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Archive for February, 2011

Heaven and Hell

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Heaven and Hell

 

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Jesus speaking in (John 14v2-3): “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

What are heaven and hell like? Both are physical places where every person will be in one or the other. There is no biblical warrant for purgatory. It is either heaven or hell. Is heaven sitting on a cloud with a harp and angel for company as popular myth has it? Is hell going to be a place where people who knew each other in this life will meet and have constant parties? What does the Bible say about heaven and hell?

1. Hell

Characteristics:

Everlasting fire and punishment (Matthew 25v41-46); Constant and outer darkness (Matthew 8v12)

Everlasting destruction (2 Thessalonians 1v9); Lakes of fire (Revelation 19v20)

Prepared for:

Satan and his demons (Matthew 25v41; 2 Peter 2v4);The Wicked (Revelation 21v8)

Disobedient (Romans 2v8-9); Beast, his worshippers and the false prophet (Revelation 14v11; Revelation 19v20)

Those who reject the Gospel (Matthew 10v14-15);All those who are not written in the Book of Life (Revelation 13v8; Revelation 17v8)

Punishment will be:

Physical (Matthew 5v29-30);In the soul (Matthew 10v28)

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2. Heaven

As opposed to this Heaven has the following

 

Characteristics

Joy (Luke 15v7-10)

Rest (Revelation 14v13)

Peace (Luke 16v19-25)

Righteousness (2 Peter 3v12)

Service (Revelation 7v15)

Reward (Matthew 5v11-12)

Inheritance (1 Peter 1v4)

Glory (Romans 8v17-18)

 

Prepared for

Those recorded in the Book of Life (Malachi 3v16-18; Philippians 4v3); The Righteous (Matthew 5v20); Obedient (Revelation 22v14); Holy (Revelation 19v8)

Described as

House (John 14v2)

Kingdom (Matthew 25v34)

Paradise (2 Corinthians 12v2-4)

Holy City (Revelation 21v2)

Christian Disciples current attitude towards heaven is to be:

Desired (2 Corinthians 5v2-8)

Looked for (2 Peter 3v12)

Put treasure there now (Luke 12v32)

Heaven is

1. Prepared

Jesus promised us “I am going to build a place for you“ (John 14v1-4). Jesus has been working on it for almost 2000 years to this point in time!! Heaven is a beautiful place, prepared for all Christian Disciples, to live forever and ever with Jesus the King! When we get to heaven, Jesus has prepared a place for those who love Him, trust Him and obey Him as King. He is expecting us, wanting to lavish His love upon us. We know He loves us now, but that is only in part. When we are with Him eternally, we shall have the full picture of Jesus. He is with us now in Spirit, but then we shall be with Him physically and face to face.

2. Pure

Heaven is also a pure place (Revelation 21v1-4). Today we all suffer in some way. When our King returns, no more will man’s inhumanity to man be allowed. No more pain. No more death. No more suffering. No more sin.

Suffering of any kind leaves a scar or mark. Do you have physical, emotional or mental scars due to sickness, somebody else sinning against you or as a result of your own sins? Scars come as a result of human life. Yet, one day they will be gone!! A pure body we will have as His Disciples!! Perfection attained and it is to the glory of God and His majestic doing, that this will occur.

One glorious day, all suffering will be banished for those of us who love Him. Revelation 21v4 – “God will wipe away our tears. There will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying and no more pain, for former things have passed away.” God Himself, with your face in His hands, wiping away your tears. It is a place where “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5v22-23), are both permanent and universal. What a day, that will be when we will enter those gates, thanking Jesus, looking back at how we suffered. Suffered not only medically, but also for His sake under persecution. We will be able to say with likes of Jeremiah and John “It was worth it all. The sufferings I endured and overcame for the sake of Jesus, was all worth it, so as to be here and living with our King forever.” Persecution of Christian Disciples is only going to get stronger in the west. We are going to be shouted down for saying Jesus as the only way to Heaven. Yet we must persist.

3. Pearly gates

We enter heaven through giant gates of pearl (Revelation 21v21). A pearl is formed when an oyster gets an irritating grain of sand within its shell. It covers the grain of sand over with layers of mother-of-pearl until the irritation and the suffering is no longer felt. Now what do you think the suffering was that created these giant pearls that are the gates? I think they are to remind us of the cross and the incredible suffering and pain that Jesus endured, when God who is outside of time and not confined by space, became confined in a man’s body and stepped into history. People denigrate the cross. I have had people say to me that “the cross doesn’t matter” and “your religion is as good as mine thank you very much.” Still others have stated, “that all religions lead to heaven”.

However, the very gates of heaven tell us that it is only through the cross, by which we get to pass through and enjoy heaven in worship and service of God. Our King Himself has suffered for us on the cross, so that we may enjoy His company forever and ever, if we only trust and obey Him now and place our full faith in Him while we are here in this our temporal home on earth.

When the Christian Disciple first decided for Jesus and turned over their life over to Him, that is when eternal life with Him commenced. We should be yearning to be with our Master. Yet, we are to keep one part of our mind on Heaven and the other on the responsible work we have been set to do, here on earth. We are not to be so heavenly minded, that we are of no earthly use. Conversely, we are not to be so earth bound, that we are not tied to King Jesus in our eternal home.

Have you heard people say, that a loving God wouldn’t send anybody to an everlasting place of Hell? The God we serve as Christian Disciples doesn’t send anybody there. He has given everybody every opportunity to reject Hell and embrace Him. As Christian Disciples we are to evangelize, and tell others of the saving love of Jesus Christ on the cross. That is the Gospel we speak and live. Heaven is a great big place, and there will be room for everybody in this world to enter through one of those twelve gates! Look for Jesus coming again! Be expectant, for the King is coming back for us soon! Jesus is coming back as King of Righteousness to judge evil and reject those who rejected Him, whilst rewarding His disciples who patiently trust and obey Him.

