Minister’s Blog, Sunday 2nd April, 2017

We’ve been looking at discipleship over this Lent with teaching and group study in the week and the same themes on a Sunday in the services.  This week was Passion Sunday and the discipleship theme was “Tests of Disciplehip”.  This was my Sunday message…

Key text: Luke 9: 51-62

Also:  1 Kings 19: 19-21; Luke 18:31-34

My colleague and I were at Boothville Primary school to do an Easter assembly this week.  Looking at “sacrifice”, we told the story of the Brownlee brothers, both racing a triathlon last year.  Younger brother, Johnny was in the lead but then collapsed coming down the home straight. Alistair sacrificed his own opportunity to win, helping Johnny finish ahead to keep his brother’s hopes of the world championship alive.  As well as sacrifice, it struck me that triathletes need a lot of determination and commitment to train for and to run, swim, cycle and eventually finish the race!

Luke 9: 51-62 is framed by Jesus “setting his face”, resolutely for Jerusalem.  He will not be distracted or put off by challenges on the way.  He is committed and he is determined to get to the finish.

On his journey Jesus meets three would-be disciples and initially, most of us would feel that perhaps Jesus deals rather harshly with each one.  The first one is announcing quite openly that he WILL follow Jesus, and the other two are only thinking of their family… it seems.

They key to this is in John 2:25 which tells us Jesus ‘knew all about people.  No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart’.  So what happens here with these three is that Jesus sees into the heart and challenges each one in turn.

An Impulsive volunteer

First up was a “too quick” impulsive volunteer.  He was a would-be disciple but hasn’t really considered the cost.  We’ve been seeing on our Lent course at Emmanuel, Jesus is always careful to be totally honest with people – even when it’s a bit brutal.  Leaping in too quickly without having really considered the consequences can lead to early failure and falling away.  Think of the parable of the sower or perhaps of Peter and his denial, and here Jesus challenges about the cost of following as his disciple, to enable deeper consideration and encourage full-on commitment.  “Do you really want to be my disciple?”

Oswald Sanders points out that ‘There is a cost to loyal discipleship, but there is also assurance of abundant compensation.  It is impossible to out-give God.  We may lose in material things but never in terms of joy and fulfilment here and eternal bliss hereafter.’

A Reluctant Conscript:

If the first man was too fast, the second is too slow!

Matt 8:21 tells us this man is already a disciple!  It seems he has responded to Jesus call to follow but with some reservation.  This disciple asks to first bury his father which seems very reasonable, and Jesus’ response rather unsympathetic.

During a visit to the holy Land, Sir George Adam Smith, a noted expositor, heard a man use exactly the same expression.  He inquired about it and discovered that there was no literal funeral involved at all.  The father was alive and well, but it was a local saying in common use that really meant “Let me attend to my family interests, my home affairs first.”  He was effectively telling Jesus that his discipleship was of only secondary importance.

For this disciple Jesus is one of his interests in life but not necessarily the top priority – “at my convenience” whereas Jesus is saying there is nothing more important, more urgent than the cause of God’s kingdom and the gospel.  The call is to leave behind expectations and duties of others and put God’s interests first.

The Half-Hearted Volunteer:

“I will follow you Lord, but first…”

Again, the third man’s request doesn’t seem unreasonable, to say “Goodbye”, but looking a bit closer and trusting Jesus discernment of human character, this one like the previous, has something of a “me first” sound to it.  And again Jesus gives him a full-on challenge.  “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” v62

What no second thoughts, ever Jesus?!

From the challenge Jesus gives, it seems to be about this man’s priority, that his heart was at home and not with Jesus.  Jesus could see that he would soon be looking back to home, maybe home-sick, and then turning back.  Certainly the challenge comes in terms of looking back, or not looking back.  For this man the call of Jesus is to leave the security of home and family behind and trust fully in Him.

Jesus’ reference to ploughing may well be about another calling a long time ago from Elijah to Elisha -1 Kings 19:19-21

Elijah threw his cloak over Elisha’s shoulders as a sign of his calling, and then strangely enough Elisha too wants to go and say goodbye to his family!  But the underlying motive is very different here.  Where Jesus saw an avoidant compromise kind of a thing in a would-be disciple, Elisha wants to fully commit.  He made a sacrifice to God of his plough and his oxen and, with nothing left to go back to, he set out and committed to following Elijah.  He literally burned his bridges behind him!

The whole backward pull thing is a strong one, particularly in our culture where we comparatively have so much.  So many things can pull us back from following Jesus: it can be earthly relationships, material possessions and prosperity, other comforts and stuff we indulge ourselves in, taking the easier path rather than resist temptation and struggle with self-denial – all sorts of things that pull us back into worldly ways and away from Jesus.  It can be so hard.

And so we find ourselves back where we started today, with Jesus who set out resolutely for Jerusalem.  Today is Passion Sunday and our thoughts turn to focus all the more on Jerusalem too.  We know what’s coming, and Jesus knew what was coming – he told his disciples very clearly on a number of occasions:

Luke 18:31-34 …

31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.’

Jesus tells them very clearly what will happen, he knows!  It won’t be easy, it’s not just to die, not a quick and painless sacrifice, put to the sword in a moment or an honourable execution.  No!  The whip reminds us that Jesus suffered horrendous torture, as well as hateful lies, defamation of character and a travesty of justice before he went to a slow, truly painful death on the cross… And he knew it was coming, he told them so…
Yet he set his face, continued to move with determination toward Jerusalem.  For Jesus there is no putting his hand to the task and then looking back.

Surely, He could have turned back, even when they had hold of him and were beating him, even when the nails were being driven into his arms and his feet: He is the Son of God he could have stopped them, turned back, even then… surely!  But He didn’t.  And where they didn’t see it, where they didn’t understand, Jesus did, and through Scripture we see it too.  Colossians 2:14 tells us: 

“He cancelled the record that contained the charges against us.  He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.

