Archive for September, 2013
The Character Of Ruth
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Please do turn in your bibles to the book of Ruth 1
There are perhaps two reasons why we study about people in the Bible – to learn how not to do some things like being deceitful, and how to do the right things like this mornings example Ruth. So this morning we are going to look together at the book of Ruth and discover who Ruth was, what is her story and how we can learn from her as we seek to live a godly and righteous life in Britain in 2009. Tonight we will be looking at the character of Rachel and how she fits into salvation history and how we can learn lessons from her. But on with this morning and Ruth!
Perhaps the key verses for the book of Ruth, which would help us summarise this short story are as we read in Ruth 1v15-18:
The book of Ruth is a cameo story of love, devotion and redemption set in the black days of the Judges. It tells the story of a pagan woman giving up everything to cling to the people of Israel and to God Himself. Shows her faithfulness when the nation was faithless.
4 Aspects of Ruth’s Obedience
1. WOW! obedience.
2. Witness in obedience.
3. Wholeness of obedience.
4. Worship by Obedience.
Let us ask God to work in us, changing our weak attempts at obedience into acts of divine worship. We find delight in serving the Lord, instead of indulging in resentment over sinful leaders. The result will be inner freedom and release from bitterness, and also a powerful story to those in authority and to onlookers as well. Just as too Ruth’s obedience of Naomi, moved Boaz and all Bethlehem, the Holy Spirit will enable us move others (Colossians 3:23-24). While we obey others we can joyfully remember that it is God alone who is worthy of complete obedience. When our confidence in Him is reflected in our submission to others we become living stories to our trust in God’s perfect plan. If we follow the example of Ruth, perhaps someone will notice our stories and find the witness, the wholeness, and the worship in our lives of obedience and praise God because of us. And, remember this from 1 Samuel 15v22 “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
So go from here and be obedient to our awesome and holy God! Through obedience to Him as revealed in Scripture, you will be growing and changing into the very likeness of Jesus Christ whom you follow. Through obedience, you will be able to enduring and be persistent in your Christian lifestyle and evangelism. So much so, that people will ask you for the reason for the hope you have and portray.
Finally, you may well be here tonight but are not yet a follower of Jesus Christ. If that is indeed you, please do not leave here tonight without making yourself known to one of the leaders, or to me, and we will gladly talk more about this Jesus to you.
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The WOW factor of Jesus
Lets open our bibles to Matthew 16v24-26!
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16v24-26)
The Jesus I hear about today from some people outside the church, as well as inside the Church, bears no resemblance to the Jesus who said those words. They are comfortable with a Jesus who is at their mercy and who doesn’t ask too much of them! They like putting Jesus in a box and only opening the box to let Him out when required! That Jesus is an insipid, nodding head, Jesus – worthy only of being on the back shelf of a car and that’s about all.
But that is exactly the opposite of the Jesus who said those words from Matthew – the Jesus who commands obedience and sacrifice! As I look through the Old Testament, I read about how the world fell out of a living, dynamic relationship with God! But I also read how a Messiah, a saviour or rescuer if you like, was to be sent by God, in order to restore the world back into an intimate, living relationship with God Himself! I read the Gospels in the New Testament and I see this Messiah as the God-man, Jesus Christ.
As I read the rest of the Bible’s New Testament and the history of the followers of Jesus Christ and the spread of his followers, the church, through its birth and early life, I get a WOW factor about Him. But for a lot of people today, including those who would call themselves a Christian, their view or vision of Jesus is still too small. So I wonder, is your Jesus too small?
1. Who is my Jesus?
As I regularly read the Bible, I see at least a six-sided portrait of Him! There are many more, but we don’t have time for that today, you might be thankful to hear!
a. Unique : The first word I would use for Jesus is Jesus is unique – totally unique! Never before and never to be repeated ever – Jesus Christ is the standout person from all of history! Indeed, history is divided into BC and AD – ‘Before Christ’ and ‘After Christ’. In all of history, Jesus Christ is incomparable and totally unique!
Yet in human form, we read that during his earthly ministry he had no physical beauty that would draw people to him. We read that Jesus’ body on the cross was disfigured and tortured beyond that of human likeness. His perfect life, His salvation work on the cross and His subsequent rising from the dead, is what makes Jesus Christ unique – a once and for all lifetime Messiah or Saviour for the entire world! WOW!!
b. Majestic: Then the Jesus I see is full of majesty and awe! He is not simply a king with a crown on his head. He is the King of all Kings! This Jesus Christ did not decay in the grave – He overcame death in the grave and was raised again majestically! Paul writes in Colossians 2v3, that in Jesus Christ, all the majestic treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden. Jesus Christ the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who with unparalleled majesty is the head of the church.
c. Tender : Next I go to look into his eyes – his tender eyes! Jesus looks upon people with love, adoration, justice, tenderness and compassion. Eyes filled with the tears of mercy, grace, love and compassion. Eyes that are also filled with rage at injustices! His penetrating eyes that can separate flesh and spirit!!
