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Archive for November, 2015

Think Spot 30 November 2015


Think Spot 30th November 2016

God… Church… You…

Does God meet with us and do you recognise and sense His presence or absence in your church when He is not there?

You answer “Of course He is there”.. Isn’t He everywhere? So He surely must be there in our church buildings. He is omnipresent.

Permit me to ask you a further question? Who do you really expect to show up on Sundays? Your close friends? Your pastor? deacons, elders, the worship group.? Of course you do. Now listen carefully. Do you expect to meet with God? . Is His presence recognisably known and felt as you meet in worship? Do you expect to sense His presence with you? Do you know what it feels like to sense His presence?

When the sermon begins do you expect God to carry the words into your hearts and minds. Do you find yourself drinking in every word. Do you recognise when He does show up and maybe when it doesn’t happen.? Do you know the difference between a sermon that brings you closer to God and one that doesn’t and why? 

Do the words and music in your worship really truly glorify God? Ot may be you feel someone hasn’t got things quite right and the songs chosen that Sunday are not conducive or helpful to worship. Your heart is heavy and burdened and its not because of sins you are stubbornly holding on to. You feel as if God is many miles away. 

You have been standing for many minutes as the song leader takes you yet again for the 20th time over the same words. You do not feel inspired. Instead words are coming into your minds like “Oh no not again I must sit down”. You sit down but the situation is still not good as you now are saying “when will this end. I want to go home.”

I am afraid this kind of situation is not rare. But why? Where is the sensitivity of the Lord’s absence in worship? Have we settled for something far less than recognising when God is surely with us in worship? When we know His presence with us. Moses once said “Lord if your presence does not go with us we will not go up hence.” Yes I know that was an occasion when sin was in the camp and God wanted that sin dealt with before He privileged Israel with that wonderful sense of His presence once more. I think that God’s people are settling for far less than the best in many church fellowships.

Sometimes it is a fact the songs do not glorify God but man. A service can become so man centred. Even the sermon can be produced in such a manner that all the people see is the preacher.

I am not talking about conjuring the Lord up in your minds but truly experiencing a sense of His presence which can be beautifully awesome or so close to us when we feel we cannot leave the building.

Is it not true that God can come down in a time of worship and surprise us in a beautiful manner especially when the attention is on His Son, His death, resurrection and sovereignty. When the music is enjoyable. Doesn’t The Holy Spirit long for us to worship the Son and doesn’t He encourage it?

On one occasion I was in a meeting away from my home fellowship and it was such a meeting as I have been describing, but on this occasion the pastor was sensitive to realising something was wrong in the worship time.

He asked the fellowship if the Lord was letting anyone know what the problem was. We were in a prayerful attitude when I sensed the Lord speaking into my heart and mind “They are worshipping me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me”

Now I was a visitor to that church what was I to do? I was a little fearful to repeat that verse of Scripture but I plucked up courage and moved quietly towards the pastor leading the worship. With many ears listening in the quietness I whispered those words to the pastor. Suddenly the whole meeting was engulfed in tears as those words hit home.

It was a sermon in itself. Hearts were not sensing the presence of God as worshipping hearts were far from Him. Repentance took place that evening and the whole atmosphere changed dramatically and God’s presence returned to that meeting and it was a privilege to be there and enjoy God’s presence with us.

We need to be tuned in to sensing God’s presence not just in church worship as we gather with others but singly on our own in our own homes and out and about. I am no one special but I am learning more of what it does mean to practice and sense the presence of God. I am on the way. My heart thirsts for God. How about you? I believe God is looking for the thirsty.

Joys Prayer

Gracious Lord , our Heavenly Father,

we can have our minds full of all kinds of thoughts when we come to worship with God’s people. Events later to be held that day . Perhaps particular People are on our minds, we are meeting up with later that day. Sports meetings and results etc.

May be our minds are even on sins we do not want to let go with. We are simply going through the motions of worship.

