Archive blog entries 12 2017

30th December 2017

Good afternoon everyone


12 Days of Christmas:

 

First of all, thank you to everyone who sent Christmas cards & gifts to Joan & myself – we are grateful & blessed by your generosity. We wish each one of you a blessed, fruitful & rewarding 2018.

It is one of the strange anomalies of how we celebrate Christmas that we celebrate when we should be reflecting, repenting & preparing our hearts - & get grumpy, tired & lethargic when we should be celebrating. The world has reordered Christmas to such an extent that Advent, the four week period up to Christmas, which is meant to be a solemn & soul cleansing time, is now discounted. Instead it is a time for parties, gluttony & mad shopping. Traditionally, Advent is the period, just like Lent before Easter, when Christians are to get rid of some of the baggage that has accumulated during the year, & properly confess & repent of those easily besetting sins. Advent, actually, is all about the Second Coming of Jesus, not His first Incarnation, coming as a baby in Bethlehem.

 

The Second Coming of Christ as King of kings & Lord of lords is drawing near. In the midst of the world’s celebrations, fleshy focuses & nostalgia – Christians have the chance to really point to the reality of His soon coming by how they live & approach Christmas in the four weeks of Advent. Perhaps it is something to consider as we move forward into 2018, could we do Advent, individually & as a Church, differently in order to proclaim the certainty of Christ’s Second Coming? Could we come to Christmas Day 2018 so light & free in Christ because we have effectively dealt with a lot of the baggage that accumulates, & because we have properly searched for the sins under the guidance of God’s Word & Spirit & nailed them to His Cross?

 

This would be a difficult challenge because we are so conditioned by the world that we naturally conform to its pattern for the Christmas period, instead of being transformed & renewed by the Spirit & Word. Traditionally, the Church began its celebrations on Christmas Day & held 12 days of celebration up to January 5. January 6 then was Ephiany celebrating Christ’s revelation to the rest of the world, the visit of the Three Wise Men from the East, & His later baptism by John the Baptist. The twelve days were the darkest period outside in the Northern Hemisphere, but the brightest inside because of the rejoicing that the Saviour came as a babe at Bethlehem. Instead of the focus being so much on family & children, as the world pushes on us, it was on Christ & His salvation & how that then spoke to & influenced our families & children about faith & discipleship.

 

Finally, it may be because of the Prince who reigns in the world, Satan, a dark & destructive prince – that this period of the year after Christmas Day, for me, is often the hardest with the greatest spiritual battle. I remember a good Christian friend saying that, for him, it was so. I don’t know about you, but I find that the world’s pull is strongest at this time of year. It seems, again maybe only for me, that the powers of darkness are exalted & especially vicious as they seek to turn people’s attention away from Christ. May God sustain us, strengthen & give us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen


Pastor Leslie


19th December 2017

Good morning everyone
Quiet on the Inside:

It is one the biggest claims of Eastern Mystical practices such as Yoga, that certain meditation practices produce a calm & peaceful state of mind. They seek to elevate the person into an enhanced state of consciousness which transforms one’s outlook on life & removes unhealthy baggage. For Buddhists, the ultimate goal is a transcendental state known as Nirvana wherein the person is freed from the cycles of life to experience fullness of life. Alcohol, certain drugs & tobacco all are claimed to help relax the mind & calm the person. Large sums of money are invested by pharmaceutical companies in the pursuit of producing prescription drugs which help alleviate stress & bouts of profound sadness. The goal, whether from Religions, Gurus or Clinicians, is to help the individual navigate from stress, the pressures of life, from struggling with life’s busyness to a place of inner tranquillity & peace.

