, He rose again and our hope is in a living God.  Wow!  Thank you, Jesus.
The most notable event of time was the birth of Jesus Christ.  It is so notable that the world’s measurement of dating time was the life of Jesus Christ.  Think about that.  The world’s calendar of events is pinpointed to the life of Jesus Christ.  The events of time are either Before Christ (BC) or After Christ (AD).  The whole world has to acknowledge Jesus Christ, whether they like Jesus or not, because their calendar of events are based on the life of Jesus Christ.  Wow!  What an impact Jesus made on all of God’s creation.

Does time have an end?  I believe the Bible says that time, as we know it, has an end.  The Bible talks about the end times, or the end of time.  Some say the end of time is at hand, or soon.  Some people dwell on the end of time that the Bible speaks of.  I tend to dwell on the end of our fleshly time, and also on our eternal time, our spirits.  When we die, our flesh returns to dust, but our spirit never dies.  When we die, our spirit is in either heaven or hell!!!  Jesus said to worry about the time that comes after this world; He was referring to heaven or hell.

Time is an important asset.  Time is our second most important asset, with salvation being our most important asset.  Note: the lack of a salvation would be an eternal liability of pain and agony.  What is so important about time?  We are born in a moment in time, and we will die in a moment in time.  At the time of our birth, we are given a book with nothing written on the pages.  As we live our lives, hour-by-hour and day-by-day, we are writing an account of our lives in that book until the last moment of our time.  If you could read the pages of your life in that book, would you like what you are reading?  If you would like it – great!  -- If not, today starts with a brand new page from this day forward.  Oh, by the way, the scriptures say something to the effect that the book of your life will be read back to you/me at judgment.  The judgment will either be ‘enter in faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:21), or ‘pass by me, I did not know you’ (Matthew 7:23)These are the last words we will ever hear.  Are you sure which words will be said to you?  Hopefully, this is something to think about.

Well, I could go on for a long time (Notice the use of the word ‘time’ – Ha Ha!) trying to consider all the aspects of time, but I would like to turn that over to you.  Think about it.  What does time mean to you? Hopefully, this is something to consider.

Author: David Leatherman.

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Sunday, 9 February 2020

Life's Seasons

God has written the Story of your life in His book, and all you need to do is trust Him to walk you through each chapter of it.

It never ceases to amaze me how we often have to see things die before new life can appear, even in Australia there are new shoots coming up where the fires have burnt away everything in their path. There are seasons for us like this and sometimes things in our lives like jobs, things we’ve always done, habits we’ve acquired and many other things that can cause us to be stunted in our growth, need to die before we can move on and find freedom and sometimes a new purpose for living.

I’ve found in my life there have been times when I’ve had to change the way I do things, stop doing something or even let things go that have served their purpose, and only when I’ve changed or let go can a new chapter of my life begin. Knowing Jesus has been a real help for me in being able to let go of things, especially those things that weren’t good for me, because He has given me New Life through His blood that He shed on the cross, so in effect I have died to my old self and have been re-born into a new and living way, the moment I surrendered to Him I started a fresh new season of my life that changed me forever. The bible says in 2 Corinthians 5: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 

Each season brings with it a change or transformation from what it was to what is to come, be it Spring, Summer, Winter or Autumn and the same is true of our lives, but the trick is to be ready for the change, to embrace it and grow into what the future holds. 
For the Christian we may not know what the future holds, but we do know Who holds the future and can fully trust Him for every step of it. Jeremiah 29:11  ‘‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’’

There may be a change going on in your life at the moment that is either like the Spring and is bringing something new and exciting, like the summer that is bringing a ray of sunshine in to your life, like the Autumn that is seeing something fading away or needs to be let go of, or maybe it’s like the Winter and you’re feeling sad and lonely with dark times ahead of you. Whatever the season is in your life right now know that Jesus is just a prayer away and knows exactly how you are feeling.
His Word says in John Ch 16 v 33 ''In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.'' Through Him, you too can be an overcomer. 

God has written the Story of your life in His book, and all you need to do is trust Him to walk you through each chapter of it.

I want to encourage you to seek His face daily, to know that if He is your Saviour then you have all you need to overcome anything this world throws at you. You have His anointing on you, His seal of ownership on you and His Spirit in you guaranteeing your future, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. You are His and He will Never Leave you or forsake you. You are a child of GOD, John 1:12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

So be strong and whatever season you are in let the Gardener prune you, nurture you and make you the best that you can be, so that you will blossom in His presence and bring Him the honour and the glory He deserves. In James 1:17-18 it says, Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the Word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created.

