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 4th January 2019

Faith, Obedience & Righteousness
Three times over Christmas I heard the same phrase at three different services: Christmas Eve Midnight – Christmas morning – New Year’s Eve. The phrase was: ‘God is always at work.’ It really struck me that first night when I heard it. Is God always at work? The answer is yes, He is. Jesus said in John 5:17, ‘My Father is always working, & so am I.’ In the context of John 5, the Jewish leaders were angry that Jesus had healed a man who had been infirmed for 38 years on the Sabbath – they believed such work to have been proscribed under the Sabbath regulations given by Moses. Jesus answer to their harassment of Him for breaking the Sabbath rules made them even more angry – for His answer meant that He was claiming to be equal with God (5:18).

How can God always be working? Theologically, the Bible has much to say about God transcending the limitations of human energy, endeavour, ability & power. In fact, the Bible clearly states that God is all-powerful, able to do anything, never fails, & never sleeps nor is tired. Jesus certainly in His Incarnation as a man got tired, needed to rest – yet He also raised the dead, healed the sick, set the demonised free from their distress, & delivered the sinner from the guilt of his or her sin. It also says that Christ upholds the entire Creation by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3), & in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). In His Incarnation, even as a baby, although His divinity was veiled it was not diminished. He was still God with all the prerogatives of God.

Out of that first mention of ‘God is always at work,’ I started to think about why we do not see the evidence of God’s work in Christ to the same degree today in our setting as some in the past have experienced it? Is it because He is less present with us than He was with our forefathers in the past? Well actually, no; according to His word the Spirit has come to remain to create the Church & to enable the Church to do the works of God. If the Spirit is just as present with us as He was previously – then why are we not seeing the amazing works that our forefathers in Christ did? First of all, sometimes it is easy to look back & see the wonderful things as an everyday occurrence. The truth is that many times biographies & historical studies gloss over the everyday mundane nature of ministry, also the setbacks, difficulties & opposition faced by many of the great ministry leaders. Oppression, opposition & uncertainty were part of their lot too.

The second answer is linked to something that I recently read; namely, that it is not that God’s power is diminished nor His presence among His people less today. God has not withdrawn. As I reflected on these issues, then three things came to the fore – namely: Faith, Obedience & Righteousness. i. Without faith I cannot please God. When I come to Him I ‘must believe that He exists & that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him’ (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is fundamental to engaging with God on God’s terms. What is faith? John Piper said that ‘the last bastion of human pride is the belief that we are the originators of our faith’ (God has allotted to each a measure of faith’ Sept 23, 1998, www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-has-alloted-to-each-a-measure-of-faith). He wrote this in connection with Romans 12:3-8. This is not the faith which is mentioned as a spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:9), it is the faith given by God as a gift to each believer through His grace in Christ.

We do not have to work faith up; instead, we are to lean into the faith God already has placed in us as we read His word & hear it being preached. There is also something about associating with people who are living fully in the measure of faith they have received. Their example rubs off on us & we begin to lean more into our own measure of faith. I wonder if many of us today are so indoctrinated with Secularism & Rationalism relying on the world of sense & logic that we are aliens to the life of faith?

ii. Obedience is better than sacrifice. It opens the door to further breakthroughs in our lives (See Psalm 107:10-22). An obedient Christian is not only submissive to Christ, but he or she actually honours Christ’s Lordship in how they live their lives. True biblical obedience is accountable & recognises our accountability to God for what we do, & to one another in love. iii. In Matthew 5:6, Jesus said, ‘blessed are those who hunger & thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.’ This is not the righteousness whereby we are justified before God so that He can accept us in Christ at our salvation – that is imputed righteousness – this is imparted righteousness, the day by day righteousness that comes to us by the Spirit’s ministry within, through applying His word – what is known as sanctification righteousness. This latter type of righteousness is a breastplate for us. The opposite is an unrighteous or sin-dominated life.

May God guide us into a new season of actually walking in faith, being obedient to Him each day, & standing in His righteousness in Christ. As we enter this new way of life, then we will see God always at work around us & be a partner with Him in His work...
God Bless
Pastor Leslie

 

 

23rd December 2018

Christendom:
As we are nearly ending the Advent season, this year 2 – 24 Dec, & about to enter the Christmas season, the evening of 24 Dec – 6 Jan 2019, there comes that sense of expectation. Advent is the season of preparation, not for Christmas, but for Christ’s Second Coming; a season of fasting, meditation, reflection, renewing the fire of one’s spirituality, & rededicating oneself to the worship & service of Christ. The Christmas season then is the time for rejoicing, celebration & thanksgiving for the Incarnation of Christ leading to Epiphany on Jan 6 & the celebration of Christ’s revelation to the Gentile world. Traditionally, this was the view until about the 1950s. Up to then in this country there was the long period of what scholars call the Age or Era of Christendom – 7th Century AD – 1950s. This was when this country was dominated by Christian values, the period when Christianity was the dominant religious, cultural, legal & moral basis for our society & how it operated.  

