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Archive for October, 2015

Gems in the Gospel of John – Part 09

Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 9 – John 1:40
The Lamb of God

Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 9 – John 1:40
Following The Lamb of God


John 1:40 “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.”
John 1:43 we read “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’”

One or other of the ‘follow’ words appears more than 70 times in the Gospels, nearly always as ‘follow me’ or ‘follow him’. So following is a very important and significant word about our relationship to Jesus.


There has been a very distinct and valuable turn by many people towards talking in terms of ‘following’ rather than any of the possible alternatives recently. Not so long ago the common term was ‘deciding for Jesus’ and before that it was ‘born-again’. But the first of these is a very imprecise and somewhat wooly term to use while the second has been taken over by all sorts of people just to mean somebody taking up again a sport or an activity that they used to take part in but had not done so for some time.


Instead of those terms many people are talking about those who are converted (yet another old and Biblical term that is no longer much used) as having set out ‘to follow Jesus’ and those who are going to church but have made no profession of faith as those ‘who are not yet following Jesus’.


There is considerable merit in this. ‘Following Jesus’ indicates not only the starting point of making a profession of faith but the setting out on a journey which will last for a long time – in fact the rest of life – and will include a commitment, therefore a life-long commitment, to following Jesus.


But the obvious question is ‘what does following Jesus’ or following anyone actually mean. We use ‘following’ in much the same sense when we talk about following a team in some sport, such as football. (Apologies here to American friends who have the curious idea that a game in which foot is seldom applied to ball is football! I am talking about what you call ‘soccer’ where foot and ball often meet up.) Those who ‘follow’ a team such as Manchester United act in certain fairly well defined ways. They go to meet – well, watch – their team as often as possible; they worship – well, cheer them on – as vigorously as they can; they rejoice visibly and audibly when they do something good, like score a goal; they identify themselves with the team by wearing their colours in a scarf or a shirt; they spend considerable sums of money to support their team and in various ways assert that support to their friends and other people.


We can parallel all those things in what we should do as we ‘follow Jesus’. We should meet with him, at church, in small groups, in our private prayer as often as possible; we should worship Jesus and the Lord God in our singing etc. ; we should identify with Jesus in many subtle ways – the ways we behave, the things we say, perhaps too the words we do not use, where appropriate in the wearing of small emblems indicating our allegiance; we will be prepared to use our resources to support the Lord’s work in many different ways.


Certain words have sneaked into those last paragraphs, almost without me noticing. Words such as: cheering on, vigorously, identify, support, assert, allegiance, use of resources. All those words have a place in our thinking about how we are to follow Jesus.


Not all of them can be found in this passage in John 1, but many of them can. Andrew was quick to identify himself with Jesus, to support him, to give him his allegiance, and to use his resource of time. Philip did exactly the same things in his search for Nathaniel. It seems likely that Philip was a rather ordinary sort of guy with no great leadership qualities yet evident, whereas Nathaniel was probably the village wise man. That did not stop Philip sharing his discovery of Jesus with a man he probably looked up to as very much his superior.


I’m sure I don’t need to labour the lessons for us that are so clear in this passage. Follow Jesus – it is by far the best way to journey through life and arrive at a worthwhile destination.

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Friday Prayers 23 October 2015

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

23th October 2015

We pray together and when Christians pray together, from different nations, different churches and different denominations – that reveals Church unity! Come! Let us pray together!

 

A prayer of Aquinas


Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all being,
graciously let a ray of your light penetrate
the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness
in which I have been born,
an obscurity of sin and ignorance.
Give me a keen understanding,
a retentive memory, and
the ability to grasp things
correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent
of being exact in my explanations
and the ability to express myself
with thoroughness and charm.
Point out the beginning,
direct the progress,
and help in the completion.

I ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

(Aquinas 1225 – 1274)

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Spiritualism 01

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1. Spiritualism: Right or Wrong?