For more to think about please do ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

 

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Q1. Read Luke 10v20. How can I help others to have their names written in Heaven?

Q2. Read 2 Peter 3v12. How am I looking forward to Heaven?

Q3. Read Revelation 2v7-11. What do I need to overcome?

 

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Sermon – Solomon has a night time visitor!

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God pays a visit to Solomon!

2 Chronicles 7v11-22

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Introduction

You may remember, from a month ago, we looked at David’s final recorded public prayer in 1 Chronicles 29. We saw that David’s God oozed greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty from all aspects of His very being! All of which are essential attributes of who He is: unchangeable and permanent. We discovered that this God is a God who gives and gives abundantly! The temple was yet to be built but the gifts from the King and the people had come in! People were waiting to start! Not only to build it but to serve within it! We came to the conclusion that we should pray not just for what God can give to us but also what we can give and do for our God! Giving not just money and goods, but our talents and imagination! Because from that, the community we live, work and worship within could be transformed to God’s glory!

But now the Chronicler has moved on in his story! The remnant of Israel you may remember has returned from exile and the Chronicler is giving them an abridged version of history! The great king David has died, and his son, Solomon, is now on the throne. Solomon has had his first encounter with God and received the gift of wisdom! In Chapter 6, Solomon has prayed a great prayer to His God! Here, in our first reading, from the first 3 verses of chapter 7, we hear the Chronicler regaling one of the many great WOW moments of the Old Testament, when the glory of the Lord came down like fire and filled the temple to overflowing! The people fell down in worship of a great God, who was their God! This was followed by a great scene of abundantly joyful sacrificial worship to this God!

In the passage before us tonight, v11 to v22, the temple is now complete. Solomon is now probably sleeping in his palace. It has been 13 years since he prayed that prayer in chapter 6! No doubt, during those 13 years, many times has Solomon wrestled in his mind over what he prayed… Then, one night God Himself turns up. Here the Chronicler reveals what God said to Solomon.

The original readers/hearers are a remnant of the great nation of Israel, just returned to their land after being in exile! Probably wondering what happened, because under Solomon, the nation of Israel reached its pinnacle! Asking themselves questions like: Who is our God? Who are we, Israel, as a nation? Why are we in the situation we find ourselves in?

The Chronicler is putting across his own theology as he writes this book of Chronicles! His theology, however, is consistent with the writings of the rest of the Old Testament and indeed the New Testament! So what does the Chronicler wish to convey to the remnant about this God from this encounter with Solomon?

1. A God of all History

The first thing I see, from this passage, is that their God is a God of history! All human history is covered beneath his throne – the past, present and future!

a. God of the past!

He is the God of Israel’s past! God throughout history had made covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and here, God reminds Solomon of the Covenant that He made with Solomon’s father, David! This covenant promised 3 things!

That there would be:

  • A land forever
  • A dynasty without end
  • A perpetual kingdom

b. God of the present

But not only is He a God of the past, He is also a God of the present! He has heard the prayers and accepted the temple as a place of worship – v12 “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.” He is the God of the present because He is speaking to Solomon in Solomon’s present! Visiting Solomon, probably while Solomon is snoring his head off!

c. God of the Future

So God is a God of the past and the present, but also a God of the future! And because God is the God of the future, all things are under His control! Even v13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people”, shows the God of the past, present and future being in control.

The Lord God says in this speech to Solomon, “I will…” several times! “I will hear!” “I will forgive!” “I will heal the land!” “I will open my eyes!” “I will establish your throne!” But not only of these humanly beneficial things but also Gods says in v20 “I will uproot you from here and send you into exile!” All in the future tense!

And in v16 “I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” Their God, who is the God of all human history – past, present and future – is from everlasting to everlasting!

Nothing in the future is set rigidly! God may know what is going to happen but He also knows all that may happen as well! We see this through the tension of “If you do this, I will do this!” God is all-knowing, far beyond our human capacity and capability!

2. A God Who Lives!

So a God over all human history – past, present and future. So what else is there here about this God? This God is also a God who lives and lives dynamically! This God is not like the gods of Israel’s neighbours – a mere inert block of wood, bone or stone to be lumped about, put on a pedestal, have many copies made, bowed to impersonally and chanted manically at. No! This God of Israel is a God who lives! This God lives and wants to live with His people! God is a God who exhibits His life in at least 3 ways from this encounter with Solomon!

a. A God who is Personal!

This God is personal! Fourteen times, the Chronicler uses for God the personal pronoun “I” and fourteen times, he uses “me” or “myself.” Twelve times, he uses the word “you” – on a single individual basis as well as a collective “you” on the basis of the nation itself. This God is personal to the individual Solomon, the King of Israel, but also personal to the nation of Israel. The Chronicler is intimating that no other nation had enjoyed a dynamic, robust and intimate relationship with their God, like Israel does! Our God is personal the Chronicler cries out! Because He is personal, it cries out that He lives! This God wants to be intimately involved with the people and nation He has chosen for Himself.

Read through with me as I share some of these with you and hear how intimate and personal this God is!

Listen for the ‘I’

I have heard your prayer; I shut; I will forgive; I will heal; I have chosen; I will establish; I have covenanted; I have given; I will uproot; I will reject; I will make

This is a personal God! Listen for the ‘my’

chosen this place for myself; among my people, called by my name; seek my face; my eyes will be open; my ears attentive; my Name may be there forever; my heart will always be there; an object of ridicule for my Name,

Now listen for the ‘you’, ‘their’, themselves’ and ‘they’

you walk before me faithfully; humble themselves and pray; You do; Your father David; You observe; Your royal throne; their wicked ways ; if you turn away and forsake; you and go off to serve other gods; they have forsaken the LORD and they embraced other gods

This is a personal, living and dynamic God wanting a personal and dynamic relationship with His people! Not some mere impersonal piece of wood, metal or stone like the gods of the surrounding nations to whom people babble!

b. A God who is Responsive!