The reason that Jesus didn’t put his hand to the plough and then turn back was because he saw our record, the list of all our failures.  He knew the price of those sins was death; He knew the source of those sins was you [and me], and… since He couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without you, [He kept his hand to the task and] He chose the nails. (Max Lucado quote: “I Forgive You” – He Chose the Nails)

The challenge and the encouragement of Jesus’ call to discipleship for us, is to commit fully and to trust ourselves fully to him for the rest our lives and all eternity.

…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:2-3

Phil

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Sunday 16/10/2016

Persevering in Prayer – Luke 18: 1-8

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.

The point of this parable is given to us right at the beginning!  We should always pray and not give up.

It’s always important to try to get as much of the context of the time and place that Scripture is addressing originally.  So here we need to remember that a widow is likely a woman without much means or opportunity to earn anything.  Widows were among those, with orphans and foreigners, whom God told Israel in the Law needed to be especially cared for. Culturally she is powerless.

When the judge says “she may wear / beat me down”, it is quite an aggressive, strong word that is used, usually in the context of giving somebody a black eye!  It is a robust, persevering campaign by this powerless widow.

From our own experiences of seemingly unanswered prayers we could easily get the wrong idea from Jesus’ parable.  It sounds a bit like this is about prayer being hard work because you have to keep on badgering God for an answer: “he is pretty busy after all, and he probably doesn’t want to help me more than he helps anyone else which would be unfair, especially as I don’t deserve it anyway...”  We could tie ourselves up in all kinds of knots about God being reluctant to answer our requests in prayer but that’s not it at all.  No!  It’s a contrast!

If we look quickly to the other place in Luke where Jesus teaches about praying – Luke 11 – Jesus tells a different parable but with pretty much the same key point – persevering in prayer – and the reluctance is a total contrast with God’s attitude to us when we come to him in prayer.  Jesus concludes:

11 “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12 Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

You remember a while ago Vicky gave testimony about the “how much more” of God’s love.  Well this parable is a contrast and it is about the “how much more” of God the Father’s love.  God is ready, willing and able to answer our prayers and wants us to pray.

In the verses immediately before Jesus give further encouragement of God’s willingness to answer prayer and yet the need to persevere – Luke 11: 9-10:

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. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

And that’s all really encouraging but it does still leave us with a bit of a puzzle: if God is so willing, then why do we need to work so hard to get a result, to get an answer to our prayers. Why do we need to be encouraged to always pray and never give up?!

Let’s go back to the “Beginning”! Turn with me to Genesis 1… v27-28

When God was creating the world, He made human beings male and female in His likeness and He said to them:

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

Genesis 1:27-28 NLT

This is God’s original design, that we govern and reign over the Earth – we’ve been put in charge.  God didn’t give away ownership of the Earth, but he did assign responsibility of governing it to humanity.  Isn’t that awesome!  Astonishing!  Why would He do that?!

I think it was because of His great love, because He wanted a family – ‘be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth’ and He communed with them, “walked with them”, and He chose to include us at the heart of His plans and His work so He gave us full say-so in the “family business”, total commitment, everything on Earth run through His sons & daughters, success or failure…

“God chose to run everything on earth through humans, not independent of them, even at the cost of becoming one of them” – Dutch Sheets, “Intercessory Prayer”

So returning to our subject, prayer is about our relationship with God and with the earth and it is up to us whether we invite God to work or not.  And it seems that the default is “not” which means we need to ask.

James 4: 3

Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

Remarkably, James says to a Christian church, you don’t have because you don’t ask God!  They’re so caught up in themselves that they haven’t even thought to turn to God in prayer or ask for his help at all!  How tragic if we as God’s people, with all His vast power and grace at our disposal, try to do it all in our own puny strength and don’t even open the door to God’s help through prayer.  We need to pray because God has given us the authority, the “say-so” over the earth and what goes on, because God has so much more to offer!

Toward the end of his letter, James writes some more about prayer in Ch5:

16 …The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. 17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

In v16 the word translated “earnest” or “fervent” actually means “without ceasing”, persevering if you like. And I chose our Old Testament reading to give us a bit more detail on that.  In 1 Kings 18, God having defeated the prophets of Baal, Elijah senses that it is time for the rain God has already promised to send, to come and he begins to pray. God has already promised it, so why pray? 

Again we need to look a little closer to understand our context.  In v42 it says Elijah bowed low and prayed with his face between his knees.  This is the position of a woman in that culture giving birth.  Remembering what we have already said about God choosing to work through people, what we seem to have here then is the “birthing” of God’s promise of rain through the prayers of Elijah.  And it was a labour!  Seven times Elijah sent his servant to look but nothing visible happened until the seventh time.  If Elijah had just done a quick “churchy” 2-minute prayer, once and walked away, would it have still rained?  Not sure but I doubt it.  Our praying is not just about inviting or permitting God to do his work on earth, it is also about joining with him in carrying it through to earthly reality, ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.  Sharing in the labour through prayer.

There is so much more to say about all this but hopefully this helps you have some further encouragement and understanding about why Jesus told them a parable to show that we should always pray and not give up.

Phil

—o0O0o—

Sunday 2/10/16

Philippian encouragement

At this time we don’t suffer persecution at the level of being thrown into prison for speaking about or worshipping Jesus.  In other parts of the world Christians do still suffer prison, torture and death for their commitment to Christ but most of the opposition we encounter is with thoughts and ideas, with attitudes, our own or others. 

There are loads of mistaken, emotionally negative wandering thoughts we can fall into ourselves or by listening to the enemy’s whispers.  As we see modelled in Genesis, Satan can whisper niggling doubts into our thought processes and get us doubting God against what God tells us in his word.  He will pick the ones that he thinks from observation will target your weak points.