By Jim Allis

Introduction

Picture a wonderful scene… ”There is a beautiful scene of happiness all around us. There are marvellous buildings of grandeur, blue lagoons, clear lakes of warm water and luscious green grassed meadows. The colours of the birds are of magnificent shades of blue red green and yellow as never seen before. Here there is also a sense of peace as never experienced before and such a peace as you never want it to end. All, yes all is so peaceful here”

You might well imagine this to be the introduction to a holiday brochure but it is not. It is the description of the ‘other side’ to which Spiritualists say we go when we leave this present world. The words I have referred to are in fact words supposedly given to a medium by a departed spirit for the comfort of living relatives and friends of their departed loved ones.

Where And How Did It Begin?

Spiritualism began in a tiny home in Hydesville,USA To be more precise, spirit messages began to be received by a family of three girls on 31st March 1848. These young ladies were experimenting when suddenly they said they heard rapping noises from a spirit who claimed to be a murdered peddler. Kate, Margaret and Leah Foxe became very fascinated by it. However in 1880 Margaret Foxe admitted it was fraud and delusion. Some have said she only said this because she was envious of her sister. Leah who became famous in this movement.

Since that time of course many fraudulent mediums have jumped on the band wagon faking supernatural noises and apparitions to make money. Some people will do almost anything to gain money as I am sure you my readers would agree.

Leah Foxe is supposed to have received this message from the spirit world, ‘Dear Friends, you must proclaim this message to the world. When you do your duty, God will protect you and good spirits will watch over you.’

Within only a short space of time there were over a hundred mediums practicing in New York alone.

Since that time Spiritualism has grown into an international organisation throughout the whole World. Various groups under the one main heading but each have peculiar differences. However with Spiritualism there is one common ground on which they all stand. They all proclaim with one accord that ‘one can communicate with the dead.’

Spiritualism was mainly a middle- and upper-class movement, and especially popular with women. U.S. spiritualists would meet in private homes for séances, at lecture halls for trance lectures, at state or national conventions, and at summer camps attended by thousands.

The movement was extremely individualistic, with each person relying on her own experiences and reading to discern the nature of the afterlife. Organisation was therefore slow to appear, and when it did it was resisted by mediums and trance lecturers. Most members were content to attend Christian churches, and particularly Universalist churches harboured many Spiritualists..)

During the 1920s, professional magician Harry Houdini undertook a well-publicised campaign to expose fraudulent mediums. He was adamant that “Up to the present time everything that I have investigated has been the result of deluded brains.”

Despite widespread fraud, the appeal of Spiritualism was strong. Prominent in the ranks of its adherents were those grieving the death of a loved one. Many attend to this very day who are grieving the loss of a loved one and can’t bear the separation and so seek out a spiritualist medium who can bring them into contact again with the deceased.

One well known case is that of Mary Todd Lincoln who, grieving the loss of her son, organized séances in the White House which were attended by her husband, President Abraham Lincoln. The surge of interest in Spiritualism during and after the American Civil War and World War I was a direct response to the massive casualties.

Coming up tomorrow, our second study, entitled “Is it all Trickery?”

** Disclaimer: The author of this article, Jim Allis, is a guest podcaster and Partake Ministries may or may not agree with his opinions and writings, either in their entirety or part thereof.

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Issues – Worship

 Partake - Issues

Worship


I often hear people say that their church has the best worship and that other church worship services are inferior! Or I hear that a person has moved churches, because the experience is different and better there!  What are we to think as Christians in the twenty first century about biblical worship?

The Psalmist writes in Psalm 105:1-6: “Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. Sing to him; yes, sing his praises. Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds. Exult in his holy name; rejoice, you who worship the Lord. Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him. Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given, you children of his servant Abraham, you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.”