This personal God is also responsive! This God, the Chronicler writes, has responded to the worship of the people when at the beginning of this chapter, His glory filled the temple to overflowing! Their worship was pleasing to Him and He acknowledged this with fire! WOW – v1 “the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple!” That must have been an awe-inspiring moment when their living God did that! So awe inspiring that they continued in worship by singing and offering sacrifices! This God responds to His gathered people!

But this God also responds and appears to the individual, in this case, their King and leader, Solomon and with a personal answer to Solomon’s own prayer we read in chapter 6! Here in v17-18, God confirms Solomon’s anointing as King and leader of Israel! He reminds Solomon of the importance of the Temple in the life of Israel and as a symbol of commitment to the Covenant of David. This is a direct response to Solomon’s prayer we read in 6v16-17. God is personally committed to the line of David.

Now that’s all very well when things are going swimmingly and Israel is being obedient, following the commands and ordinances of their personal God! But what happens if they choose not to obey or serve him rightly? God administers judgement, but v14 offers a way back – of humble repentance. However, if they continue to sin and are not repentant, well that leads us to another part of God being responsive – God judges! And not unjustly or recklessly but with justice!

c. A God who Judges and Restores!

In v13 we see that disasters can be sent by God! Droughts and plagues can be used by God to bring people ultimately back to repentance.

In v19-23, we see what happens if Israel abandons their God and continues in their sinful ways (v19)! God abandons them because they first abandoned Him and went away to embrace other gods – gods of non-personality! Then God uproots them from the land that He had given them and rejects this very same Temple which He chose Himself to be a place of prayer and sacrifice. That’s the reason Israel was to go into exile, away from the land of promise.

But if God is the God who judges and does these things, He is also the God who enables restoration! When evil befalls Israel, natural, social or political, it is because of their disobedience and God must judge it or He would be a pretty impotent, capricious, spiteful and fickle God if He didn’t! So while God maybe the author of disasters, He is also the agent of restoration!

3. A God Who Expects!

This is a personal God of all human history who lives! This God judges disobedience but offers a way back through repentance. Part of His being personal is that this is a God who expects!

a. God Expects His People to be Holy!

How is this? Why does He judge? Because God is holy! He is of utter moral excellence and perfection. There is and can be no stain of sin and He must be totally separated from sin. Holy is what God is!! This holiness of God is seen in righteousness, which is holiness in action. God’s actions conform to His Holiness. Justice deals with the ab­sence of righteousness. Sin must be dealt with deal with it He will and must!

If God were not Holy, He could not and would not be God! If He were to cast aside his Holiness even for the briefest of times, he would cease to be God!

b. God expects obedience!

Not only is God holy, writes the Chronicler, but His people must also be holy and be seen to live rightly! God expects obedience! Israel was to be a nation of light reflecting their great and living God to the surrounding nations! They alone had the law of the Lord and they were to live rightly and obediently before God and the surrounding nations! They were to worship this living God and Him alone! In v17, we see the request to walk with God alone and follow His decrees and commands – the law of Moses! In v19-20, as we saw earlier, there was the penalty for idolatry and abandoning this living God!

c. God expects prayers of repentance

Now you may be saying, yeah right, Dave… If God is just, and of grace, He will provide a way out of these judgments! But you know what! He does! The people can be restored! How can this be? Verse 14 is the key! This is a key of grace: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

How does He restore? Through the humility and repentance of the disobedient! Even when this great Living God is angry! Prayers by the disobedient, consisting of humility and repentance are necessary, in order to enable God to forgive and heal the destruction of sin and disobedience. In 6v32-33, we can see that anyone who acknowledges God’s name and authority may pray with utter confidence that God would hear their petitions. Seeking God’s face with humility is the key.

What is repentance? It is a voluntary change in mind, in which the person and nation turn from a life of disobedience to living a life of obedience to God. It is done firstly in the Mind or the Intellect, where it is recognition of disobedience and guilt before God. Then, there is also at an Emotional level, exhibiting genuine sorrow for disobedience, a bit more difficult for us men! Finally it’s also an act of the Will – a decision to turn back to God from disobedience, self-pleasure and self-centredness.

And what is humility? Humility is where total trust is placed in God alone, and He has priority in all aspects of life. Humility is a lack of pride and of total commitment to God.

This is a living and holy God, who expects His people to be holy, reflecting His holiness and being prepared to make themselves nothing in order to be restored and for their disobedience to be forgiven.

Conclusion

What an awesome and great God this is! This is the God who is the God over all human history – past, present and future! This is a God who is personal and responsive! This is a God who is holy, commands obedience and yet accepts humble repentance! What a great and Almighty God! Not only those things but He is a God of grace! How do we see that?

This chapter from Scripture, 2 Chronicles 7v11-22, could well be a summary of all 1 & 2 Chronicles, if not the Old Testament and indeed all of Scripture! Some say that grace is missing from the book, just as some say that grace is missing from the Old Testament itself! But as we have hopefully seen, one aspect of God that shines through this passage is that He is a God of grace, with a message of grace as exemplified in v14! “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

But so what? What are we to do with and for this God?

We are to be personally and collectively obedient to Him. Following closely to the leading of the Spirit and following our leaders, the pastors, elders and deacons as they seek to follow this great God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said “You can only learn what obedience is, by obeying.”

Lets be an obedient people. How do we do that? By loving God! How do we show we love God? By loving others, for as Jesus said, this sums up the whole Law!. The community out there, which we are a part of, is looking at us. We have this fantastic new building, and I can guarantee you, that there will be some people out there, just waiting for this adventure of ours with God to fail. Let us not allow that to happen.

One of the key areas of obedience concerns idolatry! Now we may not go off to other gods and worship them, as Solomon and ancient Israel did. But we can set up false idols of our own, both as individuals and collectively. Calvin wrote that “What is idolatry? It is to worship the gifts instead of the great Giver?” This is a beautiful building! But let us not worship it and consider it so sanctified even for a moment, that it becomes our idol of worship. Let us be thankful to God for the gift and allow Him to use it for the benefit of the whole community and not just for our own sake. Let each of us ensure that God takes first place over everything in our individual and collective lives. Let us worship alone our great living God who gives abundantly, rather than commit disobedient idolatry by worshipping the gifts of the Giver.