What does quiet on the inside look like? Many people struggle with a loud, undisciplined inner voice. This contributes to a hectic, chaotic & often troubled outlook on life. It is hard to be disciplined in the things we do if we are not disciplined on the inside. It is difficult to be disciplined on the inside if we have not got the knowledge or tools to transform the inner life. For me, quiet on the inside includes these three things: 1. At peace with God through Christ, with yourself & with the world around you; 2. Living in a place of inner rest de-stressed & not driven into panic by adversity or trouble; 3. Having a joy-filled heart & mind. These three states of being, the Bible teaches, are only truly possible in Christ. Other religions seek for the transformation of the person by religious practice or duties; Gurus by adherence to their teachings; Clinicians by counselling, medication & behavioural changes. Both of these seek to address the person as is; it is only the Bible that tells us that these approaches will ultimately fail because they do not address the central human problem – separation from God because of Adam & Eve’s Fall, the sin which separated every human being from a living relationship with Father God.    

The Bible teaches that when Adam & Eve sinned, the human spirit no longer was alive to God, thus dead to God & the things of God. In this sense the open & full relationship with God was ended. Instead the human spirit is open to death & decay, the realm Satan inhabits. When a person repents of their sin, calls out to Christ for salvation & trusts in Christ, his or her spirit is born anew entering into a living relationship with God through Christ. This is all based on the New Covenant which Christ ushered into being by His life, death, Resurrection & Ascension which promises a new spirit, heart & mind which are open to God & His ways. This also then begins to affect the soul which is opened to the renewing work of grace which happens because of the Spirit of God has taken up residence living within, & the renewing work as we read & digest God’s word. The soul is the place I want to focus on now:

I believe there are four parts to the soul. It is our soul that ties us to humanity. In order to be truly quiet this work of sanctification, being set apart as holy for God, needs to be flourishing in: 1. Relationships: There can be a lot of noise & heat in our relationships, but little quietness & dignity. If we are not at peace with ourselves, then it is hard to live peacefully with others. It is much easier to love our neighbour & be a good neighbour if we are secure in the love of Christ, & love ourselves. The triangle is very real – loving God, loving oneself, loving others. When all three are functioning as they should then there is a synergy which creates a circle of life & peace. 2. Mind: The human mind is a dominate part of who we are. When the mind is unruly, ill-disciplined & easily affected by external factors, then it can be filled with confusion, doubt & unbelief – three of the most destructive states. When the mind is being renewed in God’s word, filled with worship, thanksgiving & praise, then it is still, peaceful & believing.

3. Emotions/Heart: Proverbs 4:23, ‘Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.’ What we focus on quickly finds its way into our hearts. However, what is already in our hearts will reveal itself. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34-35, ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.’ 4. Will: The human will is prone to be rebellious against God & His will for our lives. Peace on the inside happens when our will is submissive to the Lordship of Christ.


God Bless
Pastor Leslie

 

11th December 2017

Good afternoon everyone
One Another.....

This morning was the first time I have cancelled Church as a minister. I have always been of the opinion that as people will go out of their way to get to work, we shouldn’t make church less important than work. The writer of the book of Hebrews, 10:24-25, ‘Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love & good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.’ People thinking that they can do without Church, ‘meeting together’ is nothing new. The writer wants to reinforce the need to consider one another & encourage each other in the faith, & in the need for fellowship together. It is the very human interactions within a Church which God often uses to stimulate us in spiritual things & in keeping on following Jesus.

I love the fact that the writer highlights ‘one another;’ this is not selfish – consider only my own needs, nor humanist altruistic – an unselfish concern for others. No, again & again the NT writers wrote about caring for ‘one another:’ John 13:34-35, ‘So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.’ It is regarding the work of grace in my life, being strengthened in Christ as a whole-life worshipper & disciple which equips me to truly love & care for others. So many care unselfishly for others out of an inner need or even brokenness. This type of care more often than not is primarily meeting ‘my need’ rather than the true need of the other. It is trying to love another when I do not love myself. Jesus calls us to ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’

In order to ‘love one another,’ ‘pray for one another’ (James 5:16), ‘encourage & build up each other’ (1 Thess 5:11), ‘Love each other with genuine affection, & take delight in honouring each other’ (Rom 12:10), ‘Be hospitable to one another without grumbling’ (1 Peter 4:9), we need to be truly secure in Christ & seeking to enact His lordship throughout every area of our lives. If this is the case then Galatians 6:2 becomes truly possible without consuming my identity in Christ, ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.’ I cannot take the responsibility for the burden, but I can share in it by supporting, praying & helping when appropriate in the Spirit.

