Sunday 28 June 2020

Let your light shine

There is no point telling people what a wonderful Saviour we have if they cannot see it in the way we live our lives.

Matthew 5 v16
‘In the same way let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your 
Father in heaven.’

When I was in primary school and Sunday school many years ago, we would often sing, 
‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!’ 
The second verse was, ‘Hide it under a bushel? No!! I’m gonna let it shine’
We would hold a finger in the air, to represent a candle and when it came to the second verse, we would put our other hand over the ‘finger candle’ and take it off in a big flourish on the word ‘No!!’
I didn’t realise the significance at the time. I think we were just told (as five-year olds) that we must be kind to one another. But what does it really mean to ‘Let your light shine before men.’?

Light exposes danger and leads the way to safety.

There is a story about a lighthouse keeper, who had a certain amount of oil for the lamp provided at regular intervals. On one occasion some of the locals asked him for some oil as they had run out. Thinking it was a legitimate request he gave it to them but then ran out of oil himself the day before his delivery date. On that night many ships were wrecked on the rocks he was supposed to be lighting.
Sometimes we can be so busy doing the things that are admirable in themselves but are not what God wants. He wants us to shine a light on the way to keep people from the danger of living without Jesus. 

The light shows up shortcomings and dangers but also lights up the way to get out of them.
2 Corinthians 4:4 says ‘In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of Christ, who is the image of God.’ 
This is what we have to deal with. Our lives have to reflect the light of Jesus, to expose the danger of the work of the enemy, to shine through the darkness, so that others will see Him through us and give God the glory.

How can we be that light?

Where we are situated is important. Our light has to be conspicuous. It can’t be hidden under a bushel but must be placed on a hill. It has to be in the best place possible for everyone to see it.                 
Matthew 5:14 -15 says, ‘You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven.’
A light bulb has an energy source. If the connection is broken the light goes out. We need to stay connected to our source, who is Jesus. We must not let anything or anyone break our connection to the source of our light. If we don’t keep close to the light the reflection of Jesus will become dim. The further we stray away from the light the dimmer our light becomes. To keep close to the source we need to be people of prayer and readers and doers of the word.

We need to be Jesus to those around us.  If people don’t know Jesus they will receive their impression of what He is like from those around them, who profess to be Christians. We have a great responsibility to be the light of Christ. People are watching us to see what a lover of Christ is like. 
It says in Colossians 4:6 ‘Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.’ In 1 Peter 2:12 it says, 'Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of wrong doing, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.'

If we do not practise what we preach we will not be recognised by those around us as light. German atheist Nietze was quoted as saying that if he saw more redeemed people, he might be inclined to believe in the Redeemer
There is no point telling people what a wonderful Saviour we have if they cannot see it in the way we live our lives. I have heard many people over the years say that their faith is a private thing for themselves and not for anyone else. This is a challenge to all of us. We have a responsibility to transmit light and shine in the corner of the world we find ourselves.

We need the Holy Spirit. To be the light we are called to be, we need the Holy Spirit. We need Him to help us to live continually in the very nature of Christ. We need to reflect His character. Our light, therefore, is only shining as it should be if we are living in the fruits of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22 it says, ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ 
These may not form part of our natural character. We receive them by the grace of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Some years ago, a friend, not of our Fellowship, described some people in our Fellowship as ‘shiny people’. Being ‘shiny’ is not about who we are, it is about who Jesus is and how we reflect Him. It is about our relationship with Him and not about how busy we are with ‘church stuff’.
So, in conclusion, let us make sure our light is shining by keeping close to the source, praying continually, being often in the word and walking in the Spirit.

Author: Thelma Cameron 

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 21 June 2020

Abiding 3 – The Bread under the table

Jesus is worth abandoning everything for, and as we abandon everything and draw near to Him, He draws near to us and starts to feed us.

This reflection was prompted by Linda from our fellowship, who a few weeks ago sent me some thoughts from Matthew 15:21-28 about the Syrophoenician woman that Jesus met in the Region of Tyre and Sidon. The story is that the woman’s daughter was demon-possessed and her mother came to Jesus to ask Him for help. He replied that He shouldn’t give the children’s food (God’s people’s food) to the little dogs that fight for scraps under the table (meaning to a gentile)! She replied that this was true but even the little dogs are allowed to eat the crumbs – meaning she would be happy with the crumbs!