Then finally, let us hold our leaders up in prayer that they will be, collectively and individually, obedient to God! As Adam shared this morning, old hairy legs satan likes to stick his nose in and try to get leaders like Adam off track. Many churches have built new buildings, only for them to lie wasted shortly after, due to personal disobedience of the leadership. Lets not be one of those.

The church I attended in Australia before coming to the UK, 21 years ago this coming Saturday, was very much like PBC is now! Growing, vibrant and they had just finished building a new church building! Everyone was excited and looking forward to the future! I am not going to say specifically what happened, but within 2 years that church was practically empty. In fact it is still going but it hasn’t recovered to the way that it was. The leadership were found to have committed both personal and corporate disobedience and when it became public; it decimated the church and made it a public mockery. Those people who were in leadership are now restored back into a right relationship with God, but they had to find humility the hard way.

Somebody asked me during the week, “If Solomon was the wisest man on earth, how come he fell into idolatry?” The answer I gave was not because he had so many wives and girlfriends. Nor was it, as suggested by a certain member of this congregation here tonight, the number of mother in laws. I think it was because he became proud, forgot not just who he was in God’s eyes but he also forgot who God was! That led him to forsake the God of His youth and commit idolatrous acts.

Let’s go from here, willing to be obedient to this great God, remembering who we are and who our God is. This great God we love and serve who is the God of all human history – past, present and future. This Almighty God, who is living, dynamic, personal, and responsive: who both judges and restores. This is a God who is holy and expects His followers to be holy, living obedient lives and being quick to seek repentance after disobedience. Let’s go out into our community this week, being His voice and light, confident that our living God is within us, as we engage actively and passively with those who don’t know this great God!

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Purpose and Will of God

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God’s Purposes & Will

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“God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfil his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ — everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” (Ephesians 1v9-11).

These verses tell us about the counsel of God’s Will (Ephesians 1v11). God’s Will is inextricably linked with the future and Things to Come. The future has us naturally wonder what are God God’s Purposes and Will? What are His decrees and how is Jesus interacting with us now?

1. God’s Purposes

What is the reason for creation? (Ephesians 1v3-11; Revelation 4v11). The glory of God – that God will be praised.

  • God’s purposes and plans are in eternity (Psalm 33v11)
  • God’s purposes originate in God’s wisdom and holiness.
  • God is free to do anything in accordance with His character. He cannot do anything contrary to His character.

2. God’s Will

  • Directive Will – Things God determines to come to pass. (Isaiah 14v24)
  • Permissive Will – Things God allows or permits to occur.

Sin and rebellion (not directive will). God is big enough to grant and cope with the free will He as given humanity.

Sin – God permits sin, but is not the author of sin. God made man with a free will, allowing for the possibility of sin. Although sin and corruption entered the world with great human loss, and the resulting death on the Cross: God thought freedom of will was worth giving to us. It is to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1)

SalvationElection – God chooses individuals to fulfil His purposes (Romans 9). God chooses those who are/will be saved (John 15v16). These are the chosen ones or the elect. However, it is not His will that any should perish (2 Peter 3v9), it is His will all men should be saved (1 Timothy2v3-4).

We need to accept both these statements as equally and absolutely true. When we use words about God with a time element such as ‘chose’, ‘elect’, we need to use these in God’s infinite time framework (timelessness), not in our human finite time framework.

3. Preservation – Doctrine of Continuance

God maintains the existence of all He has made. God has created but not left the universe while He watches from a distance (Islam/Muslim). This thinking is erroneous because it stipulates that God rules only by natural laws and simply observes its progress. However, the Bible tells us that God is actively involved in sustaining creation. For without His involvement, the universe would cease to exist. He does this in two ways.

Continuous Creation – God maintains the universe by continual creation.

Concurrence – God co-operates with all subordinate powers. Men retain their natural powers and exercise them but without God’s concurrence, no force or person can continue to exist or act. (Colossians 1v17; Acts 17v28; Hebrews 1v2-3)

4. Particular Names Of God reflect His Purposes and Will

  • Jehovah Jireh – (Genesis 22v14) – The Lord will provide
  • Jehovah Tsidkenu – (Jeremiah 33v16) – The Lord our righteousness
  • Jehovah Nissi – (Exodus 17) – The Lord is our banner / leader
  • Jehovah Shalom – (Judges 6v24) – The Lord is our peace
  • Jehovah Rapha – (Exodus 15) – The Lord is our healer
  • Jehovah Rohi (Psalm 23) – The Lord is our Shepherd

5. Sovereignty of God or His decrees.

The sovereignty of God dictates that God is in control at all times and nothing can occur outside of His control and will. God is not impersonal and He is involved with all creation. God loves His creation and cares for it. He has created all humans with the power to make decisions by them self. God wont deny our humanity when He deals with us. He speaks to our minds though the Bible and seeks us to respond to him with love and affection.

  • Sovereign decree: When God says “Eternal life is available for all. You may choose to accept or reject it. Those that accept it, I will call my children.” Our reaction as Christian Disciples should be to trust and obey.
  • Conditional decree: When God says “I am willing to give you my opinion and help when you ask.” Our reaction as Christian Disciples should be read the Bible, to pray and talk with God.
  • Natural decree: When God has created a lemon tree, that lemon tree won’t produce potatoes.” Our reaction as Christian Disciples should be to plan ahead knowing the way the natural laws work..

6. How does Jesus interact with Christian Disciples?

Jesus interacts with us by faith in four ways: caring, praying, coming and helping.

Jesus cares and is concerned for us – We all go through storms and troubles. When we find ourselves in these situations, we have four assurances about Jesus as Christian Disciples.