Paul’s main aim in writing to the Philippian church seems to have been to encourage them.  He gives all kinds of positive truths about being in Christ sharing his own discoveries and experiences in suffering.

Here are some things that some of us sometimes have believed to be true but really prove to be either false or, even more subtle, half-truths that then undermine our faith as a result:

One really key thing is our identity as Christians

“I am a sinner saved by grace…”
Ok this is true except that if you believe you’re still a sinner, then what will you expect to do? 
It suggests that despite having come into Christ by faith we haven’t really moved on, keeping one foot in the old camp and it carries the implication that “I’m always going to fall to temptation.”  It’s actually a half-truth.  The other half is that you are now a child of God.
Do you actually believe that you’re a child of God as John tells us at the beginning of his gospel:
12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

Being reborn is a pretty radical change don’t you think?!  So actually an EX-sinner, but now a child of God, redeemed by the grace of God in Christ.  If this is so then how does this affect our attitudes and expectations, the way you think and act?

Phil 3:20 – “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Saviour.

Phil 2:12-13 – ‘Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Phil 1:27 – “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ….

Eph 2:8-10God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

When you become a Christian all your problems are over.’ Whoever told you that didn’t get it from Scripture. How easy would it be for Paul, the Philippians or Christians today, to be sucked in to the idea that if God is good and if He loves you why is he letting you suffer persecution?  Maybe He’s not so faithful… He obviously doesn’t love you after all… and then slowly drift away from trusting God in everything.

“And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.”  Phil 1:12

It isn’t that our problems will go away, no.  If they opposed Jesus, the kindest, most loving, bravest, most honest, godly person to walk this earth then it will likely happen to us too, not because God doesn’t care or is weak, but because of the brokenness in this world and the choices other people make and their rebellious hearts against God.

Phil 4:12-13 – “I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Paul said, ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed’ (2 Cor 4 vv. 8-9).

‘If you’re having problems you must be unspiritual or doing something wrong.’ If we’re really seeking to follow the Lord, then often the opposite can be true. Satan’s attack may be evidence that he is bothered about you, that you represent a threat to the kingdom of darkness, and that you’re actually doing the will of God. And the greater the attack, the greater the level of blessing that awaits you beyond it, so keep going.

“And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.”
Philippians 1:12

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Phil 4:6-7 NLT

Paul also writes, ‘Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies [and tricks] of the devil’ (Ephesians 6:10-11 NLT).

Rejoice! It’s a choice!

About the strongest theme throughout Philippians is that of joy and rejoicing – and this is from a guy in prison, on death row!!

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.”

Phil 4:4-5

Paul has prayed for them with joy (1:4), rejoiced that the gospel is being preached even by those with ulterior motives1:18, shown confidence that he will help them experience more of the joy of their faith1:25; asked that they make his joy complete by loving one another2:2; said determinedly “I will rejoice even if I lose my life!” and told them they should rejoice too 2:17-18; asked them to welcome Epaphroditus with joy 2:29;

He tells them: “Whatever happens rejoice!” 3:1;
“Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.”

Choosing to rejoice in Christ safeguards our faith.

and then again in 4:4 “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.”

Our joy in Christ is a key part of our witness to others and we strengthen our joy and our faith remembering the Lord is coming back!  How often do you stop to be encouraged that Jesus will return and that will be a good thing?!

 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Phil 4:8 NIVUK

This is about what you feed on in your thoughts: whatever you feed will grow and converse. 

It’s really important that we don’t allow our feelings to rule our minds or our hearts and so our faith.  Instead that we choose to rejoice even in the midst of the most difficult times feeding our faith on the truth of God’s word.

Rejoice it’s a choice!

And a final word of Philippian encouragement for this morning…

Phil 1:6 – ‘I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

 

—o0O0o—

6th September 2016

Acts 6 – The choosing of the seven

It must have been incredibly exciting and hugely challenging to be part of the Christian church in those early days.  Immediately previous to the episode we’re reading today there have been two episodes, as well as others before that which threatened the life and growth of the church: 

There was another out-break of persecution by the high priest and Sadducees, who had commanded the apostles to never again teach in this man’s [Jesus’] name and Peter and the others had responded saying we must obey God rather than human authority…  They continued to preach and teach about Jesus.

Before that was the episode with Ananias & Sapphira who had attempted to bring corruption into the church by lying about their gift – Peter says they are lying to God.  And they are struck down by the Spirit – and not in a good way!

But each time the church leaders, the apostles, guided by the Spirit, were wise enough to recognise the situation and not be thrown off course but instead to continue obeying God’s call.  And after they resisted and stayed true, Luke reports fresh growth as new people come to believe and are brought to the Lord.

Now comes a third potential, and quite subtle tempting test, something on a different tack, one that is particularly relevant to our part of the world in general and to us – being busied out!  The apostles are doing good things, but even these are in danger of becoming a distraction from their specific calling.

READING: Acts 6: 1-7

With some passages it is tempting to see them as fill-ins or links between the main story and I have to confess I have tended to have that attitude toward this story.  But now I’ve looked a bit closer, I can see it is just as important as the rest of Scripture with something key to teach us.

It was a really important issue that arose, equally important in God’s law – ensuring the care of widows was part of what was given to Moses back at Mount Sinai.  We need to be careful not to hear this issue in the early Church as one role is better or more important than the other.  When the apostles say in v2 “we should not be running food bank we should be giving our time to prayer and teaching the word of God.”  They are not being superior or snooty about serving others, no!  It did not mean their food bank was less important, just different: a different calling to a different ministry, but a ministry just the same!  The apostles are simply seeking to be true to Jesus’ call to them.

We can see this more as the situation develops: the type of people they recommend and are looking to appoint v3 are to be well respected and full of the Spirit and wisdom – the kind of people you need for a ministry.

The church as the body of Christ misses out when we allow ourselves to get too narrow and begin talking in terms of being ordained as “entering the ministry”.  This affects our thinking and we start to think in terms of ministry as only really being about clergy and their role.