Let Him take us and mould us and make us the best that we can be, taking the old wine skin that is our human nature and making us into a new wine skin, filing us to overflowing with His new wine.

May God bless you always.

Author: Kevin Hunt

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Sunday, 2 February 2020

One New Man

The lesson of history is that we, the gentile church, are the ones who need to repent and to return to the clear teaching of Paul.

Antipathy towards Jews continues to blight our communities.  Antisemitism is endemic in many of our institutions and our universities. Boycotting Israeli produce, vandalism and graffiti on Jewish property, extreme political rhetoric, and direct victimisation continue in our 'tolerant' society.  But where did it all begin?  Unfortunately the church has a lot to answer for.

One day the disciples of Jesus were remarking on the magnificent building work of the temple in Jerusalem, to which Jesus predicted that not one stone would be left on top of another (Mk 13:1-2).  And so it came to pass.  Some three decades after the death and resurrection of Christ a provocative decision by Roman authorities in Jerusalem and an obstinate reaction from the nationals sparked off a Jewish insurrection and massive Roman retribution.  There are graphic descriptions of the atrocities and cruelty during siege then massacre and finally in AD70 the burning and dismantling of the beautiful temple.  Even today an untidy heap of huge stone blocks at the foot of the Temple Mount are a reminder of Jesus' words.

Roman aggression was by no means limited to the Jews.  Britain had been conquered a few years before, albeit with less troops.  Overwhelming military force was more motivated by the need to boast of victory in the ensuing 'triumph' parade in Rome, bolstering tyrannical emperors, than any discrimination against a particular race. In more peaceful times the Jews had benefitted from the Roman policy of religious tolerance, even being exempted from the requirement to worship Caesar or any other gods on the grounds of Torah prohibitions.

The early Christians were not so favoured.  Those who worshipped Jesus and refused to bow to Roman deities often ended their earthly lives in the arena. 

In 132AD under the emperor Hadrian a further rebellion in Judaea was violently put down.  A new city, Aelia Capitolina, was built over the ruins of Jerusalem which became the home of the Roman tenth legion, and Jews were denied access to their ancient capital.  Again this was not so much racial discrimination as a reaction to sedition.

By now the number of Christians was growing.  Having begun as a Jewish sect Christianity was now predominantly Gentile.  Theology was being developed and tested, and emerging heresies exposed.

Marcion began teaching that the God of the New Testament was different from that of the Old, so the people of that era, the Jews, were finished with.  His extreme ideas were rejected but were not without influence.  Justin Martyr, regarded as the greatest early exponent of God's Word, was hostile to anything Jewish, considering the Jews to be 'an accursed people'.  He blamed the Jews exclusively for the rejection and death of Jesus, even though it was Roman soldiers under Roman orders who drove in the nails.  He believed, along with other early Christian apologists, that the destruction of the temple and the removal of the Jews from Jerusalem was divine judgement and gloated over their just punishment.

These ideas were welcomed into early Christian thinking and gave rise to 'replacement theology' - the concept that all the Biblical promises (though apparently not the warnings) have been transferred from Israel to the Church.  Subsequent influential church fathers such as Chrysostom and Gregory perpetuated the prejudice.  When Constantine fought his way to power he Christianised his empire and created laws against Judaism, establishing antisemitism for the duration of the Byzantine era (1100 years) and beyond.

The lesson of history is that we, the gentile church, are the ones who need to repent and to return to the clear teaching of Paul.  

For example: Ephesians 2:11-18 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—12 remember that you [gentiles] were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility [between Jew and Gentile] 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both [Jew and Gentile] to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both [Jew and Gentile] have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Today large numbers of Jews are coming to know Jesus their Messiah.  God's promises will be fulfilled and together we will share His Kingdom with those who recognise Him as Lord.

Jesus was, is and ever shall be a Jew.  One day He will return to the mount of Olives on the eastern side of Jerusalem (Zech 14).  In the new creation the New Jerusalem will have the names of twelve Jewish disciples on its foundations and the names of twelve Hebrew tribes on its gates (Rev 21).  At least 95% of our Bible was written by Jews. Our roots and our future are tied to this chosen people. We Gentiles are 'fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.' (Eph 3:6).  Literally translated: joint-heirs, joint-body, joint-partners - together.

Author: John Plumb

May God bless and enrich your life

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Monday, 27 January 2020

Religion or Faith?

Jesus does not give us a long list of do’s and don’ts, or criteria for salvation; just that we believe and are baptized.