This Jesus is kind and sympathetic – his look of love on a world that is separated from God, and a world He is calling back into an active relationship with God. The love Jesus had when he wept in the garden as he sweated drops of blood, before he was betrayed and crucified.
d. Wise: Then there is Jesus the wise man! When Jesus spoke words, people were amazed! They were astounded that He spoke with elegance and yet with authority. They had never heard anyone speak like He did – with both grace and authority. The same is true today, if we are listening. That is why we read the Bible to find out what He would say to us. That is why we seek to hear Him speak to us and why we speak to Him. That is why preaching is to be seen as an act of worship – by both the preacher and the listener!
e. Strong: Jesus is strong enough and capable enough, to carry any burden that we can lay upon Him. Jesus Christ gives a solid and sure foundation for all aspects of life. If something has a solid foundation, it will not fall and cannot be destroyed. Indeed Jesus Christ will never fall or decay such is His imperishability as the everlasting God. He is solid, dependable and strong; nobody and nothing can stand against Him. If we are truly His, then we ought not to fear or worry about anything, for we will be under his protection, forever!
f. Lovely: finally, my Jesus oozes loveliness! He gives out a sense of exaltation and joy. Joy is not always externalized loudly as some people think but also internalized quietly! So if somebody is filled with joy, don’t always expect it be seen! Jesus is altogether lovely and lovely altogether! Jesus is beyond compare for the things He has done and the things He will do. He is altogether lovely in regard to his person, humanity, birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, exultation, glorification, grace, protection, tenderness, power, wisdom, vengeance, judgment, majesty, redemption and pardon. I could go on and on!
That is my Jesus -unique, majestic, tender, wise, strong and lovely. Is this your Jesus?
2. Jesus – So what?
That is my Jesus, whom I seek to serve and obey every second of every day. This Jesus I seek to obey in every facet of life. And it is this Jesus whom I depend upon and personally know to be totally reliable in every way. But so what, you may say – those outside the church certainly ask it! All through each day, I know He has been dependable, going ahead of me! Amazing! This is the Jesus who commands self-sacrifice and obedience. This Jesus who commands His followers to rely solely on His sacrifice and have dependence on Him for all things. Jesus Christ who commands all His followers to a life of total obedience to Him and Him alone. This Jesus who died on a Roman cross two thousand years ago was the same Jesus who was raised from the dead, without decay, into newness of life and ascended to the right hand of the Father.
There is only one Saviour for the world and there will never be another. Despite the bleating of other religions and faiths! Jesus never said, “I am a true vine; a way, a truth and a life”. Just as He did not say “I am a shepherd, a door, a light or a bread of life.
No – Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life. Jesus is the only great shepherd and the only door to life with God. Jesus is the only light of the world and the only bread of life. Jesus calls everyone to partake of the nourishment and shelter only He can provide. Sadly only a few respond: “Yes!” Are you one of those?
3. Jesus! WOW!
Jesus WOW! What does WOW stand for, I hear you asking yourself? It means “Worthy Of Worship!” Jesus Christ most certainly is that! The Jesus WOW factor involves Jesus being radical and relevant! Even a brief look of the Gospels will reveal that about Jesus! Some people even back then didn’t get Jesus, and people still don’t get Him two thousand years later! And whose fault is that? Its not Jesus’ fault that people today still don’t respond to Him! It’s a result of the church and Christians down through the ages, including today, not following Jesus and obeying His commands as closely as they could or should!
People out there are looking at the Church and Christians – looking at how we behave, how we speak, how we drive our cars and looking to see if we are any different to them and looking to see what difference Jesus Christ has made in our lives!
That’s why my parents thought churches were dangerous places and Christians brainwashed and deluded people. They did not hesitate to tell me that that is what they thought about Christianity! But I responded to the call of Jesus, rebelled against my parents and became a follower of him 30 years ago next year. You could say I am the white sheep of my family – so far anyway!
4. We are to be little Jesus’
The word Christian, means little Jesus. When living in London, after church each Sunday, we would go to this one particular Chinese restaurant for lunch each time. Often as a group of us entered and walked up the stairs to take our seats, they would say: “There go the little Jesuses!” They would mean it mockingly but we took it as a compliment!