This week I’ve been ill for a few days and that’s why I only got around to writing this last night but most weeks I end up reaching the end of Thursday in serious need of a rest – Friday being a day off – and so I hope I have the energy and that nothing else runs across the day on Saturday so that I can put together a service with a word for Sunday.  And I know I’ve got into a bad habit with this and I have a natural tendency to be a last-minute person anyway, but I have been challenged by God about the issue of focus and distraction from my calling.  It has come up in my devotional reading, in my supervising of Haydon as a curate and now too as we consider the role of a new Team Rector and what we honestly expect of such a person.

I’m not wanting to blame anyone for the situation or saying I do it all – there are other people working very hard too – but I need to be telling people otherwise most people don’t know what really goes on in the week.  And as I say, I play my part in this, because I always want to rush in and fix things or help where it’s needed; I haven’t shared the need with you the wider church as well as I should and sometimes the clergy have held on to too much control and decision-making.  But Haydon and I recognise the need for change, to improve the structure of our church life and are trying to work on it.  We all need to work together to make our church body a spiritually healthier place where everyone can find, know and fulfil their ministry so that we can all grow in our knowledge and love for Christ and each other.

I had an email from someone a few days ago that started with talking about the summer holidays being over and things starting up again: things never slowed down for us.  During August there was the crisis with Boothville Community Hall threatened with closure; we had to project manage the installation of the new sign in step with tight timescales from the Centre Management and the usual hiccups you get, especially when it involves overnight installation with the road closure.  I was still having to deal with emails, texts and calls all through my first week of leave and Haydon had to put two man-days of his week into it too.  We desperately need a property team to help manage the building.

We were talking about it at Team Emmanuel on Wednesday night too.  The different teams are about people exercising their God-given role together.  And we need new people to help in the teams that support Sunday worship and our life together as Church. There are plenty of opportunities to serve God and to serve His Church in the various teams and we’ll bring that to you over the coming weeks.  Look at it this way: there are so many roles to fulfil and the God of the universe is offering, inviting, calling you to be part of his work, his Kingdom.  What a privilege!  What an honour to serve in a ministry of the one true God – whether it be the ministry of putting out chairs, the ministry of preparing and serving coffee or the ministry of managing the building or church finances, ministry teaching faith to our children or volunteering in the coffee shop or yes… our Food Bank or in leading in worship… or ministering the Word and the Sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  (If I didn’t mention your role it doesn’t mean that’s any less important!)  We all have our part to play and we all need each other to play our part.  And it seems to me, that this passage is teaching us that we also need to not be trying to play each other’s part.  I need you.  Haydon needs you.  The new Team Rector needs you… as much as you need us and you need each other.  What is God calling you to minister in His church?

Then as we return to the passage, to the experience of the early church of temptation and opposition from Satan as well as the religious authorities, we find that  when people step up and play their part, we see in v7 the church is healthy and continues to grow and even some of the opposition were converted.

We want our church to grow, to see new people coming to know and experience Jesus’ love for themselves, and the exciting thing is that it can and will happen as we each play our part, guided by the Spirit as He leads us.

End.

 —-o0O0o—-

End.

1st December – Advent Sunday

When Jesus comes back…

When Jesus comes back

When Jesus
comes back

Second Coming basics

Second Coming
basics

When Christ comes

As Christians we have great hope for the future, and motivation for how we live today, not least in our key belief that Jesus will come again.
Jesus himself taught us that we should always be ready.

Some people get obsessed with the idea of Jesus return, tying down in great detail exactly what will happen. There have even been those who have predicted the date when Jesus would come back and then been embarrassed. Others are sceptical concluding that it just isn’t going to happen, and many more, I suspect most of us, fail to pay enough attention to Jesus’ promise and his warning to be ready. We can’t be sure of all the details, there are plenty of unknowns: even Jesus didn’t know “when”, but there are things that we can be confident about, and that we need to take seriously as we seek to follow the Lord.

Jesus WILL come back.  His return is a certainty.  Christians have many different views on the details of how this will happen, but it is an agreed core teaching, part of our creeds, that Christ will return – Jesus says “when” not “if”.. Jesus told them of his coming again, and we can have confidence that this promise will be fulfilled.. ’If it were not true, would I have told you I will come again and take you to be with me where I am..’  Paul says to the Christians at Thessalonica, “since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.”  Jesus promised his disciples that he would be raised again to life, and the promise was fulfilled.  Actually when you think about it, we mark all the Old Testament prophecies that Jesus really fulfilled in his first coming, at Christmas.  Well we also have many prophecies regarding his return, his coming as King, and his own promise too.  Jesus himself told us he would return and we need to take him seriously, to believe him.
You can be sure Jesus will return.

Jesus will return personally as King, to complete the establishing of his kingdom, rule in peace.  He comes as king to claim his people for their own, to take us to be with him forever and we will be re-united with everyone else who has trusted in Jesus, it will be a party the like of which we have never seen; and our resurrection bodies will be a vast improvement on these mortal bodies, as radically different as the flower in full bloom is to its original seed.  And He will renew the heavens and the earth for us to live in with him forever in one long wonderful adventure beyond our wildest dreams.  We could go into all of this in a lot more detail but I want to look at another aspect of Jesus’ return, a bit that I suspect nearly all of us struggle with …

Jesus will return … to judge

Supreme Court Justice Horace Gray once informed a man who had appeared before him in a lower court and had escaped conviction on a technicality, “I know that you are guilty, and you know it, and I wish you to remember that one day you will stand before a better and wiser judge, and that there you will be dealt with according to justice
and not according to law.”

For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 5:10

This is the bit that really makes everybody uneasy, uncomfortable, the bit we don’t like to talk about. However Jesus himself and the Bible are quite clear that there will be a judgement, an individual calling to account for things said and done.
Christians and non-Christians will all be judged for our deeds.