Today there are many different churches using different worship styles to worship the one True and Living God!  We can even think of different churches in the New Testament worshipping differently, such as the church of Philippi church being more liturgical and ordered, while the church of Corinth is more free and less controlled! As His followers and His worshippers, we are required to worship God and to worship Him publicly and with others!  There is a meaning of worship, whereby our very life is to be a spiritual act of worship according to Paul in Romans 12.  Paul meant that every aspect of our life is to be an act of worship, where our life is to be for the majesty and honour of God!   However, the definition of worship I want to talk about today is about public acts of worship, such as in a church or chapel service.  Where worshipping is to give respect, honour and glory to God! When this is done in reverence, in truth and in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, then the Christian Disciple continues to mature and grow spiritually.  Let us look at the what, why and how of Biblical worship!

What is worship?

Worship is, by way of act, attitude, or thought, a way of giving supreme honour and reverence to God!  As Christian Disciples, God Almighty alone is worthy of our reverence, submission and worship. There are many other things that are worshipped and thus are ‘gods’, with a small ‘g’.  Money, careers, possessions, other people are 21st century examples of things which are worshipped by humans.  Thus the threat of materialism is a huge danger to Christian Disciples, because the worship of material possessions takes the supreme place of worship to God, and some Christian Disciples have been duped by it!  But the Bible clearly states that God alone is to be worshipped.  For God is to carry the worshipping Christian Disciple, and not the Christian Disciple to carry the god.

Why worship?

Perhaps the greatest reason that we worship is because God commands it! The 10 Commandments (Exodus 21v1-3) insist that God alone is worshipped, adored and paid homage to!  As humans we are made in His image and as Christian Disciples, He owns us because we claim Jesus to be our Lord and Master! So it is right and just that we give worship to this God who paid the penalty for sin, so that we may be His children, and wants us to call Him Father!  As Christian Disciples, we discover an inner personal satisfaction when God is worshipped and adored, both for the present and in the future (Romans 12v2; Col 3v24)!

Another reason to give worship is that God deserves our worship! All of God’s attributes demand that we revere and worship Him! His holiness, goodness, love, mercy and providence are but a beginning as to why He, and He alone, is worthy of our worship.  It is by His grace, and through His grace alone, that we worship Him!

How are we to worship?

In some church services, a general confession of sin comes at the start.  This is because before engaging in exultant praise, Christian Disciples should approach with penitence and examine their inner selves just as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6.  We also gather in expectation of meeting God and that He will receive the worship!

Worship services should consist of more than just singing songs.  The church is 2000 years old and in that time a lot of resources can be found to help people worship, apart from singing songs!  There are items like responsive prayers and psalms, whereby prayers and psalms are spoken between the congregation to each other and to the leader! 

There are times of silence, or times of spoken liturgy where truths of God are both spoken and heard.  Saying the Apostles Creed or Nicene Creed help build the body in affirming their belief in an awesome God worthy of worship! Times of worship should be more diverse than just singing songs and should express the cultural and personality diversity of the people worshipping!  Remember, Jesus and certainly the early church participated in services which would certainly have contained liturgy, Scripture reading and songs!

Other core parts of some worship services are the Holy Communion and Baptism! 

These were fundamental in churches in the New Testament period and are just as important today! 

  • Holy Communion is where we as Christian Disciples remember Jesus’ death for our sin, acceptance of His death for us, and our dependence on Him for our spiritual life. 
  • Baptism is where Christian Disciples identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • The third element of worship is the reading and preaching of the Bible! This where God’s word is read in public!  This is where God’s Word is preached so as to that God’s word can be applied to the hearer’s lives! 
  • Sermons can be the pinnacle of a worship service as God’s revealed word is expounded, talked about and explained! Yet, sadly, for a lot of people its not considered worship! It most certainly is!

The whole of a church worship service should be where the spiritually comfortable are discomforted and those spiritually uncomfortable are comforted!  From 1 Corinthians 14:25, worship should be where non-Christians present can proclaim, “God is really among you”.  So often our church worship services are flat, feeble and weak spiritually.  At one extreme in churches, we have worship services that are flippant and no consideration to make worship an awe-inspiring time of devotion to an awesome God!  At the other extreme, we have worship services where everybody looks like they have been sucking on lemons and where grace is obviously lacking.  Somewhere in between, is where public worship should be. 