Lord forgive us and cleanse us through Jesus precious blood and give us worshipful hearts and the desire to get as close to You as is possible. Give us a stronger thirst for You.

Lord how can you enjoy our worship when Jesus is not at the very centre of our lives. Lord draw near and renew us in our minds and hearts and do that necessary work in us that we need please. Help us to be totally honest with You in our prayers and if we are prayer less forgive and renew us.

In Jesus Name! Amen

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A Simple Way To Pray – Martin Luther – Part 10

A Simple Way To Pray
Martin Luther

Study 10

The Ten Commandments

The Second Commandment likewise in four strands, like this: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” etc.

First, I learn that I must keep God’s name in honour, holiness, and beauty; not to swear, curse, not to be boastful or seek honor and repute for myself, but humbly to invoke his name, to pray, praise, and extol it, and to let it be my only honor and glory that he is my God and that I am his lowly creature and unworthy servant.

Second, I give thanks to him for these precious gifts, that he has revealed his name to me and bestowed it upon me, that I can glory in his name and be called God’s servant and creature, etc., that his name is my refuge like a mighty fortress to which the righteous man can flee and find protection, as Solomon says.

Third, I confess and acknowledge that I have grievously and shamefully sinned against this Commandment all my life. I have not only failed to invoke, extol, and honour his holy name, but have also been ungrateful for such gifts and have, by swearing, lying, and betraying, misused them in the pursuit of shame and sin. This I bitterly regret and ask grace and forgiveness, etc.

Fourth, I ask for help and strength henceforth to learn this Commandment and to be preserved from such evil ingratitude, abuse, and sin against his name, and that I may be found grateful in revering and honoring his name. I repeat here what I previously said in reference to the Lord’s Prayer: if in the midst of such thoughts the Holy Spirit begins to preach in your heart with rich, enlightening thoughts, honor him by letting go of this written scheme; be still and listen to him who can do better than you can. Remember what he says and note it well and you will behold wondrous things in the law of God, as David says.

(‘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 13

Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 13 – John 3:3
Again or Above

When we come to the well known encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus we find something strange. The NIV says, “Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’” While the NRSV, another very accurate translation in English, says, “Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’” ‘Born again’ or ‘born from above’ – which is it? The rather surprising answer is ‘both!’. The Greek word translated in those two ways can mean either of them with equal force. Both translations give the other interpretation as a footnote but even that is misleading because it seems to indicate that the translation given in the text is primary and the other is secondary, but the word is distinctly ambiguous and can mean either or both. There is no word in English that can carry both meaning like that so the best we can do is probably something like ‘born again from above’.

Both translations go on to say that Nicodemus picked up the ‘again’ possibility and proceeded to comment on that. That would seem to suggest that he thought Jesus meant ‘again’ but he was a clever man and may simply have understood instantly that there are deeper problems with the ‘above’ option and carefully avoided it.

Exactly the same thing is true in our culture. To be ‘born again’ can mean nothing more than to return after a gap to something you used to do and enjoy. So you might be a ‘born again rock-climber’ if you return to that sport after giving it up on getting married and starting a family; but now they are grown up and you don’t feel the same deep responsibility for them so you return to that sometimes dangerous sport. But you cannot play any such tricks on the phrase ‘born from above’.

What did Jesus mean by what he said? Including what did he mean by talking about ‘seeing, or entering, the kingdom of God’?

It is a matter of dimensions. You may be stuck in two dimensions if you think only of being born again. The phrase can mean no more than I have decided to follow Jesus, or I have decided I am a Christian. But if you bring the third dimension into it things are quite different. If you are born from above you have clearly been touched by those who come from ’above’, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. In only a few verses down the page we shall read that Jesus said he was talking about heavenly things, and only a verse or two further and he is talking about how he will be ‘lifted up’. He will be lifted up on the Cross, which will take him out of our two-dimensional world into a greater world of three dimensions. And when we are born again from above we are being touched by the glory of the Cross; by its potent effect in carrying away our sin and broken relationship with the Father; by the way in which it released the Holy Spirit to encourage and empower us provided we are one of those who want to enter the ‘kingdom of God’.