The converging influences of Hollywood movies, TV with its advertisements which helped fuel the re-emergence of Consumerism in the 1950’s, consumerism had really flourished in the 1920’s but had been subdued during the Great Depression of the 1930’s & the years of Austerity during & following the Second World War, & the cultural revolution of the 1960’s with the development of pop culture, along with many other factors including the loss of faith in the Bible in the Church, were largely responsible for breaking Christendom’s hold on the UK. The passing of the Age of Christendom has led also to a great loss of the certainties that Christendom brought. Now we have large swaths of our population with identity issues – they do not believe in anything & their souls are therefore rudderless & open to all sorts of undue influence.

As we reflect on the demise of Christendom, it might be helpful to consider, what are the dominant philosophical views which now control, or, at least, drive our nation’s choices & worldview? Today our society is held sway by a mixture of all of the following plus many other influences – the following include my definitions in each category & are not necessarily the definitions of Sociologists: i. Individualism, which seeks to champion the right of the individual over the collective good; ii. Secularism, these seek to drive Christianity & its influence from the public square, & disagree with the idea of a Supreme deity to which we are all accountable;

iii. Rationalism, which rejects religious teaching & experience in favour of intellectualism, science & deductive reasoning; iv. Pluralism, which gives equal weight to every view except Christianity’s; v. Athleticism, which sees sport, exercise & healthy living as the highest & most noble form of life; vi. Environmentalism, its champions see the protection of nature as sacrosanct, & often view animal life & nature as of equal worth to human life & need; vii. Idealism, the collective human mind is the highest human faculty, & the sole initiator of that which improves humanity; viii. & Capitalism, which says that the Market, Business, Industry & Commerce should be free from State interference & owned by Private owners for profit rather than by the State.

Thinking specifically about Christmas, the demise of Christendom in the Western world leaves us with a Christmas season which runs from Black Friday, 23 Nov through to about Saturday 29 December. In this philosophy, outlook on life, Christmas is about the Christmas Atmosphere, Children, Family, Presents, Santa, Holidays, TV, Shopping, Sport, Parties, Alcohol, Spending money, Religious experiences, especially Carol singing, & Nostalgia. The results have left Christmas as a rather empty, shallow & unsatisfying experience. In fact, it can be argued that Christendom’s demise has led to a much more fractured, vacuous, empty & hedonistic society which is never satisfied, never truly happy, more debt ridden in its quest for fulfilment & experiences, & never truly content. Of course we have so many more things, experiences & opportunities today than our parent’s generation, but many of these feed our base, unregenerate human nature & are not noble nor redemptive.

I am not arguing for a return to Christendom because I seriously believe that a lot of religiosity also accompanied that Age which made people think they were okay with God when in fact they were His enemies & not in Christ. However, I am saying that we should be praying for His Kingdom to come in our nation & His will to be done in our society. I believe a Kingdom Age, when all about Christ’s Kingdom is clearly taught & preached, when the New birth & Redemption from sin & the base human nature by the blood of Christ is experienced by many, when Kingdom values & principles are modelled & espoused or adopted by Christians, & when His rule & lordship are clearly demonstrated will make a huge different to our society.
Merry Christmas & God Bless
Pastor Leslie

19th December 2018

Bystanders:
I was reading afresh the story of the prophet Jonah. The main characters in the story are Jonah & the Ninevite people. Nineveh was the capitol of the ancient kingdom of Assyria. God told Jonah to go & preach His words to the Ninevite’s. However, when Jonah ran from God’s call, he found a ship heading away from the port of Joppa towards Tarshish. Joan & I visited Jaffa (Joppa) in Tel Aviv-Yafo in September as part of our trip to Israel. The port is still there, although the city is now part of Tel Aviv & is more focussed on tourism. We actually sat in during a Roman Catholic service in the Church of St Peter in the beautiful old city. The sailors onboard that ship would not have known who this traveller was that they were taking onboard with them - to them he was just another Jew heading West; in fact they were giving passage to a great Jewish prophet fleeing from God’s call.