But hang on, we need to rise above the discomfort and engage with this.  There are some serious questions to be asked.  Aren’t we Christians supposed to be forgiven through Jesus?  Do we really have to face the humiliation of our sins being revealed in public as well? How can that be right?  Why would God do that?
There at least two good reasons: Our reward, and God’s grace.

Our reward:In a number of places the scriptures talk about reward in heaven, and here in Matthew 24 we find it too.  The story goes the master leaves a faithful servant with responsibilities.  V46 ‘If the master returns and finds the servant has done a good job there will be a reward’. V47 he says he will ‘put the servant in charge of everything’, in other words increased responsibility.  It comes again in the parable of the talents, and in 1 Corinthians 3v13-15. There will be reward for the good things we have done! What we are discovering here is that while Christians know that we are saved by grace, we will also be rewarded according to our deeds.  And the reward of responsibility won’t be in any way burdensome, it will be an honour and a joy to serve in the perfect kingdom.

God’s Grace: Yes but Phil, what about the bad bits, everybody is still going to see all the mistakes and the worst of things as well as the good.  Mmm…  Yes that is a tough one.
This is where God’s grace comes in …

We believe that our forgiveness in Christ is permanent and so must still be effective after death and so must the truth of scriptures likes Romans 8:1 “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” ..and 1 Peter 2:6 “The one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” If these things don’t hold true, then it seems to me that the gospel doesn’t really work.  At this point I want to refer to a wonderful piece of thinking and writing by Max Lucado. In his book, “When Christ Comes…” about judgement he writes … ‘shame is a child of self-centredness. Heaven’s occupants are not self-centred, they are Christ-centred. You will be in your sinless state. The sinless don’t protect reputation or project an image. You won’t be ashamed.’ He suggests that our sins will be revealed for what they are: forgiven sins’ .  This will not be a measure of your sinfulness, but a measure of God’s grace – different focus!  As your sins are announced – as forgiven sins – everyone will marvel all the more at God’s grace.  No one will be the slightest bit interested that you did that and she did that because everyone will be too interested in the wonder of God’s grace in Christ, that he should forgive all that too!  Isn’t that amazing!

For those who have trusted and followed Christ the full glory and wonders of God’s grace will be revealed and His rewards will be unveiled.

But what about those who have not chosen Christ?  Again Jesus and other scriptures are pretty clear, although it might surprise you that Jesus mentions hell more than the rest.  A bit more from Max Lucado: ‘If there is no hell, then God is not just. If there is no punishment of sin, then heaven is apathetic toward the rapist and pillagers and mass-murderers of society. If there is no hell, God is blind to the victims and has turned his back on those who pray for relief. If there is no wrath toward evil, then God is not love, for love hates that which is evil.’ It is not that God sends people to hell, ‘The word people is neutral, implying innocence. Nowhere does Scripture teach that innocent people are condemned. People do not go to hell. Sinners do. The rebellious do. The self-centred do.’  Jesus story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 is perhaps most disturbing of all speaking of torment, pain and suffering, and it is forever.  However difficult this is to accept, pretending that it will all work out alright for everyone in the end goes against what the Bible and Jesus himself teach. ‘So how could a loving God send people to hell? He doesn’t. He reluctantly honours the choice of sinners.’

Conclusion

If this has set you thinking, as I hope it has, you may want to explore Max Lucado’s book, “When Christ Comes.”  I recommend it as good, clear, and very readable thinking on this subject.

For now we need to conclude by asking ourselves, “how do we apply this message?”

Firstly, to be grateful:  If you are “saved”, a believer trusting in Christ, you’ve been rescued.  Consider where you would have ended up without him, and all that he has saved you from.  Jesus went through hell so that you wouldn’t have to.  More than that he has planned a life more wonderful than you can possibly imagine in perfect friendship and intimacy with his loving Father.

Secondly, renew our efforts to reach the lost:  We cannot conveniently write hell out or keep it in the background, although I think we often try because that makes it is too uncomfortable.  We must face the truth full on that hell exists, and to face and understand hell is to pray far more earnestly and to serve far more diligently. 

Ours is a high stakes mission. 

This is the task above all, that our Master has set his servants to carry out faithfully,

making ready…

watching…

until he returns.

[6th October, 2013]

I first felt called to the ministry when I was 17 years old.  I even told my parents I wouldn’t need to finish my A levels because I wouldn’t need physics and maths as I was going into “The ministry”!  However, parental wisdom prevailed, I completed my A levels (less than 2 months later!) and then was really fortunate to spend a year at Capernwray Bible School getting to know my Bible.

Now I was sure that God would have a place in a church for me to become a minister but when I returned home that didn’t happen and I actually ended up in a clerical job at a local insurance company.  This developed into a career on their computer help-desk and into technical support with networks, eventually at management level.  In the meantime I also met my wife-to-be.  We got married, lost our first child when she was only 9½weeks old, knew the joy of three other healthy children, and other “school of life” stuff: company car, mortgage and all that.

It wasn’t until my mid-30’s that I suddenly recognised the renewing of God’s call to full time ordained ministry on my life.  Within the short space of a few days several key things all came together.  I had a conversation with a new colleague at work in which he said to me: “Phil, have you ever thought of becoming a vicar?  You’d be a really good vicar.”  I still don’t know whether he was teasing or serious but his words seemed to “hit me between the eyes”.  The following night at preachers’ training we only looked at three scriptures all evening: 1 Samuel 3 – the Lord calling the boy Samuel in the temple;  Mark 1 – Jesus calling the fishermen to leave their nets and follow him; and Galatians 1 – where Paul relates more of how Jesus called him personally as an apostle.  It really seemed God was saying something to me.

