Saturday 25 March 2023

The Real Thing

Now for the real thing, Now for the kingdom come, Now for refining, We are more than we've become
In my early years as a Christian I used to wonder how people could get so excited about heaven. It was mostly described as a floating existence in a spiritual realm with no tangible or physical reality. Such an ethereal concept didn't sound too thrilling to me but I held on to the idea that the Lord would not actually let us get too bored up there, and I also felt a bit guilty for entertaining such worldly doubts.

Then I began to dig deeper into Biblical truth, discovering that future human existence without a physical body is only a passing phase, and that one day we will be raised just like Jesus was and given a new body just like His. Where that spiritual body lives for the rest of eternity will depend on our attitude to Jesus now and what we do in our bodies today. (1 Corinthians 15, 2 Corinthians 5) The ultimate, everlasting home for those who have given their lives to Jesus will be the New Earth and the New Heaven where we will live as real and resurrected bodies for ever. (Revelation 21

Paul says in Colossians 2:17: 'These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.'
The word 'substance' is also translated in some versions as 'reality' but the actual word means 'body'. There is a close relationship between the word 'shadow' (skua) and the word 'body' (soma), just as there is a connection between a physical being and the shadow that it casts; they are counterparts. However, it is patently evident that 'soma' is more real, more substantive, more tangible than its 'skua' which flits around according to the light source.

Paul is writing to the Colossians about the religious practices of the day, festivals and life styles which some people regarded as essential to godly living, but which in fact were mere passing shadows. There is nothing wrong with a shadow, as long as it reminds us of the body, as long as it points to the truth, which is reality. The scriptures are full of 'shadows' that point to Jesus. The Old Testament is fulfilled by the New, made complete by the entry of Jesus clothed in human flesh, a body whose shadow has been seen since the beginning of history.

In the light of this we may wish to consider what is 'body' and what is 'shadow' in our own lives. There is still much chasing of shadows in our modern culture, and there is much tradition, religion and ritual surrounding church life. Let us make sure that all of it points us to the Body of Christ Himself, or we may find ourselves disillusioned or chasing after shadows.

Here are some words from a recent inspiring song from Marc James:

Now for the real thing
Now for the kingdom come
Now for refining
We are more than we've become
Now for repenting
Til our only cry is Jesus
Now for the promise
Now for the church on fire
Now for the fulness
We want more than shallow lives
Now for your goodness
To fill the whole earth, Jesus.

Be blessed in your seeking of the real thing. 'And Christ himself is that reality.' (Colossians 2:17 NLT)

Author: John Plumb

May God bless and enrich your life

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Saturday 18 March 2023

God said that it was very good

Now hope is not just the absence of despair, it's the presence of something greater, something only God can give
God knew the specific purpose that you were born to fulfil, so he provided all the gifts you'd need, including the environment required to put it all together. Then God looked at you and said "very good" (Genesis 1:31), can you say that too? It's important that you can, why? because others will treat you according to how you treat yourself. This is not pride, but just healthy self-esteem based on God's opinion of you as revealed in His word. When you get what/who God says about you, it affects every area of your life, truth be told it determines how far you'll go in life. Stop and ask yourself today, how do I really feel about myself, before you answer read these principles:-

Never think or speak negatively about yourself, that puts you in disagreement with God.

Meditate on your God given strengths and learn to encourage yourself, for much of the time, it is your responsibility to do so.

Do not compare yourself to anyone else, you are unique one of a kind - an original, so don't settle for being a copy.

Focus on your potential not your limitations, remember God lives in you.
(Galatians 2:20). "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the son of God, who loves me and gave Himself for me".

Find out what is the gift God has blessed you with, to serve Him, do it well and do it with excellence, so that God will be glorified.

Have the courage to be different, be a God pleaser, not a people pleaser. Psalm 146:3 - "do not put your trust in princes in human beings who cannot save"

Learn to handle criticism, let it develop you and not discourage you, try and learn from it and move on. Romans 12:14 "bless those who persecute you, and do not curse".

Determine your own worth in God, not letting others do it for you, they will always short-change you. (Romans 12:2) "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is, His good pleasing and perfect will".

Keep your shortcomings in perspective, we are all still a work in progress, and God knows that. (Romans 13:14) "rather clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh". 

Focus daily on your greatest source of confidence - the God who lives in you.

