Archive blog entries 05 2018

27th May 2018


Influencing Others:

It is one of the remarkable things about the ancient people of Israel – not only is it that we know the story of God’s early intervention in the world through them, but they were also God’s chosen people. As such, they were to reveal to the world the joy & wonder of serving Yahweh. They were to be a praise to God in all the earth - Isaiah 43:21 reveals that God formed Israel to declare His praise. Through Abraham & his seed all the families or people groups of the earth would be blessed. The ultimate means of this was Christ, whom Isaiah prophesied would be God’s light to the Gentiles, His means of salvation to the ends of the earth (49:6). Israel were to be God’s faithful witnesses (Isaiah 43:10). They would bring heaven’s blessings to the nations culminating in Christ - they would reveal who God is, Yahweh the faithful, loving, covenant keeping, miracle working, Saviour of the world – they were to be the custodians of God’s word & His presence - they were to influence other people stirring them up to desire to come & enquire about how to worship, serve & honour the Lord God.

The sad thing is that for a large portion of ancient Israel’s history, they failed to rise to this challenge; instead they conformed their worship & culture to the nations & their idolatrous & faithless ways. Instead of Israel influencing the nations – the nations influenced Israel in godlessness & false worship. There is a great truth in this. Paul states it in another way in 1 Corinthians 15:33, ‘bad company corrupts good character.’ In the context of this verse, it was the teaching of false teachers which corrupted good character. Elsewhere Paul stated that believers were not to be deceived & follow & practice the lifestyles of the ungodly (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). When I first became a Christian, the more mature believers in church told me that it is easier to be drawn back into the world when you are walking with your heart & feet in the world. In other words, what you are focussed on draws you in that direction: Christ - godliness, faith & holiness – the world - ungodliness faithlessness & sin.

I was very fortunate or blessed in that I had three wonderful mentors in my formative years of faith who influenced me: Clifford who was a type of theological mentor exploring the Bible with me at a deep & theological level; Alan, a type of Christian life coach helping me to apply what I was reading & learning whilst challenging me to face my inconsistencies in the light of Christ & His grace; Billy who was spiritually gifted & able to explore the power & gifts of the Spirit in such a way as to lead me deeper into faith & expectancy. Looking back I was extremely blessed & am grateful for all three. There were others whose influence has touched my life. Sam, an uncle who taught me how to value each person & make them feel significant & important enough to spend quality time with; Sandy, my paternal grandfather who treated every single person he met the same – rich or poor, young or old, intellectual or otherwise, each one received the same greeting & the same undivided attention. He took a genuine interest in people.

Turning it around, who am I influencing, & how am I influencing them? Who are you influencing & how are you doing it? Being strategic & intentional in this area can help. Thinking seriously about what I say, how I say it, & the clues I gives to what I am really focussed on & drawn to – are a worthwhile exercise. A famous book written many years ago was titled, ‘How to win friends & influence people’ by Dale Carnegie & published in 1936, the first & most widely read self-help book. While imperfect & dated now, & perhaps slightly manipulative in its suggestions - six of these suggestions are worth noting as I close: 1. Become genuinely interested in other people; 2. Smile; 3. Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest & most important sound in any language; 4. Be a good listener; 5. Talk in terms of the other person's interest; 6. Make the other person feel important - & do it sincerely. I would add, be present with the person when you are with them – not giving the impression that you would rather be elsewhere. & of course, pray for them...
God Bless
Pastor Leslie

 

22nd May 2018

Being Faithful:
There is a line in 2 Timothy 3 in which Paul urged Timothy to remain faithful to the things he had been taught because he knew the honesty of those who taught him, verse 14. 2 Timothy 3:10-17, NLT, ‘But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, & how I live, & what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, & my endurance. You know how much persecution & suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, & Lystra -but the Lord rescued me from all of it. Yes, & everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people & impostors will flourish. They will deceive others & will themselves be deceived.

But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, & they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God & is useful to teach us what is true & to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong & teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare & equip His people to do every good work.’