In the broad spectrum of being neither trivialized nor grace-less, is where our church worship services should be!  Sometimes we need to worship, even if we don’t feel like it and pray for God to help us worship Him.  Over all this, is 1 Corinthians 14v26, which plainly states: “Everything that is done must be useful to all and build them up in the Lord”.

Public worship is for the encouragement of the gathered worshipping group of believers and not for the individual worshipper.

The modern construct of only worshipping when its enjoyable or because the experience feels right is not a biblical construct.  When you find yourself in a worship service with others, as long as what is being said and sung is biblical, keep worshipping. Even if the style or method is not to your own personal taste! Just because the church down the road from you worships in a different style to you, doesn’t make their worship in valid! We have a God worthy of all types of worship!

Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by trying to validate your own style over a different style, by saying your church worships better than any other!  The Holy Spirit works in different places in different ways! Stop limiting the Holy Spirit!  Through the energy and power of the Holy Spirit, any and all acts of church worship are done in reverence, in truth and in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. Done regardless of our own personal taste, enjoyment level or experience.  Main thing is to worship in Spirit and in truth, and that is surely to be a cause of joy, regardless of worship style!  Let us use the diversity of worship styles to worship the One True Living God!

For more to think about please do read 1 Corinthians 14v26-39.

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. When I attend worship services, is it for the encouragement of others or just for myself?

Q2. What are my favourite elements of worship and how should I react to those elements I don’t like?

Q3. Does my life of following Jesus Christ, match the words I sing and words I speak in church worship services?

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Think Spot 19 October 2015

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19th October 2015

The best Connexion

Recently a relative warned me of a scam where someone pretending to be a BT representative was informing BT Customers that they had outstanding bills to pay and if they did not comply they would have further bills trebling the amount they were supposedly owing.

The conversation proceeded with a demonstration of the so called rep saying he would prove that he was official. He then told the person to put the phone down and try to phone a friend. The person did try and found the phone had gone dead. However not being vulnerable they refused to pay with cheque card details given which the man was requesting and the man rang off. The number he had given was given to the police and discovered to be untraceable. He had wanted to get details of the persons credit card details to gain a great deal of money that way. “Be warned”, the offended person told me.

Yes we have to be careful in this world of wrongdoing where selfishness, greed and dishonesty are prevalent in a broken society as many have turned away from the Lord.

Talking of disconnection’s many do not know anything of the wonderful, beautiful and safe connexion that God wants to make with each one of us. We are all switched off and disconnected until God responds to our cry to be connected through realising our switched off connexion (Read Ephesians chapter 2:1; where disconnection is described as either being dead or alive).

The Good News (Gospel) is that God wants to be in the very centre of our lives (the power house) controlling and leading us in a way of peace joy and contentment through the amazing connections in reading the Bible and through the equally amazing connexion through prayer, where we communicate with Him and He with us in a very troubled world.

He is more than willing to connect us to Jesus our Saviour and Lord who

died for us to remove our wrongdoing justly held against us.

His glorious resurrection assures us of eternal life here begun on earth below when we become connected and a marvellous existence with Him in Heaven where we remain connected for evermore. Wow !! Isn’t that amazing?

So next time you are disconnected from electricity, gas or phone (when you move house or phone) remind yourself , if you are connected to God that connexion will never change as God’s power to keep is eternal. Hallelujah!! ps. The telephone line to heaven is always open and ……… is free!! I would encourage you to try it if you have never tried before .

Joys Prayer

Dear loving Heavenly Father,

Thank you for reminding us today of the wonderful relationship we can have with You and the certainty that the power line will never be broken as we continue to read our Bibles and pray every day. Not out of habit but delighting ourselves in You.

Help us to do this especially when things begin to go wrong when illness, or a sudden loss or change takes place that can alarm or cause us to be tempted to panic.

Please enable us to remain calm and to persevere knowing that whatever happens we are connected to You and that Your power is always there for us to tap into because of your wonderful love, grace and passion towards us.