Do you feel trapped in an impossible situation you just can't seem to change or escape? If so God is saying to you today, (Jeremiah 29:11) "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future".  

Now hope is not just the absence of despair, it's the presence of something greater, something only God can give. The good news is God by his amazing grace can change the impossible things in our life and make them into good experiences, we could never have thought or imagined.

So brothers and sisters be blessed and encouraged in God's good and perfect will in our lives.

Author: Herbert Jean

May God bless and enrich your life

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Saturday 11 March 2023

The prayer bank

How much more focussed and powerful would our prayers be if we were able to say like Jesus “I say and do only what the Father tells me to”
John 14:12-13 records Jesus saying: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son”.

This scripture is part of the conversation that Jesus had with His disciples after the last supper. The scripture invites us to use “Jesus’ bank account”. “Whatsoever you ask on my account” one version renders it. Wow! That’s a pretty big invitation – to use Jesus’ credit with the Father in our praying!

If we had rich friends and one of them said: “Here is access to my bank account – spend what you like”… There would probably be conditions, and we may need a sort code, account number and password as well to access the account. We also may need to explain to the friend why and how the credit was used.

Its all there in these verses:

The funds are available because Jesus was returning to the Father

The account is accessed by faith (he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also)

The resources are released through asking the Father in the name of Jesus – The implication is that the request is reflected in the name, will and purpose of the Godhead

The reason for the release is to bring glory to the Father

The great thing is that this bank account is never depleted, never shuts and the access codes are given to all who enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Sam, a prison chaplain once preached a sermon that I have brought to mind on many occasions. He said that the Father’s answer to our prayers is either “Yes” or “No” or “Not Now”. Jesus told us that he did and said only what the Father showed Him and told Him to do. Of course, for this reason, Jesus knew in advance that the Father’s answer to some prayers would be “no”. Maybe that the Father told Jesus that His answer for the man sitting at the temple gate beautiful was “no” as far as He was concerned or “not yet” taking into account Peter and John’s later obedience:
Acts 3:1-8: One day Peter and John went to the Temple at three o'clock in the afternoon, the hour for prayer. There at the Beautiful Gate, as it was called, was a man who had been lame all his life. Every day he was carried to the gate to beg for money from the people who were going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John going in, he begged them to give him something. They looked straight at him, and Peter said, “Look at us!” So he looked at them, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said to him, “I have no money at all, but I give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I order you to get up and walk!” Then he took him by his right hand and helped him up. At once the man's feet and ankles became strong; he jumped up, stood on his feet, and started walking around. Then he went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.

How many times do we look upon apparently “unanswered prayers” because we do not know what the Father’s will is? In a way no prayer is unanswered although some we are told are “unheard” by the Lord (Psalm 66:16-19): Come and listen, all who honour God, and I will tell you what he has done for me. I cried to Him for help; I praised Him with songs. If I had ignored my sins, the Lord would not have listened to me. But God has indeed heard me; He has listened to my prayer.

The Lord can refuse to respond on some occasions (e.g., James 1:6-8 – asking in unbelief):

But when you pray, you must believe and not doubt at all. Whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is driven and blown about by the wind. If you are like that, unable to make up your mind and undecided in all you do, you must not think that you will receive anything from the Lord.

I think that as Jesus was “tested in all points as we are” it is likely that at least sometimes, in common with us, He didn’t know why the Father said “no”? Be that as it may, we can access Jesus’ account in prayer by hearing and sometimes “seeing” what the Father’s will is in any given situation – and accessing the resources that are at the Father’s disposal.

I think that there is a vast amount about “knowing the mind and will of the Father” that we generally don’t access? How much more focussed and powerful would our prayers be if we were able to say like Jesus “I say and do only what the Father tells me to”?

There are of course occasions in the bible where someone’s cry has either “changed God’s mind” or we are told that “God heard their cry” and acted. Examples of this are Hezekiah’s life being extended by 15 years, Amos praying that God would not destroy Israel by fire, and the people of Nineveh repenting after hearing Jonah’s message. Generally, these folk were pleading in desperation and / or interceding for a desperate need. Equally, sometimes the urgent urging of the Holy Spirit for others is sufficient to drive us to our knees and seek access to that bank account of resources that Jesus has opened up for us. If God sends us to our knees, then we can be sure that its for a good reason:

James 5:16“The fervent prayer of a good person has a powerful effect”.