I shared all this with my minister, Michael, and he affirmed the sense of calling and advised me to make some notes so that I could give account later.  He also asked me what was the one thing that would hold me back.  I knew that I couldn’t do this without my wife’s whole-hearted support so we prayed that God would make it clear to her as well if it was right.  Sure enough a couple of days later we talked and she too recognised that this was God’s call and His timing. 

It was a major change of direction in our lives and the whole family, and God, in his grace, made it clear to us in several ways together what he was saying.

The Alpha Course offers a model to help us understand different ways that God guides us.  I’ve included it below.  It comprising 5 primary ways God guides each one being two words “C” and “S” – so a “CS”:

Commanding Scripture –
general, seek first the kingdom, love God, love your neighbour, go make disciples, live like Christ in the Spirit…
AND specific when a particular scripture “jumps out at you” (it comes to you – don’t go looking for it!).  Specific words and promptings from God don’t contradict general scripture!

Compelling Spirit – as we pray, through inner conviction, thoughts. (Don’t go with this one alone for big things!  God will make it clearer through several means) If it’s the Spirit He may well tell more than one of us the same thing to help make it clearer – Acts 13: 1-3.

Common Sense – we are allowed to use our brain and think things through!  Occasionally we have to contradict our earthly thinking, but this would generally be an exception and made quite clear by other signs.

Counsel of Saints – draw on wisdom of other Christians “older in the faith” with more experience.  Doesn’t mean get them to decide for us.

Circumstantial Signs – sometimes particular things do come together to point us in a certain direction.  These still don’t contradict scripture.  In calling to ordination the wider church also plays an important part to play in discerning God’s guidance.

That’s the 5 “CS”s – can you find them all in my testimony?

The key to experiencing God’s guidance really is building a good close relationship with Jesus in the everyday – listening to his voice, going out (the beginning of the day) and coming in (at the end of the day; following his lead throughout the day in general Christ-like living.  When God is calling for a major change, it is my experience that a number of the indicators above come together to make it clear.

May the Good Shepherd guide you.
May you hear and know his voice.
May you have the faith to follow where leads in the routine going out and coming in of daily life (John 10) and when the call is to something new and completely different.

God bless,
Phil

–/oOo\\–

[Sunday 22nd September 2013]

Being Like Jesus… 

Phil koala As Christians we all know we are meant to “be like Jesus”.  That’s lesson no.1 from Sunday School isn’t it?!  But is that what God wants of us and if so what does it really mean?  I believe it is exactly what God wants and plans for us and that He planned it that way from the beginning. But I don’t believe it is some “be good or else” command handed down to burden us from on high.

If we’re going to be like Jesus then what is the Jesus we are going to be like actually like.  Most people probably have their own idea of what Jesus was like but how accurate is that?  Is it Jesus or is it just what we think or would like Jesus to be?!  We need to get “the picture” right if we are going to avoid selling ourselves and Jesus short, and if we aim to truly be like Jesus.  So we need to ask: “What is Jesus like in the gospels?”  Here’s a few things I found…

What is Jesus like in the gospels?

  • A heart full of love for God, longing to spend time with his Father –
    Matt 6:6; Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42;
  • An overwhelming desire to be obedient to his Father’s will
    John 5:19
  • Faith in the goodness and rightness of God’s plans
    John 5:20
  • An inner peace that can withstand anything that life can throw against Him
  • Even assurance about death John 5:21
  • compassion and love for those around him especially the needy; Mark 6:34
  • honest and truthful… ‘full of grace and truth’ –
    a master of the art of gentle but firm

    Mark 10:21
  • A strong sense of justice
  • Not afraid to challenge hypocrites (religious)
    e.g. Matt 23:13; John 5:16ff
  • Not afraid to lay down the challenge – “Follow me”
    e.g. Luke 9:57-62
  • Courage to do God’s will despite his feelings
  • Courage to do God’s will despite suffering
    e.g. Mark 14:32-36
  • Purposeful – not distracted, or overly hurried
    e.g. Mark 1:37-38; Matt 16:21
  • Disciplined – made sure he found time to be with Father
    e.g. Matt 6:6; 14:13
  • Enjoyed sharing life with people
    e.g. Luke 15:1-2
  • Integrity, Authentic
  • Authority

… and this is just the start.  Read and study the gospels to see what other aspects of Jesus character you can find!

The Bible also tells us that Being Like Jesus…

  • Is the way we were always meant to be!

“Let us make human beings in our image, to be like ourselves.” (NLT)
Made in His likeness, male & female
Genesis 1:26-27…

  • Is what Jesus told us to do!

“For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
John 13:14-15

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
John 15:12

  • Is the way to a fulfilling life…

I have come that you may have life and have it to the full” – John 10:10

  • Is still the way God plans it to be…

what God is making us… in every part of our being.
“…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the full measure of the fullness of Christ.” –
Ephesians 4:13

 The key thing is that being Like Jesus is primarily a Relationship

The key thing is that being like Jesus is not a moral burden that God places on us so that we can be acceptable to Him – Jesus already made us acceptable to the Father through the cross.  Being like Jesus is about having such a relationship with Him that we behave and believe like Him.  What we need to do is let Jesus live his life in us by receiving and depending on his Holy Spirit.

Let Jesus live his life in you by receiving and depending on his Holy Spirit

At Emmanuel we encourage people to hold and live by the following values that we believe help us grow more like Jesus.  We encourage people to:

  • Make a declaration of faith in Jesus Christ through confirmation or believer’s baptism or equivalent from another tradition.
  • Make a commitment to grow in faith and a willingness to change, with God’s help, to become more like Jesus. We do this through personal prayer, Bible reading, house group – encouragement from others, sharing in worship as we work on our discipleship.
  • Honour God through the giving of our money: Guiding principle of the Tithe = 1/10thGiving first to God is the way of faith and brings our faith alive in a real way.
  • Serve God and each other with the spiritual gifts and the abilities God has given to us. 