Linda pointed out that the bread that Jesus talked about  (“It’s not good to take the Children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs”) was the same on the table as were the crumbs underneath it (the woman replied “Yes Lord yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table”). The crumbs were still bread – they would still feed the hungry and do the job.

This first of all reminded me of the parable of the sower where Jesus told a story about a sower sowing seed (Luke 8). As he threw the seed from the basket it went everywhere – onto the path, into beds of thistles, onto stony ground and onto good ground. The same applies to the seed in this parable as to the bread that He spoke about to the Syrophoenician woman. Like the bread the seed, which stands for the Word of God, is the same no matter what ground it falls on: thorns, the pavement, stony ground or good ground. The seed is the same. It is the Word of God. The difference is not in the Word received but the heart of the hearer. In a repentant, softened, receiving, prepared heart the Word grows and bears fruit. In an unprepared heart there is a different response and there is no fruit.

So, with the bread – on the table or under the table it was still bread – the difference was in the heart of the recipient. Jesus was not being cruel or needlessly obstructive to the woman – He was giving her bread in a way that would release her immense faith and spirit.

Now she could have despised the bread on the floor but He knew her and what she needed. There was the opening for her heart’s desire – a crack in the door offered by Jesus – and she was through. She didn’t care where the bread was, she was after it in a shot! She had waited for this ever since she had heard of Him, she had desired this with her whole heart. She laid aside all restraint and burst through. “Lord – I am pleased with the bread on the floor”!

Here is hunger set out for us all to see! We wait on the edges until everything is right in our minds and hearts – the right speaker, the right meeting, the right tone, the right feeling, the right time of day, the right interpretation of scripture! What? Bread off the floor how could Jesus possibly be giving us this? (What! - The filthy river Jordan Naaman had said (2 Kings 5) – and we might walk away and miss it. Let’s not do that beloved, lets abandon our constraints – the baggage that crowds in on us and recognise that it is Jesus who offers us the chance to eat! Jesus offers us the chance to eat – bread that is of His very substance. Are we hungry enough to eat off the floor? Or are we distracted by the setting? What if we really abandoned who we are in pursuit of Jesus – all of our thinking, all of our constraints about what we think and feel is the way that we should receive God and just be hungry enough to eat off the floor?

Now we have been restricted by the Corona Virus lockdown – not in fancy meetings full of good singing and great speakers – we often haven’t even been able to see each other when we do calls by telephone, BUT Jesus is here right now – with each one of us with bread – will we receive it? Will we receive Him even though there are many things about this situation that we would change if we could? Have we faith to believe and know these are just the circumstances in which Jesus wants to meet us and for us to partake of Him?

So, in the breaking of bread (Communion / Eucharist) we agree together as His Church that the ‘bread’ and ‘wine’ that are before us are consecrated as representing Him and His offering for us 1 Corinthians 10 v 16“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread”. In essence we identify ourselves fully with Him and partake of Him – His very substance. Not the actual flesh and blood of the crucified Lord but the very substance of our risen Saviour. In doing this, we show that we are His people – born out of His offering for us (the torn offering for sin and the blood ransom for our souls) – and bearing witness of His victorious work on the cross until He returns.

In doing this together, we become like one loaf – though we may be separated by distance it is no distance at all. We are united in His Spirit as close as the grains in the bread. We are letting go our thoughts and agendas to agree that in this moment He is the only one that matters – even though He gets us all to kneel on the floor and pick up crumbs of bread we will do it because He is above everything:

* Our sin, our pride, our dearest thing
* Our sense of worth, our reputation, whatever it is we rely on,
* Our intellect, our need to be better than the next person
* Our need to be a teacher not a learner
* Our need to be different or our need to fit in
* Our need to lead not follow, our need to follow and not lead
* Our need to be humble even - Jesus is worth abandoning everything for, and as we abandon everything and draw near to Him, He draws near to us and starts to feed us. Suddenly the bread on the floor becomes the gateway to the deepest desires of our hearts that He placed there from the foundation of the world.