Luke 11:9“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

2 Chronicles 7:14If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Acts 4:30-31Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.

Even so do it Lord we pray…

Author: Chris Pearson

May God bless and enrich your life

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Saturday 4 March 2023

Walk Worthy

Our conduct, our behaviour, needs to reflect who we are in Him. Our daily walk must match our position in Christ
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy (my emphasis) of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:1-6, ESV)

In our weekly small group we have recently studied the book of Ephesians and what a spiritual treasure trove it has proved to be. I don’t suppose we will ever be able to plumb the depths of its riches this side of glory. I think I can speak for us all in saying that our discussions appear to have only skimmed the surface; however, in studying God’s word, He is faithful in enabling our ability. Little by little our understanding has grown and even expanded. Writing this blog has caused me to reflect on one small part. In Chapters 1 to 3 our position in Christ has been clearly laid out. We have been informed of all the privileges, blessings, promises and honours that are available to all believers who are in Christ. And now the command, by Paul, is given at the start of chapter 4 where we are beseeched to ‘walk worthy of our calling’.  Examining what ‘walking worthy’ means has caused me to meditate on this.  

A simple dictionary definition of the verb ‘walk’ states: ‘use one’s feet to advance’.  It can also mean to live or behave in a specified manner... to walk in, for example ‘a determined way’, to walk ‘with energy, intent’. As a noun, a walk is a journey that is made by walking; a short walk, a long walk, a pleasant walk. In examining the word ‘worthy’, the dictionary states: ‘having worth, merit, value, being honourable and admirable’.  

In the New Testament the word walk is frequently used to refer to conduct, to behaviour, to the way the believer’s life is lived. At its most simple, and utilising the above dictionary definitions, our walk, should be honourable, containing merit and value, and importantly, our walk should be ongoing and advancing. From our first day of salvation, where we are set apart from non-believers to our last where glorification waits, we are currently on ‘a journey’ of becoming like Christ. This process, a basic doctrine in Christianity, is called sanctification. For the believer, in whom Christ dwells the goal is to become more like Christ, emulating the way He thinks, acts and speaks so that as our walk goes on we begin to manifest the very character of Christ. The Holy Spirit, in us, helps us to pursue growing in godliness so that we progressively reflect Jesus Christ in our lives.
Paul repeatedly states the necessity to ‘walk worthy’. In Colossians (1:9-10 ESV) he ceaselessly prays that (believers)  ‘be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God...'

In the latter part of his letter to the Ephesians Paul goes on to extensively provide comprehensive instruction and application of how therefore the believer is to walk.

Our sanctification may be slow and we may struggle at times, however, we are not alone. We have the help of the triune God. Our active growth proceeds from the life we live by faith in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit helps us to live more faithfully as He illuminates the word of God which guides, directs and instructs us. The word of God, (2 Timothy 3:16) clearly states that ‘all scripture is profitable...’ for us.

Coleman Ford (2018) in his article ‘6 things every Christian needs to know about sanctification’ (accessed on-line 2023) cites the work of Powlison who lists five factors and sanctification:

God. ‘It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:13, ESV) what an assurance!

Truth. The truth of God’s word which is preached, taught, studied, prayed and read is one of the most certain ways by which the Holy Spirit brings about change in our lives.

Godly, wise people. It is through the gifting and graces of brothers and sisters in Christ that helps with our change and development. This surely highlights the necessity of belonging to a Church family. Sanctification, of necessity is inextricably bound up in our love for and service to others.

Suffering and struggle. These difficulties although not sought after can and often cause us to rely on God. Unlike when things are going well adversities cause us to look to God.

You change. ‘Scripture calls us to actively believe, obey, trust, seek, love, confess, praise, and take refuge. We are not passive. The mystery of faith is that we are 100% responsible, yet 100% dependent on outside help’.

The timing, pace, questioning, acceptance or rejection of any of the above factors can hinder or accelerate our ongoing walk as a believer. Each individual is unique and so is our development in sanctification. However, let us remember: ‘... it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’ (Galatians 2:20, ESV)

Our conduct, our behaviour, needs to reflect who we are in Him. Our daily walk must match our position in Christ, which Paul so wondrously and fervently recounts in chapter 1; this is a challenge but should be the desire of all true believers and of course, is the evidence of new birth.

Praise God.

Author: Irene Cherrill

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