Phil

Being Like Jesus powerpoint

Being Like Jesus PowerPoint

 

[Sunday 3rd March]

Jesus offers Living Water

The woman came to the well in the middle of the day when it was hottest and nobody else wanted to go or would be there.  She is clearly an outcast of her own community.  But Jesus speaks to her which immediately crosses gender, racial and the community’s prejudicial boundaries and the woman, surprised, asks how he dare speak to her.

They talk about the obvious – water, at a well – but Jesus has a deeper purpose in their conversation.  Having first asked her for a drink, Jesus then talks about a different kind of drink that he wants to offer.

Jesus says:
“If you only knew what God is offering…

You would have been the one to ask.” 
If only you knew…
How little we know of all the good things that God has to offer us and He is right there saying, “If only you knew, if only you could see… If only you would ask and let me help you!”

“If only you knew….”

Woman well with Jesus

Jesus, Our Hope Posters:
Samaritan woman by the well
Author/Artist:
The Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

“If only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me…

We need to ask so that we open ourselves to God’s gift, He won’t force it on us. Selwyn Hughes put it this way: “Asking is important for this reason: it tilts our soul in the direction of receiving.
Every Day with Jesus Jan/Feb 2013: Walking Free.

The woman points out that Jesus has no bucket and so is drawn a wonderful contrast between the laboured effort of seeking to satisfy ourselves in ways that only ever temporarily fulfil and accepting the life-giving water Jesus offers, allowing the Spirit to bubble up inside us like a spring of living water, nothing less than life in all its fullness for all eternity, life which we can only receive by the grace of God.

If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water… those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

Perhaps we should all make a habit of praying Paul’s prayer to know more of God’s love in Ephesians 3

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

May the life of Jesus bubble up in your life in ever increasing measure,

Phil

 

—/oOo\—

Phil photo2

Sunday 18 February 2013

This Sunday we were thinking about Temptation and particularly what it was about Jesus that enabled him to “beat” temptation.

One of my weaknesses is cakes and sweet stuff.  I love it and I find it so hard not to have just one, …and then maybe another one.  I always have enjoyed them and we all know that too much of that sort of thing is not good for your health.  Where I used to be able to eat what I liked and get away with it, those days are long gone and I have to watch my weight; all the more so because about 5 years ago I became a type 2 diabetic which means it is even more important that I don’t indulge.  And of course somehow, that makes it even more tempting! We all know what it is to be tempted and I’m pretty sure we all know what it is to give in and indulge temptation.

Hebrews 4: 14-16 tells us that Jesus ‘understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin.

You may be “tempted” to say “Well Jesus was different, he is God’s Son.”  While that may be true I’m not sure that it means he was less tempted than we are or that he had more power to resist than is available to us. That doesn’t seem to be what Hebrews 4 is saying. 

Actually if you look at Satan’s tempting of Jesus one of the things he starts out with is “IF”, trying to sow doubt, one of his original tactics, and it is “IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD” and it is a direct attempt to undermine, to twist and manipulate what God affirmed at Jesus baptism.  It is also a temptation to use, or misuse, his divine power.  Jesus refuses because he laid all that aside to live an earthly human life just like us (Phil 2: 5-11). It wasn’t directly in his divine power that he did all those miracles, performed so many healings and deliverances: he was fully human like you and me and he did all these things through the power of the Holy Spirit at work through a human being – Jesus.

He was always fully God but everything he did was in obedience to the Father and only in the power of the Spirit.  When he knew what they were thinking, it could well have been experience and reading people, and it was probably gifts of the Spirit, words of knowledge and wisdom.  When he was healing, it was the gift of healing, discerning of Spirits and deliverance.  It is because he ministered as a human being in the power of the Holy Spirit that he could send his disciples out to do the same things and say that even greater things would be done in his name.

He was filled with the Holy Spirit, at his baptism, and he was led by the Spirit – not the devil – who took him into the wilderness.
Note: being filled with the Spirit doesn’t mean an “easy ride”!
And after 40 days fasting and praying, then Satan came to tempt him.

Hebrews confirms ‘he faced all the same temptations we do…

He was tempted, but he did not sin. So what can we learn from Jesus about resisting temptation?

It seems to me that most of the work of resisting or beating temptation is actually pre-emptive work, preparation so that we avoid temptation where possible and we’re ready to stand up to it when needed.

Actually I think one of the best ways to beat temptation is to avoid it wherever possible.  Learn to recognise your weaknesses and, if you can, avoid situations that will play on your weaknesses. Learn from your mistakes, the times when you’ve fallen in the past and wherever, whenever possible just don’t go there!  Once the cakes are right there in front of you it’s a lot harder not to have one!

Life is not that always that clear-cut and we also have to be involved in the world, and sometimes we have to go into difficult situations and sometimes we can’t see it coming.  So it is important to be prepared even if we don’t know exactly what for.  How do we do this?

First thing with Jesus even though he was weakened physically, he must have been: he was filled with the Holy Spirit.  And he was filled with the Holy Spirit before he faced temptation.  Really important!

One of the prayers I often use includes these words:

Lord I acknowledge my dependence upon you,
and I ask You to fill me with Your Holy Spirit,
that I may say no to sin and yes to you.

Jesus faced the same temptations we do, and He did it in the strength of the Holy Spirit.  We can’t do this on our own, it’s like everything else in our life of faith, we need God and he gives us the grace to help us when we need it most.

One of the “sucker punches” we so easily fall for is to believe the half-truth that Satan spins us that we are too weak to stand up against temptation.  Maybe often we are but actually what the Bible tells us is that we have God’s help, his grace to give us strength and that we can most certainly stand up to any and every temptation in the strength of the Holy Spirit living in us.

The second thing to note about Jesus is that he had already got to know the scriptures.  He was human; he didn’t just come with a divine library installed that knew every word of the Bible from birth.  He worked at it, learned God’s word.  Then he was better able to call on it when he needed it in temptation.