That kingdom is not a place in any sort of worldly sense. It is a sphere of influence where the Triune God, God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit rule. You may live in one of the many countries of this world, divided up as they are by the whim of men, the results of history, by many a reason long forgotten by almost everybody. It doesn’t matter how big, how small, how rich or how poor your country may be and how much you have to participate in it for good or ill. You can be a citizen of heaven a member of the kingdom of God. WOW!

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Bye bye St. Pixels

Without St Pix, perhaps I wouldn’t be where I am now following my stroke in 2003 and finding St Pixels…

Making an ass of myself

I was reading in IDEA, the magazine of the Evangelical Alliance, that some millennials (in their article people now aged 18 to 37)  have been badly hurt by church. My experience with internet church St Pixels is that an earlier generation also left for that reason.
St Pix mat
Last Sunday, 22 November, St Pixels, the Internet church, held its last service.

Started in 2003 as the Church of Fools by the Ship of Fools as a 3D experiment by the Christian website Ship of Fools, as a three month experiment in being church on line, it continued, without the visuals first as a forum and chat room (where services were held) then with its own software for and finally as a Facebook app. Last Sunday the Facebook  app closed.

The eleven years it was running have been a wild ride. At times it felt that we did not know what we were doing and…

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Exploring Islam 12


Exploring Islam

12. The Jesus of Islam

Part 3 – The Cross

In light of what we have previously outlined regarding the Islamic view of Jesus we are now going to finally consider what happened at the cross. For the Christian the crucifixion of Jesus is fundamental and indeed is ultimately why he came as the Saviour of the world. However, as we have seen previously regarding salvation in Islam no such atoning sacrifice is possible. Whilst the Qur’an does not deny the historical event of the crucifixion, it is does deny that it was the Islamic prophet Jesus who was killed.

Qur’an 4:157 – ‘“Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them.’

This is a fascinating verse which many Muslims are aware of given the prominence of Jesus in discussions with Christians. It is reliant upon the understanding that Allah respects his chosen prophets to such a degree that a humiliating death by crucifixion would not be permitted. Nothing more is said regarding this matter in the Qur’an and it begs the question from a non-Muslim perspective of proof. Outside of this verse there seems to be no other supporting evidence that this was the case. And I guess this is to be expected as the concept itself suggests that all present at the crucifixion and presumably all the subsequent historians were hoodwinked into believing the opposite.

Admittedly, Christianity faces a similar but I think less taxing burden of proof in their defence of a risen Jesus from the tomb on Easter morning. So instead of dying on the cross, the Islamic Jesus was taken up into heaven during this mystical switch and remains there to this day.

Again, this is a unique aspect of Jesus within Islam which no other prophet including Muhammad can claim. Jesus has a further role to play in the grand scheme of history according to Islam. At the end of time before judgement day comes, Jesus will return to the earth still as a physical man and successfully lead all those chosen by Allah into Islam. The Qur’an does not speak much of this aspect leaving Muslims to rely strongly on the traditions contained in the Hadith.

Unlike in Christianity who affirms Jesus’ role in judgement, the Islamic Jesus finally dies before this happens and leaves Allah to judge the world. So this marks the conclusion of the Exploring Islam series. I have enjoyed preparing and writing these podcasts and I hope that you have benefited from them. Remember my original goal was to dispel some of the misunderstandings of Islam which are so prevalent in Western societies and can be the source of much tension with our Muslim neighbours.

Even though there are significant differences between Islam and Christianity I hope I have equally showed that there are similarities even bridges for discussion. I have found the best way to facilitate this is from the attitude of respect and friendship, things which Muslims themselves value highly.

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