Let us receive Him when we partake. Let our focus be Him, let us be hungry for Him. Let us realise that when He said “with desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you” His mind was not only on the original disciples but also on us - giving us not a ritual but a way to partake of Him and His very substance today. Let us desire this as He desired to make this act of communion available to us.

So where does our ongoing theme of “abiding” fit in (John Chapter 15)? If we have been responding to Him at this time and His call to abide in Him, our hearts will be prepared for this challenge. Sometimes there might be a test of faith involved – or a humbling process to address the way that we see ourselves? Do we see ourselves at the head of the table or prepared to sit wherever and wait for “leftovers” if necessary? What if the Lord puts obstacles in our way before we can partake of the meal? God led the Israelites to the fear and panic of being trapped by the Red Sea before deliverance came. Jesus led over 5000 people into the Judean wilderness for 3 days and they were hungry enough to faint before He told the disciples to feed them “You give them something to eat” He said. Then He was asleep in a storm on Galilee strong enough for the waves to start to fill the boat: “Why have you so little faith”, He asked?

But if we are living and walking as He wants us to, our abiding in Him and His words abiding in us, will mean that our hearts are fertile ground for His good seed and our souls are humbled to receive bread from Him – even if it means getting down on the floor and picking up the bread. If this is the case it seems that we won’t be on the floor for long! The Syrophoenician woman didn’t even make it to the floor! Jesus’s words – “great is your faith – let it be to you as you desire” met her even as she stooped for the bread He offered. Jesus went all of the way over to Tyre to meet her there – He had an appointment with this dear lady to see faith released, deliverance brought, the works of the evil one overturned and glory go to the Father. What a yield of fruit from a willingness to get under the table! His promise is to “Perfect that which concerns me” (Psalm 138:8) and so He knows what the Syrophoenician woman needed to release Her faith and He knows what we need to release us into full liberty and bear fruit to glorify the Father.

Author: Chris Pearson 

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Sunday 14 June 2020

It’s the small things

He has been saying, put down all the big things, seek Me in the small things.  Don’t look to the usual ways to keep your spiritual life buoyed up, just sit and spend time with Me.

Recently I had a significant birthday, I’m not saying which one but I can now get free prescription (every cloud has a silver lining). I wondered what kind of day it would be, I know that my husband had planned some kind of party etc. but under the current restrictions the only way I could meet anyone was in the garden and then in very small groups.  But the weather had changed and I knew that even that was not possible. My expectation of the day was now very low, however an amazing thing happened.  I found myself not being disappointed at all, but actually being totally blown away with all the small acts of kindness done for me and messages given by phone or facetime etc.

The day was so special even though if I didn’t actually see anyone except my husband and my son who lives with us.  But I'd have to say it was one of the best birthdays ever because I valued every small thing so much.  Sometimes we live in such a material world with expectations of everything being big, bright, and fast, and easily provided at the push of a button that we miss the beauty in the small things.

I was thinking about this today and my mind was drawn to Elijah, in 1 Kings 17 & 18 we read all about the miraculous things that God had done for and through Elijah.  He had been fed by ravens, provided food out of virtually nothing to keep a small family alive, and raised a child from the dead, as well as battling with false prophets over the sovereignty of God and calling down fire from Heaven, oh and of course praying down rain after 3 years of drought.  Elijah was used to living in the time of `big things`, he was used to seeing God move and being in the centre of things.  But then suddenly we find Elijah fleeing for his life and hiding out in a cave on mount Sinai.  He found himself alone, afraid and wondering at the series of events that had gotten him in this isolated place.  I imagine he never expected to be in such a low place when he had been so used of the Lord, both too many and too few.
But eventually God speaks to him and asks him what he is doing there, and as anyone would he pours out his feelings and thoughts to the Lord. Then the Lord passed by the cave and all of Gods power exploded before Elijah in the form of an tornado, an earthquake and a fire, but it was at the still small whisper that the Elijah stepped out to the entrance of the cave and heard what the Lord had to say to him.