  • By faith – He is praying for us – Jesus Christ is making intercessions for Christian Disciples (Romans 8:34). He knew the disciples troubles (Mark 6:48), just as He knows our troubles now. He feels our cares and knows what we are going through (Hebrews 4:14-16).

  • By faith – He will come to us – Ever felt like God is far away? Well you aren’t alone! King David often felt God was far away and unconcerned. However he also knew God would ultimately rescue him. Paul, the great Apostle, also felt “burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life” 2 Corinthians 1:8. Jesus always comes to us through difficult times, although He may not come in the time we think He should come, because He knows when we need Him most.
  • By faith – He will help us to grow – Take the example of when the disciples were in the storm and Jesus came to them walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). The purpose of this incident was that Jesus would be leaving them soon, so they had to learn to trust in Him when He wasn’t physically present. Perhaps this is what he was thinking of when he later wrote in his letter “for the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers” (1 Peter 3v12). This all helped Peter to grow in the knowledge of the Lord

  • By faith, He will see us through – Jesus said “Come” and Peter went with Him and walked to the ship. The other disciples must have encouraged by this. Seeing Jesus’ power they worshipped him. Whatever troubles we are undergoing are temporary, and Jesus, for His praise and glory, will see us through.

 

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For more to think about please do ask your self the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. Read Colossians 1v15-20. How can I deepen my relationship with Jesus knowing these things about Him?

 

Q2. Read Acts 17v24-28. How is God reaching the nations through me?

 

 

Q3. How does knowing about God’s Purposes and Will affect my life as a Christian Disciple?

 


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Sexual and moral purity

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Sex and Moral Purity

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The world is mad for sex! It sells magazines, DVD’s and clothes. It is one of the gods of our age! Not only that but we only have to glimpse quickly at recent history to find Christian leaders who have fallen due to the sin of sexual immorality. How are we as Christian disciples to face these issues of moral purity and sex?

 

Firstly let me state three ways that Christians incorrectly think about sex. Firstly there is compromise with the worldly values of sex, where anything is allowed providing love is there. Second error is that the subject is sacred, and is never to be discussed publicly. Then thirdly, the idea that sex is dirty, and is to be avoided at all costs, in order to be a really super spiritual person. However as I said these are incorrect attitudes. So what does comprise a correct and considered attitude for the Christian disciple to have regarding sex?

 

The Bible says that sex is beautiful and is part of God’s creation. At the beginning in Genesis 1 it was “all very good”. It was a beautiful gift from God for purposes of procreation; mutual enjoyment of both a man & woman, but only within the confines of a heterosexual marriage. Anybody who is anti-morality, is therefore anti-sex and subsequently anti-God.

 

What the Christian disciple should maintain is that sex would be better if man hadn’t sinned originally. We shouldn’t feel guilty if we have desires, it is natural, but we are control it before it controls you. One of the strongest human desires are for sex and intimacy, but it needs to be under control. As ever there is a tendency to abuse all good things God has given us. Anything God has made, it can be perverted. What should be love is lust and what was morality is now immorality.

 

One of the major problems for Christian disciples to overcome in this area is the thought life. In Matthew 5v27-28, Jesus said that lust is trying to claim for yourself, what doesn’t belong to you, ie someone else’s body. He goes on to say that what you shouldn’t do in the body, you should not do in the mind, for that is God’s standard. Sexual desires are easily inflamed, played upon or enlarged. How can normal sexual desire be controlled?

 

Firstly, by not feeding anything that will inflame your old nature. Remove it all. If it is sin, it feeds the old nature. If you do, you will reap the consequences, just as you would if you stepped into a pride of lions. Anything we observe & hear will affect our old nature e.g. music, books, TV, video, pictures, magazines, posters etc. We are to feed our minds with that which is pure writes the Psalmist in Psalm 119v9, and then it will be easier to control your thought life. Thoughts come from the outside, its what you do with the thought. There is an old saying, that if you put garbage in, you will get garbage out.

 

What is God’s standard ,and therefore the Biblical Perspective on sex? Clearly, Scripture stipulates that sexual union is to be for the heterosexual married couple. Anything outside of that standard is abhorrence to God and therefore sin. By engaging in sexual immorality you hurt others. Unmarried Christian disciples ought not to do anything in a relationship that arouses desire. This obviously requires great sensitivity. Satan’s (and the world’s) order in a relationship is body first followed by soul and then spirit. However this order is the reverse of God’s order, thus leading to physical intimacy before spiritual intimacy.

 

God’s foundation for intimacy & security is oneness of Spirit, then oneness of Mind culminating in the oneness of body in marriage. This is the order in which we are to develop a relationship. Friendship between male and female sows the seeds to love, where a genuine relationship wants to give, not get. Love wants to give, and lust wants to get. The spiritual side is stressed, then the mind and then physical at marriage. Lastly before I close, if you are one of the many that have a problem with internet porn addiction then sign up for one of the many services that monitor your internet access and sends a log to a person of your choice. One such provider is www.covenanteyes.com and whilst there is a subscription for their services, there are free providers available.

 

For more to think about, please do read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

  1. Are there things from my past that I need specifically to ask God’s forgiveness for?
  2. Are my thought processes, words and actions consistent with the biblical model for relationships?
  3. What steps can I take in my life in order to remain sexually pure?

Thank you.

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ADD – Home Life

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Christian Disciple and Home Life!

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Paul writing in Titus 2vv11-13 “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.”

 

“The road to a friend’s house is never too long.”

Photo courtesy of Jan

 

 

 

 

I wonder what you are like on a Sunday at church. I know some Christians who like to be all holy and proper on a Sunday at church, but can’t wait to get home and start living again! Have you ever wondered just why you have to live a holy life at home, work or play 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week as a Christian disciple? Well Paul writing here, explains that doctrine is learning and duty is living. We are to learn it in the Church then put it into practise at home. Why do we do this? We do this in order that the wondrous message of Jesus Grace can be dispersed.