Often we talk with people about Jesus and how He has impacted on, and changed our lives. When I have done this it has sometimes resulted in me getting labelled as a person who is ‘religious’. I really don't mind this badge when it comes from a non-believer, as this is actually a badge of ignorance. In these situations I generally attempt to get across the sense of faith and the personal relationship that I have with God and how this is different to being ‘religious’.

James 1:27 tells us Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. This is very interesting to me, it says nothing about which version of the Bible a person should read, which Church to attend, how often a person should pray or what a person can and can't eat. It speaks to a higher purpose, one that God finds acceptable.

Often we tend to add extra's to the grace and love that God has shown us at the cross of Calvary. We say that a person must be baptized to be saved, or say the sinner's prayer to be saved. While these things may be right and Jesus certainly does say in Mark 16:16 ‘Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned’. It is important to notice that Jesus says ‘whoever does not believe will be condemned’. Jesus does not say ‘anybody who is not this or that’, or who has ‘not achieved this in their lives’ will be condemned’. Jesus does not give us a long list of do’s and don’ts, or criteria for salvation; just that we believe and are baptized.

When Jesus walked this earth in the form of a man, He often challenged the religious leaders of the day. These leaders had a deep seated sense of religion even to the point of telling Jesus that they knew more about what God requires of them than He did. They simply did not recognise him and in those days Jews would make sacrificial offerings to God to atone for their sins. However once Jesus made his once and forever sacrifice these rituals and sacrificial offerings become meaningless – there was no reason to continue with them, as Jesus became the perfect sacrifice; Hebrews 10:14-18;For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds’. Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more’. And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary’.

Anything that separates us from the divine love and grace of God is empty religion and has no place among God's elect. Let us be vigilant therefore not to allow the things of the world creep into our lives. 1 Peter 5:8;Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’.

Author: Anonymous

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Sunday, 19 January 2020

The Father's House

But the greatest security of all is to know our Heavenly Father, 'from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named' (Ephesians 3:15).

What is your comfort zone?  Do you have a favourite place to be?  A space where your heart and mind are most at rest, where you can take refuge from the pressures of the day.  Do you share that space? There are people with whom you can relax, in whose company there is no expectation of conversation, or with whom you are free to share silly ideas without recrimination.

We are made with an intrinsic need to belong, an inbuilt yearning that draws us back to family and home.  Even the footloose adventurer and the dysfunctional soul at some point long to return to their roots.  Travelling musicians have been especially prolific in writing songs about home: "And every stranger's face I see reminds me that I long to be, homeward bound, I wish I was, homeward bound." (Simon & Garfunkel). "And I'm surrounded by a million people, I still feel alone, and let me go home." (Michael Buble).  You can probably think of many more.

The Bible abounds with genealogies and lists of family names, because knowing who we are brings stability.  But the greatest security of all is to know our Heavenly Father, 'from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named' (Ephesians 3:15).
Did you know that Jesus, in addition to rescuing us from darkness and despair, has gone ahead to prepare a place perfectly suited to every one of us?
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." (John 14:1-3)

Here are some comments on what Jesus said:

  • It was the day before his crucifixion, addressed to the few who had already given up everything to follow Him.  Until you have given your life to Christ none of the rest applies.

  • Then a command; not to be disturbed by all that is going on around us.  A simple translation might be, 'don't get agitated'.  The only antidote to being agitated is to believe in Jesus.  It's not enough to believe in an impersonal God; we have to know and to trust in the Person of Jesus.

  • There are two similar words for 'house', 'oikos' and 'oikia', one being a general term for a place to live, the other indicating an abode particular to an individual or family.  To stretch a point it could be the difference between 'house' and 'home'.  This is the latter.

  • The 'rooms' ('mone') that Jesus has gone to prepare for us are permanent and perfect abiding places, bespoke designed for each and every believer.  Early English translators used the word 'mansion' to try to convey the meaning of this special and unique space.  Jesus uses the word again in verse 23 to describe God making His permanent home in us.  A mutual everlasting abiding - amazing!

How do we get to this place?  Jesus is coming back for us.  He is the Way.  Meanwhile He's working on a new heaven and a new earth, so that when we've passed through this temporary transit camp, having given our all in His service, we can take up Jesus' invitation, 'that where I am you may be also'. 

Here are the some of the words of the song that inspired these thoughts:
  In the Father's house, no-one stands alone

  I can come as I am

  I'm invited, I am known

  By your grace I'm saved

  By Your blood I'm reborn

  All I have is Yours

  Heaven hears my voice

  For the Father's house is home.

Author: John Plumb

May God bless and enrich your life

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