These eight verses are just wonderful. Imagine knowing a Christian leader so well that he can say that you know his teaching, his manner of life, & what the whole purpose of his life is? This isn’t bravado on Paul’s part, nor is it hubris, excessive pride or self-confidence. Paul’s faith that was so bold & great because of Jesus Christ whom he served & followed, his patience proven in the midst of persecution & suffering, his genuine love for God’s people & His Church, & his ability to continue following Christ even when it seemed impossible. This is the man Timothy knew – a faithful servant of Christ. That is an example that inspires others to want to follow seeking to learn & obey Paul’s teaching about Christ & His way of salvation.

Timothy had been grounded in the Bible from an early age - his grandmother Lois & his mother Eunice had been wonderful examples of godliness & genuine faith (1:5). Their faith rested in the truth of God’s Word, because the Bible was inspired by God. We are told again & again that the Bible was given by the inspiration of God’s Spirit, ‘...which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David...’ (Acts 1:16 etc). Therefore these two women taught the Bible to Timothy & modelled how to live out the faith. We need the example of faithful men & women in order to learn from them & gain confidence that we to can be faithful to God’s word. Not only does the Bible show us what is wrong, correcting us when we go wrong, but it has the power to educate us in how to please God & obey His will. The Bible is the firm foundation upon which the life of faith is built. That life of faith then enables us to work in such a way so that we please God & honour Christ.

Faithfulness is a challenge. It requires four things: 1. A commitment to the Christian foundations upon which our outlook on life is built; 2. Following the example of Christ of being faithful to His mission & people; 3. following the Bible’s teaching; 4. & following the example of mature believers who are shining examples of faithfulness to Christ & His ways. The challenges we face include our own carnal nature which desires pleasure outside of godliness, the world which abhors holiness, & the Devil who hates us & wants us to be unbelieving & faithless, to bring disgrace on Christ. The world loves the good we do for others, but hates the reason we do that good. May we be faithful to Christ, His ways & God’s word. May our faithfulness, like Paul’s, point others to the faithfulness of God in Christ, & enable us to overcome our own carnal nature with its push for independence from God & His Kingdom rule. Amen
God Bless
Pastor Leslie

 


12th May 2018

The Holy Spirit:
Of all the biblical characters, for most people, the Holy Spirit is the most enigmatic or mysterious. Ask an ordinary person in a church pew, never mind on the street, to describe the Spirit – most would be evasive trying to avoid giving an answer. The AV called Him the Holy Ghost which has compounded the unease. The following theological elements are drawn from Elim’s ‘Doctrinal Foundations’ by JW Ward, 1996, p. 17-18. Some see the Spirit as an ‘it’ without a clear personality or intelligence; yet the Bible consistently uses the personal pronoun ‘He,’ & attributes personal characteristics such as intelligence, will & affections to Him. He acts as person in that He speaks, searches, testifies, commands, reveals, strives, creates, makes prayer/intercession, & raises the dead. In the Old Testament He was called, in Hebrew, Ruach, although always as God’s invisible power or breath. As such, the Spirit was involved in creation, gave understanding to certain people, was the source of true, God inspired prophetic speech, & anointed leaders such as David & Elijah with charismatic & supernatural power.  He is God, the Holy Spirit of God.

In the life of Jesus, the Spirit was integral to His story. The birth narratives in Luke’s Gospel are full of mentions of the Spirit inspiring prophesies, filling people with unusual insight & active in the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb. As both John the Baptist & Jesus grew, both boys are said to grow strong in spirit with Jesus also filled with wisdom & with the favour & grace of God evident on His life. At Jesus’ baptism, He prepared John prophetically so that he could recognise the Messiah, ‘upon whom you see the Spirit descending, & remaining on Him, this is He who baptises with the Holy Spirit’ (John 1:33). Elsewhere we are told that the physical evidence was that the Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove – this is how the Baptist recognised Him. That the Spirit should come upon & fill Jesus in the symbol of a dove is a beautiful picture of the compassionate, tender & grace-filled nature of the ministry of Jesus healing the sick, setting captives free & feeding the hungry with food & the bread of heaven.