 

 

So what does Paul expect of the different groups of people that he lists in the verses before those I read out at the beginning?

 

 

Firstly he speaks to the older men (Titus 2:2). They are to be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, faithful, loving and persistent. All this without drinking too much wine!!

Then for the older women, (Titus 2:3) they are to live a holy life, teaching what is good. They aren’t to speak badly of others and they are not to indulge in gossip. They also are not to drink too much wine. They are to do this so that they can be good examples and teach the younger women how to behave appropriately.

 

 

Ah the younger women! They are commanded to listen to the older women (Titus 2:4-5). They also must love their family, be self-controlled and pure. They are to be hospitable at home treating others with kindness & goodness. Why? So the Word of God is not maligned or harmed.

Younger men however are to be self-controlled and follow Titus’ example (Titus 2:6). And just what is the example to be set by Titus?? Well he is to be an example by doing good works, in a serious manner with integrity. He is to be courageous and with good speech. He is commanded to rebuke others with Paul’s authority. Why do these things? So that nobody has the chance to despise him. (Titus 2:1,7-8, 15)

 

 

Finally, slaves are to obey their master and return any items that they may have stolen! (Titus 2:9-10) Why do this? So as to make the Gospel more attractive to those outside of Christianity and to be seen as being deemed worthy of being trusted.

 

 

However the overall reason to live a holy life is because it is only due to the grace of Jesus as Saviour, that we live at all! So if He is the only reason we are living at all, then as Christian disciples, we need to live a life that is worthy of Him! In the passage I read out at the beginning, there are 3 reasons as to what Jesus grace does for us, especially those who have chosen to be His followers.

...See???...

Photo Courtesy of Petra

 

Firstly, Jesus’ Grace redeems us and is available to all!! We are all slaves to sin and unable to set ourselves free (Titus 3:3). Jesus Christ gave himself as the price for all the things we have done wrong – past, present and future sins. By His death on the cross, He met the just demands of God’s holy law, so that God in His grace could forgive and free all those who believe in Him as Saviour.

Secondly, His Grace reforms us. Not only is our status before God changed to that of being His child, but He reforms our lives in order to make the Christian disciple more godly! When Paul talks about temperance, self-control, prudence and restraint, this is to accentuate the Christian disciple’s relationship with their own self, whilst dealing with people in a wise and godly manner. In so doing, God purifies us and makes us His very own possession (2:15b).

Then lastly, Jesus’ Grace rewards us as we are looking for Jesus Christ to return! This is our hope, so we are to live lives worthy of the gospel of Jesus’ Grace.

 

For more to think about, please do read for yourself Titus 2:1-15 and ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1 – What areas of my life do I need to be changed, in order that I can live a life worthy of Jesus’ Grace that is full of wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God?

Q2 – In what ways has God purified me and made me, His child and possession?

Q3 – List the things you are thankful to Jesus for due to His grace and mercy and give Him thanks for His grace.

Thank you.

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WISE – Forgiveness

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Forgiveness

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What is forgiveness?

True forgiveness is not just saying sorry!! Forgiveness is to include penitence and also a desire never to do that same thing again. Forgiveness of course is a major part of Christianity, both in the way that God forgives when approached in penitence and repentance, but also in the way Christians forgive others and themselves! In both giving and receiving forgiveness, consider Jesus Christ and the enormity of His forgiveness. Paul writes in Colossians 3v12-14 that forgiveness is part of the being in God’s family of Christians! If God forgave you for all that you have done wrong, then you also should forgive others, regardless of how difficult that might be to do. Nobody said it would always be easy though! Forgiveness enables you to have the same openness toward the person after they offend you, as you did before the event – if not more! When you truly forgive the person who has wronged you, any hurt you have will diminish.

Receiving and Giving Forgiveness

But why do we need to both receive and give forgiveness? Apart from being commanded to, a vast number of emotional and psychological problems are caused by failure to either give or to receive forgiveness.

  • There is a failure to receive forgiveness. Many people try to pay for their sin by trying to punish themselves for they’re past sins. These people should let go, because God has forgiven them, just as they asked!
  • There is a failure to give forgiveness. When forgiveness is not offered to a person who has done you wrong, bitterness, resentment and anger may spring up in your life. There are parents who hurt; siblings who fail; and close friends who betray and reject. Yet forgive is the command, and it can only be done as the Holy Spirit and His power is relied upon.

By receiving and giving forgiveness, you will find an ability to love God more and love others more openly. Don’t let bitter unforgiveness destroy you and others, but rather let love & forgiveness build and strengthen.

God and Forgiveness

God’s ultimate concern is your holiness and not just your happiness, as you are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ! God is concerned not just about what is happening to you, but also what you are learning and how you are responding in His workshop of life, as you are being transformed. This involves both giving and receiving forgiveness.

Tests to see if there is someone I need to forgive

  • Resentment test – Is there anyone you resent?
  • Responsibility test – Do you find yourself thinking, “If only this other person or persons had done this, things would have been different!” and therefore blaming others?
  • Reminder/reaction test – Do you find yourself reacting negatively against a person because they remind you of someone else?

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Final Prayer of David

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David’s Final Prayer

1 Chronicles 29:10-20

Sermon preached at Poulner Baptist Chapel 23rd January 2010

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Introduction

Tonight, we delve into the book of 1 Chronicles and this great and perhaps last public prayer of the great King David! It is a fabulous piece of Scripture, I am sure you agree, that tells us a lot about God we as Christians claim to know and love, as well as how we are to respond to Him.

Originally 1 & 2 Chronicles were one book. It was the final book of the Jewish Canon, probably written by Ezra and was also known as the “the events of the days”, “the things omitted” which would suggest that Chronicles were to be regarded as additional to the books of Kings and Samuel. It’s a book which was written for those from the nation of Israel who are now in exile, to remind them of their spiritual heritage – the journey & history of Israel as a nation. For us though, not least I, it issues certain challenges to us all.