The reason he ran from God’s call had to do with the people He was being sent to. He perfectly understood God’s character. Jonah knew that if he preached God’s message of repentance to the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3), & they repented of their sin & turned in faith to Him, then Yahweh would forgive them & bless their city. As a prophet Jonah knew that the Assyrians one day would be used as God’s means of punishing Israel for its sins. In fact, in 722BC the Assyrians deported the Israelites after having conquered their nation. So the bystanders in the story are Jonah’s fellow travellers on that ship. Soon they came to realise the cost to them personally of this prophet running from God’s call because running from God is not a personal thing – it deeply impacts all those around us.

We are told that God caused a great storm to arise which put the ship, its passengers & crew in great peril. It was so forceful that they tried to lighten the ship to prevent it sinking by throwing overboard their cargo, & each called on his gods to rescue them. All the while Jonah was sleeping in the ship’s hold. Perhaps he was so exhausted by the mental turmoil he was going through; after all, no one knowingly runs from God without going through a great mental strain. Soon everyone realised that the cause of this storm was supernatural, an errant, fleeing prophet. To be fair, after Jonah told them how to appease the Lord, throw him overboard into the sea, they tried to row for land. The more they tried to find a physical answer to their dilemma – the greater the storm became. They didn’t throw Jonah overboard lightly; instead, they pleaded with God in prayer for two things: 1. That they wouldn’t die in the storm for the sake of Jonah’s sin; 2. To be released from the guilt of Jonah’s death.

Upon throwing him overboard, the storm immediately ceased; one moment the greatest storm of their lives – the next absolute calm. They were filled with awe & wonder at Yahweh’s power & authority, & pledged their lives to follow & obey Him. Even before reaching Nineveh, & as a direct result of Jonah’s disobedience, this pagan ship’s company & passengers were led to worship Yahweh & commit their lives to His service. The bystanders lives were changed forever as a result.

Three things stand out to me in this: 1. Don’t look for physical answers to supernatural problems; 2. Don’t run from God’s call – He can destroy everything around you in order to bring you to a place of submission to His will; 3. Even the people that seem incidental to the story of your life, can be brought face to face with Christ’s power & authority by what is happening in your life. How much more good fruit could be produced if this happens because you are worshipping & serving the Lord wholeheartedly devoted to Christ rather than running from God. How many of us are running from God? Please stop if you are, plead for His forgiveness & pledge your life afresh to the worship & service of the Lord Jesus.

God Bless
Pastor Leslie

 

11th December 2018

Thought for the Week
 
Citizens of Heaven:

With all that is happening with Brexit at the moment it is very easy to get upset, stressed, caught up in all the confusion & angry about the way the politicians are appearing to fail our nation. I wrote previously about Brexit looking at how it affects our identity as a nation, the challenges associated with it, & how we decide what to do. On Sunday evening in church we explored something very different – our citizenship of heaven. This idea is found in Philippians 3:20-21, ‘But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Saviour. He will take our weak mortal bodies & change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control.’
 
Our passports may say that we are the citizen of a country, but a country is made up of many local communities – the places where we live, work & feel at home. Many identify more with their religious, cultural or ethnic roots than with their citizenship of our nation. For them their heart allegiance is to a different authority than the authority of their government. This creates all sorts of issues about integration & shared ownership in a nation. Years ago in this nation it was different. Prior to the First World War the vast majority of people were completely submissive to the authority of the British government & crown. However, the horrors of the trenches somewhat proved that governments & military leaders can fail their own people. Nevertheless, the nation united again to fight the Fascist Nazi Germany & Japan in WWII.
 
In the years since there has been a radical overhaul of the UK. The influx of large numbers of wonderful people from overseas & different ethnicities & cultures has done much to broaden our understanding of what it means to be British. This perhaps went too far in recent decades leading to a type of multiculturalism that was divisive leading to many failing to truly integrate & adopt the key values enshrined in the form of governance of our nation. This form of multiculturalism focussed, rightly in many cases, on rights sometimes to the detriment of teaching about the responsibilities that undergird these rights. Today there is a greater emphasis in schools of teaching core British values, & a better recognition in society of the need to create a shared identity which celebrates what it means to be British without destroying the unique cultural or ethnic identity each of us has. This requires compromise & a new attitude of love towards each other.
 
It is in the big national issues that our citizenship becomes important. Therefore, citizenship is an identity issue - we belong to a nation, a political issue – it gives a person certain rights to live, work, be educated, receive health & social care, & the privileges of protection & support from a nation. It gives the right to have a passport with the rights to travel to other nations according to the treaties that nation has with other nations. If we do not have citizenship of the nation we are living in then many doors are closed to us. A visitor to the nation does not possess the same rights as a citizen. The big argument for many around Brexit was that the rapid influx of huge numbers of people to our nation was not giving time for them to discover & appreciate British values; in fact they argued, lack of understanding & integration was changing those values in a way many became concerned about. Whatever the rights & wrongs of such views, many politicians acknowledged the need for a change of approach.
 