The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to face His time of trial & open temptations by Satan; &, upon His successful victory over these, empowered Him for His messianic ministry to Israel. Thus the Spirit anointed Jesus, was with Him in His healing & miraculous ministry, & partnered in His exorcist ministry to the demonised. Jesus was able to offer Himself as the sacrifice for sins by the Spirit (Hebrews 9:14), & was raised from the dead by the action of the Spirit (Romans 8:11). It is not that Jesus could not have completed His ministry without the Spirit, after all Jesus is God, the plan was for a wonderful partnership between them. We often consider how close Jesus & Father God were with Jesus going to spend time alone with Father, & receiving words of affirmation from Father at key points during His ministry – we also need to understand that this was not a two way relationship but a three way relationship with the Spirit just as involved. Our triune God, Father, Son & Spirit have a perfectly loving, harmonious & wonderful relationship.

On the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit descended on the Church, not as a dove, but as tongues of fire. Whereas the ministry of Jesus was marked by compassion, ‘a bruised reed He will not break’ as Isaiah prophesied, (42:3; Matthew 12:20, Jesus ministry would be incredibly gentle with the broken, those discarded by society, to the poor & lost), the church was baptised in tongues of fire to be able to break through into the Gentile world & bring the Gospel message of salvation in Christ. The Church’s baptism was one of fire & authority, yet it was not to neglect compassion to the poor, marginalised, oppressed & lost. Jesus was not anointed by the Spirit to overthrow other gods, after all the Jewish people believed only in Yahweh but to reveal who God really was & that He was now the only way to God & in Him the only way for a person to please God. The Church on the other hand was to take on the gods of the nations & needed the fire of preaching & spiritual warfare in order to do so. May we be filled with the Pentecostal fullness of the Spirit with fire & the authority to proclaim Christ to the people in our land. In Jesus’ name & for His honour & glory. Amen
God Bless
Pastor Leslie


8th May 2018

Seven Life Enriching Principles:
1. Thankfulness - One of the most important principles is being thankful. It does make a difference to say thank you. Choosing to live everyday with a thankful heart is a good thing to do. It takes patience, determination & a lot of courage to be a thankful person. There are also benefits to our spiritual life by being thankful to God. Psalm 100, thanksgiving is the first step in the process of entering God’s presence – the second praise, & the third worship (John 4) – thanksgiving opens the doors into God’s presence to us.

2. Removing Unhelpful Baggage – So many of us are staggering under the burden of the weight of something or other. Hebrews 12 tells us to strip off every weight that slows us down. We should try to avoid being selfishly motivated in this – it is not casting aside my responsibilities nor protecting myself - but getting rid of anyone or thing that hinders me from achieving what God’s calls me to do. However, it is worth noting that some of the people or things we may see as baggage, are actually placed in our lives by God & are there for a bigger purpose. We need to pray & ask for wisdom in this. Baggage can include unhelpful attitudes, a negative voice in our head which plays when something goes wrong or we face a challenge or do something wrong or stupid.

3. Refusing Despair – Despair is a crushing emotion which can arise at anytime. When it comes it can be overwhelming & soul destroying. It can come after a big success - perhaps a lot of effort has gone into achieving a goal & then afterwards, instead of ongoing joy, comes a sense of despair. It can be physically induced through tiredness, or a feeling which arises out of nowhere, or because of mental ill health. Overcoming ongoing despair may need professional help; it sometimes can be addressed by rest & spiritual refreshing, & applying 2 Corinthians 4:1, ‘Therefore as we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.’ We chose not to allow despairing thoughts to remain & seek to replace them with hope.

4. Living with Hope – Hope is one of the three Christian graces from 1 Corinthians 13. It is one of the bedrocks of the faith. Hope is not wishful thinking, ‘let’s hope it happens.’ Christian hope is based on four fundamentals: 1. Confidence in the promises of God; 2. What John Piper called, ‘hope is faith in the future tense.’ That is, it trusts in God’s continuing commitment, in Christ, to His people; 3. It is a calm assurance in the grace & goodness of God; 4. & the reality that He does love me.

5. Trusting in Christ – At the heart of the Gospel message is the call to believe in Jesus & to follow Him daily. He is the most trustworthy person we will ever meet. What He says He can do, He can do – what He says He will do, He will do – when He saves, He saves. He is all He said He is, & He loves us completely.

6. Applying God’s Grace – Grace is one of the most magnificent blessings. It is the loving goodness of God made available to us in Christ. We do not merit His grace, & yet, He makes it available to us – we have to come boldly to Him & obtain His grace. It is a powerful, life-transforming blessing. It is by Christ’s grace we are saved, & it is by His grace that we are kept & preserved in the faith. Grace flows from Jesus’ finished work at the cross – therefore it is linked to the promises & benefits of the New Covenant. Ask Him for the grace you need today.