I will be reading from the Authorised Version. It’s the 400th year anniversary this year and as I read, you will see how much of its language has entered into our language today. Its influence on the development of English language is remarkable.

Here is the great king David!

Now here to Chapter 29, we have King David in his final days before handing over the crown to his son, Solomon. David is no longer the shepherd-boy who slew Goliath. He is at the end of his life. He wanted to build the temple himself, but God told him in 1 Chronicles 28v3 “You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.” The building of the Temple was to be ultimately achieved by his great son Solomon to do!

What has happened so far?

So what has happened so far, according to the Chronicler? In the previous verses before our reading, we see how David has given publicly a great deal of wealth including gold, silver and other personal possessions for this building – the great Temple. This was to serve as an active encouragement for others to also give generously! Not only of their material possessions, but also as we read from 1 Chronicles 28v21, their talents and craftsmanship as well! This house of God would be a community effort – King & pauper alike, giving generously and honestly!

So here is David, a man, who despite his many faults, is described as a man after God’s own heart. Israel’s greatest king, saying this prayer of intimate praise & adoration to his God in front of the assembled throngs. This prayer, like his gifts of gold etc., could be said, to be David’s legacy to the nation of Israel, to Solomon and by extension also to us.

1. WOW factor of God! (v10-13)

I get a wow factor of God reading this! Look how David talks of God! You can tell that David has had a vibrant and intimate relationship with this God – the God of his youth and his old age. He piles up the metaphors! He speaks of God personally: thou, thee, you, yours, our, I, my. David praises God for who God is!

Verse 10 sets the scene “Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever.” God is their father! He is everlasting! Before Israel was, He is and always will be! He was to be their God and they were to be His people. God takes care of them as a father does His children – giving generously, protecting them and always being available for guidance & wisdom.

Verse 11 is perhaps the central verse of this prayer: “Thine, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.

The whole emphasis is on the LORD God! Greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty – all are yours O God – throughout the earth and the heavens! Yours is the kingdom! Not ours, but yours, O King! For they are attributes of a king!

God’s greatness is vast, incomparable and unfathomable. God’s power is that of a warrior: almighty, overwhelming yet alluring; and all power comes from Him to every dependent creature. God’s glory is the exuberant and ecstatic magnificence of His very being! Victory shows God as an all-conquering hero: transcendent and supreme, to whom all creatures and creation are subject. His victories are irrefutable and undeniable. His uncompromising majesty symbolises a dignity, regency, splendour and awesome magnificence!

These things: greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty are essential attributes of who God is: indelible, immutable, unchangeable and permanent. God is a King in greater splendour than any of the excesses of King Louis XVI. If you don’t know about Louis, go look him up and the scale of extravagance! This God is a mighty King to be exalted above all things and He is to be held in His rightful place: high and lifted up!

As for the kingdom, whose is it? Is it Israel’s? No! Is it David’s? No! It is God’s and His alone! His Kingdom is of total magnificence and greater than the Roman Empire to come! Even greater than the British Empire, which was never to see the sun set on it. Jesus is probably quoting here, in what we call the Lord’s Prayer. So David’s words resonate down through history.

In this context however, David uses kingdom to symbolise the fact that the building materials, the amassed wealth, did not belong to Israel, but rather they were God’s alone! God’s kingdom shows His universal influence, authority and universality.

Everything is God’s! Its all His! Nobody can say they own ultimate possession of anything! The only reason, to paraphrase David, “we have this amassed wealth to build the Temple is because we have the leasehold to it! God owns the freehold, its all His and because of His generosity we can build Him this house!

And not only these material possessions, but also the imagination, ingenuity, craftsmanship, skills and talents – well they all came from God as well, so you craftsmen, bless God because God has blessed you with skilled hands to work on His house! Your strength is ultimately from His unlimited resources of strength!”

This is no impersonal statue or idol like the surrounding nations. This is the living God, awesome in all things yet willing to be involved in a personal relationship. This is the God, who through the Levitical Law, wants to live with His people of joy, to be their Living God! This God is the light of all things good, bright and blessed. He is the greatest of the greatest, truly incomprehensible yet also knowable. David is in utter adoration of this great God! I wonder if David knew that this physical Temple itself was only ever going to be a temporary building until the coming of the Messiah – when God would no longer dwell in a house made of gold and stone but rather live in human hearts.

It is out of His wonderfully glorious grace that the Lord God Almighty gave the gifts in the first place and the cheerful sacrificial response from His people in gratitude to Him was remarkable! All these things were given willingly – the possessions, the gold, the silver, the skills, the power and strength – all in service of the great God of Israel, the great Father of Abraham, Isaac, Moses and the other patriarchs.

Surely, this is a God worthy of all praise, worship and life commitment! Each person praises differently and in different ways, so let’s rejoice when we see other people praising God differently to our own style. So with that said, let us stand, and respond to God by singing together: Poulner Praise 219 King of Kings, Majesty

2. David – its all Him (v14-20)

That’s the wow factor of God: a God who is abundant in greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty.

Now let’s look together at David himself! All the attributes of praise, given here by David to God, could with a great deal of justification, be said about Israel, or even David himself. They were at the time a strong nation and David quite rightly still on the throne. Israel’s greatest King – full of power, might and majesty. But no! What does David say in v14? “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.

Its all about God for David! He would say that I am only here because of Him! David has been reflecting on his whole life – from the time he defeated the Philistine armed only with a sling and stone. He sees his past failures, the utter depravity of those but also his repentant heart before a holy God. The end of verse 14 again, “All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee“, and this resonates down through history, in churches worldwide as the offering prayer.

David exhibits great humility before God, and sets an example for his son, Solomon and the other people of Israel, to follow.