You love us so much so help us to love you in return by trusting and believing that You can make everything work for good on our behalf as we bring everything to you in prayer.

“Oh what peace we often forfeit oh what needless pain we bare because we don’t bring everything to You in prayer.

Lord we love you, keep us strong when trials come and keep us ever looking upwards to You and believing and trusting You in all our comings and goings.

In Jesus Name

Amen

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A Simple Way To Pray – Martin Luther – Part 5

A Simple Way To Pray
Martin Luther

Study 5



The fifth petition. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Say: “O dear Lord, God and Father, enter not into judgment against us because no man living is justified before You. Do not count it against us as a sin that we are so unthankful for thine ineffable goodness, spiritual and physical, or that we stray into sin many times every day, more often than we can know or recognize. Do not look upon how good or how wicked we have been but only upon the infinite compassion which You have bestowed upon us in Christ, Your dear Son.

Grant forgiveness also to those who have harmed or wronged us, as we forgive them from our hearts. They inflict the greatest injury upon themselves by arousing Your anger in their actions toward us. We are not helped by their ruin; we would much rather that they be saved with us. Amen.”

(Anyone who feels unable to forgive, let him ask for grace so that he can forgive; but that belongs in a sermon.)


(‘A Simple Way To Pray by Martin Luther’:
Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, the 10 Commandments, and the Creed – A Letter
to His Barber, Master Peter Beskendorf, Spring 1535. The ebook or PDF
is widely available to download for free online.)

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Gems in the Gospel of John – Part 08

Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 8 – John 1:29-31
The Lamb of God

John 1:29–31, “ The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.’”

John, John the Baptist that is, must have used an expression that would be meaningful to those who heard him but we cannot be sure what that meaning was. Nowhere in the Old Testament is a lamb said to be ‘of God’. That John said a striking, important and memorable thing we cannot doubt – but what did he mean.

There seem to be 4 main possibilities. In Biblical order, but not necessarily order of importance, these are that he was thinking of:


  1. the near sacrifice Abraham made of his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. When Isaac asked, “where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham replied, God himself will provide the lamb.”

  2. the lambs that were sacrificed on the night of the Passover at the exodus from Egypt. The Lord told Moses, “it is the Lord’s Passover” and Paul uses the same expression in 1 Corinthians 5:7 when he said, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

  3. the lambs that are frequently mentioned as sacrificial offerings in passages such as Exodus 29:38, 41 where we read, “This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old …a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord.”

  4. Isaiah 53, which clearly lies behind so much of what happened in the life of Jesus. It says, “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”


Which of these, or other possibilities, John had in mind as he called Jesus the Lamb of God – or all of them – we cannot tell. Rather amazingly these 4 possibilities point us to 4 distinctly different concepts. They are in order: obedience to the call of the Lord, determination to set out on a difficult journey, the forgiveness of sin and the complete provision made for us on the Cross.

They are not in sensible or logical order. What is that logical order? Stop for a moment and think it through for yourself before reading on. (This sentence is a simple place filler to ensure you don’t see what my answer is too quickly!)
I think: the last one must come first, Jesus is in all and through all that happens; then we have forgiveness of sins, the promise of new life as we embark on the journey of faith and finally we must learn to be obedient in all that happens.
What is really striking is what happened when he said the same thing the next day in the hearing of two of his (John’s) disciples. It is recorded that, “When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’ They said, ‘Rabbi’ (which means ‘Teacher’), ‘where are you staying?’ ‘Come,’ he replied, ‘and you will see.’”

Is it possible to do a really good job of explaining something you don’t fully understand yourself? The answer has to be yes – when you are driven by the Holy Spirit of God. Because that is what happened to John the Baptist. He must have done a wonderful job explaining the Old Testament passages promising a Messiah, even although we know he was not himself fully convinced about Jesus at this time (Matthew 11: 2,3).

We too will never have complete knowledge, nor will we ever be sure that we are completely obedient, but like John we can have the key that unlocks all the best things in life: here is the Lamb of God – follow Him.

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