This made me think that we often expect the Lord to do big things to get our attention, maybe listening to a world renown speaker, maybe travelling to a place where the Spirit is being poured out, maybe doing a new bible course, or many other ways that we expect the Lord to speak. Sometimes I have found in doing these things that I have had high expectations but actually come away a little disappointed that the speaker or the meeting or the teaching had not quite been up to what I had expected, and so I was left feeling flat and sometimes a little sad and discouraged.

I think in these days of lockdown and social restrictions the Lord has been speaking to us in the small whisper, He has been saying, put down all the big things, seek Me in the small things.  Don’t look to the usual ways to keep your spiritual life buoyed up, just sit and spend time with Me.  I struggled at first with this, thinking I had to do all the expected things.  Stay in contact with everyone, read every WhatsApp and follow every link to every new word or prayer programme and although they were good, they did not fulfil my expectation. It was only the quiet times with the Lord and His word that really spoke to me.

The lowering of my expectations to be `blown away` with everything has actually led me to see the word more clearly than I have for years. To stop and read the word, to meditate on it and actually study some words, rather than dash through it to get onto the next reading or to seek the “big” message has meant that some of the little truths in God's word has become infinitely more precious, and I have valued them so much. In Luke 2:17-19 we read that “Upon seeing this miraculous sign the shepherds recounted what had just happened.  Everyone who heard the shepherd`s story was astonished by what they were told.  But Mary treasured all these things in her heart and often pondered what they meant.  (TPT)

It`s easy to be caught up in the excitement of the story but fail to ponder what the Lord is saying.  Taking time to look for the small things, be thankful for the small things to ponder and pray about what the small things mean will ensure that we don’t just move from `wow` to `wow` experiences without really hearing what God is saying.  But by asking the Spirit to slow us down, lower our expectations of `wow` we can actually learn to see and appreciate the small things, because these are often the things that bless us most.

Author: Jan Pearson 

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Sunday 7 June 2020

A Parable for Today

There was a moment in that field with all that was going on; distressed sheep, concerned neighbours, a heart-broken dog owner, and a dying lamb, when I glimpsed a bigger picture. 

Late one evening tragedy struck at the farm.  From my work in the veg patch I heard a disturbance and rushed to the field where the worst thing for a shepherd to see was in motion; a loose dog was worrying the sheep, chasing ewes and lambs back and forth as they fled at top speed.  The whole flock was in panic while the dog owner looked on helplessly. I ran into the fray and, surprisingly, was able to grab and restrain the dog, (in retrospect either a brave or stupid action).  All of this took place in full view of neighbours who came out to see the commotion.

The next thing was to calm the flock and check for damage.  Most animals were fine, albeit traumatised, some a bit lame, but one lamb became the focus of attention.  The dog had caught and savaged it, tearing it open.  Though still alive it was obvious that we would have to put it down.  However, the lamb soon died, not directly of its wounds but of shock. There was a moment in that field with all that was going on; distressed sheep, concerned neighbours, a heart-broken dog owner, and a dying lamb, when I glimpsed a bigger picture. 
A picture that replaced anger with compassion in my heart.

Jesus is called the ‘Lamb of God’. Though completely innocent He was accused, attacked, abused and torn, dying as a sacrifice so we don’t have to.  Though His injuries were terrible it was not the cross that killed Him.  Normally it took days for crucified victims to die but after six hours on the cross Jesus cried out, ‘It is finished’, then gave up His spirit, dying not of His wounds but of a broken heart. 

I often explain to people that sheep are by nature predated animals, and that their apparently harmless pet is still a wolf and a predator awaiting release.  The message is this:  like dogs we humans have a veneer of respectability and goodness but inwardly are selfish sinners.  Given the wrong circumstances we turn on others and fight to get our own way.  It may be subtle but the evil nature is crouching ready to pounce when provoked. Greed, lust, jealousy, envy, anger, conceit, and fear, all features of man without God, cause us to fall short of His standard.

But God provided a rescue plan.  (1John 1:7-9)
the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We need to stop covering up, stop deceiving ourselves, and admit to God what we really are.  In Jesus there is forgiveness if we confess, and deep cleaning of all that offends Him.  Jesus gave His life so His blood could purify us.  Then He rose again and one day we will all meet Him.

Author: John Plumb

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