As a citizen of Heaven – there are so many parallels with what we have just spoken about. The difference is that Heaven is not a democracy, it is a theocracy with Christ as King of the Kingdom. Therefore, instead of being able to change our leader if we do not agree with Him or dislike His policies, that is not possible. In fact, our leader is the greatest leader in history – infallible, completely loving, absolutely just, totally good & righteous, full of grace & mercy, an impartial judge, the only One able to bring us into God’s presence.
 
Christ does not ask us to meet half way as we both compromise who we are in order to create a new unity, no, He asks us to completely trust & obey Him leaving behind our old identity outside of Him. Ephesians 2:19, ‘So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.’ This is where many Christians struggle & fail to truly connect as Citizens of Heaven with Christ – they still see themselves as they used to be. We are now citizens along with God’s holy people, members of God’s family because we are in Christ. May we not be those who draw back to our old life...
 
God Bless Pastor Leslie

7th December 2018

Good morning
 
Who God is...

At the heart of the Gospel message is the truth that God desires to build a relationship with each person. He has reached out to us through His Son Jesus the Saviour. It is Christ alone who is able to bring God & the person together. Christ came to this world at a point in history, His Incarnation. He also personally comes to save us, a personal contact with each of one who accepts Him as Saviour & Lord. Jesus saves & then calls us to live a holy life. He has a redemptive pathway which He calls us to follow. He is the divine Redeemer & Saviour.
 
A wonderful passage which reinforces this idea of God as redeemer & planner, the One who is calling us to holiness is 2 Timothy 1:9-10, NLT, ‘For God saved us & called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was His plan from before the beginning of time - to show us His grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Saviour. He broke the power of death & illuminated the way to life & immortality through the Good News.’ God not only wants us to benefit from His grace in Christ Jesus – He also wants to reveal the wonder & greatness of His grace to us. He is gracious.
 
Jesus is the Conqueror. He defeated death & is the True light that lights the way to Father God. He does this through the Gospel message. As people read or hear the word of God, it challenges & begins to create the life of God within; after all, it is the seed that produces faith - ultimately a saving faith in Christ. The Word also has the power to expose the true intents of the heart, assess our motives, & separate worldliness from that which is truly of God. As Conqueror, Jesus’ breaks the power of sin, delivers the man or woman’s spirit from death, overcomes the powers of darkness, & sets the prisoner free from the shackles of self, sin, Satan & the world. He has the power to tear the curtain that separated us from God’s presence, & that blocked our entry to heaven.
 
Titus 3:4-7, ‘When God our Saviour revealed His kindness & love, He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth & new life through the Holy Spirit [He saved us through the washing of regeneration & renewing of the Holy Spirit]. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Because of His grace He made us right in His sight & gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.’ This passage is one sentence in the Greek. It is theologically rich. It highlights i. our Justification in Christ, our position in Christ, having a brand new living relationship with God through Christ; ii. that as a result of the Spirit’s work we have a complete inner change of spirit making it come alive to God & His ways, a new heart attitude of love & reverence towards God, & the hope of living in His presence & one day spending eternity with Him. Hallelujah!
 
Chrestotes, v.4, is one of those wonderful biblical Greek words. It means that God is morally excellent, kind, good, acts with integrity & is gentle. All of this from one word. He is wonderfully kind, extraordinarily good & amazingly gentle. He also has a deep & profound love for us, v.4, philanthropia – an overflowing love for humankind, rich benevolent thoughts about people. If Paul could write to Philemon, verse 7, ‘your love has given me much joy & comfort, my brother. For your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people,’ all qualities he had stated were God’s in Titus 3 – how much more comfort & joy should we have because we are being refreshed by God’s kindness, benevolence & love.
 
His kindness & love have come to us in Christ. God is absolutely good & trustworthy. He is love – He is kind – He is generous towards His children. God is not capricious [unstable, unpredictable or given to sudden dark mood changes]. He is who He says He is. It is His Spirit who imparts these graces to us in Christ. Where Jesus is fully trusted, the Spirit, who also loves us (Romans 15:30), releases His love within us - the Spirit produces the love of God in & through our lives. Isn’t Christ wonderful! Do you know Him? Isn’t the Father amazing! Do you love Him? Isn’t the Spirit great! Do you walk with Him?

God Bless
Pastor Leslie

 


 


 


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