As Christians we know that we are meant to pray and read our Bible everyday, (and we most of us have guilt for failing to do so). One very good reason why we need to is because the Bible is like our spiritual food and the Spirit is the living water to drink – similar to how we need to feed our body every day. 

Similarly, faith is like a muscle.  It can be strengthened with regular exercise and training; and it can grow weak and flabby if left unused.  We need to pray and seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit every day so that we develop spiritual strength and our ability to depend on him rather than just reach out in a panic when we are falling – which you can also do.  But better to be in a stronger place in the first place and have momentum and experience in following the Spirit and depending on his strength.

Go on being filled with the Spirit: it will really help when temptation comes.

Get to know God’s word: use a daily reading scheme, set aside even a small amount of time.  You can even get electronic versions now that you can access from your mobile or your iPad or PC!!  Learn a few verses that apply to your temptations and you find particularly helpful.  Memorise them or, if you have to, write them down and keep them handy. Use Heb 4:16 – “God has promised that I will find his grace to help me when I need it so I can resist and beat temptation.”

Thirdly, Learn to be aware of your thoughts. Tempting thoughts can come from our own human nature – Bible sometimes calls “flesh” – and also from Satan and his helpers.  Both come as thoughts.  Satan can’t read our minds but he can read our reactions.  He whispers in our ear and feeds us a sneaky thought and watches what we do, encourages us a bit further etc.  As soon as you have a tempting thought, recognise it, take hold of it and throw it out.  The longer you engage in the “debate”, the more difficult it is to resist and the more likely we are to fall.  I think this is partly what goes on when Peter tries to tell Jesus he doesn’t have to die and Jesus says “Get behind me Satan!”  There are two levels of temptation – Peter’s best intentions on a human level looking for an easier more comfortable way rather than God’s way; and Satan also trying to divert Jesus from obeying God’s purpose.  Jesus is quick to resist both!

2 Cor 10:5 Paul says “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  Literally give your thoughts to Jesus in prayer, challenge them with the truth of God’s word.

Avoid temptation – don’t go there!

Practice being filled with the Spirit every day

Get to know God’s word

Be aware and watch your thought life

Two practical things to finish with:

Also part of a daily prayer routine, put on the armour of God, clothe yourself in the life of Jesus, Lord be my truth, your righteousness Jesus, your peace wherever I go; Lord I trust in you to be my shield from the enemy and to fill my mind with your thoughts, my salvation, and let me use and spread your word. The Armour of God.

The other thing that tends to work is to remember that Jesus is always with you. So you can picture him sat or stood next to you in every situation, pray and talk to him, use his name out loud. It’s a lot harder to sin with Jesus there beside you watching and as he’s there you can ask him for help!

Pray on the armour of God

Remember Jesus is with you

And finally, if you do fall, and we all do sometimes, don’t wallow in that. Just like temptation, sin is best dealt with quickly.  And the promise is there:

[Jesus] our High Priest understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Sunday 18th November 2012

Jesus says “I am willing”… and he touched the man with leprosy and made him well

Our story this Sunday is about a man with leprosy. Lepers were not allowed to live with everyone else they had to live outside the village because leprosy is contagious and incurable. They had to live in their own places, growing more ill as the disease took over, with little comfort except perhaps a few fellow sufferers. They were isolated and shunned by their community.  Wouldn’t you just long for affection, acceptance, release, healing…

With this in mind we need to listen carefully and hear the full extent of what it means when it says in v41 ‘Jesus was filled with compassion. He reached out and touched the man… “I am willing.” he said, “Be clean!”… “I am willing.

Jesus pictured touching the leper

This phrase is on my heart, I believe from God, for you. “I am willing”.  There is warmth, compassion, even affection in Jesus voice as he says this.  Jesus wants to help us.  Jesus wants to heal you. Filled with compassion, Jesus said “I am willing. Be healed!” And the man was healed and just couldn’t help telling everyone.

A quick word about “keeping quiet”: it’s a good thing to tell people about the good things that God has done for us, and Jesus wants us to do that, and Jesus wants to help all those to come to him – “I am willing”.  So V44 is not about Jesus not wanting to help more people: it’s about him not wanting to be hijacked politically by those looking for a military revolutionary Messiah. That’s not his purpose and he knows it’s not the right time yet to be open about God’s purpose and plan – hence the keeping quiet thing.

Filled with compassion, Jesus said “I am willing. Be healed!”

Sometimes I think we allow our mistakes and our selfishness to make us feel isolated from God.  Then we need to hear again, fully, the inclusiveness of God’s forgiveness: Psalm 103 says God forgives ALL my sins, heals ALL my diseases, and in his letters John says God is faithful and will cleanse us from ALL wickedness. There is no sin that God can’t forgive, nothing too bad, not even yours! Jesus says “I am willing”. Maybe you need to hear afresh today Jesus’ authority and willingness to forgive sin; maybe you need to ask yourself if Jesus in his authority forgives you, what authority do you think you have not to forgive yourself?

So how are you going to respond to this?

I don’t know what it might be about but maybe there’s something that you think you are stuck with, that’s just how it’s going to be from now on, that it can’t be mended or healed.  Perhaps you’re in need of physical healing or maybe there is something, that “if you knew this about me you wouldn’t want to know me” thing, that makes you feel unacceptable, unforgivable, “dirty” or “unclean”, isolated, rejected or alone.

The picture we have of Jesus is that he healed most if not all, certainly many who came to him and this shows God’s heart toward us. I believe that we can expect Jesus to help all who come, and for the majority to experience full or partial healing.

I would strongly encourage you to bring it to Jesus for his help. I am confident that you will sense his gentle, accepting touch and hear the same compassion, warmth and affection in his voice as Jesus says to you “I am willng. Be healed.”

Phil

–/o0o\–



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