And then in v15 “For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding

David acknowledges that Israel were only tenants in the Promised Land – on a leasehold agreement. They were a nation of sojourners travelling a journey, from their foundation as a nation onwards. It is like David was saying to the Lord: “We are here temporarily but You, O God, are here permanently. What an amazingly generous God you are, giving with such exceeding grace to us.” David confesses they are but transient and aliens in the land God had given them. It is an image tying them to their patriarchs as they wandered in the wilderness, living only on what their God provided them with, as they looked for the Promised Land. It is also an image of an acknowledgement that all life is supremely dependent upon God and God alone. God was to be their God and they were to be His people – to be shining as a light to all nations as God’s representatives.

Here is the mighty King David, bowing in humility before a great God whom he adores, serves and worships. He knew that his whole life had been one of dependence upon God for all things, and David was exhibiting this before his people. David’s prayer was that the people of Israel would continue to depend on God but also exhibit that dependence and show how God supplied them graciously.

Not only for David but also for the Chronicler too! He was recording this for the people of Israel when they were in exile.

The Chronicler reminds the people in exile to be utterly dependent upon God for all and everything. For the Chronicler, the building of the Temple was more a matter of the heart, and built upon the faith of God to supply. This faith was expressed in the building made of gold, silver, wood and other metals.

It was due to God’s generosity alone the Temple would be built and nothing to do with David and his people. It would have been a tremendous temptation to be filled with boastful pride about it. It was a test of people’s hearts to see if they really did love their God.

Then in the final words of this prayer, we see David praying for unreserved and enthusiastic giving from the people. He changes from acknowledgment to petition.

In verses 18-20, David exhorts an outpouring of generosity from his people, from a heart filled with thanks – a heart acknowledging total dependence on God for all things – a heart & life of loyal obedience to Almighty God. Solomon also was to be wholeheartedly obedient and devoted fully to God. A heart filled with peace with God, a life totally devoted to Him, exhibited with joyful giving. That’s what David was praying for his people and for his son Solomon. Its also what the Chronicler was expecting from the people in exile as he recounts this to them. It was to be a community effort of devotion and obedience to an almighty God, on whom they were dependent for all facets of human life. Everybody giving what they could – out of riches or poverty.

So, in a worshipful response to this Great God, let us stand and sing: Baptist Praise 74 You are the King of Glory

3. So what?

Firstly, we saw the wow factor of God: a God who exudes greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty.

Then we saw David’s utter adoration and dependence upon the God that he knows intimately.

So, finally, what does all this have to do with us?

How often do we receive from our God, but not thank Him for it? We are to be thankful for every good gift that is given to us. We offer praises and thanks to Him, for who He is and for His generosity and grace towards us. Tonight’s bible passage was a superb piece of thanksgiving. When was the last time you thanked God for all the things He has given you? How can we put this thanks and praise into action? Lets see quickly!

Firstly, I am convinced there are enough wealthy Christians sitting in churches in the West, who could make significant donations and virtually eradicate a lot of the poverty in the developing world and indeed their own countries. This would be active Christian giving on a radical scale. In biblical stories, such as this from 1 Chronicles 29, its always those who had the most, gave the most as an example to others of God’s generosity. After all, God owns it all anyway and it’s only given as a loan from God and not a transference of ownership.

As Christians, we are to desire to mature spiritually – growing in adoration, obedience and commitment to God. Perhaps the greatest indicator of today, concerns our giving. Giving is to be done whole-heartedly and cheerfully. It is also not so much about how much is given, but how much is left after giving and the attitude behind it. God looks beyond that which is given to the motive and attitude behind it. All our money and possessions belong to Him anyway, as we have seen, so giving is to be in response to this. Our money and possessions are a leasehold agreement not a freehold one. Giving done willingly is also not done to boost our own egos or for the feel-good factor, but rather to bring glory and honour to God as a thankful response to His giving all things to us.

Many prayers seemingly go unanswered because God is waiting on people to be obedient to Him, in order to answer the unanswered prayers of others. .

We are to be generous with everything we have, not just in the area of money but with our very lives. We all have time, information, knowledge imagination, gifts and talents. All these too are to be given back to God . That may well take radical action to do, but radical giving is what we are called to do. God has given everything so that you and I may live and have life, so by caring and giving, we will reflect that. Let’s be radical church together and encourage others to be likewise.

But, as we have seen, it’s not only about giving money and resources. Giving is also to include skills, information, imagination and knowledge. Remember, the priests and craftsmen were waiting to give in the building of and service within the Temple.

Churches, particularly these days, need to capture the imagination of those looking for a church home, and get them involved. Involvement in such a way that it builds up commitment to God and a growing adoration of Him. If people are involved, they will stay. It means training them up, to be fit for service within the church. If training for service doesn’t occur, then commitment and dedication to God is likely to be diminished. If the same people do the same thing year after year, that local church will eventually die out. Each local church is only one generation away from closing its doors permanently.

Giving, as we saw in tonight’s passage, is also a community affair. This Church is to be a community, both within the church and outside of it, where the strongest members support the weakest members. Our leaders here at PBC give demonstrably I think- including their time, possessions, money, knowledge and wisdom. But, as we also saw tonight, it is not just for leaders to give! Giving is to be for everyone! Every church has a fantastic array of knowledge, wisdom, possessions and imagination. Let us share that with people outside the church. Who knows what our caring and giving will do for them as it reflects the glory of God!

Too often, we are found turning a blind eye to the suffering of others where the necessities of life are in sparse existence. Too often we neglect to give up our personal space, time, imagination, information and money generously to help the poor and needy in our local, national and global communities.

By doing this giving collectively, we will show our faith to be real and practical. There are people out there in our local community just waiting for somebody to give generously to them. We need to be seen to be radically giving to all – of our money, our possessions, and also our time, imagination, knowledge, practical help, care and love. Let us show our relevance to our local community and not be seen as just a curious gathering of people meeting on a Sunday.

If you have ideas of how you can help the church here at PBC in anyway, then see the elders or the Pastor and talk to them about it.

So if I could summarise all this up in one sentence, it would be something like this

“Ask not only what your God can give to you,

but what great things you can do and give to your God.”

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