7. Living by the Law of Love – Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 22:35-40. It is the greatest life enriching principle there is. It is abiding in Christ that releases God’s love into our lives. His love is not an emotional reaction – it flows from the very centre of His being. God is love. As we trust & obey Him, His heart of love opens more & more to us. The more we experience His love the more we desire to abide in His love. His love drives out fear & replaces it with a calm assurance that He really cares. It enables us to love others truly as He calls us to. Ask God to be filled with His love each & every day.
God Bless
Pastor Leslie

 


1st May 2018

Good afternoon everyone


Dealing with Sadness:

 

The government is focussing a lot on measuring happiness as a way of gauging the nation’s wellbeing. Happiness is a wonderful emotion. In fact, the biblical word ‘blessed,’ can be properly rendered as ‘happy.’ ‘Blessed are the pure in heart’ can just as properly be rendered, ‘happy are the pure in heart.’ ‘Happy are the merciful’ – ‘happy are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness.’ Linking a person’s wellbeing to how happy they are feeling leads to the question of how can we measure someone else’s happiness? A town or city’s happiness? The general happiness of the nation? Although there are criteria that can be used to assess how a person feels about their area, such as how safe it is, how content they are, how fulfilled they feel, how their children are developing etc? These assessments are ultimately subjective, measuring feelings; unless they are linked to actually measureable statistics about that area, it is possible to end up with skewed results.

 

I was listening to a Radio 4 programme last night which was exploring the history of emotions & the words we use to express our emotions. One of the things that came out of that was that until the 20th Century, sadness was thought to be an important indicator about the level of a person’s wellbeing. Sadness was actually encouraged because it was thought that living with sadness brought a better, more balanced outlook on life. It was thought that sad people were less flaky, less liable to mental ill health, less likely to become unbalanced when facing suffering or terrible news. In fact, possessing a sad outlook on life was lauded as indicating a reliable, well balanced individual. I wonder what Social Media would make of that, or those Hollywood movies that present sadness as the opposite of a good life.

Going back to the biblical word, the Greek for bless was Makarios & the Hebrew, Barak. This carried the idea of receiving an inheritance, or receiving something good. In the context of the Beatitudes, in Matthew 5, ‘happy are those who know they are poor or impoverished in spirit & realise their need for Christ,’ the blessing is the opening of the door into the Kingdom of heaven. ‘Happy are those who mourn over their sin,’ the blessing, ‘they will be comforted;’ & so it continues. It is really interesting that these first two Beatitudes seem linked to difficult emotions & experiences; in fact, it could be argued that all nine of the Beatitudes are linked to experiences & emotions that are difficult, or at least require self-denial & surrender to the principles of God’s Kingdom.

 

Considering this theme a little more, the Bible extols the virtues of those who are sorrowful for their sins. 2 Corinthians 7:10, NIV, ‘Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation & leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.’ Sorrow is a feeling or emotion of deep distress; & yet, when God’s Spirit produces it within us, it leads to repentance, a turning to Christ seeking forgiveness & turning away from our pre-Christ lives. Being sad at the state of our lives, or because of the absence of God from our lives, is part of the ‘sorrowing’ process of conviction & challenge by the Spirit that can lead to salvation. Nevertheless, ‘worldly sorrow produces death.’ It doesn’t lead us to Christ – it buries us in despair, sadness, depression & misery without the hope of eternal life. This doesn’t bring spiritual life, but reinforces spiritual death; it can also produce physical illnesses which harms our wellbeing.  

 

I think there are three things I want to highlight as I close: 1. Being sad isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be part of a process of salvation or spiritual renewal when used by the Spirit as part of our sorrow over the present state of our lives. 2. Although society considers sadness a negative emotion, & when it is part of worldly sorrow it certainly can be, it can also be a positive emotion driving us forward into a deeper & more considered, Christ-honouring spiritual walk. 3. It can also be used by God to deepen our prayer lives as we look, with sadness, at the state of many people’s lives outside of Christ. It is not that they may be poor in worldly terms, but they certainly are poor in God’s eyes.


God Bless
Pastor Leslie



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