That’s what being a Christian is to be – a little Jesus! In our local community, wherever we happen to live, work or be! We are to live lives worthy of Jesus Christ, being transformed by the Holy Spirit who lives inside each one of us if we are His, and being totally and willingly obedient to Him! Loving God and loving others – by, showing compassion, helping others and being the voice of Jesus Christ to a community out there, which is rapidly decaying.
The world out there and this community will know you and I are Jesus’ followers, if we are obedient to Him, practically showing love to all! Oh that we as the church would love each other instead of fighting with each other!
Imagine this community transformed for Jesus Christ, having got the WOW factor! Imagine this community filled with people seeking to know about our Jesus, because the Christians were sacrificing their time and possessions, wanting in every aspect of life to give Jesus the glory and honour that is worthy of His name alone – just as they did in Acts 2!
Loving God and loving each other as He commanded would spread the WOW factor through our local communities, both large and small! Transformed communities of people devoted to Jesus and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in bringing people back to God the Father! The WOW factor is not always an exuberant experience but also covers the silent, contemplative and gob-smacking experiences! Jesus Christ doesn’t just live in the loud, as some would proclaim, but also in the quiet where the small, still voice of God is whispered.
Don’t be like the only man who left Jesus’ presence in sorrow. Let me read about him to you. Matthew 19v16-30 from The Message:
“Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you.”
The man asked, “What in particular?”
Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.”
The young man said, “I’ve done all that. What’s left?”
“If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.”
That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crest-fallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.
As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.”
The disciples were staggered. “Then who has any chance at all?”
Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”
Then Peter chimed in, “We left everything and followed you. What do we get out of it?”
Jesus replied, “Yes, you have followed me. In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel. And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields-whatever-because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life. This is the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.” “
Now riches aren’t necessarily a problem but they were for that man because nothing could take precedence over them – they were his ‘god’ as it were, and he was placing all his trust in them, even if he didn’t realise it at the time! What are you placing your trust in, over and above, Jesus Christ?
If you are already in a relationship with Him, He wants to give you freedom, true independence on this Independence Day, to live a life worthy of Him. Is Jesus your whole life and your whole life Jesus? That means does He have total authority over every aspect of your life. All aspects of life such as relationships, family, work, bank accounts, possessions, worries and troubles? By authority, I mean power!
Following Him and carrying your own cross means that – a life sacrificed for Him and obedience to Him alone! Jesus wants to influence every area of your life – not just certain parts you are willing to give up but all aspects of life! Jesus came to earth to give comfort to the uncomfortable and we are to do the same – give comfort to those in need.
Maybe you are feeling the desolation and loneliness because of decisions made in the past. Give it up willingly to Jesus and don’t keep trying to take it back like a security blanket! If you have something even partially blocking your relationship with Jesus, get rid of it – ask Him to take it away!
Finally, you may not yet be a follower of Jesus Christ. I don’t know. If that is you, then accept His call upon you. For He is calling you, urging you to return to a relationship with God through Him and Him alone. You may not get another chance. Usually, with a small still beckoning voice, Jesus whispers: “Come! Come and follow me alone!” This Jesus wants to connect with you in an intimate, dynamic, active and spiritual relationship – remember His eyes wander the earth looking for those wanting to submit themselves willingly to Him. If that is you, then please do speak to somebody today about finding out how you can start this relationship with the Living God, Jesus Christ. He calls you by name.
Jesus says to all here “Come! Let me get in the driving seat and you hold on to Me! Follow me and follow me wholeheartedly and with all aspects of your life, obey Me alone! I will take all your burdens, give you true freedom and independence and help you in all aspects of life! Come! Follow me!”
As I conclude, let me read to you something CS Lewis wrote in his book, Mere Christianity, about my Jesus.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”
I ask again: Is your vision of Jesus too small?
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Partakers Friday Prayers!
20th September 2013!
We pray together and when Christians pray together, from different nations, different churches and different denominations – that reveals Church unity!
Today we are specifically praying for the imminent Partakers WOW Tour of the USA! Come and pray! Let me know you are praying by making a comment below! Play & download the video!
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I thought there was freedom of religion in the UK?
The following news release was issued on the evening of Sunday 8 September.
Police try to stop Christian worship outside London arms fair
Dozens of Christians today took part in prayers and and an act of exorcism on the road to the London arms fair, despite three attempts by police to stop the act of worship going ahead.
Three Church of England priests peacefully led dozens of worshippers into the road on the eastern approach to the Excel Centre in east London, where the arms fair, known formally as Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi), is due to being on Tuesday 10 September. Equipment, including weapons, was being transported into the venue today.
Police tried to stop the three priests – Rev Chris Howson, Rev Dr Keith Hebden and Rev Helen Hayes – from walking into the road. As they calmly walked on, worshippers knelt down in the road.
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