Back to the snow & my previous life as a farmer: Like all farmers I had to go out in all weather conditions to feed & water livestock – the right thing to do to care for each animal. There were some incredibly hard, cold days on the farm. When water pipes froze, very rarely, it meant drawing water from a river to ensure that they didn’t die of thirst. Getting large articulated bulk lorries in with animal feed was another headache. We lived on rural untreated roads & sometimes had to pull in the lorries by tractor. There were periods of prolonged severe snow & frost. As we had batches of sows giving birth to baby pigs every week, we needed the space for them to farrow, give birth. Thus we also needed the fattened pigs going to the abattoir each week to allow all the movement from one stage to the next – the pigs were roughly four weeks with their mothers, four weeks in the next house, moved to the next stage house for another four weeks before moved to spend eight weeks or so in the finishing houses. This was a weekly cycle that happened 52 weeks of the year – after all, it is what farmers do. Christians meet together, worship together & love one another – after all, it is what Christians are called to do...


God Bless
Pastor Leslie

 

 


3rd December 2017

Good evening everyone

Generosity of Spirit.........

In the sermon series on Biblical Stewardship, I have highlighted a number of principles:

1. Ownership – God is the Creator & owns everything. Psalm 24:1, NLT, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, & everything in it. The world & all its people belong to Him.’

2. Enough – We are to pursue Christ, not consumerism nor materialism. Having Jesus is everything & being filled with Love in the Spirit & being obedient to God’s Word leads to a fullness & largeness of life.

3. Godly Contentment – In Christ we already have everything: peace with God, a right standing before Him & a saving, living relationship with Jesus.

4. Responsibility – What God entrusts to us is designed to be productive producing: i. either good fruit or evil fruit depending on the seed; ii. work as an aid to our growth in faith; iii. be a blessing to others; iv. bring honour & glory to Christ; v. to be used – not hoarded.

5. Accountability – We are stewards of what has entrusted to us, our talents, time & treasure, & will be held accountable for our management of these resources.

6. Reward – We will be commended & will receive honour & reward if we are faithful & do well, use our resources with understanding, pray for godly wisdom, are dutiful & diligent, & Christ honouring.

7. Sowing & Reaping – Whatever seed you sow, will be reaped. Sow to the flesh & you will reap a carnal harvest – sow to the Spirit & reap blessings in Christ. Live with an open hand & an open heart creates a river of life – be a river of life not a reservoir.

8. A Faithful Giver – 1 Timothy 6:17-19, ‘Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud & not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works & generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.’ When we trust in the generosity of God & live with a generous spirit we can overcome the inclination to hoard our blessings, & we learn to value ourselves by Him who owns us, Christ Himself – not by what we possess.

I like what Rick Warren writes, http://pastorrick.com/devotional/english/full-post/four-heart-attitudes-for-giving, ‘The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:7, ‘You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully’’ (NLT, second edition). This verse talks specifically about four key heart attitudes you should have when you give:
1. Give thoughtfully. Don’t give impulsively. The most spiritual kind of giving is when you think about it & pray about it & make up your mind about it. Why? Because we plan anything that’s important in our lives. God wants your giving to be important & meaningful in your life.
2. Give enthusiastically. Don’t just say, ‘I have to give! If I don’t give God’s going to hit me with lightning or something.’ Give because you know God’s going to do something big in your heart when you become a generous person.
3. Give voluntarily. Any time you’re pressured by a person to give, don’t give. God’s not going to bless it anyway. But every time you feel challenged by God to give, you’d better give.
4. Give cheerfully. Give with joy! One of the Greek words for offering is the word ‘hilarious.’ God wants you to enjoy giving to Him & to others.


God Bless
Pastor Leslie


 


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